This has been one of the sunniest, hottest Alaska summers I can ever remember. When I woke up and saw low clouds on the Chugach mountains I was looking forward to a cooler day.
My mom and I wasted no time and drove up to Glen Alps to check on the blueberries. Due to the warm weather we were giddy to find the berries plentiful and pretty much ripe.
We picked about two quarts in less than an hour and also picked up a few prize boletes that must have popped up overnight.
After dropping off our loot we packed up our truck and headed toward Wasilla to Alaska Blooms Peony Farm. I had visited a few weeks prior when the peonies were mostly closed but today the sun decided to take center stage and the peonies were bursting with color and perfume. I shed a layer of clothing and set to work.
Sixteen students arrived for crown instructions, cookies and mimosas. It was a joy to incorporate peonies that were grown right where we were having the class.
My students ranged greatly in age, but everyone enjoyed themselves. Each crown was so lovely in its own way!
After the class the students took a tour of the farm. Farm owner, Rachel, brought out a bucket full of pink peonies in full bloom and students bought stems wrapped in newspaper.
My day came full circle by dining on my parents’ deck in the sun and digging into a big slice of blueberry pie.
Every wedding I make flowers for has a different style and Dianne and Matthew’s Wasilla wedding is one of the most unique this year.
Dianne wanted jewel tones of amethyst and peridot. She adores orchids, which I learned can be limited in color and style in Alaska. I packed her bouquet with fuchsia orchid, purple lisianthus, white roses, baby’s breath, trailing amaranthus, traipsing plumosa fern, sword fern and Italian ruscus.
A few months ago I received an e-mail from a bride in Kentucky who was planning a destination wedding in Alaska. She had found me in Alaska Bride & Groom Magazine and thought my style would be appropriate for her and her fiancé, Cam’s, wedding in Cooper Landing.
Sarah and Cam wanted a rustic, wild wedding to reflect their Kentucky roots. They gave me free reign to select wild flowers and greens to incorporate with garden roses and lavender button mums.
I harvested spruce, alder, alder cones, yarrow, clover, grass, and even a four-leaf clover for their special arrangements. Gathering wildflowers is one of my favorite activities. I headed out to my secret wild garden south of Anchorage to find everything I needed, including a special ingredient, which I’ll mention later. This is my happy place and it brought me so much joy to return there for the first time this summer.
This week I was graced with a new challenge: corner arrangements for an archway. I’ve made garlands before but not structured corner pieces. I decided to structure them with alder branches, Italian ruscus and seeded eucalyptus then layered in white wax flower, button mums, salal, white hypericum and finally, gorgeous, aromatic garden roses the color of butter.
When my husband and I got married in July 2007 purchasing peonies wasn’t an option. They were out of season. But I remember gardens all over Anchorage with gorgeous peonies in July and August. I ended up using someone’s garden peonies for my own bouquet.
It wasn’t until August 2013 when I was leafing through an Alaska Airlines Magazine that I learned how unique Alaska peonies really are.
Peony farms have since sprouted up all over the state from Nenana to Homer to Wasilla and have cornered the global peony market from mid to late summer.
I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of Alaska Blooms Peony Farm and learn about these special flowers from owner Rachel Christy.
My son and I embarked on a rainy Sunday outside the city of Wasilla to a cabin where thousands of peony buds were growing in the front lot.
Many brides I work with are Alaskan through and through and ask to have bits of Alaska incorporated into their flowers. This makes my job even more fun because I get to forage from the forest. Today’s wedding was full of forest ferns.
Hannah and Dylan’s wedding had a vintage vibe. As I was dropping off the flowers Hannah’s aunt arrived in a black A-line with a fascinator that belonged to her grandmother.
Anchorage winters have changed. When I was younger I remember making snow forts, sledding and snowmen. On Halloween I’d have to wear a snow suit over my costume (or choose a warm costume such as a bear or a flapper girl moose). I remember yearning for the city plowers to pile a mountain of snow at the top of our driveway (we were at the cusp of a different subdivision so the city plows would stop at our house and leave all the extra snow in our driveway, much to my dad’s distress).
The past few years have been much different. There’s no more snow. The famous Iditarod sled dog race start was relocated to snowier Fairbanks last year. It’s just lame – the cold with no snow. My mother-in-law bought our son an amazing wagon with interchangeable sled runners. We eagerly installed them two years ago and never used it.
I’m not the only one bemoaning the changes. Anchorage’s mayor said that street lighting in inadequate these days because we used to rely on the snow’s reflection to see better during the dark winter months. Ski races have been postponed and cancelled.
It’s a real bummer when you have a small child who wants so badly to participate in winter activities.
But yesterday, finally, we got a few inches of the fluffy white stuff. Our son couldn’t have been more thrilled. I mean, LOOK at the joy in his little face:
So here’s to a real, bona fide Anchorage winter. Let’s get some more snow now!