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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).
This Year's Show Theme "Flower Power"

Outdoor Show 2017- THE DIRT

It’s finally here! After nearly a year of planning the 24th Annual Outdoor Show is days away! Our staff is all hands on deck to make sure our customers have an awesome weekend full of groovy displays of color, gnarly exhibits from industry experts, and totally far-out seminars on a wide variety of topics.

With weather being unpredictable in Hampton Roads (80 degrees one day and freezing the next..really?!?) we have to stay on our “A” game. Luckily, with the majority of our show in covered tents, keeping the area climate controlled and comfortable, no matter what this weekend brings, is very attainable. We’ve run the gamut when it comes to weather during our Outdoor Show (some of you may remember a few times when we had snow!) but rest assured you will have a fabulous time no matter what Mother Nature throws our way!

This year’s theme is “Flower Power” and our creative team has gleefully taken this inspiration and ran with it. (Like, Usain Bolt record-breaking ran with it) We have tons of colorful displays throughout the show with two particularly impressive displays not to miss. One is a large display in the greenhouse, which has the Volkswagon “Thing” and the other, in the large tent, is a small sampling of what our team of landscape designers can do. (Warning: those visiting the landscape design display may have overwhelming feelings of inspiration and/or yard envy).

There is definitely no shortage of plant mayhem at this years’ event. Naysayers say, “There’s no way they can have color at the Outdoor’s too early!” Well, naysayers, we DO have color. And a TON of it! Tropicals, houseplants, annuals, you name it, we’ve got it. And not just your run of the mill plant material- we have the newest and trendiest for 2017, with the industry leaders and growers AT THE SHOW to tell you all about their products. Want to find out more about the annual plant of the year: Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunia? Our friends from Proven Winners will be there to give you all the details! Maybe you want to plan your garden and order everything online to have it shipped to McDonald Garden Center? Talk to our Monrovia peeps (and even pick up a coupon)!

Our major sponsors are back again- Wavy TV10, Southern Auto Group, and Simply Baths by Quality Advantage (YAY!), and they’re bringing the excitement as usual. New to the block this year, we are over the MOON to have the Ronald McDonald House Charity under the tent. (The marketing dept had a field day with the “McDonald” connection..) We are so happy to have them, that we are giving away a 4-nch primrose for every $10 donation to their charity. (Inside Tip: Don’t miss the big red shoe!)

In addition to some awesome local vendors, we have fantastic booths from our in-house vendors. Want to know more about orchids? Visit expert Steve Urick in the greenhouse! Been wanting to get some of those super trendy succulents but weren’t sure how to care for them? Now’s the time!

If you’ve followed our blog or seen our videos on social media, you may have heard the names Chef Manu (Cuisine de Jardin) or Mike Westphal, Garden Guru. Both of these gentlemen will be offering seminars at our show, along with Lynnhaven River Now, Tidewater African Violet Society, the Butterfly Society of Virginia, the Tidewater Beekeepers Association, and more! There truly is something for everyone. (Insider Tip: The first 30 people at the Chef de Cuisine seminar get to taste test some amazing food!)

What separates this show from others, I can honestly say, is the passion our staff and our vendors have for gardening and home décor. Don’t be surprised to leave the show with something completely different than you imagined! Come with an open mind, leave with a full pot. The Outdoor Show takes place all weekend long, Friday-Sunday, March 3-5, from 9:00am to 6:00pm each day.

We look forward to seeing you!

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”
Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”
Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”
Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”
Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”

“Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”

It’s love at first bite with this raspberry heart confection created by our very own Chef Manu. Featuring a decadent mousse bursting with fresh raspberries sandwiched between two light and crispy heart-shaped cookies – the perfect recipe for Valentine’s Day! So, show a little love with this delish dessert and be sure to treat yourself to little bite too!

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Cœur de Framboise,” or “Raspberry Heart.”


  • 1 package puff pastry
  • 1 package fresh raspberries
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Chocolate Mousse:

  1. Beat egg whites with electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes or until thick.
  2. Next, add half of the powdered sugar and continue beating for 10 seconds.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water.
  4. Beat 3 cups whipping cream in a chilled bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff.
  5. Fold chocolate into whipped cream.
  6. Gently mix in the white eggs.


  1. Cut puff pastry with a heart shaped cookie cutter and place on parchment paper between 2 baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Mix half of the raspberries with 2 tbsp water in blender to make raspberry sauce.
  3. Fill a pastry bag with the chocolate mousse and spread over cooled heart pastry.
  4. Add the raspberry sauce on top of mousse mixture and top with a second heart pastry.
  5. Dust the top of pastry with powdered sugar.
  6. Chill 1 hour before serving

Solutions for Moles & Voles

Moles can be frustrating, especially when you go to mow your lawn for the first time this spring and realize they have taken hold over the winter months. Voles eat the roots of your plants and nothing is more disheartening then realizing a mole has taken out your plants in the early part of spring. Take action now to get rid of the frustration and enjoy spring without them. We have solved the mystery of how to get rid of them and the best thing is it is all organic. Moles have become a major nuisance in this area and can cause damage as well as frustration to any gardener. Here’s some helpful information to help you rid your yard of these pests with organic solutions that are safe for you and the environment.

MOLES: (M for meat eaters that feed on grubs & insects)
The best way to rid your lawn of moles is to control the insects in the soil that they feed on. Their main diet consists of grubs. Your lawn can be treated in several ways to remove the moles’ food source. Less food, less moles!

The best long-term control is Milky Spore. Safe for the environment, this natural spore is harmless to fish, birds, bees, animals, plants and people. It kills grubs in the soil and remains active in the soil for up to 15 years. This is a great long-term solution for moles. We sell the concentrated formula that is a one time application with max benefits, other products and formulation might require 4-5 applications a year.

Once you eliminate their food source, the moles may stay. They are stubborn and like your yard for reasons beyond food. Lush lawns, mulched beds, and good soil makes for easy digging and more insects and earthworms that they also feed on. (Moles are stubborn, so they may stick around after you get rid of their food source. ) So, the next step is to repell them. We recommend using . The main ingredient is castor oil, which burns their face as they dig, therefore forcing them out of your yard. Repellex uses a recycled newspaper granule, which allows the castor oil to slowly release into the soil as it biodegrades. This allows the castor oil to stay in the soil for up to 6 months - twice as long as any other product. It also has double the amount of castor oil than any other product. You’ll need 1lb. per 1000 sq. ft., so it goes a long way.

VOLES: (V for vegetarians that feed on plant material)
Voles do not like to dig as much as moles, so they follow the mole tunnels into your yard. Rarely do you see voles and no moles. Voles tend to cause the most expensive and major damage, as they eat almost all plant roots, as well as most bulbs -- though they don’t eat daffodils or fritillaria. They also will nibble away at trees and shrubs.

Repellants work very well for getting rid of voles. All repellants are organic and safe to use around plants. As with moles, REPELLEX MOLE & VOLE REPELLANT is the best for its longevity. It also contains cinnamon, garlic and white pepper, which voles particularly dislike. Also, the castor oil burns their face just like the moles making them leave the area.

Be sure to attend one of our FREE Moles & Voles seminars on February 11 & 18 and again on March 11 & 18, at 1:00PM. Moles and Voles seminars are offered at all year-round location, Hampton, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. For details click here

Don't Forget About Your Outdoor Space

By Elaine Linn, McDonald Landscape Designer

We all enjoy our home sweet homes and know our favorite chair and our favorite room. And, we all know what it’s like to look around and wish we had less clutter, more space - more anything that looks like Chip and Joanna Gaines showed up magically one morning. Well what if we could create more space and beauty? And, what if we could do that for around the same price of renovating a bathroom instead of a whole house? You can! Especially in this fine State of Virginia, where we have an abundance of sunshine, salty air and beautiful weather for most of the year. I originate from Michigan, where we dream of vacationing in a place like this and get overly excited at the prospect of spending a week in the sun. I haven’t seen that kind of excitement here until our recent snow storm! I guess we all get enthusiastic about the out of norm. And as locals, it’s easy to take for granted our abundance of enjoyable outdoor days and extended growing season and forget that most Americans don’t have this luxury.

So why not use this gift of latitude and longitude to our advantage and create space out of doors? Sometimes this can be an overwhelming concept, especially if we don’t know how to start. As a trained landscape architect and urban planner, my first recommendation would be to consult with a design professional, who can help you envision the possibilities. And there are always plenty of possibilities! But at the most basic of levels, for most of us our immediate need and desire is to create a living room type experience where we envision ourselves lounging with our morning cup of coffee or unwinding with our evening glass of wine.

As designers, we understand the importance of key design principles such as color, line, texture, balance, etc. However, to accomplish creating an intimate outdoor space, we also need to be mindful of spatial relationships, scale, horizontal and vertical enclosure, and view sheds. To accomplish these design principles, your designer will seamlessly blend hardscape (in the way of a paver patio, seat wall, pergola, and fire and/or water feature, for example) and softscape. Softscape is like adding walls, artwork, rugs, throw blankets and decorative pillows to your living room. Softscape represents enclosure, interest, a sense of coziness, peace and tranquility. And it really takes the melding of the two: hardscape and softscape to create a successful space.

About Elaine Linn- Elaine has a Bachelors in Landscape Design and a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning with a Specialization in Land Reclamation from Michigan State University. She has over 15 years of design experience from large scale mixed-use master planning to the smaller, more intimate, scale of residential design. She couldn't be more excited to now call Virginia her home and get her hands on the vast and diverse plant material that grows here.

Visit to learn more about our landscape services.

Citrus Clair de Lune or "Citrus Moonlight" Cocktail

Make your winter 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.


Top 5 Birding Essentials

We know you love your feathered friends. Here are some basic tips on birding, along with what types of products we recommend for success.

1. Feed the birds – It’s important to feed birds all year, not just seasonally. McDonald Garden Center offers a wide selection of birdseed to attract a variety of birds into your yard. Some types of birdseed, like Black Oil Seed mix from Wild Delight, appeal to birds that like to actually pick through the seed and open the shell.
2. Provide a home/shelter - Providing safe and properly placed birdhouses will keep the birds in your yard longer. There are different birdhouses for different sized birds and bird types. For instance, the small birdhouses at McDonald Garden Center appeal to the tiny birds like the titmouse, finch, chickadees, and sparrows.
3. Provide water -Birdbaths great for allowing birds to drink and bath in a safe place. We have a wide variety of birdbaths from the ornate to the simplistic.
4. Know your Birds - Know the species and types of birds you want so you can buy your seed and houses accordingly. Tube feeders are a great way to isolate the type of bird you want and MGC offers cardinal feeders, woodpecker feeders, finch feeders, and more.
5. Stop the Squirrels – Squirrels are one of the most popular reasons people stop birding. Get squirrel proof feeders and buy seed they may not like as much. We carry new varieties of birdseed like Sizzle N’ Heat from Wild Delight. This type of seed has hot pepper in it, which deters the squirrels but the birds still enjoy.

Check out our Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, for additional tips on Birding

Garden for Health

It’s a brand new year and statistics show that at least 50 percent of Americans make some kind of New Year’s resolution. The fact that getting healthy tops the list is no shocker — it's among the most common New Year's resolutions. However, you don't need to put on the Lycra for an exhausting aerobics class – just pop on your wellies and head out the back door to your garden.

Not only is gardening good for the soul, but research shows it’s also good for the waistline. But is gardening really good exercise? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate intensity activities such as gardening, for 2.5 hours each week can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and premature death. Here are just some of the benefits you can reap from gardening:

Gardening Burns Calories - losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume, and the amount of weight you’ll lose gardening depends on several factors including your size and the work you are performing. When it comes to burning calories, digging and shoveling are at the top of the list followed by mowing and weeding. Spend a half an hour doing any of the activities below and expect to burn between 100 to 250 calories (examples provided by Iowa State University):

  • Digging and shoveling: 250 calories
  • Lawn mowing: 195 calories
  • Weeding: 105 calories
  • Raking: 100 calories

Gardening Tones You Up - not only does gardening burn calories – it strengthens and tones muscles as well. Gardening is a whole-body workout utilizing legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. For example, hedge trimming helps shape your biceps while raking and mowing will all help to strengthen the arms and shoulders as well as tone the abdominal muscles. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing a wheelbarrow and shoveling also provide resistance training, which leads to healthier bones and joints. To get the most out of your gardening workout alternate gardening tasks to make use of different muscle groups.

Gardening Protects Your Heart - any activity that is brisk enough to leave you slightly out of breath and raise the heartbeat counts as moderate intensity exercise, which, according to the experts, can help protect against heart disease.
Like any other form of exercise, you need to be active for at least 30 minutes for there to be a benefit. So, if the sun is shining what better incentive do you need for getting out into the garden and digging in the dirt?

Gardening Relieves Stress - if you’re looking for ways to relieve stress, look no further than your own backyard. Many people who garden do it because they enjoy it, and say that gardening helps them to relax and escape from daily stresses. The psychological benefits of being outdoors and working in the sunshine and fresh air are also clear. Studies have shown the beneficial effects of simply being in nature for decreasing stress. In much the same way as a beautiful painting elevates the mood, looking at a summer garden, soaking up the colors, smells and sounds can help overall wellbeing.

The great thing about gardening is that it can be both energetic and relaxing at the same time. Gardening can also be and a year-round activity — even in the winter you can rake leaves, work in the greenhouse or do some pruning. And there is nothing better than being able to stand back and admire the fruits of your labor while improving your health and wellbeing at the same time.