In this hanging garden in Alaska, trees turned upside down act as organic flower containers. While Alaska’s glacier gardens may be famous across the globe, Steve and Cindy Bowhay, the proprietors of a genuinely exceptional botanical garden in the Tongass National Forest, have created their own marvel in the Mendenhall Valley.
Inverted trees, often referred to as “Flower Towers,” are scattered around the landscape. Their roots form a basket that cradles vibrant trailing blooms, and their crowns are hidden in the ground. Begonias, fuchsias, and petunias bloom gloriously bright in a bed made of netting and moss in the center of the root ball, and they delicately dangle down from the downed tree.
The Inadvertent Foundation of Glacier Gardens
Being one of the few drive-up glaciers in the entire globe, the Mendenhall Glacier is unique in and of itself. It is located at the base of Thunder Mountain, where the Bowhay family purchased a sizable chunk of land in 1985 after a landslip uprooted almost everything and wiped out one of the main streams on the mountain’s face. In order to power additional greenhouses, Steve, a landscaper by trade, set out to rehabilitate the stream and collect its water for a hydroelectric plant. On the garden property, settling ponds were built to decrease the rate of water erosion and create a number of waterfalls.
According to legend, Steve accidentally damaged the moving equipment
while repairing the stream and, in a fit of rage, used the machine to pick up a big fallen tree stump and slam it upside-down into the soft mud. He supposedly got the idea to replicate his deed after seeing roots dangling down like petunia vines, inverting over 20 more dead spruce and hemlock trees to plant more than 75 blooms in their root bowls every year. Rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese maples, devil’s club, elderberry shrubs, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock are among the other flowering plants that thrive in this special botanical area.
Additionally, visitors can climb Thunder Mountain to reach the granite face cliff, which offers stunning 360-degree views across Juneau.
Understand Before You Go
Open from May through September, the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure is available. Both cruise ship guests and locals can take tours in covered carts.