MySecretGarden

U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meeting a Blue Poppy in Alaska

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It was a total surprise for me to see a Blue Poppy (Meconopsis grandis) during my recent trip to Alaska.
Actually, it was a surprise within a surprise. By accident, we discovered that the Homer Garden Club was holding its garden tour on the very Sunday when we planned to visit that community located on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula. In the very first garden, which deserves a separate post, my jaw dropped at some point, and for several minutes, I was staring at pure-blue cup-shaped blooms innocently looking at me from the tops of tall thin stems.
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The owner of the garden was surprised by my surprise (what a post - full of surprises!). She said that blue poppies bloom in many places in town.
A June article in the Wall Street Journal by Anne Marie Chaker (WSJ, June 2, 2010) included descriptions of these flowers as 'the most heavenly blue flowers', 'notoriously finicky flower', 'botanical holy grain, legendary for its color and the challenges of cultivating it'. It also stated that "gardeners in parts of Maine and Alaska may be lucky enough to grow them, but it can be more challenging, in parts of the U.S. where early summers are hot".
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The well-known, award winning Homer garden designer Brenda Adams, whose garden also was on the tour, told us that there are two main conditions for the succesful growing of blue poppies: cool summers and good drainage.
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After the garden tour, I rushed to the nursery where local people told me they buy blue poppy plants. I was going to get several of them to take on the plane back to Washington state. Well, they were sold-out but don't feel sorry for me - the nursery itself was an absolutely magical place. I had several minutes there before it closed and didn't see all of it. But, what I saw made me say that it was the most amazing nursery I've ever seen.
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Coming home from the trip, I was happy to see some beautiful blooms, including the blue ones, in my own garden. I'll try to add a Blue Poppy to them next year. Himalayan Blue Poppy is said to grow in zone 5-8, and we are in zone 7b.
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Photographs of the blue poppies, except for the second one, were taken in the stunning garden of Brenda Adams (http://www.gardensbybrenda.com/)
Below, there are more pictures of her unforgettable garden.
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P.S. Pardon me for the quality of the pictures - it was raining cats and dogs when we were visiting Brenda Adams' garden. See the circles in the pond surrounded by the statuesque primulas?
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Stunning Verbascum was not less stunning, even in the rain, than the background view. We could only imagine how beautiful the view would look without the rain!
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One of my favorites in that garden, solitary clematis (Clematis integrifolia), with its showy nodding bell-shaped lavender-blue flowers:
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Rustic half-barrels with overflowing annuals create an exciting, cheerful spot in the middle of the lawn:


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Although vividly bright, Brenda's garden is somehow organically connected with surrounding native shrubs and tall grasses punctuated by the white umbels of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum also known as Indian Celery or Pushki).

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Isn't it a great arrangement? Tall spikes almost repeat the angle of the evergreen trees, in the top right part of the picture:
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The size and the variety of the Aquilegia (Columbine)' flowers were very impressive! As Brenda said, many of them are the result of cross-pollinating.
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Gentiana lutea (Great Yellow Gentian), native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, was blooming for the first time in four years:
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I liked the naturalistic, almost effortless look of the borders:

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Brenda Adams shares her talent through 'Gardens By Design' services (http://www.gardensbybrenda.com/). For me, visiting her private retreat was a delightful and unforgettable experience. I learned about several plants unknown to me, got many ideas and had a chance to talk to a person obviously passionate about plants and Alaska.
I also learned that pictures CAN be taken during rain with the right equipment: an umbrella held by the strong hand of a loyal husband!
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Go to Gail' Clay and Limestone (http://www.clayandlimestone.com/) for Wildflower Wednesday.
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Many 'WHY's and One Alaskan Village

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Why do we love old villages so much? Do they remind us about our barefooted childhood?
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Why do we love to see old houses?
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Are we curious about who used to live in them and where those people came from?
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Why do we love old grey buildings, half-collapsed and leaning on one side?
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Are we afraid that one day when we come they won't be there?
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Why do we love old boats whose final landing is surrounded by grasses and wildflowers? Do they tell us about the hard work, sweat and bravery of the people who used to take them to the rough seas?
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Why do we love to get off the main highway and follow a side road?
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Do we hope to find something unknown that will stir our curiosity like that white three-bar cross on one of the buildings?
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Why do we love to climb up? Are we eager to see what lies below?
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Why do we like to follow an unknown path?
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Do we get excited when something appears on the line separating the earth from the sky?
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Do we hope to see something special on the top of the hill?
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The village name is Ninilchik.
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Before Europeans arrived in Alaska, Ninilchik was a Dena'ina Athabaskan lodging area which was used for hunting and fishing.
The first people who would permanently stay in the village moved here from Kodiak Island (the second largest island in the U. S. and the 80th largest island in the world), in 1847 before the purchase of Alaska. They were Russian Grigorii Kvasnikov(Kvasnikoff), his Russian-Alutiiq wife, Mavra Rastorguev, and their children. Their dialect of Russian (plus a few words borrowed from Alaskan native languages) was the primary language spoken in Ninilchik long after the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. in 1896. A few speakers of the Ninilchik Russian dialect were still alive in 2008, including one married couple who continued to speak the language to each other.
The 1880 United States Census listed 53 "Creoles" living in Ninilchik in nine extended families. All nine founding families of Ninilchik are descendants of the Kvasnikoffs and Alaskan Natives.
I talked to the owner of a gift shop in Ninilchik, and she told me that there are 22 families that still live in the old part of the village on a year around basis.
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As for Kodiak Island, where the fist Ninilchik' permanent residents came from, it was explored in 1763 by Russian fur trader Stephan Glotov. The island was the location of the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska founded by Grigory Shelikhov, a fur trader, on Three Saints Bay in 1784. The settlement was moved to the site of present-day Kodiak in 1792 and became the center of Russian fur trading.
The Orthodox church on the top of the hill is Transfiguration of Our Lord Church.
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What about the three-bar cross? The short bar on the top represents the sign that was placed on the cross which read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" . The middle bar, the longest, is the bar upon which Our Lord's arms were stretched and nailed. The bottom bar is the footrest which supported Our Lord's body. While many people popularly refer to this cross as a "Russian" cross, it actually predates the Christianization of Russia in 988 AD, although generally, in earlier depictions of the Crucifixion, the bottom bar is horizontal rather than angled. Very early depictions of the crucifixion, even those originating in Egypt, generally portray the triple bar cross. In certain parts of Central and Eastern Europe, the triple bar cross with a slanted footrest indicates that a given church is an Orthodox one, while a triple bar cross with a horizontal footrest indicates that a given church is a Byzantine Rite, or Greek Catholic, one.
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Credits:Wikipedia, Orthodox Church in America http://www.oca.org
My last year post with photographs of another Russian church in Alaska is here Plants Around a Church
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Bouquets and a Moose

What do you do before discarding plants growing in containers? I usually make 'Good Bye' bouquets using the last flowers. Pansies were kept in the pots at the central entrance for several months til their foliage got so unattractive that even beautiful blooms couldn't compensate for it.
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Shrub rose 'Carefree Marvel' has been loaded with buds and blooms, enough to make bouquets for inside and outside:
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Spanish Lavender blooms for so long that it provides bouquets from May til July:
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Below, is my June bouquet (Its plants are listed here: My June Bouquet ):
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This was my 'Bye-bye June' bouquet:
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I hope to make a 'Bye-bye July' bouquet when I come back home from Alaska. I hope there will be enough material for it, and that the material won't be dry!
So far, on my vacation, I see more fish than plants, but here is my picture of the day for you:
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We saw two mama mooses: one had a baby so small you couldn't see him behind the grass; another had a yearling. The yearling had no antlers but had such lo-o-ong legs! He crossed the road in front of us when we stopped after spotting him where he was munching on green leaves. In the picture is one of the mamas.

Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hello from Alaska

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How can I leave my garden? How can I miss new blooms, some of which I've never seen before? Why should this trip be in the summer when the garden is at its best? How did I allow HIM to plan it to be so long? Gone! All these questions, worries and regrets are gone! They went to infinity and beyond the moment I saw this:
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And this:
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Today we watched this gentleman:
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A Grizzly bear seen not through a Zoo fence:
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Are any words needed to describe this view?
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I will never get tired of seeing Alaska
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Clouds hanging low and birds sitting high:
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Even Cow Parsnip, an invasive weed, looks good with the snowy peaks in the background:
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(I wrote about it here: A Treasured Weed)
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Rugoza Rose is competeng with it:
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I will never get bored walking Alaskan streets:
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I love my garden, but how can I be indifferent to this beauty?
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This is it for now. Salmon are running, people, salmon are running!
And, I should run to take pictures of the happy faces of my fishermen. What about me? Do I fish? Not yet. No way I can beat my own record (want to see my last year catch? It's here: Better Than Growing Vegetables).
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

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