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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

What's the Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable?

Tomato, tomahto. Potato, potahto. If you’re here to settle a produce aisle bet on matters of semantics where edible plant varieties are concerned - "What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?” - you will be perhaps chagrined to learn that for many of those food pyramid superstars, the answer isn’t very simple. There’s a lot of either/either, neither/neither involved with what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable a vegetable and a fair amount of crossover between the two categories. Read the full article by Chowhound here
What's the Difference Between a Fruit and Vegetable?

Tips for Growing Camellias by Monrovia

Quite possibly one of the most eye-catching evergreen shrub, camellias feature stunning rose-like flowers in shades of pink, red, and white in fall, late winter, or spring, depending on the type. They shine throughout the rest of the year with their glossy, deep green leaves and superb symmetry. They can be grown as large shrubs for use as a hedge, screen or corner plant, espalier, or "limbed up" to form an attractive small tree. And, planting more than one species will give your garden multi-season color. To learn more about growing camellias check out this blog Tips on Growing Camellias by Monrovia.

Baby Gem Boxwood

A Real Gem in the Landscape, Baby Gem Boxwood

Boxwoods have been the backbone of Southern gardens for centuries and are one of the most popular shrubs in landscape design. Extensively used in both formal and more casual gardens, boxwoods are easy to grow and maintain and can be easily shaped. They make an excellent filler for gaps in the landscape or can be used to divide one portion of a yard from another. Gardeners looking for a plant that provides simple greenery with a fine texture need look no farther than boxwood.

Baby Gem Boxwood is a fine-textured, broad-leafed evergreen that grows as tall as it is wide, reaching a manageable size of approximately 4-feet tall and 4 to 5-feet wide. This petite boxwood is exceptionally compact and is excellent for use in smaller gardens for borders and hedges or simply as an accent in the landscape. Densely branched, the tiny, green foliage is abundant and retains its color exceptionally well in winter. Other notable characteristics include deer resistance and tolerance of dry soils once established. Baby Gem prefers full sun and well-drained soil locations.

Photos provided by Garden Debut

Your Plants are Trying to Tell You Something by Espoma

Although plants can’t talk, they do send messages all the time — from requests for resources to warnings of trouble. And, they do so silently, communicating with visual cues, such as changes in leaf colors and shapes. If you learn to read these signs, you’ll be able to catch minor issues before they become big ones. This blog post by Espoma, Your Plants are Trying to Tell You Something, will help you to better read your plants and help prevent some common houseplant problems.

Fertilome Spring Weed Control Kit

Stay Ahead of Weeds

While it's way more fun to think about the blooms and lush lawns that spring brings... it’s never too soon to start thinking about those weeds that creep in. By starting early, you can prevent weeds from germinating in your yard this spring and keep your outdoor space in tip-top shape.

The two most important things you can do for your established lawn is to apply the following:

A pre emergent will prevent weeds and unwanted grasses that will germinate when the weather gets warms. This is a granular that you spread and we recommend using this with a little water to activate it.

A post emergent will rid your lawn of cool season weeds that are actively growing and getting ready to lay seed. This is a liquid that you spray in between mowings. Best conditions for this weed killer are sunny dry conditions. And, a major benefit is that you can use this weed killer right now when temperatures are low.

Our Early Spring Weed Control Kit gives you complete weed control. We recommend starting this process now through early spring for best results. Each kit contains Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper and Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone. Hi-Yield can be used on Fescue lawns, as well as, warm season lawns such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia and Centipede. This will provide weed and unwanted grass control for up to four months. An added benefit of this product is that it can be applied to your beds. Ferti-lome will provide quick control for cool season weeds such as Henbit, Chickweed and clover that are present in lawns this time of the year. Unlike most weed control products, it works during the cool weather. This kit is designed for a 5000 square foot lawn. We recommend using one bag of the Hi-Yield now and in 2-3 months you may you apply the second bag to prevent weeds through the summer.

Visit Fertilome (VPG) to learn more about weed control products.


How to Care for Monstera by Espoma

From large, sculptural plants to charming succulence, there's a place for houseplants in every home. Green plants add textural interest, fill in drab corners, and soften architectural features, and they can enhance mood and freshen air, too. Larger sized floor plants are especially ideal when used as an accent plant or as a focal point indoors. Check out this blog How to Care for Monstera from our friends at Espoma featuring one of our favorite houseplants, Monstera

Loropetalum, Ever Red® Fringe Flower
Viburnum, Snowball
Rose, Sweet Mademoiselle™
Rose, Plum Perfect™ Sunbelt®
Pink Double Knock Out® Rose
Blueberry, Sunshine Blue
Raspberry, Shortcake®
Wiinter-Blooming Hellebore, Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Hellebore, Gold Collection® Cinnamon Snow

Beyond Bouquets, Romantic Plants for Valentine’s Day

by Kate Karam, of Monrovia

The here today, gone tomorrow, fragrance-free, been there, done that bouquet of a dozen red roses, while lovely and traditional, can never truly express the joy, exuberance, passion, and swoony sort of beauty of Valentine’s Day that a living plant can. This year we challenge you to go beyond the bouquet. Here are five insanely romantic reasons why you might want to walk past the flower shop to the garden center this Valentine’s Day.

Cut flowers come and go, but plants, given now, will literally grow with your relationship. At the end of the day, what plants really are, is a promise. A promise that if you care for them, they’ll reward you with a sublime beauty that gets better and better year after year. (Love is like that too!) A well-nurtured living plant can remind you of and reflect the way you also nurture your relationship with your partner.

We never want to hear that giving flowers is “just something we do on Valentine’s Day.” This year, resolve to make flowers part of your daily, weekly, monthly routine. Whether enjoyed from your living room window or snipped blossom by blossom into a bud vase, live plants truly keep giving. There are all sorts of plants that, depending on your zone, either bud up or bloom in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Plant one or two this year and next February bundle up, pour a glass of something chilled and sparkly, and take in the show…together.

While giving a bouquet of cut flowers may seem like a nurturing, generous, romantic act, the truth is that giving a life plant is infinitely more nurturing (and dare we say, romantic). Humans need nature, and so nature needs humans to be aware of the environmental impacts of consumer choices. While you can buy local cut flowers, nothing is of more benefit to balancing the planet than installing a flowering plant that helps to clean the air and can provide food and habitat for pollinators.

While romantic pink and red blooms are the obvious choice for this holiday, knowing your Valentine Day sweetheart’s floral preferences is even more of a caring and sexy gesture. The most meaningful floral treat for your Valentine may not be a bouquet of roses (or even a bouquet!). Some of us feel a big smile coming on when we see a garden filled with daisies, sunflowers, or lavenders. Picking out that plant (and offering to plant it, of course) shows that you’ve been paying attention–and that’s what really makes your honey happy.

And for some Valentines, floral gifts may not be the best expression of love at all. Go beyond the bouquet in a big way by choosing something deliciously edible. Fast forward to a warm summer day when you pluck some sweet, juicy berries from a plant given on Valentine’s Day and feed them (champagne here is optional, but nice!) to your sweetie. Who’s a rock star now?

Click on the links below to find out more about the plants featured in the blog image gallery above:
Loropetalum, Ever Red® Fringe Flower
Viburnum, Eastern Snowball
Rose, Sweet Mademoiselle™
Rose, Plum Perfect™ Sunbelt®
Pink Double Knock Out® Rose
Blueberry, Sunshine Blue
Raspberry, Shortcake®
Hellebore, Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Hellebore, Gold Collection® Cinnamon Snow

Images courtesy of Monrovia, Skagit Gardens, Star® Roses & Plants and Kordes® Roses

Cherry Frost™
Sweet Spirit™
Plum Perfect™
Crazy Love™
Eternal Flame™

Petal Perfect Roses

"There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

Roses offer color, fragrance, form, and habits to suit just about any garden situation. With over 150 species of roses and thousands of hybrids, roses can be found in nearly every color and in a variety of shapes and sizes. And nowadays, the steadfast efforts of breeders have yielded roses with the best attributes of different varieties in new forms. Today’s roses offer longer blooms time, are hardier and possess better disease resistance. In short, these are not your grandmother's, or even your mother's, fussy rose varieties.

If you're a fellow rose-lover or just looking to add a punch of color to your landscape, here are a few new and popular roses that you'll want to add to your garden this year:

NEW for 2019 - Cherry Frost™ (Climbing Rose) - features beautiful clusters of small, cup-like, crimson-red blooms surrounded by dark green foliage. This repeat bloomer has excellent disease resistance.

NEW for 2019 - Sweet Spirit™ (Grandiflora Rose) - an aromatic rose with an abundance of bright, fully doubled, rose-red blooms and dark foliage. These bushy, mounding plants show increased resistance to black spot and improved tolerance to humidity.

Plum Perfect™ Sunbelt® (Floribunda) - lavender-toned, ruffled petals and medium green foliage accompanied by the mild, sweet scent of sugary raspberry and cassis. This self-cleaning variety is well suited for hot, dry gardens making it an ideal choice for those who don't have time to fuss over super sensitive cultivars. This variety performs very well in heat and humidity and is disease resistance.

Crazy Love™ (Grandiflora) - a robust, repeat bloomer that flaunts clusters of full-double blooms in an unusual blend of copper, amber, apricot, and salmon trimmed in semi-glossy, dark green leaves. This continuous blooming rose tolerates hot and humid climates and is disease resistant.

Eternal Flame™ (Hybrid Tea) - dramatic large, fragrant blooms with ruffled petals of soft yellow that pop against the dark green foliage. This blooming machine puts out flush after flush of gorgeous citrus-scented blooms. Offers above average winter hardiness and exceptional disease resistance.

Photos courtesy of Star Roses & Plants and Kordes Roses

McDonald Garden Center has
A healthy orchid’s roots will be light green when dry and dark green when wet.
Orchid leaves should be free fro obvious blemished, bugs, soft spots.
select a plant with unopened blooms, you'll enjoy the overall show for longer.

Tips on Selecting an Orchid

Nowadays, most people don’t give much thought when buying an orchid. Orchids are readily available in grocery stores, big box stores and online and, oftentimes, priced for just about anyone’s budget. But if you want your orchids to endure, a little more thought than simply putting a Phalaenopsis into your grocery cart is needed. McDonald Garden Center offers some unique and interesting plants — and orchids are among these. In fact, we have one of the largest orchid selections in Hampton Roads.

When selecting an orchid, it's a good idea to take a few steps to guarantee you're getting the healthiest plant possible, one that will survive long past its first bloom. Here are a few steps to help ensure that you’re orchid will endure overtime:

Give it the Jiggle Test
Gently grab the plant near the potting media and wiggle it a little. If the roots haven't firmly affixed themselves to the pot, gently lift the orchid from the container and carefully inspect. If it's firmly affixed to the pot, don't tear it out - you don't want to damage the roots. It's okay if a few roots are poking out of the top of the pot.

It’s Root-a-mentary
The roots are the most important part of the orchid plant. Orchid roots are extremely specialized organs that collect water and perform photosynthesis. A healthy orchid’s roots will be light green when dry and dark green when wet. There should be a long, pointed and shiny green growing tip. The longer the growing tip, the better. Dead orchid roots are shriveled and tan when wet and white when dry. A plant with no living roots will not survive very long. When repotting, it is best to removed the non-functioning dead roots.

Assess the Leaves
Some orchids have thin, pencil-like leaves, while others have fleshy, flat leaves. Look for leaves that are thick and rubbery, lightly colored, and firm. Leaves should be slightly yellow-green, almost like a green apple. Leaves should also be free from bugs, obvious blemishes, and mushy spots.

Tip: Mushy spots are often caused by viral bacterial. The bacteria is easily spread through unsterile cutting tools and splashing water. When handling infected orchids, sterilize everything that touches the plant. Alcohol dips between each use of tools and hands is helpful when disease is found.

Don’t “Count" on the Blooms
If you're buying an orchid in flower, resist the urge to buy a plant with all of its blooms already opened. Long-lasting orchid blooms might last for a month or more, but if you select a plant with unopened blooms, you'll enjoy the overall show for longer.

What’s in a Name?
If you are buying an orchid for exhibition or crossing with other orchids, it's a good idea to make sure your orchid has a tag containing its full name whenever possible. Beware of plants labeled as "ORCHID" or "FLOWERING ORCHID." It's best to know the orchids full species or hybrid name whenever possible. This way you can learn more about that particular variety, and if you decide to start a collection, it's good to know what you're growing.

Acclimate Your Orchid
It's okay to display your new orchid on the table for a week or so when you first get it home, especially if it's in bloom, but keep in mind that no orchid will survive for long on a dining room table without proper care (light and watering, etc.). Your orchid will need an adjustment period to get acclimated to the new growing conditions. In commercial production, the plants are in an accelerated state. It takes time to adjust to the slower growth in the home environment. If the room is dark or the air is very dry for too long, you may have some bud loss. For long-term success, it's best to enjoy your orchid in a key position for a few days then move to your best growing area to improve vigor. An inexpensive houseplant light meter is very helpful in identifying the best locations for your plant. Remember, you're most likely to lose unopened buds when you take the plant home.

In the first few days after you get your orchid home, it’s best not to expose the plant to direct sunlight, cold drafts or downdrafts from vents, or get carried away with watering. It’s better to let an orchid dry out somewhat than drown. Orchids like high humidity and regular moisture, but they have a limited tolerance for constant exposure to water, which can cause black rot and kill the plant.

Orchids are one of the most prevalent species on earth. Armed with the species name, it is easy to find the part of the world and the growing conditions that occur in that plant's native habitat. The American Orchid Society
information sheet is very reliable when researching new species or when identifying problems. Click here to view The American Orchid Society information sheet.

Snake Plant
Boston Fern
Peace Lily
Golden Pothos

Freshen the Air, the Natural Way

Of course, that potted Boston fern is beautiful, but can it really improve the air quality in your home or office? Well, according to studies by scientists at NASA, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia and other institutions, houseplants are effective, natural purifiers.

Scientists studying the air-purification abilities of indoor plants have found that plants can absorb gases such as carbon dioxide, benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke) and formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner), all of which are every day, indoor VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that plants help to remove.

So, how do indoor plants eliminate pollutants from the air? Plants absorb these gases via their leaves and roots, and microorganisms that live in the soil of potted plants also play a vital role in counteracting VOCs and other pollutants. It's this ability that facilitates photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy and carbon dioxide into chemical energy to fuel growth. These VOCs and other indoor air pollutants (such as ozone) have been linked to many acute conditions, including asthma and nausea, as well as other chronic diseases like cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Although most houseplants can be an effective way of removing indoor air toxins and contaminants, some plants are better at it than others. Researchers have found plants most useful in removing VOCs include spider plants, Boston ferns, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants, and peace lilies.

Click here to learn more about houseplants for cleaner air.