THE BLOG: let's talk gardening


Fresh from the Farm


Bring the family out to experience your local Christmas Shoppe as you select the perfect family tree this year! Available from 2 feet all the way up to 12 feet.

Here's a little tree trivia for you curious folks…
The beloved Fraser fir was named for John Fraser, a Scottish botanist who explored the southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in the late 1700s. It is a pyramid-shaped tree that reaches a maximum height of 80 feet and a trunk diameter of 1-1/2 feet. The species is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir.

The Fraser fir grows naturally only in the southern Appalachians, above 3,000 feet. The cool temperatures and lots of rainfall of the North Carolina High Country are what causes the Fraser fir to keep its needles throughout the Christmas season. The strong branches are turned slightly upward which gives the tree a compact appearance and makes it perfect for decorating.

Over 50 million Fraser firs are grown in North Carolina on 25,000 acres for use as Christmas trees, and the Fraser fir represents over 90% of all the trees grown in North Carolina as Christmas trees. Christmas Trees haven't always been a Christmas Tradition. No one really knows who put up the first Christmas tree, but some historians believe that even the Egyptians and Romans used some form of an evergreen to decorate their homes in late December.

What a treasure to purchase a tree grown this close to home. When you purchase a McDonald tree, they come straight from the farm in North Carolina so this Christmas icon will stay fresh and looking good all season long.

McDonald Garden Center offers three options for a Fraser Fir. The traditional tree is full with a traditional, pyramidal shape and lots of branches for displaying ornaments. The Natural Fraser captures that all natural, fresh from the farm feeling. It is more open allowing ornaments to hang nicely. The other option is a tabletop Fraser perfect for adding big impact to a small space.



Christmas is in the house... and out!

When it comes to decorating for the holidays the inside of your house takes center stage. But, don’t’ forget to add some Christmas curb appeal to make a statement outside. Creating a winter landscape doesn’t have to be a Clark Griswold inspired affair. Incorporating a few simple decorative touches will bring cheer to any outdoor space. From brightly colored lights to whimsical reindeer to shimmering orbs, the possibilities are endless. Here's some of favorites to make your home merry & bright:

Add a little ambiance during the holidays with these nature inspired LED twig lights. Ideal for lining walkways or placed in outdoor planters or beds, these accent lights can also be used inside. Available in an assortment of colors including red, multi-color, white and blue.

These unique holiday trees will add a magical touch to any outdoor area; on a dock, front yard, porch or patio. Each crab pot tree is crafted of green-coated crab trap mesh, pre-strung with lights (clear or multi-color) for quick and easy decorating and cleverly designed to store flat. When ready to use, simply unfold and secure the sides together with twist ties (included). Available in 1.5 ft, 4 ft and 6 ft sizes.

Charming by day and dazzling by night, the shimmering lighted angel and sleigh sculptures are sure to dazzle wherever you place them. 40 inches tall and it doesn’t need to be dark to add pizzazz to the landscape.

Illuminate your holidays with these shimmering LED sculptures that shine brilliantly at night. Choose from an assortment of styles including ball, bell and star (12 or 18 inches). Hang these shimmering pieces from a porch or a tree branch for a festive accent. These pair well with white lights on the trees or bushes.

These graceful sculptures will add a touch of elegance to any outdoor space. Place on the porch, patio, front lawn or an entryway. Just add lights for a nighttime show.



Keep your tree in tip-top shape

The Christmas tree is the centerpiece of holiday decorating and we want you to keep your tree looking merry and bright all season long. Our experts pulled together some of their tips to help keep your tree looking tip-top throughout the season.

  • A freshly cut trunk allows trees to drink more water. It is important to get the tree’s trunk into water a few hours after the cut is made. If this doesn’t happen be sure to make a fresh cut before placing the tree in the stand. When you purchase a McDonald tree, a fresh cut is made in the trunk right before it is loaded to take home.
  • A cut tree requires water and drinks more the first few days it is indoors. Be sure to keep water in the tree stand and remember to water daily. The water level should not drop below the cut end of the trunk.
  • Heat and dry air causes trees to dry out faster. Close heat vents that below directly on the tree, avoid placing trees in areas that receive direct sun and switch from standard lights to cooler LED mini lights.
  • Add Tree Preserve to the water once a week. A Christmas tree preservative offers a food source for the plant, an acidifier (hard water is alkaline - making the water more acidic helps the plant take in water and food), and a disinfectant to prevent mold, fungi, and algae from growing in the water. An 8 oz. bottle retails for $2.99.
  • Purchase a Christmas tree bag to help contain the mess when Christmas is over. Simply position the bag around the stand (or base of the tree) before the tree is inserted and then place your Christmas tree skirt over the bag. After Christmas is over and the tree decorations have been removed, slide the bag up and over the tree for easy, needle-free removal.

Turn Your Black Friday Red and Green


Welcome the holidays with a Yuletide Camellia... sometimes called the Christmas Camellia. This wintertime favorite will bring warm, red flowers and elegant green leaves to your holiday decoration and will bring beauty to your garden for many years to come.

With single, brilliant, fiery red blooms this evergreen is a beautiful addition to the winter garden. Blossoms stand out in high contrast against glossy, dark green foliage. A moderate grower this shrub will grow to approximately 8-10 feet tall and with its upright habit it creates an evergreen background for a variety of uses. This beauty is an excellent choice for a colorful hedge or screen, a border shrub, or use along fence lines to add vivid color to outdoor living spaces, porches and patios. We also love planting this camellia in a container for your holiday decorating. And, paired with white pansies makes the perfect Christmas accent. Be sure to remember that you can cut the blooms to use throughout your house for fresh décor.

This camellia is a sasanqua variety or sometimes referred to as Christmas Camellias. The sasanqua varieties of Camellia are native to the evergreen, coastal forests of southern Japan. It was introduced by Dutch traders into Europe in 1869. Yuletide is a chance seedling of Kanjiro and originated at Nuccio's Nurseries in Altadena, CA. The Japanese use the leaves of sasanqua to make tea, and the seeds are pressed into tea seed oil for use as a lubricant and in cooking and cosmetics.


Go Live!

Set a festive mood in your home this holiday season and go live! Fresh & fragrant roping, garlands and greens will add instant holiday cheer to your banisters, railings, fences and doorways. It's easy to dress up patio urns, window boxes and planters with bunches of our fresh greens adorned with beautiful ribbons or hand-tied bows.

Deck the halls with some of our favorite seasonal accents and accessories, and of course, our stunning Fraser Fir trees!

    Our fresh cut Christmas trees bring magic to your home. We hand-pick every tree to ensure a uniform shape, thick branches, rich color and superior fragrance. Choose from any of our locally-grown North Carolina Frasier Firs.
    A real statement at 12-inches wide by 18-inches long, this handmade combination of noble fir, berried juniper and cones is perfect for table décor, a door charm or even in a window. This holiday must-have is pre-dipped to extend its life.
    Built on a frame that will "hug" a standard sized mailbox, the 24-inches long decoration of noble fir, berried juniper, western red cedar and ponderosa pine cones comes complete with a large red bow. Add a touch of festiveness to your mailbox with this holiday huggie.
    This stunning 22-inch square wreath has traditional components of noble fir, berried juniper, western red cedar and ponderosa pine cones, but has the unique shape of a square! Pre-dipped for extended life and hand-tied to ensure superior assembly, this is sure to make the perfect statement on your front door!



From our Table to Yours

Try some of our favorite holiday recipes at your table this holiday season. These classics combine fresh herbs to create dishes that will dazzle your guests. Using the holiday favorite rosemary, thyme and sage – you will have fresh herbs for all your holiday cooking. Once the holidays are over, place this herb bowl in a kitchen window sill. This also makes a great hostess gift to bring along to your Thanksgiving gathering. Bon Appétit!



  • 12 cups slightly dry bread
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted

Combine bread, onion, salt, sage, thyme, and rosemary. Add broth and butter; toss lightly to mix. Use to stuff a 12-pound turkey or bake covered, in a 2-quart casserole at 325º until heated through, about one hour.

Spread this on toast or eggs at breakfast. Toss it with pasta at lunch. Melt it on fish or chicken at dinner. And, of course use on fresh bread for your holiday feast.


  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 stick unsalted of butter

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well with a spoon until combined and all ingredients are incorporated. Place butter mixture into plastic wrap and roll to form a log shape. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.



Now that’s TREEmendous!

Faux Christmas trees have come a long way from their modest beginnings. Now-a-days, artificial trees are so much more realistic and come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and offer a host of benefits.

So why does an artificial tree make so much sense? Here’s why:

  • no need to water
  • easier to put up and take down
  • ability to leave the tree up longer
  • little or no cleanup
  • uniform appearance
  • less expensive per year
  • reduced risk of fire
  • most come with commercial grade light sets professionally installed

McDonald offers an incredible selection of permanent, life-like Christmas trees available in a variety styles. Each quality tree is crafted with care and will offer beauty for seasons to come. These trees offer a natural look with less mess. But, should a problem arise, we offer permanent tree diagnostics to help solve and fix the problem.



Add Festive Color


Ornaments aren’t the only things that shimmer ~ try this silvery stonecrop for a real landscape standout!

Looking for something unique to complete a container, fill up a flowerbed or even to create a border? Look no further than the Cape Blanco Stonecrop. The handsome rosettes of fleshy green leaves are covered with a silvery-white waxy powder to give a shimmery, silver appearance. It will also produce tiny star-shaped clusters of yellow flowers that contrast nicely with its silver rosettes.

For beginner gardeners, this is a beautiful and easy ground cover to grow. As an evergreen perennial, it is drought tolerant but needs well-drained soil to perform. The sedum is also deer-resistant; however, it is edible to us humans. Try using the succulent foliage in soups or even in a stir-fry. Serving this to your family or guests should get everyone talking about the strange new vegetable on the table!

This holiday season, try trimming your landscape with Cape Blanco Stonecrop to bring an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and great festive color.



It's only natural...

We are crazy about how natural our pre-lit Christmas trees look this season... especially the new Aspen Pine! This majestic (and affordable) Christmas tree captures the splendor of the Rockies featuring nature-inspired needles and branches. Trimming your holiday tree will be easy this holiday season. Full and thick, the branches of this tree are ideal for hanging ornaments of all shapes and sizes. The Aspen contains more than 1227 tips giving a lush appearance. The slim profile fits neatly in any niche or it can be center stage as a focal point. The tree measures 7.5 feet high and 46-inches in diameter. Pre-lit with more than 725 warm, clear lights, this beauty will sparkle and shine well past Santa’s arrival. If however, you’re tree’s lights aren’t twinkling as they should, this tree is under a 3 year warranty. Simply contact us and we will work with you to remedy the problem. So, come see for yourself how natural and life-like this Christmas tree is... and best of all, it's on sale for $199 (that's a $200 savings!) now through November 20.


The White House has them... you can too!

The White House has them ... you can too! Three beautiful, handcrafted ornaments celebrating Hampton Roads history are now in route to 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue to adorn the President's Christmas tree!

Inspired by history, community, and a love for the land, local native Eddie Anderson has put together a one of a kind ornament collection for locals in Hampton Roads. Growing up in this community, Anderson became quite familiar with the important role our home has played in developing this great nation, and developed a photo collection of some of the regions most valued treasures. Whether it's the Virginia Beach’s Thoroughgood House or Hampton’s fishing fleet, Anderson has captured each scene and incorporated his impression into a one-of-a-kind handpainted ornament.   

In an effort to celebrate Virginia’s 400-year anniversary, Heirloom Ornaments were first introduced in 2007. With the overwhelming demand, McDonald Garden Center has grown the collection each year since. Ornaments include the old Coast Guard station in Virginia Beach, St. John’s Episcopal Church, the bandstand at Fort Monroe, Hampton's historical Carousel, Virginia Beach's Cape Henry Lighthouse, Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and many more.

In 2009, partnering with the Hampton History Museum and local artist, Gail Duke, we introduced an ornament illustrating the first recorded Christmas celebration in America. This ornament featured a 360° view of Captain John Smith and crew arriving in Hampton, Virginia, originally called Kecoughtan, in 1608. It was during this adventure that Captain John Smith recorded the first account of a Christmas celebration in English North America. This year, we added two new ornaments inspired from Duke's paintings; "Living in Elizabeth Cittie" and "Kecoughtan Indian Village". Visit us to see these and our entire collection of ornaments, sold exclusively at McDonald Garden Center!

See a clip from the Hampton Roads Show earlier this week!

{ Posted by McDonald Garden Center, November 10, 2010 }

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