Story last updated at 3:12 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Alaska's gardens exposed
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment

  Photo by Annie Nevaldine
Ocean-oriented garden themes, like the boat bed above, are prevalent in Homer.  
The Lower 48's traditional gnome-and-flamingo motifs are replaced with every imaginable interpretation of cultivation creativity, from lobelia-draped XtraTuffs to long defunct dories.

But even amateur photographer Annie Nevaldine didn't realize how widespread this earthly expressionism was.

After a summer on the road taking pictures of garden art for an international gardening conference, Nevaldine was in awe of the state's creativity.

"We all know that Alaskans are a unique bunch, not easily swayed by Outside influence," Nevaldine said, adding that the breadth of Alaska's individuality in the horticulture department surprised her. "There is a lot of creativity and originality. People obviously have a lot of time on their hands."

Alaska Yard and Garden Art and Whimsy

photo presentation

  • Where: United Methodist Church

  • When: 2 p.m. Sunday

  • Call: 235-2107

  • Nevaldine spent much of the summer of 2001 driving Alaska's road system in search of interesting garden art. Among her more memorable discoveries was a 9-foot-long mosquito that you can actually saddle up.

    Another interesting yard Nevaldine found closer to home in Anchorage belonged to a woman who lived next to a junkyard.

    "She was determined if she was going to live next to a junk yard, everything she would do would be pretty. So she got junk from the yard and put plants in it," she said.

    Among the yard items were a toy Tonka front-end loader with a tiny plant in the bucket, all the way to a garden in the entire bed of a '52 pickup truck.

    "One of the headlamps was missing, so she planted lobelia in it. In the gas cap, she put a plug of soil and nasturtiums were growing out of it," she said.

    While Nevaldine said she was initially concerned there would not be enough flora fodder for a slide show, she ultimately ended up with more than 2,000 images from her travels around the state, and passed up many more because the light wasn't right or the decorative idea had been repeated elsewhere.

    Among the themes Nevaldine identified as truly Alaskan were the use of items such as animal parts and images, hunting and trapping themes, logging themes and creative recycling (such as one woman who made a pink toilet into a planter with a fountain in the bowl).

    In Homer, Nevaldine said, she found a maritime theme prevalent in gardens.

    "There was a lot of fishing stuff: nets, floats, buoys, boats, and the use of fish as well as shells," Nevaldine said. "Homer was really water-oriented."

    Nevaldine has reworked her presentation of photographs to include many from the Homer area. She will show them at an open meeting of the Homer Garden Club on Sunday. All are invited.

    "I whittled it down to a presentation that demonstrates that even (or especially) in their yard and garden art and whimsy, as with so many other matters, Alaskans don't care how they do it Outside," Nevaldine said.