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It's Rootamentary! How to Make a Root Globe...

When walking through our greenhouse, you can often find Eddie Anderson, McDonald Garden Center owner, with his hands deep in the soil potting plants and experimenting with new gardening ideas. Today, we found him creating what he calls, Root Globes…. a project any plant lover can try at home.

Anderson had several plants removed from their pot with just their root ball exposed. He then wrapped the plant's roots in wet sphagnum moss he had in a nearby bucket. Next, he wrapped the moss with clear fishing wire well enough to hold the moss on the plant's roots. And, voila… and Root Globe masterpiece!

If you've been looking for a new and out of the box way to display houseplants, this is a project for you. Try hanging Root Globes by simply adding a string around it or inserting a hanger into the rootball before covering it with moss. We also suggest resting it in a saucer or any decorative plate to display on a coffee table or shelf. We hope this process inspires you as much as it did us. So go for it! Dig in and make a Root Globe to wow your friends and family with your green thumb skills. It's easy! All you need is...

  • Plant - We recommend Orchids, Anthurium, Bromelliads and footed ferns such as Rabbit Foot Fern.
  • Sphagnum Moss
  • Clear Fishing Wire
  • If you'd like, add decorative string or hangers
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Keep Your Winter Green with Conifers

Winter weather may be dreary, but your landscape doesn’t have to be. Cone-bearing trees and shrubs, known as conifers, can transform landscapes from ordinary to extraordinary with their assortment of sizes, shapes and textures. Conifers come in a variety of colors including green, yellow, blue, orange and purple. Some conifers are lacey; while others have rigid needles. Conifers that are hardy in the Hampton Roads area include: juniper, arborvitae, yews, hemlock, false cypress, and of course, pine, fir, and spruce.

Homeowners like conifers for their ease of maintenance and, of course, for their year-round appeal. And, these evergreens also work well with many other plants. Bottom line, conifers add intrigue to the winter garden and bridge the seasons with color.

Here's few of our top conifer selections perfect for your winter garden and beyond:

Jeans Dilly Spruce - is a narrow, upright, evergreen that grows approximately 2-4 inches per year, reaching about 4 feet tall at maturity, and seldom growing over 5 feet tall. It forms a perfect cone shape and keeps its shape over time. Jean's Dilly Spruce has green foliage which emerges light green in spring. The needles remain green through the winter and are distinctively twisted at the ends of the shoots. This evergreen does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. Jean Dilly is ideal for foundation plantings, rock gardens or borders. Its slow growth rate also makes it an interesting container selection.

Whipcord Arborvitae - is a unique evergreen shrub with a most unusual shape and texture. Whipcord has 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.

Japanese Yew (False Yew) - is a low-maintenance, upright evergreen shrub that will add color and height to any landscape or winter container. This multi-stemmed evergreen will provide brilliant green foliage all winter turning a more bluish-green come spring. It lends an extremely fine and delicate texture making it a great accent feature. Perfect when paired with cool weather annuals like, Pansies and Dusty Miller and trailing Vinca. Yew is so easy to maintain, performing well in both full sun and full shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water, so ensure that there is adequate drainage when planted in a container. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats.

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For the Birds...

Bird has become one of America's fastest-growing hobbies, and backyard bird feeding is a convenient way to enjoy these fine-feathered friends. Surveys reveal that nearly half the households in the United States provide food for wild birds.

So what, you may ask, has made watching birds the fastest growing hobby in the country second only to gardening? The attraction is obvious ~ feeding birds brings them closer, so we can see them more easily. Their colorful and entertaining presence is fascinating to observe, especially through the long, dreary days of winter. Setting up a backyard bird feeder can make birds' lives easier too. Winter is a difficult time for birds, and finding food can be especially challenging during periods of extreme cold.

What should you serve your bird visitors for dinner? If you want to attract many different species of birds, you'll need to offer a variety of foods. In most areas, black-oil sunflower seed tends to attract the greatest variety of birds. It has a high meat-to-shell ratio and a high fat content. Since it is small and thin-shelled, it is easy for small birds, like the Tufted Titmouse, to handle and crack. Striped sunflower seeds, which are larger, have thicker seed coats.

Although sunflower seeds are the all-round favorite, especially for tree-dwelling birds, some birds prefer other types of food. Blackbirds enjoy corn, whereas many ground-feeding birds, like doves, prefer white millet or red milo.

Be wary of commercial seed mixes. They are often a mixture of sunflower seeds plus a high proportion of less appealing "fillers" such as millet, oats, wheat, flax, buckwheat seeds, and red milo. Birds tend to pick out the prized sunflower seeds and leave the rest. Instead, try making your own birdseed mix. Pour about 25 pounds of black-oil sunflower seed, 10-pounds of white proso millet, and 10 pounds of cracked corn into a clean trash can. Use a broom handle to mix it up.
 Be sure to store your bird food carefully. Keep seed in a dry, cool place, in a rodent-proof, metal can. Be sure to check the seed often for mold, and throw out any seed that is questionable.

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Rain: It's What your Houseplants Want

Did you know that you should use rainwater to water your houseplants? Why you ask?

Our expert growers feel that rainwater is best due to the low pH in rainwater. The low pH makes it easily absorbed by a plant’s root system. Rainwater can also leach away excess salts and minerals that have built up in the potting soil.

Unlike tap water, rainwater is naturally soft and void of the chemicals typically added to municipal water. And, since most houseplants evolve in tropical or rain forest areas, they will respond well to rainwater as opposed to city tap water that contains minerals and other additives. Well water is also good for plants – provided it has not been softened because softened water contains too much sodium.

Simply collect natural rainwater for houseplants in a rain barrel or any container, like a bowl or bucket. Collected water is not only healthy but it is also free. You already know how fast grass and outdoor plants grow with abundant rain, and houseplants are no exception. Use collected rainwater to water your plants according to their specific needs, and you'll be amazed by how fast they grow and how green and lush they become!

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Growing Orchids – Easier Than You Think

Think orchids are too hard to grow? Well, think again. It doesn’t take a high-tech greenhouse or a horticulture scientist to successfully grow and bloom these exotic beauties. Growing orchids is no harder than growing any other houseplants - it's just different. But like most plants, you just need to give them what they need – adequate light, humidity, water and ventilation. With proper care, they will grow and re-bloom, rewarding you with their stunning color, form and, sometimes, fragrance. If you cannot identify your orchid, then start with these six basic care guidelines:

  • Light - Give orchids bright light, but not direct sun. A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal for growing orchids.
  • Water - Water them thoroughly once or twice a week -- more when it's warmer, less when it's cooler. Make sure the water drains completely and never leave the plant sitting in water!
  • Fertilizer - Orchids are considered to be light feeders and do not require a lot of fertilizer. But all orchids need to be lightly fertilized especially when they are growing.
  • Air Movement - Provide gentle air circulation for the plant.
  • Humidity - Provide some humidity for the plant; most do not like dry environments.
  • Proper Temperatures - Growing orchids generally require the same temperature range as houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70's and nighttime lows of 55-65ºF will keep orchids happy.
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Explore the World of Orchids

There is a special grace to the long, arching stem of the orchid. Each breath of air sends the graceful flowers fluttering and dancing in mid-air. Millions of people have been introduced to the beautiful and rewarding world of orchids. McDonald Garden Center has one of the largest collections of orchids in Hampton Roads. Below are some of the types you will find.

Moth Orchids also known as Phalaeonopsis are thick-leaved plants with elegant, arching sprays of blooms that can be seen in many design magazines and sitting on coffee tables across America. Color range includes whites, pinks, lavenders and yellows in both solid colors and mixes of stripes and spots. Phalaenopsis flowers offer both exotic form and superb longevity.

Pansy Orchid or Miltonia's are so named, due to their flat, open flowers resembling pansies in shape and markings. These charming, irresistible plants bloom profusely. Flowers vary in color from yellow, red, white, and pink showing a variety of different colored markings.

Mini Moth Orchid new on the scene, are the miniature versions that are being featured at Outdoor. The small two-inch pot will easily fit on your windowsill. And, the colorful little flowers will last for months. Try grouping several together on a mirror or platter to create a unique centerpiece for your dining room or coffee table.

Dancing Lady or Oncidium is named due to its flowers resembling the movement of dancing ladies. Sherry Baby is spectacular in its festive splashes of maroon and white. It shares a wonderful chocolate scent floating up from dozens of tiny blossoms. The flowers appear to be soft and delicate, but the petals have a firm, almost leathery feel.

Cymbidiums are one of the most popular and desirable orchids in the world because of the beautiful flowers. These orchids make great houseplants, and are also popular in floral arrangements and corsages

Dendrobiums possess a long bamboo-like stem loaded with flowers. This type of orchids loves the heat and will grow quickly throughout the summer.

Resolve to Have Bold Winter Color


Try Cyclamen for big, bold winter color! This cool weather bloomer boosts unusually shaped, colorful blossoms and variegated gray-green elliptical leaves. Depending on the variety, the blossoms may be pink, lavender, deep purple, white, or red. Cyclamen needs cool temperatures to continue blooming, so be sure to keep this plant away from heat sources and, preferably, in the coolest part of the house.

To prolong the life of your plant, water the soil as soon as it feels dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering, and be careful not to spill water onto the crown (center) of the plant. If it becomes too dry, the leaves will wilt and may fall off, and flower buds may fall off too. You can also keep humidity high around plants by placing plants on a tray of moist pebbles; just don't let them sit in standing water. A McDonald watering TIP- would be to soak the pot from the base, as in a saucer for a few minutes, then drain the water. We recommend removing the flower stalks once they have finished blooming as this can promote renewed flowering. To do this, cut the dead leaves and spent flowers off with scissors. Be sure to remove completely, as stalks left on may rot and get gray mold disease.

If you want to try reblooming your Cyclamen for next winter, here’s some easy steps:

Once your plant stops blooming, reduce watering, and allow it to dry out. Remove the corn (the bulb-like structure from which leaves grow) from the soil, and place in peat moss, vermiculite, or a mixture of the two to keep it moist. Store it for a few months at 50 degrees F. In June, repot it in a mixture of equal parts peat moss, garden soil, and sand, keeping the upper half of the corm above the soil surface to help prevent rotting. Move it to a shady spot outdoors, and water as needed. Fertilize twice a month. Before the first autumn frost, bring your cyclamen indoors. Place it in a cool, sunny window, and wait for the blooms!