Landscaping by the Locals

The design of your landscape is just as important as the architecture of your home. Our landscape team will work with you to develop a vision that blends your aesthetic taste with your available space and budget. We strive to bring imagination, originality and practicality to every project. Whether it is the renovation of an existing landscape or the design of something new, we invite you to be a part of the process that will create your ideal design. Or, simply let our professionals develop creative solutions to maximize your landscape’s potential. No matter your landscape vision, we have a passion for creating beautiful, lasting landscapes that will far exceed your expectations!

With McDonald Landscapes, all projects begin with the design process, where you’ll meet with a skilled landscape designer who will assess your needs and objectives and provide expert recommendations.

McDonald Landscapes will then provide complete installation services to ensure the professional appearance of your project. As one of the most experienced in Hampton Roads, we have a large fleet of equipment to handle any size project from small residential to large commercial.

Our crews are specially trained to handle a broad range of horticultural and construction applications. Relax and let our experts make your landscape plans a reality. Discover the difference professional installation can make. From modern garden design to drainage solutions, our experts can transform you yard.

To schedule an appointment and discuss your project with a Landscape Designer, or to learn more about our services, please call:
757-722-3125 (ext. 312) Peninsula • 757-751-3207 Southside
or email us at

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Landscaping Tips & To-Do's

by Diane Smith, McDonald Garden Center Landscape Designer

With warmer weather and longer days finally upon us, many of us are thinking of ways to get our yards in tip-top shape. While it may seem overwhelming at times, don't worry. We're here to help! Here's a few simple tips from one of our Landcape Designers to help you get your yard in full spring.

Select the right plants for the right place. Choosing the right landscape planting is much like choosing a piece of art work. It is a reflection of your personality, so it’s important to be happy with the end result. In addition to matching your taste, the plants must fit the space (at maturity), compliment your homes architecture and thrive in the particular exposure and soil conditions. Due to all the site factors, plant selection can be a compromise, but with a little understanding and patience, you will have a rewarding landscape. Don't know what to plant? Stop by and see any of our horticultural experts and we'll work together to decide what is best for your yard.

Select a few specimen plants. These are unique plants that give you that "wow" and act as a focal point in your landscape. You should love the plant you choose. Be selective with your specimen plants, less is more. Too many specimen plants will no longer make them the focal point. Each will no longer stand out and make your landscape seem to jump around and appear cluttered. The goal is to draw one's eye in and allow it to follow the flow around the garden.

Keep it tidy. You don’t need an award-winning garden for your landscaping to look nice. Simply keeping it tidy will go a long way. If necessary, shape an unruly shrub, invest in a nice hose caddy, and put garden tools away after use. Also dispose of empty nursery containers, damaged pots or garden art, and find a secret place to stash leftover bags of mulch or soils. Periodically check for weeds and pull as needed before they go to seed or spread by roots.

Now is the time for some basic housekeeping. Remove the last of the fallen leaves and other plant debris. When possible, clean out the insides and atop the root crowns of shrubs and perennials. Excessive leaf debris harbors disease and insects and can also prevent good water saturation to the root zone. Deep accumulation of mulch, particularly at the base of trees, is often a problem; to ensure the health of your gardens biggest investment, remove excess mulch to expose the trees root flare. Now is a good time to cut back your grasses, liriope and roses if you did not do so in the fall. This is also a good time to remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches from various trees and shrubs and deadhead your perennials. Once you have a clean canvas, think about any landscape improvements and plan for new plantings. Remove any winter weeds and apply an inch of mulch to established beds, before the spring weeds begin to sprout.

Photos from Diane Smith's own garden.

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Mulching Matters 101

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

When husband Ken and I mulch, we really mulch. We don’t mess around.

Each spring, we tidy up and assess our beds, which are large and planted with a mix of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees, as well as perennials. We use small-tine metal rakes to fluff up the old mulch, and then decide how much new mulch we need to add.

It’s not healthy to keep adding new mulch without taking away old mulch, or your plants sink and suffocate from too much of a good thing. We remove heavy old mulch and place it in spots that are thin or throw it in our small wooded area where the camellias and hydrangeas love the added humus it creates over time as it decomposes. Mulch eventually decays and turns into some of the best compost you can get, rich with major and minor nutrients that plants need and a haven for beneficial earthworms to live in.

Once we decide how much hardwood mulch we need, we buy it bulk or in bags. Recently, we’ve favored bags because it’s easier for us to handle as we age and still do our own yard work. We order pallets that are dropped off in the driveway.

Ken places all the bags – about 300 per year – and I go behind him, opening the bags with scissors and dumping the mulch into small piles. Ken then goes behind me, using our favorite small-tine metal rake to spread the mulch.

We’ve done the bag mulching for years, and like its flexibility. Extra bags added to the order are stored behind our gardening building, and come in handy when I need to add mulch after planting new perennials – something I’m always doing because who can resist the lure of another pretty perennial.

PHOTO: Mulch enhances the look of statuary and plants in Kathy Van Mullekom’s gardens.


March into Spring


We're all on pins and needles awaiting the big day... this Friday - the first day of SPRING! Yes, the season we've all been waiting for is almost upon us. While temperatures are getting warmer, days can sometimes slip into cooler temperatures. Early in the season, we recommend flowers that tolerate the cooler early days of spring. So, break out the gardening gloves and get things in full spring! These flowers will work great in the early unpredictable days of spring and last all the way until the heat sets in, in May.

Bush Daisy
Add a burst of sunny yellow flowers in spring with this bright bloomer. Not only will this plant give you flowers now, but it will reward you again with flowers this fall. It is very tolerant of cold and can go down to about 28 degrees, so on these cold nights that we are having now, they will handle these nights near freezing. They will not come back reliably outside over winter but they are great as container plants, on their own or in a combo. Just set them in a protected spot in winter (garage is fine) for more flowers in spring!

Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower
This charming perennial is easy to grow and produces loads of large blossoms. Almost frilly in their look, the blooms sit atop a long graceful stem. These are long and profuse bloomers that begin flowering in early spring and go long into summer. For repeat flowering you do need to dead head. With its compact, tidy habit, it is ideal grouped together as a border and the more you plant together the more impact they make! We love these as cut flowers and left it in the garden to attract butterflies. Scabiosa prefers full sun and well drained soil. Mariposa Violet is a double violet color but Butterfly Blue (one of the most popular) is a single bloom in a chambray color.

Pansies are one of the best ways to add color to those 6 months of cooler Hampton Roads weather that we experience from October to April. These tough, vibrant flowers come in all the colors of the rainbow ~ including red, purple, blue, bronze, pink, black, yellow, white, lavender, orange, apricot and mahogany. Pansies are easy to grow, are hardy and provide a burst of cool weather color.... a great way to kick off spring with color!

A small evergreen shrub with clusters of small flowers, Candytuft thrives in full sun areas with well-drained soil. Candytuft is great for a rock garden where they can tumble about and over rocks. They are also excellent as edging in a border and are well-suited to growing in pots.

This perennial offers a long blooming season. They will begin in early spring and continue all the way until frost, if deadheaded regularly. Blooms stand up above the grassy blue-green foliage with sturdy stems. These bold blossoms sparkle in borders, beds, window boxes and containers. Prefers full sun and well drained soil. Available in a range of colors from coral to red to pink to even white, some Dianthus also carry a scent.

This vertical annual, offers great hues in a variety of colors. The abundant spikes of lovely flowers come red, yellow, orange, pink, white and crimson. They are excellent in beds, edging and in containers and they are popular as cut flowers too. Plant in full sun, well drained soil.

Primrose - Flowers come in shades of amethyst, citrine, garnet, sapphire, and pink tourmaline. These early-bloomers shine in the garden or in containers from March until May- they also look great indoors as a houseplant. This shade loving perennial is easy to grow, low-maintenance and is a vigorous grower. Plant them in masses for real impact in borders in a garden bed. Pinch off spent blooms to extend blooming time.



Tidy Up

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

I used to faithfully clean up my perennial garden in late fall, cutting stems down to the ground and cleaning up any fallen debris – that is, until I got into pollinators and beneficial insects and the whole healthy environment thing.

After reading how beneficial insects can spend winter hunkered down among the stems and foliage of dormant perennials, I changed my ways.

Now, I allow all those perennials – bee balm, coneflowers, verbena, fennel, salvia and others – to stay there until early March when I tidy up everything, making sure I don’t disturb any emerging new foliage. I also make sure I don’t step on crowns, or the place where the stem meets the roots. Planting perennials with the crowns barely above soil level helps keep the plants from rotting, especially in winter when the cold rains and snows can take their toll.

My huge perennial garden -- nicknamed my “B3 garden” for birds, bees and butterflies – doesn’t exactly look the best from the window of my sitting room, but it’s in the backyard where I enjoy it most and no one from the street can see its unruly behavior.

This winter, my newly planted mountain mint hosted bees as late as December, and the seed heads of Brazilian verbena were fine dining for finches.

Using bypass hand pruners, I snip each herbaceous perennial stem as close to the ground as I can, and put all the dead material in the trash. Don’t tug on the stems or you could risk dislodging the roots. You can cut the stems into small pieces and place them in the compost pile if you are sure they are disease free.

While pruning, I also take time to remove any weeds around the plants, knowing my next garden project is spring mulch!

PHOTO: Brazilian verbena in the winter waits for its spring haircut, so it can once again bloom beautifully in summer in Kathy Van Mullekom’s garden.


Plant of the Week:


If you love winter berries and birds, they you'll love Nandina Domestica! Berries brighten the landscape and provide a splash of color during an otherwise dreary time of the year. Berry-producing trees and shrubs pull double duty -- not only by adding interest to the landscape but also by providing a nutritious snack for birds and other wildlife through cold winter months. Feeding birds comes naturally when you grow trees and shrubs that provide wholesome berries.

There are a variety of berry-producing shrubs to choose from. One of our favorites is Heavenly Bamboo (also known as Nandina Domestica). Domestica is known for its attractive, lacy foliage resembling bamboo leaves. Tiny whitish flowers with yellow anthers appear in late spring and are followed by sprays of round, red berries which continue from fall to spring.

This evergreen shrub is one of the toughest and most adaptable shrubs to a variety of conditions. Nandinas grow anywhere from 5 to 8 feet tall, but can be kept at a compact size by pruning. Domestica can be grown in partial shade, although its foliage colors will be more intense if it’s grown in full sun. Ideal as a screen or hedge planting and can also be grown in containers. From its unique foliage and tiny flowers to fall color and brilliant red berries, Heavenly Bamboo is a perfect choice for most any Hampton Roads landscape -- oh, and your fine feathered friends will thank you too!

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


The Winter Landscape


While the days may be shorter and colder, that doesn't have to mean the end of a beautiful landscape. With the winter season officially beginning today, we asked one of our landscape designers what her favorite winter plants are. Just because the warmer days are behind us, there are still so many possibilities when it comes to the winter landscape. See what our designer has to say...

Camellias top my list every year for winter interest. The varying bloom times, color choices and diverse mature size choices make these a must-have. Yuletide is one of my favorites because they tend to bloom during the holidays when many folks are entertaining. I also love picking the blooms and floating them in a glass bowl as part of interior winter decorations.

The spring blooming camellias are also wonderful for exciting the senses in early spring. I love using the large bold leaves of Camellia Japonica in landscape plans. It works well when mixed with small leaved azaleas, boxwoods and lacey Nanina’s. In shady yards, I often use Camellia Japonica on the front corners of the home. Properly selected varieties will grow to just the right size and the bloom color can be chosen to compliment the front door or brick colors. One of the most common “ah ha” moments for homeowners is when I suggest to them to stop flattening or rounding up their camellias and instead remove the bottom branches to create a limbed up small tree! I will place a Camellia within the view of a den or office window. These shrubs are also great planted near places where you tend to sit or visit in the winter.

Hellebores are another one of my favorites. The new varieties whose blossoms were bred to stand up rather than droop are bright spots in any winter garden. Jacob and Pink Frost are my “go to” plants for low winter flowers. I keep a Jacob potted and use it on my front porch in early December and all through early spring. During the summer, I move it to the back porch for added greenery as Hellebores are evergreens and keep their green foliage year round.

Good old stand bys, Gold Dust Aucuba and Nandina domestica cannot be forgotten due to their winter interest. The shiny gold speckled leaves of the Aucuba add a density to sparse shade gardens as well as accent azalea gardens. Nandina domestica, with its large drops of red berries is one of my favorites for placing near a front door or even flanking both sides of a front porch because they are quickly noticed as guests dart in from the cold. Nandina domestica is a plant that I will try to work into a plan whenever I am working with a white or light colored facade. (ie: fences and foundations).

When I think winter interest, I also like to include plants that encourage wildlife. Cedars and Hollies with their thick green branches provide cover. The fruit is a major attractor for many birds and their branches are beautiful when graced with snow. Every year, Cedar Waxwings visit my native Cedars and I marvel at the flocks of Robins that visit the native American Holly.

Learn how our landscape team can help you figure out what plants will look best in your yard! LANDSCAPE SERVICES >>



Keep Things Blooming


It can be tough to find a plant that blooms during the fall months, but camellias can fill the gap. Fall-blooming camellias bring a splash of color to the autumn landscape when you need it most. These flowering shrubs not only offer beautiful blooms but feature glossy, evergreen leaves that bring a welcome touch of color to your garden.

One of our favorite camellias for fall is Autumn Rocket. This heavy bloomer features semi-double, white blooms with just a hint of pink at the edges. It has an upright growth habit making it ideal for screening and hedging. We also love these in containers to add vertical interest. Try pairing them with pansies for an easy cool weather container. Give camellias the conditions they need, and they’ll reward you! This hardy camellia prefers full sun to shade and a spring fertilization to keep it looking healthy. Prune it back in the spring to ensure dense leaves and numerous flowers. So, if your looking to keep things blooming this autumn... consider Autumn Rocket.



Refresh for a New Season


Mulching is one of the easiest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden. We define mulch as a protective layer of material that is spread on top of the soil. It can either be organic -- such as grass clippings, pine straw, bark chips, and similar materials -- or inorganic -- such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. Organic mulches improve the condition of the soil. As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose. This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water, and also improves the water-holding ability of the soil. Organic matter is also a source of plant nutrients and provides an ideal environment for beneficial soil organisms. Our horticulturists have identified some of the most important benefits for mulch.


  • controls weeds
  • prevents soil errosion
  • provides insulation in winter
  • conserves moisture
  • adds texture, color, & contrast to the landscape
  • provides a finished look to your garden and reduces maintenance costs

Tip: We recommend keeping approximately a 3-inch layer of mulch on your flower beds year round.



Top Picks for Pop


Celebrate Dad with something he's sure to love. Think outside the box of the usual ties and socks and give him something he can enjoy for years to come. Here's our top picks for pop...

Felco Pruners - You can't go wrong with these top-of-the-line pruners that provide awesome cutting power and precision -- making dads work a whole lot easier. Trust us, everyone loves a good pair of Felcos! All Felco pruners have two blades: one very sharp and is known as the cutting blade. The other is not sharp and is called the anvil blade or hook. These pruners will last a life time and are a cut above the rest, featuring a lifetime warranty. Add the leather holster so that dad can protect his pruners and always keep up with them.

Landscape & Hardscape Services – Give Dad the day off by hiring McDonald experts to redesign or refresh his favorite outdoor spot. With our Landscape & Hardscape Sale in effect, you can save 15% off any landscape service booked before September 1. Services include landscape design & installation, seasonal plantings and clean ups, tree plantings and pruning, and hardscape services that include patio, firepit, outdoor kitchens and more.

Bonsai – A one of a kind gift that will make his day. Choose from a variety of leaf color and shape that will add interest and a conversation piece. Perfect on a desk or office table.

Local Sauces & Vinaigrettes – Fire up the grill and spice up dad’s day with local sauces and marinades. Sure to spark his taste buds choose from Roasted Garlic Sundried Tomato, Orange Balsamic and Lemon Oregano.

Japanese Maples - These amazingly hearty and versatile trees are a must-have for Dad's 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 an endless assortment of leaf and color options, there’s truly a Japanese Maple for every taste and space.

Firepit Chat Tables – Light up Dad’s day with a fire pit chat table. This 57-inch table can burn brightly at night or convert to a cooler for parties. The entertaining package makes this table a real must have. Let Dad enjoy cool drinks with friends and warm night with family.

Collectible Conifers - Get Dad started on a collection of unique dwarf conifers. These mini's will bring a major smile to his face!

Adirondack Chairs – Let Dad sit back, relax and enjoy the view in an Adirondack chair. These chairs made from recycled plastic will weather the test of time and gets better with age – just like dear ole Dad.