The Alaska Botanical Garden (ABG) opened in 1993 with gardens nestled in its 110 acres and has continued to grow and serve as a community jewel in the heart of Anchorage. The ABG is home to over 1,100 hardy, colorful perennials and over 150 native plant species in these gardens, each which possess a distinct personality.
It is said that Alaska has two seasons: Winter and “Not-Winter.” After breakup, the arrival of warmer weather hearkens new growth. Around the first week of May small woodland flowers, such as the lavender Alpine Snowbells, (Soldanella carpatica) and china blue Hepatica, begin to appear. Look closely for other small blooms about the same time. From this point forward, a succession of new species will bloom almost daily. Skip a few days or a week and you are bound to miss an entire flower for the season. On the other hand, many species, such as Bleeding Hearts (Lamprocapnos cultivars, formerly Dicentra), highly prolific and toxic Leopard's-Bane (Doronicum), and Malva (Malva sylvestirs variety Mystic Merlin), can endure for weeks, sometimes months. The Herb Garden, as a whole, is a spectacular example of landscape design employing curved raised beds. It is safe to say that there are plenty of opportunities throughout the spring, summer and early fall to keep floral photographers satisfied.
Himalayan Blue Poppies (Meconopsis x sheldonii), are showcased in at least 4 groupings; one of which also contains the Hensol Violet (Meconopsis betonicifolia). There are numerous varieties of Primula in several gardens, including the Drumstick Primrose (Primula denticulata) found in Lile’s garden in late May. One of my favorite plants is the short-lived Spotted Lady Slipper Orchid found in early June in a small planting under the large tree in the rock garden. Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) is another favorite. I’ve observed them starting in May and growing well into June in the Lower Perennial Garden, as well as Lile’s Garden (maybe also in the Rock Garden). Tufa rock from British Columbia is set throughout the rock garden making delightful “planters.” June is a big month for blooms as evidenced by the metadata on most of my best images from the ABG. I also enjoy photographing the Trout Lilies which I’ve seen as early as July 1st. The Peonies are magnificent, but I have yet to master them photographically while on the bush. In August, mushrooms start growing along the pathways and in the forest, and eventually fall colors start to appear and in mid- to late-September berries get juicy and plump.
Since the gate is open from dawn to dusk, photographers will not be disappointed. Alaskan summers offer long, drawn out evenings with photo-friendly light. It is easy to get lost in the creative process and hit a flow rather than pushing to get in as much as possible before someone comes around to usher you out. There are large greenhouses under construction next to the Lower Perennial Garden. I believe a bonus to having them will be the restroom facilities that will be included. I’m glad they appear not to obscure the delicious light of the setting sun as it filters through the trees to create magical backlighting.
Bears and moose inhabit the area so be cautious at all times. I have personally only encountered the porcupine who likes to munch on the Lily of the Valley plants in the evening.
In addition to the annual summer fund-raiser, the ABG also hosts the Beer Garden event and a Wine in the Woods event during the summer months. Thanks to the hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm of the small staff, there are many other programs for all ages, as well. They are listed on the Calendar on their website and posted to the ABG Facebook page.
The Alaska Botanical Garden is one of the best locations in town for photographing couples, brides, families, children, or individuals. Before your shoot, review their policy for commercial photographers and, as with all gardens, make sure you purchase the appropriate membership or permit in advance. Check the website for additional details.
Engagement Photos of Randall & Emily, above & below left. Cassandra & David, below right.
Beth & Ryan
Abigail & Dalton, sister & brother
Anna, Luisa, Julia, sisters, and Cousin Bailey
Brittany's Bridal Portraits
When the garden is asleep for the winter, there are still things to do, including educational lectures, the annual winter fundraiser, and the spring conference. Check the website for a complete and up to date listing. It’s important to note that this is not a publicly-owned garden. As with many botanical gardens, it is an independent non-profit, which relies on support from the community to maintain this treasure for generations to come.
Located at: 4601 Campbell Airstrip Road, Anchorage, Alaska
Garden and Trail map with credits for garden designs HERE.