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Must-Have Summer Annuals

Looking for plants you can trust to create a beautiful, easy-to-maintain garden? Get growing with this season's must-have annuals by Proven Winners. These sun-lovers can take the heat giving you mega color all summer long. Here's our favorite proven performers...

Angelface Angelonia - Beautiful flowering thriller with violet flowers. Angelonia are heat-loving plants that will grow most vigorously and bloom best when the heat is on. The plants are easy care with no deadheading needed.

Laguna Sky Blue Lobelia - Soft-blue cascading flowers will bloom all season. This stunning annual offers cascading, well-branched flowers and is the perfect trailing spiller plant in combination planters.

Sweet Caroline Sweet Potato Vine - This trailing foliage plant in chartreuse makes a great spiller plant in container combos. It has excellent heat tolerance and is a vigorous grower.

Blue My Mind Evolvulus - True blue flowers and fuzzy, silvery-green foliage define this extremely heat tolerant annual.

Luscious Marmalade Lantana - Heat and drought tolerant annual with a mounding habit. Fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Royale Chambray Verbena - Vigorous and mounded, but will trail over the sides of containers. They will function as both spillers and fillers in combination planters and are best planted at the front of landscape beds.

Limoncello Petunia - Large, soft yellow blossoms appear on trailing plants all season without deadheading. Vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers.

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Royale Cherryblast Verbena, Proven WInners Plants, McDonald Garden Center

Plant of the Week: Royale Cherryburst Verbena

You'll love this NEW addition to our collection of verbena. Royale Cherryblast is covered with clusters of cherry-red flowers alternating with white stripes. This new verbena is vigorous and mounded, but will trail over the sides of containers. They will function as both spillers and fillers in combination planters and are best planted at the front of landscape beds. It will continuously re-bloom from planting to frost, attracts butterflies and tolerates the heat. This self-cleaning verbena is easy to grow and requires no deadheading.

  • 6 - 10 Inches
  • Continuous bloomer
  • Long Blooming
  • Heat Tolerant
  • Attracts Butterflies
  • Deadheading Not Necessary

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

No Sun? No Problem.

Struggling to find plants for those shady spots? No worries! Shade offers the opportunity to grow some wonderful, unique plants that not only tolerate no sun but actually prefer it. Large trees and shady areas in your yard can present a challenge to even the most creative gardener, but gardening in the shade doesn't have to be frustrating. There are a variety of shade-loving perennials that tolerate relatively low light, and even thrive in it. So, liven up your shady spaces with these perennials and turn your yard into a beautiful retreat you can enjoy year-round.


  1. Hostas are hardy, easy-to-grow and care for and aren't troubled by pests. Leaf colors come in green, gold and blue to variegated and sizes range from miniature to colossal. Smaller varieties (up to 12 inches tall) make good edgers along paths or in beds; medium varieties are excellent ground-covers; and large hostas are terrific in the background or as dramatic accent plants.
  2. Perennial Ferns featuring lacy branches with rich, green foliage add texture and color to those shady spots. These popular shade-loving perennials make an excellent choice in wooded sections of the backyard or as an edging along a stand of trees. Ferns also work great in containers alone or mixed with your favorite shade plants.
  3. Acanthus is a majestic plant, almost like having a living sculpture in the garden. It features sturdy spires of white or pink blooms with papery purple bracts that make a striking statement along with its rich-green, spiny foliage. Enjoy this eye-catching structural plant for shade borders or background plantings.
Blueberry Basics, 6 Simple Steps to Growing Great Blueberries

Blueberry Basics

Thinking about growing backyard blueberries? Stick to these six simple steps and with proper care, these sweet treats will reward you for years to come!

  1. Test the soil and adjust to a pH 4.5 - 5.5. We offer soil test kits for home use and GardenRewards members can get FREE pH soil tests at our year-round Garden Centers. Blueberries require a sunny spot and soil that is acidic, high in organic matter, and well-drained yet moist. pH should ideally be between 4 and 5. When the pH is above 5, they become stunted decreasing berry production. We offer two solutions for acidifying the soil. Soil Sulfur is the best for long term adjustment of pH. Soil acidifier is a good quick adjustment of soil pH, however it may cause aluminum toxicity in blueberries. Sulfur must be applied in the spring or summer since it requires bacterial activity to convert the sulfur to an active form. Soil acidifier is water soluble and thus works quickly.
  2. Mix peat moss in the soil around the plants. Peat moss is an excellent source of organic matter. It helps loosen clay soil for development of the very fibrous roots of blueberries. Peat moss helps sandy soils retain moisture and improves soil nutrient capacity. At the same time it is a natural soil acidifier. Old leaf mold, old sawdust, lime free compost and bark are other sources of organic matter that can be used. Any compost that has lime used in the composting process will have a negative effect as a soil amendment and should not be used.
  3. Plant two or more varieties. Blueberries are partially self-fertile, so you will harvest more and larger berries by planting two or more varieties. The two main types of blueberries are highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and rabbiteye blueberries (V. ashei). With highbush blueberries, single bushes will produce fruit. However, you’ll get more fruit if you plant two different highbush selections for cross-pollination. To get fruit with rabbiteyes, you definitely need to plant at least two different selections. Also, by planting two or more varieites, you can space out the ripening, thus extending the harvest.
  4. Cover the soil with 4 inches of mulch. Research by the leading universities in zone 5-8 have shown that yields of blueberries will increase up to 30% when the soil has 4 inches of mulch cover. The roots of blueberries, like other ericaceous plants like azaleas, rhododendron and heathers, are very fine and fibrous. The mulch helps hold the moisture around the roots. It helps keep the soil cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter. In addition, bark mulches add organic matter as they decay and tend to acidify the soil. Be sure that the mulch does not develop a crust layer on the surface that sheds water. Fruit size is diminished when the roots dry out during periods of drought.
  5. As berries ripen, use bird net to protect the crop. It may not happen in the first few years of production, but eventually the birds may learn just how good those little blue berries are. Bird net covers are an excellent solution to this problem. We recommend constructing a simple frame to keep the net off the plants so the berries don’t get caught in the net and pop off.
  6. Once mature, remove old canes. As the canes mature, the productivity declines. Removing these canes stimulates the production of new ones from the root of the plant. This keeps the plant in the juvenile stage and extends the life of the plant, thus giving you more berries! The young canes are much more productive than old ones. To promote optimum performance, we recommend you remove about 1/3 of the volume of the plant during the winter each year on healthy plants.

Our Favorite Backyard Berries

Get your garden ready for our favorite backyard berries! These edible plants will not only have your garden looking tip-top, they'll make your taste buds mighty happy.

Raspberry Shortcake. A dwarf, thorn-less red raspberry with a rounded compact growth habit perfect for large patio containers. These carefree raspberry plants are perfect for children with no thorns to get in the way. They'll love harvesting healthful fruit right from your patio! You'll appreciate that there is no trellising or staking necessary like the raspberries you've seen before, and the compact shape means no big garden spaces are required. Raspberry Shortcake plants produce full-size, nutritious and super sweet raspberries mid-summer.

Strawberry Éclair. This new gourmet strawberry boasts a unique taste with a hint of citrus and raspberry flavor to it. Strawberry Éclair is a Junebearing variety, so expect the majority of harvest in the early summer. This berry is developed from Junebearing and Everbearing relatives, so it often produces fruits longer into the season that traditional Junebearing strawberries. Allow berries to mature before picking to enjoy maximum flavor and sweetness. Enjoy these sweet treats in pies, tarts, jams and preserves... or freshly picked!

Sunshine Blue Blueberries. This semi-dwarf, versatile evergreen blueberry features showy hot-pink flowers that fade to white in spring, yielding large crops of delicious berries. Enjoy it's blue-green foliage and showy pink to white flowers provide ornamental value, followed by an abundant crop of fruit. Yielding medium, rich sweet flavored berries this blueberry is self – pollinizing, but yields best when planted with another variety.

Save BIG on berries this Friday-Sunday, May 22-24 at BERRY DAYZ >>

Hummingbird Feeder

Never Forget to Fill Your Hummingbird Feeder

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Have you ever had a hummingbird come pecking on your window?

I almost did last year when I forgot to fill my hummingbird feeder.

The little rascal flew right up to my sitting room window, hovered for a few seconds and flew toward the feeder. Guilt filled my heart because I knew his feeder was moldy from the humid heat and empty from his frequent visits.

Quickly, I scooted to the yard, grabbed the feeder and used an old toothbrush to clean away the mold. Then, I washed it in hot soapy water and rinsed it thoroughly before filling it with a new batch of sugar water – one-fourth sugar and three-fourths water. I use no red-colored artificial nectar because research shows that hummingbirds prefer plain sugar water.

There are many hummingbird feeders on the market, and I’ve tried them all. My all-time favorite remains the saucer-style feeder with multiple ports. The saucer snaps apart easily for quick cleanup and screws into a bottle-style container that holds several days of sugar water.

My yard is also home to many perennials that hummingbirds love – Black and Blue Salvia being one of the best. Yes, it’s true – hummingbirds favor flower colors other than red.

Other perennials and annuals I find hummingbirds really, really like include red crocosmia, flowering tobacco, honeysuckle, red hot poker, delphinium, trumpet vine, bee balm (one of my all-time favorites for bees, too!) and petunias.

When it comes to petunias, I plant them in huge drifts, using my favorite deep purple for an eye-popping river of color. That wave of purple is like a giant billboard that says my pollinator garden is open for business and all birds, bees and butterflies are welcome to come and enjoy themselves!

photo by Kathy Van Mullekom

Captivating Containers: Sun to Shade

Looking for easy ways to add pizazz to your deck or patio? There's nothing better than a container garden to jazz things up. Just follow this classic formula for guaranteed success! First, choose a container as it will set the tone for the space. Container options are limitless, including pots, boxes, baskets, urns, hanging baskets, and window boxes... just get creative. Once you've selected your container, start selecting the real stars of the show, the plants.

  1. THRILLER. Choose a super showy thriller plant to go center stage. It should be taller than the rest and stand out due to it's color and strong stature.
    Shade Thrillers: Ivy Topiaries • Rita's Gold Fern • Majesty Palm • Cordyline
    Sun Thrillers: Juniper Topiaries • Hibiscus Standards • Geraniums • Ornamental Grasses
  2. FILLER. Select flowers that fill in the area directly around your thriller. These will really add sparkle and depth to your planter.
    Shade Fillers: Impatiens • Green Leaf Begonias • Ferns
    Sun Fillers: Diamond Frost Euphorbia • Marigolds • Petunias • Lantana • Vinca • Bronze Leaf Begonias
  3. SPILLER. Finally, add blooms or foliage that gently cascades over the edge of your container. Spillers add dimension and a little added drama... extending the container into it's surrounding space.
    Shade Spillers: Trailing Coleus • Ivy • Lotus Plant • Asparagus Fern
    Sun Spillers: Bacopa • Sweet Potato Vine • Verbena • Trailing Petunias • Million Bells
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Stella d'Oro Daylilies, Perennials, McDonald Garden Center, Plants

Plant of the Week: Stella d'Oro Daylilies

One of the easiest-to-grow plants is the daylily. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are blooming perennials available in an amazing variety of colors and sizes. The name Hemerocallis comes from the Greek language and means "beauty for a day" -- hence we get daylily since each flower only lasts for 1 day. Daylilies are often referred to as the perfect perennial for lots reasons. Not only do they come in a variety of colors and sizes, but they also survive in a wide range of climates, often with very little care. Ideal in all types of landscapes, daylilies are adaptable to all kinds of soil and light conditions. They are drought resistant and virtually disease and insect free. Daylilies are known to bloom from late spring through summer. This perennial is ideal in flower borders, for massing, as a groundcover or in containers. As for daylily maintenance, simply deadhead foliage in spring before the plant begins to green up.

Be sure to get your daily dose of color with one of our favorite daylily varieties... Stella d'Oro. This repeat bloomer boasts fragrant, ruffled, buttercup-yellow flowers with an apricot throat. It's blooms measure about 2-½ inches across. Stella d'Oro loves the heat and thrives in clay and acid soils. This perennial is Ideal in small space gardens, in containers on patios or planted together in large numbers for a carefree and colorful ground cover. Blooms May through July. Plant in full-sun and well drained soil. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

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

Mosquito-Repelling Herbs

Many things come to mind when we think of growing and using herbs. For example, the delightful fragrance of an aromatic bath with lavender, a scrumptious dish with basil, and the piney scent of rosemary when you're barbecuing. These easy-to-grow plants provide fragrance, flavors to our favorite dishes, look great in our yards, attract pollinators -- the list goes on and on. Turns out these beloved plants can also keep the bugs at bay. Yep, there's a handful of herbs with strong scents that we find pleasant but not the mosquitos and other insects. Try pairing these herbs together in a container near a door or where you gather outdoors. When you're outdoors, to get the maximum effect, simply crush some of the herbs in your hands to release their perfume into the air. It also will help to rub the oils on your skin. Plant these naturally insect-repelling herbs so you can enjoy your outdoors without all the buzz!

Lavender. This gorgeous purple flowering plant provides a soothing, calming scent to humans, but mosquitoes and many other insects don’t like the smell and will stay away.
Basil. Basil is one of the few herbs that give off a scent without the leaves having to be crushed. For a quick, natural repellant take a few leaves and rub them on your skin.
Rosemary. Planning on gathering fireside? Try burning a little rosemary. The fragrant smoke it puts off will smell good to you, but the bugs won't think so.
Catnip. Studies suggest that catnip may be even more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the ingredient used in most commercial bug repellents, which is highly toxic.
Lemon Balm. It contains high levels of a compound called citronellal, which gives it its lemony aroma and flavor that bugs find so unpleasant.
Peppermint. Biting bugs don’t like the scent of peppermint, so you can crush up the leaves and rub it on your skin. This herb provides double-duty too as it acts as itch relief if you do get bitten.
TIP: We also recommend surrounding your patio or deck with containers of lemony-scented geraniums, called Citronella Geraniums. These perennials are often called the "mosquito plant" due to it's strong citronella-like smell.

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Roses for Mom

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Mom was not a gardener but she loved beautiful flowers in her yard. Roses were always her favorite, and the roses bushes in her 43-year-old yard still bloom, even though she’s been gone four years this month. As a child, my father was the yard man – mowing the grass, trimming the bushes and planting and caring for a very large vegetable garden. When I was old enough, I began to help and a life-long love for gardening formed.

For decades, roses have been a part of my garden – as gifts for Mother’s Day and as gifts to self. My first rose love was Sterling Silver, a hybrid tea in lavender tones. It’s a subtle-scented rose with a sweet citrus smell. Once shrub roses became popular, I was hooked. Knock Out and Flower Carpet roses, which can be used as flowering hedges, borders or in perennial beds, began to consume my garden. I especially like them among smaller shrubs like nandina and rose-of-sharon because they form eye-catching contrasts in colors and textures. I’m also fond of David Austin roses, especially ones with golden yellow and apricot hues. In a former garden, I had a David Austin rose grow in a bog-like area where salt tidal waters occasionally flooded it – a growing condition not exactly friendly for a rose but the plant survived and bloomed many years.

Overall, roses need good drainage, full sun, rich soil and mulch. Trimming to remove crossing, rubbing, dying and diseased branches allows air and light to penetrate interior parts of the plant, thereby reducing the likelihood of disease and pests. For annual beetle control, I snipped all flower buds from the plant until the beetles were gone and then allowed the plant to bloom again – and had virtually no plant damage from the pests. My only complaint about roses? Thorns, of course, but a little prick is worth the price of such beauty and grace in any garden. Mom smiles from heaven, enjoying my garden of roses!

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