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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red

Ornamental peppers are a great addition to the late summer and early fall garden. With foliage of varying shades, the real shining star of ornamental peppers is the fruit it bears in assorted, vibrant colors that are available in many shapes and sizes. This annual is an exceptionally versatile plant- use them in mass plantings, pots and hanging baskets, or simply welcoming guests to your front door.

If you are looking to add a pop of color to your fall garden, look no further than Onyx Red. Its attractive compact, branching habit, bold dark foliage and shiny red fruit along with its outstanding performance earned an All-America Selections award. Plants are heat tolerant, vigorous growers that retain their neat, compact habit, making Onyx Red a wonderful addition in beds, borders, containers and dramatic mass plantings.

The Fall Veggie Garden

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of vegetable gardening. Cooler weather makes gardening more enjoyable and there are less insects to bug you. Actually, frost tends to improve the flavor of many cool weather crops. And, an added benefit is that many of these plants are visually pleasing in your yard, giving your landscape a boost in appearance.

To get started, we’ve compiled a few easy steps for fall veggie garden success.

  1. Prepare the Soil.
    Start from the bottom up to really have success. We suggest turning over the soil as one of the most important steps. This process aerates and mixes soil components.
  2. Fertilize with Compost.
    When fertilizing a vegetable garden, organic fertilizers are recommended. They consist of natural, organic material such as forest products, vegetable waste and animal manure. It can be purchased in bags, bulk, or made at home. McDonald Compost (sold in bag or bulk) will do the trick!
  3. Plant Your Garden.
    Dig the hole a bit larger than the plant’s root ball, place the plant in it, and firm the soil around the roots to the level of the surrounding soil. Water to eliminate air pockets and provide moisture to the root system.
  4. Water & Weed Regularly.
    Be sure your veggie garden receives water and you remove the weeds so that the weeds are not competing with the nutrients your plants need to perform their best.

Check out this list of cole crops that will flourish until frost arrives.

Pansies, McDonald Garden Center

Pansies – Timing is Everything

This time of year, we get this question a lot “When will you have pansies?” Pansies are perfect for providing color when the rest of the garden looks as if it's beginning to shut down for the season. These cool-weather lovers can actually make it through frosts — and even single-digit temperatures — and some varieties rebound in the spring. However, there is always the temptation to plant pansies too early in order to get a jump on the fall season, but planting them when it’s too warm will actually delay your enjoyment.

Pansies dislike temperatures above 70 degrees and their growth and flowering will be disappointing if planted while it’s still too warm. In Hampton Roads, temperatures usually don’t drop into the 70-degree range until almost October, so we are typically fully stocked in the beginning of October. If the weather moderates earlier, then we will have them in late September.

Pansies are often available at other suppliers, however, through our experience and research, pansies grown above 70 degrees will stretch, wilt and often die. Premature planting when temperatures are too warm may also result in yellowing leaves and leave them vulnerable to frost damage or pest and disease infestation.

October is the perfect month to plant pansies when the air temperatures have cooled off with day temperatures generally in the 70’s and ground temperature are still warm and aids in root growth and strong plants that will reward you with loads of blooms well into mid-April.

So remember, O before P (OCTOBER before PANSIES) and resist the temptation to purchase those pretty, little pansey faces before it’s time.

Double Dynamite® Crepe Myrtle

There’s just something about a crepe myrtle. Vibrant blossoms that radiate elegance on lengthy, artistic limbs that seem to beckon the summer sun. And, Hampton Road’s love affair with crepe myrtles is undeniable. Few plants can match their combination of stunning summer flowers, vibrant autumn foliage, and unique and beautiful exfoliating bark.

Double Dynamite® is one of the newest selections of crepe myrtles introduced by Dr. Carl Whitcomb. This variety features a double explosion of cherry-red flowers in full sun and uninterrupted blooming for 100 or more days. Its ability to bloom continuously on the same panicle makes it positively extraordinary. Double Dynamite grows to approximately 8 feet by 8 feet and is mildew resistant and heat tolerant. Its upright habit makes it the perfect choice in the landscape or container. To test your knowledge of the crepe myrtle click here.

Catch the Wave on this New and Unique Succulent, String of Dolphins

There’s a new succulent on the scene – String of Dolphins. This playful, succulent variety, otherwise known as Flying Dolphins, the Dolphin Necklace, or by its scientific name Senecio Peregrinus, is all the rage in the succulent world, and it’s easy to see why. The delightfully curved leaves that protrude from the stemmed vine look like jumping dolphins.

The Dolphin succulent can grow up to 6-inches tall and maintains its shape as it grows. This plant requires plenty of light but prefers indirect light. Perch them on a windowsill or table that gets plenty of sunlight. Like most succulents, this one will tolerate periods of dryness but will need to be kept moist enough to prevent the Dolphin leaves from puckering. Choose a well-draining potting soil, and use a container that is just a bit larger than the plant, since Dolphin plants thrive in slightly crowded conditions.

Succulents have never been more on trend than they are right now, and low maintenance succulents make for the perfect houseplant for those of any age to learn how to nurture their green thumb. Click on the link below to learn more about succulents.
Bring Home Succulent Style

The History of the Crepe Myrtle

The Crepe Myrtle offers beauty to the southern landscape in all seasons with summer flowers, fall color, winter bark and attractive foliage in spring.
Did you know Crepe Myrtles have been around for more than one thousand years? Now that's a tree that has certainly proven itself.

The Crepe Myrtle's roots actually begin in China, where it was named “Pai Jih Hung,” meaning hundred days red for its beautiful color and long bloom season. The Chinese also called it the “monkey tree” because monkeys could not climb the smooth, slippery trunks. This ornamental tree was especially favored by the Tang dynasty between 618 and 906.

With its English name derived from the myrtle-like leaves and crinkled tissue like petals, the Crepe Myrtle has been in cultivation in the United States for more than a century and a half. Some fine old specimens are found in many historic gardens throughout the South. A short list of likely ports suggests that Crepe Myrtles may have entered the country by way of Norfolk.

For twenty-five years or so, the late Dr. Donald Egolf of the National Arboretum worked to cross-breed Crepe Myrtle varieties, which resulted in a number of new hybrids that proved more disease-resistant, hardier, and more vigorous. All have mottled peeling bark, which can be very showy in winter. These hybrids are superior performers, offering better blooming success than the original Crepe Myrtles once did.

Now one of Hampton Roads most popular plants, the Crepe Myrtle is still called “the tree of one hundred days” due to its long flowering period. It’s a year round beauty planted in the landscape or in a container. And, best of all it loves the heat and humidity of a Tidewater summer.

It's no surprise that this heat-loving, humidity-thriving, drought tolerant, fast growing plant ranks as one the South's most popular ornamental tree! Be sure to check out the many Crepe Myrtle varieties during our 37th annual Crepe Myrtle Fest, July 19-21. To learn more about the Crepe Myrtle, check out our blog

How Well Do You Know Your Crepe Myrtle .

Snake Plant
Aloe Vera
Spider Plant
Golden Pothos
Peace Lily

Nature's Air Purifier, Plants for Clean Air

Indoor air pollution is an increasing problem today and according to the EPA, our homes can have three to five times more pollutants than the outdoors. Substances like xylene (in paint and lacquers), benzene (furniture wax, insect sprays) trichloroethylene (cleaners, adhesives), and formaldehyde (upholstery, air fresheners) can cause symptoms like headaches, sore throats, or allergy-like breathing troubles.

In 1989, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in collaboration with Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) conducted a Clean Air Study and published results featuring a complete list of plants that are most effective at purifying the air inside.

The study, led by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, found that some plants were effective at filtering out benzene, ammonia, and formaldehyde from the air, helping to counteract the effects of Sick Building syndrome. The study found that certain commonly used houseplants are very efficient in removing formaldehyde, trichloroethane, benzene and other air pollutants and replacing them with breathable oxygen. Here are a few common houseplants that made the list:

Snake Plants - add style and modern charm to any room with their upright, sword-like foliage. These plants help remove a variety of chemicals from the air, including nitrogen oxide and formaldehyde. Snake plants are very easy to care for and will even tolerate some neglect. They like bright light, but will grow in everything from direct sun to shade. Allow the soil to dry before watering.

Aloe Vera - listed as one of NASA’s top air-improving plants, aloe vera works much like the snake plant by emitting oxygen at night. Increased oxygen supply is believed to help with insomnia and improve overall quality of sleep. Aloe is a superb indoor plant and is easy to care for. Keep it on a bedroom window, as it requires direct sunlight. Unlike other houseplants, the aloe keeps water in its leaves, not the soil until it needs it so, be sure not to over water.

Spider Plant – this is one of the first plants shown to help clean the air, working best on formaldehyde. This member of the lily family prefers to hang as it sends out its runners and little offset plants that look like pretty little green and white spiders.

Golden Pothos - help remove formaldehyde and carbon dioxide from the air and their abundance of leaves yield freshly cleaned oxygen every day. This tropical vine is one of the most tolerant plants for low light. Don’t be afraid to cut the vines if they get too long. Remember, cutting plants stimulates growth.

Peace Lily - are celebrated for their ability to remove chemicals like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from the air. This easy to grow plant with its large leaves and interesting white flowers uses a lot of water and adds humidity to dry winter homes. It will tell you when it wants another drink by drooping its leaves.

To improve your indoor air quality, try using:

  • 1 - 8” or 10” sized houseplant per every 100 square feet
  • 1 - Small 4” or 6” sized houseplant in your personal breathing zone
    (6-8 cu. ft.), for example: placed on your desk or night stand.
  • 15 - 20 houseplants for 1500 sq. feet

Discover other plants that help purification the air (and even help you sleep better) on our blog, Go Green for a Better Night's Sleep . And, for a list of NASA approved air purifying plants check out NASA's Guide to Air Filtering Plants

Coneflower, Kismet Intense Orange
Kismet Intense Orange

Plant Premiere, Coneflower Kismet Intense Orange

A NEW coneflower introduction, Kismet Intense Orange is just the thing to bring color to an empty spot. Kismet features a long bloom time, blooming from summer until frost, and lots and lots of gorgeous, vivid, orange blooms. It has an upright, compact habit with a bloom-size of approximately 16 to 18-inches high that fits perfectly in most any outdoor space. This easy maintenance perennial is extremely drought tolerant, attracts pollinators & hummingbirds, and makes a beautiful cut flower.

Check out this video with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, to learn more about this amazing, NEW coneflower.

How to Feed the Plants in the Landscape
McDonald Green Leaf, Traditional and Organic

How to Feed Plants in the Landscape

All plants require specific nutrients from the soil. Overtime, plants in the landscape will draw essential nutrients out of the soil that need to be replenished. Fertilization is key, as plants need a lot of nutrients in order to sustain large growth and blooms. By consistently feeding, you are ensuring that your plants maintain all the nutrition necessary to grow and bloom big.

Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, walks you through how to feed plants in the landscape including annuals, perennials and trees and shrubs.

In this video, Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, shows you how to feed plants in the landscape.

Pollinator Pazlooza

National Pollinator Week & Pollinator Palooza

Join us for an un-BEE-lievably fun and educational week as we celebrate National Pollinator Week featuring Pollinator Palooza, an event filled with activities Wednesday-Sunday, June 19-23, 2019.

Learn about the importance of plants and pollinators and take advantage of great deals on pollinator plants to bee-utify your home and garden. Check out and attend one of our family-friendly, pollinator-inspired seminars, workshops or exhibits taking place throughout the week. Come see what all the buzz is about and help spread the word about what you can do to help protect and support the pollinators. A complete list of events and activities are listed below. Also, check out the video below with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, and discover plants that support and attract pollinators to your yard.


  • Monarch Butterfly Tent, Independence Boulevard, Wednesday – Sunday, June 19 - 22, 9am-6pm - featuring caterpillars, adult butterflies laying eggs on milkweed, pupating chrysalises, emerging chrysalises and live butterflies.
  • White Monarch Butterfly Exhibit, Independence Boulevard, Wednesday – Saturday, June 19 - 22, 9am-6pm - your once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these extremely rare, silvery, adult monarch butterflies.
  • Honey Bee Observation Hive – Independence Boulevard, Wednesday - Saturday, June 19-22, 9am-6pm.


  • Free Butterfly Tent Feedings – Independence Boulevard, Friday & Saturday, June 21-22, 10am-2pm.
  • Thumbprint Pots Kids’ Workshop, Independence Boulevard, Saturday, June 22, 11:00am • $15.
  • Free Kids’ Seminar: How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly, Independence Boulevard, Saturday, June 22, 11:30am.
  • Pollinator Container Workshop, Independence Boulevard, Saturday, June 22, 2:00pm • $40.
  • Free Seminar: How to Attract Pollinators Independence Boulevard, Saturday, June 22, 3:00pm.

Special Promotions/Giveaways

  • Ladybug Giveaway - Independence Boulevard, Friday, June 21, 2019 - First 100 customers will receive a FREE pack of ladybugs with purchase.
  • Milkweed Seed Pack Giveaway - Independence Boulevard, Saturday, June 22 - First 200 customers will receive a FREE pack of milkweed seeds with purchase.
  • Caterpillar Cabanas Available for Purchase (includes caterpilla, milkweed & habitat) - Independence, Great Neck, Cedar Road and Colony Square Markets, Wednesday - Saturday, June 19 – 22, 9am – 6pm, (while supplies last).
  • Monarch Chrysalises Available for Purchase - Independence Boulevard, Wednesday - Saturday, June 19 – 22, 9am – 6pm (while supplies last).
  • Great Deals on Pollinator Plants, Habitats & More – all McDonald locations, Monday - Sunday, June 17 -23, 9am-6pm, (selection varies by location, while supplies last).
  • Beekeepers with Local Honey for Purchase – Independence Boulevard, Friday & Saturday, June 21-22, 10am-2pm.

In this video, Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, educates you on plants that will attract pollinators to your yard.