A Flower Farm Tour

It’s been a super busy couple of weeks with a full schedule of photography shoots for clients and projects, so I haven’t been doing much DIY.  But I did make time to enjoy a tour of a local flower farm this past weekend, since I skipped the Willow garden tours this year.  I’ve followed All Dahlia’d Up, which is run by Misty Vanderweele, for a while now, so I was excited when I heard she was offering tours of her farm this summer.

I purchased my tour ticket as a birthday present to myself and I’m sure glad I did.  When we arrived at the farm we were greeted in the driveway so we could sign in and got our name tags.  Once the tour began we were escorted to the backyard where this pretty table set-up greeted us.

It was the perfect garden party spread!  The table was right in Misty’s backyard and was situated next to her original dahlia garden, which now also has a row of sweet pea.  I noticed she had a purple door on her house, just like mine – and I’m totally loving those purple chairs too!  Perhaps the ones I have by the greenhouse need a new coat of paint! 😉

The group was led to the back area of the yard, past another larger garden to where the property opens to her father-in-law’s crop fields and an amazing view of Pioneer Peak.  She uses this area to host small wedding ceremonies during the summer.

She gave us a bit of history about how she started the farm after her son’s passing due to Muscular dystrophy and how he was the inspiration for the farm.  He had brought her home a feeble dahlia plant one year for Mother’s Day courtesy of a class project.  She wasn’t sure it would even survive, but it did and it produced lovely purple blooms, which is her favorite color.  The farm idea took off when she gave a local bride a bouquet of flowers one summer and soon had multiple requests for more.  She did a bit of research and realized that flower farming was indeed a ‘thing’ and decided to run with it.  six years later she has a well-known thriving Alaska Grown business that shares her joy with others near and far.

After the quick presentation we walked across the road to her newest flower patch, located in one of her father-in-law’s fields.  It was a little hike, but it was well worth it.  Here she explained the various types of flowers she grows for bouquets and arrangements.  She chooses flowers that bloom continuously all summer so she can cut from them multiple times.

She turned us loose in the flower patch for a few minutes to take in all the varieties she’s growing.  Some of the most recognizable were bachelor buttons, sweet pea, dianthus, poppies and snap dragons.

She also had a few veggies growing in the back corner of the garden including pumpkins and these pretty flowering kale.

These huge poppy pods were a big hit with several of us on the tour.  They looked like something right out of a Dr. Seuss story, but produced one of the prettiest poppies I’ve seen in a long time.

This pink sunflower was also a favorite of the tour guests.  I’d never seen one this color but really liked the variation.

My favorite area of the garden was the sweet pea row.  I’m considering doing something like this around our bee hive area next summer.  It would provide a nice screen to disguise the hive and provide a bit of wind block, plus I could cut flowers from it for arrangements.  And I’m pretty sure the bees would like it too.  I’m not sure I’d do this variety of colors but it was fun to see all the varieties together.

The view of Pioneer Peak was fantastic from this spot too.  It’d certainly give me an extra reason to be in the garden all day!

We trekked back across the road to the gardens in her yard where she clipped several blooming dahlias for us to use in arrangements.  There were all types of varieties and colors, including some unique spikey ones!

On the side of the larger garden she’s created a sweet pea tunnel, which we got to walk through and squeezed in to do a group picture.  She had a local photographer on the tour taking photos, so I’ll share a link to those when she posts them.

Next we went to the prep tent where we created individual arrangements using the dahlia’s she had cut as the centerpiece.  We had a variety of snap dragons, sweet peas, white dill and stock to add to our bouquets.

I decided to use a variety of purple and pink tones to create a monochromatic backdrop for my pink and white dahlia.  And I chose a seat that had more purple blooms to add to the arrangement.

Once everyone placed their arrangements on the table it really came to life.  Everyone had fun getting pictures of their arrangements and their neighbors!

We wrapped up the tour with a yummy dinner of Alaska grown produce, and local salmon.  I didn’t get any pictures of the food because I was quite hungry and too busy chatting with the ladies seated around me at the table – but I’ll tell you that it was all very delicious!

I’m so glad that I decided to take the tour.  I got to learn a bit more about this local business and the woman who leads it.  Plus I got to take home a beautiful arrangement of local blooms with a full belly, plus a yummy truffle that I saved to enjoy the next day.  If you get a chance to enjoy the tour I highly recommend it!

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The Palmer Garden & Art Faire

This past weekend I got to enjoy the Palmer Museum Garden & Art Faire.  This is the third year I’ve gone to the faire (check out the first visit here) and always enjoy it.  The forecast didn’t look great, but the day turned out beautiful and just perfect for this type of event.  There were vendors, live music and instructional classes throughout the day.

I had planned to attend a couple of the classes offered but my schedule didn’t work out.  While browsing the vendors I noticed that Lakeside Forge was instructing a couple of workers.  I’m not sure if they had signed up or if this was part of his display, but they sure looked like they were learning a lot!

The Hubs met me at the Faire on his way to run some errands and we got some lunch from the food vendors.  Because there was another event going on in town there wasn’t as much selection as years past, but we enjoyed the BBQ pork & noodles we got from Momma Rav’s.  While we waited in line, I was eyeing the cool truck next door which was built on an old International truck!  We also sampled a couple of the Rhubarb Rumble entries at the vendor booths while we browsed.  Although we didn’t make it out to all the locations around town with recipes for sampling, our favorite was the rhubarb strawberry salsa with cinnamon chips.

After the Hubs went off to run his errands I checked out a few more of the activities at the fair.  There was a group of painters capturing this lovely scene full of peonies.  Some took the abstract route, while others created a portrait.  As a photographer, it was fun to see the differences these creatives had in their visions of the same set up.

Next, I took in some of the history of downtown Palmer.  The city was started as a farming colony as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program during the 30’s.  Inside the museum they were playing a documentary that showcased what life was like as the colony was built through interviews of those who were there.  I’m so grateful for those brave families who left everything they knew behind to start over in Alaska.  They were the foot hold for the wonderful community we love today.

The museum also had displays of life in Alaska during those times.  One display featured the history of the Matanuska Maid, a local icon and mascot of sorts for the local dairy & creamery.  They also had displays of the native cultures in the region and the mining history of the surrounding ranges.

They also had displays about the daily life of the pioneers including the giant cabbages they could grow due to the long hours of sunlight and the typical household items they used, including dresses made from flour sacks.  Nothing went to waste due to the limited resources and minimal funds available.

There were also displays about the difficulties the pioneers faced in creating the farms out of the Alaskan wilderness.  Not all of Roosevelt’s plans worked in Alaska and many had to be altered to fit the unique circumstances encountered here.

I spotted these pretty glass emblems in the window of the gift shop area and immediately fell in love with them.  I had something similar with the Norfolk Mermaid on it from when I lived on the East Coast.  There were several designs to pick from, but I think I like the iconic water tower the best.  I decided to think on it some and come back to get one in a few weeks.

This enamelware pot was right near the entrance and drew my eye instantly.  I loved the simple charm of the rusty bucket and the faux lavender was the perfect touch to finish it off.  If it had been for sale it would be in my home right now!

I also toured the exhibition garden next to the museum.  I’ve been to this garden many times and always love seeing how things grow here so I can compare how they will do in our yard which is just a few miles away.

The new truck statue between the museum and the garden looked great with the new plantings starting to fill in.  I’m excited to see how they decorate it for Colony Christmas this winter!

There were also several antique tractors on display outside the museum.  I’ve seen a few of these before in local parades, but it was fun to get up close and see some of their details.  The vintage lawn mower was tucked in between a couple of the big tractors and caught my eye with it’s unique design.

I also learned about a new project some local veterans are spearheading.  They are fundraising to purchase the fuselage of an old cargo plane and turn it into a traveling Alaska and military art gallery, performance venue, and museum.  Learn more about this unique project at their website: www.rollingboxcar.com.

While I didn’t find any garden art that called my name this time around, I did come home with this lovely peony bouquet to brighten our dining room. We also bought two of the mason jar strawberry lemonades I had the first year to enjoy at home.

It was the perfect mid-summer event to celebrate the community, local growers and the season.  I look forward to seeing what they plan for next year’s event!

Colony Christmas

We’ve been trying to make it out for the Colony Christmas festivities in Palmer the past several years, but schedules haven’t lined up.  Luckily this year they did and we were able to catch some of the merriment.  The Hubs had to work until around 3, so we decided to start with the ceremonial lighting of the iconic water tower at 5 pm and the parade right after that.

Alaska Picker helped orchestrate the lighting and housed the historic red light for the top of the tower for a while in preparation.  We spotted these awesome hats celebrating the tower, being worn along the parade route where everyone was gathered,  I wasn’t able to get a shot of them before they disappeared into the crowd.  Luckily our friends saw them too and stopped them to ask for a picture!

The parade was done on the main street in town, which has a quaint historic small town feel. Since it’s so dark this time of year, many of the vehicles in the parade were decorated with lights or pulled trailers decorated in lights.

We even spotted the Grinch far above watching the action from his modern day Mt. Crumpit.  There was no sign of Max, who I’m sure would have loved to see all the people and pretty lights!

One parade float done by a local church had a nativity scene, while others featured Christmas trees, large snowmen or pretty packages.

A new consignment shop in town had this pretty lighted arbor design with cut outs of items offered a the shop around the edge of the display.

The best entry of the night was this old truck, completely outlined in lights from a local coffee shack.

The big boom truck from the electric company was my second favorite because they decorated a good portion of the truck with lights, including a star on the grill.

After the parade we headed over to check out a bazaar at the train depot which was PACKED!  We made a quick lap to see all the products and the headed outside to catch the fireworks.  While waiting for the fireworks to start I enjoyed the light displays around the depot, including this one of a train driven by a moose.  There was also a Grinch with little Whos, the Grinch on his sleigh, moose and snowmen along with others.  There were so many people around the displays that I couldn’t get good shots of them, but I’ve shared links to shots that our friends got earlier in the evening.

The fireworks were totally worth the wait in the cold.   I made a video of them, which I’ll share on Facebook later today.  On the way back to our truck we spotted the old truck again and got to see it up close, which was even better!

While we were admiring the truck, the same friends who got the shots I linked to above spotted us and invited us to join them for dinner at a nearby cafe.  The rest of the night was spent laughing and sharing stories around a table.

It was a great way to kick off the holiday season.  I think this might need to be our new tradition, with a whole day devoted to all that’s available during the weekend!  I’d love to hear what activities you do to kick off the season, so be sure to leave a comment below.

The Palmer Garden & Art Faire

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Today I’m sharing a little recap of the Palmer Midsummer Garden & Art Faire.  Although this was the 6th annual faire, this was the first time I’d attended the event and I had an amazing time!  We had perfect weather, a wonderful variety of vendors and a plethora of workshops, as well as entertainment. The photo above only shows one small section of all that was going on!

The first thing I did was join a workshop on Alpine hypertufa container gardens.  Our instructor was Jamie, a local alpine plant expert who owns the Alpine Nursery in town.  He reviewed his recipe for making hypertufa containers (1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite, 1 part pete moss and water mixed with latex additive and a tablespoon of fiberglass fibers for strength) and explained the process for forming the container using various common garden or household items as molds.  He showed us how to plug the hole at the bottom of the container with embroidery mesh before he started filling it with dirt to plant.

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He added his own special blend of soil, which includes native top soil, pea gravel and sand.  This provides a consistency similar to what alpine plants are used to growing in in their natural environments.  He added two interesting rocks to create various pockets for the different plants, including a rare specimen he acquired from a fellow nursery owner.

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Once he had everything planted how he wanted, he added crushed hypertufa from a mold that cracked while curing on top to replicate the gravel topsoil of the native habitat of these plants.  Here’s how it looked when it was all done.

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As the class was wrapping up I noticed these ladies at the instructor’s booth.  They were definitely channeling their garden spirit with their outfits!  I’m pretty sure they were part of one the many performances during the faire, but it was fun to see them milling about in the crowd.

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I also browsed Jaime’s plants before heading out to see the other vendors and spotted the impatients my neighbor had gifted me last summer!

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Next door to Jaime’s booth was a very talented bonsai gardener.  I admired the creativity and patience it took to create these beautiful container gardens.  Here are two of my favorites, which I was surprised included one crafted from a birch tree!

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A little way down the vendor trail I found this fun photo op booth from one of my favorite local thrift shops, Thrifter’s Rock.  Their booth was just as fun with unique display racks and quirky wares.

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Another nearby vendor had this bright and happy chair planter.  I’ve got an old chair frame that I’ve been holding on to so I can create something similar!

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I was madly in love with these gorgeous hand made bird houses!  The copper roof was a fantastic compliment to the cedar carved steeples and the rustic branch on the front made it just perfect.  Unfortunately they were out of my budget for now, but I did note the vendor’s business name so I can contact him to get one when I do have some extra funds for garden décor.

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Speaking of garden décor, you might have noticed this cutie in my last post!  This vendor had several tall willow dragonflies available but I liked this little one.  Although they had planned to sell this as part of the arrangement it was displayed in they agreed to separate them and I got the perfect addition to my wheelbarrow planter for just $5!  They assured me that this little guy will weather the winter fine, but I’ll probably put him up in the shed just to extend his overall lifespan.

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There was lots to see and do at the faire, including this selfie photo op for the Visitor Center.  These tall mushrooms and hanging blooms were so cute I just had to take a picture, even though it’s not a selfie!

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The Hubs joined me at the event and we decided to get some lunch from one of the food trailers.  The salmon egg roll we ordered was definitely unique but the caprese sandwich I selected was AWESOME!  And the strawberry rhubarb lemonade I had to go with it was just as wonderful.  It was the perfect lunch on a warm summer day.

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While we were enjoying lunch I noticed this unique bike contraption nearby and soon discovered it was part of a demonstration some pretty ingenious youth were doing on how to use human power to make smoothies!

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After I’d seen all there was to see I headed back to the truck enjoying the fun little displays in front of the downtown Palmer shops.  I really liked this garden box which used fishing gear as part of the display!

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Before heading home I stopped to check out a possible photo location which turned out to a great spot, although it didn’t have many options beyond this vantage point.

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The neighbors were sure adorable too!  Look at those big floppy ears and spots!  I wonder if I could sweet talk the property owner in to letting me borrow one or two for a shoot! 🙂

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It was the perfect end to a fun day.  I’ll definitely be attending the faire again next year and already have the tentative date flagged on my calendar.  Check back tomorrow to see all the fun garden art I found at the faire!