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Branch Out!

SPRING BLOOMING TREES & SHRUBS

Introducing color that pops in the landscape just in time for spring. These trees and shrubs will add bold color in the early spring days. Not only can you enjoy these blooms through your window, but branches from these trees & shrubs look stunning in a vase to add color inside your home. Branch out this spring with our favorites...

Ornamental Plum Thundercloud - This showy springtime bloomer offers beautiful blooms as a beacon for spring. A moderate grower this tree will grow to be about 20 ft tall and wide with coppery-purple foliage backing pale pink to white blooms. Plant as a single specimen tree or in small clusters amidst rich green landscapes. Try a matched pair to flank gateways and driveway entries or in an orchard-like row to screen neighboring views. This is one of the best plants to create the American country-garden look because it mimics the aesthetic of a farm orchard.

Ornamental Cherry Snow Fountain - Graceful, weeping branches are covered with showy, snow-white flowers early in the season. Ideal for any landscape, this tree is especially suited for smaller spaces. The Snow Fountain Cherry is the iconic tree of the Japanese tea garden. Plant in matched pairs to highlight a special gateway or frame a work of garden art. Particularly charming in small groves, which add light and diversity to woodland settings.

Forsythia - The calling card of spring, the vibrant yellow of these blooms will let you know that spring is on its way. The arching branch features lightly bell-shaped blooms that range from butter yellow to gold. This low maintenance and fast growing shrub is deer resistance.

Ann Magnolia - This sweet little magnolia offers exquisite, 3 to 4 inch blooms with reddish purple outside and white inside. The blooms appear before the foliage buds out making them stand out in the landscape. Slow growing this smaller sized tree will reach about 10-15 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Perfect as a centerpiece of a flower bed or near a patio or terrace.

Double Take Orange Storm Quince - With big, coral colored, double flowers this shrub provides a stunning early spring flower display. Drought tolerant once established, it may be pruned to shape after it blooms. Orange Storm Double Take Quince is easy to care for and easy to love. This deciduous shrub is thorn less and deer resistant. Plant in part sun to full sun. Any of these branches are great to use for cut flowers.

Dogwood - Our state tree, the Dogwood boasts beautiful four-point flowers or bracts that begin to spread open in spring with a creamy, yellow-green colored flower. Attractive horizontal tiers of branches make this small deciduous tree popular. The splendid canopy of white flowers creates big impact. Give it room to spread, but place it as a specimen or in the border where you can readily enjoy its flowers. In autumn this tree will produce hanging red fruit and red-scarlet tints on the leaves.

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Fresh for the picking

GET READY FOR STRAWBERRY SEASON!

After the winter we’ve had here in Hampton Roads, it seems like the warmer weather couldn’t arrive quick enough! Fresh fruits and veggies are most likely the last thing on your mind these days, but berry season is just a month or two away, and everyone knows that there’s nothing like fresh strawberries! Those juicy red berries are a sure sign that warm weather has arrived! One of our favorite berries, are Chandler Strawberries. And, did you know that Chandler is the leading strawberry variety sold in supermarkets. They produce fruit that is conically-shaped ranging in size. When ready to be picked, the berries are red, firm, juicy, sweet and tangy. The number of berries per plant will depend on the size of the plant and overall condition of the roots and stems. Chandler strawberry plants drop their fruits in late May or early June.

Chandler strawberry plants thrive in the southern states during the spring. They require full sunlight, sufficient water and well-drained soil; too much water can cause the roots to rot. We recommend planting in single rows about 8 to 14 inches apart or in double rows that are 1 to 2 feet apart. Healthy, mature plants have shallow roots and stems that grow to about 8 inches tall. Strawberry plants can also grow from seed or clippings; plant them in small containers with fresh soil. 

Bring your little gardeners out tomorrow, Saturday, March 29 at 11:00am to create a strawberry jar using Chandler strawberries at our STRAWBERRY JAR WORKSHOP FOR KIDS >>

And if you’re interested in local berry-picking this spring, follow the link below to find our where you can pick your own sweet berries this season. LOCAL STRAWBERRY PICKING >>

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PLANT OF THE WEEK:

JUBILEE BLUEBERRIES

Looking for a new plant to add to your garden this year? Look no further than this juicy new blueberry variety that is not only beautiful to look at, it tastes even better! This southern high bush performs well through summer heat, and is resilient to winter cold spells. Medium to large, sky-blue, very sweet fruit ripens over a two to three week period. With four seasons of leaf interest, the blue-green foliage will offer bright yellow-orange fall color. It is an upright, compact grower, reaching about 4 to 5 feet. We love mixing blueberries into the landscape for a sweet treat for the eye and the palate.

The ever popular blueberry is considered an antioxidant super food, best enjoyed fresh from the garden. Blueberries are not only rich in antioxidants, but are low in calories and sodium, they contain no cholesterol, and are a great source of fiber. Not only are the health benefits associated with the blueberry fantastic but they are delicious and can create quite a statement in the garden. The striking ornamental beauty of the blueberry offers four seasons of interest. From, the white bell shaped blooms to dark green shrub foliage to the fruit, this little berry packs a punch all year round.

Blueberries are easy to grow, require little care, and are seldom bothered by pests. Follow these simple steps to enjoy this sweet treat during the summer months!

  1. Select a sunny location in well drained soil for planting.
  2. Plant blueberry shrubs as close as 2-1/2 feet apart to form solid hedgerows or spaced up to 6 feet apart to grow as individual specimens.
  3. Mulch over the roots 2-4" to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and add organic matter.
  4. Blueberries are sensitive to water fluctuations due to their shallow roots and required approximately one inch of water a week. In drought conditions, it may require more water.
  5. Enjoy the fruits of your labor either alone or in muffins or even frozen.

photo courtesy of Monrovia

Be a Berry Grower

We're crazy for backyard berries and growing them couldn't be easier. Just give them a sunny spot with well drained soil, a little water and you'll be enjoying a homegrown harvest in no time.

Berry selections available today offer gardeners a multitude of colors and flavors. Most need full sun and, with the exception of blueberries, need neutral soil. Nearly all small fruit plants will grow successfully with moderate care - an application of fertilizer or compost, mulch for weed control, and regular pruning to aid in disease prevention and encourage large fruit. With proper care, these sweet treasures will reward you for years to come. Shoot for a mix of different types and varieties that ripen at different times to extend the harvest season.

GROWING STRAWBERRIES - plant in early spring. Plant roots shallowly in soil rich in organic matter. Water deeply but allow plants to dry slightly between watering. Mulch lightly during spring, summer and fall to help keep soil cool and to help control weeds. Mulch heavily during the cooler months to avoid damage to crowns. Fertilize with a high quality fruit fertilizer, but avoid fertilizing late in the season as this can encourage new growth that can be damaged by early frosts.

We recommend Berries Galore Strawberries, the world’s first strawberry with HOT PINK flowers! Taste the sunshine in the juicy and delicious mid-sized fruit that can be picked every 3-4 days in season. We also love Chandler Strawberries, a vigorous, high-yielding plant that produces large, firm fruit. This red ruby gem has an exceptionally sweet flavor.

GROWING BLUEBERRIES - plant in late winter or spring. Blueberries like an acidic, richly composted soil and prefer a full sun to part shade location. Blueberries have shallow root systems so fluctuations in water should be avoided. A 3 to 4-inch layer of mulch will help keep soil moist. Water regularly to maintain plant health and avoid leaf and flower drop. Prune lightly during the first 2-3 years to maintain shape. Mature blueberries should have older canes removed to encourage new growth. Fertilize using a high quality fruit fertilizer.

We recommend: Rabbiteye Blueberries, a reliable and dependable blueberry will produce berry-licious fruit all summer long. Remember, you need two shrubs for the “berry” best production. With sweet berries, these dark blue beauties are easy to grow.

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Plant of the Week:

CHILI EARLY BIRD DIANTHUS

With a bitter winter behind us, we welcome a new season with one of our favorite spring-blooming perennials! These re-blooming flowers give us that color we've been waiting for each spring. Early Bird begins it's show just as the weather starts to warm and keeps on blooming through autumn, if deadheaded regularly. Blooms all stand tall above its grassy, blue-green foliage with sturdy stems. These bold, coral double blossoms will simply sparkle in borders, beds, patio pots and window boxes. Its fragrant blooms are also ideal for cut flower bouquets so you can enjoy spring indoors as well as out. Early Bird prefers full sun and well drained soil. So get your spring started in style with this beloved plant!

A sign of good things to come

THE SHAMROCK

Shamrocks, otherwise known as Oxalis in the plant world, have symbolized many things throughout history. Legend has it that the leaves of the four-leaf clover symbolize hope, faith and love, and God added another leaf for luck. The shamrock has a rich history in Ireland, including religious and political symbolism. An icon of Irish pride and culture, the shamrock is the most recognized symbol of the Irish, especially on St. Patrick's Day.

But what is a shamrock? The original Irish shamrock, spelled seamróg, which means, "summer plant" is said by many to be none other than white clover (Trifolium repens), a common lawn weed native to Ireland. This vigorous perennial grows in clusters of three heart-shaped leaves on a thin, green stem. Occasionally, a fourth leaflet will emerge, making a "four-leaf clover," and is believed to bring good luck to anyone who finds it.

The shamrock became symbolic in other ways as time went on. In the 19th century, it became a symbol of rebellion, and anyone wearing it risked death by hanging, hence the phrase "the wearin' o' the green". According to legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland, because its leaves formed a triad, and three was a mystical number in the Celtic religion. St. Patrick used the shamrock in the 5th century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Christianity to Ireland. Today, the shamrock remains a strong sign of Irish pride and culture and remains a symbol of good luck throughout the world. So go green today and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Flowerbed Design 101

Creating a planned landscape design for your space is a crucial step to creating a functional and beautiful space. By taking the time to think through all the elements of your space you will be more successful with the plants that grow there. Following a few simple steps will help you achieve the results you'd like. Here are our recommendations on how to get started.

  1. Determine the space that you want to design. This is an important step because you need a defined space to start the process and not get overwhelmed with the project. We suggest starting small so that you get a feel for the project and you do not get overwhelmed.

    • Is it a corner that needs reworking?
    • A flowerbed that leaves much to be desired?
    • Or, are you looking to re-do your backyard.

  2. Measure the space width and length with a tape measure. Write these measurements down and convert to plot on graph paper. We suggest using graph paper that is 1/8 inch so the squares are not so small and you and you can easily see what you are working.
  3. • A scale plan is a proportional visual representation of your garden, and you can draw one easily by converting the measurements you took of your garden to one of the scales in this project.

  4. Lay the area out on graph paper. Make sure that you account for all the different elements that make up your bed if there is a birdhouse or other decorative element or if you have a fence nearby all of these are important pieces in making sure your area is accurate on paper.
  5. Determine your light requirements. Take a good look at the light your area gets.

    • Is it morning, afternoon, late afternoon?
    • Is it dappled, shady or direct sun?
    • We recommend watching this space for a day to understand fully how this area receives light.

  6. Water- determine the water in this space.

    • Is it wet or dry? Does it collect water when it rains?
    • Even determine how much watering you want to put into this project? Or, do you not want to water at all.

  7. Determine the bed lines. This is where the style of your house and the style of landscape can affect your choice.

    • Are you looking for something formal? Informal?
    • Sweeping and flowing?
    • Or, simply straight lines?

  8. Other design elements and landscape tips.

    • What are the heights of your windows?
    • Front porch?
    • Or, are there any other architectural features.

  9. Soil Preparation – start with the right foundation and you will have success.

    Soil evaluation. McDonald Garden Center offers free soil testing for your pH. This will help determine any amendments you may need to add for proper soil balance. You will also need to evaluate the kind of soil you have? Clay or sandy. By a simple test you can easily determine. Simply go outside when the soil is damp and collect a handful of soil. If it sticks together and forms a tight ball then you have clay soil if it falls apart then you have sandy.

    Kill off the grass if there is any in that area. We recommend using Killz All or Round Up to get rid of any grasses that may be in the area.

  10. Pick your plants. With all of these questions answered, now comes the fun part picking the plants. You can either visit any year round McDonald location for an expert to help you choose or you can start on your own. Definitely familiarize yourself with the tags on each plant. That will give you the information required to choose the best plant for your space.
  11. Most of all have fun! This is your unique space, give it your own personality so that you will enjoy it for years to come.
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Now in the LIMElight

LEMON LIME NANDINA

Shrubs with color in both autumn and winter are worth their weight in gold - or should that be green? Nandina, also called heavenly bamboo, is an easy-to-care-for ornamental shrub that has a spreading form with bamboo-like stalks and delicate, ferny foliage in shades of green and red. This NEW 'lemon-lime' variety is the first Nanina with a bright chartreuse foliage. This compact shrub will brighten any corner with its limey-chartreuse color in spring that turns a grassy green once the summer heat sets in. In winter, lemon lime fades to a yellow-green.

Nandina can be used in virtually any part of the landscape. The plant grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide and has a dense, full look. Plant in full or part sun for superb foliage color. Nandina will grow in a shady part of the garden, although, leaf color will not be as vibrant. This plant has just about everything a homeowner could ask for and is sure to be the highlight of any landscape or garden!

Love Virginia. Love Local.

OUTDOOR SHOW 2014... going on now!

After a long, hard winter, our 20th annual Outdoor Show offers a warm and colorful welcome to spring! That's right, with one store and two big (heated) tents... this year's show is sure to kick off the spring season with a bang. You'll see an array of local plants rich in color, fragrance and texture while enjoying home & garden exhibits by various local businesses featuring sensational display gardens and other ideas to brighten your home, indoors and out!

From the latest in edible gardening to stylish decor and even terrariums, the show will provide a preview of the hottest gardening trends for 2014. March in to spring with us at Outdoor 2014! The Show will offer everything you need to help people in Hampton Roads get the lawn and garden off to great start. The 20th Annual Outdoor Show 2014 is free and open-to-the-public. The event will be held rain or shine from 9am to 6pm Friday through Sunday, March 7, 8 and 9 at McDonald Garden Center’s Hampton, Virginia location at 1139 W. Pembroke Ave.

Come see us this weekend, March 7-9 at our 20th annual OUTDOOR SHOW >>

Plum Perfect

NEW Royale Plum Wine Verbena

We are so excited to introduce this new trailing verbena by Proven Winners. This annual is a continuous bloomer that produces large clusters of bright, fuchsia flowers. With a trailing habit, this is an ideal plant for hanging baskets, container combos and window boxes. You'll love seeing its blooms cascade out of containers. Royale Plum pairs well with million bells, petunias, geraniums, bacopa and conifers (small arborvitae or cypress). Another added bonus is it's superior heat and drought tolerance. Put this beauty in full sun to part shade and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds flock to it.

Come see this new plant plus many others this weekend, March 7-9 at our 20th annual OUTDOOR SHOW >>