THE BLOG: let's talk gardening

JUNE
27
2013

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Plant Them and They Will Come!

BUTTERFLY BUSH

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. Butterfly bushes are carefree deciduous shrubs that are colorful, fragrant, and easy to grow. We’ve provided a few butterfly bush varieties that will entice these beautiful creatures to your yard and offer bold color all through the summer.

Blue Heaven - compact, mounding shrub with silvery foliage and showy pinnacles of blue flower spikes and orange eyes at branch ends. Blooms from early summer to frost. Great for borders, embankments, mass plantings, and containers. Prune in late winter. Drought tolerant. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Plant in full sun.

Black Knight - bold, deep purple-blue, almost back, flower spikes with a sweet smelling fragrance that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds alike. This fast grower blooms mid-summer through fall. Perfect for a background or accent plant. Easy to grow in fertile, well-drained soil. Prune back or cut to the ground in late winter or early spring. Plant in full sun.

Blue Chip - eye-catching dark green foliage with spikes of fragrant blue to lavender blooms. Perfect for smaller gardens and mixed borders. Blooms from early summer to mid fall. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant in partial to full sun.

Harlequin - arching stems dressed in variegated green leaves trimmed in cream. Purple-red, fragrant flowers bloom mid summer to early autumn. Ideal as background or accent plant or as a cut flower. Remove spent flower spikes to promote blooming. Prune back in late winter to maintain shape and encourage growth and flowering next season. Plant in full sun in well drained soil.

Evil Ways - bright yellow foliage and dark purple flower spikes that bloom June through September. Best grown in borders, cottage gardens, or butterfly gardens. Also popular as cut flower. Remove spent flower spikes during the growing season to encourage additional bloom. Prefers medium, well-drained soil and a full sun location.

Ice Chip - white flowers with silver-ish foliage that blooms from June through frost. A good groundcover for mass plantings; perennial gardens; mixed borders. A great thriller in container combinations.

Lilac Chip - Soft, lavender-pink fragrant flowers provide color from summer until frost, without deadheading! Fragrant bloom spikes attract butterflies. Perfect for mass planting, perennial gardens and mixed borders. This deer resistant shrub is deciduous with a dwarf, slightly spreading habit.

Miss Molly - rich Sangria-red color. This compact plant is smaller than many other buddleia varieties, and its distinctive flower color makes late summer gardens pop! The red summer flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It is Fragrant and deer resistant.

Miss Ruby - remarkably vivid, rich pink blooms. The distinctive magenta flowers are more vibrant than that of any other buddleia variety. Brilliant rich pink summer blooms unlike any other variety. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Fragrant and deer resistant.

Purple Haze - an abundance of dark purple-blue flowers produced on unique horizontal branches. The flowers radiate outward and downward like a pinwheel, and are continuous from mid summer to frost. Fragrant purple-blue flowers from mid-summer to frost. Attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but not to deer.

Royal Red - spectacular summer color from conical clusters of rich, purple-red flowers. Terrific fragrance attracts butterflies. Good background or accent plant for the fragrance garden.

JUNE
26
2013

Crazy for Canna

CANNA AUSTRALIA

Canna is a must-have for the summer landscape. Their bright tropical blooms are a real attention-getters and they keep going all through the summer heat and humidity. Canna or sometimes called Canna Lily is not a true lily, are a tropical perennial that brings the party each summer and really packs a punch in the landscape!

We love Canna Australia. With some of the darkest foliage of all canna varieties, Australia offers a great contrast to other green plants in the garden. The leaves are a deep bronze and chocolate color with a waxy finish and pointed tip. Australia has a bright red-orange bloom that spans 3 to 4 inches wide. The ruffly flowers not only look great in the landscape, but snip a few and bring indoors to add to your summer décor.

In the spring, Australia's shiny dark leaves will shoot up and grow to 4-5 feet and about a foot to 18 inches wide. We suggest if you are planting these in a row to space the plants out about 12-15 inches to give them enough room to grow. And, we definitely suggest planting them in a row for a big WOW effect.

Plant around a pool, a sunny deck or patio or in a perennial bed as a border for a brilliant display spring through fall. We also love them planted in the back of a flower bed to give height and wow in your summer beds. You could even try planting them in a large container. Plant 'Australia' in full sun to light shade in any well-drained soil. It grows quickly and needs almost no maintenance.

JUNE
19
2013

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A Daily Dose of Blooms – Daylilies

You won't find a more rewarding or easier-to-grow plant than the daylily! Daylilies, (Hemerocallis), are perennials that produce an amazing assortment of color and sizes. The name Hemerocallis comes from the Greek language and means "beauty for a day" hence we get daylily since each flower only lasts for 1 day.

Daylilies are often referred to as the perfect perennial for lots reasons. Not only do they come in a variety of colors and sizes, but they also survive in a wide range of climates, often with very little care. Ideal in all types of landscapes, daylilies are adaptable to all kinds of soil and light conditions. They are drought resistant and virtually disease and insect free. Daylilies are known to bloom from late spring until autumn. This perennial is ideal in flower borders, for massing, as a groundcover or in containers. As for daylily maintenance, simply deadhead foliage in spring before the plant begins to green up. So be sure to get your daily dose of color with this bonafide garden favorite. Check out two of our favorites, Stella de Oro and Happy Returns at any McDonald location.

Stella de'Oro – this repeat bloomer has fragrant, ruffled, buttercup-yellow flowers with apricot throat with blooms measuring about 2-½ inches across. Loves the heat and thrives in clay and acid soils. Stella is Ideal in small space gardens, in containers on patios or planted together in large numbers for a carefree and colorful ground cover. Blooms May through July. Plant in full-sun and will drained soil. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Happy Returns – a repeat bloomer with fragrant, pale yellow flowers and dark green foliage with blooms measuring approximately 3 inches across. Withstands hot, dry conditions and will grow in almost any soil type. Use for cut flowers, massing, edging, in borders or in mixed containers. Blooms from May through July. Prefers full sun and well drained soil. Attracts Butterflies and is deer resistant.

JUNE
17
2013

Summer in the 757! Gardening To-Dos

With the first official day of summer arriving this week, June 21st to be exact... we've listed a few sizzlin' summer tips for gardening in the 757. From watering to lawn care, here's what you should be doing now to keep your garden going through the summer. Remember if you need help, our three year-round locations are here to answer any questions.

  1. As your tomato plants grow, remember to secure them. You can bind them to a tomato cage or stake them. This way, your plants will be supported and not flop over. We recommend using a stretch tie. As the plant grows, the tie expands with it, therefore it does not hurt the plant stem and trunk. This also works well for other summer favorites, such as oriental lilies and dahlias.
  2. Water, Water, Water. As the days get warm and the hot hazy days of summer set in, remember your plants in pots need more water. The next time you finish watering with your hose, fill up your watering can. This way you give you plants a little drink between waterings.
  3. It's best to water your plants early in the day to ensure maximum growth and minimum disease problems.
  4. Now's the time to feed your warm season lawns such as Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia. We recommend using classic lawn food 16-0-8, a slow-release fertilizer that comes in a 20lb. bag that will cover up to 5,000 square feet. To keep your lawn looking great, mow weekly or twice a week. Position the mower blades to the warm season lawn at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Mow fescue lawns at a height of 4 to 5 inches.
  5. Remove faded flowers from annuals to encourage repeat blooms and keep it producing longer into the season.
  6. Feed your gardenias. These plants love nitrogen and iron. To encourage maximum growth and blooms, we recommend feeding them with McDonald Greenleaf Fertilizer 12-4-8, which is a great source of nutrients as well as iron.
JUNE
14
2013

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Make Dad's Day with Japanese Maples!

Prized for its beauty, the Japanese maple is amazingly hearty and versatile and is one tree every dad should have in his landscape. There are hundreds of varieties of Japanese maples from the cascading dwarf or semi dwarf shrubs to the 30-foot version of this stately tree. With and endless assortment of leaf and color options, there’s truly a Japanese Maple for every taste and space. Check out some of our favorites and many more in stores... and many more and help make dad’s day ‘tree’mendous!

BIHOU: a small, upright deciduous tree with tiny yellow-green leaves. Fall color is yellow to orange. Bark on twigs and branches turns a vivid coral yellow with an orange overcast in winter. The Japanese name means "beautiful mountain range." Prefers sun/partial shade in well-drained soil. 7' tall x 3' wide in 10 years. Hardy to -10 degrees.

BLOODGOOD: A medium-growing, broad deciduous tree popular for its strong deep-red foliage which holds through summer. Fall color in vivid hues of crimson. Prefers sun/partial shade in well-drained soil. 12' tall x 8' wide in 10 years. Hardy to -20 degrees.

MIKAWA YATSUBUSA: this is a very small Japanese maple that only grows to 4’-6’ in height and 4’ in width after 10 years. The growth structure is multi-branched. 
It bears leaves with long, narrow lobes which overlap similar leaves beneath, eventually forming a layered appearance like shingles on a roof. When the leaves first unfold in the spring they are a light yellow-green color. The thin-textured leaves become a medium green as they mature. The medium green leaf color turns golden-orange in the fall. The outer portion of the leaves have bright red tips.

CRIMSON QUEEN: low-branching, dwarf tree with delicate weeping effect. Foliage holds its beautiful crimson color throughout summer before dropping in fall. Well-suited for use as a small lawn tree or on patios and entryways.

EVER RED: dwarf variety with delicate weeping effect. Foliage holds beautiful deep red color throughout the summer before dropping leaves in late fall. Well-suited for use as a small lawn tree or for use on patios and entryways.

SHAINA: a slow-growing, compact, upright deciduous tree, originating as a mutation off of Acer p. 'Bloodgood'. In spring, small leaves emerge in bright red clumps which darken to deep-red in summer. Fall color is red to orange. Prefers sun/partial shade in well-drained soil. 3' tall x 2-3' wide in 10 years. Hardy to -10 degrees.

JUNE
12
2013

A Thrifty Perennial

SEA THRIFT (Ameria)

Although this tough evergreen perennial may not sea-worthy, it certainly is one garden-worthy plant! Sea Thrift, also known Ameria, can be found in the wild along beaches and in salt marsh areas... and of course at McDonald Garden Center's year-round locations.This low growing perennial boasts pink to reddish purple globed-shaped clusters on wiry stems a-top tufts of dark green grass-like evergreen foliage. Thrift is very easy to care for and blooms spring to early summer. Be sure to deadhead spent flowers in order to prolong flowering. We also recommend dividing your plant in early spring to rejuvenate. Like most perennials, Sea Thrift is quite versatile and is ideal in rock gardens, cottage gardens, as an edging, in containers and as a cut flower. Prefers full sun to semi-shade and well drained soil. Is both drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Sea Thrift Armada Rose, from $7.99.

JUNE
10
2013

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Our Favorite Perennials

Who doesn’t love perennials? They grace your garden with beautiful blooms and foliage and year after year they pop back up adding color, structure and flowers to your garden. We took a poll of our perennial experts and put together a list of their favorite perennials.

Check out what they had to say…

Stephanie Phillips, McDonald Garden Center in Virginia Beach

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, so I’m giving you my top three!

Purple Heart grows quickly and just one plant will fill a very large space. At the first frost and end of the season it will die back to the ground, so there’s no need to hide unsightly stems, and this allows plenty of room for you pansies. It has great color and can tolerate hot blazing sun.

Gaura, especially the 'Whirling Butterflies' variety because it grows to a good size and it moves beautifully with the breeze.

Black and Blue Salvia, like all salvias, attract hummingbirds like crazy. I like this salvia mostly because of it's intense blue color, which is pretty rare to find in the plant world. It gets taller than most salvias, so its great for the back of a flower bed.

Dana Coulsting, McDonald Garden Center in Chesapeake

My favorite perennial is Gaillardia Moxie. This flower is great because it loves the sun, doesn't require a lot of water and blooms for a long time! This particular gaillardia (sometimes known as blanket flower) is quite showy with very clear yellow frilly outer edges and a bright orange center. They look amazing in the garden or planted in containers. They grow about 18 – 24 inches tall and spread about the same so they definitely mix wonderfully with other flowers. As an extra bonus, this perennial not only attracts butterflies but is also deer resistant, which is a big plus!

Taryn Ruesch, McDonald Garden Center in Hampton

One of my top 10 favorite perennials of all time... the Pineapple Lily. These compliment every landscape with long, strappy leaves in a rich burgundy color. They grow 2-3 inches wide from the base, with the plant reaching a height of around 2-3 feet at maturity. Starting in July and continuing through to September, the Pineapple Lily produces tall racemes of creamy/purple star-shaped flowers densely packed around a thick stem. Each raceme can be around 6 inches in length and is held aloft for long periods of time, which makes it a great addition to a cut flower garden. Pineapple Lilies are well known as sun tolerant, but I also highly recommend them for part shade gardens as the sun will often leach some of the color out of the leaves. The Pineapple Lily grows best in a rich soil with a regular application of a good quality fertilizer. They will tolerate periods of drought once established, however water your lily regularly after first planting to help establish a strong root system.

Andrea Osborne, McDonald Garden Center in Chesapeake

My favorite perennial is Monarda, also known as Bee Balm. I love its unique whimsical flowers that bloom mid-to-late summer growing about of 2-4 feet high. It prefers a sunny spot with moist, but well-drained soil. Bee Balm attracts butterflies and bees and is also a hummingbird favorite. My Bee Balm is always the first stop for the hummingbirds in my yard. Its' height and movement in the breeze makes this perennial a beautiful addition to any sunny garden!

JUNE
7
2013

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How to grow a pizza - a pizza garden that is!

Have you ever thought about growing a pizza? You may not be able to grow a plant with pizzas ready to pluck from the vine, but you can grow a garden with pizza ingredients. A pizza garden can be any size or shape, and can easily be grown in containers on a sunny patio or deck, and it’s a fun project for the whole family. It’s also a great way to get children outdoors and motivated to plant and eat veggies.

Here are a few staples to include in your pizza garden but remember, the possibilities are endless so be creative and plant your favorite toppings.

Oregano- This aromatic herb is easy to grow and is one of the few herbs that is stronger when dried than when fresh. Italian Oregano, commonly called "the pizza herb," is a must have for any pizza sauce.

Tomatoes- are a staple for both the pizza sauce and as a pizza topper! Select from a variety of your favorite tomatoes. Choose sweet tomatoes like Sweet and Neat or even add color with a yellow tomato like Lemon Boy.

Peppers- choose from either sweet or hot peppers in a variety of colors for your pie. The classic bell pepper is a sweet pepper and is good way to add color. Try Better Belle or Red Beauty. Hot peppers can spice it up and we like Super Banana or Cayenne.

Basil- This must have is grown for its wonderful sweet flavor. Use in the sauce or top it off with this delish herb. You can use any of the basils, but we really like Sweet Italian Basil.

JUNE
6
2013

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Let’s Talk Tomatoes!

Growing your own tomatoes pays huge dividends and it's pretty easy. You can enjoy a homegrown harvest right from your own yard and tomatoes are an easy way to be a backyard farmer. And, best of all homegrown tomatoes taste better than store bought varieties.

To get started, simply choose a few of your favorite tomato varieties or identify how you might want to use the tomatoes. We offer more than 30 different types, so there is surely a palette-pleasing tomato for you.

Here's our favorite tomatoes:

SWEET or CHERRY TOMATOES (great for salads and snacking)

  • Super Sweet 100
  • Sweet Chelsea
  • Sweet and Neat (yellow or red)
  • Grape
  • Husky Red Cherry
  • Sungold

EARLY-FRUITING TOMATOES (get tomatoes sooner)

  • Early Girl
  • Roma

SANDWICH TOMATOES (more beefy, less seeds)

  • Big Boy
  • Better Boy
  • Big Daddy
  • Beefsteak
  • Beefy Boy
  • Mortgage Lifter

SMALL SPACE TOMATOES (perfect for growing in containers)

  • Sweet and Neat (yellow or red)
  • Super Sweet 100
  • Roma
  • Tomatoberry
  • Sungold

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES (specialty varieties)

  • Cherokee Purple
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Black Pearl
  • Old German
  • Brandywine

After you select the tomatoes that are best for you, you'll want to purchase a tomato cage to keep them upright. For best results and to ensure a bountiful harvest, a cage will support and ensure maximum growth. The cage will give your tomatoes something to grow through and keep the fruit off the ground and help support the stalks and keep them from bending and breaking. We especially love using colorful tomato cage to add a bit of whimsy to your garden.

Finally, to make your tomato plants’ roots strong and your fruit plumper, we recommend using Espoma Tomato Tone Fertilizer. This organic fertilizer feeds your plants naturally and will not force rapid growth at the expense of blooms and tomato yield. We suggest applying Tomato-tone after plants are well established (10 - 14 days) and then twice a month during the growing season (May through August).

TOMATO TIP: When planting tomatoes, we suggest adding lime to the soil to fortify the calcium in the soil thus helping to eliminate a common tomato problem, Blossom End Rot.

JUNE
5
2013

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Patio Perfect

Whether you're dreaming up a brand new outdoor living space or you're thinking about revamping an existing one, planning ahead is essential to creating a patio that's both beautiful and functional.

Here are some things to consider when planning a patio:

Function - Decide whether your patio will be a gathering place or a getaway space. Are you going to throw a lot of parties outside, use it as a family space, or would you prefer a small, quiet, private patio just big enough for a couple of chairs and a table?

Size - It's common to underestimate how big your patio should be. There’s no rule of thumb as to size, so it’s important to consider how many people will normally congregate in the space. Design proportionately to the house, making the patio as wide as the house and as long as the house's height or matching it to the size of an indoor room.

Shape - Consider the shape; symmetrical to the house, asymmetrical (slightly askew to the house), or sweeping curves. Non-geometric patios provide visual interest even when you're not on the patio.

Materials -Choose building materials to complement the color and style of your house. Our landscaping team recommends using Eagle Bay pavers to create patios as they are available in a wide range of colors, textures and shapes, which are very durable.

Landscaping - Don’t forget to compliment your patio with the right landscaping. Before you begin, think about how you would like to incorporate your surroundings into your patio space. Greenery will soften hardscapes and add interest and dimension to your patio. If yard space is limited, simply use well-planned containers in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Think about extras - A fireplace or fire pit will provide evening appeal; a water feature will add ambiance and block noise from a busy street. And a well-placed trellis will provide shade from the hot afternoon sun and provide privacy.

Think of a patio as an extension of your house ~ have fun with the design and make it yours! If you would like help planning and installing your patio, our landscaping team can help. Check out our available Landscaping Services >>

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