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Dancing in the Garden

Salvia Maraschino and Gaura Whirling Butterflies

Most gardeners only plan to wow their sense of sight in the garden. Colorful plants, coordinating displays, and even decorative containers are given much attention, but these only create a visual interest. Movement in the landscape is considered by many to be on of the key features in a well developed garden and can make for a far more interactive and inspiring outdoor space. When planning your garden, try to incorporate plants that will add a fun and whimsy touch. Here are few perennials that will not only add a fine and delicate texture to your landscape composition but will also dance in your garden all summer long!

Salvia 'Maraschino' - also called "Autumn Sage" this variety boast an abundance of velvet red blooms that are bring hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden and blooms all summer and fall. This salvia has an upright habit and grows to 2 to 3 feet tall. Use as an accent, in borders and beds and containers. Also makes a good cut flower. Blooms are edible and often used as garnish for salads. Maraschino is drought tolerant and prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil.

Gaura Whirling Butterflies - features sprays of white star-shaped flowers tinged with pale pink. In the breeze these move constantly, looking like a cluster of small butterflies. This relatively low maintenance perennial grows 1 to 3 feet tall and is excellent in containers, rock gardens or mixed borders. Whirling Butterfly does best in full sun to partial shade. It is adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions and is heat and drought tolerant.

The Benefits of Landscaping

Any way you slice it there are many benefits to landscaping and plants. The design of your landscape is just as important as the architecture of your home and landscaping can add between 5 to 15 percent to a home’s value. Don't overlook the importance of curb appeal when planning your outdoor space. Remember this is the first impression of your home to guests and potential buyers.

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Our Berry Top Picks


To be a backyard berry farmer is so easy and so rewarding. We are crazy for berries and growing them couldn’t be easier. As long as they have well drained soil and sunshine, you'll have plenty of berries for your shortcakes this summer. We polled our berry experts and here’s their top picks for Hampton Roads gardens.

Brazelberry Raspberry Shortcake. This new dwarf, thorn-less red raspberry has an endearing, rounded compact growth habit and is perfectly suited to large patio containers. It will nicely fill out no matter what the shape and requires no staking! Self fertile, yielding full-sized, nutritious and super sweet berries in mid-summer.

Sunshine. A semi-dwarf evergreen blueberry it features showy hot pink flowers that fade to white in spring. Yielding medium, rich sweet flavored berries this blueberry is self – pollinizing.

Rabbiteye. These easy to grow, delicious fruits are especially tolerant of the heat and drought of the South. You will need to plant more than one variety for cross-pollination.

Bountiful Blue Blueberry. With large, sweet, juicy berries this award winning selection has the bluest foliage of any blueberry. It is self fertilizer, but a pollenizer such as 'Sunshine Blue' will yield a more prolific harvest. With a rounded growth habit it is perfect for massing in the landscape or featuring in large containers.

We recommend Chandler and Berry Galore Rose.

Chandler. These berries are brilliant red, very large, and produce early-season to mid-season fruit. With an exceptional flavor profile, they grow well in Hampton Roads and a great backyard berry.

Berry Galore Rose. This ever-bearing plant produces deep red, sweet berries. This unique plant bears fruit but also offers ornamental rose colored blooms with dark green glossy foliage. Performs well in containers, hanging baskets, or in the ground.

Triple Crown. This trailing blackberry ripens for about one month from July thru August. Fruits ripen to a juicy sweet flavor with large, flavorful fruit. This semi-erect vine is thorn less and will bear huge fruit yields year after year.

Don't miss this weekend the Pungo Strawberry Fest. This berry-rific event celebrates the perfect harvest time for strawberries in Hampton Roads.

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Blues That'll Make You Smile

SALVIA 'Velocity Blue'

This annual is a sure way to add beautiful, bold blues to your garden this spring and summer. An early bloomer, it features large, dark blue flower spikes. It is a bushy, upright plant with intense color and unusually large flowers. Best of all, it has very good heat tolerance for the hot humid days of summer.

It boasts strong stems, and a dense growth habit. It makes an excellent plant for adding height to combination containers. Salvia ‘Velocity Blue’ makes a great landscape plant for ground beds or mixed containers, especially when used with other bright red or yellow annuals.

Salvia ‘Velocity Blue’ adds an attractive structure and height to plantings and will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

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Backyard Grilling & Chilling


Believe it or not, it’s finally time to fire up the grill and kick off the summer season. This time of year, many of us find ourselves cooking outdoors every chance we get. We already know that cooking with herbs indoors adds flavor so why not take those fresh, homegrown herbs out with you to the grill? Whether you're a grill master or a barbecue newbie, cooking with herbs is easy, and with a snip of the scissors you can make an otherwise bland dish pop with flavor! So why not have your very own homegrown herbs fresh for the picking? Here are a few herbs that are sure add a burst of flavor to your grilled favorites:

Rosemary - One of the oldest perennial herbs known to man. Rosemary is available in many varieties, all of which can be used in cooking. Some top choices for Hampton Roads include Tuscan Blue, Arp and Barbeque, named for its long stems which can be used for skewers when grilling to add flavor. Rosemary is a natural for pork and poultry dishes. Use a branch of rosemary as a basting brush for barbecued chicken or as a simple garnish. Rub chopped rosemary on aged beef before grilling.

Parsley - A versatile biennial herb ideal in pots, borders and in the garden. Parsley plays a double role as an ornamental plant and as a culinary herb. Parsley's slightly peppery flavor can be used to enhance fish and chicken. Parsley is easy to grow and stores and freezes beautifully for use all year long.

Thyme - A perennial herb available in many different varieties including Common, Woolly, "Mother-of-Thyme", Lemon, English, Silver, and Golden. Thyme is the perfect compliment to beef, poultry, fish and vegetable dishes. We think thyme, along with sage, rosemary and oregano should be considered for every herb garden.

Oregano - This perennial is a hardy member of the mint family that has been used for flavoring fish and meats since ancient times. Oregano is often referred to as the "pizza herb.” Use this one when grilling lamb dishes and on grilled pizzas.

Sage - This perennial comes in lots of varieties including Garden, Golden, Blue, Pineapple, Tri-color and Clary, all of which can be used in cooking. Sage compliments pork and chicken dishes. Dried sage leaves will keep their flavor for years.

NOTE: Annuals herbs typically provide herbs all summer and die once the weather becomes cold in fall or winter. Most perennial herbs come back year after year, although some need winter protection in colder climates. Biennial herbs fall somewhere in between perennial and annual herbs, because they live for two seasons, blooming only during the second season.

Elevate Your Garden


Who says landscapes have to be pristine flower beds and container plantings? We say, bring your garden to new heights with a raised bed. A raised bed can improve plant production, save space and look great too. It also gives you control over the soil quality which is one of the most important components to a successful garden.

To build healthy soil in your raised bed, McDonald Garden Center recommends using compost, top soil and perlite. This mixture specifically addresses the soil issues in our region. Hampton Roads soil tends to be heavy and full of clay. By adding soil amendments you can improve the soil and therefore the plants. Giving your garden the best foundation will make it healthier, more beautiful and easier to maintain. Building healthy soil is an ongoing process and by making healthy soil a focus at the start of your project, you will have a head start on creating a sustainable garden.

Once you lay the groundwork, your raised bed garden can be planted for multiple growing seasons. Grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs for the summer and grow cabbage, spinach and kale for a fall or winter harvest. Growing edibles is easier than you think. Simply visit a McDonald expert to learn what edibles to grow and when.

This raised bed design was created by McDonald Landscapes and not only produces loads of great edibles but looks great doing it! Find out how our landscape team can help you create an edible garden. Learn more about our LANDSCAPING SERVICES. >>

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Get this look!


Container gardening is a trend that continues to grow. Nearly half of American households report trying some form of container gardening. Creativity, flexibility and portability are a few of the top reasons why people have fallen in love with this form of gardening. Why not make a container that not only looks great, but deters mosquitos naturally. Try this recipe and help beat the bugs AND have a great looking planter for your deck and patio.

Here's what you need:

  • A large container
  • McDonald Natural & Organic Potting Soil
  • McDonald Greenleaf Fertilizer
  • Two 6-inch marigolds
  • One 4-inch mint
  • One 4-inch rosemary
  • One citronella geranium
  • One Quart Lemon Grass


  • To get started, fill your container with McDonald Natural & Organic Potting Soil.
  • Sprinkle a handful of McDonald Greenleaf Fertilizer over the soil.
  • Loosen plant roots slightly and gently place in the fertilized soil mix.
  • Place the lemon grass center stage and add the smaller plants around it.

McDonald TIP: Dead head the marigolds to encourage optimal blooming all summer long.

Viva Italia


Have the tastes and smells of Italy right in your own backyard. An Italian herb garden can be any size or shape, and can easily be grown in containers on a sunny patio or deck, and it’s a fun project for the whole family. Here are a few staples to include in your garden but remember, the possibilities are endless so be creative and plant your favorite Italian seasonings.

Oregano: This aromatic herb is easy to grow and is one of the few herbs that is stronger dried than when fresh. Italian Oregano, commonly called "the pizza herb," is a must-have for any tomato sauce.

Basil: This is an absolute must-have for Italian cuisine. It is grown for its wonderful sweet flavor. Use in sauces or top and top off dishes with this relish herb. You can use any of the basils, but we really like Sweet Basil.

Hot & Spicy Oregano: This easy-to-grow herb lives up to its name - hot and spicy! The perfect addition to tomato sauce or pizza sauce, this herb gives your dishes that extra zing. It thrives in a sunny space and likes well drained soil. Harvest the leaves and use fresh or dried.

Fennel: This herb looks similar to its popular relative, dill. With small yellow flowers and feathery leaves, this aromatic and flavorful herb with anise like flavor.

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Edible Garden Essentials

Transform your ho-hum garden into an abundant edible masterpiece. Here's a few of our favorites that will keep your edibles going and growing!

Smart Mud Gloves - These garden gloves provide durability through abrasion resistance as well as an excellent degree of tactility. With the Smart Mud gloves you are free to answer your phone, change your music, or take that perfect pic of your splendid garden with your gloves on. assorted colors, $7.99

Espoma Garden Tone - For naturally delicious edibles, use this all natural plant food formulated specifically for vegetable gardens. It is safe, long lasting, and provides nutrients necessary for vigorous and productive plants. 8 pound bag, $14.99

Tomato Cages - Mix these colorful structures in your edible garden. Our round, heavy-duty wire plant cages give your fruits & veggies the support they need while giving you the color and style you need. 42-inch cages in assorted colors, $9.99

Marigolds - These sunny annuals not only look great in beds and containers, but they also chase off unwanted pests and bugs. We recommend mixing them in edible gardens to deter pests from enjoying your yummy harvest. $2.29 (packs) & up

Gronomics Raised Bed Kits - Constructed of 100% western red cedar, these raised bed kits are easy to assemble. They can be set in multiple designs and formats to fit your space. With raised beds, you eliminate tilling, soil amending and minimize wedding. 48x48x13 inch Gronomics Raised Bed Kit, reg. $159, on sale for $99.88. (sold at year-round locations)

McDonald Organic Compost - By mixing our compost with your native soil, you will provide your plants much-needed moisture, aeration and give their roots the optimum environment in which to grow. 1 cubic foot bag, $6.99

GARDENING TIP: Mix edibles and cutting flowers together in your garden to create the ultimate kitchen garden. You'll have beautiful bouquets and delicious foods for the table!

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Peonies are Popping!


These outrageously beautiful blooms are popping open all over Hampton Roads right now. A garden favorite, who doesn’t love the low maintenance, ruffly big flowers of a peony? These blooms are the quintessential wedding bouquet flower, so remember to cut the blooms and bring them inside for colorful indoor vases. Peonies come in several varieties: Tree peonies, Herbaceous peonies and a cross of the two -- Itoh peonies.

Herbaceous peonies are the most well known type of peony and produce beautiful cut flowers. These deciduous perennial peonies die back to the ground every winter and re-emerge each spring. They grow in part sun but benefit from some afternoon shade here in Hampton Roads. Most prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil and good drainage is essential. The flower stems may not be strong enough to keep the often heavy, flamboyant flowers upright so we recommend staking these peonies. These low maintenance shrubs are deer proof. Choose from these varieties: Hawaiian Coral, Pink Parfait, Primevere, Sea Shell, Shirley Temple, Paul Wild, Miss America, Do Tell, Bowl of Beauty Karl Rosenfield, and Velvet Splendor.

Tree peonies are not exactly trees, in fact they are long-lived, hardy deciduous shrubs. We recommend planting them in full sun to part shade. They can tolerate some light shade but the plants may begin to grow towards the light. Their woody structure allows them to support beautiful dinner sized plate blooms. After blooming, they provide structure in the garden with deep green leaves in summer and bronze-purple foliage in fall. These peonies grow between 3-7 feet tall. Choose from orange, red and yellow varieties.

Itoh peonies are a cross of the green foliage and exotic blooms of the tree peony and the seasonal growing habit of herbaceous peonies. Itoh peonies are grown for their huge, beautiful blooms and lush green foliage. Historically, Itohs were challenging to grow and thus hard to find and rather expensive. But that’s all changed. A mature plant may produce 50 or more dinner plate size flowers on strong, short stems that do not requiring staking. These peonies are more compact in size and grow 2.5 feet tall - 3 feet wide. With dinner-plate sized flowers, a compact shape, deer resistance and low maintenance, what’s not to love about these beauties? Choose from these varieties: Cora Louise, Morning Lilac, Dandy Keiko, Scarlet Heave, Paeonia Singing in the Rain, Paeonia Lollipop, Paeonia Magical Mystery Tour, Paeonia Scrumdidleumptious, Paeonia Berry Garcia and Paeonia Magical Mystery Tour.

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