One has only to look as far as the Homer Garden Club for a definition of “perennial.” The club’s roots can be found in a letter written to local gardener Shirley Forquer from Lois Schneyer in February 1984. It has been growing ever since.
A teacher at Kenai Peninsula Community College-Homer at the time, Schneyer’s letter invited Forquer to an organizational meeting of the Homer Garden Club for all indoor and outdoor flower growers. Plans for the club included monthly meetings during the winter, tours of local gardens in the summer and “perhaps, when we get better organized, even participate in our own Homer Garden Show.”
A public notice of that first meeting was announced in the Homer News’ Town Crier section, Feb. 16, 1984.
This year celebrates the Homer Garden Club’s 30th birthday.
“The last time I checked, we had a membership of 175,” said Brenda Adams, on the club’s board of directors and author of “There’s a Moose In My Garden.” “Not all of them are totally active, but we usually get 50-60 at a meeting.”
The club’s original garden tours were generally members-only affairs and occurred several times throughout the summer. Members met at city hall and someone served as tour guide.
“We’d go to see two or three other members’ gardens,” said Adams. “Some months, a whole bunch of people would be there. Other months, just a handful. It was very informal, just anyone who said ‘you can come to my garden’ was all it needed to be on the tour.”
In 2007, the club transformed those loosely organized tours into the first Gardeners’ Weekend, as noted by a simple calendar entry in the Homer News, July 26, 2007. The next year, the event was more than a mention of upcoming events. The 2008 event included a “Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners” presentation by Dr. Allan Armitage, a tour of six carefully selected gardens and an after-tour reception at Bear Creek Winery.
“We decided that since the objectives of the club were to share knowledge and help other gardeners, whether or not they were members of the club, learn about gardening and how to do things better, that we should get a little more serious about which gardens we picked and the educational value they have,” said Adams. “So, instead of doing it how we had, we decided to make it more of an event and pick the time of season when most gardens are starting to peak and look their best.”
Pre-screened gardens continue to offer a variety of styles for the annual tour.
“We try to always have a garden that is primarily a vegetable garden and something with a water feature. We try to have a plantsman’s garden, something that is more horticulturally challenging and interesting, and we like to have a small garden, an in-town garden,” said Adams.
“We try to have a variety to meet the interests and needs of lots of different kinds of gardeners.”
Tour tickets help pay for the club to feature “some really famous people,” said Adams, This year’s featured guest is Debra Prizing, the Seattle- and Los Angeles-based president of the Garden Writers Association. A contributing editor for Better Homes and Gardens and contributor in Horticulture, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Country Gardens and Sunset, Prizing is a proponent of the “slow flower movement.”
“It focuses, like food does, on local, sustainable, organic,” said Roni Overway, who, along with Adams, organizes Gardeners’ Weekend. “She has applied that same philosophy to flowers, so, when she is making her own flower bouquets, for example, she tries over the whole year to be seasonally gathering flowers from her garden or local growers. … Each season, she will pull flowers from these local, sustainable practices and make exquisite, gorgeous bouquets.”
Prizing also has been influential in ensuring flowers grown in the United States are used in arrangements in the nation’s capital.
“There was a period of time when they went elsewhere,” said Overway of foreign sources of flowers. “But she apparently has convinced the White House to go back to using American-grown flowers.”
In 2007, 180 gardeners participated in Gardeners’ Weekend. Since then, it has attracted as many as 400 gardeners from the Kenai Peninsula, across Alaska and the Lower 48. Its growing success indicates the two-day event, as well as the 30-year-old Homer Garden Club, have taken root.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eighth annual Gardeners’ Weekend
Sponsored by Homer Garden Club
“Visual Elegance in a Vase,” presented by Debra Prinzing, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 3:30 p.m., limited to 24 participants, $20, tickets at Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and the Homer Bookstore;
“Dazzling Bouquets: Inspiration and Beauty Straight From Your Garden,”
presented by Debra Prinzing, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 6:30 p.m.
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
$10 members, $15 non-members; tickets available at Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and the Homer Bookstore.
Ultimate organic farmstead
Begun 35 years ago, this is an example of a “stunningly, efficient, organic vegetable garden,” according to Roni Overway, one of the event’s organizers.
Watch this garden grow
Joan Splinter and Don Felton
This new garden reflects the gardeners’ favorite colors, is terraced by Seldovia rock and Hope slate and has a strategically placed pond complete with koi.
High hoop flower power
Rachel Lord and Ben Gibson
Local flower-lovers may be familiar with the flowers from the Alaska Stems high tunnel. This garden offers an example of Debra Prinzing’s area of expertise.
Perfectly Alaskan peonies
Rita Jo Shoultz
See what the peony buzz is all about. This farm was founded in 2006 on the Shoultz family homestead. It has grown from the original 3,500 plants to more than 15,000.
Extraordinary treasures of the heart
Brenda and Bill Adams
This plantsman’s garden never fails to surprise with new elements. It features established perennials and new plant beds, a mixture of colors and careful attention given to microclimates.
Reception for Gardeners’ Weekend participants
Bear Creek Winery