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The Hydrangea paniculata is one of the most unique compact flowering trees, and perfect for large pots and small spaces. While we most often see them as a shrub, once pruned into tree form they are spectacular! Paniculatas have large, showy cone-shaped flowers and bloom the entire summer!

Phantom Hydrangea in a potHydrangea Phantom

The paniculata species can take full to part sun. All grow to about six to ten feet tall and will bloom from July through first frost. Like all hydrangeas, they also make an excellent dried flower and can be used in arrangements indoors.

close up of a Hydrangea Limelight bloomHydrangea Limelight

Hydrangea Phantom

Huge creamy white blooms that will turn light pink and green color in August.

Hydrangea Pinky Winky

Large white cone shaped flowers turning to white/pink later in the season.

Hydrangea Limelight

Beautiful light green flowers look great all summer long.

If your garden has more shade than sun, the following small trees are an excellent choice. Structure, unique shape and foliage make them equally interesting.

burgundy colored Japanese Maple Tree in a yardCrimson Queen Japanese Maple

a Dappled WIllow Tree by a brick wallDappled Willow Tree

Photo credit: Monrovia

Japanese Maple

Dwarf type Japanese Maples will give you some beautiful structure and very attractive foliage. These slow growers are perfect for a large pot to create a point of interest for your patio or deck.

Crimson Queen Maple

Stunning crimson color all summer with a graceful weeping habit. This belongs in a place of honor in your yard.

Dappled Willow Tree

A compact willow tree that leafs out with green foliage that turning vibrant pink and white. One of our personal favorites, it is absolutely stunning when gracing either side of your entryway.

As always make sure all pots have a hole in the bottom for good drainage. We recommend using a porous drywall tape or screen over the hole to ensure it doesn't get clogged. Watering is critical for potted plants so make sure if you go to the coast for a week in the summer your pots still get watered.


July is Blueberry Month! So whether you like your blueberries in jams smeared on buttered toast, or baked into muffins, here are a few varieties we believe are the best.

close up of a bunch of blueberries

Berkeley

The Berkeley blueberry is known for being a dessert quality berry. Because it is an excellent producer and does well in the freezer, you might want to make some room.

Bluecrop

Bluecrop is an all-around great berry. It’s good for fresh eating, preserving, baking or freezing. You can’t go wrong with jams and jellies made from Bluecrop.

Chandler

The world’s largest blueberry! We think the Chandler is best fresh as a dessert with fresh whipped cream and a sprig of mint.

Duke

The Duke has a full, rich flavor, so it is favored for baking and for eating fresh. Check out this New York Times blueberry pie recipe, and give it a go!

Earliblue

Early to bloom and first to ripen the Earliblue does just what its name suggests. Try these blueberries in your morning smoothie, for a great way to start your day.


Maintaining your landscape and your vegetable garden can be a very demanding job, and in the summer months when it gets hot your plants require daily attention.

a full garden with an upside-down wine bottle for irrigationPhoto Credit: www.plantnanny.com
A GrowOya porous clay irrigation vesselsGrowOya porous clay irrigation vessel

Keeping up with the daily watering can be difficult and time consuming, especially if you have summer vacation plans. Fortunately, there are a few different things you can do to ensure that all of your plants will survive without you for a few days while you get a chance to get out and enjoy your summer vacation.

three self-watering plantersSyndicate Home and Garden
Never Dry Planters

The Oya is an interesting product that you can use to water your plants slowly and efficiently while you are out of town for a few days. It is a porous clay (terra cotta) vessel that is designed to be buried amongst your plants to provide them water directly into the soil and into their roots. Fill it with water before you leave on a weekend vacation and your vegetables and other plants will have enough water to last until you get home. The Plant Nanny is another product that uses the porous clay concept. It is a terra cotta stake you can put right into your houseplant or hanging basket containers. Just fill a bottle with water, flip it into the terra cotta stake and the water will slowly seep through the clay over the course of a few days.

The porous clay vessels are great options for short vacations, but if you are going out of town for more than a week or two, you will need something more substantial to keep your plants happy. Some self-watering planters can provide water for weeks. Self-watering planters are essentially a pot within a slightly larger pot, and at the bottom of the larger pot there is a reservoir for extra water and a wick that slowly soaks up water and delivers it to the roots of the plant above. Depending on the size of the planter and its water reservoir, self-watering planters can deliver water from a few days to several weeks.

Another thing you can do to water your plants while you're away is to install an irrigation system that operates on a timer. There are digital timers out there that hook right up to your hose faucet and can be programmed to water at specific times of the day. Hook up a soaker hose to your faucet and your plants will get a nice and even, deep soaking. An irrigation system like this is more efficient than overhead watering and takes a lot of the pain out of watering your plants.

a close-up of carrots being watered with drip irrigationDrip irrigation kits and parts available at Al's. Photo Credit: www.orbitonline.com

Regardless of what you decide to do, there are a few precautions you can and should take every time you leave for vacation. If the forecast calls for a lot of heat, pull your plants into a shady spot while you are going to be gone. Also, give your plants a deep soaking just before you leave. If you are worried that you are going to be gone too long for your plants to survive, for a small fee you can pay a neighbor's kids to do the watering for you. Taking these simple precautions will help make sure that you don't return home from your vacation to a dry and desolate vegetable garden.


By Tim Mouzakis

Hydrangeas today bloom earlier, don’t require pruning, and are re-blooming. They are a versatile plant that can solve many problems in the garden, especially when you want big color in a small space.

From providing a bright focal point among our plants, or holding its own in a container. Their new tighter habit and stronger stems aren’t like the big, unruly Hydrangea’s you might recall. Check out these available varieties to see how you can have hydrangea blooms all summer long.

Hydrangea Cityline Venice

Venice

Cityline™ Venice is an attention getter with giant fuchsia-colored blooms and fresh, attractive green foliage. Its place is front and center in your shrub border, patio garden, or your best container. Venice only reaches 1 to 3 feet in height and has a neat, tight habit so pruning is never required. It’s small enough for containers or any tight spot.

Like all the Citylines™, it was bred for stronger stems to hold its large, heavy flower head. Large beautiful blooms are great for dried or cut flowers. It requires a full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Moisture is a necessity for this plant.

Hydrangea Cityline Vienna

Vienna

The smallest of the Cityline™ series, Vienna is a lovely little plant with dark blue (or pink) flowers. The blooms emerge with an attractive cream-colored throat and remain large and showy even as they age. Flower color will vary depending on soil pH and aluminum availability. Since it is a compact plant, it does not need pruning. Cityline™ Vienna is a great choice for container gardens and foundation plantings.

Hydrangea Let's Dance Starlight

Starlight

This vibrant lace cap blooms every summer! Starlight blooms on both new wood and old delivering seasons of flowers and lots of wow. A real workhorse, Let's Dance™ Starlight is the first re-blooming lace-cap hydrangea, and has exceptionally rich, vibrant flower color. It's an elegant addition to any garden.

Hydrangea Let's Dance Rhythmic Blue

Rhythmic Blue

The flowers of this latest Let's Dance™ re-blooming hydrangea are truly amazing. The florets have a distinctive geometric shape, and are closely packed into full, richly colored mop head flowers. A real workhorse, it flowers in early summer, and then re-blooms in later summer. The reliable blooms are held up on sturdy stems; a tidy habit and good wilt-resistance add to its appeal. The real show, however, is its easy shift from pink to rich amethyst-blue flowers by adjusting the soil pH. It has the richest, most vibrant blue seen on a hydrangea!

Hydrangea Little Quick Fire

Little Quick Fire

Little Quick Fire is an early blooming, flowering about a month before other hydrangeas. This paniculata has white flowers which transform to pink-red as summer progresses. This dwarf plant fits easily into any landscape, including container gardens. Add it to your existing hydrangea garden to extend the hydrangea season.


Crape Myrtles deliver showy summer flowers, attractive bark, and in many cases brilliant fall color, making them a year-round garden performer.

A Sioux Crape Myrtle with a honey beeSioux Crape Myrtle

This premier summer-flowering tree tolerates heat, humidity, drought, and does well in most soils as long as they are well drained. All crape myrtles bloom on new wood and should be pruned in winter or early spring. Crinkled, paper-like flowers in white or shades of pink, red, or purple are carried in dense clusters.

Tuscarora Crape Myrtle in bloom

Tuscarora

Deciduous large shrub or small tree with profuse coral-pink flowers. Exquisite orange-red foliage color in the fall. Smooth, mottled, light cinnamon brown bark adds year-round interest. Use for accent or background, or the focal point of your front garden.

Catawba Crape Myrtle in bloom

Catawba

Displays large, long lasting clusters of dark purple flowers. Handsome foliage has bronze cast in spring, bright green in summer, orange-red fall color. Mildew resistant.

Pink Velour Crape Myrtle in bloom

Pink Velour

Deep wine red leaves emerge in spring and age to dark purplish green, providing a striking contrast to vibrant pink summer flowers. Compact, multi-stemmed form is ideal for use as an accent shrub or small tree, in flowering borders or containers. Highly resistant to powdery mildew. Deciduous.

Sioux Crape Myrtle in bloom

Sioux

With cold hardy Sioux Crape Myrtles your landscape will never have to be without color, especially with their dark pink flowers which enter a continuous blooming cycle that lasts into the fall. Sioux Crape Myrtles have very dark green leaves that create a radiant show of contrasting colors. Then in the fall the leaves turn unique shades of purple and red. The older brown bark peels away to reveal bright beige bark underneath. The older and younger barks intertwine on the trunk together to create a marbled look. Sioux Crape Myrtles are one of the toughest varieties available. Along with the ability to survive freezing temperatures they are also drought and heat tolerant. They also have a high level of resistance against pests and diseases. Not even poor soil can stop the Sioux Crape Myrtle from flourishing with tons of color and over 100 days of blooms.

Dynamite Crape Myrtle in bloom

Dynamite

Attractive ornamental shrub or small tree with smooth, peeling bark. Showy, ruffled, fiery red flowers followed by vibrant orange-red fall foliage. Excellent specimen or plant in groups for an explosion of color in the landscape and year-round interest. Deciduous.

Crape Myrtle Pruning Tips

Encourage the natural form of the Crape Myrtle. Aggressive pruning only encourages the growth of spindly, whip-like branches that are too weak to hold their bloom. So instead, use hand pruners and loppers, and shorten the topmost branches by 2-3 feet in late winter, always cutting back to a side branch or bud, and you can enjoy this beauty for years to come.


If you are looking to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, the following perennials are a perfect additions. With a little deadheading of spent blooms, these will continue to flower throughout the summer.

June 20-26 is National Pollinator Week, and what a better way to celebrate than adding flowers that welcome our pollinator friends to your garden. Whether it’s Phlox or Coreopsis, there is pollinator-friendly plant that’s perfect for your style and taste. Here are a few of our favorites.

'Funfare Orange' Cape Fuchsia'Funfare Orange' Cape Fuchsia

Cape Fuchsia

  • Tubular Flowers are nectar sources for Hummingbirds & bees
  • Flowers available in orange, coral, red & yellow
  • Plant in full sun or a little shade in late afternoon
Tall Phlox'Flame Coral' Tall Phlox

Tall Phlox

  • Clusters of flowers in pink, coral, blue and purple
  • Loved by butterflies, bees and Hummingbirds
  • Nice for fresh Bouquets too
  • Plant in full sun or a little shade in the afternoon
Coreopsis'Sienna Sunset' Coreopsis

Coreopsis

  • Daisy shaped flowers in array of colors from solid pink to burgundy and white, lemon yellow, golden yellow and apricot
  • Flowers loved by bees and butterflies
  • Leave last of the flowers heads on for seeds for fall feed for the birds.
  • Birds will seek out the seedheads
  • Coreopsis Common name is Tickseed.
Poker Plant'Lemon Popsicle' Poker Plant

Poker Plant

  • Spikes of flowers in Shades of yellow, peach and red
  • Flowers loved by Hummingbirds
  • Plant in full sun
  • Drought tolerant after planted 1 year
  • Grassy-like foliage is a nice garden texture even when flowers are not in bloom
Crocosmia'Lucifer' Crocosmia

Crocosmia

  • Flowers are Hummingbird Magnets
  • Plant Crocosmia in many parts of your garden so the Hummers don't get too territorial!
  • Tubular shaped flowers in deep orange, red or gold
  • Leave seedheads on for Fall Interest
  • Plant in full sun

With a warm summer predicted, every gardener starts to think about watering and water consumption. Depending on your watering habits and your choice of plants, your actual water usage can vary greatly. Some great water wise options come from the Perennial family.

June is Perennials Gardening Month

Perennials are drought tolerant after at least 1 year of being planted in the ground. For perennials planted now, make sure they get ample irrigation this summer and next, and add compost when planting to ensure good drainage.

Here are a few of our favorite water-wise perennials:

blooming lavender

Lavender

Lavender fills the early-summer garden with sensory delights: beautiful purple-tone blooms atop foliage that oozes fragrance on a sunny afternoon. Every part of the plant is infused with aromatic oil, making this a choice herb to place along pathways or near outdoor seating areas so you can savor the fragrance. The darker the flower, the more intense the aroma -- and the flavor in cooking. Drought, heat, and wind-tolerant, lavender doesn't like poor drainage, waterlogged soil, or high humidity. After flowering, trim back plants to induce bushiness and subsequent bloom. Avoid cutting plants back to the ground. Dried blooms retain fragrance for a long time; crush dried flowers to release aromatic oils anew.


  • Loves the sun
  • Butterflies & hummingbirds drink the nectar
  • English lavender is great for culinary uses
  • Use in fresh or dried flower bouquets
  • Deer resistant!
close-up photo of Hens and Chicks

Hens & Chicks

From dark burgundy, to green with burgundy tips, to grey-blue, Hens & Chicks come in many colors. They are great for stone walls and crevices because they only require a small amount of soil volume. You’ll have many chicks which can be propagated by removing these offsets and potting them. Individual Sempervivum grows a star-shape flower, but there are cobweb varieties also. Allow them to dry slightly between waterings, as overwatering can cause rotting. Water very little during winter dormancy.


  • Perfect for small hot and dry areas in your garden
  • Assortment of shapes and colors and sizes
  • Great for containers and wall art too!


Groundcover Sedums

Tall Sedum & Groundcover Sedum

Sedum is a perennial with thick, succulent leaves, fleshy stems, and clusters of star-shaped flowers. There are many types of sedums, such as low–growing varieties for ground covers and tall varieties for back borders. There are few plants more forgiving of sun and bad soil than sedum plants. When growing sedum, keep in mind that sedum plants need very little attention or care. They will thrive in conditions that many other plants thrive in, but will do just as well in less hospitable areas. They are ideal for that part of your yard that gets too much sun or too little water to grow anything else. A common name for sedum is stonecrop, due to the fact that many gardeners joke that only stones need less care!

Tall Sedum

  • Assortment of foliage and late season flower colors
  • Flowers are loved by butterflies and bees
  • Leave faded flowers on for fall interest
  • Nice for fresh bouquets

Groundcover Sedums

  • Perfect for filler plants for hot and dry areas in your garden
  • Assortment of shapes and colors and sizes
  • Great for containers too
beautiful red Yarrow blooms

Yarrow

While often sold as a flowering perennial, yarrow plant is actually an herb. Whether you decide to grow yarrow in your flower beds or in your herb garden, it’s still a lovely addition to your yard. Yarrow care is so easy that the plant is virtually care-free. Yarrow has many uses as an herb. It is commonly used as a medicinal herb that can treat the bleeding of minor wounds, swollen or cramping muscles, reducing fever, or to help with relaxation. On the non-medicinal side, yarrow herb is an astringent and makes a good facial wash or shampoo. Whether you grow yarrow as a decorative plant or an herb, you can be sure that it will add beauty and interest to your garden.


  • Sturdy plants for sunny gardens
  • Assortment of flower colors, Red, Violet, Yellow & Terra Cotta
  • Deer resistant!

Butterflies love the flowers, birds love the seeds, and we love the generous long lasting bouquets.

Pink Echinacea for Perennial Gardening Month

It's hard to imagine a sunny perennial border without Echinacea! It is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family - Asteraceae. It is also known as the American coneflower, and it’s easy to grow in almost any sunny location.

Echinacea was commonly used for its medicinal properties by Native Americans for hundreds of years before the arrival of European explorers. It is endemic to eastern and central North America and thrives in moist to dry prairies and open woodlands.

 

  • Produces big, bright flowers from late June until frost
  • They love the heat and sunshine of summer
  • Great pollinators -- Birds and Butterflies love Echinacea
  • Blooms work well both cut and/or dried
  • Equally at home in formal borders or cottage gardens
  • Large assortment of flower color and flower shapes

Here are a few of our favorites, available now at Al's!

Pow Wow White Echinacea bloomsPow Wow® White

Pow Wow® White

Big, pure white flowers with yellow-gold centers brighten the garden from early summer to fall. Forms a neat, compact mound with sturdy upright stems that need no deadheading. Perfect for beds, mixed borders and containers. Drought tolerant once established.

Pow Wow Wild Berry bloomPow Wow® Wild Berry

Pow Wow® Wild Berry

Wild Berry is enjoyed for its long season of bloom, compact habit and bright rose-pink, non-fading flowers. This unique Echinacea produces showy, blooms that last throughout the summer, even without deadheading. Pow Wow® Wild Berry puts out more flowers than any other Coneflower variety.

Double Scoop Bubble Gum Echinacea bloomsDouble Scoop™ Bubble Gum

Double Scoop™ Bubble Gum

These echinaceas are absolutely unbeatable for flower power! They are well branched, which means more flowers all season. They do not need to be deadheaded to set new buds, so the flowers just keep coming! They have a compact habit, so they are perfect in containers. What more could you want?

Double Scoop Cranberry Echinacea bloomDouble Scoop™ Cranberry

Double Scoop™ Cranberry

Double flower forms in a rich cranberry red color. This variety has very strong stems.


This beautiful flower is also known as the Princess lily or the dwarf Peruvian lily.

Alstoemerias for Perennial Gardening Month

These throaty tufts of flowers are long bloomers, and provide Hawaii-like intense color that attracts bumble bees and hummingbirds alike. There is a unique way to harvest flowers or deadhead once your alstoemerias has bloomed. Simply snap the flower stalk off at the base of the plant. Alstoemerias send up flower stems quicker than if you just trimmed it back with scissors.

 

  • Flowers bloom late May to September
  • Full sun to a little afternoon shade
  • Unique way to harvest flowers or deadhead for more blooms
  • Makes a beautiful cut flowers
Red Inca Bandit Alstoemeria bloom

Inca Bandit

Inca Bandit is well named... Take care or he will steal your heart! Valentine red blooms with enticing black whiskers are plentiful all spring and summer, and keep going right into fall. Don't forget the lush emerald foliage, so handsome even without blooms. Be sure to pull rather than cut the stems you bring into your vase. Pulling alstroemeria stems gets them reblooming much faster than when the stems are cut.

Purple Inca Nobel Alstoemeria bloom

Inca Noble

A purple blooming dwarf alstroemeria that performs just as well as any pink! If you love rich shades of purple and violet, but only have time or patience for plants that produce a lot of blooms with little care - Alstroemeria noble is the one for you! Velvety purple petals shade nearly to black, with a white spotlight and a spray of black whiskers. Expect months of blooms in return for good growing conditions. Perfect for containers, window boxes, patios and balconies.

White Inca Lucky Alstoemeria bloom

Inca Lucky

This vivacious alstroemeria makes you fall in love all over again! Lush, tropical foliage forms a handsome mound, with plentiful stems rising just 8-12", loaded with magenta buds. The blooms open to petals of clearest white, with throats of luscious salmon pink, and fetching green brushes at their tips. Just the barest freckling and you will feel lucky with these blooms gracing your garden or your vase.


We've had a long love affair with Star Jasmine. This vine is covered with small white, star or pinwheel shaped flowers, that make your garden smell absolutely heavenly.

Staked Star Jasmine Vine
Close-up of a Star Jasmine bloom

Whether you know it by its common name Star Jasmine, Chinese Jasmine, Trader's Compass, Chinese Ivy or Confederate Jasmine, the result is the same. I have an involuntary need to take in a deep breath, in hopes of capturing the memory of that sweet smell forever.

Hardy and robust, this flowering beauty appreciates full sun to partial shade and will tolerate high heat as well as temperatures as low as -10 degrees. Adaptable to most soil types, Star Jasmine is moderately drought-tolerant and practically maintenance-free.

Star Jasmine is considered a night-bloomer, with blossoms opening up in the early evening when temperatures cool down. Plant the jasmine in containers where trailing vines can gently spill over the side. Since this vine is very versatile it can be trained to grow up a trellis or similar structure. Star Jasmine are especially nice near your front door, to great your visitors.

Consider planting this vine on an open pergola to create an irresistible, shaded retreat. With Star Jasmine, you can transform your outdoor living space into an exotic vacation destination.

 

  • Average water needs, water regularly
  • Prefers full sun, or sun to partial shade
  • 15’ – 20’ feet in height
  • Bloom time is mid spring, or late spring/early summer
  • Hardy to -10 degrees