canna lily hydrangea backyard

Punch Up the Color in Your Summer Garden

The beginning of July is still spring to many summer-blooming flowers.  This means you can still buy geraniums, petunias, marigolds, hanging baskets, and other summer-blooming plants and once planted, they will continue to bloom all summer long.  The secret is to look for young, short, bushy annuals and bedding plants.  At Al’s, we grow all our annuals and perennials, so we can ensure a steady supply of fresh product throughout the summer.  As the season goes on, we grow larger sizes of annuals so that we can offer you “instant gratification” even if you are just starting to plant in July.

Remember that our best weather for outdoor living here in the Pacific Northwest usually comes during the months of August and September, so starting a garden in early July will still produce a great display that peaks in late summer.  Here’s a suggestion list for the procrastinating planter who wants to add color this month.

multicolored hydrangeas


These summer-blooming shrubs with the round balls of blooms went out of fashion for a while as hip gardeners decided they were suitable only for “grandma” gardens.  Well, just like bell bottoms and shag carpeting, hydrangeas are hip again, and it must be because they give so much for so little.  New varieties have improved the blooming habits of this adaptable summer-blooming shrub, so now you can buy an Endless Summer Hydrangea that will bloom every year, no matter when or how you prune it.  Traditional hydrangeas bloom only on two-year-old wood, so when you prune the bush back to control the size, you often lose the blooms for a year.  Hydrangeas can be purchased now in full bloom, so they offer immediate summer color.  The secret to happy hydrangeas is to place them where they are shaded from the hot afternoon sun.  They love the east or north side of a house and thrive in moist soil with lots of organic matter.

multicolored canna lilies


‘Canna Tropicana’ and ‘Black Jack’ are just two of the canna varieties that have rocked the gardening world with wild foliage and tropical color.  Here in the Northwest, our cool spring and damp summers can dwarf canna bulbs if you try to grow these heat-lovers directly in the ground.  Yes, the bulbs will survive and sprout, but you won’t get much of a foliage show until late August or even September.  This is one summer bulb that is best to buy, mostly grown from a nursery.  Leave this spectacular plant in the plastic pot that it comes in and simply slip it into a larger container on your patio.  Cannas give a deck or patio an instant tropical look, especially when combined with a hardy windmill palm tree, brightly colored coleus plants and a tiki torch or two

multicolored coleus


The tropical colors on coleus plants add zip to any pot that needs color or bed that needs a wake-up call.  The reason this tender annual is great for late gardeners is because you can buy large grown coleus plants that will make a statement now and still create a wow in the fall.  Coleus also loves the heat, so the later season Coleus will be much happier than those set out in early spring.  Another bonus of colorful coleus plants is that they make great winter houseplants.  Bring them inside in September or October for a tropical- looking windowsill plant.


multicolored phormium

Phormiums or New Zealand Flax

Spiky, modern and sharp looking, these foliage plants from down under will take the heat and look great in large pots.  New varieties this year include those with hot pink, bright red and bronze highlights in their long sword-like leaves.  Phormiums will go through the winter if you protect them from the cold wind, so using them in pots, as accents in a garden bed, or to punch up a patio planting is a practical way to keep them potted and protected.  In October, move the pots close to the house, and you’ll have an even bigger phormium plant to add texture to your garden next year.

So many gorgeous options to punch up the color to your outdoor spaces and containers through the summer. Be mindful of shade plants versus full sun/partial sun plants by placing them in the ideal space for them to thrive. Bring on the color!

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