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Monarch Butterly
Butterflies & Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly

Nectar Gardening for Butterflies, Honey Bees & Native Bees

By Michelle Peterson, St. Lucie County Master Gardener

Plants produce nectar as a means of attracting insects, birds and other potential pollinators. One of thegreatest benefits of gardening with nectar-producing plants is being able to provide an attractive habitat for a great number of wildlife, particularly butterflies, honey bees and native pollinators. A standard nectar garden includes a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs and trees. Although there are many commonalities in nectar gardens, each has specific requirements when attracting a specificpollinator.


  • Prefer red, orange, pink and yellow flowers
  • Like trumpet-shaped flowers that hold sweet nectar
  • Need species-specific host plants that provide shelter, camouflage and larval food.


  • Prefer yellow, white, blue and purple flowers – can’t see the color red.
  • Like daisy-like flowers with broad petals that offer a large landing pad.
  • Need pollen as well as nectar to feed the hive.

Native Bees:

  • Prefer fruiting trees and shrubs and native plants
  • Have short life spans, and like a variety of blossoms throughout the year
  • Are largely ground-dwelling and prefer native soil that free of pesticides and fertilizers

Butterflies and bees also like shallow mud puddles where they get their source of water and minerals. Most plants that attract pollinators require full sun (a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of light a day), so it may be more of a challenge to attract bees and butterflies to your shade garden, though not entirely impossible.

Pesticides will not only keep pesky bugs away, but also the ones that you’re trying to attract. Be very judicious in your applications, and choose spot treatments over systemic. Avoid planting the red flower passion vine (Passiflora racemosa) which can be poisonous to butterfly caterpillars.

Also, be cautious about toxic plants like Yellow Jessamine aka Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and White Ti Ti (Cyrilla racemiflora ) which are poisonous to bees.

Majesty Palm
Pothos and Philodendron

Creating a Tropical Container for Shade

When creating any container, there are several factors to consider that will affect the overall impact. Color, of course, is a high priority when trying to achieve a tropical look. There are other details to consider though such as pattern, shape, texture and movement. Considering these will help you create a container you can’t take your eyes off of all summer!

Understanding “thriller, fillers and spillers” will help you to create an eye-catching combination. The “thriller” is the plant that not only brings height to the container, but is also the standout. It’s the plant you normally notice first. “Fillers” are shorter than the “thriller” but equally important. They fill in space while also bringing some element (texture or color) to complement the other plants. “Spillers” are trailing plants. The perfect “spiller” can have a wonderful effect as it cascades over the edge of the container.

You can create your own stunning container with as little as three plants…or feel free to use more! Just remember the elements mentioned above and consider the shady tropical plant suggestions below:


Cordylines – the deep red leaves of ‘Florica Red’ Cordyline lend dramatic color that only gets better as the season progresses.

Dracaenas - another eye-catching tropical, especially varieties such as ‘Colorama’ and ‘Limelight.’ Whichever one you choose, you are sure to be impressed by the easy-to-grow nature of these plants.

Palms - potted alone or with companions, palms are the epitome of tropical. Palms bring movement and texture to your container. Even the slightest breeze causes the fronds to rustle back and forth. Try ‘Majesty’, ‘Rhapis’, or ‘Phoenix’ palms.


Stromanthe ‘Tri Color’ – this beauty brings both color and pattern to the shade. In the evening, watch its leaves fold upward to reveal the magenta undersides.

Ferns – there are many different kinds of ferns. Each provides a unique opportunity to create texture and add a lush tropical feel to your containers. Each new frond on the ‘Autumn’ fern unfurls and takes on a bronze color. The almost wax-like shine and deeply lobed fronds of ‘Austral Gem’ ferns will bring beautiful texture to your container. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more unusual, try ‘Staghorn’ or ‘Blue Star’ ferns. Their funky fronds are sure to garner attention.

Anthuriums - there are few plants that can bloom the way anthurium do. This tropical beauty will thrive on your hot, shady porch all summer too. They can be either the filler or the thriller in a combination container. Anthuriums now come in several shades of pink, red, white, and even purple.

Crotons – the bright mixture of red, orange, yellow and green in croton leaves will dazzle you all summer. Crotons can be grown in the shade, but a little sun will bring out more color in the leaves. Try the varieties ‘Petra’ or ‘Curly Boy.’


Pothos and Philodendron – trailing pothos and philodendron are old school houseplants that can become the finishing touch on an outdoor shady container. Both vines grow quickly in our summer heat. Consider ‘Golden’, ‘Satin’, and ‘Neon’ Pothos or Philodendron ‘Cordatum.’

Angel Vine– the lacy stems of this plant are a little more airy and understated compared to big, bold pothos. Angel vine adds a delicate texture to combination containers.

Ivy – one of the most reliable shady trailers. Try traditional green English Ivy or variegated versions like ‘Glacier’ and ‘Gold Child’.

Whichever plants you choose, don’t be afraid to get creative with your containers. To see more shady tropicals or receive help putting your containers together, come on by and see us today!

Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Crisp kale, ripe fruit, crunchy vegetables and a pungent dressing

CUISINE DU JARDIN with Chef Manu - Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Featured Recipe Exclusively for McDonald Garden Center

Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Crisp kale, ripe fruit, crunchy vegetables and a pungent dressing come together to make this tasty and wholesome summertime salad. Kale, a member of the cabbage family, is packed with beta-carotene and other nutrient-rich antioxidants. And, did you know that just one cup of kale offers over two times the amount of vitamin A you need in one day? The fresh summer berries infuse color and a sweet taste. A healthy and light salad that is perfect for summer and pairs well with just about everything!


  • Kale, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup of red cabbage, shredded
  • 5 radish, thinly sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges, then cut the wedges in half
  • 1 package of strawberries, cut into fours
  • 1 package of raspberries
  • 1 package of blueberries
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Parsley, cilantro and basil


  • 10 raspberries
  • 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 8 tbsp of olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper

Toss together kale, carrots, red cabbage, green onions, radishes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Add the raspberries and blueberries. Chop the herbs and mix in.
Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients and the dressing, and mix until well coated. Let set 10-15 minutes and enjoy.

Butterfly Gardens
Host and Nectar Plants

Tips on Creating a Successful Butterfly Garden

We’re pretty sure when Jeffery Osborne wrote “On the Wings of Love,” in 1982, he was notbelting out romanticisms to his beloved, but instead bragging abouthis beautiful and blossoming butterfly garden. (Of course we may think all ballads have some sort of tie back to gardening) Whether that’s true or not, we’ve compiled some tips on how you can paint your garden with the fluttering frolic of our favorite pollinators. Here are our must-dos for a successful butterfly garden.

Let the Sun Shine- Butterflies love the sun, and so do successful pollinator plants, so plan your garden in an area that promotes bountiful amounts ofbeams.

It Takes Two to Make a Thing go Right – There are two types of plants you will need to be successful:

  • Host Plants- These plants are ideal for butterflies to lay their eggs on. Milkweed is the most popular and McDonald Garden Center offers a number of varieties. We recommend using a few different types tomaximize your potential.
  • Nectar Plants- Butterflies are drawn to nectar-producing plants like marigold, rhododendron, blackberry, etc. They are also drawn to color, especially red, orange, yellow, and purple. Plant them in groups of 3 to make them easier to see.

Thirst Quenchers- Butterflies need shallow puddles to drink from. Some birdbaths actually have design elements that encourage puddles. Another alternative is to plant your garden in an area where water naturally collects.

Be Diverse- Diversify the landscape. Butterflies have very delicate wings which are easily damaged by wind. Planting larger plants like broad-leafed trees and/or conifers shield your pollinator plants and provides a welcoming and safeenvironment.

Care and Maintenance- Water often until the roots get established. If your soil is acidic, or particularly sandy (which many in Hampton Roads are) we suggest adding compost or using nutrient rich topsoil. gardenReward members get FREE soil testing.

Be Eco-Friendly- You should avoid using pesticides when possible that will harm or kill the butterflies you worked so hard to attract. McDonald Garden Center offers a number of organic solutions.

Butterflies are a beautiful and welcome addition to any garden. Lacking space? Use containers or planters to create your butterfly garden. Pollinator plants need lots of room, so just get a pot large enough to accommodate them.

Six Tips for Blueberry Success

By Eddie Anderson, Owner

Thinking about growing backyard blueberries? Stick to these six simple tips and with proper care, these sweet treats will reward you for years to come!

  1. Test the soil and adjust to a pH 4.5 – 5.5
  2. Mix peat moss in the soil around the plants
  3. Plant 2 or more varieties in the same class
  4. Cover the soil with 4” of mulch
  5. As berries ripen use bird net to protect the crop
  6. Once mature remove old canes.

Test the soil and adjust to a pH 4.5 – 5.5
When the pH is above five, the blueberry plants become stunted and do not become vigorous enough to set good crops of berries. McDonald offers 2 solutions for acidifying the soil. Soil Sulfur is the best for long term adjustment of pH. Soil acidifier is good for quick adjustment of soil pH, however, it may cause aluminum toxicity in blueberries. (
Sulfur must be applied in the spring or summer, since it requires bacterial activity to convert the sulfur to an active form. Soil acidifier is water soluble and thus works more quickly. McDonald Garden Center offers soil test kits for home garden use, and Garden Rewards members can get free pH soil test at any of our locations.

Mix peat moss in the soil around the plants
Peat moss is an excellent source of organic matter. It helps loosen clay soil for development of the very fibrous roots of blueberries. Peat moss helps sandy soils retain moisture and improves soil nutrient capacity. At the same time, it is a natural soil acidifier. Old leaf mold, old sawdust, lime free compost and bark fines are other sources of organic matter that can be used. Any compost that has had lime used in the composting process (Magill Compost as well as most composted cow manure products is an example) will have a negative effect as a soil amendment and should not be used.

Plant two or more varieties
Research has shown that yields of fruit are up to 25% higher with good cross pollination among varieties of the same species of blueberries. There are several species of Blueberries (Vaccinium) that produce good, edible fruit. The species we deal in are:
Vaccinium virgatum (rabbiteye blueberry; syn. V. ashei)
Vaccinium corymbosum (northern highbush blueberry)
Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry)
The pollen from one species generally does not ripen at the same time or is not compatible with another species. Therefore you must use two varieties from the same species to get the benefit of increased yields. Plant breeders have found ways to cross species. These crosses produce large fruit on compact plants that make them easy to protect from birds.

Cover the soil with 4-inches of mulch
Research by the leading universities in zone 5-8 have shown that yields of blueberries will increase up to 30% when the soil has 4-inches of mulch cover. The roots of blueberries, like other ericaceous plants like azaleas, rhododendron and heathers, are very fine and fibrous. The mulch helps hold the moisture around the roots. It helps keep the soil cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter. In addition, bark mulches add organic matter as they decay and tend to acidify the soil. Be sure that the mulch does not develop a crust layer on the surface that sheds water. Fruit size is diminished when the roots dry out during periods of drought.

As berries ripen, use a bird net to protect the crop
It may not happen in the first few years of production, but eventually the birds will learn just how good those little blueberries are. I have had excellent success with a bird net cover. It is necessary to have a frame to keep the net off of the plants. The berries easily get caught in the net and pop off.

Once mature, remove old canes.
As the canes mature the productivity declines. Removing these canes stimulates the production of new ones from the root of the plant. This keeps the plant in the juvenile stage and extents the life of the plant. The young canes are much more productive. Remove about 1/3 of the volume of the plant during the winter each year on healthy plants.

Be sure to visit any McDonald Garden Center or Garden Market this Memorial Day weekend, for Flavor Fest, May 24-29, 2017, for juicy deals on all things edibles.


Preventing a Deer Buffet

Ah, deer. Gentle, majestic woodland royalty. Or hosta-eating road hazards, depending on your point of view.

Most gardeners have a tortured relationship with deer. We don’t have anything against them except for the fact that they eat everything in sight. Repellants can work, but you need to apply them regularly. A deer fence will keep them out, but is often impractical. What’s a gardener to do?

You can start by choosing plants that deer don’t like, though there’s no such thing as a deer-proof plant. Hungry deer will eat anything. But you can make your yard less appealing than the daylily buffet next door. Not very neighborly, I know, but you can make it up to them with a nice bouquet from your cutting garden.

Deer avoid plants with fuzzy leaves and those that are strongly aromatic. Some gardeners have success planting catnip, lavender and thyme; their strong scent can deter deer from eating more desirable plants growing nearby. Daffodils are also unappealing to deer, and can act as an early season deterrent. The world always needs more daffodils, anyway.

Although deer do not like prickly leaves, they aren’t bothered by rose thorns. So don’t plan on a rose hedge as a good barrier. Barberries, on the other hand, are seldom eaten. They’ll keep the jealous neighbors out of your cutting garden, too.Unfortunately, deer like new plant growth. So that new bed filled with lush, tender plants is very tempting to whitetails. Even plants that are not especially tasty to deer can be appealing when they are leafing out. You may want to invest in some deer repellant for these plantings, at least until their new growth has hardened off.

Plants that are unappealing to deer include Forsythia, Viburnum, Spiraea, and Syringa (lilac). Working with these plants will give you a good start on a garden with season-long color. Add some Juniperus and you’ve got year-round appeal. Rutgers University has an excellent reference that rates the deer resistance of landscape plants.

Remember that hungry deer will eat just about anything. Winter and early spring are the lean times when deer are most likely to eat your plants. In fall they are bulking up for winter, and are especially voracious. In summer time, when the living is easy, they are much more selective. Whatever you do, don’t feed them. They won’t eat your offerings and leave the landscape alone; they’ll learn to come to your place for dinner. And the day you don’t have a nice spread waiting for them is the day they will turn to your new hydrangea planting instead. Besides, feeding deer isn’t healthy for them. It’s often not the nutrition they need, and can contribute to the spread of disease.

If deer are a serious problem in your landscape, it may be time to call in the professionals. McDonald Garden Center offers a variety of treatment options. These repellants won’t hurt the deer and will allow you to enjoy your yard without the frustration of seeing flowers eaten just before they bloom.

Content & images provided by Proven Winners

Pork Filet MIgnon stuffed with Mushrooms and Basil.
Simmer mushrooms, basil leaves, garlic and shallots.
Cut the pork filet in half horizontally and season to taste.
Fill filet with the mushroom mixture and add parmesan and basil leaves.
Close the filet mignon and wrap with bacon.
Wonderful served with steamed asparagus and baby red potatoes or rice.
Burpee Pesto Basil

Pork Filet Mignon Stuffed with Mushrooms and Basil

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - Pork Filet Mignon Stuffed with Mushrooms and Basil

This moist, succulent pork filet mignon is stuffed with a finely minced blend of sautéed mushrooms, pesto basil, shallots and garlic and wrapped in bacon. Flavor notes abound, this recipe is sure to please. Perfect for an elegant and romantic dinner for two or for a special occasion that will make your next celebration even more festive. Wonderful served with steamed asparagus and baby red potatoes or rice.


  • 1 pork filet mignon
  • 1 box of white mushrooms
  • Burpee pesto basil
  • parmesan
  • 10 slices of bacon
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • salt and pepper


  1. Chop the mushrooms, basil (10 leaves), garlic and shallots.
  2. In a pan with olive oil, reduce the mushrooms down and let cool.
  3. Cut the filet mignon in half, horizontally, and season to taste.
  4. Fill filet with the mushroom mix and add parmesan and basil leaves.
  5. Close the filet mignon and wrap with the bacon.
  6. Bake at 390 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Dress it up with this creamy sauce: reduce 3 cups of heavy cream with 1/2 cup of parmesan, salt and pepper.

Expert Tips on Drainage

By Jeff Willett, Landscape Designer

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. An old saying for sure, but if you have a home one thing you don’t want to see is water, water everywhere! Proper drainage is of consummate importance to your home’s health. A term which is often used in dealing with water issues is “positive drainage”. What this term means is that existing grade or soil level at your foundation is higher than that of an area a certain distance away. Negative drainage would indicate that rain water, water from your gutters and naturally flowing drainage areas, are heading back towards your home. This is not a good thing. Water is a very destructive element. Water sitting against a foundation will eventually cause deterioration in the masonry elements that make up foundation construction. If you have a basement, this scenario is exacerbated by the fact that the foundation walls are being attacked and there may also be water leaking into the basement cavity.

Achieving positive drainage is a pretty simple process. It can be a bit laborious but simple. In most cases, putting material against the foundation and grading it in such a manner that you maintain positive flow for a distance of six feet away from the foundation will create positive drainage. Some very important aspects of this process to keep in mind, always remove organic matter in areas you are going to be adding material to. Organic material can be mulch, leaves or any other product that can decompose. Remember, always use material that is clay based or compactable to grade with. You never want to use material to fill with that has a high absorption rate such as top soil, manufactured soils and the like. See if these simple solutions help with issues you may be confronted with and of course if you don’t first succeed try, try again!

About Jeff Willett - Jeff has been transforming green spaces since 1975, and brings creativity to everything he does. He has the vision and the experience to achieve stunning results with lasting quality. He is a professional Horticulturist, I.C.P.I. Certified and has experienced all faucets of the nursery and landscape industry both regionally and internationally. Think beautiful, think bigger, think Jeff.

Visit to learn more about our landscape services.

10 Ways Everyday Can Be Earth Day

Earth Day is that day every year that we can celebrate the planet we live on and the environment we all enjoy and want to protect. McDonald Garden Center supports the environmental movement and is dedicated to helping educate our local communities in the ways we can all contribute.

Here at McDonald Garden Center, we carry many plants, products, solutions and ideas that can impact our planet Earth in a positive way. Here are some of the ways we can help make you successful and, in turn, be kind to Mother Nature.

1. Fertilizer – Plants need to be fed, and we carry a wide variety of Espoma Fertilizers. All of the Espoma fertilizers and nutrients are organic. Not only do they offer a quality product that provides results, but the company itself is environmentally and socially responsible. Check out their website for more product details and the history of the company at

2. Solutions – We carry a large assortment of OMRI listed fungicides and insecticides made by Monterey. These are some of the highest quality controls for any of your gardening needs. Whether it is powdery mildew on your cucumbers, or caterpillars eating your trees, we have a product that is not only safe to use but proven to work.

3. Mole & Vole – Seems like it is a never ending battle with the moles and voles in Hampton Roads, but we have found the best way to get rid of them in this area, and both products are completely organic and safe for lawns pets and all wildlife. Milky Spore attacks the Moles food source and Repellex Mole and Vole Repellant gets them out of your yard. Use them in conjunction with each other and eventually they will be no more.

4. Soil – It is recommended that you invest as much into you soil as you do into your plants or lawns. That is why we offer the highest quality soil and amendments for the Hampton Roads area, most of which are organic. McDonalds Natural & Organic Potting Soil is the perfect soil for all your container or raised bed needs. With Peat Moss, Vermiculite, Perlite, and 4 different types of compost, we can also help you amend any soil type, or form your own soil blend for raised beds and any other gardening need you may have.

5. Veggie and Herbs – We offer a huge assortment in veggies and herbs, all of which are NON GMO. We also offer a selection of herbs and veggies that are completely organic and USDA certified. Check us out weekly for our collection is always changing, and keep your garden full of unique and flavorful edibles.

6. Birds and the Bees – Attract birds, bees and bats to live in your yard. Bees will help your garden pollinate and it could be as simple as hanging a Mason Bee house to encourage the non-aggressive bees to live in your yard. Birds and Bats are also a great natural predator to lots of insects including mosquitoes and caterpillars that bother you and eat your plants.

7. Lawn Care – With new advances in lawn care we now offer a full line of products that can make your lawn the best on the block while remaining completely organic. From organic weed preventers to fertilizers and soil stimulants, we can unlock the potential the natural way.

8. Weed Killers – New Pulverize weed killers offer a selective and non-selective alternative to killing weeds in your lawns or in your garden and patios. Use the selective weed killer for lawns and the non-selective to kill weeds and grasses that grow in your flower beds, gardens, patios and anywhere else you don’t want weeds.

9. Animal Repellants – If the native wildlife or your neighbors dog or cat is causing your yard heartache, don’t worry, you can keep any pesky critter from your yard or garden using our large selection of all natural repellents.

10. Mosquitos – Use mosquito dunks to get rid of mosquito larvae in standing water. These dunks have a beneficial bacteria that only hurts worms and doesn’t hurt any wildlife, so you can use it in fountains and birdbaths, or small ponds and other areas that hold standing water. Citronella Geraniums are a natural deterrent to mosquitoes and other insects, use it on your patio to keep them from your party or rub your hands on the leaves and rub on your arms and legs for an all-natural bug repellant.

In addition to these DIY solutions, McDonald Garden Center offers a variety of landscape design services geared toward protecting and maintaining an environmentally responsible footprint. Plants can be used for natural buffers and barriers, as well as natural ways to control erosion. From rain gardens to green roofs, come in and let us help you determine how you can make positive impacts on our planet.

Petunia Party Preview

Mike Westphal, garden guru gives a sneak peak at the newest and most anticipated varieties of petunias and million bells for this weekend's annual petunia party! Mike also offers some invaluable advice on care and maintenance.