John and Parrisa Harris are surrounded by plants and flowers in the newly reopened Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

John and Parrisa Harris are surrounded by plants and flowers in the newly reopened Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Fireweed Greenhouse finds renewed bloom

Parrisa and John Harris purchased the greenhouse last summer and reopened it late last month

After a couple of years lying dormant, the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai is again filled with plants and flowers readying for a busy summer season. Parrisa and John Harris purchased the greenhouse last summer and reopened it late last month, looking to return the fixture to the community and honor the legacy of late owner Susan Jordan.

On Sunday, the sun was shining, and the skies were clear — it would be easy to forget that the forecast called for more snow. Parrisa and John were at work in the greenhouse, only its second weekend reopened. Arrays of colorful flowers filled tables stretching the length of the structure, and dozens more hung from above.

Parrisa said the greenhouse is “nostalgic” for her family. When their kids went to the elementary school just down the road, she would regularly stop in. The closure of the greenhouse, which came after the passing of its owner, “was a huge loss for this community.”

That’s why the pair jumped at the “adventure” of carrying on the rich legacy of Jordan’s greenhouse, to try and preserve “what she and her husband created.”

That legacy was on display in the plants and flowers that surrounded the pair as they spoke. Parrisa explained that Jordan had left behind meticulous notes that acted as a blueprint for how she ran her greenhouse — “impeccable” notes that detailed her method of care for the plants nearly day to day.

Furthering that personal touch and sense of continuity between Jordan’s enterprise and the greenhouse now being run by Parrisa and John is guidance and assistance from Jordan’s sister Gail Bacarella. She joined the Harrises and helped them “behind the scenes” early on, seeing plants seeded in the basement during wintertime. Still she’s helping to manage the greenhouse, a renewed place of growth.

“It’s been pretty special to have the family, especially Gail, be so generous with her time and expertise,” Parrisa said. “Coming in and helping us to not only reopen but carry on with the same high standards that Susan had.”

In the time since planting began in January, Parrisa and John have seen an array of plants raised from seed with help from Bacarella and others, including Nina Kovac.

“It feels good to be a part of something that the community is so excited and happy about,” Parrisa said. “Susan’s former customers are already hitting us up … She did give such a personal touch to this greenhouse and her customers were important to her — a lot of them are people that we know and love ourselves.”

In addition to the help from members of Jordan’s family, they’ve had help from their own, bringing in their children and making Fireweed a family business. In due time, John said, they have their own plans for seeing Fireweed grow.

The pressure to live up to expectations is felt, he said. Every person who comes in the door has a story to share about Jordan. But he said they’ve been having “a lot of fun” running the business and learning a trade they had no experience in — “we’re not horticulturists.”

They’re learning, working and spending time together in a beautiful greenhouse where spring arrived much sooner than the rest of the Kenai Peninsula.

Parrisa said they’re proud to see the greenhouse reopened and restored as a presence in Kenai, where they have young children still going to school.

“We’re going to be here,” she said. “We want to help enrich the community. It was important for us to find some adventure that we loved and felt brought positivity to the community — something that we could feel good about.”

The greenhouse is open now on the weekends, with plans to expand hours in the coming weeks.

For more information, including updated hours, find “Fireweed Greenhouse” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers and plants fill the Fireweed Greenhouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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