THE BLOG: let's talk gardening

JULY
30
2014

Low Maintenence, High Returns

PORTULACA

Try Portulaca if you need a plant that flowers where it's hot and dry. Portulaca, sometimes called moss rose, is a popular drought-tolerant annual that loves those hot, dry days of summer. These plants are low-growing spreaders with thick succulent leaves and vibrant, cup-shaped flowers. Flowers come in a wide range of jewel-tone colors, including neon pink, red, orange, and yellow.

They adapt to average garden conditions and really do not need a lot of care. Just give them full sun and well-drained soil. You can even plant them in poor, sandy, soil. Water after planting and watch them grow. They'll grow 4 to 8 inches high and spread 6 to 18 inches. You don't even have to deadhead. If plants get scraggly, you can cut them back. Don't fertilize too much; it will encourage plants to produce thick foliage but fewer flowers.

How to use them:

  • Because they thrive in dry conditions, they're a good choice for strawberry jars.
  • Great planted in crevices of rock walls or on the edges of gravel paths.
  • Notoriously good container plants that do not languish if you forget to water them one day.
  • Plant them in a rock garden for season-long color.
  • Plant masses in flowerbeds for dramatic impact.
  • Reserve your problem areas for Portulaca as they make a great groundcover for hot, sunny areas.
JULY
25
2014

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Keep Your Lawn Happy

SUMMER LAWN CARE TIPS

The dog days of summer have officially begun. And in these hot and humid summer months, it can be a challenge to keep your lawn looking green and healthy. So, we've had our lawn experts put together a few simple tips to help you keep that lawn looking lush all summer long.

For Warm Season Lawns: If you have Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede or Zoysia, follow these steps this summer...

  • Warm season lawns, with the exception of Bermuda, should be fertilized with St. Augustine Weed and Feed. It will give your lawn the right amount of fertilizer while killing weeds.
  • To fertilize Bermuda grass, we recommend Fertilome Classic Lawn Food.
  • To control weeds, we recommend Weed Out or Atrazine. This product will take care of weeds without damaging your lawn. For disease control, use F-stop to prevent Zoysia Patch, Brown Patch, Take-All Patch and others.
  • Don’t forget that you should also think about insect control during the summer months, too. White Grubs, the offspring of the dreaded Japanese Beetle, can damage lawns during the later part of the summer months. To control them and insects use Bug Blaster or Hi Yield Turf Ranger.

For Fescue Lawns (or cool season lawns): If you have a fescue lawn (or cool season lawn), follow these steps to ensure that your lawns stays happy and healthy this summer...

  • The most important factors in keeping you fescue lawn healthy through the summer are mowing and watering. Raise your mower height to 3-4 inches for the summer months. Taller grass helps keep the root system cooler and helps to choke out weeds. Water once or twice a week, slow and deep during the warm months to promote deep and vigorous root growth. Lawns require 1 inch of water per week.
  • Second, no matter how much you think you should fertilize your lawn this summer…DON’T.
  • Third, to control weeds in your lawn, use Weed Out with Q and Dimension as a pre-emergent. This product will kill hundreds of weeds, including over 200 varieties of broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds.

As the summer continues on, lawn fungus can become a problem in our area. If this is the case in your yard, use F-stop. This is a systemic preventative and curative fungicide. Use F-stop to control Brown Patch, Dollar Spot, Leaf Spot and more.

Nutgrass can also be a bothersome weed in the summer, and the only way to rid your yard of this invasive weed, is to use Hi-Yield Nutsedge Control. But remember to use Spreader Sticker with this and any liquid weed killer to make it stronger and faster acting.

JULY
23
2014

Easy + Delicious

One of the easiest fruits to grow: THE FIG TREE

Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow and NOW is the time to enjoy this scrumptious fruit. They grow happily in both the ground and in containers, making them perfect for all types of gardeners. Figs grow on low, open trees with no thorns and soft leaves, and they are very easy to pick. You'll know a fig is ready to be picked when it feels soft and it separates easily from the tree when you lift it upwards from its drooping position. Unripe figs are harder, more firmly attached, and do not droop. These delicious fruits are at their peak right now in Hampton Roads and will be remain until frost in mid-October.

Enjoying the flavor of a freshly picked fig in the shade of the tree's canopy is a true Southern tradition. Thomas Jefferson claimed in his retirement to want only to sit beneath a fig tree with his books and watch the days pass by. Luckily, he did a lot more than this. Jefferson not only spread the popularity of the fig from Europe, but also expanded the area where the tree is grown. So, grab a shady seat and enjoy this southern treat!

Our Favorite Figs:
There are hundreds of fig varieties to choose from. Here's a list of our faves...

Brown Turkey - boasts brownish, copper-colored skin, often with hints of purple, and mostly pink/red flesh with some white. They work well in salads or in desserts where a sweetener will be used.

Celeste - approximately the size of an egg, Celeste fruits are purplish-brown when ripe, with a sweet, moist, deep-purple flesh inside. Absolutely delicious!

Mission - named for the Mission Fathers who planted these figs along the California coast. This fig is deep-purple which darkens to a rich, black color when dried. Often called black mission figs, they are extremely sweet and are perfect for serving plain , with yogurt, or with a tangy fresh cheese (such as mascarpone, fromage blanc, or farmers cheese) for dessert.

Strawberry Verde - large, black skinned fig with a scrumptious deep, strawberry-red flesh. It is excellent eaten fresh off the tree or dried. This variety is a dwarf tree well-suited for smaller gardens or containers.

JULY
21
2014

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Get this look!

DO-IT-YOURSELF "UNDER THE SEA" TERRARIUM BOWL

Grab your kiddos and create a magical underwater world they'll love. With just a few materials, they'll have a fish eye view of life under the sea. Best of all, no up keep required.

Here's what you need:

  • 8-inch glass bubble bowl
  • 2 to 3 Tillandsia plants
  • Paper to form cone for filling bowl with layers of sand
  • Colored Sand
  • Scissors and Tape
  • Under-the-sea Cut Out Sheet FREE PRINTABLE >>
  • Toothpicks

Instructions:

  1. Begin by laying the sea floor. Fill the bottom of the bowl with approximately an inch or two inches of sand.
  2. Form a cone with a piece of paper and begin layering the colored sand and alternating colors.
  3. Cut out your favorite under-the-sea creatures and tape them to the large toothpick. Click here for FREE PRINTABLE >>
  4. Add 2-3 Tillandsia plants, shells and sea creatures to complete and underwater world.
  5. Water Tillandsia by misting it 2-4 times a week with a water bottle. Never leave them in standing water.

A little about Tillandsia plants: There are about 500 different species of tillandsia and the best known is the Spanish moss that gracefully hangs from oak trees throughout the South. Tillandsia is part of the bromeliad family and is sometimes divided into grey-leaved air plants and green-leaved terrestrial plants. All tillandsia are naturally epiphytic air plants that grow by clinging to trees and extracting excess moisture from the air. Tillandsias prefer to be mounted or placed on a solid surface that does not retain water. Try glueing it or using chicken wire to put into place. Don't cover the base of the plant with moss or dirt as it may rot. Tillandsia can be grown on almost any imaginable decorative mount, including shells, rocks, slate, driftwood, etc. We like placing them in glass orbs and hanging them in windows for a green element in the house. To water, simply mist 2-4 times a week with a water bottle. Never leave them standing in water.

JULY
18
2014

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How Well Do You Know Your Crepe Myrtle?

CREPE MYRTLE FACTS & FICTION

With our 32nd Crepe Myrtle Fest upon us, we've put together some info to see how well you know your Crepe Myrtle. Check out the facts and fiction of this local favorite and don't forget to come out this weekend and save big on Crepe Myrtles and much, much more!

All Crepe Myrtles grow into trees.
FALSE: Crepe Myrtle breeding has given us a wide range of sizes. Some are as small as a few feet tall, like Pocomoke, while others grow to medium-sized trees capable of providing summer shade like Natchez. Some Crepes are small enough to act as a ground cover like the Orchid Cascade variety. There's a Crepe Myrtle for every size yard.

Crepe Myrtles bloom for 100 days.
TRUE: Crepe Myrtles are known as the "Tree of 100 Days" due to the fact that they bloom from June into September.

Crepe Myrtles are a multi-season interest plant.
TRUE: These deciduous plants produce crepe-like flowers all summer, then have great orange-red fall color. During cold winter months, many varieties display a unique, cinnamon-colored bark that stands out in the landscape. In a nutshell, Crepe Myrtles look great all year long!

All Crepe Myrtles are disease resistant.
FALSE: Many of the older varieties do not have the improved breeding from Dr. Donald Egolf of the National Arboretum. Dr. Egolf first worked with Lagerstroemia indica for breeding and selection in hopes of eliminating the problem of powdery mildew. From that initial work, 6 varieties were chosen with improvements and these were given Native American names so that these plants would be recognized worldwide as having American Heritage. His work further continued with cross-breeding with Lagerstroemia fauriei which gave us many of today’s newer hybrids such as Natchez, Tuscarora and Tonto. It is important to select newer improved varieties to replace the older disease prone selections.

Crepe Myrtles love the heat.
TRUE: Crepe Myrtles love the hot summers of our area and are the perfect addition for carefree summer color.

Crepe Myrtles are not picky about the soil they are planted in.
TRUE: Crepe Myrtles are adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and can perform even in poor soils.

Crepe Myrtle is spelled with an “e.”
TRUE: In the McDonald Garden Center dictionary, we spell Crepe Myrtle with an “e” based on the tissue-paper like flowers that resemble the "crepe" paper texture.

Crepe Myrtles can flower in the shade.
FALSE: For maximum flowering, Crepe Myrtles must have a full sun location - meaning at least 6 hours of sun daily. Less than that will mean less flowers.

Crepe Myrtles need to be dead headed.
FALSE: It is not necessary with the newer selections to remove old blooms before they go to seed to produce new flowers. Re-current flowering is one of the benefits achieved with new selections and they are free flowering through out the summer.

Join us as we celebrate this local favorite this weekend at our 32 annual CREPE MYRTLE FEST.

JULY
16
2014

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Pretty in Pink

OUR FAVORITE PINK CREPE MYRTLES

Pink, the color of summer comes in many different hues. The Crepe Myrtle proudly displays this summer color from watermelon pinks to a soft strawberry pinks. With hundreds of blooms cascading from a Crepe Myrtle, you will have summer color for almost 100 days! So no matter the color you would like, there's a shade of pink for every summer garden.

Tuscarora - This variety boasts large, deep watermelon-colored clusters. Growing upright, this tree will grow to about 15-20 feet tall and 12-16 feet wide making them ideal for small spaces. Tuscarora is a fast grower that can grow up to 3 to 5 feet per year. We love this tree in the center of a lawn with their showy flowers spring until fall. Tuscarora will give vibrant color in almost all growing conditions. It doesn’t matter if your soil is sandy, loamy or clay - it will grow. Even better, it is drought tolerant. This one is highly resistant to disease, powdery mildew and leaf spotting. You get a spectacular tree without the problems. We've even heard that this tree is virtually allergy free for all you allergy sufferers out there.

Tonto - You'll love this variety with large clusters of soft-textured fuchsia blooms that cascade. In fall, the foliage turns a luscious orange-red for exquisite cool season color. Smooth, colorful peeling bark provides year-round interest. The Tonto is a disease-resistant, semi-dwarf variety with an upright growth habit and a rounded canopy reaching to 10 feet in height and 6 to 8 feet in width. Tonto was developed by the U.S. National Arboretum in 1990 and was bred for adaptability, rapid growth, and explosive color. It is exceptionally resistant to flower spotting and other diseases. Once established, Tonto Crepe Myrtles only require regular watering in the high heat of the summer. A heat and drought tolerant specimen or accent. This tree is great planted in groupings or as a foundation plant.

Rhapsody in Pink - A vigorous grower, this Crepe features dark wine new growth and soft pink flowers. Offering a long flowering season, this beauty will give interest all through summer and into fall. It is drought tolerant and highly resistant to powdery mildew. It will grow to a mature height of 10 feet or more.

JULY
14
2014

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The Local's Top Choice

It's no secret what our favorite tree is! Hampton Roads' gardeners often visit asking this question and the answer is always the Crepe Myrtle. When debating the variety to choose, we polled a few of our experts for their favorites and here's what they had to say:

STEPHANIE PHILLIPS, Assitant Store Manager (Virginia Beach)
"That's a hard one, but I think it would have to be a tie between Natchez and Catawba. Natchez, because it's a neutral white and will work in any landscape as long as you have room for a tree that can grow at least 30 feet. Also, the Natchez is significant for the Virginia Beach Garden Center because it greets customers as they enter our store, provides a canopy for shade-loving plants, a backdrop for many displays, and it can be seen by passers-by on Independence Boulevard! I also favor the Catawba, because it has the most vivid color of the crepe myrtles -- it's a bright purple. Unlike the Natchez, it's small enough to fit into almost any yard. Growing to about 15 feet, it can be pruned into a small tree, or, left unpruned, can be kept as a large shrub."

MIKE WESTPHAL, Garden Supply Buyer
"My favorite is the Hopi. This semi dwarf variety gets 12 feet tall and wide. Hopi has a perfect pink bloom that is not too hot of a pink, but not too soft either ~ it really is the perfect pink. It has great exfoliating bark that adds to its winter interest. It fits into any landscape as a small specimen tree or focal point, or in mass to make a major impact and color show. It can bloom over 100 days in our summer heat, and has great disease resistance. Its compact habit keeps the canopy full and is great as a tree or large shrub. It has amazing foliage as well, starting off as lime green in spring, to dark forest green in summer, and the fall color is a magical red & orange mix. Because it's a semi-dwarf, it can be a great focal piece in a large container and makes an excellent patio tree. Hopi is also one of the most cold hardy of all the crepe myrtles, tolerating temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Truly one of the best all around crepe myrtles, and my favorite of all."

TARYN RUESCH, Hampton Store Manager
"My favorite Crepe Myrtle is Natchez. It is my favorite because of its' dark cinnamon bark that exfoliates as it gets older, giving the structure of the tree interest even when defoliated during the Winter months. It is a small tree, reaching around 20-25' tall. Even in smaller yards a Natchez is a beautiful specimen. The leaves turn a beautiful orange/bronze color during the Fall before the leaves drop completely and the flowers are a crisp cool white, very showy during the hot Summer months."

BILL KIDD, Vice President of Purchasing
"It's definitely the Muskogee. It is fast growing, actually one the the fastest growers and it blooms for a very long time. The city of Hampton has lots of these beauties planted throughout the landscape and they look amazing planted in groups. Muskogee will grow to about 30 to 35 feet making it an ideal small tree to provide summer shade. I enjoy Muskogee's delicate lavendar blooms each summer!"

JULY
10
2014

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Ahhh... what an a-peeling tree

The Beautiful Bark of the Crepe Myrtle

There are endless reasons that the Crepe Myrtle is the locals' favorite tree ~ it's blooms of 100 days, it's ability to thrive in heat & humidity, it's year-round beauty; and, it's magical peeling bark. You may begin to worry once your Crepe Myrtle's bark begins to peel. When you discover the bark shedding, you may think it is diseased and be tempted to treat it with pesticides. But, hold back. That peeling bark is normal; in fact, it's one of the most prized qualities of our favorite tree!

As all Crepe Myrtles grow and mature, they shed last year's bark, revealing a colorful, mottled bark beneath. Once the tree has reached full maturity, several years after planting... you are in for a real show. Sit back and enjoy the unique texture and coloration that shows up on their wood once the bark is shed. Because the Crepe Myrtle is a deciduous tree, it sheds all its leaves during the winter, leaving behind the beautiful bark on the tree which makes it a centerpiece in many winter landscapes.

Now that you know peeling bark is a normal process, observe the surprises your Crepe Myrtle provides each season. During the summer, enjoy 100 days of gorgeous crepe-like flowers. Once the flowers fade in the fall, watch as their leaves turn, enhancing your fall landscape with bright yellow and deep red leaves. Once the leaves fall off and the bark is shedding from your tree, you will then have beautiful colored wood providing structure and style. The peeling bark will first leave behind warm colors ranging from cream to beige to cinnamon and on to bright red. When the colors fade, they are more like light green-gray to a dark red.

Join us as we celebrate this tree at our 32nd annual CREPE MYRTLE FEST, JULY 19 & 20. >>

JULY
9
2014

Bring the Tropics to Your Garden

Perennial Hibiscus

When most people think of hibiscus they think of a tropical plant that grows in warm climates like Hawaii or Florida. Well, if you love the look of hibiscus but think it can only be grown in very warm climates don’t fret. If you crave a touch of the tropics, how about a perennial hibiscus? The perennial hibiscus should not be confused with the tropical hibiscus, which will not survive a winter freeze. Perennial varieties are true, cold hardy shrubs that die back each winter only to reemerge in the spring even bigger and better. And best of all, these beauties are easy to care for.

Provide them with full sun, decent soil and some pruning now and again and once established, they’ll provide your garden with years of fabulous color. There are many varieties of perennial hibiscus to choose from with plant heights ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet tall with giant, dinnerplate size blossoms in an array of colors. These plants where once limited to flower colors of red, white and pink but not anymore. Breeders have developed a new color palette including hot pink, mauve, rose, plum and bicolored blooms. Who would have guessed that the cousin to okra and cotton, yep, okra and cotton, could be so striking! One of our favorite perennial hibiscus varieties this year is Cherry Cheesecake. Be sure to check out this dazzling hibiscus that is sure to put the cherry on top of your garden for years to come!

Cherry Cheesecake is a stunning bicolor, hardy hibiscus featuring large 7-8 inch blooms. These blossoms are a crisp white with bright pink ruffled edges and a Bing-cherry-colored eye with vibrant, filigree and tips. Plant in full sun to part shade Cherry Cheesecake blooms mid to late summer and is deer resistant. Best of all, it will bring blooms to your garden year after year.

JULY
8
2014

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Beat the Heat

OUR HOT WEATHER FAVORITES

Things are heating up in Hampton Roads... and there are plenty of plants that like it hot! Fill your garden with a pop of color, using plants that love the heat. These plants will last through the summer months and perform even better under sultry, hot conditions. They’ll not only survive the heat, but they’ll look good doing it.

LANTANA. Available in annual and perennial varieties, this plant is abundantly covered with bright summer blossoms. The shrubby plant comes in garden varieties bearing white, yellow, gold, orange, and red flowers; usually the older flowers in each cluster are a different color than the younger ones.

HIBISCUS. These glorious plants with impressive large flowers make showy accents; available in shades of red, pinks, oranges, and yellows. With plenty of warmth, water and fertilizer, you can be assured of a profusion of blooms and vigorous growth all season long. The brightly colored blossoms will also attract hummingbirds to your porch or patio. Although flowers last just one day, many are produced at one time to create a stunning show of color.

SUNPATIENS. One of America’s favorite garden flowers, the Impatien, is now even better! SunPatiens flourish in full sun, high heat and high humidity making them perfect for Hampton Roads’ summers. Now you can have a burst of color in both sun & shade with Sunpatiens.

PORTULACA. Sometimes called moss rose, is a popular drought-tolerant annual that loves those hot, dry days of summer. These plants are low-growing spreaders with thick succulent leaves and vibrant, cup-shaped flowers. Flowers come in a wide range of jewel-tone colors, including neon pink, red, orange, and yellow

ANGELONIA is also called summer snapdragon, due to it's salvia-like flower spires that reach one to two feet high. Available in beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms.

GOMPHRENIA. This one is truly one of our hot weather favorites! It quickly grows to form a full, dense, landscape specimen, eventually reaching up to 3-4' tall and 1-2' wide. Tons of strong, tall stems are topped with exploding bursts of full, large 1" blooms in hot pink tipped with bright yellow. A showstopper in the garden and conversation piece when cut for a mixed bouquet.

MANDEVILLA. We love this tropical flowering vine! This exotic plant bears showy, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, yellow and white on twining vines with puckered, oval leaves.

ZINNIAS These gorgeous flowers come in an amazing array of shapes and colors. Zinnias are highly attractive to butterflies that you can always count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. These blooms add a wonderful structure and color to any summer landscape ~ a real must-have!

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