Winter Gardens

JANUARY
30
2015

Bust the Winter Blahs

SUCCULENTS: Easier than you may think!

The cold keeps coming up with ways to keep us out of the garden. We keep coming up with new ways to keep us digging in the dirt! It's a great time of year to invite a wide and varied bunch of plants into your home with succulents. These unique plants are low-maintenance, get by on minimal water, and come in interesting shapes, varied patterns, unusual colors and many even boast beautiful flowers! These plants are all the rage in the home and garden, appearing everywhere from table-top terrariums, dish gardens and even in glass orbs suspended in air. Try your hand at creating a succulent garden and see how exceedingly easy these gems are to grow.

Here are the general rules for growing top-quality succulents:

Light - Succulents prefer bright light, the brighter the better. Place your succulent in a window where it can get direct sunlight. Succulents don’t do well in the shade, but will thrive when the sun is shining brightly on them.

Temperature - Keep your ambient room temperature anywhere from 55° to 75° Fahrenheit. Too hot or too cold can be detrimental to the health of the plant, however, normal home conditions are suitable for succulents.

Water - Water whenever the soil gets dry and pulls away from the edges of the pot. Water just enough to soak the soil evenly. Overwatering a succulent is as bad as not watering it at all, as these are drought-resistant plants designed to withstand extremely dry conditions.

Try picking out some of the more unusual-looking specimens for your succulent collection, as they can be quite the conversation piece. Here's a few of our favorites:

Kalanchoe comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and are prized for their colorful leaves and their crayon-color flowers. We really like Kalanchoe Orgyalis. This new Kalanchoe is an upright plant with fuzzy, thick, silvery-grey leaves that take on a golden bronze tint in sunlight and blooms sunny yellow flowers.

Echeveria is a unique succulent that forms tight rosettes and comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Many of the varieties have a waxy sheen on their leaves and are great in containers. Echeveria are among the showiest of all the succulents.

Jade boosts smooth, round fleshy leaves that grow in opposing pairs along its branches. The leaves are a rich jade green and its classic beauty and low maintence requirements make it a must-have succulent.

Aloe, a classic favorite, offers dramatic flower spikes with gel-filled, tapered and serrated leaves. It is most notably known for its medicinal properties.

JANUARY
28
2015

Plant of the Week:

CLERODENDRUM WHITE LIGHT BULB

Meet our newest winter bloomer... the Clerodendrum White Light Bulb. This new weeping houseplant puts on a winter show with pure white flowers cascading from vining stems. It's bulb-like flowers hang down about one foot and usually begin blooming in deep winter. You'll love these flowering vines as they move and sway against deep green foliage.

To prune Clerodendrum, simply shear it during the summer - but not later than early September so the blooming cycle is not disrupted. During the summer, this plant will grow vigorously. You can even give this plant some time outdoors in the warm summer months. Then as cold weather sets in and nothing else seems to be blooming, Clerodendrum will give you another blooming show. Let plants cascade naturally, or train on a small trellis to grow upright. It prefers a wet/dry watering cycle, but don't let this one get too dry. Keep it in a sunny spot during winter and move to partial shade during the summer.

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

JANUARY
14
2015

Plant of the Week:

DAPHNE REBECCA: Fragrance to WOW the senses!

The Daphne plant is a divine little addition to your garden that produces the most delightful aroma. With its fragrance being described as sweet and even exotic, one should not be surprised that it is occasionally referred to as the “romance plant.” This sweet-smelling evergreen shrub is also called the Winter Daphne due to its pink blooms that typically appear in the middle of winter or as late as the beginning of spring. Anyone seeking a beautiful evergreen shrub will love adding the Daphne plant to his or her landscape.

Daphne Rebecca offers fragrant blooms in soft shell pink tones from January through March. It has a striking broad variegated foliage. Be sure to plant in an area with light shade. We love planting them in a container, as a specimen plant or in a mass landscape planting. Try planting it by your front door or walkway, so that all your guests will be greeted with its sweet aroma!

DECEMBER
21
2014

The Winter Landscape

CELEBRATE A NEW SEASON WITH WINTER FAVORITES.

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 >>

by Tami Eilers, McDONALD LANDSCAPE DESIGNER

JANUARY
31
2014

FILED UNDER

Winter Weather Gardening Tips

Mother Nature has sure sent us some wintry weather over the past two weeks. Springs flowers will much be appreciated and we will wait with anticipation for the groundhogs report. With all the snow and wintry weather, we assembled a few tips from our garden guru’s to give you a little garden guidance in the coming weeks.

The good news is that this cold weather has come well into the winter season. As we move deeper into winter, plants develop much of their cold hardiness and as it gets colder the plants become more hardy. In other words, 5 degrees in early December can be devastating to a plant, however, the same 5 degrees in mid January with a slow cool down will have much less negative effect.

More good news is that a good snow cover is like pulling a warm blanket over the plants. The extra insulation holds the earth’s natural temperature down and protects the plants from wind and cold.

This snow was texturally rather light and it did not stick heavily to the foliage and stems of plants. We recommend removing any snow that is bending branches to help eliminate broken branches. Once the snow melts, there still may be some broken branches and we recommend pruning them out as soon as the plants are thawed out. To do this, make clean smooth cuts with an angle so that they shed water.

It will be early April before we can identify much of the cold damage that has occured over the past few weeks. Broad leaf evergreens are the most susceptible. While the roots are frozen the leaves are exposed to cold, dry winds that draw the moisture out. The desiccated leaves have no way to replenish the water and die. This often does not show up until it is time for spring growth. A soon as these branches are identified remove them. It is best to cut as little as possible at first and then cut again until you reach stems that are all green under the bark. During snowy weather back in the 70’s, we saw Ligustrum, camellias and figs killed to the ground. When cut to the ground you will be surprised at how quickly the big strong root system can re-grow the top foliage.

Plants in containers above ground are the next most susceptible. It is best if they can be placed in a protected location out of the sun and screened from the wind. Once frozen, they are best left untouched until Mother Nature thaws them naturally.

JANUARY
6
2014

FILED UNDER

Take the frost out of frostbite…

WINTER CARE TIPS

Though cast stone consists of a high density mixture designed to produce a strong and durable product, proper maintenance is recommended to protect your product from the freeze-thaw cycles that occur this time of year. Any piece which can hold water, snow or ice, such as a planter, birdbath/fountain top, and any piece which is placed directly on the ground, such as a statue, birdbath/fountain base, planter or bench leg, can be damaged by the winter freeze-thaw cycles. To minimize any possible winter damage, please follow the simple suggestions listed below.

Cast Stone Planters:
If a planter is to be left planted over the winter, it should be raised up off the ground by placing two pressure treated wood strips underneath the planter, making sure not to block the drainage hole. This will allow the soil to drain and will prevent the planter from freezing to the ground. If a planter is placed directly on the ground and goes through several freeze-thaw cycles, drainage may be blocked. This may cause an expansion of the soil inside the planter, which in turn may cause the planter to crack or crumble. We always recommend that drainage materials such as small stones or terra cotta chips be placed at the bottom of the planter before filling with soil to ensure proper drainage.

If a planter is not to remain planted over the winter, we suggest that it be stored in a covered area where it will be protected from the elements. If a planter must be left outside unplanted, we suggest that you empty the soil and turn the planter upside down onto wood strips. Cover or wrap the planter with burlap or any absorbent material (old blanket/towel) and then wrap with dark plastic. This will prevent moisture from accumulating in the planter. Please note that even if a cast stone container is raised off the ground, there is always the risk that the container will absorb water through its surface which, when frozen, can cause the planter to crack or break.

Birdbaths, Fountains, Benches & Statuary:
We suggest that birdbath/fountain tops not be left outside in the winter. Once the top fills with water/snow and freezes, the top may crack. All birdbath/fountain bases, bench legs and statuary should be raised up off the ground in winter so they will not freeze to the ground surface.

Ideally, a fountain should be stored indoors in the winter away from the elements. However, if a fountain bowl must be left outside, remove all pumps, rubber stoppers, drain pipes, finials and small components, and cover the top in accordance with the planter instructions above, making sure that water does not accumulate in the basin and freeze. Fountain pumps, finials, and other small components should be stored indoors. Check the fountain periodically to insure that the cover is secure and water is not accumulating in any fountain component.

Glazed and Terra Cotta:
Terra cotta and earthenware are always slightly porous. Although this allows plant roots to breathe, it also constitutes a risk in winter. When the temperature drops below freezing, any water present in the pot walls will freeze and expand. This will cause the pot wall to spall and can ultimately destroy the pot.

Whether this actually happens or not, depends on the quantity of water that can be absorbed by the fired clay. This, in turn, depends on the quality of the clay and the way it has been processed.

Machine-made terra cotta planters can absorb a lot of water and are the most vulnerable to winter damage. Hand-made containers, like those offered by Campania, absorb far less water because the clay is processed differently. They are frost-resistant if handled correctly. However, because any water held in a pot from rain or melting snow will freeze and expand, any pot made of a non-elastic material is at risk if left outside unprotected in winter.

Accordingly while the high firing temperature and quality of our glazed and terra cotta containers results in a durable and frost-resistant product, we still recommend that they be stored in a frost-free covered area in winter. If left out, water may accumulate in the container and freeze, causing the planter to crack and break.

DECEMBER
23
2013

The Winter Pick-Me-Up

HELLEBORES

This hardy perennial offers beautiful blooms all through the dreary days of winter and into early spring. Also called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, bloom time often coincides with the Christmas holidays. This evergreen, features blooms with five petals, cup-shaped flowers. The foliage is dark green, offering a beautiful back drop. Available in a variety of colors from white to pastel yellow to pink and purple, this intriguing perennial is without a doubt the star of the winter landscape. And, throughout the summer the deep green foliage creates visual depth and interest in the landscape too. This low maintenance plant is drought tolerance although it thrives in moist but well-drained soil. And did we mention hellebore are deer resistant! Not only will they grace your table with beautiful cut flowers, they'll provide color in your landscape at a time when there virtually is none. What a treat to walk through your garden in February or March and be greeted with beautiful Hellebore flowers in white, pastel yellow, pink, or purple.

DECEMBER
20
2013

Give the Unexpected

THOUGHTFUL LIVING GIFTS

Christmas is just days away and it’s no secret that plants and flowers are a big part of season. Everyone knows that holiday plants make festive holiday gifts. Poinsettias, Amaryllis and Paperwhites all come to mind, coloring the season with their traditional holiday hues. And yes, the holidays are all about tradition and that's part of the reason we love them. But why not think outside of the box this year and consider a living gift that can be enjoyed during the holidays and beyond? And don’t just limit your gift-giving choices to indoor plants. There are plenty of wonderful, lasting outdoor plants that can be enjoyed once the spring and summer months roll around. The choices are infinite, so get out gift giving rut and give an unexpected living gift. Here are few of unique gifts to consider...

KITCHEN HERB GARDEN – Growing your own herbs is a rewarding and efficient way to making it easy to harvest fresh herbs for cooking all year long. Herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, rosemary and oregano are just few examples of hardy and attractive pot herbs which can add a spot of fresh green indoors all winter long. Keep in pots indoors or transfer to the garden once the weather warms ups. Tuck one of these robust herbs in a sisal or decorative pot, and you’ll be sure to spice up someone’s holiday!

JEANS DILLY SPRUCE – This refined version of the popular Dwarf Alberta Spruce has short green needles that turn a cheery light green to welcome spring and remain green all throughout the winter! Jean Dilly has distinctive and refined pyramidal form, which lends a delicate texture to any landscape. A relatively low maintenance shrub, however, when pruning is needed, only trim back the new growth of the current season. Prefers full to partial shade. Its perfect shape, slow growth, lovely texture and color, combine to create an extraordinary little plant that never outgrows its place in the garden.

ORCHIDS – Whether a gift for another or a treat for yourself, orchids will captivate and add elegance to any setting. 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. Color range includes whites, pinks and blues. 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.

YULETIDE CAMELLIA – This wintertime classic will bring warm, red flowers and elegant green leaves to your holiday decoration and will add beauty to your garden for many years to come. With single, vibrant, red blooms this evergreen is a beautiful addition to the winter garden. Blossoms poop against glossy, dark green foliage. A moderate grower, this shrub will grow to approximately 8-10 feet tall creating an stunning evergreen background. Extremely drought tolerant, once established - this shrub can handle most any conditions Mother Nature throws at it! Prefers full to partial sun. The perfect choice for a colorful hedge or screen, border shrub, or simply placed to add a pop of color to outdoor living spaces.

HELLEBORE – This hardy perennial offers beautiful blooms all through the dreary days of winter and into early spring. Also called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, bloom time often coincides with the Christmas holidays. This evergreen, features blooms with five petals, cup-shaped flowers. The foliage is dark green, offering a beautiful back drop. Available in a variety of colors from white to pastel yellow to pink and purple, this intriguing perennial is without a doubt the star of the winter landscape. And, throughout the summer the deep green foliage creates visual depth and interest in the landscape too. This low maintenance plant is drought tolerance, although it thrives in moist but well-drained soil. And did we mention hellebore are deer resistant too! Not only will they grace your table with beautiful cut flowers, they'll provide color in your landscape at a time when there virtually is none.

NOVEMBER
13
2013

The Winter Garden

COLD WEATHER MUST-HAVES

Ah, the holidays... the season of hot chocolate, cozy sweaters and all that glitters. As you're busy trimming trees and wrapping packages, don't forget about these easy to care for plants that will keep your winter garden in full bloom. Just because that warm weather has faded away, doesn't mean the color in your landscape has to. Try some of our favorite plants that love cool weather, in fact, they thrive in it... making garden-lovers all over Hampton Roads very, very happy!

Hellebore, sometimes called the Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, put on an especially great show during the winter months. This hardy perennial comes in a variety of colors. We especially love the Hellebore Jacob variety with its white to light-rose colored flowers that mirror the colors of Christmas. These perennials look fantastic in pots and sprinkled throughout your flower beds.

Yuletide Camellia is a beloved southern staple with plentiful blooms. Often times, the bloom season coincides with the cool holiday season. The flowers are dark red with a bright yellow center contrasted against dark glossy green foliage. You can't go wrong with this easy-to-care for evergreen that will deliver year-round beauty. While these shrubs look great in the landscape, you can start them out in containers. Pot one up with cool weather annuals like Pansies and Dusty Miller for a perfect Christmas accent. Be sure to remember that you can cut the blooms to use throughout your house for fresh décor. Try floating the flowers in water during your holiday gatherings this year.

Pansies are a cool weather must-have, an absolute staple of the fall and winter garden. It will keep performing all through the season and add a burst of color when you need it most. Best of all, these tough little beauties are available in a huge range of colors. Try pairing these annuals with Dusty Miller or trailing Vinca Vine with red and white pansies for a festive container.

Violas are the petite cousins of the pansy and are tougher in the face of cold and heat. No local garden should be without them. The smaller flower will bloom all through the winter. Because they are low growing plants, they are an excellent choice as flower bed borders. They are also perfect in seasonal pots and window boxes.

FEBRUARY
4
2013

FILED UNDER

Camellias: The Winter Pick Me Up

When winter seems at its bleakest, Hampton Roads gardeners have a colorful treat in store for them -- the beautiful blooms of camellias. Camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for almost 200 years. Native to the Orient, these graceful beauties were introduced into the U.S. near Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. Camellias flower in the fall and winter with blooms appearing October through March. Flowers range in color from pure white to dark red, while some cultivars offer multi-colored or variegated blooms. Flowers can be saucer-shaped single or double blooms and even ruffled like the Peony camellia. For the remainder of the year, their evergreen foliage is an attractive glossy green providing winter interest that last all year.

Most camellias are shrub-sized and compact and can serve several functions in the landscape. Whether they are planted as a hedge line, mixed with other shrubs, planted in a container, or situated as a standalone bush, camellias don't ask for much and yet give so much beauty in return. Here's just few of our faves:

Charlie Bettes - an early season bloomer that produces some of the largest blooms you will ever see on a camellia. Flowers are bright white with lemon yellow stamens. Plant full sun to partial shade.

Jacks - spring flowering variety that boasts large, pink blooms that can span up to 5 inches across. Lustrous dark green evergreen leaves last all year long. Prefers partial sun to partial shade...

Lemon Glow - early spring bloomer that features formal double blooms that open yellow and fade to creamy yellow. Prefers sun to Partial Shade.

Black Tie - late winter to early spring bloomer featuring showy, fragrant, dark red double blooms on glossy, evergreen foliage. Prefers part shade to part sun.