US (AK): Cold weather delays harvests, but doesn’t stop Homer peony celebration

Depending on who you ask, Homer is known by a lot of different names: “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea” or “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.” Now, for the fourth year in a row, it’s also the “City of Peonies.” Homer is in the midst of its annual peony festival, which takes place through the month of July.

So, how did this city at the end of the road become such a peony hub in Alaska? The story begins a few miles up East End Road on Rita Jo Shoultz’s farm. It’s a property Shoultz has lived on for decades. She moved there with her husband, Leroy, in 1968 and ran the Fritz Creek Gardens store nearby.

About 20 years ago, Shoultz connected with Patricia Hollowell, a friend, and researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who was growing peonies in the botanical gardens there. She wanted to see if peonies — a flower that likes cold winters — could thrive in Alaska.

“Along the way, we realized that our peonies come into season when fresh-cut peonies aren’t available anywhere else in the world,” Shoultz said.


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