- From Al's Experts
This Week: ZZ Plants
Dutch nurseries started wide-scale commercial propagation of the Zamioculcas, or ZZ plant, around 1996. This herbaceous plant grows from a stout underground succulent rhizome. It’s normally evergreen, but becomes deciduous during drought, and survives due to the large potato like rhizome that stores water until the next rainfall resumes.
Over-watering may destroy this plant; erring on the side of dryness is preferable to risking tuber rot. Bright, indirect light is best for the ZZ plant, although it will tolerate very low light. Some sun will be tolerated - very early in the morning, though.
The ZZ plant may be propagated by leaf cuttings. Typically, the lower ends of detached leaves are inserted into a moist gritty compost and the pot enclosed in a polythene bag. Though the leaves may well decay, succulent bulb-like structures should form in the compost and these may be potted up to produce new plants. The process may take upwards of one year.
- From Al's Experts
This Week: Snake Plants
If a prize were being given out for the most tolerant plant, Sansevieria or the Snake Plant would certainly be one of the winners. Snake plant care is very straightforward. These plants can be neglected for weeks at a time; yet with their strappy leaves and architectural shape, they still look fresh. Put them in indirect sunlight and don’t water them too much, especially during the winter. In fact, it’s better to let these plants dry out some between waterings. The most important thing to remember is that they require a free draining soil so their roots remain dry.
There are around 70 different species of snake plant, all native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia. They are all evergreen and can grow anywhere from 8 inches to 12 feet high. Other common names include mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue, or snake tongue. Additionally, they can survive low light levels, drought and have few insect problems. Snake plants are able to help keep the air inside your home clean by removing toxins. In short, they are the perfect houseplants.
- Assorted colors of thick textured foliage
- The leaves store water
- Low light needs
- Low water needs
- Great houseplant for a dark corner or office where a light source is a challenge.
- From Al's Experts
This Week: Anthuriums
The anthurium, also known as Painted Tongue, Flamingo Lily, or Tail Flower, is a large genus of possibly 1000 species, belonging to the arum family. With their brilliant glossy spathes (the brightly colored ornamental part of the flower), and slender spadices, anthuriums are classic tropical flowers. The favored "flower" of this plant is actually a bract, or a modified leaf flaring out from the base of a fleshy spike (spadix) where the tiny real flowers grow. Their bracts display bold color including white, pink, red or green with a high-shine, gathered texture. The true flower in yellow, green or white is the spadix, the slender protrusion above the bract.
Owing to the meaning and symbolism of anthurium with its open, heart-shaped flowers and tropical disposition, it's no wonder that anthuriums have come to symbolize hospitality. It is a warm flower that inspires happiness and abundance. Exotic and compelling, with bold flowers and shiny, dark green foliage, anthuriums, like the hospitality they represent, are long-lasting and irresistibly beautiful.
With eye-catching blooms and attractive foliage, the anthurium, is an herbaceous perennial native to tropical America. Its seductiveness lies in the fact that the plant adapts effortlessly to any interior and any style: traditional or modern, on its own or in a large group. The anthurium feels at home anywhere, and remarkably retains its character every time in any setting whether it is placed in an earth pot or in a glass container.
As well as its exotic background, the anthurium's popularity is assured because its undemanding nature. That means both experienced plant lovers and beginners can care for it effortlessly. And in return for such little attention, the anthurium gives back a surprisingly large amount of pleasure by flowering almost all year long.
- Featuring glossy, green foliage
- Bright light; no direct sun to promote blooms
- Fertilize regularly in April to August
- Keep soil evenly moist - especially during warmer seasons
- Flowers last a long time before fading to green.
- From Al's Experts
In the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have a seasonal weather pattern this is ideal for gardeners to plant in the fall. Our normally dry, warm fall days allow for root growth before the winter months arrive.
The cool evenings, and eventually cooler days of autumn, will slow down the loss of moisture through ‘transpiration’ - the loss of water through their leaves. New plantings don’t dry out as quickly as in the intense spring sun. The soil is still warm, encouraging root development.
In the winter, nature provides free, effortless irrigation. The top growth slows or stops when the temperatures drop, and the daylight shortens. Although the soil is cooler, the available moisture provides slow-growing roots with plenty of water.
In early spring as the days lengthen and the air warms, plants begin putting energy into their top growth. The roots continue to develop for the coming surge of growth in shoots, leaves and flower buds.
Then in late spring the temperatures continue to warm with hot days, increasing the loss of moisture through top growth and in the soil itself. If you planted in the fall, you’ll have established roots which are less prone to drought damage, and are ready for a spring surge of top growth.
So for those of us that are able to plant in the fall, you’ll enjoy a quicker start because you gave those roots a chance to get established. With a little pre-planning, it’s a great way to get a couple of extra months of solid growth.
Fall & Winter Vegetable Planting
Fall and winter gardening, although an old practice, is an excellent solution for keeping the tilth and fertility of your garden's soil at its peak levels. At the same time it yields crops of delicious vegetables throughout the fall and winter that cost a fraction of produce purchased in the supermarket.
When it comes to vegetable and flower gardening, the climatic patterns of the lower elevation areas west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Northwestern California, and British Columbia are quite suitable for fall & winter gardening. Winter low temperatures range from 35°F to 45°F with occasional cold continental arctic air outbreaks lowering it to +20°F to 0°F or so. The garden soil can freeze 3 or 4 inches deep for short periods, but the usual winters are not severe enough to damage carefully mulched winter vegetable plants.
The key to successful winter gardening is knowing the average date of the first killing frost in your region (for example late October in the Pacific Northwest). You then plant your winter crops early enough to let them reach their full maturity before that killing frost.
Early Maturing Crops
Plant by mid September (Approximate maturity 30 days)
- Bunching Onions
- Cover Crops
- Leaf Lettuces
Whether you are reseeding, fertilizing or redoing your lawn, fall is the best time of the year. Your lawn will respond better to all your efforts, especially in the months of September and early October.
Autumn is Arriving: Rudbeckias
- From Al's Experts
You may be finding it a little cooler in the mornings, or actually have seen leaves falling. You certainly can’t miss the Back to School reminders in stores where you shop. Maybe you’re just wishing for that break in the heat and a chance to get back out in the garden. Regardless, we have all the fall colors color and textures that you’re hoping for.
Try adding Rudbeckia hirta, which is commonly called black-eyed-Susan, and is a member of the sunflower family. Other common names include brown-eyed Susan or brown Betty due to its brown center. Rudbeckia hirta is the state flower of Maryland, and is used by many Native American tribal nations as a medicinal herb. Known for being a remedy for colds, flu, infection, swelling and snake bites, it is multipurpose and highly valued. And if that wasn’t enough, Rudbeckia attracts butterflies to your garden when planted in large color-masses.
- Upright annual, growing 12-39 inches tall
- Approx. 12-18 inches wide
- The leaves are covered with a coarse hair, with stout branching stems.
- Daisy-like composite flower head approx. 4 inches in diameter, with yellow florets circling a conspicuous brown or black, dome-shaped cone of many small florets.
- Can be found in a range of sizes and colors including oranges, reds and browns. Perfect for adding fall color to your home or garden!
Focus on Fall
- From Al's Experts
I know we have a lot more summer left, but is anyone else looking forward to the cooler days of fall? Wrapping up in a warm throw or even trading your flip-flops in for slippers?
Even though it's not quite time for hay bales and fresh-picked pumpkins, there are many other ways to transition into fall. It's a busy time in the garden and home.
Mums signal the fall for me, and the way millet smells just like syrup on French toast reminds me of a crisp fall morning. Trade out your annuals for the autumn hues of Echinacea. If you can't decide what color to choose, you can enjoy 3 varieties of Echinacea in a single pot with our Tri-color Echinacea pots - grown especially for Al's at The Farm in Hubbard.
Our Home Decor departments are full of decorative pumpkins of all kinds. We have pumkpins made of tin, glass or wood. You can even find pumpkins made of textile burlap or velvet. We also carry a great selection of seasonal decor including silk flowers and autumn wreaths.
Al's Boutique in Sherwood and Woodburn feature all the styles you'll be craving. From Lucy to Prana, Tribal, Sisters and Habitat - we carry a great selection of the new fall styles. Green is a big color this fall. You'll see forest greens and olives, brown green and sage. Add a bag and a scarf, and you're ready to layer your way into fall.
The Story of Al's Ice Apples
- From Al's Experts
Wenatchee Valley produces tons of apples each season, but non quite as delicious as Al's exclusive Ice Apples.
The Merrimans like to call themselves a "two-horse operation." Doug manages the apple orchard while Jan works the small retail nursery. Tucked away in Washington's Wenatchee Valley, about 6 hours from Portland, their 35-acre White River Farms produced 200 tons of apples last year. A small crop compared to the bigger orchards nearby, but people from all over love their Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Fuji apples, sold in supermarkets.
On this day, the husband and wife team are between harvests. We caught up with them as they surveyed the orchard with their two year-old beagle, Butter. We're here to talk apples. Ice Apples. These delicious treats have become an annual favorite at Al's. Like clockwork once the weather cools, customers begin inquiring, "When will the Ice Apples arrive?"
If you've never tried an Ice Apple, you might wonder what it is and why they're asking. Just one bite and you'll understand. Ice Apples are Fuji apples that are purposely left on the tree until the first frost. This causes the inside of the apple (the water core) to crystallize, resulting in the sweetest, crispest, most delicious apple you've ever tasted!
"I can't say the first time we picked one it was purposeful," says Doug. "We had some Fujis that were too green and small for commercial harvest, so we just left them on the trees. When some friends asked for apples after the harvest, we had nothing left, so we picked them."
While Ice Apples are superior in taste, their high sugar content makes them less ideal for the supermarket sales, which requires lang warehouse storage. Further, harvest time for Ice Apples can be unpredictable because it is dependent on cooler conditions. Doug says for the water core to appear, temperatures must drop below 40°F for at least three nights.
"Where we live, you're skirting disaster occasionally, so we keep a close watch of weather and temperatures," he says. "These apples don't freeze at 32°F because they have so much sugar. But, if they freeze, they have to thaw out on their own. So, sometimes we only have a window of a few hours to pick them." In the mid '90's, the Merrimans lost two-thirds of their crop when temperatures dropped to 15°F for an entire week.
Al's owner Jack Bigej was introduced to Ice Apples about ten years ago. "We were doing some nursery business with Doug and Jan and they brought some down for the girls in the office," says Jack. "Before Al's got into the plant business, we were in the fruit business for many years - so, I know a good apple when I taste one. These Ice Apples were the best darn apples I've ever eaten! I immediately knew we had to sell them in the stores and with limited quantities, Al's had to have them all!"
"We figured they might take off - if Jack had anything to do with it," laughs Jan. The first year Jack ordered 7,200 pounds for Al's stores, and had plenty to spare. But as word-of-mouth spread, that changed. Last year, Jack commissioned the Merrimans to expand the crop, bringing in nearly 30,000 pounds of Ice Apples, which promptly sold out in an matter of weeks.
It's just good to know there are still people who want apples that taste good. They don't have to be solid red and perfect, like at the grocery stores. It's all about the taste," says Jan. Doug agrees, "Ice Apples are the highest dessert quality, and definitely my favorite. And, I've got a choice of a LOT of apples to eat."