THE BLOG: let's talk gardening


Summer's Must-Have


Gomphrena is beautiful and long lasting either fresh or dried... and best of all, this annual thrives in heat and any soil conditions. What could be better than that? We think nothing!

This warm season beauty offers vibrant color, structure and height. Gomphrenia loves full sun and will survive drought. Use this easy-to-grow plant in borders, annual beds or even in containers. A showstopper in the garden, this interesting globe shaped bloom is a real conversation piece when cut for a mixed bouquet. Cut some of the blooms to use indoors, either dried or fresh. These flowers will keep their color and their shape and add an interesting element to your home décor. Dried, these flowers will last a very long time in a vase. We absolutely LOVE using them for a pop of color in the house long after their outdoor blooming season is over.

Try our favorite varieties in your garden:

This unique plant is a showstopper and grows to form a full, dense, landscape specimen ~ eventually reaching up to 3-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Tons of strong, tall stems are topped with exploding bursts of full blooms in hot pink tipped with bright yellow.

Available in either vibrant purple or white, this shorter variety displays the same vigorous growing habit and adaptability as the pink Fireworks variety. Perfect in combinations or planted in the landscape, you will not be disappointed.



Pumpkins in June? Are we off our gourds?!

When thinking of things to do in your garden in June you typically think about coneflowers, daylilies, coreopsis, hostas... and pumpkins. Yes, we did say pumpkins! Planting pumpkins in June is a great idea with the harvest timed just right for decorating for the holidays ahead. So, for any of you that enjoy a fun family tradition of carving pumpkins together, or if you like to have decorative pumpkins on display for Thanksgiving, take note. Now's the time to get those pumpkins & gourds in the ground!

Here are a few tips for growing pumpkins in your garden:

  • Growing pumpkins requires a lot of room. Many pumpkin plants can grow to be 30 to 40 feet long, so be sure to provide ample room for the
  • Plant your pumpkins where they will get lots of sun. The more the better.
  • Although growing pumpkins will tolerate some drought, it is best to make sure that they get regular watering (approximately 2 - 4 inches of water a week).
  • Squash bugs are the #1 killer of pumpkin vines. To help fend them off, place some companion plants nearby. Catnip, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, petunias and mint will help deter squash bugs from your pumpkins.
  • When you harvest your pumpkin plant, be sure you leave a lengthy piece of the stem on the pumpkin. This stem or "handle" will help slow down the rotting process.
  • Pumpkins can be harvested whenever they are a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties) and the rind is hard. If vines remain healthy, harvest in late September or early October, before heavy frosts.

A NEW triple delight for hydrangea lovers

NEW to the gardening world... Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea is a triple delight for hydrangea lovers. Producing enormous blooms that start out creamy vanilla white changing to a soft pink and finally to a ripe strawberry-red, this plant offers a multi-colored visual masterpiece. The unique red color lasts for three to four weeks, longer than most hydrangeas of this variety. New flower heads continue to open into late summer, so plants display all three colors at any one time, giving it a tri-colored appearance that is totally captivating in your garden. New blooms keep the multicolored show going throughout the summer and early fall. The extra large blooms are held on strong stems that cascade later in the season. Its upright habit and large cone-shaped flowers make it a dramatic addition to the garden. AND, as if you need another reason to love this plant, you'll get armfuls of beautiful cut-flower bouquets. The Vanilla Strawberry flowers can last more than 12 days after cutting in a vase. You get beauty both inside and out.

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas are a perfect long-blooming hedge plants for driveways or fencelines. It is especially showy planted in groups. Or, just add this beauty as a stand alone sure to be a knockout in your summer garden. Plant in full sun to partial shade.


Invite Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures on Earth, and nothing adds to the beauty of a flowering garden than butterflies fluttering about it on a warm summer day. Here are some tips to make your garden especially butterfly-friendly this summer:

Location, Location, Location
Pick the perfect spot to entertain your butterfly guests. Butterflies need the sun to warm them. Choose a sunny location (5-6 hours each day) that is sheltered from wind. It is also a good idea to place a few flat stones in your sunny location so the butterflies can take a break while warming up.

Add Water
Butterflies require water, so make a small butterfly pond in the mud. Or, simply use a plastic lid from plastic ware or from a household item such as a butter tub.

Add Blooming Plants
Butterflies have a keen sense of smell and can smell flowers from miles away. If the right flowers are planted in your garden, then the butterflies are sure to come! Not only does smell attract them, but bright colors do as well. They tend to flock to purple, yellow, pink and white flowers. When selecting your plants, choose a variety so you have flowers in bloom at all times during the summer.

Lantana is one of the best choices for attracting these beautiful creatures. Other plants that work include Hydrangeas, Daylilies, Iris, Lavender Milkweed, Petunia, Phlox, Asters, Cosmos, Clover and Zinnia, Cornflowers, Geraniums, Scabiosa, and the popular Butterfly Bush. In addition to flowering plants for the butterflies, you'll want to provide food for larva. Consider adding Mexican Milkweed or Passion Vine in your landscape.

Relax & Enjoy
Include in your design a place to sit among the garden, such as a bench, chairs, or sitting stones. Now you're ready for some entertaining butterfly watching!

{ Happy Gardening! Posted by McDonald Garden Center, June 23, 2011 }



A Peach of a Tree

Most of us wait all year for that first bite into a juicy peach, just one more reason we adore summer! If you love these juicy gems, we suggest growing your own. Peaches out of your own garden always taste the best. Here are some expert tips to get you started in the peach world:

July Elberta Dwarf are sometimes considered the world’s most famous peaches because of their abundance of taste, attractive color and disease resistance. They ripen to a deep, golden yellow with a blush of red. Elberta peach trees grow rapidly, and mature quickly to a height of 15 feet.

Redhaven Dwarf produces plenty of juicy fruit full of flavor ~ and it produces fruit in abundance very quickly. Not only are the peaches full of flavor, but they are also HUGE! These are one of the largest peaches you can find.

These two varieties of peach trees are normally planted in pairs so they can pollinate each other. This pollination causes your trees to produce more fruit. We recommend cross-pollinating Red Haven with the Elberta peach tree.

Peach trees adore the sun. Pick a place in your yard or garden that will receive full sun all summer long. Dig a large hole and add plenty of compost to the soil. This will give the tree added nutrients and help with drainage. Poor drainage in the soil will kill the root system of growing peach trees, so make sure the soil is well drained.

Peach trees should not be pruned before February. Avoid pruning within several days of predicted cold weather. Pruning peach trees during bloom or shortly after bloom is not ideal, but it will not adversely affect the growth of the tree or the fruit. It is better to prune a little late than too early.

TIP: Harvest the fruit before it turns completely ripe. Once it is picked, it will soften and ripen quickly. The fruit will still be hard, making it easier to handle and store. Store fruit in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.


True Blue


These blues will make you happy! We love the newest Althea variety... Blue Chiffon, and we think you will too. Althea (sometimes called Rose of Sharon) is ideal if you have a sunny entrance way begging for the right shrub.This stunning variety features huge double blue flowers with lacy centers that blooms profusely from July through September, providing much needed color in the midsummer and fall garden. This deciduous shrub grows 8 to12 feet high with a spread of 4 to 6 feet in peak season. It is drought tolerant and loves the sun, but does just fine in part shade. Plant and prune into a hedge or simply place it in sunny spot for an explosion of beautiful blooms that are sure to provide you with many years of enjoyment!

There are lots of other varieties to choose from as well making the Althea shrub a versatile & beautiful choice for your summertime landscape. With an interesting choice of colors, this beautiful shrub is best known for it's large, showy flowers in single or double flower form that bloom all summer long. In white, red, mauve, violet or blue, you're sure to find the perfect variety for your garden.

Tip: Since Althea blooms on new wood each summer, this shrub is easily controlled and it's size can be maintained by cutting it back in late winter or early spring.



A Summer Without Tomatoes? No Way!

Here it is... June 18th and you may be worried you haven't planted your tomatoes in the garden yet. Don't worry, it’s not too late to get a juicy summer harvest. So, relax, take a deep breath and plant away. For those of you who have planted tomatoes, now's the time to pop in a second crop to extend the harvesting season. Unlike the first planting, it is essential to get the second crop of tomatoes in before the end of July in order to harvest all the fruit before cold weather sets in come fall.

There are many different types of tomatoes so, be sure to check the informational tag attached to each tomato for planting deadlines and instructions. Here’s a few fast producing tomatoes that we think you’ll fall in love with:

San Marzano - The San Marzano tomato is thought to be the best tomato in the world for making pasta sauce. Grown in the rich volcanic soils near Mt. Vesuvius, they are thicker and sweeter than Roma's and have a stronger, less acidic flavor.

Grape Tomatoes - Grape tomatoes have a sweet flavor, a firm texture, and less juice, so there's no need to worry about any squirting when you bite into one. Averaging between one-half and three-quarters of an inch in length, they're perfect for popping whole into your mouth like candy, which is probably why kids adore them too.

Super Sweet 100 - This scarlet, cherry-sized tomato explodes with sugary flavor. Fruits are produced in long pendulous clusters right up to frost. Add to your favorite dish or eat them all by themselves.

Sweet and Neat - This high yielding, cherry-sized tomatoes thrives in containers making it a great choice for small space gardens or balconies. Produces masses of sweet fruits over a long season.


Massive, Exotic Summer Blooms

Altheas, better known as Rose of Sharon, are a beautiful blooming shrub commonly found growing in the south. They love the heat and their massive, colorful blooms make quite a statement in the garden, blooming from late summer until fall. Altheas are available in shades of red, white, pink and even purple. Plant in groups, masses or shrub borders or even as a screen or hedge.

This old-fashioned shrub was common in gardens around the turn of the century and is coming back into vogue. The newer varieties have bigger blooms and longer bloom periods. This showy plant will attract both hummingbirds and butterflies.

We suggest pairing this shrub with daylilies, viburnum, homestead purple verbena, rosemary or lantana.

Try these varieties:

• Aphrodite: A single, ruffled dark pink petal with a dark red eye.
• Diana: A single, ruffled pure white flower.
• Minerva: A single ruffled, lavender pink flower with a red eye.
• Helen: A single, ruffled white flower with a maroon eye.

Try this heat-lover in your landscape for stunning blooms that can stand up to the Hampton Roads’ summer heat and humidity.


Love at First Blush


With June being peak wedding season, we thought it fitting to showcase the Blushing Bride Hydrangea. Endless Summer® Blushing Bride will add life and love to your garden and home virtually all summer long. Reliably blooming on both old and new growth, you can experience the beauty of Blushing Bride again and again, all summer long. This garden standout boasts pure white mopheads of showy, semi-double florets that gradually mature to a sweet, subtle pink. The brilliant blooms are showcased against the stunning foliage in deep, dark green. Strong stems and branches keep the plant sturdy and upright in the garden, and make the flowers perfect for cutting.

Blushing Bride is very forgiving and will not suffer if left unpruned, or if it's pruned at the wrong time. In fact, young, recently planted shrubs are best left alone. Unlike other Hydrangeas, your Endless Summer varieties will bloom on both old and new wood. Its ability to rebloom all summer long make this a favorite among Hampton Roads gardeners. These shrubs make an excellent wedding present or anniversary gift.

TIP: To encourage reblooming, remove spent flowers. Because Blushing Bride blooms on new growth, you don’t have to wait until the next season to see baskets full of new blooms.


Now Featuring: The Summer Garden

When summer arrives, you may turn on your TV for entertainment, but there could be an equally entertaining show going on right in your own garden with "the plants of summer." When the sun is high and the temperatures soar, these plants display beautiful blooms and foliage, often attracting bees, butterflies and birds in the process. Add these beauties to your garden for a great summertime show!

Agapanthus, also known as Lily of the Nile is an ideal, easy-to-grow perennial that produces colorful globes of blue or white trumpet-shape flowers in summer and fall. Its evergreen leaves add texture to beds, borders, and containers all year long. Prefers full sun.

Miss Molly Butterfly Bush is nice & neat shrub with compact branching and beautiful rich Sangria-red flowers. Its distinctive flower color makes late summer gardens pop and attracts tons of butterflies to the garden! This one prefers full sun and is perfect in the landscape or in a container on a porch or patio.

Blue Chiffon Rose of Sharon is a stunning shrub featuring huge double blue flowers with a lacy center. This summer-blooming shrub grows 8-12 feet, is drought tolerant and loves the sun. Plant and prune into a hedge or simply place it in sunny spot in the landscape for a profusion of beautiful blooms!

Madison Jasmine Vine is an easy-to-grow climber that produces beautiful clusters of starry flowers you can smell from feet away! The butter cream blooms are what makes this evergreen vine stand out in a crowd. 'Madison' is a cold hardy variety with glossy, dark green leaves that change to a rich bronze-red in winter. Grow it on a trellis or arbor, or along a fence. It prefers full to partial sun and rich soil well-drainage soil.

Windmill Palm has an upright, single trunk covered with dense, brown, hair-like fibers, with fan-shaped fronds that extend 1.5-foot-long. A very slow-growing palm, Windmill Palm can reach 40 feet in height, but is typically seen much smaller at between 10 to 20 feet tall. This particular tree works well as an accent tree or while still small, can placed in a container.

Bountiful Blueberry is an tasty evergreen shrub offering lots of large, super-sweet berries and boasts dramatic foliage with white bell-shaped flowers in the summer. This plant adores the sun ~ the more sun, the more berries! Plant in the garden or in a container with other edibles or flowers for a truly unique planter.

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