You are here

The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening
Celosia Intenz
Celosia Dragon's Breath

Fall Refresh with Celosia

Autumn isn't just for pumpkins and mums. While trees and shrubs begin showing off their fall foliage and begin to bloom, you can also add a little pop to your garden by planting a few fall-blooming celosias that will infuse stunning color up until the first frost. This super tough, drought-resistant annual is adored for its unusual style and texture. It comes in an array of vibrant colors including red, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta and pink. They're perfect for swapping out tired plants in summer containers, or integrating into beds and borders for seasonal interest, or for adding fall curb appeal to your front yard or porch. Here are a few of our favorites:

Celosia Intenz - We just love the purple pleasing color of Celosia Intenz! This annual features showy, purple plumes that bloom throughout the summer and transition right into fall offering amazing color. This versatile plant does well both indoors and out. It looks great on a patio table, in mixed baskets, clustered in the landscape or in a large pot as a filler plant. These also make a great cut flower for indoor arrangements. Celosia Intenz will grow to about 14 inches tall at maturity with a spread of 12 inches. It is considered to be drought-tolerant and prefers a sunny spot. And did we mention that butterflies love it too!

Celosia Dragon’s Breath - Celosia Dragon’s Breath is a vigorous grower that puts on an incredible show of color for mid-late summer into early fall. Featuring upright, jumbo-sized, red-hot plumes accented by rich, maroon foliage that is almost as bright as its blooms. This celosia is well suited for containers and looks stunning in landscape beds. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Dragon’s Breath grows to about 24 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade.

Kelos Fire Celosia - Another eye-catching celosia featuring compact foliage combined with vibrant purple color! Electrifying plumes hold their color through the heat of summer and continue into fall. Great annual color for sunny beds and borders and in containers as a showy accent. Quickly reaches 12 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 15 inches wide. Use indoors as a fresh cut or dried flower. This long blooming annual loves most soil and full sun locations.

To learn how to add even more color to your fall garden, check out our blog "Trees for Beautiful Fall Color".

Timing Your Fall Veggie Garden

Did you know fall is the perfect time get a delicious veggie garden going? In fact, cooler temperatures make this a great time to plant these crops -- many are even tastier and sweeter harvested after a light frost. If you've never grown fall veggies before, we recommend a crop of leaf lettuce, kale, swiss chard and spinach. These easy to grow plants are great for small spaces like a pallet garden and can often be harvested over many weeks.

The secret to having a great fall veggie garden is getting the timing right and that means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward if starting with seed. To do this, start with your area's average first fall frost date, which for Hampton Roads is October 15. Then look at the number of days to harvest for each vegetable you wish to plant. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks; many plants grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.

If you want to start with established plants rather than seeds, we also offer many fall veggies in packs. These plants are ready to plant now for a delicious fall harvest with very little effort. Here’s a few of our favorite veggies to plant now:


Learn more about what to plant now by downloading our planting schedule guide pdf below.

Filed Under: 
Citrus Moonlight Cocktail
Citrus Moonlight Cocktail

Citrus Clair de Lune or "Citrus Moonlight" Cocktail

Make the season a little sweeter with a glass of Citrus Clair de Lune (translated citrus moonlight), a fresh and fragrant concoction, prepared by our own Chef Manu. The blend of sweetness and tart complement each other beautifully, with the decadence of Cointreau and Perrier balanced with a fruity combo of lemon, orange and tangy grapefruit. Cheers!

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - Citrus Clair de Lune, Citrus Moonlight Cocktail


  • 3 grapefruits
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 tbs. of white sugar
  • 3 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 1 small bottle of Perrier
  • 1 bottle of Sprite
  • 5 oz. of Cointreau or Grand Marnier


  1. Cut and squeeze the citrus (3 grapefruits, 3 lemons and 4 oranges). Mix in a container.
  2. Add both white and brown sugars and mix well.
  3. Next add Perrier and Sprite.
  4. Add Cointreau or Grand Marnier.
  5. Garnish with fresh mint and serve over ice.

NOTE: for a fun twist on this citrusy cocktail, substitute mandarinquat for oranges.

Keep refrigerated.


Starting Your Fall Veggie Garden

As the summer gardening season comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to get your fall vegetable garden growing. Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, shares all his fall gardening tips to help you fill your table with plenty of nutritional, homegrown goodness long beyond the heat of summer.

Check out the video with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, to learn more about fall vegetable gardening.

Purple Flash Pepper
Black Pear Pepper

Posh Peppers, Purple Flash and Black Pearl

When it comes to plants that are “growing” in popularity, ornamental peppers have become the hottest thing going. They provide massive color, texture and variety everywhere and anywhere - in flowerbeds, potted planters, hanging baskets, containers, and yes, in the vegetable garden too! They can handle heat and drought and are hardly bothered by pests at all. And if all of that wasn’t enough, many varieties are edible as well, although most not particularly tasteful (the fruit is either lacking in taste or too hot). Here are a few dazzling ornamental peppers for the garden:

Purple Flash Ornamental Pepper – this unique, exotic-looking plant features nearly black foliage splashed with bright purple and sometimes white. Subtle purple, star-shaped flowers appear in late spring until mid-summer followed by an abundance of deep purple berries with black overtones in mid-summer to early fall. Purple Flash’s compact habit, striking coloring and interesting texture enhance gardens and mixed containers through even the toughest conditions, including heat. The fruit, although edible, is extremely hot and not recommended for eating. Like all peppers, Purple Flash needs plenty of sun and warm temperatures for optimal growth.

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper – this exquisite pepper plant has rich, deep purple leaves accented by clusters of shiny black fruit that mellow to deep red. In midseason, Black Pearl begins to display lilac-hued blossoms, which are followed by the fruit. Foliage appears greenish when young and matures to glossy black with high light and heat. Its vigorous and bushy growth habit make it an ideal choice for containers or planted in the landscape. Like Purple Flash, the fruit is edible but is extremely hot. This pepper loves the sun and warm temperatures.

Kelos® Fire Celosia
Kelos® Fire Celosia, Orange
Kelos® Fire Celosia, Yellow

Sun-sational Celosia, Featuring Kelos® Fire Celosia

The stunning colors and striking shapes of celosia flowers offer great versatility in the garden. This tender annual remains fearless in the heat of the summer sun and produces an abundance of blooms in dazzling red, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta, and pink. It will grow in most any type of soil - even heavy clay - as long as they are in full sun. Celosia is available in three different types plumes, crests, or spikes; simply described as plumes of jewel-colored feathers, wrinkly-looking knobs, or elongated cones. Use in borders along with other low maintenance annuals like zinnias, marigolds and gomphrena, or design and entire flowerbed with different varieties, staggering heights and creating a striking rainbow effect with different textures and forms. Their drought tolerance also makes them a good choice in containers.

Kelos® Fire Celosia - Robust, compact foliage combined with vibrant color! Electrifying plumes hold their color through the heat of summer and continue into fall. Great annual color for sunny beds and borders and in containers as a showy accent. Holds its color well during the heat of summer. Plant in full sun.

FUN FACT: The generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek word κήλεος (kḗleos), meaning "burning", and refers to the flame-like flower heads.

Delta Blues™ Vitex

Light Up Your Landscape with Delta Blues™ Vitex

Vitex (chaste tree) is a beautiful, small deciduous tree or large multi-trunked shrub. Often mistaken for butterfly bush, this beauty grows to about 15 to 20-feet tall and wide, with a sprawling growth habit. Gray-green foliage and large spikes of lavender to purple flowers appear during the blistering heat of summer/late summer and into early fall. Its foliage and blooms are irresistible to bees and also draws visits from butterflies and hummingbirds.

Vitex thrives in sunny, hot locations and in many types of soil, as long as the area doesn't retain too much excess moisture. Plant as a focal point in smaller landscapes or as a blooming screen for your patio. Plants are moderately salt tolerate, making them ideal for growing in coastal areas. Selective pruning can be done to maintain a smaller size, but its natural open growth habit requires that it has space to sprawl. Once established, plants are very low-maintenance and drought tolerant.

Delta Blues™ Vitex is the first intermediate vitex in the market. With an upright, bushy habit, this new variety is a vast improvement on previous selections. This stunning deciduous shrub is covered in sprays of dark purple-blue, fragrant flowers that bloom from summer/late summer into early fall. The foliage is dark green, fragrant and more refined than other selections. It is a superb addition to sunny borders, infusing a soft splash of color in the landscape. Delta Blues™ reaches approximately 8-10 feet tall and wide and prefers well-drained soil. Attract butterflies and other pollinators and is heat, drought, and salt tolerant and deer resistant.

Coneflower, Orange Skipper
Coneflower, SunSeeker Salmon

Coneflower Magic, Orange Skipper and SunSeekers Salmon

It’s that coneflower time of year, and while other plants may be taking a break from our summer heat, coneflowers (echinacea) are flourishing. If you are a coneflower lover (and even if you’re not), then you’ll love these colorful coneflower selections in sunset shades of orange and pink.

Orange Skipper (Butterfly Series) - a bright and sunny addition to any summer garden, this coneflower features showy flowers in a mixture of tangerine and bright-orange. Orange Skipper is a swift grower and can grow to full size in one growing season in the ground and even less time in a container. Long-blooming flowers are adored by butterflies, pollinators and songbirds. This coneflower provides a spectacular show in any sunny summer border, naturalized area, or container. Orange Skipper is a sun-loving perennial that is drought tolerant once established.

SunSeekers Salmon (SunSeekers Series) - features long-lasting, non-fading, semi-double flowers that emerge in a lovely shade of salmon pink with soft yellow petals in the center. As the blooms mature, salmon-pink petals become pale pink with large, dark crimson cones. Pollinators love the rich nectar in summer, while many birds (particularly goldfinches), flock to the plants to devour the seed in winter. Perfect in mixed perennial borders, naturalized areas, or in a container on patios and balconies. Plant full sun or part shade and in well-drained soil.

Did you know? Coneflowers (echinacea) are an attractive and multipurpose cousin of the daisy. The name echinacea comes from the Greek word ekhinos, meaning “hedgehog”, referring to the spiny cone that gives them their common name.


How to Care for Your Plants During Dry Conditions

Written by McDonald Garden Center Founder, Eddie Anderson

McDonald Garden Center founder Eddie Anderson has always had a passion for plants, especially houseplants and tropical plants. Eddie is still involved in houseplant buying as well as offering strategies on merchandising and selling to the McDonald Garden Center stores and Garden Markets.

With a degree in Horticulture from Virginia Tech, he remains highly active in the gardening community and continues with industry affiliations and new product development. He continues to inspire our young gardeners as a Club Volunteer Leader for the 4-H Club, “Guardians of the Planet, in Virginia Beach.

Here's what Eddie had to say about the recent lack of quality rainfall in Hampton Roads:

The recent high temperatures and the lack of meaningful rainfall have created very dry conditions in my garden. I am having to water this year’s plantings every two to three days to keep from suffering significant loss of plant quality. While more established plant material can often weather varied precipitation, new plantings require more specialized attention. The majority of the problems associated with new plant material can be attributed to improper watering. The most critical time for a newly installed landscape is the first two to eighteen months.

Here’s what to look for and how to properly water during dry conditions:

Plant Stress Indicators.

  1. Wilted foliage. Caution, not all plant wilt before they die. Look for other symptoms as well.
  2. Change in foliage color. Often the leaves take on a gray cast when very dry.
  3. Unusual amount of yellow leaves.
  4. Fruit drops before mature.
  5. Margins of the leaves turning brown and crisp.
  6. Stems shrinking.

Evaluate the Soil

  1. Use a moisture meter to probe the soil. The reading will indicate the amount of moisture in the soil and the need for water. This handy device is useful for container gardens and houseplants as well as in the garden. It is like having a garden coach at your side all of the time.
  2. Soil that is dry to the touch to a depth of 1-inch. Not as accurate as the moisture meter, but once you learn to combine with other factors, it can help you decide to water.
  3. Cracks developing in the soil tell a tale. When the soil dries out, it shrinks, causing it to pull away from the edge of containers or pull apart in the ground. When this happens, it is really very dry.

Proper Watering is a Key to Getting Through This Period.

  1. Place a hose at the base of the plant and let it run on a slow trickle for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Use a Dramm water breaker on the hose for watering smaller plants. The breaker allows a full flow of water without washing the plant out of the ground.
  3. When the soil is very dry, it is hard to re-wet. Water the soil to the point of runoff. Then move on to another area. Return in 5 minutes and wet to runoff again. Repeat this a third time. Want to be sure you did the job correctly? Using a trowel, dig down to insure the soil is wet to a depth of 6-inch.
  4. For large areas, a soaker hose is the best. Sprinklers that spray in the air lose a lot of water to evaporation.
  5. For large beds, a lawn sprinkler may be the best answer. There are many types for various shapes and size areas. Use a rain gage to measure the amount of water applied to ensure you have applied an inch of water over the area. Time the process so you know how long to run the sprinkler in the future.

To view our video on "Watering, Tips, Tricks and Tools" click here.