During July of 2021, we were lucky enough to visit Juneau Alaska for a delayed anniversary trip. Alaska was such a beautiful and amazing experience. I really hope to go back one day and do some more exploring other parts of the state. Juneau was a great place to see on our first visit. One of the places that we really enjoyed seeing, besides Mendenhall Glacier was the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum. I am not sure what I was expecting to see, but it was beyond what I was expecting in so many ways. First a little history about the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum and where it is located.
Housing the American Public Gardens Association Plant Collections Network, the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum was a gift given to the City and Borough of Juneau by Caroline Jensen. She was a long-time resident of Juneau and a Master Gardener. She was nationally accredited for her collection of genus Primula (also known as primrose), one of her passions. The flower beds still explode with their varied colors each spring through late summer. On a side note, some of these species seen at the Arboretum are rarely grown anywhere else in North America.
After Caroline's passing in 2006, the easement with the Southeast Alaska Trust, her gift of land was given to the City and Borough of Juneau (as stated before) and became known as the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum. The Arboretum was officially opened in July of 2007.
We made our way there and found ample parking. I was blown away by how beautiful the gardens were with the ocean as its backdrop. It was beyond peaceful and inspiring. As stated before, primroses were Caroline's favorite and they were everywhere. We found out later that Southeast Alaska's cool moist climate is ideal for growing primroses, then in 2002, the primrose was adopted as the official Capitol City flower. Thought that was very interesting.
Besides the primroses, here are some of the plants you will see at the Arboretum: Silene acaulis, moss campion; Cassiope stellariana, Alaska moss heather; Dodecatheon pulchellum, shooting star; Fauria crista-galli, deer cabbage. Ranunculus cooleyae, Cooley buttercup; Primula cuneifolia, wedge-leaf primrose; Sedum rosea, roseroot; Sibbaldia procumbens, sibbaldia. Anemone narcissiflora, narcissus-flowered anemone; Geum calthifolium, caltha-leaved avens; Lloydia serotina, alp lily; Aconitum delphinifolium, monkshood. Pedicularis verticillata, whorled lousewort; Gentiana platypetala, broad-petaled gentian; Castilleja parviflora, small-flowered paintbrush; Lycopodium alpinum, alpine clubmoss; Artemisia arctica, mountain sagewort.
There are also many different types of trees in the area too including an apple tree that is nearly a century old. You will also find European mountain ash trees which date back to the original homesteaders. Sadly many of these have been damaged by climbing black bears and will be gradually replaced by other species.
According to their flyer, you may see hummingbirds, bees, and other insects. We definitely saw many bees and insects, but sadly didn't see any humming-birds. We did sit around for a while and enjoyed the amazing views of the flowers, trees, and ocean. If you visit the area, whether on your own or on a cruise, try to make sure to add the Arboretum to your itinerary. It is a little way out of town, but SO worth it. Make sure to visit the St. Therese Memorial as well. Here is a link to the Jensen-Olsen website with more information if you plan to visit one day.
I will end this post with a message from Caroline herself. “The vision of the Arboretum is to provide the people of Juneau a place that both teaches and inspires learning in horticulture, natural sciences, and landscaping – to preserve the beauty of the landscape for pure aesthetic enjoyment – to maintain the historical and cultural context of the place and its people.” — Caroline Jensen.
Jensen-Olsen Arboretum Visitor Information
23035 Glacier Hwy Juneau, AK 99801
Winter Hours (beginning October 13, 2021):
Friday through Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday through Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Jensen-Olson Arboretum is located 23 miles north of downtown Juneau in the area known locally as “Out the Road.” Watch for the square green mile markers on the shoulder of Glacier Highway. You will pass the Shrine of St. Therese just past Mile 22. Continue seven-tenths of a mile and look for the Arboretum signs. The Arboretum will be on the left.
Free parking is available.