THE BLOG: let's talk gardening


Escape to Spring

Imagine getting up in the morning and harvesting the makings for breakfast -- fresh spinach and eggs for an omelet and honey and peaches for yogurt or pancakes. Later in the day, you pull a few onions to garnish baked chicken and grab some mixed greens and a couple tomatoes for a dinner salad. Do this on any scale and you are part of the fast-growing “urban farming” movement that promotes backyard-grown food and good health. We invite you to learn more about urban farming and living the good life, indoors and outdoors, during our 21st annual Outdoor Show this weekend.

Tired of winter? Step into spring this weekend at our Outdoor Show where you’ll be surrounded by spring’s blooms and the hottest outdoor trends of 2015. The show will be held Saturday and Sunday, February 28 & March 1 -- indoors and under heated tents. Enjoy a array of unique exhibits, from sensational display gardens to the latest in outdoor entertaining. Enjoy ongoing garden demonstrations from the latest in ornamental and edible plants to backyard beekeeping and raising chickens. After a long, cold winter, everyone can use a little preview of spring. Outdoor 2015 is sure to provide a real showcase for creating a colorful and much welcomed spring! LEARN MORE >>



Bringing the Indoors Out

GARDEN-TAINMENT: The new outdoor trend we love!

Outdoor living spaces continue to take center stage as more and more people are ready to move the festivity outdoors. From outdoor spaces with furniture and even televisions to outdoor kitchens with fancy grills on the rise, outdoor spaces are becoming more and more personalized. The National Association of Home Builders predicts home sizes will shrink 10 percent in 2015. With less square footage indoors, outdoor living spaces are becoming even more important for cooking and entertaining.

This phenomenon called “Garden-tainment” is the new buzzword in the garden industry. More and more people want their homes to spill out into garden space, where they can enjoy time with family and friends. And creating an outdoor space that has style, comfort and functionality is top of mind especially now as we start to think about warmer weather and moving out doors again. So remember, the goal of an outdoor space is to create a space where people want to be. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning and designing your outdoor space:

Design your outdoor living space the way you would your indoors. Take into account all the activities you’ll be doing or that you will want to do in your outdoor space. Be sure to consider who will use the space and how the space will be used. Try to incorporate some of the same architectural details and style you have throughout the inside of your home in to your outdoor space. It could also be as simple as picking up on the colors you have inside your home and carrying them through to your outdoor spaces.

Create a seamless transition from your indoor spaces to our outdoor spaces. Creating a cohesive look between your outdoor and indoor spaces will allow for a natural flow and look as if they are one in the same space. When designing, ask yourself who will use the space and how will the space be used.

No one wants to be stuck inside cooking while everyone else is having fun outside. An outdoor kitchen with all the amenities will give you an outdoor living space that is both functional and fun. Give the same planning and thought to your outdoor kitchen as you would with your indoor kitchen. Be sure to consider the type of storage and appliances you will need outdoors as well.

An outdoor living space with comfortable furnishings and a fire pit will provide a natural focal point for your outdoor living space and the perfect place for family and friends to gather and relax. Simple additions can also turn an ordinary space into an outdoor room that adds value and comfort to your home year-round. A hanging swing, mood lighting and a vintage find can easily transform an ordinary outdoor space into an open-air living room Add color and comfort to seating by using pillows and cushions made from outdoor fabric to spice up your space. And don’t forget the plants! An assortment of beautiful plants and containers are key to the design of your outdoor space.

Come see this outdoor trend plus many more at our 21st annual Outdoor Show this weekend, February 27-March 1. LEARN MORE >>


Why Wait?


Tired of waiting for spring and the beautiful blooms it brings? Now you don’t have too! By forcing spring-blooming branches to bloom, you'll get that early color you've been craving. The process of encouraging early flowering is appropriately called "forcing". To force plants to bloom early, simply bring them indoors to mimic springtime conditions.

Take advantage of local flowering trees like quince, forsythia, crabapple, and serviceberry as they provide excellent indoor flowers when forced. Why wait, jumpstart your spring by following these easy steps.

STEP 1: Select branches that are 12-24 inches long with evident flower buds. There will be two kinds of buds: LEAF buds and FLOWER buds. Flower buds are usually larger and rounder than leaf buds. If possible, pick a warmer winter day to collect your branches.

STEP 2: Cut the branches at a 45 degree angle and immediately place them in a tall vase with room temperature water. It is important to keep fresh water in the vase and change the water when it becomes cloudy.

STEP 3: Place the vase holding your branches in an area with low light and cool temperatures(approximately 60-65 degrees). Mist your branches a few times each day to prevent the buds from drying out. Once the beautiful flowers begin to emerge, move your vase to a brighter location, but keep it out of direct sunlight. To prolong the blooms, keep the vase in a cool spot, away from direct heat sources and remember to change the water everyday. Enjoy!


Plant of the Week:


Big beauty, low maintenance. This colorful little succulent plant is easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom. Kalanchoe grows 8 to 12 inches tall with clusters of small, upright flowers in a rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, gold, purple and white. It has thick, rich green, succulent leaves that retain water to sustain the plant with little water.

Most often grown in pots as a brightly-colored houseplant, Kalanchoe can also be used as a landscape plant provided you live in the right climate. However, their needs vary slightly depending on weather they are planted indoors or outdoors.

Indoors, Kalanchoe requires bright light and should be potted in a well-draining soil, watering only when the soil feels dry to the touch. This succulent plant can withstand periods of dry soil, however, soggy soil can lead to root-rot. Maintain flower color by providing bright, indirect sunlight daily for at least four hours. A sunny windowsill or a bright sunroom are the perfect spots for this plant. Remove dead leaves and spent blossoms when needed. The blooming period usually lasts four to eight weeks.

Kalanchoe planted outside also needs well drained soil, so in wet areas you will not have much success. The same is true if you live in a cold climate, since they do not tolerate the cold. Ideal temperatures are a low of 65 degrees at night and a high of 85 degrees during the day. Kalanchoe grows best in a sunny spot that receives some shade from the harsh afternoon sun.

With just basic care, you can enjoy this low maintenance-big on beauty plant that will brighten your home both inside and out!

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>



Sow, Now’s the Time

Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet which include specific planting tips, light source requirements and watering specifications. So grab a selection of your favorite seeds from annuals, to perennials to fruits & veggies -- and start from seed!

What you'll need:

  • Your choice of fresh seed packets
  • Clean pots or seed trays with drainage holes (egg cartons & Styrofoam cups work too but be sure to create a drainage hole). We recommend using seed starting supplies from Jiffy.
  • Seed starting mix. We recommend Black Gold Seed Starter Potting Mix.
  • Plastic spoon and or pencil - to make a hole for seed
  • Jiffy seed starter greenhouse, plastic bags or cling wrap – to keep moist.
  • Plant labels and/or marker.
  • Light source such as a bright window or a grow light
  • Water

Sowing the Seed:

  • Read seed package for special instructions.
  • Start the seeds about 8-weeks before the last expected frost date. In Hampton Roads, that is about April 15.
  • Label containers with seed type.
  • Fill pots or trays with seed starter mix to about 1 cm below the rim of container.
  • Plant seed. For small seed, sprinkle on top of starting mix and for large seed push into mix until just covered (soil depth depends on seed type).
  • Cover seeds with a thin layer of starting mix - approx. ¼ inch deep (do not cover very fine seed).
  • Water

Finishing Touches:

  • Place pots or trays insideyour seed starting greenhouse or use a large, loose plastic bag or cover with cling wrap to keep seeds warm and moist until germination.
  • Place in a warm, well lit area -- out of direct sunlight as it warms up.
  • If potting soil begins to dry out, remove cover and water gently.

Transplanting Seedlings:

  • When seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, transplant to a larger container for continued growth.
  • To transplant, fill the new container with pre-moistened mix and gently press the mix around the transplanted seedling and water to settle soil.
  • Plant seedlings in garden when the weather has warmed into the 50 degree range at night. Remember to acclimate the seedlings to outdoor life by slowly exposing them to sunlight in order to minimize stress on the plant.

Say It with Flowers

Did you ever stop and think about the meanings behind your favorite blooms? Throughout history, people have given flowers to each other as a symbol of their longing, devotion, love and friendship. When choosing a flowering plant as a gift, consider what message it communicates. We've put together a guide to help you find the perfect way to say it with flowers!

Roses are the traditional symbol of love and the most popular flower given on Valentine's Day. Consider giving the one you love a rose bush, rather than cut roses.

Representing rare and delicate beauty, orchids are elegant and long-lasting, making them the perfect gift for any occasion.

Red tulips are a declaration of love. Other colors carry different meanings -- yellow tulips symbolize cheerful thoughts, white conveys forgiveness and purple represents royalty.

The primrose is an unusually vivid spring-blooming perennial flower. Unlike the faint pastels associated with spring, primrose shout out in bold yellows, reds, pinks, blues, oranges and white. Their flower stalks sprout up from low, ground-hugging rosettes of lush green leaves and stay in bloom for weeks. By forcing these blooms in our greenhouse, we can get them to you well before spring sets in. These flowers make a cheery houseplant this time of year, and a great Valentine.

This HEART-shaped flower symbolizes hospitality. Anthuriums are long-lasting houseplant with a unique and irresistibly beauty.

With their delicate soft, round petals and gentle curves, these evergreen flowering shrubs are considered a symbol of devotion - a perfect gift for your sweetheart.

Peonies are known as the flower of riches and honor. With their lush, full, rounded blooms, peonies embody romance and prosperity and are regarded as an omen of good fortune and a happy marriage. A peony is a great way to wish a someone good fortune.


Plant of the Week:

MOTH ORCHIDS, Phalaeonopsis

We ❤️ these gorgeous orchids - in fact, we can't get enough of them. There's such a special grace to the long, arching stem of these plants. These elegant flowers will brighten tables and windowsills in your home for months at a time. Moth orchids, also known as Phalaeonopsis, are some of the least expensive and longest-blooming orchids available. In fact, one bloom spike can look great for four months or more and there is not shortage of color options. Choose from whites, pinks, lavenders and yellows in both solid colors or stripes and spots.

Love the style, grace and beauty of orchids but afraid they look too complicated to care for? Never Fear. Moth orchids are surprisingly easy to grow. In the right setup at home they can be extremely low maintenance. Be sure to give them a spot in low, medium, or bright light and water weekly or every other week. Promote more and larger blooms by feeding moth orchids monthly with a fertilizer formulated specifically for orchids. Plants do best in temperatures from 50 to 75F. If you're looking for an easy to grow orchid, the moth orchid is for you.

So bring a little spring into your home this winter these blooming beauties... and did we mentions moth orchids make the perfect living Valentine too? Show the love this year with a blooming moth orchid!

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>



Orchids Need TLC

Orchids need TLC, but a little goes a long way!
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

There it was in all its glory – a white-flowering orchid sitting on my dining room table. The scene looked very much like a page out of House Beautiful magazine. The orchid was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband, and I cherished its specialness. For years, he gave me long-stem red roses, and the switch to a plant that would grow and bloom again was a nice change. For days, I walked through the dining room often, admiring the orchid’s silky white flower petals.

The orchid was a Phalaenopsis, nicknamed a moth orchid because each bloom looks like a dainty moth ready to take flight from the arching stem that holds it tight. It was planted in a small clay pot filled with a bark mix made special for orchids. Thinking I was giving it kindness, I watered the orchid enough to keep the bark constantly moist. Within weeks, the orchid’s fleshy leaves began to wrinkle. I fretted and watered some more, thinking the plant was thirsty.

Desperate to save my beautiful orchid, I took it to the garden center where my husband had purchased it. They kept it for several days, nursing it back to health. They also warned me – don’t water it so much! Unfortunately, my orchid didn’t make it, but I learned an important lesson that I continually pass onto plant lovers when they ask me how to maintain an indoor plant’s good health.

Watering a houseplant too much is just as bad as watering too little. When you get a houseplant, take the time to read the label which includes care instructions. Plant roots need oxygen, and quickly suffocate and rot if left in a water-logged pot. Water orchids thoroughly, usually about once a week, then allow them to dry slightly before watering again, according to the American Orchid Society on its website at

Did I get another orchid? Not yet, but I’m hoping Cupid delivers one this Valentine’s Day!




This year, give your Valentine a living gift made by your own two hands. All you need are just a few materials and some beautiful blooms. We designed our living Valentine using primrose - a flower that says "I can't live without you!" These little flowers make a big impact with mega color making it the perfect Valentine gift.

The primrose is an unusually vivid spring-blooming perennial flower. Unlike the faint pastels associated with spring, primrose shout out in bold yellows, reds, pinks, blues, oranges and white. Their flower stalks sprout up from low, ground-hugging rosettes of lush green leaves and stay in bloom for weeks. By forcing these blooms in our greenhouse, we can get them to you well before spring sets in. These flowers make a cheery houseplant this time of year, so dig in and create your own living valentine!

What You'll Need:

  • Heart-shape container -- Be sure it has drainage holes.
  • 3 to 6 primrose plants or any low-growing flowering plants -- We also love using succulents.
  • McDonald potting mix
  • McDonald Greenleaf fertilizer
  • Spanish moss
  1. Fill the heart-shaped container with soil and drop in your plants as desired.
  2. We recommend planting your flowers as low as possible to keep the heart shape.
  3. Be sure to sprinkle in an all-purpose fertilizer like McDonald GreenLeaf to promote optimum performance.
  4. Tuck Spanish moss in any spaces to cover soil and top off the look!


Winter Pruning

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

There was a time I was hesitant to prune my trees and shrubs, thinking I was doing them a disservice. Now, I prune religiously in late winter, because I’ve learned proper pruning promotes good health. The words “proper pruning” is the key element here. The goal is to remove crossing, rubbing, diseased, damaged and dying branches. Removing crossing branches opens up a plant to allow sun and light in, thereby giving pests and fungal diseases few, if any, places to thrive. This is especially important on crape myrtles, camellias and roses, which are susceptible to leaf-spot diseases that like dark, damp spots. And, please, don’t commit “crape murder” on your crape myrtles. Instead of sawing them back into short, ugly stubs, let the plants grow into their natural beautiful shapes, just as Mother Nature intended.

Roses are pruned according to the type of rose you have. Shrub roses like Knock Outs and Flower Carpets are sheared back to 12 to 15 inches above ground. Hybrid tea and other specialty roses are pruned to leave three to five strongest stems with buds directed outward.

Ornamental grasses can be pruned back to ground level anytime between now and the time new growth emerges. This year, I left the perennials intact in my pollinator garden, so beneficial insects would have a place to spend winter. I will clean up that bed around March 1.

If you are unsure about how to prune plants, follow the universal rule of pruning when flowers are finished. For instance, prune azaleas after they finish flowering but before July when they set their flower buds for next year.

When you prune, use bypass pruners for clean cuts. Disinfect your pruners between shrubs so you don’t spread disease. Lysol is a good disinfectant for your pruners. Also, clean up fallen leaves and other debris around the base of plants because pests and diseases can breed there, too.

You can find lots of helpful pruning publications, and other gardening tips, through Virginia Cooperative Extension at -- Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Va. Contact her at

photos by Kathy Van Mullekom - Rose-of-Sharon before and after pruning

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