Spring in Alaska is really quite short or long depending how you think about it. From the time our daylight exceeds 12 hours on March 21 and the snow begins to melt until the weather warms enough to set out sensitive plants can seem like an eternity. After the snow is finally gone it may only take a few sunny weeks before the the trees begin to leaf out and that makes our springtime seem very short and we settle into our summer temperature patterns. Clear sunny days lead to clear frosty nights and our last frost can be in the last week of May. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start to our gardening season with a few hardy planting exceptions. The summer temperatures here in Wasilla average in the mid 60's with a few sunny 75 degree days - but 80 degrees is rare and many rainy or cloudy days will never reach 60 degrees. With 20 hours of sun during June we make up for our short growing season by extremely rapid growth during our long days. It has been estimated that our long summer days are equivalent to 20 extra frost free growing days. This also means that timing is everything. Setting out plants a week or 10 days late and there may not be enough time to mature and produce a significant crop. Starting plants indoors is a way of life and helps relive our winter cabin-fever. The first perennials emerging in spring are always a welcome sight.
It was just a few days ago that I first noticed some ferns were emerging with their characteristic "fiddle-heads" and after looking around I also notice that the familiar Alaska state flower Myosotis alpestris or Alpine Forget-me-not was also beginning to bloom.
I have been doing some spring cleanup work around my property before the weeds and brush return and makes the task much more difficult. I have a wooded hillside behind my house that I have been clearing little by little each spring. The annual progress is slow and involved cutting out small trees and grubbing out our native wild rose Rosa acicularis and many surface roots from returning willows. It is a never ending process.
I have been transplanting some native forest ferns and mosses that I find around my property and my goal is to have a dense woodland fern garden some day in place of an overgrown bushy hillside that was a severe fire hazard so close to my wooden sided house. The orange flags mark fern crowns that have not emerged yet. I prefer a natural looking landscape when possible and found a wonderful book with many examples.
The Scandinavian Garden By Karl-Dietrich Buhler is a wonderful book for Alaska gardeners that want a natural looking landscape. Much of the Scandinavian climate is almost identical to our climate here with many of the same plant species also.