THE BLOG: let's talk gardening


Things are Heating Up

We’ve all been waiting for things to heat up in Hampton Roads and it looks like summer is finally on its way. Fill your garden with these tough plants that thrive in the Hampton Roads heat and humidity. These will last spring through summer and perform even better as the mercury rises! They’ll not only survive the heat, but they'll look great doing it. Some of our favorite plants that love the heat & sun:

  • DAYLILIES - this perennial flowers for one day and is replaced by another bloom the following day. Available in tons of varieties, shapes and colors this plant requires little care and will thrive in drought conditions.
  • PORTULACA - a sun-loving annual succulent that offers tons of vibrant flowers all summer long. Its low growing habit is perfect as a ground cover, in hanging baskets or in the landscape.
  • MANDEVILLA - a pretty and prolific climber perfect for adding bold color in the summer heat. Train these annual flowers to grow up a trellis, fence or mailbox post.
  • HIBISCUS - exotic and tropical, these bright showy blooms are available as annuals and perennials varieties and can open to be several inches across. Loving full sun, they are the perfect way to add color color to outdoor containers.
  • ANGELONIA - often called summer snapdragons, Angelonia will WOW you with upright flower spires in beautiful shades of pinks, purples and white.
  • ZINNIAS - 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!
  • CELOSIA - super tough, drought-resistant annual is adored for its unusual style and texture. It comes in an array of luscious colors including red, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta and pink. Use as flowerbed borders and in containers, inside or out. Celosia is an excellent choice as a cut flower and loves it warm and sunny.


Color Your World


It's time to plant those spring & summertime annuals we've all been waiting for! Annual packs are the easiest way to instant add color to containers and flowerbeds. And, with four plants in one pack, this is surely an economical way to add color to your landscape. There's so many options when choosing annuals. Check out our favorites for sunny and shady spots.

These plants need six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Remember that with all the sunshine these plants will require water often. We recommend watering these every other day. Soak thoroughly until water runs from drainage holes.

  • Dianthus - grass-like foliage and star shaped blooms in pink, red and white.
  • Verbena - the perfect plant to spill over a container in a combination with large clusters of flowers.
  • Petunias - trumpet shaped flowers and branching foliage are easy to grow.
  • Marigolds - Ruffly orange yellow blooms all through the summer. Perfect companion plant for edibles to keep the pests away.
  • Begonias - The fancy leaf of the bronze leaf begonia if perfect for bright sun with blooms in red, pink and white.
  • Salvia - Spikes with loads of small densely packed flowers. Easy to care for with aromatic foliage.
  • Celosia - Eye catching blooms in a flame shape offer bold summer color. Celosia loves the sun and the heat.
  • Portulaca - Heat and drought tolerant make this is a winner in the garden. Beautiful double blooms sit atop the needle-shaped foliage.
  • Zinnias - Daisy like flowers on a single stem love the heat of summer. Perfect for a cutting garden.

These plants need less than 4 hours of direct sun. They should also be planted to avoid hot, afternoon sun. We recommend watering every other day. Soak thoroughly until water runs from drainage holes.

  • Coleus - Fancy and colorful foliage in shades of pink, green, yellow, red and maroon.
  • Impatiens - Excellent bedding plant that thrives in shade. Bright colored blooms in orange, pink, white and purple.
  • Dusty Miller - Silvery white foliage that pairs with just about everything. Easy to grow and easy to love.
  • Polka Dot Plants - This little plant packs a punch when paired with other plants. The standout polka dot pattern in either white or pink makes the leaves of this plant a showcase.

Plant of the Week:

PIXIE GRAPES: The World's First Dwarf Grapes

With Pixie Grapes, expect the perfect patio plant with grapes the first year, miniature grape clusters and continual fruiting. Expect to be amazed! This irresistible grapevine has a natural genetic dwarfing mutation that keeps it small, yet allows it to produce sweet, mini grape clusters just like its full sized relatives. Not only do they taste great raw, but the pinot menuier grapes are used to make champagne and wine! Pixie grapes may flower just a few months from transplant and produce fruit all season long, unlike most grapes which can take several years to reach bearing age. In only 12 weeks you will have a crop of grapes in a 1 gallon pot. Growing only about 18 inches tall, it likes to live in a container and it tends not to sprawl out, which makes it a charming houseplant or patio plant. As it grows, it may require re-potting and a trellis for support. This easy-to-grow plant just needs a sunny spot, moist and a little pruning in the winter.

Try our new Pixie Grape varieties in stores now!

‘Pinot Meunier Purple’ - Nice, upright, full plant. Sets tendrils, purple, sweet grape with few seeds.

‘Pinot Meniuer White’ - Medium dwarf, medium to large, dark green leaves, predominantly shallow indentations, almost yellow, sweet grape.



Pretty Perennials


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

My perennial garden is all cleaned up and ready to grow -- and grow and grow and grow some more.

That’s the challenge of a perennial garden, especially when you plant Joe-pye weed, coneflowers, bee balm, daylilies and Shasta daisies. When they are happy, they happily spread until you have large lovely masses that need dividing.

April can be the best time to divide some of those happy-growing perennials and plant them in other places or share them with friends. Spring soil is soft and moist and easy to work with. Your perennials are starting to poke their heads through the ground and you can easily see where to dig and divide. Plus, early spring division means they have time to re-establish themselves in a new spot before hot, dry weather arrives again.

To divide perennials:

Use your hands or small rake to pull soil back from around the plant. Then, use a small shovel or some kind of digging tool to dig around and lift out the root ball, keeping it intact. Using your hands, gently rub the root ball to remove as much soil as you can (pictured above), exposing the roots so you can easily see how best to divide them.

Use a steak knife or sharp trowel and gently cut the root ball into halves, thirds or fourths, depending on its size. As you cut, you want to maintain bigger main and smaller feeder roots in each section.

Replant your sections into pre-dug holes that are moist from rain or your garden hose. If you have poor drainage in your perennial garden, plant perennials a little on the high side (half an inch) because winter’s wet weather can easily rot the crowns, the point where the top of the plant meets the root system. Adding mulch to the planting hole also aids in aeration so plant roots don’t suffocate when rain fills air pockets in the soil.

You can also give away some of those perennial divisions to neighbors and friends. Wrap the roots in wet newspaper and tie them in a plastic bag, along with the plant’s name and planting tips.

Now that your perennial garden has more space, think about adding newbies, including this year’s special perennial – 2015 is the Year of the Gaillardia, according to the National Garden Bureau at There are about 23 species of Gaillardia – nicknamed blanket flower -- across the Americas, and most are perennials native to North America.

Gaillardia (pictured above) with its small flat flowers attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators and it blooms all summer if you just give it a few trims to promote new flowers – basically fuss-free and fun to have around!



How Sweet It Is


Get your herb garden growing with one of our favorite herbs, Sweet Basil. This garden classic is known for its flavor and fragrance. With big leaves that are fast growing, anyone can produce a homegrown harvest. Basil needs about 6-8 hours of full sunlight to produce and can benefit from a little bit of afternoon shade. If grown in containers, it will definitely need watering as it likes moist, well drained soil. Dry soil will stunt the growth of this plant. The large leaves of this plant, are vibrant green. Sweet Basil is the main ingredient for classic Italian Pesto, but it is great in pastas, on pizzas and even in lemonade.

TIP: You'll want to prevent basil from blooming, by either harvesting the leaves or pinching off the top sets of leaves. Once the basil plant sets flowers, the leaves will lessen in flavor. So, our rule of thumb don’t’ be afraid to cut and use this tasty herb.



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

Learn more about our landscaping services. >>



All About Petunias

Petunias are sun-loving annuals that bloom spring through summer. You can find petunias in just about every color with growing habits that mound in borders or trail down containers. These garden favorites are heat tolerant and easy to care for. A thorough watering once a week should be sufficient (unless there are prolonged periods of drought). However, spreading types and those in containers require more frequent watering. We recommend fertilizing your plants monthly to ensure good growth. Try McDonald Greenleaf, a slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for Hampton Roads. You'll also need to remove faded flowers to prolong blooming and keep them performing their best.

Petunias fall into two categories: Mounding Growth Habit and Trailing/Spreading Growth Habit

TRAILING/SPREADING (cascading growth habit)
Use as a spiller in containers, window boxes or hanging baskets.

• Supertunia: great colors, vigorous grower; self-cleaning & no dead heading required
• Wave: low growing and tolerates heat well
• Shockwave: smaller flowers and more weather resistant; tolerates heat
• Easy Wave: fast-growing and blooms early spring to late summer; doesn’t require cutting back
• Plush: mid-size blooms with show of color all summer long
• Suncatcher: large flowers in a wide range of colors that bloom repeatedly

MOUNDING HABIT(grow in a clump)
Use in the landscape, in containers and in combination planters.

• Potunia: early spring bloomer in bold colors
• Sophistica: one-of-a-kind flowers that bloom early spring - late summer

We are crazy for these spring and summer favorites. Check out a few NEW varieties in stores now: (see above photos)

  • Black Cherry Supertunias - Medium to large flowers of deep red with black accents.Vigorous growing with a slightly mounded habit. Great filler for combination plantings or a stand alone in the garden.
  • Rose Blast Charm Petunias - Compact, small flowered petunia similar to million bells, great for container combos and baskets. No need to deadhead for continuous blooms.
  • Limoncello Supertunias - Medium to large sized flowers with deep yellow veins. Vigorous growing with slightly mounded habit. Great filler for combination plantings or a stand alone in the garden.
  • Morning Glory Charm - Colors like an old fashioned Morning Glory. Compact, small flowered petunia similar to million bells, great for container combos and baskets. No need to deadhead for continuous blooms.
  • PHOTOS: from Proven Winners

    Visit us today through Sunday for our huge sales event, the PETUNIA PARTY >>


We're Crazy for Container Gardens

Looking for an easy way to add pizzaz to your deck or patio? A container garden is just the trick! Go crazy with color or go monochromatic – you decide but either one will spice up your outdoors. Choose a container that pulls your arrangement together and sets the tone for the flower power. Follow our classic container formula and you can’t go wrong.

THRILLERS - Choose a showy plant to be center stage. This should plant should be taller and larger than the other plants.
SHADE: Rita’s Gold Fern, Majesty Palm, Red Sister Cordyline

SUN: Hibiscus, Grasses, Spike, Geraniums

FILLERS - Choose plants to fill in the container and add depth and dimension through color and/or texture.
SHADE: Begonias, Coleus, Ferns, Polka dot plant, Caladium

SUN: Petunias, Million Bells, Begonias, Geraniums, Dusty Miller

SPILLERS - Add plants that will cascade over the side of the container and creates a softness to the arrangement.
SHADE: Trailing Coleus, Ivy

SUN: Lantana, Sweet Potato, Verbena, Lobelia, Mezoo

Container Tip: For optimal plant performance, fertilize your containers with McDonald Greenleaf, an all-purpose plant food specifically formulated for Hampton Roads.

Check out some of our favorite CONTAINER GARDENS >>


Plant of the Week:

BAHAMA BEACH: Proven Winners Combo of the Year

Do you BELIEVE in LOVE at first sight? If so, get ready to fall in love with Proven Winners combo of the year -- Bahama Beach. This delightful treat combines three garden must-haves into one blooming masterpiece. Full of purple Bordeaux petunias, blue lobelia, and a pop of yellow million bells, this planter is the spring and summer season's must-have. This bright and colorful combination is available in almost every configuration possible, from hanging baskets to container plants. Add this plant to any sunny spot and enjoy! Each combo contains:

Superbells® Lemon Slice Million Bells - Looking like little petunias, the pinwheel pattern of alternating slices of yellow and white is really striking and quite unique. These yellow flowers pop and provide a lovely compliment to the purple and blue flowers.

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunias - Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers. They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds. They have medium to large sized flowers.

Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia - These soft blue flowers will bloom all season. This stunning annual offers cascading, well-branched flowers and is the perfect trailer in this combination. A great summer performer and low maintenance, these blues will make you happy.

Photos from Proven Winners

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



The Scratch Test

Do the fingernail scratch test before declaring a plant dead.
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Winter’s harsh hand slapped my garden. Thankfully, the damage is seen only on a few plants.

My acre on a small creek in York County endures lots of wind, so much that I sometimes think I live in a NASA wind tunnel. Those cold winter winds can do more damage than frozen soil or heavy snow.

How cold wind damage happens can be puzzling. For example, I have four camellias near each other: two have nice green leaves everywhere while two camellias have leaves severely wind burned and browned across half of the plant (pictured above). I will take a wait-and-see approach before pruning the bad parts.

My wax myrtle hedge also looks sad – few green leaves anywhere.

Gardening friends tell me they see much of the same – browned, wind-desiccated leaves on gardenia, loropetealum and other cold-sensitive plants.

Before you declare any of those victims too damaged to recover, do a fingernail-scratch test. Using your fingernail, or a small knife or anything sharp, scratch some bark tissue along a dead-looking part of the plant. If you see green (pictured above), the plant is alive and will hopefully flush out new growth when warmer weather stabilizes and plants are motivated to get growing.

Once damaged plants have fully leafed out in late spring, prune them to remove any remaining dead parts. Apply a light fertilizer made for the plant variety – for example, acid-loving food for camellia, azalea and gardenia – and keep the plant watered during any hot, dry spells during summer. Plants are usually tougher than we think, and grow back healthy as ever.

PHOTOS: Plants in Kathy Van Mullekom’s garden.

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