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Fabulous Fall Herbs

ORGANIC HERB COMBO: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Violas

Decorate naturally with a pot of fresh herbs that's just as tasty as it is attractive! This mix of fall herbs and violas is the perfect addition to your home with pretty foliage, flowers and functional herbs. This collection of herbs can be harvested for months and will add great flavor to your dishes.

Parsley is a bright green annual herb available in both flat leaf and curly leaf varieties. Flat leaf parsley is used frequently as a garnish on potato dishes, on rice dishes or with fish, chicken and lamb. Curley leaf is most often used as a garnish. This herb offers the mild flavor it adds to savory dishes.

Sage comes in lots of varieties including garden, golden, blue, pineapple, tri-color and clary - all of which can be used in cooking. Sage is a must in stuffing for poultry. Roast it with pork; add to butter and sauté chicken along with it. Sage also goes well in egg and cheese dishes. Try a little crumbled dry sage over a bowl of black-eyed peas. Dried leaves will keep their flavor for years.

Rosemary, one of the oldest herbs known to man is an evergreen perennial and a culinary must-have. Rosemary is ideal for spicing up pork and poultry dishes and is also used to flavor butter, oils and vinegars.

Thyme, a low growing evergreen herb extensively used in French cuisine. Thyme is the perfect compliment to veal, lamb, beef, poultry, fish, stuffing, stews, soups, sauces, stock, herb butters, flavored vinegars, beans, lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, cheese, onions, cucumbers, carrots, eggplant, leeks, mushrooms, eggs, and rice. Whew, yep... there's no shortage of ways to use this herb!

Violas are primarily cool season bloomers and are perfect additions to fall plantings that last through early spring. Violas are available in wide range of colors and look similar to pansies - they just have a smaller flower than pansies. The flowers may be used to decorate salads or used in stuffings for poultry or fish. Soufflés, cream, and similar desserts can be flavored with essence of viola flowers. The strong perfume of some varieties will add sweetness to desserts, fruit salads, and teas.

Dim the Lights

LOW-LIGHT HOUSEPLANTS

Don’t have a green thumb or the time to fuss over plants? Sometimes it seems like there’s just not enough time in your day to care for houseplants, but fortunately there are some low light options that can pretty much take care of themselves. Houseplants provide many benefits – from improving air quality in your home and office to simply making you feel happy. But you don’t need to fuss with finicky plants to beautify your home. Low light plants are some of the easiest and most versatile of all houseplants. Nearly all low light plants will grow in most light conditions except direct sun, and can endure for years with only artificial light.

Here's a few suggestions from seasoned gardener and McDonald owner, Eddie Anderson, on growing low light houseplants...

Low light conditions are a constant challenge when trying to select the best plant for your home or office. Anderson says one way to determine lighting conditions in your indoor space is weather or not you can read a book comfortably without a light on in the location where you are going to place the plant. If you struggle to say yes, then here are a few suggestions on houseplants that will thrive in these low light conditions.

Chinese evergreens - One of the best plants for beginners or those with low light conditions - this robust, slow growing plant is easy to grow and tolerates just about every indoor condition. Not only is it one of the toughest plants, it's also beautiful. Most varieties have deep green leaves with bold sliver markings. Calla-lily-like blooms may also appear in spots where it gets enough light. The plant is equally low maintenance when it comes to watering. By keeping the soil evenly moist or watering once every few weeks, Chinese evergreens will do well. The new hybrid varieties along with the Elite series and the Bay series provide a broad range of colors for decorating your indoor space. And when it comes to decorating, this plant is extremely versatile. When young, it’s small enough to fit on a desk or tabletop. Older, larger plants are suited to growing on the floor, in corners, next to furniture, or as an accent piece alongside a wall. The silvery hues in Chinese evergreens work with just about any decorating color palette and style.

Bromeliads – another tough, low light houseplant that thrives on neglect, bromeliads endure a wide range of indoor conditions with minimal care. These spectacular plants, related to the pineapple family, are available in an impressive palette of bright tropical colors, with unique foliage that adds a pop of color to any home. Bromeliads make excellent houseplants and a single plant can be a stunning focal point in any indoor or outdoor room. With long-lasting, brilliantly colored foliage, bromeliads adapt to the unfavorable growing conditions that exist in most homes. In general, these plants are easy to grow and require very little care. They come in a wide range of sizes from tiny miniatures to giants. With their impressive structure and ornamental foliage, the visual impact of bromeliads is immediate. Try planting them alone in a concrete or uniquely shaped container or combine them with a companion plant where the bromeliad will surely be center stage.

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Giant White Squill

Strange name and cool flowers, Squill is a unique plant that offers high drama. The Squill flowers are loved by floral artists and show up in fashion photo shoots, home magazines and in floral combinations at high end venues. We’ve spotted this flower in Architectural Digest, Garden Design and even in some Hollywood gatherings. Prized for its unique, chic look you can try your hand growing this bulb this fall.

The flowers of this interesting plant are tall, upright stems that grow to be about 4-5 feet. The flower spikes are made up of tons of starry white flowers all over the flower stalk. Interestingly, the flowers will live longer if cut and placed in water as opposed to staying on the plant. Once cut, the Squill flowers will continue to grow and have been seen growing up to six more inches.

The foliage is also beautiful on this plant. With wide attractive leaves from November through May, you will enjoy the Emerald green color until the huge flower stalk appears in August.

This bulb is quite large, about the size of a soccer ball and it prefers full sun. To plant the bulb, make sure the top of the bulb is even with the soil surface. It is also important to have good drainage for this bulb. Sandy soil is a great option and we suggest avoiding heavy clay as the bulb will rot if it stays wet. Due to the size of this plant, the root system can be quite large, so make sure you are giving this plant plenty of room.

This beauty is surely one that will sure to make your “squill.”

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Scarecrows Historically Speaking

by Kathy Warnes

For thousands of years scarecrows have helped humans save their crops from crows and other hungry mouths and provided an outlet for human creativity. Scarecrows are as old and as mysterious as human nature and have been useful friends to humans since the mists of early time.

A Brief History of Scarecrows

Scarecrow genealogy is rooted in a rural life style. The Egyptians used the first scarecrows in recorded history to use to protect wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. Egyptian farmers installed wooden frames in their fields and covered them with nets. Then they hid in the fields, scared the quail into the nets and took them home to eat for dinner.

Greek farmers in 2,500 B.C. carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite, who supposedly was ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards and ensure good harvests. They painted their wooden scarecrows purple and put a club in one hand to scare away the birds and a sickle in the other for a good harvest.

The Romans copied the Greek scarecrow custom and when Roman armies marched through the Europe they introduced Priapus scarecrows to the people there. Almost simultaneously with the Greeks and Romans, Japanese farmers made scarecrows to protect their rice fields. They made scarecrows called kakashis, shaped like people. They dressed the kakashis in a raincoat and a round straw hat and often added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening. Kojiki, the oldest surviving Japanese book compiled in the year 712, features a scarecrow known as Kuebiko who appears as a deity who can’t walk yet knows everything about the world..

In Germany, scarecrows were wooden and shaped to look like witches. Witch scarecrows were supposed to hasten the coming of spring. In medieval Britain, young boys and girls were used as live scarecrows or “bird scarers.” They would patrol the fields of crops and scare away birds by waving their arms or throwing stones. In later times, farmers stuffed sacks of straw, made faces of gourds, and leaned the straw man against pole to scare away birds.

New World Scarecrows

In the United States, immigrant German farmers made human looking scarecrows called “bootzamon,” which later changed to bogeyman. They were dressed in old clothes with a large red handkerchief around their necks.

Native American tribes across North America used scarecrows or bird scarers, mostly adult men. In Georgia, Creek Indian families moved into huts in their corn fields to protect their crops during the growing season. In the Southwest, Zuni children had contests to see who could make the scariest scarecrow.

Pilgrim families took turns guarding their fields against birds and animals, but as Americans expanded west they invented new kinds of nonhuman scarecrows like wooden and straw figures. During the Great Depression, scarecrows could be found all across America, but in the agri-business era after World War II, farmers sprayed or dusted their crops with chemicals like DDT until scientists discovered their harmful effects. To substitute for chemicals, some farmers built scarecrows like whirligigs that revolved like windmills to scare away the birds.

Modern Scarecrows

Scarecrows still guard fields around the world during the growing season. Today some farmers use technological scarecrows instead of straw and wooden figures, technological scarecrows like reflective film ribbons tied to plants to create shimmers from the sun or automatic noise guns that are powered by propane gas. Other farmers in India and some Arab countries, station old men in chairs to throw stones at birds to keep them away from the crops just like the medieval bird scarers.

Just a Few Scarecrows of the Imagination

Even though Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, by American author L. Frank Baum, admonishes her dog Toto, “Don’t be silly Toto, scarecrows don’t talk,” the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz does talk. In his first appearance in the book, he reveals that he doesn’t have a brain and wants more than anything else to acquire one. The reality is that he already has a brain, but since he is only two days old it is largely unused. As the story unfolds, he demonstrates that he does use his brain and it keeps growing along with his experiences. The scarecrow is symbolic because even though he has the title, “the wisest man in all of Oz,” he is wise enough to know his limitations. He continues to credit the Wizard for his brains and he hands over the throne of Oz that the Wizard bequeaths him to Princess Ozma. He becomes one of her trusted advisors, but carves out enough time for himself to play games and enjoy life.

Paul Cornell focuses on the sinister aspect of scarecrow evolution in his 1995 Doctor Who novel Human Nature, when he has his villains, the Family of Blood, create an army of scarecrows to try to capture the Time Lord.

Tim Preston, in his children’s book, The Lonely Scarecrow, sees a winter future for the scarecrow. He imagines that instead of dying in the fall after the festivals and fun of Halloween are over, the scarecrow is covered with snow in the winter and becomes a useful friend until he resumes his guard duties in the spring.

Scarecrows of the Future

Scarecrows have evolved along with people and people sponsor scarecrow festivals every year in places as diverse as West Kilbride, Scotland, St. Charles, Illinois, and Alberta, Canada. After the scarecrow festivals are over, both scarecrows and people enjoy a long, friendly, restful winter before they resume their more strenuous duties in the spring.

References: Brown, Margaret Wise, The Little Scarecrow Boy, Harper Collins, 2005
Miller, Marcianne, Creative Scarecrows: 35 Fun Figures for Your Yard and Garden, Lark Books, 2004.
Preston, Tim, The Lonely Scarecrow, Dutton Juvenile, 1st Edition, 1999

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Make a Scarecrow ~ A Local Tradition!

Our annual Make-a-Scarecrow event began more than 20 years ago to provide Hampton Roads residents a family-fun event while raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

Every fall, families are invited to build their own life-size scarecrow creations at McDonald Garden Centers in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. All proceeds from the $25 registration fee 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 almost 1,000 scarecrows made and more than $24,000 raised for CHKD. More than 70,000 dollars has been donated to hospital since 2008.

The registration fee includes all supplies for making scarecrows. CHKD members and volunteers are on site to assist with scarecrow making. Participants are welcome to take their creations home for fall decorating after the event.

The unique concept for Make-A-Scarecrow was the first of its kind in the area and has become a Hampton Roads tradition. This creative and family-fun event brings out a lot of people that help make a difference for a great cause and continues to grow every year!

Join us Saturday or Sunday to Make a Scarecrow. Make a Difference. >>

White is the New Orange

CASPERITA MINI PUMPKINS

They say orange is the new black but when it comes to pumpkins, we say white is the new orange! White pumpkins, once a novelty, are becoming increasingly common, and these captivating white orbs are all the rage when it comes to stylish fall decorating. They provide great contrast in fall gourd and pumpkin displays and add elegance to seasonal tablescapes. Casperitas have strong green handles and hold their color both on and off the vine. They're especially great for painting and monogramming for a personal touch. Casperitas can also be substituted for orange pumpkins in many recipes. Whether you're baking pumpkin pie or making a pumpkin soup, try the Casperita. Natural or painted, the versatility of these little pumpkins make them a must-have accent for all your fall decorating.

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Lawns. A labor of love!

Everyone knows that a lush, green lawn is a labor of love. Our experts put together a quick timeline of things you should be doing to have the best yard on the block.

September

  • Mow regularly at recommended height or 3-3.5 inches.
  • Irrigate - Apply one inch of water per week if we donot receive sufficient rainfall.
  • Fertilize - Apply a slow-release fertilizer, we recommend Lawn Food Plus Iron
  • Control Weeds - Apply pre-emergent near the end of the month. You may treat weeds with Weed Free Zone and apply pre-emergent to prevent weed germination.
  • Aerate - Fall is the best time to aerate cool season lawns. *Aerate before applying pre-emergents.
  • Overseeding - Overseed if needed this month with McDonald Tall Fescue Mix or McDonald Shady Mix.

October

  • Mow - Mow lawn to three inches in height.
  • Irrigate - Apply one inch of water per week if we do not receive suffi cient rainfall.
  • Control Weeds - Apply pre-emergent. Treat established weeds. Do not use weed killers on your lawn if you have over-seeded with Annual Rye/or reseeded.
  • Fertilize - If you did not do so in September
  • Aerate -Fall is the best time to aerate cool season lawns. *Aerate before applying pre-emergents.
  • Rake or blow leaves from lawn.

November

  • Mow regularly at recommended height or 3 inches.
  • Control Weeds - Apply pre-emergent to dormant lawns. Do not use a pre-emergent if you plant to overseed.
  • Fertilize - Apply second application of slow-release fertilizer, Lawn Food Plus Iron.
  • Rake or blow leaves from lawn regularly.

December

  • Mow regularly at recommended height or 2.5-3 inches.
  • Control Weeds - You may apply pre-emergent.
  • Fertilize - Apply second application if you did not do so in November.
  • Other - Rake or blow leaves from lawn regularly.

Join us every Saturday now through October 18th at 11am for COMPLIMENTARY LAWN CLASSES. >>

Mum's the Word

MUMS FOR FALL DECORATING

‘Tis the season for apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin-flavored everything and of course festive fall decorating. Autumn is an especially fun time of year to decorate your home both inside and out and nothing says fall like mums. Garden mums require a minimum amount of care and do well in most conditions. There are literally hundreds of varieties with flower colors that range from white to yellow, pink, purple, bronze, red and all the hues in between. Decorating with mums is easy and they mix beautifully with other fall decor like pumpkins, gourds, squash, grasses and much more.

Here are just few ways you can use them:

  • Plant in the landscape for a pop of fall color.
  • Refresh or replace tired-looking annuals in flower beds.
  • Pair with pumpkins on a foyer table or outdoors on a porch.
  • Mixed in window boxes with small gourds, pumpkins, trailing vines or small ornamental grasses for texture and dimension.
  • Plant-up in a hollowed out pumpkin for an eye-catching centerpiece.
  • Display in earns or large containers on the front porch.
  • Place in hanging baskets on a front or back porch.
  • Cut individual stems and use as cut flowers in large are small vases indoors.
  • Add pumpkins, gourds and leaves around the base of a mum for an instance fall look.
  • Tier in a terracotta birdbath with colorful peppers, pumpkins and ornamental grasses.

Join us as we kick off fall with our huge savings event all weekend long... MUM MANIA!

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A sweet new selection for fall

PINEAPPLE FLAMINGO MUM

Mums, or chrysanthemums, are the quintessential fall bloom. This perennial, with colorful domes of yellow, lavender, burgundy, white and pink are a fall superstar. With a tight mounded growth habit, mums are stunning in bloom and perfect for mass plantings or as a stand alone in a container. Beyond the traditional colors, our new Pineapple Flamingo is great addition to this season's landscape.

This pink and yellow cushion flower provides beautiful color for cooler weather. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container. This beauty looks especially great paired with pumpkins.

Check out these mum tips from our plant experts:

  • Make sure to buy mums just as they start to break bud. This way you can maximize the bloom time.
  • Keep the blooms coming by watering and pinching back. Soil should be moist, but never wet. Check daily while weather is warm, every other day when it’s cooler. Pluck off spent blooms to encourage even more buds to open and you’ll have color well through October.

Must-Have Mums

We are crazy for mums and this season we've found some of the best mums yet. Try adding bold color with these perennials to your fall containers. We can't keep mum about these!

Roadrunner Bronze
‘Roadrunner Bronze’ is a clump-forming, fall-blooming mum. Boasting a flat decorative form this reddish-yellow with a bit of orange bloom will add fall color from September to the last frost. This is a compact plant that typically grows to 10-14” tall and has dark green leaves.

Ghostbuster Mumbo
This NEW garden mum combo (aka MUMBO) will add a spooktacular surprise to your holiday décor. With a mix of Chelsea yellow, pink, and white mums, Ghostbuster will get all the ghouls and goblins out this fall.

Echo Bronze
A glowing red-orange daisy-like bloom is perfect for autumn. It prefers well drained soil and sun to part shade. Its low maintenance and is a great way to dress up your containers or front entryway. This mum will offer plenty of flower power with blooms appearing in autumn, spring, summer, late summer. With deep green leaves, this mum will grow to up to 24” in height and 36 inches wide.

Pineapple Flamingo
This pink and yellow cushion flower provides beautiful color for the cooler weather seasons. They're just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container. This beauty looks great paired with pumpkins.

Pink Frenzy
This mum will explode with vibrant pink color in the fall. With the dense round foliage the blooms will pop against the deep green and look fully engulfed in flowers. This mounded mum continues the bright pinks of summer right into the fall.

Flamingo Cranberry
Magenta-red with a little orange, this fall bloomer boast semi-double blooms. The frilly, pincushion like flowers sit atop lush green foliage. Butterflies love this mum and it is the perfect border or container plant. A decorative flower, this plant will grow to 18- 24 inches tall and 24-30 inches wide. It prefers full sun.

Purple Majesty
Low maintenance, cold tolerant and heat tolerant, what’s not to love? Oh and did we mention it is a gorgeous shade of purple. With a mounded habit, this mum will grow to be 8-14" tall and 10-22" wide. Purple mums will pair well with ornamental peppers or purple fountain grass.

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