Debra Prinzing

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SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Peonies from America’s Last Frontier (Episode 102)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
I'm standing in a Homer, Alaska, peony field at Scenic Place Peonies. It's owned by Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand - check out the views!!!

I’m standing in a Homer, Alaska, peony field at Scenic Place Peonies. It’s owned by Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand – check out the views!!!

Last summer I visited Alaska and toured about 12 cut peony farms from Fairbanks to Homer – in one week! It was a wonderful trip, made all the more special because of the many cool, welcoming flower farmers I met along the way. They hosted me for meals, spent quality time walking and talking with me along the rows of robust and beautiful plants, lent me a bed for the night, and generally adopted me into their Alaska Peony Tribe! If you want to learn more about the Peony Growers of Alaska and how to order cut flowers from some of them directly, visit the Alaska Peony Growers’ web site.

It was a thoroughly freeing time for me as a journalist because I was my own client. No editor gave me the assignment. No publication had their dibs on how the story would be reported. I used my Alaska Airlines’ frequent flier miles to book my flight into Anchorage and then rented a car with another set of airline miles.

I made reservations to tour Denali National Park on the first day – mainly because Dr. Pat Holloway, my trip advisor, insisted that I couldn’t just drive past the majestic national park while seeking peony farms! After that first day, I spent the following seven preoccupied with peonies, their cultivation, harvest, post-harvest care and ultimate journey to the hands of satisfied customers. It was pretty sweet – and I can’t wait to get back. I wrote a fun post about the week in Alaska here.

Alaska august 2013 coverOther than selling a *tiny* story about Alaska peonies to Sunset magazine, I am happy to announce that my first big editorial placement appears in the current issue of Alaska Airlines magazine. How fitting! You can read the feature here [PDF].

This week’s podcast features interviews with the owners of two farms I visited during my tour. First, you’ll hear my conversation with Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony in Fritz Creek on the Kenai Peninsula, one of the first growers to jump in feet first to plant peony roots. You will hear the sounds of nature around us, as we sat in her garden near the pond to talk. For some crazy reason, Nicco, her cat, was fascinated with the audio recorder’s microphone. You’ll hear a few bumps in the audio, thanks to the curious cat!

Here are some photos from Alaska Perfect Peonies:


Rita Jo with red peony

Rita Jo with a double-headed peony that we discovered in her growing fields.