Story last updated at 7/18/2013 - 1:11 pm
If you enjoy digging your fingers into the dirt and watching things grow from it - or are interested in learning - the Southeast Alaska Garden Conference, hosted by the Skagway Garden Club - will be a great place to visit to learn some new gardening techniques and network with regional gardeners.
Charlotte Jewell, chairwoman for the conference and owner of Skagway's Jewell Gardens, wants to showcase Skagway as the Garden City of Alaska.
She said the purpose of the conference is to give gardeners - experienced and new - the opportunity to listen to engaging speakers, network with people throughout the region, and share some gardening knowledge.
The highlight of the conference will be the keynote speaker, Jeff Lowenfels.
"We're bringing Jeff Lowenfels in is a big part of the conference because he's such a knowledgeable, dynamic speaker," Jewell said. "Jeff Lowenfels is in the garden writers hall of fame. He speaks at other garden shows. We're the Garden City of Alaska. Since he represents Alaska in many garden venues, we would like him to come to Skagway, see Skagway and share his knowledge with us and then go out in the world and be an advocate for Alaska gardens, including Skagway."
This conference is tailored to fit all kinds of gardeners. Jewell said the conference will be both a social experience and a learning experience.
"The basis for any garden is garden soil," Jewell said. "If you don't have great garden soil, you're not going to have a great garden. Jeff Lowenfels' expertise is in garden soils. His talk really is relevant to anyone - whether they're a beginning gardener or a master gardener. I think his experience hits all levels. We have a fellow doing a workshop on Sunday who talks about planning gardens and so that's more for a beginner. There are other things that I think are more interesting to someone who's a little more knowledgeable, but we have both."
Lowenfels' will present, "Teaming with Microbes: The Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web" on Friday, July 19.
On Saturday, Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer will give a welcome to the Garden City, followed by five speakers and other events. The speakers are Darren Snyder, cooperative extension agent with 4H Youth Development Organization, presenting, "Gardening with Kids: Resources, Methods and Outcomes;" Melissa Aronson, with California State University's secondary and sustainability education presenting," Intro to Permaculture;" Deb Rudis, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presenting, "Gardening for Alaska's Pollinators; Not Just the Birds and the Bees;" Meredith Green, an interpretive ranger for the Klondike Gold Rush National Park about "Skagway's Historic Gardens;" and a lunch presentation with Laurie Constantino, author of "Tastes Like Home, Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska," presenting about Alaskan wild edibles.
Other activities include a city/garden tour, tour of Jewell Gardens, blown glass demonstration, and meals.
On Sunday, there will be workshops and presentations on garden and landscape planning/construction, organic weed control, fruit trees and berries, composting's food web and a couple others.
It is recommended that people attend the whole conference, but it is possible to attend for the keynote speaker, individual workshops on Sunday, or all day Saturday.
There will be a kids program for $10. The conference, with early registration, is $99.
Jewell has been gardening all her life, growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. She started Jewell Gardens in Skagway in 1996, sold bedding plants for 25 years, was the president of the garden club in the 80s for a few years, and has spoken at a couple of conferences in Alaska.
"I think you get gardening in your blood and you just get obsessed with it," Jewell said. "It's just part of me. I'm a gardener at heart, I always will be. I made my living other ways in the past. I'm 65 and I just decided I wanted to do something I enjoy doing. Skagway is the garden city of Alaska and it should have its own tour garden. Tourism is the main economy in Skagway. It just seemed like somebody had to do it, so I did it."
For more information visit www.skagwaygardenclub.weebly.com.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.