THE BLOG: let's talk gardening


Get Your Kicks with 'Route 66'!


'Route 66' Coreopsis (also called Tickseed) was discovered in 2005 and has been a favorite summer-blooming perennial ever since. It's a beautiful threadleaf coreopsis that bears yellow flowers with a ring of burgundy around the crown that bleeds out to the tips of each petal. The bloom season of 'Route 66' is from late June until mid October when it boasts bright yellow petals with a sizeable red eye ~ red is most often the dominant color. It grows to a height and spread of about 24 inches and prefers a nice sunny spot in the landscape. It is drought tolerant, but looks best with regular watering. And, remember to remove faded flowers to encourage more vigorous blooming.

Coreopsis is one of the easiest perennials to maintain and is an excellent choice for beginners. Use it for borders, rock gardens, or mass plantings. It also seems to compliment nearly every other plant, especially ornamental grasses. You can see why this is one of our summer favorites. Try it in your garden, we promise you'll love it as much as we do!



Now You See It. Now You Don’t.

Trash cans, air conditioners, chain-link fences, sometimes even your neighbor’s house -- these are just a few of the things that can interfere with the beauty of your landscape. But these eyesores don't have to be the focal point. Check out these ideas on how you can use plants and garden structures to magically make these blemishes disappear:

Trees & Shrubs – Both trees and shrubs are versatile and can be used as a natural screen to block out unsightly distractions and even noise. Trees can grow from 10 to over 50 feet tall making them the perfect choice to hide a neighbor’s house, shed or nearby buildings. Shrubs are useful for lower vantage points and can grow up to 8 feet tall. Place them in front of or around heating and cooling units, swimming pool mechanicals, utility meters, and trash cans. We recommend Chindo Viburnum, Cleyera, Ligustrum, and Bayberry (Wax Myrtle).

Trellis with Climbing Vines – A garden trellis laced with perennial climbing vines with large foliage and beautiful blooming flowers can create a privacy screen that can block out most landscape eyesores while infusing a pop of color to an otherwise ordinary space. Most perennial vines need little in the way of care other than water and pruning to ensure they grow strong and come back every year. We recommend Madison Jasmine, Clematis, Climbing Hydrangea, Wisteria, and Sweet Pea.

Lattice or Fencing – Construct a simple space for your garbage can by arranging two tall pieces of wooden lattice or fencing at right angles against your house or garage. Be sure to leave an area open in the back so you can easily roll the trash can in and out. And, of course add some flair by planting Ivy, Clematis, Sweet Pea, Honeysuckle, Climbing Roses or other vines and train them to climb up the lattice.



Got Shade? Think Hostas!

With all this hot weather, we’ve been thinking about all the shady spots that we go to for a little relief! And... shady spots brings us to Hostas.

Hostas are one of the most popular shade perennials that provide brilliant foliage to a garden. Members of the lily family, they are hardy, easy-to-grow and care for and aren't troubled by pests. Leaf colors can be found from green, gold and blue to variegated, and sizes from miniature to mammoth. They are mostly grown for their attractive leaves, but they do flower is shades from white to mauve. Smaller varieties (up to 12 inches tall) make great edgers along paths or the front of a bed, medium-sized ones make excellent ground-covers, and large varieties are terrific in the background or as dramatic accent plants. The possibilities are endless!

And, these shade-loving perennials even get better with age. Each season, the clumps get larger and margins on variegated leaves become wider; puckering or seer-suckering in leaves becomes more prominent; and their coloring becomes more intense ~ especially in the blue or gold-toned varieties. The best part is that you can divide them to fill other spots in your garden. You'll know your Hostas should be divided when they get too crowded and the center of a clump begins to turn brown or die out. As a general rule, count on dividing them every three to four years. Some slower-growing varieties may need longer before they're ready for division. And, you may be able to divide faster-growing varieties every two or three years. However, there is not a hard and fast rule and the choice is up to you. The beauty is that you can divide them when you need a few more plants to fill your garden. You can divide Hostas almost anytime, from spring to fall. If you decide to divide them now, just be sure to keep them well watered. We recommend, every day for a few weeks depending on the rainfall. Happy Gardening!


Hats Off to the Sombrero Series

Add a fiesta of color to your garden with Echinacea, commonly known as Coneflower. This summer, we're so excited about the new Sombrero Series of Coneflowers offering the trendiest, sizzling hot colors of 2012. Available in two varieties ~ Salsa Red and Hot Coral~ these beauties will set your garden ablaze with the deep, intense colors of a sunset on a hot summer day!

Coneflowers are long-blooming perennials that will offer up color from late spring all the way through summer. Remembering to dead head will prolong their flowering period. They require full sun and well-drained fertile soil. They are even a water-thrifty perennial that hold up even during the hottest summers. The brightly colored Sombreros are a single-flowered Echinacea that feature a well-branched and compact growing habit ~ growing about two feet tall and nearly as wide.

Coneflowers are easy to grow & maintain, and make a great addition to any landscape border. Their long sturdy stems rise above the compact foliage, making them an excellent choice for cut flowers. Their bold, dark green, coarse leaves contrast nicely with finely textured foliage of perennials such as the thread leaf Coreopsis, ornamental grasses, and Yarrow.

Wildlife is another reason to include Echinacea in your garden. First, they are deer resistant, and it is a challenge to find beautiful perennials that aren’t deer magnets! Second, butterflies are attracted to the flowers, which provide a rich source of nectar. And finally, the remaining cones on the plant add fall and winter interest to the garden and provide seeds for several species of birds, including goldfinches. With its long season of interest, easy maintenance, and benefits to wildlife, Echinacea definitely deserves top billing on your 'must have' list for this summer!


Celebrating the Local’s Tree for 30 Years!

Known for its beauty, long blooming period and hardiness, the “Tree of 100 days” is being celebrated at McDonald Garden Center’s 30th annual Crepe Myrtle Festival. In its more than a quarter-century salute to a tree that beautifies landscapes across Hampton Roads, the 2012 Crepe Myrtle Fest will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, July 21-23, at McDonald Garden Centers in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

The McDonald Crepe Myrtle Fest was created to be an informative, fun-oriented experience. The free-to-the-public event features a plethora of crepe myrtles, plants, flowers, exhibits and food and refreshments for the entire family. The Crepe Myrtle is a magnificent tree that is found and loved throughout Hampton Roads. Much of the crepe myrtle’s appeal is about color, and the festival has grown not only around the colorful tree, but on providing a colorful atmosphere of fun, information and activity during the dog days of summer. This year’s festival features a wide range of participating organizations, including master gardeners, horticultural societies, beekeepers and more. Many McDonald Garden Center customers have been anticipating the festival weekend, ready to cash in on their Myrtle Money, which they’ve been collecting throughout the spring. Myrtle money is redeemable dollar for dollar at the Crepe Myrtle Fest for up to 50 % off the regular price of any item.

These beautiful trees are originally from China and have been in cultivation in the United States for more than a century. The tree can be seen all over Hampton Roads, lining many area city streets in its wide range of colors and sizes. Now is the peak of these tree’s 100-day blooming period. Be sure not to miss this year’s Crepe Myrtle Fest!



The Mini Crepe Myrtle


We are crazy for Crepe Myrtles this time of year, especially our littlest crepe... the Orchid Cascade!

Sometimes referred to as the mini Crepe Myrtle, the blooms on this unique crepe spill to the ground in a waterfall of color, and the size make is perfect for almost anywhere. Classified as a compact grower, the Cascade Orchid variety is more of a flowering shrub only growing 12 to 16 inches tall and spreading 3 to 4 feet wide.

It will fit into almost any landscape due to the size and adds color all summer and fall. The orchid-lavender colored blooms pour down to the ground, bringing big color into small spaces! This variety will works well for formal and informal landscapes, and can also be planted for a low growing hedge. It is also great for planting in the front yard, as it will not get so large. Provide full sun for the best blooms but light shade will also be tolerated. Once established, this Crepe Myrtle is highly drought tolerant and only needs supplemental watering in times of prolonged drought.



100 Days of Blooms


One hundred days of exquisite summer blooms, attractive fall foliage, unique bark, good disease and insect resistance and drought-tolerance ~ what's not to like about Crepe Myrtles!

One of our favorite varieties is the 'Natchez' Crepe Myrtle, ideal tree for either formal or informal landscapes, and has become one of summer's most beautiful ornamental trees, thanks to its large clusters of white blooms that last from June through September. This tree is perfect in beds, borders, for screening or simply as a focal point in the landscape.

Natchez is a relatively fast growing tree ~ growing approximately three to five feet per year, and reaching approximately 20 to 30 feet at maturity! This sun-loving tree needs full sun to flourish and produce the largest number of blooms. Although, Natchez can survive with a small amount of shade, the number of blooms will be greatly reduced. The tree's deep green leaves in summer provide the ideal backdrop for its vivid white blooms. In fall, leaves will take on fall hues of yellow, orange and red. In winter, it features a smooth, dark cinnamon-brown, exfoliating bark that provides unique visual interest throughout the winter months. And as if this is not enough, Natchez has amazing resistance to disease and is NOT susceptible to powdery mildew.

Be sure to check out the Natchez, as well as the many other Crepe Myrtle varieties during our 30th annual Crepe Myrtle Fest, July 21-23. Get the scoop here >>



The History of the Locals' Favorite Tree

One of the South's most iconic plants, the Crepe Myrtle arrived in England from its native China in 1759. Few were impressed with the Crepe Myrtle, because it simply would not bloom - England just wasn't hot enough. However, in 1786, the plant was introduced to Charleston, South Carolina, and it finally found a home in the sizzling American South.

Crepe Myrtles are among the toughest, most adaptable, and showiest plants grown in Hampton Roads. Sometimes called "the Lilac of the South" its dense clusters of crinkled, crepe-papery flowers in white or shades of pink, red, or purple bloom for months in summer. In fall, leaves turn a brilliant red or orange, and its speckled, peeling bark also provides winter interest .The deciduous Crepe Myrtle is among the longest-blooming shrubs (up to 120 days), and varies in size from dwarf to large shrubs or small trees.

The Crepe Myrtle as we know it today would astonish the ancient Chinese, thanks in part to decades of work accomplished by Dr. Donald Egolf of the National Arboretum. These modern cross-bred Crepe Myrtles are more disease resistant, hardier and more vigorous than the earlier varieties. Six new and improved varieties were chosen and were given Native American Indian names. Dr. Egolf's continued cross-breeding with Lagerstroemia fauriei, which created many of today's newer hybrids such as Natchez, Tuscarora and Tonto.

It's no surprise that this heat-loving, humidity-thriving, drought tolerant, fast growing plant ranks as one the South's most popular ornamental tree! Be sure to check out the many Crepe Myrtle varieties during our 30th annual Crepe Myrtle Fest, July 21-23. Get the scoop here >>


Trash to Treasure

Get creative by recycling your old castaways into beautiful treasures for your garden! We had a few fun finds lying around the Garden Center and recycled them into unique planters. The options are endless and inspiration can be found anywhere! Here's a few of our favorite recipes to get you started...


1 cu. ft. bag of McDonald Potting Mix
1 5lb bag of Greenleaf Fertilizer 12-4-8 (1/2 cup used in planter)
2 Petunias
1 Solenia Begonia
2 Trailing Red Mezoos
1 12x6-inch piece of Weed Fabric

  • Line the spreader portion with weed fabric to prevent soil from falling out of the spreader and to allow proper water drainage.
  • Fill the spreader with McDonald Potting Mix and ½ cup Greenleaf Fertilizer
  • Plant the Solenia Begonia in the middle, back as the thriller. Plant two petunias to the left and right of the Begonia as the filler. Plant Mezoo Trailing Red as the spiller..


1 cu. ft. bag of McDonald Potting Mix
1 5 lb bag of Greenleaf Fertilizer 12-4-8 (1/2 cup used in planter)
1 Cocoa Liner (12-inch round) or Spagnum Moss
1 Hens and Chicks
1 Sedum
1 Pennisetum Karley Rose
2 shells for decoration
1 fish net for decoration

  • Open up a hole in the crab pot and use the cocoa liner to line the hole. (Note: Spagnum moss could be used for this step.)
  • Fill the liner with McDonald Potting Mix and ½ cup Greenleaf Fertilizer.
  • Plant the grass as the thriller in the middle, back. Plant the sedum as a spiller and Hens and Chicks as a filler.
  • Decorate the crab pot with shells and a fish net.


1 cu. ft. bag of McDonald Potting Mix
1 5lb bag of Greenleaf Fertilizer 12-4-8 (1/2 cup used in planter)
1 8 qt bag of Perlite
1 Croton
1 Million Bells
1 Dichondra
1 Pennisetum Rubrum

  • For a large container, you can fill half of the container with perlite so it is not as heavy.
  • Add McDonald Potting Mix and ½ cup Greenleaf Fertilizer to the remaining half of the planter.
  • Plant the grass as the thriller in the middle, back. Plant million bells and croton as a filler and the Dichondra as a spiller.


Make a Bang with Living Fireworks!


This week's plant of the week is fittingly... Fireworks Pennisetum! Make a bang with an explosion of colorful "fireworks"! This upright, annual grass features variegated stripes of white, green, burgundy and hot pink that color the length of the blade. It will produce red-burgundy foxtail plumes from mid-summer to early fall. It is the first variegated purple fountain grass, growing as a thick clump that can reach 2-4 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide. It is a great accent plant in the landscape or in containers or group en mass for a stunning display of color. Fireworks flourishes in full to partial sunlight in average well-drained soils. It establishes rapidly and tolerates short summer dry spells. The vibrant color will intensify in the early autumn cooler days. Fireworks fountain grass is relatively disease and pest free and is deer resistant.

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