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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

Summer Watering Tips

Did you know that 90 percent of every plant is composed of water? This should give you some idea of how important watering your plants really is. Follow these watering guidelines to ensure your plants stay hydrated and healthy all season long:


  • Water between 5:00am-10:00am in order to prevent evaporation which occurs during the hottest part of the day. Morning is better than evening, since dampness encourages growth of fungus.
  • Water long enough to soak the roots. A light sprinkling evaporates quickly and results in shallow root systems.
  • Allow an inch of water per week on your lawn.
  • Adjust your hose to create a gentle rain. Sprinklers that produce a fine mist waste water due to evaporation.

Vegetable and Flower Gardens

  • Keep soil loose so water can easily penetrate.
  • Remove weeds to reduce competition for water.
  • Place the water where you want it and avoid evaporation by using soil-soakers or slow-running hoses, not sprinklers.
  • Too much water can be just as bad for plants as not enough. Plants that are submerged in water for too long may rot or drown from lack of oxygen.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Water deeply using a soil-soaker.
  • Water only when needed. Check the depth of soil dryness. While the surface may be dry, moisture is retained beneath the surface to sustain trees and shrubs.
  • Mulch to reduce evaporation. Add a 2" to 3" layer of wood chips, pine needles or grass clippings to keep soil cool in summer.
  • Mulch not only reduces weeds but also adds landscape interest.
  • Water plants growing in full sun more often than those in shade.
  • Do not fertilize during the summer. Fertilizing increases a plant's need for water.

Look for these plant clues for signs of over-watering or under-watering:

Signs of Over-Watering

  • Soil is constantly damp.
  • Leaves turn yellow or a lighter shade of green.
  • Young shoots are wilted.
  • Leaves are brittle but still green.
  • Algae and mushrooms are growing.

Signs of Under-Watering

  • Soil is dry.
  • Older leaves turn yellow or brown, and drop off.
  • Leaves are wilted or curl.
  • If your plants and flowers look wilted during the hottest time of the day, it doesn’t always mean they need watering. As long as the top of the soil is moist, you probably don’t need to water. Wilting is a self-protective mechanism to prevent too much moisture loss from the root area. Wait and see if the plants perk up after the sun goes down.

TIP: Does my container need watering? Do the finger test - Insert your finger down into the soil. If the soil is dry from the tip of your finger to your first knuckle, it’s time to water.

Be sure to join the Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, at 11AM, for a Facebook LIVE seminar on WATERING TIPS, TRICKS AND TOOLS. To go directly to our Facebook page click here.

The Garden Guru's Guide to Planting a Pollinator Garden

Butterflies and other pollinators are a beautiful and important addition to any garden. With the right plants and understanding of their needs, you’ll not only have these winged beauties in your backyard, but you’ll learn how to get them to stay longer! Before creating a butterfly garden, it’s important to consider which perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, and pollinator-safe solutions are best to support and attract butterflies to your garden all season long.


Soil is a key component in any type of garden. Determine the type of soil you have - clay-base or sandy - and incorporate the soil amendments that will enhance your soil type.

TIP: Amendments for clay and sandy-based soils. For Clay-based soil - use 1/3 your soil + 1/3 compost +1/3 perlite. For Sandy-based soil use 1/3 soil + 1/3 compost + 1/3 peat moss.


Sun vs. Shade

  • Most butterfly plants require full sun, so you’ll need to find a good, full sun location that gets at least four to six hours of sunlight.
  • Determine the size of the area you’d like to plant. Do you want a large, in-ground garden or a small container garden?
  • Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that require the sun’s warmth to help their bodies work. However, you can grow both host and nectar flowering plants in shaded gardens adjacent to sun-drenched areas like driveways or patios.

Host Plants vs Nectar Plants


  • Butterflies are drawn to nectar-producing plants like marigolds, rhododendrons, blackberries, etc.
  • They are also drawn to color, especially red, orange, yellow, and purple.
  • Plant in groups of three to make them easier for pollinators to see.


Trees & Shrubs – butterfly bush, azaleas, rose of sharon, weigela, lilac, sweetspire, crepe myrtles, and redbuds, and pawpaw (zebra swallowtail).
Annuals – pentas, petunias, zinnias, lantana, verbena, and dahlias.
Perennials – coneflowers, bee balm, black eyed susan, joe pye weed, salvia, agastache, coreopsis, lantana, hollyhock, asters, goldenrod, yarrow, and veronica.


These plants are ideal for butterflies to lay their eggs on, with milkweed being the most popular. We recommend using a few different types of host plants to maximize your butterfly garden’s potential. Host plants also attract certain types of butterflies.

Types of Milkweed include swamp, common, tropical (annual), and butterfly weed.

  • Monarchs – butterfly or milkweed (tropical is annual), swamp milkweed, and common milkweed.
  • Swallowtail – fennel, dill, and parsley
  • Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw
  • Tiger Swallowtail – tulip poplar trees, and wild black cherries


  • Grouping plants together makes it easier for butterflies to locate them.
  • Select based on bloom time.
  • Do you want blooms through the fall or just for the summer?
  • Consider plant size (height and width).


  • Flat rocks for sunning to keep them warm.
  • Cool shady spots for them to cool off.
  • Water Source – low clay saucer with some rocks, a butterfly bath, or birdbath.
  • Grasses for windbreak and overwintering eggs as well as a place for butterflies to hide.
  • If using a container, be sure to add different plants and elements such as rocks and small dishes for water.


  • Perennials - most will need to be deadheaded.
  • Water Plants - water deep and often.
  • Mulch - to control weeds and produce better plants.
  • Feed Your Plants - McDonald Greenleaf (traditional or organic).
  • Insect Control - avoid using insecticides that may harm pollinators. Instead, use ladybugs or McDonald organic solutions.

To learn more about pollinators plants click here.
To learn more about attracting pollinators click here.

Tropical Hibiscus

Lost in Paradise, How to Achieve a Tropical Look Inside and Out

Tropical style is easy to achieve when using the right plants. No matter the climate, there are plenty of plants suitable for creating a tropical vibe in just about any space whether it be indoors, on a porch or patio, or in the landscape. Plants used do not necessarily have to be tropical in nature; they just need to contribute to the overall tropical feel.

Using bold colored annuals, perennials, houseplants, trees and shrubs in reds, yellows, oranges, maroons, pinks, greens, and purples can help achieve a tropical feel. Incorporate plants that have interesting patterns, shapes, textures, and movement. In larger spaces, add a few outdoor accessories such as a fountain or bench, brightly colored pots, and decorative wall art to complete the look.


Houseplants are an easy way to add color and create a tropical vibe indoors. In addition to their lush leaves, many of these tropical species produce gorgeous blooms indoors. Some are even fragrant! Use these houseplants to bring the tropics indoors:

croton • bird of paradise • banana plant • elephant ear • philodendron • conjo rojo • bromeliad • palms •anthurium • cordyline • peace lily • orchid

TIP: All indoor plants go through an acclimation period to adjust to a new indoor environment (from greenhouse to home). Don’t be alarmed if they drop some leaves initially. Refrain from repotting for approximately six months to give them plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment. Another tip, when bringing indoor houseplants outside, be sure to acclimate before exposing them to bright light.


Don’t let limited outdoor space prevent you from trying out your tropical green thumb. Incorporating flowering plants, small trees and shrubs, hanging baskets, and combination planters are key to growing in small spaces. Mix in vibrant colored accessories like pillows, an outdoor rug, colorful pots, and decorative wall art.


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. Understanding “thriller, fillers and spillers” will help you to create an eye-catching combination. Once you’ve selected your container, start selecting the plants.

THRILLER - Choose a thriller plant to go center stage. It should be taller than the rest and stand out due to it’s color and strong stature. Shade Thrillers: fern • majesty palm • red sister.

Sun Thrillers:
tropical hibiscus • geraniums • ornamental grasses

FILLER - Select flowers that fill in the area directly around your thriller. These will add depth to your planter.

Shade Fillers:
impatiens • green leaf begonias • ferns • stromanthe • anthurium

Sun Fillers:
diamond frost euphorbia • marigolds • petunias • lantana • vinca • bronze leaf begonia

SPILLER - Finally, add blooms or foliage that gently cascade over the edge of your container. Spillers add dimension and a little added drama.

Shade Spillers:
lysimachia • Ivy • fern

Sun Spillers:
bacopa • sweet potato vine • verbena • trailing Petunias • million bells

TIP: Hanging baskets are a quick and easy way to create a tropical container. Remove plant from the hanging basket container and drop into a pot.


In the landscape, use saturated colored plants mixed with big, bold foliage like elephant ear or a banana tree for added layers and texture. Mix in some brightly colored garden accessories like an umbrella, seat cushions and pillows, an outdoor carpet, and decorative wall art to tie it all togehter. Add a water
feature or fire pit to invoke a sense of peace and tranquility.

TIP: It’s important to keep in mind that while tropical landscape design styles are more free-form than modern or traditional gardens, you still need to be aware of the sunlight requirements of the plant you choose. Choose from these sun and shade-loving options for a tropical look indoors or outdoor:


Annuals for Sun:
mandevilla • scaveola • lantana• tropical hibiscus • marigold • million bells • crossondra • vinca • bronze leaf begonia • pentas • dahlias • geraniums

Perennials for Sun:
elephant ear • Mexican petunia• pineapple lily • perennial hibiscus • purple heart • coreopsis • Miss Huff lantana • black-eyed susan• daylilies • cannas • coneflowers • sedums & succulents • ornamental grasses • rudbeckia • coreopsis • salvia

Shrubs for Sun:
Gold mop cypress • abelia kaleidoscope • golden euonymus • pittosporum • oleander • yucca • boxwood • knock out rose

Trees for Sun:
windmill palm • crepe myrtles • basjoo banana


Annuals for Shade:
shrimp plant • caladium • New Guinea impatiens • coleus • sweet potato vine • begonia (dragon wing & green leaf) • diamond frost euphorbia>/i>

Perennials for Shade:
perennial ferns • heuchera • hosta • peonies • hellebores • columbine

Shrubs for Shade:
fatsia • plum yew • hydrangea • camellia • golden euonymus

Trees for Shade:
Japanese maple

To learn more about options for tropical-like plants click here.

Perennial Fern
Shasta Daisy
Hens and Chick & Sedum
Mrs. Huff Lantana

The Garden Guru's Top Ten Perennials

From their spring appearance, seasonal flowering, and gentle decline, perennials play a vital role in the garden. McDonald Garden Center’s Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, shares his top ten perennials for Hampton Roads.


Perennials grow back each year from roots that go dormant in the soil in the winter.


Daylilies are often referred to as the perfect perennial for lots of reasons. Not only do they come in a variety of colors and sizes, but they also survive in a wide range of climates, often with very little care.

  • Full sun.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Come in an assortment of colors, yellows, reds, corals, etc.
  • Repeat bloomers.
  • Little deadheading require but will help them to continue to bloom.
  • Available in both compact and larger varieties.
  • Can be divided in early spring or fall (after they finish blooming).
  • Deer resistant.

Daylily Varieties:
Happy Returns • Stella d ora • Rosy Returns

#9 - FERNS

Ferns provide excellent texture in the shade garden and can be planted as companions to bright blooms or as stand-alone in the landscape.

  • Shade-loving (prefers afternoon shade).
  • Low maintenance.
  • Great for containers and growing in the landscape.
  • Add texture and movement in the landscape.
  • Available in a variety of colors (light, dark and bluish-green), and ornamental patterns (deep cut, serrated, or lacy details).
  • Can be divided.
  • Most are evergreen in our area.
  • Great as a filler in cut arrangements.
  • Deer resistant.

Fern Varieties:
Autumn Brilliance • Japanese Painted Fern • Tassel Fern • Hollyhock Fern • Ostrich Fern


Shasta daisies are an all-time favorite for the home garden and mix beautifully with other perennials. The large, pure white flowers and smooth, long stems make them perfect for cutting.

  • Full sun.
  • Hardy, tough plant.
  • Ideal in the landscape.
  • Lots of bloom power.
  • Produce classic daisy-shaped blooms.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Minimal deadheading required.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Available in different colors (white is the most prevalent).
  • Come in different sizes.
  • Use in cut flower arrangements.
  • Can divide.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant.

Shasta Daisy Varieties:
Becky Shasta Daisy • Goldfinch Daisy • Crazy Daises


Rudbeckia are brightly colored perennials in shades of yellow, orange, and gold. They bloom for weeks in the summer garden with minimal care. They’re also a
favorite of pollinators.

  • Full sun.
  • Summer blooming.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Spreading habitat.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Attracts pollinators.
  • Great as a cut flower.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant.

Rudbeckia Varieties:
Goldstrum Rudbeckia • Mini Beckia Flame


Hens & chicks are mat-forming succulents that produce clusters of rosettes. The parent rosettes are the “hens,” and the smaller rosettes that spring from them are the “chicks”. This low-growing perennial spreads quickly.

  • Full sun (some varieties will grow in light shade).
  • Low maintenance.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Great as a groundcover.
  • Foliage can be red, green or a mixture thereof (some produce flowers).
  • Offers lots of texture in pots or in the landscape.
  • Available in purple, tricolored, greens, rosy-reds/pinks, etc.
  • Most are evergreen in our area.
  • Ideal in containers or in the landscape.

Hens and Chicks/Succulent Varieties
Little Miss Sunshine (stone crop) • Jaden Rose • Commander Hay • Odon • Autumn Fire


Perennial grasses are treasured for their hardiness, ease of care, dramatic appearance, and the wide variety of colors, textures, and sizes available. Large or small, grass brings rich texture, contrast and movement to most any space throughout all seasons.

  • Most grasses prefer full sun but some varieties can take shade to part shade.
  • Durable.
  • Versatile and easy to grow.
  • Beautiful plumes and some flowers.
  • Use in containers or in the landscape.
  • Great planted in masses.
  • Most bloom late summer fall.
  • Cut back in March/April (six to eight inches from the ground).

Grass Varieties:
Pampas • Sea Oat • Hamelin Pennisetum • Little Bunny • Pink Muhly • Blue Dune Fescue • Juncus Blue Arrow • Carex Everillo Sedge Grass • Liriope • Mexican Feather Grass • Horsetail Reed • Mondo • Black Mondo


Heucheras, also known as coral bells or alum root, are shade perennials known mostly for their striking, robust foliage. Heucheras begin to bloom in late spring and produce clusters of small blooms on spindly stems, typically in a magenta pink (hence the name coral bells).

  • shade-loving.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Gorgeous colors and leaf patterns.
  • Features wands of delicate cream to red bell shaped flowers.
  • Adds texture.
  • Great as a filler in containers or mixed in with other blooms in the landscape.
  • Blooms all season long.
  • Deer resistant.

Heuchera Varieties:
Carnival Black Olive • Redstone • Pumpkin Spice • Midnight Rose


Hostas can turn a dull, shady part of the yard into an beautiful, low-maintenance landscape. Unlike most perennials, hostas are grown for their colorful foliage rather than for their flowers. There are many varieties
to choose from, each with its own unique leaf shape, size, and color.

  • Shade-loving
  • Easy to grow.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Available in lots of varieties, sizes, and colors
  • (Variegated and non-variegated leaf patterns).
  • Easy to grow in containers and in the landscape.
  • Attracts butterflies.

Hosta Varieties:
Patriot • Mighty Mouse • Curly Fries • Great Expectations • White Margin • Empress Blue


Salvias, also called sages, are easy to grow, bloom abundantly, and are a beautiful addition to the landscape. The blooms offer long-lasting color and attract butterflies and pollinators. Available in different varieties and colors including blues, purples, pinks, reds as well as some whites and yellows.

  • Full sun.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Heat tolerant.
  • Comes in whites, pinks, reds, purples, yellows, and whites.
  • Attracts pollinators.
  • Deer resistant.

Salvia Varieties:
Blue Marvel • Snow Hill • Hot Lips • Mexican Bush Sage • Black and Blue


This easy-to-grow perennial boasts vibrant yellow, pink & orange blooms and loves the summer heat! You simply can’t beat lantana for summer-long blooms and heat tolerance.

  • Full sun.
  • Easy to grow and durable.
  • Bush-like habitat (can grow large).
  • Available in oranges, reds, and pinks.
  • Great in containers, hanging baskets and in the landscape.
  • Heat and drought tolerant.
  • No deadheading required.
  • Can be pruned to desired shape.
  • Attract pollinators.
#10 - Geraniums
#9 - Petunias and Million Bells
#9 - Millions Bells
#8 - Coleus
#7 - Euphorbia (Diamond Frost and Diamond Snow)
#6 - Hibiscus
#5 - Impatiens (New Guinea and SunPatiens)
#5 - Impatiens, New Guinea
#5 - Impatiens, SunPatiens
#4 - Portulaca and Purslane
#3 - Scaveloa
#2 - Begonias (Green and Bronze Leaf)
#1 - Lantana

The Garden Guru's Top Ten Annuals for Hampton Roads

Whether you’re looking to fill a window box, add a little curb appeal to your front walk, or just fill in a few gaps in the landscape, annuals are just what your garden needs to get it from now to WOW! McDonald Garden Center’s Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, shares his top ten annuals for Hampton Roads.


Annual plants live for one growing season and then die, while perennials regrow every spring.


With a distinctive bloom and ruffly, textured leaves, geraniums give big color all spring and summer long. There’s lots of choices when it comes to color and variety.

  • Loves the sun but can take some shade.
  • Heat tolerant.
  • Available in lots of colors - reds, pinks, whites, and corals.
  • Great in containers, hanging baskets, or in the landscape.
  • Heavy feeders, so continue to feed to support bloom production throughout the growing season (fertilize every three to four weeks in containers and four to five weeks in-ground).
  • Deadhead geraniums regularly to prevent seed production and extend the length of the flowering season by forcing more energy into flower production.



Petunias are easy to grow and come in an almost unlimited assortment of colors, shapes, and sizes. From compact to mounding habits, there’s a petunia to fit any garden situation.

  • Sun loving/full sun.
  • Prolific bloomer.
  • Heavy feeders, so continue to feed to support bloom production throughout the growing season (fertilize every three to four weeks in containers and four to five weeks in-ground).
  • Ideal in containers, hanging baskets, and in the landscape.
  • Don’t require a lot of deadheading in the landscape but will need to be pruned/deadheaded when planted in containers.

TIP: Petunias have a tendency to get leggy and bloom less heavily in late summer. Shear the plants back by one third to encourage new growth and then fertilize them to give them a second wind.


Million bells are an easy to grow annual that produces one-inch blossom that resemble tiny petunias. A classic spiller plant, it has a trailing habit, and looks great in hanging baskets, bowls, or mixed containers.

  • Sun loving/full sun.
  • Prolific bloomer.
  • Comes in a rainbow of colors - solids and two-tones, stripes, patterns, and double blooms.
  • Compact oval-shaped leaves.
  • Ideal in containers, hanging baskets, and in the landscape.
  • Heavy feeders, so continue to feed to support bloom production throughout the growing season (fertilize every three to four weeks in containers and four to five weeks in-ground).
  • Like petunias, these don’t require a lot of deadheading in the landscape, but you can pinch back regularly to encourage a more compact growth habit in containers.


Coleus plants give color all-season long in full sun, shade, and everything in between.Their bold and beautiful foliage makes them the center of attention
no matter where they’re planted.

  • Sun or shade – depending on the variety.
  • Available in lots of beautiful foliage colors and color combinations (greens, reds, oranges, purples, etc.).
  • Great as a standalone in containers or paired with sweet potato vine, etc..
  • Feed regularly (about every two to three weeks for container-grown and every four to six week for in-ground plants).
  • Water regularly, keeping soil moist.
  • Keep plants looking tidy and maintain their size and shape by pinching or trimming stem tips.
  • To promote denser and more compact growth, pinch out flower spikes before they elongate.


Diamond frost

Diamond Frost produces delicate, gray-green foliage with petite, white blossoms. This plant is tough and is both heat and drought tolerant. Diamond Frost has unstoppable flower power, and blooms all summer long.

  • Full sun to part shade.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Perfect in hanging baskets or as a filler in containers.

Diamond Snow

Diamond Snow has the same habit and easy-to-grow features as the original favorite, Diamond Frost, but it features double white flowers and a mounding habit.

  • Full to partial sun.
  • Great in hanging baskets, as a standalone in containers or as a filler in mixed containers, or as a border in the landscape.


Annual hibiscus is an easy to grow variety that features big, bold blooms that creates an instant tropical feel. Plant in the garden or pot up several plants to create vibrant focal points around a deck, patio, or pool.

  • Tropical and loves full sun.
  • Blooms all summer long.
  • Comes in white, pink, red, orange, yellow, and bi-color.
  • Use in garden beds and containers.
  • Heavy feeders, so continue to feed to support bloom production throughout the growing season (fertilize every three to four weeks in containers and four to five weeks in-ground).
  • Remove spent blooms.
  • Pruning helps maintain a nice shape and size and encourages a fuller plant.
  • Bring hibiscus in during the winter to keep them year-round.
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.


Impatiens flowers have much to offer, including shade-tolerance, long-lasting blooms, and brightly colored blossoms that come in a variety of colors.

New Guinea

New Guinea impatiens provide long-blooming flower power for a part sun to shade areas in the garden.

  • Part sun to shade.
  • Low maintenance and high performing.
  • Blooms in pastels and vibrant colors including white, red, pink, violet, coral, purple, and yellow.
  • Use in containers, hanging baskets and in the landscape.
  • No deadheading required.


SunPatiens flourish in full sun, high heat, and high humidity, making them perfect for Hampton Roads’ summers.

  • Grow in sun or shade (more tolerant of sun).
  • Low maintenance and high performing.
  • Blooms in pastels and vibrant colors including white, red, pink, violet, coral, purple, and yellow.
  • Use in containers, hanging baskets, and in the landscape.
  • No deadheading required.

Garden Impatiens

Typical garden variety impatien.

  • Shade-tolerance
  • Long-lasting blooms.
  • Available in a variety of colors.>
  • Use as a bedding plant, in containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes.

#4 - Portulaca & Purslane


Portula is a popular, drought-tolerant annual that loves the hot, dry days of summer. These plants are low-growing spreaders with thick succulent leaves and vibrant, cup-shaped flowers.

  • Sun loving.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Dome-shaped habit with thick, succulent-like leaves.
  • Come in a variety of colors - pink, coral, red, yellow, and white.
  • Fertilize and shape to keep them looking their best.
  • Attracts pollinators.


Purslane is a tough, vigorous, low-growing
annual flower that thrives in hot, dry conditions and adds tons of color with a minimum of care.

  • Loves full sun.
  • Flatter leaf than its cousin portulaca.
  • Thrives in hot, dry conditions (drought tolerant).
  • Blooms in lots of bright colors - yellow, orange, rose, red, and white.
  • Use in beds, borders, containers, and hanging baskets.
  • Fertilize and shape to keep them looking their best.


Scaveloa is a easy care, heat loving plant with spoon-shaped leaves and fan-shaped flowers. Its thick stems ensure drought tolerance in full sun locations.

  • Loves full sun.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Trailing habit.
  • Produces blue, pink, or white flowers.
  • Good in containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets.
  • Feed in containers every three to four weeks.
  • No deadheading required.
  • Attracts butterflies.


Begonias are an easy to grow annual that does well in a variety of conditions and needs little to thrive. Begonias plants are grown for both their leaf forms and their blooms and are available in many different leaf colors, shapes, sizes, and colors.

Green Leaf Begonia

  • Designed for shade
  • Easy to grow.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Gumdrop/round habit.
  • Use in the landscape, hanging baskets, or containers.
  • Available in pinks, whites, and reds.
  • No deadheading required.

Bronze Leaf

  • Full sun.
  • Easy grow and versatile.
  • Comes in white, pink, or red.
  • Use in the landscape, hanging baskets, or containers.
  • Feed in containers every three to four weeks.


Big Leaf (available in bronze and green leaf) • Dragon Wing • Angel Wing • Solenia


Lantana are a durable, easy-to-grow plant that thrives in drought and harsh sunlight conditions. Lantana boasts tons of brightly colored flowers all summer and into fall.

  • Needs full sun.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Tolerant of both drought and humid conditions.
  • Comes in purple, red, orange, white, pink, yellow, and bi-color.
  • Use in containers, hanging baskets, and in the landscape.
  • Some varieties have spreading habit while others have open habit or compact habit.
  • Deadheading is not required (prune longer branches if desired).
  • Can cut the plant back by one-third if lantana gets long and leggy in midsummer, or just shear the tips.
  • Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

To learn how to care for summer annuals click here.

Chinese Evergreen (aglaonema)
Snake Plant (Mother-in-law's tongue)
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Monstera (Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron)

Bring Life to Your Virtual Space, Zoom-worthy Plants

These days, video chat is the new normal and a vital tool for staying connected with family, friends, and coworkers. And whether you’re looking to up your game for working from home meetings or impress your friends at a virtual happy hour the only thing more important than your face is your zoom-room background.

Looking for ways to take you video calls to the next level? Why not add a little greenery to your virtual interior. Plants can boost your mood, increase productivity and efficiency, and add texture and color to any space. From a large, sculptural plant filling in a drab corner to charming succulents for a desktop- there's a place for plants in every home. Share your green thumb and beautify your cybernetic background and your home with some of these low maintenance, zoom-worthy plants:


Snake Plants (Mother-in-law’s tongue) add style and modern charm to any room with their upright, sword-like foliage that can grow to four-feet in height. Snake plants are 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. Use larger snake plant varieties to fill a vacant corner or place smaller varieties on a table or desktop.

Chinese Evergreens (aglaonema) are another versatile, low light houseplant option. Adored for their big, beautiful, colorful leaves, their low-maintenance requirements and their ability to adapt to a variety of conditions makes them great for houseplant beginners. Aglaonema will tolerate a wide range of lighting scenarios from very low light to bright but not direct sunlight. A moderate drying between waterings is okay, but the soil shouldn’t dry out completely. Perfect on tabletops and desktops.


Monstera (Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron) is a tropical favorite. The foliage is deep green and lush with an intricate cut-leaf shape. As a tropical plant, it’s no surprise that monstera likes warm indoor temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees. A little humidity makes them feel right at home. Monstera prefers bright or filtered, indirect light. Water when soil becomes dry. Use larger plants on the floor by a table or sofa or to fill an empty corner.

Anthuriums are a low maintenance, flowering plant that boasts heart-shaped blooms and comes in several colors including pink, purple, red, and white. Anthuriums do best in bright, filtered light. Water enough to keep the soil lightly moist but never wet. The bright, showy flowers make a great color accent on a table, desk, bookshelf, or countertop.


Fiddle Leaf Figs are a wildly popular houseplant with large, heavily veined, violin-shaped leaves that grow upright on a tall plant. Fiddle leaf figs are native to the tropics, where they thrive in very warm, high light conditions. Give them a vacation outside during warmer months and bring them indoors when cold weather sets in. Fiddle leaf figs perform best in bright light. Perfect in any sunny room location.

Succulents are one of the most versatile plants on the globe. Because they have shallow roots, they can survive without a great deal of care and thrive in drought-like conditions. Succulents also come in a variety of shapes and colors. Succulents prefer bright light, the brighter the better. 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. Succulents can be used in all sorts of ways; as table arrangements, on a desk, in a bookshelf, on a kitchen island, or in a bathroom– the skies the limit.

To read our blog on "The 5 Easiest Houseplants"click here.

To learn more about caring for houseplants click here.

A Get-Away-From-It-All, Secret Garden

Do you dream of a little spot tucked away in the back corner of the yard? A place where you can retreat and have some time to yourself. Maybe have a glass of wine and enjoy the colors and fragrances of the garden. If you’re feeling tense and irritable in quarantine with a crew, you are not alone — it’s likely a sign you may need some alone time. Even just ten minutes alone can do wonders for your psychological well-being. Well, you may want to consider a secret garden. There is no need for high brick walls or giant iron gates. The only requirement for a secret garden is that it be hidden. It doesn't need to be a large space, it simply needs to be secret, and you can do that with plants. Here are our recommendations for creating a secret spot:

This can be accomplished with Ligustrum, Rose of Sharon, or any quick growing shrub. Screening even one corner with a hedge or placing a trellis with climbing vines can create a feeling of enclosure.

A flagstone path leading to the secret garden will complete the feeling that you are actually entering a separate place but to really make you feel as if you have your own special space, use a gate or a trellis at the entrance. For the trellis - or for the sides of the gate - any climbing flower will work such as Madison jasmine, honeysuckle, or mandevilla. Or, just create a little space between shrubs that allows you to slip through.

Consider a fountain, a peaceful resting bench, a statue, a birdbath, or even a unique planting such as a weeping cherry, or ornamental plum. Create your pathway through the entry leading right to your focal point. Plant ground covers or bright annuals around the focal point. Consider planting fragrant blooms like iris, gardenias, daphne, and daffodils that will bloom at different times during the season.

Add a couple of chairs or a wrought-iron bench, and your secret garden is ready for visitors - but only if you invite them!

Read our blog about "Living Fences" click here.

To learn more about adding structures to your garden click here.

Peppers, From Hot to Not

Whether you prefer the cool crunch of a sweet bell pepper or the feisty fire of a chili pepper, nothing beats the flavor of a freshly picked pepper. Their rich green leaves, compact form, and brightly colored fruit make them a contender for most any garden space. Nowadays, there are – literally – hundreds of varieties to choose from and deciding what to grow is half the fun!

Peppers comes in a variety of flavors, from sweet to mild to blistering hot. And when it comes to peppers, there’s one thing most pepper enthusiasts can agree on – the Scoville Scale for peppers.

What is the Scoville Scale?
Invented by American Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, the Scoville Scale measures the capsaicin concentration in units (the chemical compound that causes spicy heat). Simply put, it is a way to tell how hot a pepper is going to be. The higher the number, the hotter the pepper. The original Scoville test involved feeding peppers to volunteers, but thanks to modern-day science, we no longer need people to volunteer to taste hot peppers. Today, in order to obtain more accurate results, scientists use a technique called High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to determine the exact concentration of capsaicin in a pepper. The Scoville Scale remains the most widely used and respected when it comes to measuring the heat of a pepper.

Here are a few of our favorite from hot to not pepper selections (Scoville units are indicated in parenthesis for each of the peppers below):


Bell (0 unites) - Green pepper that ripens to yellow or red with a grassy flavor and super-crunchy texture. Can be eaten either raw or cooked. Often dried and powdered (paprika) and is popular for stuffing with ground meat or quinoa and veggies.

Banana (100-500 units) - Long, curved-shape yellow pepper that is mild and tangy in flavor. Perfect for pickling and tasty in salads and on sandwiches.

Poblano (1,000–1,500 units) – Ripen from dark green to rust red. Used to make chile rellenos and is often dried and ground into chile powder. Nice in salsas or when you want some heat but not too much.


Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 units) – Medium-sized chile pepper with a mild to moderate amount of heat. Used to flavor everything from salsas to chili to salad dressings.

Serrano (10,000-23,000 units) - Hot, pungent, candle-shaped fruits that mature from green to bright red. Good for pickling or in salsas. The pepper of choice for making Pico de Gallo.

Cayenne (50,000-100,000 units) – 6 to 7-inch long fruit, slightly hotter than jalapenos. Excellent steeped in oil or vinegar for flavorful condiments. Enjoy fresh, canned, or pickled.

Thai Chilies (50,000-100,000) - are an essential ingredient to many tasty Thai and Asian dishes. Used to complement curries, stir-fries, sauces, soups, and salads.

Habaneros (100,000-350,000) - Small orange peppers that may also come in red, yellow, brown, and green variants. Used in salsas, sauces, and any dish requiring some heat.


Caribbean Hot Red (300,000-445,000 units) - Produces 1 ¾-inch long by 2-inch wide wrinkled, hot peppers that ripen from lime green to a brilliant red. Same distinctive taste as habanero but hotter. Excellent for use in salsas, marinades, and hot sauces.

Ghost Pepper (855,000-1,041,427 units) - Ripe peppers measure 2.5 to 3.3-inches long with a red, yellow, orange, white, purple, or chocolate color. Intense sweet chili flavor (heat does not kick in for 30 – 45 seconds). Used in hot sauces or dehydrated and ground into powders or chili flakes.

Trinidad Scorpion (1,200,000–2,000,000 units) - Wrinkled, lantern-shaped fruit ripens to a searing red orange. Take caution even when touching the leaves. Wear gloves while handling and chopping.

Carolina Reaper (1,400,000–2,200,000 units) - Has been called the hottest pepper in the world to date. 2 to 3-inch bright red pepper with a unique stinger tail that is unlike any other pepper. Insanely hot with an underlying sweet flavor with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones.

Can you take the heat? There are many benefits to eating hot peppers. Capsaicin seems to have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and is an ingredient used to treat conditions from arthritis to psoriasis. Some scientists speculate that the brain releases endorphins in response to the discomfort produced by the chile pepper’s burn- often referred to as a “hot pepper high”.

To view our video "Tips for Growing Peppers" click here.

Small patio, weathered pergola, and ample seating.
Hedges for privacy and structure.
A fountain as a water feature or as a focal point.
Add color, contrast and texture.

10 Essentials of Great Gardens

When you find yourself in a sensational garden it’s difficult to say just what it is that makes it so great. And garden spaces don't have to be large to be great. This small corner of lawn—with a small patio, weathered pergola, and ample seating —is perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day.

Additionally, we all respond in various ways to different things based on our memories of past experiences. If we had a particularly pleasant garden experience in childhood (haven’t we all?), those pleasant feelings will recur when we find ourselves in similar settings.

There are, however, key characteristics of great gardens that, when combined in a skillful, artistic way, work together to create beautiful, satisfying, and even great gardens. While we sometimes call smaller areas “gardens” (rose garden, vegetable, herb and cutting gardens etc.), these are all just part of our larger gardens. Here are our 10 essential elements of a great garden.

The best gardens have a sense of enclosure. They may not be completely surrounded, but there must be a sense of refuge, a feeling of safety and privacy. Visual boundaries don’t necessarily need to be inside your property line (“borrowed” scenery is a classic garden element), but great gardens are all verdant “spaces apart.” Enclosure can also provide a literal or psychological sound barrier for unwanted noise.

The very best gardens are a reflection of their creators’ and owners’ personalities. Unless you’re slavishly copying something from a book, magazine or Instagram, you can’t help but create something unique if you choose plants and garden decor you love. Never be afraid to experiment. If you like it, it works.

Gardens are not meant to just walk through. They’re for relaxation, conversation and solitary daydreaming. Gardens are also the best way to reconnect with nature. Make sure you have a place to rest and enjoy nature’s creatures and their activities and the beauty of all kinds of plants.

Where summers are hot, shade in the garden is essential. You’ll want to place your seating areas where there’s protection during the hottest hours of the day. In evenings, light plays an important role. String lights are a simple and inexpensive way to invite guests to visit various parts of a garden, or you can have a professionally designed lighting plan installed.

Everything in a garden, just like room décor indoors, can’t be of equal importance. Our eyes need a place to rest. So create one, or just a few, primary focal points and, if your garden is large, some secondary points. The objects of these points can be sculpture, a water feature, a bench, or a striking plant. Add surrounding plants and other materials that support, but not compete with these focal points.

Great gardens are places of exploration, surprise and even mystery. Break up large spaces into smaller rooms by using hedges. Use gates at transition points to provide an element of surprise when opened. Create a few deep flower or shrubs beds that invite deeper inspection. Unusual and intriguing plants are yet another way to create surprise and invite exploration.

Color is usually the first thing we think about when planning a garden. But remember, green is a color, too. It’s one of the most restful, and luxuriant ones as well. And there are a zillion tones of it. Nothing wrong with a sophisticated and subtle all-green garden where texture and shape provide the pleasure.

When leaf and flower size and shape are too similar, a restless, busy garden is the result. You may not be able to put your finger on why you don’t care for certain plant combinations, but it’s usually because there’s no contrast in shape or size. Extreme contrast of either creates a lot of interest and drama.

Here’s a subtle element. Rhythm is not confined to music. If you don’t repeat key colors, shapes, what you end up with is an odd collection, not a garden. Once again, they eye can’t rest. Repeat key colors, plants or textures. It will create minor resting points and unity.

Water (moving or not) provides a cooling sensation. But it can also change the character of a garden space—the sound of a fountain provides a bit of energy, whereas a still body of water is calming. The use of water in a garden can be visually and aurally subtle or grand and spectacular. Make sure your water feature fits the character you want.

To learn more about garden structures click here.

Container Gardening Basics

If you’re not convinced about growing in containers, we're here to persuade you otherwise. No matter what your gardening challenge, it's very possible that container gardening is the answer. Bad soil? Limited space? Small yard? No yard? No worries! You can grow just about anything in a container – veggies, herbs, annuals, dwarf evergreens, perennials, succulents, and more. Not only will containers add color, they can also provide a focal point in the garden, or tie in the architecture of the house to the landscape. A pair of matching containers on either side of the front walk serves as a warm welcome to guests, while containers on a deck or patio can add ambience and a punch of color to outdoor gathering areas. Whether you want to grow tomatoes, enhance a porch or patio, or attract hummingbirds to your deck, all can be easily accomplished with a little container gardening know-how. Follow these simple steps to make your very own container:

Pots and containers come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors. Choose one that fits your style and space. Select from terra cotta, ceramic, stone, wood, cement, metal, or plastic. Be aware, however, that porous material such as terra cotta will dry out a little faster. Also, check to see that your container has a good drainage hole, since insufficient drainage can cause plant roots to drown. If your container doesn’t have a drain hole, drill your own or line the bottom of the container with several inches of small rocks.

TIP: Window boxes are ideal for those living in an apartment or those who have a balcony. These can provide the space necessary to grow plants, flowers, or herbs even in the smallest of spaces.

Invest in your soil from the start to encourage a healthy environment for your container plants. A quality potting soil helps plants retain moisture, provides enough air for growing roots to breathe, and supports your plants by providing anchorage for the roots. It’s important to use a potting soil in containers. Other soils are heavier and thicker and can clog the drain holes causing plant roots to drown. Some potting mixes also contain granules of dry, slow-release fertilizer, which is an added bonus. McDonald organic or traditional all-purpose potting soils are formulated specifically for Hampton Roads and are ideal for use in containers.

Choose plants that go together not only by color but also those that need the same growing conditions. Annual packs are one of the easiest ways to add color and are available in both sun and shade-loving varieties.

  • Sun to part sun plants need six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Choose from dianthus, verbena, petunias, marigolds, begonias, salvia, celosia, portulaca, and zinnias.
  • Shade to part shade plants require less than four hours of direct sun. They should also be placed in an area that is protected from the hot, afternoon sun. Choose from coleus, impatiens, dusty miller, and polka dot plants.

Get more annual ideas from The Summer Annual Cheat Sheet by Kate Karem of Monrovia.

TIP: Use hanging baskets for a quick and easy way to fill a container for instant enjoyment.


  1. To get started, fill your container with enough soil so the base of the plant (where the stem sprouts from the soil’s surface) is about one inch from the top of the pot- this will make it easier for you to water later. If your potting soil doesn't contain fertilizer, sprinkle a handful over the soil and mix in.
  2. Next, carefully remove plants from the container by gently squeezing around the sides to loosen the root ball enough to slide out.
  3. Loosen plant roots slightly and gently place in the fertilized soil mix.
  4. Once all your plants have been arranged, fill in around plants with potting soil. Lightly pack the soil around the plants to help prevent air pockets and to help establish a good root to soil connection.
  5. Once you’ve planted your container, water it thoroughly. This will hydrate your plants and firm the soil around the roots.

Rapidly growing plants need plenty of nutrients, and container plantings need more frequent fertilizing, since nutrients run through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot when watered. Fertilize containers every two to three weeks with a granular or liquid fertilizer. McDonald Greenleaf fertilizers are developed specifically for plants in Hampton Roads and are a great, general all-purpose fertilizer. Greenleaf releases nutrients slowly, keeping container plants healthy and strong. In fact, it’s what we use to fertilize our plants.

Follow these watering guidelines to ensure your plants stay hydrated and healthy all season long:

  • Water in the morning.
  • Water roots not the leaves.
  • Water deep and less often.
  • Water less in cooler temps.
  • If your plants and flowers look wilted during the hottest time of the day, it doesn't always mean they need watering. As long as the top of the soil is moist, you probably don’t need to water. Wilting is a self-protective mechanism to prevent too much moisture loss from the root area. Wait and see if the plants perk up after the sun goes down.

TIP: Does my container need watering? Do the finger test - Insert your finger down into the soil. If the soil is dry from the tip of your finger to your first knuckle, it’s time to water.

Find more on watering here.

Keep your container plants looking their best throughout the growing season by pruning leggy stems back and removing damaged foliage. Deadheading flowers will help your plants stay disease free and will also encourage new flowers to form. Cut back plants if they get too wild in order to keep the desired shape and form.

You will be amazed by just how much you can grow in containers! With a little creativity and imagination, you can create a container garden for your specific interest or simply to add color. Here are a few ideas for container gardens.

Pizza Garden Container – A pizza garden consists of herbs and vegetables used to make pizza. It’s a great way to show kids where food comes from and how it can be used to make delicious meals. Use tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, garlic, oregano. parsley, basil, and cilantro.

Mosquito Repellant Container – Why not make a container that not only looks great, but deters mosquitos naturally? Use marigolds, lemongrass, mint, and citronella geranium.

Tea Garden Container – Served hot or cold, herbal teas are a delicious way to experience the refreshing flavor of herbs that can be grown in your very own garden. Use lavender, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, ginger, thyme, and chamomile. For more on Tea Gardens click here.

Cocktail Garden Container – Create and plant your own cocktail garden to ensure a fresh supply of ingredients for all your favorite cocktail creations. Use mint, basil, lavender, sage, and rosemary.

To view our video on Gardening for Small Spaces click here.