'Frostkiss' Hellebores in bloom

Al's Grower's Choice brings you select varieties of plants that have been chosen for their taste, hardiness and bloom. They are unique, hand picked plants and vegetables that our growers believe work best in our climate and terrains.

We believe you will have the best success with the Grower's Choice series. Look for more great Grower's Choice plants to come in the months ahead!

'Frostkiss Sally's Shell' Hellebores in a planter'FrostKiss Sally's Shell' Hellebore
image courtesy of Pacific Plug & Liner

This week we feature the FrostKiss Series of Hellebores.

The world of Hellebores is always changing, improving the cutting edge! The new Frostkiss Series is destined to become a garden classic, with blooms varying in color from fosty- pink to bold red or white speckled, just to list a few of our favorites. This deer resistant, easy to grow perennial is a must have for every gardener. Naturally drought tolerant, the Hellebore FrostKiss Series is unique with forward facing flowers on burgundy stems that parade above pink to silver veined leaves. Their glorious blooms open in late winter and last through early spring.


If you are looking for a particular variety of rose, now is the time to shop. We have our best selection available early in the season, long before you'll enjoy their beautiful blooms. Very popular are the Downton Abbey series of roses, named for the characters in the hit TV show.

Pretty Lady Rose inspired by Lady RoseRose image from weeksroses.com

Pretty Lady Rose

Inspired by lady rose, niece and goddaughter of the Dowager Countess Violet, Pretty Lady is as vibrant as her namesake. Lady Rose has a high petal count that creates big, showy, ruffled blooms.  This rose is well dressed with healthy bright glossy medium green foliage. Her compact habit makes her especially good for containers. Dark pink in color, this plant has a sweet fragrance.

Edith's Darling Rose inspired by Lady EdithRose image from weeksroses.com

Edith's Darling

This new addition to the popular series of roses was inspired by Lady Edith and her beloved daughter Marigold.  This old fashioned, soft apricot-gold flower mimics the color of her hair and is perfect for filling borders. The bloom smells like a cut apple or a fruity perfume, and is perfect for cutting and bringing into the house.

Anna's Promise Rose inspired by Anna BatesRose image from weeksroses.com

Anna's Promise

This rose has a unique and complex color combination of both golden petals and pink blush just like its character Anna Bates. Strong stems and fruity fragrance make this rose very elegant.

Violet's Pride Rose inspired by Lady VioletRose image from weeksroses.com

Violet's Pride

This rose was inspired by the many shades of lavender dresses worn by popular Downton Abbey character Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Violet's Pride has a magenta colored heart on its inner petals. Violet's Pride belongs to the aristocracy of the rose world, with dense foliage, sophisticated grapefruit-like fragrance, and resilience to disease.

So if it's roses you are after, be sure to shop early for our best selection. Click on our 2017 Rose List below to see all of the varieties we will have this season.

Current selection may vary. Please check stores for availability.


Tim Mouzakis

February is one of the best times to plant bare root fruit trees, but why bare root?  Bare root fruit trees give you the advantage of seeing your root structure and health.  In addition, they are easier to transport because they are lighter and can more easily be lifted into position.

a bare root fruit tree

When planting any bare root fruit tree, be sure to choose an area of the yard that gets full sun and good drainage, especially for cherries and apricots.  The most important thing to remember is to group trees together that have similar root stocks and spraying needs.

a sketch of a bare root fruit tree soaking in a bucket

1. Soak the roots overnight in water before planting.

If the tree is not going to be planted within 24 hours after purchase, "heel" the tree into a pile of soil or a big bucket of soil mix.  Cover the entire root area of the tree so they don't dry out.  Keep the soil moist until the tree is planted.

2.  Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the roots.

It's not necessary to dig a hole any deeper than the length of the root stock, usually about a foot.  However, if drainage is a problem, be sure to break up any layers of hard pan that may exist in the current soil.

3.  Mix native soil and soil amendment.

Al's Slow Release Transplant FertilizerAl's 8-2-4 slow release fertilizer

Us up to 1 part NW Best Soil Builder & Top Dressing or Al's Planting Compost, to 1 part native soil (depending on the clay content of the soil).  Mix Al's Transplant Fertilizer in the hole around the roots.  Refer to the label for amount, usually around 2 cups for a tree of average size.

4.  Place the tree on a slight mound in the middle of the hole and then spread out the roots.

a sketch illustrating the proper way to plant a bare root fruit tree

Don't let them encircle the tree.  Face the bud union of the fruit tree (where the root stock and fruiting section have been grafted; you'll see a bump) to the north east, away from the direction of the sun.  Back fill the hole without compacting the soil.  Instead, drench the soil several times to allow it to settle and eliminate any air pockets.  Add 2-3" of mulch around the tree.  Be sure not to cover the bud union -- this needs to remain above soil or any mulch that has been added.

5.  Don't forget to add an irrigation system for your fruit trees.  

Soaker hoses are really the best way to ensure you get a good, deep root watering.  When trying to establish a tree, consistent watering is key.

6.  Stake the tree.

If you are located in a particularly windy location, use 2 stakes and flexible tape (like stretch tie) to allow the tree to sway gently, but not be blown over by the wind.

So, whether it's cherries or applies you prefer, it's actually quite easy to grow your own fresh fruit.  Choose Bare Root fruit trees from Al's, for the best results.


Are you worried about your plants during these dramatic swings in temperature?  Start by understanding the difference between Cold Damage and Drought Damage.

Hellebore blooms in the snowimage from dartshillgarden.files.wordpress.com

Cold Damage

This is when mid-winter temperature swings can damage broadleaf evergreens.  The most damage is done in early and late winter, when plants are less acclimated to the cold.  This kind of temperature change affects the entire plant.

Winter Drought Damage

In mid-winter, the real damage is drought damage.  When we have warm temperatures followed by cold temperatures.  The combination of extended below freezing temperatures and bright sunshine a little or no wind, will cause a drought like condition, even in winter.

Why?

The trunks and stems of broadleaf evergreens remain frozen, yet foliage is able to thaw due to the sunshine.  The result, the plant starts to photosynthesize.  Since all the water in the trunk and stems has frozen, the result is that no water moves upward the foliage becomes dry.

What to look for

If the burn is more pronounced on southern or western sides of the plant, here in the Northern hemisphere, you are probably looking at mid-winter drought injury.  If the damage is uniform on all sides of the plant, it's more likely that new growth is being killed by a freeze event.

How to Solve

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it now, but try to remember to water prior to any dramatic temperature change in the future.  That way, your plants will have the best fighting chance.

Don't immediately start removing damaged stems, as it may take weeks for all the damage to be visible.  Rather, take care of any pruning when temperatures have stabilized, usually in late March or early April.

Lastly, remember this weather event on your garden calendar.  So, when you see the damage later in spring, you'll remember the event that caused it.


Every year, the Pantone Color Institute releases its "Color of the Year" to help designers, decorators, and fashionistas stay on the cutting edge of color. While it is a symbolic choice, it serves as a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture and serves as an expression of a mood or an attitude. And 2017 looks like it will be all about freshness and revival.

Greenery

The 2017 Color of the Year is Greenery

Greenery is a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature revives itself. A refreshing and revitalizing color. Greenery is symbolic of new beginnings. Illustrated through the use of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors, the attributes of Greenery signals us to take a deep breath and rejuvenate.

That sounds like a match made in heaven for us at Al's. We've been in the business of Greenery since 1948! This natural hue can be seen all over the garden center, especially as the muted tones of winter start to give way to the new growth of spring. And because we like to stay up on the latest style trends, you will find Greenery throughout our clothing and home decor sections in 2017 as well.

Greenery is nature's neutral.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so the more submerged people are in modern life the greater their craving to immerse themselves in the natural world. Greenery used to be a great background color, but now Greenery is being pulled to the forefront.  A life-affirming shade, Greenery is also emblematic of the pursuit of personal growth and vitality. Take it from Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute:

"Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose"

Well said, Leatrice. Look for Greenery all throughout the garden center this year.


Judy Alleruzzo

So you have been to the mall and a holiday bazaar or two, but you still can't find that perfect gift. How about giving somebody special a beautiful living gift? Here are a couple of suggestions from Al's.

a bowl full of hellebore blooms
Hellebore blooms

Hellebores

Hellebores are a welcomed sight in late winter and early spring. If you are a four season gardener, let your hellebores take center stage. These long-blooming, low-maintenance evergreen perennials can tolerate lots of shade. Wrap the pot in a pretty scarf, and you are good to go!

a decorated miniature Rosemary Tree

Lavender or Rosemary Holiday Trees

These 6" small trees are perfect if you don't want a large Christmas tree. Plus, they smell divine! Add some small ornaments and lights and these little trees look perfect on the mantle or coffee table, along with votive candles and your other favorite Christmas decor.

Christmas ornaments on a Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pine

If you have an apartment or condo, the Norfolk Island Pine is the perfect gift. You can use it as a Christmas tree now, and continue to use it as a houseplant long after the holidays.

Conifers

A conifer with a festive Christmas bow

It's easy to see why conifers are a staple of most backyard landscapes. They offer nice color and year round structure in your garden, and are mostly maintenance-free. Because they are slow growers, they are perfect for small garden spaces. Add a beautiful container and bow, and you've got yourself the perfect gift for the avid gardener.