Alaska born, Brandon grew up in Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula in the log cabin his mother and father built, running free on the land with his 2 brothers. He spent his high school and college years in Washington State with some stints in the mountains of Utah (to snowboard) and the Islands of Hawai'I (to weed the native forests of invasive plants). He moved back to Alaska in 2000 with his brother Derek.
Brandon first met his wife Courtney in the jungles of Ecuador in 1995, and 8 years later pirated her off a sailboat in Hawai'I to bring her home to his camp up Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK. He has since volunteered for Challenge Alaska and the Fire Department, built log furniture and timber frame homes, captained a gillnetter in Bristol Bay, attended wooden boatbuilding school, and built a home for his growing family. He and his brother Derek now run high-end multi-day snow machine tours as Alaska Wild Guides during the winters.
Needless to say, if Brandon decides to do something, he'll do it, and he'll do it well! He looks forward to the next 20 years with the flowers…
"Courtney and I are excited to grow our own food—to live a more sustainable life on the land, and to share the joys of gardening with other Alaskans."
Look for Brandon in Indian, working and watering in the greenhouse, running the bobcat, repairing this and that, building wooden planters…running free on the land with his boys (all with a big grin on his face).
Courtney grew up in the woods of Oregon (Mt. Hood) and Washington. She lived in Japan for a couple of years, and crewed on a sailing vessel in Hawai'i until Brandon decided to help her return to the woods, this time in Alaska. It was that spring 2003, when she first moved up Crow Creek Road, that she began working at Forget-Me-Not Nursery. Inspired by Dea's enthusiasm for soil and compost, Courtney and Brandon spent the month of May with a polaski and shovel, digging out alder roots and rocks on their mountain lot of land to create the gardens that would last them the next 10 years.
"We were hooked. Dea and Kathy always taught us to keep it simple and natural—get the right combination of sand, silt, and clay, add your organics, your manure, and you're good to go. Their delight in the whole process was absolutely contagious." And of course that joy was passed down to the two Ruckel boys, Cedar and Tyson, born 2008 and 2010.
Brandon and Courtney bought the nursery in fall 2012, just in time to dig up the Moose and design the 2013 Tulip Field. "Indian has always been a special place for me. To come here in April and work in the greenhouse, to laugh with the ladies and listen to music, to see the crocus flowering, has always been such a delight. We're going to carry on with what Dea and Kathy have created. At the same time, I feel such opportunity here to further celebrate the cycle of life – whether it be in hot composting, food production, bees, medicinal herbs, educational workshops, or seasonal festivals…we can do it all right here."
Look for Courtney in the fields and in the greenhouse, transplanting, tending to the flowers, talking story, feeding the crew, taking care of her boys….
Look for Cedar here and there, with wheelbarrow, rake, or bike. Don’t hesitate to ask him for a tour of the land; he’d be glad to tell what’s what and why!
Look for Tyson in the dirt, in the gravel, in the greenhouse, in the grass! Give him a high five and a "knuckles"; he's our tiniest worker.
"If you ask three Master Gardeners the same one question you can get five different answers."
I grew up in northern Utah and moved to Alaska in 1998. Moved to Girdwood in 2000 where I became a DJ at Glacier City Radio and was given the name Flowergirl by a fellow DJ. I had no idea that I would become so involved in the world of gardening in Alaska. I started working at Forget-Me-Not Nursery in 2004 and fell in love with the greenhouse the flowers and the folks that came to visit. I was sure I had found my “calling”.
In 2009 I decided to take the Master Gardener class. To fulfill my community service that is part of becoming a Master Gardener I started a garden with Little Bears Playhouse where I worked with kids ages 5 and under. We had a blast and have kept the garden going since. I truly believe that the sooner we get kids growing and eating their own food the better. The circle of life that is presented yearly in gardening is a great lesson for all ages.
What I love most about being at Forget-Me-Not Nursery are the people that we get to know. I love sharing information as I am also known as Miss Information. I love to hear others' stories of gardening in Alaska. I love to sing-along and I love when other voices are heard in one of our spontaneous sing-alongs. I am always open to suggestions, corrections, and knowledge that others are willing to share. I have seen new friendships form at the nursery as well as old ones reignited. It truly is a magical place and I am proud to be part of that magic.
My turn-ons are bright colors and flowers that stand up well in the rain. My turn-offs are chickweed and slugs.
I have been around gardening all of my life. My grandparents had victory gardens, and my parents had gardens throughout my growing up. My family has also fished, hunted, and gathered berries for jams and jellies. I learned early on where our food comes from and what it takes to get it to the table. I may not have understood the soil rudiments or cold zones, but just planting seeds, watering them, weeding them, and then wait for harvest. it was all good!
My first adult garden (1991) consisted of a collection of wooden shipping boxes, an old wheelbarrow top, a small kiddie swimming pool, and a couple of seasoned ammo boxes. Then began my gardening education in earnest. I checked out various library books and asked questions of other gardeners and greenhouses. I was also becoming very aware of organic methods. I also wanted to concentrate more on foods, vegetables and berries. Flowers could come later.
We built our home in 1994 and since then the veggie garden has undergone a few transformations. Wood raised beds only last so long and so have been replaced. I find raised beds easier to maintain, warmer for crops, and easier crop rotation. I became a Master Gardener in 1996. I became active in the community with gardening projects, classes, and consultations. Sometimes, there are easy solutions, and then there are none. I have also branched into flowers, mostly perennials, and am always on the lookout for something new and unusual to try for our area.
I have been working at the Forget-Me-Not Greenhouse since 2001 (I think). I have learned even more and had more fun helping others. I hope to be able to offer small 1/2 hour or so workshops for small landscape design, picking plants for sun, shade, moist, dry, windy, etc., annuals, biennials, perennials and tender perennials. Just some information to help you enjoy your flowers and make their care easier. I am proud to work with FMN because we have 3 Master Gardeners available for questions. We are all versed in different plants and plantings. I feel good that when a customer buys one of our plants, they are getting a good healthy and cared for plants.
Cecily helps run community school gardens in Washington State and loves to dig in the dirt, especially with the kids. She's been known to growl at a tough job, gasp in awe of beauty, giggle at her mistakes, and hoot & holler when something's just too funny.
Look for Grammie wearing her pink cowgirl hat, listen for her laugh, and thank her for being here as our favorite support staff!
Phyllis lived in Barrow for 2 years in 1969 when she moved from Oregon to Alaska with her husband, Larry. They raised their 3 boys in Nikiski and taught them how to live with hard work, honesty, and love.
480 Indian Road, Indian, AK 99540