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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.

Eastern Red Cedar
Wax Myrtle

Memory Garden Keeps You Connected

By Kathy Van Mullekom

Every time I move, I create my all-time favorite garden. Each is different and memorable.

First, there was the woodsy shade garden with camellias, azaleas, ferns and Japanese maples. Large-cupped, yellow Carlton daffodils emerged early spring under deciduous trees before they leafed out, and violet-flowering, cold- hardy geraniums (Geranium Rozanne) popped with summer color.

My next garden was totally the opposite – full-sun days called for roses, ornamental grasses and perennials. Black and Blue Salvia, milkweed, Joe-pye weed and coneflowers attracted bees, birds and butterflies, while Knock Out roses charmed the days with never-ending rosy-red and pink hues.

In both gardens, evergreens such as wax myrtle, eastern red cedars and arborvitae gave the gardens good “bones.”

At my newest garden, a retirement home in Virginia Beach, I’m establishing a “memory garden” that reminds me of those two long-loved gardens.

Ken and I cleared a small wooded area at the back of our grassy lawn. There, we planted three eastern red cedars, three Yuletide camellias, three wax myrtles and a couple hundred Carlton daffodils. I always plant in odd numbers, placing them in triangular or slightly staggered formations – much like floral arrangers do.

Our former gardens also featured numerous bird feeders, so our Virginia Beach site does, too.

Native eastern red cedar produces blue fruits in summer that birds feast on in winter. The large shrub, or small tree, grows 15 to 20 feet tall, with blue-green foliage that provides nesting sites and predatory protection for songbirds. The plant grows in full sun or dappled shade. During the holidays, bring in fragrant branches of the cedar to give your home fresh scents.

Wax myrtle is one of the most versatile home garden plants you can use. A large shrub or small tree, its lower and interior branches can be removed to show off its interesting branch structure. Planted closely together, wax myrtle makes a showy hedge that can grow naturally or sheared to shape. The native evergreen features soft, olive-green foliage with a spicy odor that repels insects and deer, according to gardening professionals. It grows in sun or shade, and wet or dry soil. In April, teeny flowers appear on male and female plants, but the females produce blue-gray fruits that birds love to eat August through October.

Yuletide is my all-time favorite camellia for several reasons: it stays relatively small, and flowers a holiday red at just the right time of the year, Thanksgiving to Christmastime. Its flowers are small but showy enough to brighten up a wooded area. The blossoms can be cut for holiday arrangements, and look stunning just floating in a pretty bowl of water. Camellias can be pruned immediately after they finish flowering, removing crossing and rubbing branches to allow air and light to infiltrate the plant and thereby reduce the possibility of disease and pests.

In addition, my memory garden contains nandinas to honor my grandparents who loved and grew them, as well as my favored Nikko blue-flowering hydrangeas.

Now, when I sit on my new paver patio and look toward the woods, I am reminded all the goodness gardening has brought into my life – yesterday, today and forever.

Kathy Van Mullekom gardens in southeastern Virginia Beach; contact her at

Fairy Gardening with Mike Westphal

Fairy Garden How-To's

Fairy gardening continues to be a trend we love and with all the customizable options the threshold for whimsy reaches glittery unicorn and pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow status! These miniature gardens bring magnanimous amounts of fun to all ages and are the perfect solution for a kid’s birthday party, bridal shower, girls night out, or anniversary. Or maybe it’s just you, your fairy garden supplies, and a nice pinot noir!? (sounds pretty magical to us!) Whatever may have sparked your interest, Mike Westphal is here to bring you all the latest tips, and simple how-to instructions so you can be successful with your fairy garden.  

Need some additional inspiration? Check out our Pinterest page

Mulch Madness, McDonald Garden Center Bagged Mulch

Mulch to Talk About

Selecting the Right Mulch

There is no one, universal mulch for everything. There are pros and cons to every mulching material. Whatever the material, mulch needs to stay put to be effective, but should also be easy to remove and apply.

Natural mulches are very common and are composed of plant matter. Examples include straw, shredded leaves, bark, pine needles or wood chips. These mulches decompose over time, which helps improve the soil but it also means they must be replaced once or twice a year. Colored mulches are made by adding a dye to a natural mulch. They typically come in colors such as brown, black or red. Whether you’re using rich black to make your perennial garden pop or soft red to accent your home, colored mulch gives you more flexibility and creativity in your garden.

8 Tips for Magnificent Mulching

Not all plants are the same, but these basic directions provide good rule-of-thumb guidelines for applying mulch.

  1. Spring fever. After a long, cold winter, nothing says Spring is here like a new bed of mulch. So apply mulch in the early Spring. Not only will it look great, it will help warm the soil and make your neighbors envious!
  2. Stay out of the weeds. Always weed before applying mulch.
  3. Scratch the surface. Lightly rake the soil to loosen up the surface before mulching.
  4. Feed first. This is an ideal time to feed evergreen and acid-loving plants such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Dogwoods and Hollies with a high quality plant food like Holly-tone. So before you mulch, apply it in a circle around the drip line of shrubs or trees.
  5. How mulch is too mulch. A uniform depth of 2 to 3 inches works for most mulches around established plants. Mulch that’s too deep can actually smother young plants.
  6. No volcanoes! Never pile up mulch next to anything. Keep mulches 2 to 3 inches away from the stems of woody plants and 6 to 12 inches away from buildings to avoid pests such as rodents or termites and other insects.
  7. Put a ring around it. When mulching around trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to a little beyond the drip line. The basic idea is to cover a realistic portion of the root system.
  8. Give it the smell test. Replenish or replace mulch when it decomposes. Mulch should smell woody

Content provided by Espoma.

Moelleux au Chocolat
Pot de Crème a la Lavande
Chef Manu Molion

Cusine de Jardin - Featured Confections from the Cooking with Herbs Seminar

Craving a little sweetness is not unfamiliar to any of us and for those of you who were fortunate enough to grab a seat at last weekend’s Outdoor Show seminar with Chef Manu, Cooking with Herbs, we promised we’d share his recipes for Moelleux au Chocolat and Pot de Crème a la Lavande. From a decadent, gooey, melting in the middle chocolate pudding to a creamy, mouth-watering custard infused with lavender, these two treats are sure to thrill anyone with a sweet tooth.

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Moelleux au Chocolat”


  • 4.5 oz. chocolate (ideally about 70% cocoa solids)
  • 3.5 oz. unsalted butter
  • 4.5 oz. sugar icing
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 eggs yolk
  • 3 thyme branches


  1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees.
  2. Melt the chocolate, thyme and butter in a double boiler.
  3. Mix together the sugar icing and flour in a separate bowl.
  4. Next add the eggs and mix well.
  5. Butter two ramekin dishes.
  6. Once chocolate and butter are melted, pour the mixture into the bowl with flour, sugar icing and eggs and mix completely.
  7. Pour mixture into the ramekins to about ¾ full.
  8. Cook for approximately 7 minutes.
  9. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through.
  10. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (there will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir.
  11. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins.
  12. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins to the top (it’s easier to spoon in the last little bit).

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - "Pot de Crème a la Lavande"


  • 1 carton of heavy cream (500 ml)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 lavender branches


  1. Preheat the oven to fan 230 degrees.
  2. Place four, 175ml ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm deep (or a large deep cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin.
  3. Pour the cream into a medium pan. Lay the vanilla pod on a board and slice lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife to split it in two.
  4. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in and set aside. Add the lavender to the pan.
  5. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand mixer until paler in color and a bit fluffy.
  6. Put the pan with the cream on medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear at the edges, remove the pan from heat.
  7. Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so, and scraping out the seeds from the pan.
  8. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through.
  9. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (there will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir.
  10. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins.
  11. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins to the top (it’s easier to spoon in the last little bit).