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A Gem of a Pepper


Ornamental peppers are a great addition to the late summer-early fall garden. With foliage of all shades, the real shining star of ornamental peppers is the fruit it bears in bright colors of fall in many shapes and sizes. We especially love using ornamental peppers in container combos!

One of our favorite ornamental pepper varieties is the Black Pearl. Like the gem it was named after, the Black Pearl produces round fruit with a stunning shine that matures from blackish-purple to deep red. It's foliage is very unique ranging from a deep purple to black. A vigorous grower, this beauty is well branched and upright. Use alone in a container, as the star in a combination design or even plant in the landscape. The black leaves just make every other plant around it stand out brighter and bolder! Black Pearl will reach approximately 14 to 18 inches high and 12 to 16 inches wide and sets masses of 3/4-inch fruit. Like all peppers, it's edible ~ though VERY hot. We recommend you leave the fruit on the plants to enjoy their beauty.

Revenge of the Plant Kingdom...


Carnivorous plants are some of the most mystifying plants in the plant kingdom and it is no surprise that the fascination with carnivorous plants has been around for centuries. This creepy vegetation likes to grow in places like bogs and rocky areas where the soil is thin or lacks nutrients. Most of these plants obtain nutrients by trapping and digesting insects. More than 600 species and subspecies of carnivorous plants have been identified, with the Venus Fly Trap being the most infamous.

Carnivorous plants have several different ways to attract their prey. Some are sweetly scented, others are brightly colored, while some have leaves or stems that are sticky or slippery or designed in a way that makes it hard for the prey to escape. Some of these plants are active captures of their prey, while others are passive only capturing those who are unlucky enough to land on them. There are five specific ways a carnivorous plant can capture its food: pit fall, flypaper, vacuum, snap trap, and lobster.

Explore this fascinating plant world with any of these carnivores that are available at McDonald Garden Center.

  • The Venus Fly Trap has a head that looks like a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth, it is one of the few carnivorous plants in the wild.
  • Sarracenia, or the North American Pitcher Plant, is a Genus of carnivorous plants indigenous to the eastern seaboard. The plant’s leaves have evolved into a funnel, with a hood like structure growing over the opening to prevent rain water from diluting the digestive juices.
  • Nepenthes, or Tropical Pitcher Plants, are another genus of carnivorous plants with pitfall traps, there are about 130 species. At the end of the tendril, the pitcher forms first as a small bulb, which then expands and forms the cup.

Come learn more about carnivorous plants at our VENUS FLY TRAP WORKSHOP >>

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Feed Me!

PITCHER PLANT 'Dana's Delight'

Looking for a super unique houseplant? The Pitcher Plant is truly that, unique. This plant is not only beautiful, it's carnivorous. In fact, it's one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow and is excellent for beginners. Its slender pitchers often grow over two feet tall with heavily ruffled red and white hoods that attract insects. The tall, graceful traps have glowing pink and purple veins and the red is so bright that it almost looks fluorescent.

Dana's Delight is a hybrid plant made up of two families, Nepenthaceae (Old World) and Sarraceniaceae (New World). The New World family members enjoy the attention of many insects while staying on the ground. Unlike its relative (the Old World) who lives up in the trees, these pitchers actually form a whole pitcher out of its leaf. The unsuspecting insect is attracted to the sweet smelling nectar and when it begins to drink, it falls into the pitcher. Unable to climb back, this fallen insect flails helplessly in the fluid until it loses energy and submits to the overpowering force of its fate.

As with all of the American Pitcher Plants, this hybrid is an easy to care for plant. Grow in full sun and keep the soil wet at all times. Like other American pitcher plants, these will go dormant in the winter and re-emerge in the spring.

This Saturday, come learn more about carnivorous plants at our VENUS FLY TRAP WORKSHOP >>

Structure in the Garden


It’s not surprising that outdoor spaces today have truly become a "home outside of home" and adding a garden structure to your landscape can create visual interest and a point around which your landscape can develop. Some structures can also provide an additional entertainment area or a just a place to relax and unwind. Garden structures such as pergolas, gazebos, arbors, trellises and even fences can help to define the style of your garden, improve accessibility to all areas of your property via pathways or walkway, and can enhance and add detail to an otherwise uninteresting area. Making your home more appealing from the outside will not only add to your outdoor space, but it can also increase your home’s value! When designing a garden or landscape, garden structures are often the first considerations, since many times they are the focal point. Whether you’re dreaming of an entry way into your outdoor space or some cover in the in the garden the possibilities are endless. Here are a few garden structures you may want to consider for your landscape:

GazebosThis garden structure can provide the perfect centerpiece for your yard, offering a sanctuary that family and friends can enjoy year-round in the majority of climates. Most are open-air structures; however; screened-in gazebos are more practical for waterfront locations or in areas where bugs can be a problem. Before selecting the gazebo for your yard, consider the lifestyle you live, your climate, and your location.

Arbors - This classical element of landscape architecture can help create an entrance or highlight a pathway. Even a simple arbor over your front walk will dress-up your yard and make your entrance a memorable one. For the most impact, choose an arbor that fits with the style and scale of your home. Like gazebos, arbors can be both decorative and/or functional.

PergolasThis shade structure is often built over a deck or patio and can also be used as a trellis to support vines. Pergolas can be a stand-alone feature or can be attached to other structures such as an existing wall. Pergolas can add visual interest and can provide extra shade and seclusion.

TrellisesThis classic landscape feature offers a perfect blend of functionality and beauty. A trellis gives vines and other climbers a place to grow while adding structure, style and an architectural element to the garden. A trellis can also help to define a space, frame a wall or provide privacy. Whether you like casual or formal gardens, or something in between, a trellis can be used in a variety of ways and places in the landscape.

We offer custom design & construction of pergolas, arbors and more! LANDSCAPE SERVICES >>

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The Philosophy of a Landscape

Ever wonder how a great landscape is born? McDonald Landscape Designer, Tami Eilers, gave us a little insight into the development of one of her recent projects. See what she had to say:

With a combination of evergreen and herbaceous plants, I designed this garden to provide interest all throughout the year, not just during spring and summer. The evergreens bring winter interest even when the pool is covered. The Windmill Palm and daylilies add a tropical flair to the poolside retreat. Daylilies repeat bloom and are low maintenance, and their fine texture helps to loosen the bold texture of the hollies which will provide nice privacy as they mature. The yellow daylilies serve as a complimentary color to the blues of the pool and furniture.

I also incorporated the element of sound with a fountain. I always say "when you see water, you should hear water." This created a secondary focal point to the pergola which I surrounded with hummingbird and butterfly attractors for entertainment. Annuals fill the gaps to provide continuous seasonal color.

Want to see more McDonald landscape projects? LANDSCAPE PORTFOLIO >>

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The Silver Lining in the Garden


Russian Olive is often grown as an ornamental shrub with unique silvery-green foliage that is sure to be a focal point in any landscape. This fast-growing Large deciduous shrub or small tree easily adapts to pruning if you prefer a particular shape or size. Let it grow into a large shrub or prune it into a small tree. Highly fragrant, yellow bell-shaped flowers appear in May and June as it prepares for the fruit that gives it its distinctive name. Blooms turn to olive-like fruits that are light green to yellow and are hard and fleshy. Can be used alone, as a hedge or as a background shrub. Both “Gift Edge” and “Olive Martini” grow to 10' tall but can be maintained at a lower height. Russian Olive is extremely hardy and tolerant of many conditions but prefers a sunny location and drier soil, giving you a low maintenance, carefree plant.

See more of our TREES & SHRUBS >>

The Star of the Show


Looking for a real star in the landscape? Make a statement with a Windmill Palm tree. This popular palm grows anywhere and adapts to most climates and soils. Extremely hardy, it has a distinctive "hairy" texture that grows as a single slender trunk. It will mature into a tall, thin column with a compact crown. Windmills make a great garden or patio tree and are especially ideal near a pool and even in a container.

Our landscape designers love to use this tree in local landscapes. In fact, McDonald Landscape Designer, Diane Smith, has a couple trees in her own yard (shown above). Diane says, “I inherited these trees with this house and I chose to re-incorporate them into the new landscape design. The Windmill is the hardiest of palms for our zone, they are disease resistant, cold and drought tolerant, practically carefree. I consider them to be an eclectic element to my somewhat classic landscaping."

Reasons to incorporate Windmill Palms in your landscape:

  • Transform your yard into a tropical oasis. You see this tree at many resorts, now bring the resort home. You can get an exotic tropical look that will thrive in the Hampton Roads climate.
  • Create a focal point with a long slender trunk that is a great height for poolside plantings, and best of all no mess of fallen leaves and twigs constantly cluttering the water. It is also great as a foundation planting to add height to the front of your home.
  • Add lovely evergreen foliage to your landscape. We love its fronds of the symmetrical canopy that add structure and greenery all year long. The head of the palm will mature to 8-10 ft wide above the ground.
  • Hassle free plant to grow. This palm is not prone to pest and disease problems and is a long lived tree.

Want to see more McDonald landscape projects? LANDSCAPE PORTFOLIO >>

Add Instant Drama


Try using ornamental grasses in containers, and in your landscape to gain a whole new dimension to your outdoor space. Ornamental grasses add an important element to the garden experience that is not readily obtained from many other plants: MOVEMENT. When the wind blows these grasses will shift and dance adding dimension to your garden space. Not only do these grasses provide movement, but they can add contrast to the softness of blooming plants. With structure and form, ornamental grasses are a nice juxtaposition in the garden.

With many different colors, varieties and sizes you can find something to fit your space. Tami Eilers, McDonald Landscape Designer, explains that, “The uses of grasses are limitless. The shorter ornamental grasses can be used to edge beds. Mid-size grasses are added for vertical lines and to blend textures. The taller grasses can be used to provide the structure or backbone for a landscape bed.” Some of my favorite grasses are: black moudrie for winter hardiness, cosmopolitan for variegated contrast, zebra for fun and pink muhly for softness!”

Reasons we love ornamental grass:

  • They require little effort to maintain.
  • They come in many heights, colors & textures.
  • The seed heads & foliage add stunning fall and winter interest.
  • They can be used as thriller plants in containers, and as vertical design elements throughout your landscape.

Our top choices include:

Mexican Feather Grass - Delicate and graceful leaves and airy flower heads sway gently with the slightest breeze. Reseeds to naturalize in meadows or on slopes for erosion control. Combine with Sedums and Asters or tuck into a rock garden.

Miscanthus Adiago - Hundreds of plumes held above the foliage emerge bronzy-pink, fading to white. A dwarf plant with graceful, silvery-green arching foliage becoming a whirl of orange, gold and burgundy in fall. Spectacular in mass or mixed into perennial borders.

Pennisetum Little Bunny - The most dwarf of the fountain grasses with fluffy, buff colored blooms. Terrific contrast used in rock gardens, borders, foundation plantings, or in perennial beds. Foliage turns golden russet in fall. Adds interest and texture to container gardens. Drought tolerant when established. Perennial.

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A Summer Super Star


For a stunning show of color and scent in the summer garden, you can't go wrong with Agastache Bolero. This plant is a vigorous bloomer from mid summer lasting well into fall. We love its this tall shrub-like perennial that really puts on a show with tons of rose-purple flowers that dance in the breeze. Bolero's foliage offers a sweet licorice scent while looking great in a deep bronze color attracting honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In fact, due to its late summer blooms, migrating hummers will often visit to refuel while on their migratory path. Plant these beauties in full sun and well-drained soil, and they will happily embrace the summer heat and even early frosts. For an added bonus... deer, slugs and other nibblers tend to leave this aromatic foliage alone.

Check out more of our FAVORITE PLANTS >>

Local Favorites for the Summer Garden

Step into the dog days of summer with some of our local favorites. We put together a list of items that will show off well into fall and look great doing it. Add some of these to your garden for instant appeal.

Coneflowers are one of the boldest & brightest summer-blooming perennial in Hampton Roads. They're loved not only for their beauty, but for the fact that they are super easy to care for and very drought tolerant. With a daisy like flower, these stars of the garden will show blooms when everything else is starting to fade. Available in purple to red to vibrant pink. starting at $9.99

Hens and Chicks are a group of succulents that include a variety of low-growing plants that are unique in appearance and hardiness. They do best in well-drained, rocky soil. Although they do best in sun, they’ll grow in light shade. starting at $7.99

Perennial Hibiscus produce large dinner-size plate blooms during the hottest part of the summer. This deciduous shrub returns each year and can grow anywhere from 2 to 8 feet. Available in a variety of colors including white, burgundy and pink, you'll love this summertime favorite!. starting at $14.99

Daylilies this perennial flowers for one day and is replaced by another bloom the following day. Available in tons of varieties, shapes and colors this plant requires little care and will thrive in drought conditions. starting at $9.99

Ferns pack a punch with their graceful ornamental fronds. Choose from annual and perennial varieties. Perennial ferns make a great choice for shady gardens and come in varying shades of greens. Don't forget annual ferns such as Rita's Gold and Macho varieties that work great in containers on summer patios and porches. starting at $6.99

New Guinea Impatiens are blooming annuals that are easy to grow producing large flowers in bold summer colors. These plants originating from New Guinea require good, well-drained soil, adequate moisture, and afternoon shade. starting at $6.99