Summer flowers are in full bloom for a project dating back 30 years

Summer flowers are in full bloom for a project dating back 30 years
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:39 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a sure sign that summer has officially arrived in Alaska.

A sea of colors will soon beautify Downtown Anchorage as this year’s crop at the Mann Leiser Memorial Greenhouse is ready to go into the ground. Senior Gardener Richard Lott says they grow 70,000 to 80,000 plants per year. Of that, about 1,500 are focused on making downtown more colorful.

Lott said it’s a project that goes back to the early 1990s.

“It’s just a really exciting time because that’s just kind of the signal for every Alaskan, at least, that it’s time to enjoy the prolonged daylight,” Lott said.

He said there’s been a lot of trial and error, but when it comes to what grows best, they’ve pretty much got it down to a science.

“The geraniums, for example, are an excellent crop, very easy to grow easy to maintain, lots of vibrant color as you can see, and they’re pretty much a mainstay of our inventory,” he explained.

They grow everything from seed, which means the greenhouse isn’t always full of color.

“One of the more exciting things for my job in the winter at least, is you know being able to come to work and slowly watching the process and slowly watching this greenhouse just fill up with life and color,” Lott said. “It’s really exciting.”

There’s a process to maintaining and watering 80,000 plants, Lott said. The greenhouse relies on irrigation mats that are designed to water entire crops at one time. The same goes for the hanging baskets.

“We have the irrigation drip lines in our baskets that are intended to water an entire line of baskets, so we don’t have to individually water and check the condition of every single thing,” Lott said.

Each year the crops are similar, but they’re not the same.

“I always try and make it a point when I’m designing to bring in a new crop, but like at least a little bit of it, just to see how it does in the field,” he said. “See how it presents itself. See if it’s something you know — just another tool in our toolbox to kind of help make the parks come alive.”

Soon, the flowers will find their new home in pots and beds across the city. That is, until summer’s end, when the process starts all over again.

The week before Memorial Day is when Lott said their crews are busy getting everything in the ground.