Plants and outdoor supplies at Gomi's Garden during the 2023 season. (Photo courtesy Sabine Churchill/Gomi's Garden)
Plants and outdoor supplies at Gomi’s Garden during the 2023 season. (Photo courtesy Sabine Churchill/Gomi’s Garden)

When Gomi’s Garden owner Sabine Churchill heard Skagit Gardens was closing she had a lot of questions. 

“I had to read it twice,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘wait a second, wait, wait, wait,’” she said.  

Skagit Gardens, of Washington State, gave notice in February that it was going out of business and would be closed by the first week of April. The company has been in operation for nearly 60 years and supplies starter plants and other types to people in Alaska. 

Churchill said that announcement led to many sleepless nights as she tried to find other suppliers. 

“Skagit Gardens had it all and now I have to piecemeal a little bit from multiple places and I mail ordered a few,” she said. 

Her big focus has been getting a good supply of annuals – plants that die every winter and must be replanted each spring. She sources her perennials, which grow back each year, elsewhere. 

Fortunately for Churchill, she’s already got an innovative supply chain when it comes to shipping plants to the Chilkat Valley, she gets a truck packed full and then sealed so it can cross the Canadian border and drive to Haines. So, it was just a matter of finding new suppliers and then getting her 53-foot shipping container packed full before it heads north. 

Still, there’s always a chance something will go wrong. 

“I’m only going to sleep well once all of the annuals are here,” she said. 

Blythe Carter, of Blythe’s Garden, said she grows nearly everything she has from seed so she does not buy from Skagit’s. 

But there could be ripple effects. For instance, what she is growing this year will likely sell out fast. 

“I’ve had others like Gomi’s — and other Skagway places too — calling me up and looking for plants. So that’s great for business,” she said. “I would highly recommend getting everything early.”

Had she known about the closure earlier, Carter said she could have changed her growing strategy to meet the need. 

“Certain stuff, it’s too late to just start growing them which is unfortunate,” she said. “Any sort of begonia or pansy, anything that takes a long time to grow – starting anything now is way too late.” 

Carter said she’s open to adding a few things to her grow list for next year if people have a hard time finding new sources, but at a small scale. 

“I don’t know if I could supply a large place like Juneau,” she said. 

While Haines and Klukwan may be shielded from the fallout of losing such a large supplier of plants, Churchill said communities like Juneau – which must find new suppliers and then sort out shipping  – Skagway, which is known as the Garden City, and other communities in Southeast are going to be scrambling. 

“It will be bad. But, you know, what maybe we should take away as a lesson … is what you can do with perennial plants if somebody has a shortage,” Carter said. 

And there are signs that other gardening organizations are already moving in to potentially fill the closure gap. 

“There was one nursery in Oregon, they said ‘holy smokes, our gut reaction was we went out and bought 17 more acres,” Churchill said. “I thought that was rather gutsy and cool. I think it should be in Southeast. I think somebody should step up … we could have an annual nursery in Haines and serve all of the Southeast.”