North to Alaska Botanical Garden
... a gold nugget in the land of the northern lights

Alaska Botanical Garden in late August, and the prime flower show is over. But there are still lots of blooms and attractions to keep you and your camera occupied.

The usual Anchorage growing season starts mid May and it's over mid September... about 120 days. Annual precipitation is about 15 inches. And that midnight sun requires a lot of getting used to... for me, anyways. The Alaska plant life thrives on it. June 20 or 21 is summer solstice - the longest day of the year.

... Nineteen hours and 20 minutes of wonderful sunshine! Think of what you could do with all that daylight! And the sun never really goes down, it just bounces off the horizon to start another day.

When I was there in August, it was warmer than usual - 80 degrees F every day... the USA hangs on to that Fahrenheit scale. The average daytime temperature for June, July and August is lower, more like 72 degrees - 20 degrees C. A fresh summer climate... perfect for strenuous activity.

Close encounter of the moose kind

I was on my way out of the garden. I barely saw a soul all day and figured I was totally alone. Still not ready to leave this peaceful plot of wilderness. I put down my camera backpack on the side of the gravel road and took out my camera.

Other than a few isolated chirps from a songbird, the world was eerily quiet. I'd only met up with two or three people in the garden late morning but none of the large wildlife who wander through the Alaska Botanical Garden.

I could hear a couple of youngsters walking and kicking the stones on the road. I picked up my backpack and pushed it off into the ditch in case a car came by.

I was completely lost in my viewfinder. The footsteps stopped and I turned around expecting to meet up with a couple of kids wanting their photo taken.

... And slammed my face into a moose's nose! I must have broken the world high jump record! But she was totally calm, just checked me out, turned around and walked slowly away.

But it took ages for my blood pressure to drop!

The Herb Garden

The herb garden is the most formal of the gardens... it was designed by a Herb Study Group to grow herbs for food and medicines. Modern drugs are derived from Nature's original remedies and recently there's been an upsurge in homeopathic medicine in the western world. And I'm so very grateful for that!

Lots of photo composition helpers here in the way of curves, leading lines, and repeating patterns. To make sure everything's straight and tack sharp, use your tripod... unless, of course, you can hold your camera rock solid.

Lower Perennial Garden

The lower perennial garden is across from the rock garden near the entrance. You'll find a large variety of perennials - hardy of course!

All the images on this page are  from 35 mm. slide film.  I scan all my slides and colour film on a Nikon Coolscan. Once they're in digital form, they're ready to be tweaked in Photoshop and other editing programs. 

This photo got its finishing touches in Topaz, first in the landscape plug-in, then in Impression to make it look like a painting.

You've heard that Alaska has such glorious, 24-long summer days. Even though the spring and summer growing season is very short, the length of day makes up for it ... the plants are lush and they flourish in the mild summer.

Upper Perennial Garden

The upper perennial garden in Alaska Botanical Garden is a great demonstration garden for recycled materials. Pick up a few new and interesting ways to edge your garden! This section of the garden uses concrete test cores to build a small retainer wall.

One section of edging is made of thick slices of tree trunks which make an pretty retainer wall and keeps the soil in place.

All the garden paths form circular shapes around the garden and the concrete cores and tree trunks make consistent repeating patterns that add interest in your photos. Review some photo composition theory here.

Alaska Botanical Garden, A Military Past

Don't fall down a foxhole while you're exploring the Alaska Botanical Garden! During WWII, this garden area was used as a training facility. And you can use your imagination and see the tanks and jeeps rolling down the trails. Actually, those vehicles are responsible for laying down the paths in the garden.

South-central Alaska played a very large role in WWII and the Cold War. This garden certainly has stories to tell but it's not, by any means, the only place in Alaska with such stories. Driving through Alaska, you'll find all kinds of bunkers and other reminders of a time many would like to forget.

Along the Garden Trails

The Alaska Botanical Garden blends in with the environment. The gardens are set into wildflower strewn hiking trails, and a boreal and birch forest. And the dog mushing trail. Take in a nice long hike along the forest paths.

Lowenfels Family Nature Trail

  • 1.1 mile trail sets off from the far end of the Alaska Botanical Garden
  • winds through several distinct plant communities. Admire them, take some photos
  • walk till you get to the Campbell River - you might just be lucky enough to view some salmon - for sure you'll get a nice view of the Chugach Mountains.

When you're walking through the garden, you'll find yourself in sunny areas as well as under deep shade of tall forest trees. Depending on the time of year, you could get some wonderful pictures of wildflowers. But you'll also find ferns, mushrooms and cranberries... all of which make great subjects for photos.

In deep shade, you'll need to think about your exposure. Figure out what ISO, f-stop and shutter speed you need for the picture you want to create.

To learn more about Alaska Botanical Garden, visit their website at

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