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How Sweet It Is

SWEET BASIL

Get your herb garden growing with one of our favorite herbs, Sweet Basil. This garden classic is known for its flavor and fragrance. With big leaves that are fast growing, anyone can produce a homegrown harvest. Basil needs about 6-8 hours of full sunlight to produce and can benefit from a little bit of afternoon shade. If grown in containers, it will definitely need watering as it likes moist, well drained soil. Dry soil will stunt the growth of this plant. The large leaves of this plant, are vibrant green. Sweet Basil is the main ingredient for classic Italian Pesto, but it is great in pastas, on pizzas and even in lemonade.

TIP: You'll want to prevent basil from blooming, by either harvesting the leaves or pinching off the top sets of leaves. Once the basil plant sets flowers, the leaves will lessen in flavor. So, our rule of thumb don’t’ be afraid to cut and use this tasty herb.

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Landscaping by the Locals

The design of your landscape is just as important as the architecture of your home. Our landscape team will work with you to develop a vision that blends your aesthetic taste with your available space and budget. We strive to bring imagination, originality and practicality to every project. Whether it is the renovation of an existing landscape or the design of something new, we invite you to be a part of the process that will create your ideal design. Or, simply let our professionals develop creative solutions to maximize your landscape’s potential. No matter your landscape vision, we have a passion for creating beautiful, lasting landscapes that will far exceed your expectations!

With McDonald Landscapes, all projects begin with the design process, where you’ll meet with a skilled landscape designer who will assess your needs and objectives and provide expert recommendations.

McDonald Landscapes will then provide complete installation services to ensure the professional appearance of your project. As one of the most experienced in Hampton Roads, we have a large fleet of equipment to handle any size project from small residential to large commercial.

Our crews are specially trained to handle a broad range of horticultural and construction applications. Relax and let our experts make your landscape plans a reality. Discover the difference professional installation can make. From modern garden design to drainage solutions, our experts can transform you yard.

To schedule an appointment and discuss your project with a Landscape Designer, or to learn more about our services, please call:
757-722-3125 (ext. 312) Peninsula • 757-751-3207 Southside
or email us at landscape@mcdonaldgardencenter.com

Learn more about our landscaping services. >>

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All About Petunias

Petunias are sun-loving annuals that bloom spring through summer. You can find petunias in just about every color with growing habits that mound in borders or trail down containers. These garden favorites are heat tolerant and easy to care for. A thorough watering once a week should be sufficient (unless there are prolonged periods of drought). However, spreading types and those in containers require more frequent watering. We recommend fertilizing your plants monthly to ensure good growth. Try McDonald Greenleaf, a slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for Hampton Roads. You'll also need to remove faded flowers to prolong blooming and keep them performing their best.

Petunias fall into two categories: Mounding Growth Habit and Trailing/Spreading Growth Habit

TRAILING/SPREADING (cascading growth habit)
Use as a spiller in containers, window boxes or hanging baskets.

• Supertunia: great colors, vigorous grower; self-cleaning & no dead heading required
• Wave: low growing and tolerates heat well
• Shockwave: smaller flowers and more weather resistant; tolerates heat
• Easy Wave: fast-growing and blooms early spring to late summer; doesn’t require cutting back
• Plush: mid-size blooms with show of color all summer long
• Suncatcher: large flowers in a wide range of colors that bloom repeatedly

MOUNDING HABIT(grow in a clump)
Use in the landscape, in containers and in combination planters.

• Potunia: early spring bloomer in bold colors
• Sophistica: one-of-a-kind flowers that bloom early spring - late summer

We are crazy for these spring and summer favorites. Check out a few NEW varieties in stores now: (see above photos)

  • Black Cherry Supertunias - Medium to large flowers of deep red with black accents.Vigorous growing with a slightly mounded habit. Great filler for combination plantings or a stand alone in the garden.
  • Rose Blast Charm Petunias - Compact, small flowered petunia similar to million bells, great for container combos and baskets. No need to deadhead for continuous blooms.
  • Limoncello Supertunias - Medium to large sized flowers with deep yellow veins. Vigorous growing with slightly mounded habit. Great filler for combination plantings or a stand alone in the garden.
  • Morning Glory Charm - Colors like an old fashioned Morning Glory. Compact, small flowered petunia similar to million bells, great for container combos and baskets. No need to deadhead for continuous blooms.
  • PHOTOS: from Proven Winners

    Visit us today through Sunday for our huge sales event, the PETUNIA PARTY >>

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We're Crazy for Container Gardens

Looking for an easy way to add pizzaz to your deck or patio? A container garden is just the trick! Go crazy with color or go monochromatic – you decide but either one will spice up your outdoors. Choose a container that pulls your arrangement together and sets the tone for the flower power. Follow our classic container formula and you can’t go wrong.

THRILLERS - Choose a showy plant to be center stage. This should plant should be taller and larger than the other plants.
SHADE: Rita’s Gold Fern, Majesty Palm, Red Sister Cordyline

SUN: Hibiscus, Grasses, Spike, Geraniums

FILLERS - Choose plants to fill in the container and add depth and dimension through color and/or texture.
SHADE: Begonias, Coleus, Ferns, Polka dot plant, Caladium

SUN: Petunias, Million Bells, Begonias, Geraniums, Dusty Miller

SPILLERS - Add plants that will cascade over the side of the container and creates a softness to the arrangement.
SHADE: Trailing Coleus, Ivy

SUN: Lantana, Sweet Potato, Verbena, Lobelia, Mezoo

Container Tip: For optimal plant performance, fertilize your containers with McDonald Greenleaf, an all-purpose plant food specifically formulated for Hampton Roads.

Check out some of our favorite CONTAINER GARDENS >>

Plant of the Week:

BAHAMA BEACH: Proven Winners Combo of the Year

Do you BELIEVE in LOVE at first sight? If so, get ready to fall in love with Proven Winners combo of the year -- Bahama Beach. This delightful treat combines three garden must-haves into one blooming masterpiece. Full of purple Bordeaux petunias, blue lobelia, and a pop of yellow million bells, this planter is the spring and summer season's must-have. This bright and colorful combination is available in almost every configuration possible, from hanging baskets to container plants. Add this plant to any sunny spot and enjoy! Each combo contains:

Superbells® Lemon Slice Million Bells - Looking like little petunias, the pinwheel pattern of alternating slices of yellow and white is really striking and quite unique. These yellow flowers pop and provide a lovely compliment to the purple and blue flowers.

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunias - Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers. They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds. They have medium to large sized flowers.

Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia - These soft blue flowers will bloom all season. This stunning annual offers cascading, well-branched flowers and is the perfect trailer in this combination. A great summer performer and low maintenance, these blues will make you happy.

Photos from Proven Winners

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

The Scratch Test

Do the fingernail scratch test before declaring a plant dead.
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Winter’s harsh hand slapped my garden. Thankfully, the damage is seen only on a few plants.

My acre on a small creek in York County endures lots of wind, so much that I sometimes think I live in a NASA wind tunnel. Those cold winter winds can do more damage than frozen soil or heavy snow.

How cold wind damage happens can be puzzling. For example, I have four camellias near each other: two have nice green leaves everywhere while two camellias have leaves severely wind burned and browned across half of the plant (pictured above). I will take a wait-and-see approach before pruning the bad parts.

My wax myrtle hedge also looks sad – few green leaves anywhere.

Gardening friends tell me they see much of the same – browned, wind-desiccated leaves on gardenia, loropetealum and other cold-sensitive plants.

Before you declare any of those victims too damaged to recover, do a fingernail-scratch test. Using your fingernail, or a small knife or anything sharp, scratch some bark tissue along a dead-looking part of the plant. If you see green (pictured above), the plant is alive and will hopefully flush out new growth when warmer weather stabilizes and plants are motivated to get growing.

Once damaged plants have fully leafed out in late spring, prune them to remove any remaining dead parts. Apply a light fertilizer made for the plant variety – for example, acid-loving food for camellia, azalea and gardenia – and keep the plant watered during any hot, dry spells during summer. Plants are usually tougher than we think, and grow back healthy as ever.

PHOTOS: Plants in Kathy Van Mullekom’s garden.

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Our Top 10 Spring Must-Haves

We've been growing Hampton Roads gardeners for 70 years and our number one goal has always been one thing -- to make you a success in the garden. Our team has put together a list of customer favorites and garden basics to help you do just that, be a success. Whether you are a true green thumb or just getting started, we're here to grow your knowledge. So, dig in and get growing!

  1. SOILS & AMENDMENTS. Giving your garden the best foundation will make it healthier, more beautiful and less difficult to maintain later on. Before you plant, however, bring in a sample of your existing soil for a free analysis. A McDonald Garden Center expert will test the ph level of your soil and make recommendations on adjusting the level for the specific plants you wish to install. You can also get planting recommendations based on the soil you have. Building healthy soil is an ongoing process. By making healthy soil a focus at the start of making a garden, you will have a head start on creating a sustainable organic garden.
  2. GREENLEAF ALL-PURPOSE PLANT FOOD. A customer favorite! Greenleaf has been a McDonald Garden Center staple for years and now it’s even better! We are proud to introduce our new 3-pound container with an easy-to-use lid and scoop. Greenleaf was developed specifically for plants in Hampton Roads and is a great general all-purpose fertilizer. It releases nutrients slowly and we recommend using it in containers, planting beds, shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals and more. In fact, it’s what we use to fertilize our plants!
  3. SPRING ANNUALS. Annuals provide color from the time of planting into early fall. Inexpensive, easy-to-grow and gorgeous - annuals are great for changing the look of your garden from year-to-year and filling in around bulbs, perennials and trees & shrubs. A few early-blooming annuals that are safe to plant now include petunias, dusty miller, snapdragons, geraniums, million bells, dianthus and verbena.
  4. UNIQUE POTTERY. There is nothing quite as effective as adding pottery and containers to your decorating scheme, both indoors and out. Not only can you transform drab areas of your home or garden into elegant and charming focal points, but containers can be functional as well as beautiful. Planters make it possible for anyone to experience the joy of gardening and provide the opportunity to cultivate a favorite herb, a fresh tomato and a host of other delightful and colorful plants, flowers, shrubs, and even trees no matter the space available.
  5. HERBS. Add tried & true herbs that grow great in Hampton Roads gardens. With parsley, basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, chives, lavender, sage and many more... you can have culinary treats for every dish, right in your own backyard. Fresh herbs are easy to grow and can make all the difference between a good dish and an extraordinary dish! Once you begin to use fresh herbs in your favorite recipes, you'll never want go back to using just dried herbs again. Chefs know that fresh food is always best and fresh herbs are no exception.
  6. TREES & SHRUBS. Trees and shrubs are the backbone of your landscape, and they serve a multitude of other purposes as well. You can use them to create shade, attract birds, or to give your garden privacy from neighbors or a busy street. You can plant them to provide year-round color, fragrant blooms, or a delicious harvest of fruit or berries. And, vines do an expert job of framing an entryway, decorating a bare wall or fence, or adorning a trellis with lovely foliage and flowers.
  7. GARDEN STATUARY. Incorporating a special piece of statuary into your landscape is a great way to add architectural interest to your outdoor space. Garden statuary can be an integral part of any garden setting, adding to the aura of your peaceful sanctuary. There are often places that are natural focal points that would be ideal for statuary. A corner, a little alcove, a spot to the side of the front door - there are any number of places.
  8. PERENNIALS. We love perennial plants, those long-lived plants that bring beautiful foliage and flowers year after year. Perennial flowers perform well in many situations: in flower beds, in combination with annuals and bulbs, as compliments to shrubs & trees, and in containers and windowboxes. In addition, perennials often increase in size each year, which means they can often be divided and added to other spots in the landscape.Some must-haves are succulents, ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, coreopsis, geum, coneflowers, salvia, daylilies, and foxglove.
  9. SEEDS & SEED STARTER ACCESSORIES. Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet which include specific planting tips, light source requirements and watering specifications.
  10. FRUITS & VEGGIES. More and more homeowners are finding their way back to the basics. Over the past four years harvesting home grown fruits and veggies has risen steadily. This is due to the popularity of organic food, concern for the environment, the cost of fresh produce and a burgeoning appreciation for great-tasting fresh food.

Portrait of a Pepper

Stuffed, pickled, jelled, roasted, hot, mild, sweet, bell, ornamental, mini, long, red, green, yellow and orange - Peter Piper sure had his work cut out for him! Peppers come in a beautiful array of colors, shapes, sizes and tastes. This fruit is an excellent way to add flavor, color, and crunch to an otherwise bland dish. But peppers can also add a unique range of nutritional benefits to their expansive resume.

Whether mild or spicy, peppers are nutrient packed and are one of the richest sources of vitamins A and C. Just a cup a day can provide more than 100% of your daily requirements. Select from a variety or pepper colors to get the biggest bang for your buck. All peppers, red, green or yellow, are excellent sources of vitamin C and vitamin A - two antioxidants that work together to neutralize free radicals. And, recent research indicates that both hot and sweet peppers contain substances that have been shown to increase the body's heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating, which means your body is burning extra calories! So, whether you like the sweet or the heat, there’s a peppery for every pallet.

One of our favorite peppers is Red Beauty. Try this variety for a juicy, sweet 3 to 4-inch pepper with extra thick walls and glossy green fruit that turns to vivid red when mature. A great addition to a summer cookout or add to any salad or dish for pop of color and flavor. These enjoy sunny, warm days, and well-drained, fertile soil.

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Water Wisely

Keep your garden properly watered for the biggest harvests and most beautiful blooms while conserving this precious resource. Your watering practices can make a difference between a thriving garden or a wilting one. Below are some watering tips from our experts:

General Watering Tips:

  • It’s best to water your garden early in the morning when the temperature is cooler and the water will not evaporate.
  • Late afternoon/early evening watering is also okay if the plants have ample time to dry before nightfall.
  • Many people like to apply a list mist several times a day. This causes the water to evaporate quickly and encourages shallow root systems.
  • Plants growing in full sun require more water than those in the shade.

Watering Newly-Planted Trees, Shrubs & Perennials:

  • Newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials with roots close to the soil surface, will need watering on a daily basis.
  • Regular watering is essential until new plants become established.
  • The best way to water in the hot, dry weather is a slow, deep soak. The slow drip hydrates your plants at the soil line and thus gets to the roots and nourishes the plant.
  • Mulching around the base of the plant will help the water soak in, rather run off.

Watering Established Trees, Shrubs & Perennials:

  • Because older plants have established root systems, they should not need to be watered daily. However, even older established plants require regular watering during this time of year.
  • The best way to water in the hot, dry weather is a slow, deep soak. The slow drip hydrates your plants at the soil line and thus gets to the roots and nourishes the plant.
  • Mulching around the base of the plant will help the water soak in, rather than run off.

Lawn Watering:

  • Aerate lawns by punching holes 6-inches apart. This allows water to reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • Keep weeds out of your lawn and garden to reduce.

Signs You Are Under-Watering:

  • Soil is dry
  • Leaves are wilted
  • Leaves curl
  • Older leaves turn yellow or brown and start dropping off

Signs You Are Over-Watering:

  • Soil is constantly damp
  • Leaves turn a lighter shade of green or turn yellow
  • Young shoots are wilted
  • Leaves are green yet brittle
  • Algae and mushrooms are growing

Tips for Saving Water:

  • Don’t run the sprinkler longer than necessary. In an hour, 600 gallons can be wasted.
  • Know how to turn off the automatic sprinklers in case of rain.
  • Install a trickle-drip irrigation system close to the roots of your plants. By dripping water slowly, the system doesn’t spray water.

Plant of the Week:

BACOPA BLUE BUBBLES

This NEW bacopa gets a big green thumbs up from us! ‘Blue Bubbles’ will add sparkle to your garden with its thick, double blue-purple flowers. This Proven Winners' annual does well in combination plantings, hanging baskets and as ground cover in your garden. Pick a spot that will give bacopa light shade to full sun. The trick to non-stop flowers is avoiding drought stress - just don’t overwater as you aim for that goal. Instead, plant bacopa with something that wilts easily when dry, like coleus. When the coleus wilts, it’s time to water. Blue Bubbles will grow 3-6 inches in height, and can trail up to 14 inches -- making it a great cascading spiller plant in containers. When planting in a flowerbed, we recommend spacing them approximately 14 inches apart. With the proper care, loads of lavender-blue double blooms flower all summer long!

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>