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Pumpkins on Parade

Tips for Picking & Carving the Perfect Pumpkin

In the world of pumpkins, there are the varieties that are great for carving - and those that are made for eating. Selecting the perfect pumpkin for carving can be a real adventure considering all the different shapes, sizes, and colors available. And like people, every pumpkin has its unique characteristics, giving it a personality all its own. Pumpkin carving is a tradition your whole family can enjoy, so here’s a few helpful tips on picking and carving your pumpkin.

Choose a design before shopping for a pumpkin - think about which shape would best suit your design - tall and narrow or fat and round. If you're using a stencil, look for a pumpkin with a shape similar to the pattern you're going to carve.

Look for a pumpkin that...
• is firm, free from cuts, soft spots and bruises
• sits well on the ground and is stable
• includes a bit of stem

When carving...

  • Before carving, wipe your pumpkin off with a little bleach and water (approx. 1 tsp. bleach to 1 cup water) this will cut down on fungus.
  • Don't cut into your pumpkin around stem. Cutting out a stem cap weakens the pumpkin. Instead, access the pumpkin from backside – this will help preserve freshness. Hiding the opening in the back also gives the pumpkin more visual punch.
  • Before carving, scrape and clean the inside of the pumpkin as much as possible. The cleaner you get it, the longer it will last. (Gut it out twice as much as you think you need to).
  • Once carved, place your masterpiece in a dry, shady area - it will last longer!

Expert Tips:

  • Tall, thin shapes are perfect for funny and whimsical faces. Round shapes are ideal for happy and scary ones.
  • Oddly shaped pumpkins are perfect for creating unique characters.
  • Consider a white pumpkin, when unlit, white pumpkins appear to glow as the daylight fades.

Be sure to visit us this weekend for Pumpkin Carving & Painting, Saturday and Sunday, October 27-28, at all three McDonald Garden Center locations, Hampton, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Bring a pumpkin or purchase one from us and get your creativity flowing. We'll provide everything you'll need to decorate a festive fall pumpkin.

We're Batty for This Plant

BAT PLANT (Tacca)

Bat Plant, also known as Tacca, is a tropical perennial with a very interesting bat-like flower. This black, bat-shaped flower also shows long “whiskers” that droop downward. They thrive in shady spaces with good air circulation. They can be a bit tricky to care for, but here's a few tips from our houseplant experts to make it easy.

  • Taccas like lots of water ~ so be sure to water everyday and to water well enough to saturate the entire root ball. If one watering is not keeping up with your plants requirements, be sure to replant in a larger container. After your plant roots into the new container, you will be able to reduce the waterings. We recommend you place a saucer under the container that holds a small amount of water allowing it to get water as needed.
  • If Tacca plants dry out they will wilt, but can recover after a thorough watering. However, drying out the bat plant will make the flower die sooner. After drying out, you will notice some lower leaves yellowing. Do not worry, the plant is not dying, it's simply trying to survive by shedding older leaves.
  • Tacca as a normal growth habit will shed lower leaves every 3-4 weeks in the warmer months similar to palm trees. Simply remove the yellowing leaves.
  • They like heavily shaded areas of the garden or patio, preferably shaded from the wind. Wind will cause the flower to dry up faster. They will also perform well inside the house where they receive diffused light for several hours a day.
  • Tacca will benefit from a light dose of soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20 once a month. Do not allow Tacca to dry out after fertilizing as you will end up with burnt leaves.

Enjoy this batty bloom for just $14.88 now through Halloween!

The Little Flower that Could

What flower has a face, is edible, blooms in both spring and fall and comes in the widest range of colors? If you guest pansies, you are right! Pansies are one of the best ways to add color to those 6 months of cooler Hampton Roads weather that we experience from October thru March. These tough, vibrant flowers come in all the colors of the rainbow ~ including red, purple, blue, bronze, pink, black, yellow, white, lavender, orange, apricot and mahogany. Pansies are easy to grow, are hardy and provide a burst of cool weather color. Pansies can be used in a variety of ways. Here's a few of our favorite ways to show these beauties off:

  • Both the leaves and flowers are edible and have a mild, minty taste. They are even a rich source of vitamin A and C! Use leaves and flowers as garnishes in cakes, fruit salads, green salads, desserts and soups.
  • Float pansies in a shallow bowl for an interesting mosaic-like effect.
  • Freeze petals in ice cube trays and use in drinks.
  • They make excellent cut flowers. Use to add a burst of seasonal color in flower arrangements.
  • Plant pansies as an edging to form a colorful border in flower beds.
  • Fill window boxes & hanging baskets with pansies to brighten up the exterior of your house.
  • Cut pansies make for a colorful tabletop centerpiece... we especially love them arranged in a hollowed out pumpkin.
  • Fill small containers like strawberry jars & bud vases with pansies for pops of color around your house.
  • Plant white pansies in containers surrounding a dwarf Alberta spruce. Top it off with white lights for a festive holiday display.
  • Press pansies between two pieces of glass and frame for a unique work of wall art.
  • Pansies make excellent companions for spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips, iris, and daffodils.
  • Plant under shrubs; acting as living mulch, plus they inhibit the growth of weeds.
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Whipcord Arborvitae

This one make look a bit like Cousin It... but nope, it's actually Whipcord Arborvitae! A unique evergreen shrub that is a must-have with a most unusual shape and texture. We love its long, thick glossy tendrils and a distinctive cord-like texture. Gracefully arching downward, the cascading branches provide an interesting shape for the landscape. In the winter it will have a warm bronze hue. It is slow growing in a multi-branch globe shaped mound. Plant in full sun for top performance.

Try planting alone as a specimen plant, add to your landscape planted near perennials or annuals, or even plant in a container for your porch or patio. This beauty is also deer resistant.

Make A Scarecrow. Make a Difference.

Scarecrows are usually designed to frighten away birds or as decorations, but at the annual McDonald Garden Center “Make-A-Scarecrow” event, they are being made to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

Families are invited to build their own life-size scarecrow creations from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14 at any McDonald Garden Center location. Scarecrows are just $25 which includes everything you'll need to make a scarecrow masterpiece! You can also bring any accessories or clothes from home to add to you creation. All proceeds will benefit the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD). The annual Scarecrow event has proven to be a very successful fundraiser for the hospital. Last year, there were more than 900 scarecrows made ~ providing $25,000 for CHKD!

The registration fee includes all supplies for making scarecrows. CHKD members and volunteers will be on hand to assist with all the handy work. Participants are welcome to take their creations home after the event. The event is a really creative and family-fun event that brings out a lot of people that help make a difference for a great cause. And there are always terrific scarecrows to see. So be sure to come and out and participate or just to take a look at all these creative characters!

McDonald Garden Centers are located at:
1139 W. Pembroke Avenue in Hampton, 722-7463
1144 Independence Boulevard in Virginia Beach, 464-5564
3925 Portsmouth Boulevard in Chesapeake, 465-1110

Now in the Limelight

SALVIA LIMELIGHT

Looking for a plant that will take your breath away? Look no further than Salvia Limelight!

You'll love this evergreen, herbaceous perennial with an unusual color combination. This beauty produces an outstanding show of bright chartreuse green and violet-blue flowers from late summer all through fall. Light gray-green foliage provides a full appearance. It will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. This large, upright growing salvia is perfect for mid to back of the border for a nice colorful surprise or plant in a container for vibrant fall color. It is available in a 3 gallon pot and is on sale through October 16 for $12.99 regularly $19.99.

Feed Your Lawn... the Local Way!

Looking for a fabulous lawn - look no further than McDonald Premium Grass Seed. This seed mixture is the perfect blend for Hampton Roads’ lawns and well suited to this area.

The improved grass seed varieties used our seed mixture are more drought tolerant, disease and insect resistant and naturally darker green in color than any other turf grasses, which have previously been available. This seed has been tested and is a recommend seed blend by Virginia Tech.

The McDonald Premium Grass Seed Mixture is composed of elite turf-type tall fescue grasses including Kentucky bluegrasses and perennial ryegrasses. Some of these varieties possess an invisible waxy cuticle coating, much like the wax on an apple, which causes it to shine when you polish it on your sleeve. This waxy cuticle preserves the moisture in the leaf by lowering the evapo-transpiration rate of these grasses, making them more drought tolerant than any other grass seed varieties on the market today. Most of these grass seed mixtures also contain beneficial endophytes.

These are naturally-occurring organisms that live off the grass plant host. They produce defensive chemicals called alkaloids, which are toxic to many insects, such as, chinch bugs, sod webworms, cutworms, aphids, chafers and Japanese beetles. Endophytes are all natural and do not diminish over time. Endophytes reduce the need for pesticide treatments on your lawn.

The fall grass kit contains one 25-pound bag of grass seed. The rule of thumb is 6-7 pounds per 1000 square feet for a new lawn or bare ground and 3-4 pounds per 1000 square feet for an established lawn. It also contains two 25-pound bags of Fall Fertilizer.

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Attention Hampton Roads Gardeners:

Impatiens Downy Mildew is a relatively new disease problem for American gardens and now is being observed in many areas around the country. It has been confirmed this summer in Northern Virginia and Chesterfield County Virginia. Although it has not been confirmed in the Hampton Roads area, the recent rains and cooler night temperatures provide the perfect environment for disease infection. You may be experiencing early decline in your Impatiens.

Here is what you should look for:

Which plants get this disease?
This is a disease that affects all Impatiens walleriana plants (garden impatiens, including double impatiens). New Guinea Impatiens (I. hawkeri), SunPatiens® and all other bedding plants are not affected. There are other species that may get Downy Mildew.

Symptoms:
Downy Mildew symptoms on Impatiens typically start with a few leaves that appear slightly yellow or off color (not to be confused with lack of fertilizer), and become completely yellow over time. Leaves may curl downward as if they need to be watered. Under humid conditions, a white, downy-like growth develops on the underside of primarily yellow or curled leaves, but can also be found on the underside of green leaves. Sometimes it is difficult to see the spores without a magnifying glass. Eventually the leaves and flowers will drop, resulting in bare stems with only a few tiny, yellow leaves remaining. These stems can become soft and the plant collapses, similar to frost damage.

Impatiens Downy Mildew tends to be worse in:
• Locations where leaves stay wet for extended periods of time (4 hours or longer).
• Very dense plantings – plants spaced close together.
• Gardens receiving overhead irrigation, because the foliage does not dry quickly.
• Plants in heavily shaded areas where the leaves stay wet for extended periods of time.
• Extended periods of rain and cool (below 65F) night temperatures. Much like we experienced in early September.

How it spreads:
Downy Mildew can be spread short distances by water splashing from infected plants and greater distances by wind-borne spores from infected plants in nearby landscapes.

Impatiens Downy Mildew can occur in beds with no history of the disease if wind-dispersed spores blow in from other locations. Once plants are infected they will not recover. Fungicide applications by home gardeners are not recommended since effective fungicides are not Fungicides such as Mancozeb and Daconil are recommended for use as a preventative before the symptoms occur. It is best to rotate fungicides so that the disease does not build up resistance.

What to do with infected plants:
Plants with this disease should be removed, roots, soil and all, bagged and disposed of. Do not compost infected plants, as there is a high risk that this disease will overwinter and infect Impatiens in future years.

What to do next spring:
When deciding what to plant next spring in areas that are heavily shaded with very little air circulation, it would be prudent to choose an alternative shade solution. Alternative solutions that would perform well in shade include Caladiums, Begonias, Coleus and Torenia. These plants can all be safely planted in beds with a history of impatiens Downy Mildew. If you still want to plant Impatiens, it is best to select a site with good air circulation and morning sun to allow any moisture from overnight to dry.

Source: 

UMASS Extension, Center for Agriculture, "Impatiens Downy Mildew in Home Gardens"