Monday, April 26, 2010

Primula denticulata is another fine perennial for southeastern Alaska. I used to have a bit of a snotty attitude about it as it is a pretty common garden plant. I've reformed. Why dismiss an easy to grow, well mannered, lovely flowered plant just because it is well used? I like many things that are abundantly available...toast, coffee, showers ? I'm trying to fight my tendency to only value the unusual or rare and give the common their due.
Back to Primula denticulata or Drumstick primrose, it is a native to open wet meadows in the Himalayas. Apparently this species has been in cultivation since the early 1800's. ( Juneau Primrose Society ).
It can be propagated by seed or by dividing the clumps. This species forms flower buds in the summer/fall that overwinter, so I'd recommend dividing it after blooming.
I've seen white, lavender or a deeper red violet growing in Sitka, but there seem to be other colors available in commerce.
I don't give this plant any special care; just trim off the flower stalks after blooming, feed some compost and periodically divide and this one should do quite well

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Despite traveling, I didn't completely miss out on the herring eggs this year. Managed to get a few buckets up to the house last Friday. I fed the vegetable beds instead of the flowers because the nutrient demand on the annual beds is much higher.
Decided to build my own fuchsia basket this year instead of buying one ready made. Used 4 plants: two Ballerina Blues and one each White Eyes and Sunbeam Cherry. I'm not sure that I saved much money, but I did get to pick a mixture of species that I was curious about.
Also purchased 4 tomato starts in 4inch pots: Siletz, Subarctic, Fantastic and Early Tanana that Lori Adams grew in her greenhouse at her U-pick garden. I haven't grown any of these varieties previously, I've mostly stuck to Sweet Million or similar cherry tomatoes in the past. I repotted them in 6-8 inch pots yesterday. I didn't quite have enough soil ready to pot them in the extra large pots I typically use to grow tomatoes.

Also planted out two varieties of fragrant Oriental lilies (one package with 8 of each) that I picked up at Costco in March: Tom Pouce (pink) and Time Out (white). I think I'll eventually put them in pots on the deck, but for now they are in flats with just enough soil to get things going. Getting the bulbs out of the plastic was the motivating force, even with sawdust, the bulbs start to get moldy if held too long.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ribes sanguineum

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This is one of the easiest and most reliable spring shrubs that we can grow in Sitka. This species of Ribes is native to Pacific Northwest, including coastal California and southern British Columbia. What is most available commercially are cultivars developed from the native species. The shrub in my garden blooms well, but never develops fruit. The cultivar ( King Edward VII) I have doesn't set fruit, I'm not sure if it is the lack of summer heat or the cool spring that prevents the fruit from developing. I took this photo on the 8th of April toward the beginning of its flowering period. The plant is in full bloom now.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Pulomonarias are perennials that are pretty easy to grow in southeastern Alaska. They like to be moist, don't mind some shade and don't need heat to bloom consistently. I have several unknown varietys in the garden, all were pass along plants. The most prolific of the bunch is a salmon flowered variety with yellow-green leaves. It usually blooms first and longest. My favorite is probably the deep blue flowered variety. The leaves are solid green, and not as yellow. The one in the photograph is also pretty nice, blue and pink flowers and spotty leaves.

I do dead head them and give them annual feedings of compost. The pink clumps need to be divided pretty regularly.

This flashy primrose is called City of Juneau, it along with Wanda are two of the early and very brightly colored primroses blooming in the garden right now. Both City of Juneau and Wanda are Primula julieae hybrids ( as is Dorothy, another local favorite). Wanda is a similar color, but has very short flower stalks while Dorothy has light yellow flowers on tall stalks.
These are easy to grow since they seem to appreciate the conditions that are easy to come by in Sitka, moisture, organic matter and partial shade. This group forms clumps by the formation of short stolons. The clumps are pretty easy to separate, I tend to wait until after they are done blooming for the year.