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Cold Weather Checklist, McDonald Garden Center

Cold Weather Checklist

Looking for ways to keep your green thumb green over the winter? Well, there are plenty of opportunities to work in the garden throughout those cold winter months. And, while most of us are more concerned with caring for our lawn and garden during the growing season, winter prep is just as important for keeping things looking good year-round. We’ve put together a list of essential tasks that should be done throughout the winter months to keep your lawn and garden in tip-top shape come springtime.

Bring Plants Indoors - Bring as many of your potted plants inside to ensure that they don’t freeze, plus it’s a lot easier for you to care for them inside instead of going out into the freezing cold!

Mulch - Mulch keeps plants warm and insulated, especially if they’re in the ground and not in pots. Spread a layer around the base and stems and replenish as necessary.

Cutting Back Perennials - Cut back perennials so they’ll be ready to blossom when spring rolls around. Simply cut off any large or extended pieces so that the plant is flush with the ground. This will help keep them from being eaten or frozen during harsh winter months.

Care For + Prune Shrubs & Hedges - Pruning encourages healthy growth come spring. A good rule of thumb is to prune spring-blooming shrubs immediately after flowering and summer-blooming shrubs during their dormant season. When pruning, cut a single angle about ¼ inch from the branch. Adding a layer of mulch around the base of plants will help provide insulation during winter. Watering prior to deep freezes also helps to insulate roots. Wait until spring to fertilize shrubs.

Tips for Trees - Keep limbs away from power lines and roofs. Branches can easily pull down gutters or cause other costly damage. You may want to consult a professional arborist prior to tree pruning. They’ll know the best method for your variety of trees and the best time of year for pruning. Typically, tree pruning should be done in early autumn or late spring.

Maintain Outdoor Fixtures - Just like plants, outdoor fixtures need special care to weather the cold. Walkways and patios can take a beating in cold weather since changes in temperature and humidity can cause concrete and brick to shift and settle unevenly. Keeping them free of water build-up and debris will reduce chances of winter damage. Proper drainage is also essential, so be sure moisture runs away from your foundation and foot path area.

Pamper Your Houseplants - Winter is the perfect time to pamper those houseplants that sometimes get neglected while you are busy tending to your outdoor landscape and garden during growing season. So be sure to provide a little TLC to your indoor plants to ensure they continue to add color and texture to your home all year-round.

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Backyard Bird-Watching

Bird watching is one of America's fastest-growing hobbies, and creating a backyard habitat is a convenient way to enjoy these fine-feathered friends. Surveys reveal that nearly half the households in the United States provide food and shelter for wild birds. What has made watching birds the fastest growing hobby in the country second only to gardening? Their colorful and entertaining presence is fascinating to observe, especially through the long, dreary days of winter. Birdwatchers are always excited about seeing the birds enter and leave their houses year after year. Providing shelter can make birds' lives easier too. Winter is a difficult time for birds, and finding shelter can be especially challenging during periods of extreme cold.

McDonald offers a complete line of Stovall specialty birdhouses. Stovall offers high quality wood feeders and wild bird houses. Houses are made from all western red cedar and are constructed and assembled with stainless steel and dichromate plated screws, washers, hooks and chains. Products are hand sanded and many products are coated with wood protector, which accentuates the wood grain and the natural warmth of cedar. These long-lasting, traditional houses come in all shapes and sizes to fit the needs of many types of birds including wren, woodpecker, bluebird and many more.

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Plant of the Week: Tillandsia (Air Plants)

Looking for unique plants to tuck around your home? You'll love Tillandsia (also known as Air Plants). Set them on a stack of books, hang them near a window, grow them on driftwood or simply set them in a shallow dish. No soil needed!

Whether it’s because of the plant’s popularity on Pinterest boards, or its architecture appeal, the tillandsia plant has made a comeback in the horticulture world—and in a big way. Tillandsia are one of the easiest plants to grow and is the largest genus in the bromeliad family. Commonly known as air plants, they are found from jungle to rain forest to even desert environments.

Most tillandsia species use their root systems to attach themselves to trees or rocks and absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves. This classifies them as epiphytes. Since tillandsia are epiphytes, the mounting medium you choose is limited only by your imagination. These plants are adaptable and tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions and require minimal care.

If your tillandsia is going to be indoors, care must be taken to provide enough light and correct moisture to maintain a healthy plant. Bright light or filtered sun is recommended. To water, simply mist 2-4 times a week with a water bottle. Never leave them standing in water.

Air plants do exceptionally well in outdoor environments. A backyard tree, screened porch or pool patio will be the most likely areas to find the bright filtered light conditions that tillandsias love. Plants grown in humid outdoor environments should be watered once weekly. In drier climates, more frequent watering may be necessary. If the plant’s leaves start to curl or roll, it could be in indication of dehydration.

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

Brighten Winter Days with Edgeworthia

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

When an unexpected warm day arrives in January, I use the gift to walk my yard, looking for signs of life. Exfoliating bark on the crape myrtles and winter-flowering camellias catch my eye, but it’s the Edgeworthia chrysantha in the back corner of the yard that really entices me to walk closer. Edgeworthia, nicknamed “paperbush,” has a split personality, in my viewpoint.

In summer, it looks like a tropical treasure. Its slender leaves are each about five to six inches long and about two inches wide. On top, the leaves are blue-green, while a silver green sheen covers the bottoms. The leaves are clustered at the tips of branches, making it a lovely addition to a dappled-shade or full sun garden.

In fall, the leaves disappear to reveal a reddish-brown bark.

In December, tight bud clusters – hundreds of them -- form at the branch tips.

In January, those buds slowly unfold to reveal creamy yellow centers and the most intoxicating fragrance you can imagine. Eventually, the flowers resemble silky tassels dangling everywhere, creating a breath-taking vision on a cold winter day.

Edgeworthia is a member of the daphne family and far easier to grow than fragrant daphne, which needs perfectly draining soil. Edgeworthia, on the other hand, tolerates difficult dry soil under a tall loblolly pine in my garden. When fallen limbs from the pine break branches off the plant, it sprouts new spring growth that covers the damage.

My paperbush grows about four feet tall and wide, thriving alongside camellias that provide fall, winter and spring color. It’s the darling of any gray winter day.

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Succulents, McDonald Garden Center, Indoor Houseplants

Bring Home Succulent Style

The cold keeps coming up with ways to keep us out of the garden. We keep coming up with new ways to keep us digging in the dirt! It's a great time of year to invite a wide and varied bunch of plants into your home with succulents. These unique plants are low-maintenance, get by on minimal water, and come in interesting shapes, varied patterns, unusual colors and many even boast beautiful flowers! These plants are all the rage in the home and garden, appearing everywhere from table-top terrariums, dish gardens and even in glass orbs suspended in air. Try your hand at creating a succulent garden and see how exceedingly easy these gems are to grow.

Here are the general rules for growing top-quality succulents:

Light - Succulents prefer bright light, the brighter the better! Place your succulent in a window where it can get direct sunlight. Succulents don’t do well in the shade, but will thrive when the sun is shining brightly on them.

Temperature - Keep your ambient room temperature anywhere from 55° to 75° Fahrenheit. Too hot or too cold can be detrimental to the health of the plant, however, normal home conditions are suitable for succulents.

Water - Water whenever the soil gets dry and pulls away from the edges of the pot. Water just enough to soak the soil evenly. Overwatering a succulent is as bad as not watering it at all, as these are drought-resistant plants designed to withstand extremely dry conditions.

Try picking out some of the more unusual-looking specimens for your succulent collection, as they can be quite the conversation piece. Here's a few of our favorites:

Kalanchoe comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and are prized for their colorful leaves and their crayon-color flowers. We really like Kalanchoe Orgyalis. This new Kalanchoe is an upright plant with fuzzy, thick, silvery-grey leaves that take on a golden bronze tint in sunlight and blooms sunny yellow flowers.

Echeveria is a unique succulent that forms tight rosettes and comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Many of the varieties have a waxy sheen on their leaves and are great in containers. Echeveria are among the showiest of all the succulents.

Jade boosts smooth, round fleshy leaves that grow in opposing pairs along its branches. The leaves are a rich jade green and its classic beauty and low maintence requirements make it a must-have succulent.

Aloe, a classic favorite, offers dramatic flower spikes with gel-filled, tapered and serrated leaves. It is most notably known for its medicinal properties.

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

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Brighten Winter with Sunny Citrus

Who wouldn’t like an endless supply of sunshine, especially this time of year? Well, what if we told you that we knew where you could find a splash of sunshine all year round…that’s easy - citrus! Tuck citrus plants around your house in containers this winter and enjoy their evergreen beauty, sweet fragrance and mouthwatering fruit. Once warm weather sets in, move your citrus plants outside and enjoy them all summer long. Most citrus is hardy to 38°F, but we recommend keeping them indoors until late spring. Here's some of our favorite citrus plants to add a little sunshine to your home this winter:

Meyer Lemon - A cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, Meyer has a smooth golden, edible skin, and a high volume of juice but none of the bitterness of a regular lemon. This fruit adds a burst of lemon flavor without the sour bite. With a smooth, golden skin and lush, glossy leaves, this plant pulls double duty by yielding fruit and looking great. It produces small, fragrant flowers year round.

Satsuma Orange - Sweet, juicy mandarin oranges that are easy to peel and are virtually seed-free. Satsuma trees are small, reaching a height of 4 to 6 feet and are cold tolerant to about 26 degrees F. Satsuma trees will grow in the landscape or in containers. Fragrant white blossoms appear in March and April, with the fruit turning bright orange as it ripens in late October into the new year.

Calamondin Orange - Tasty cross between a tangerine and a kumquat. These dwarf orange trees produce fragrant flowers and a small 1-inch fruit. The fruit has a tart, acid flavor similar to a lemon or lime.

McDonald Tip: All citrus trees love sun, the more the better. Keep them near a sunny window during cold weather and let them vacation on your patio during summer months. Learn more about GROWING CITRUS IN CONTAINERS >

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NOW TRENDING: What's Growing On in 2016

As the hustle and bustle of the holidays draws to an end, we anticipate what the new year will bring. A new year brings new trends... in food, fashion, technology and yes, in the garden. We've scouted out the forecast of what to expect in the gardening world over this next year or so.

The DIY movement gets a facelift as people shift from "doing" to "making". Instead of simply growing plants for their beauty, makers want to create a functional garden - engaging with nature hands-on though projects like growing backyard edibles for the family table, testing out natural dyes, using homegrown herbs to make soaps, and raising bees to make their own honey. Makers appreciate nature for more than its beauty, they enjoy making something out of it.

People are increasingly aware of the wellness benefits of engaging with nature through - edible gardening, creating habitats for birds, bees and butterflies, planting shrubs and trees, especially natives. More and more gardeners are seeing the benefits of raised bed gardens, native plants, and organic gardening solutions.

People are taking a bolder approach to outdoor living making a major personality statement. Through custom lighting and structures, multifunctional planters and colorful plants that make a statement - homeowners are adding more whimsicality to their backyards. You'll see a movement away from subtle minimalist aesthetics toward designs that heighten sensory appeal.

Landscape design trends are shifting from green deserts to living landscapes designed to create more sustainable plantings which will last not just throughout the year, but for many years to come. People want to bring their yard back to its natural habitat as each plant serves a purpose in supporting local, natural ecosystems, pollinators and other wildlife. A layered landscape starts with a hardy combination of trees, conifers and perennials. Those layers continue with bright and beautiful annual flowers.

The resources that we depend on to garden, particularly water, are limited and need to be conserved. People are making small changes in the landscape that have a big impact on Earth's precious resources. Drought tolerant plants such as sedums, cacti and succulents are smart choices to save time and our most precious resource, water.

Many of us subconsciously seek to create outdoor spaces to help us re-live precious childhood memories - grandpa's vegetable garden, mom's beautiful flowers, backyard gatherings with neighbors and chasing fireflies barefoot with soft grass underfoot. Life happens at home and our outdoor space is an amazing extension of our home holding so many memories. Carry on the traditions that your grandpa and mom began in the garden so many years ago - and make new ones of your own.

source: 2016 Garden Trends Report

INDOOR BLOOMS: The Best Houseplants to Enjoy This Winter

Find yourself pining for those sunny spring days full of your favorite blooming flowers? Us too. The best medicine for any gardener and flower lover is to surround yourself with colorful blooms indoors. There are loads of plants that will give you that spring feeling inside your home. We’ve chosen a few of our favorite blooming houseplants featuring great flower power that pack a punch.

Cyclamen - this cool weather bloomer boasts unusually shaped, colorful blossoms and variegated gray-green elliptical leaves. Depending on the variety, the blossoms may be pink, lavender, deep purple, white or red.

Orchids - Orchids are among the most spectacular of all flowering plants! Available in a myriad of colors, shapes and sizes there is an orchid for everyone. They range in size from a two-inch plant that can sit in the palm of your hand to five-foot giants. Some can be fragrant with luscious scents of citrus, raspberry, lilacs, coconut and even chocolate. No matter your preference, the beauty of the flower is undeniable.

Kalanchoe - Big beauty, low maintenance. This colorful little succulent plant is easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom. Kalanchoe grows 8 to 12 inches tall with clusters of small, upright flowers in a rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, gold, purple and white. It has thick, rich green, succulent leaves that retain water to sustain the plant with little water..

Bromeliads - This tough, low-light houseplants can 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

African Violets - Known as the world’s all-time favorite windowsill houseplant, African Violets are growing in popularity. They are one of the easiest and most adaptable flowering houseplants to grow, and the requirements for success are simple -- find a good spot, don’t over water, and they’ll shower you with blooms during any season! With literally thousands of varieties to choose from there’s something for every taste.


Winter's Most Captivating Blooms

Hellebores are truly winter's most captivating blooms. They are evergreen perennials, meaning they will keep their leaves year round. But, it's their beautiful, showy flowers during winter that really steal the show. These staples of the winter garden are tough as nails and take center stage in the winter landscape.

They come in a large variety from rosey pinks to white flowers and all have lovely dark green foliage. Use them in a shady spot in containers or flower beds. Hellebores mix well with all kinds of spring-flowering bulbs, as well as shade-loving perennials like hostas, ferns and even columbines. They even looked great planted beneath a shade tree or mixed with deciduous shrubs and ornamentals. Once planted and established, the hellebore will bring joy to your garden for many years to come. Caring for hellebores requires planting in a rich, fairly moist soil that drains well. Hellebores do not like to be disturbed or moved, so it's best to find a good location and plant them permanently in one spot. In the early winter, the older foliage turns brown. When this happens, we recommend simply trimming away the old foliage to keep the plants looking its best. They are even deer resistant for an added benefit. These beauties will add surprise and delight to your garden all year long, especially in winter!


New Year's Resolutions for Me & My Garden

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

The start of a new year means the beginnings of better intentions – in my garden, as well as my everyday life. New Year’s resolutions are fun and functional even if you don’t keep each and every one. When I make a New Year’s resolution, I try to be realistic about what I can and can’t do. And, if I end up breaking one or more, I don’t fret because at least I thought about it and tried.

Here’s what I resolve to do in my yard in 2016:

  • I resolve to plant more species that are beneficial to pollinators, including nectar-rich flowers for bees and butterflies and host plants for butterfly caterpillars.
  • I resolve to put my kitchen scraps from vegetables and fruits into a container I can easily empty into the garden, possibly directly into the soil, burying it for quick and immediate compost.
  • I resolve to grow more of my own fresh vegetables, enjoying the fruits of my labor on tomato sandwiches and in fresh salads that, in return, help improve my health and Mother Nature’s well-being.
  • I resolve to take out unhappy plants and put in plants suitable for my growing conditions so I’m happy and my yard thrives without excessive pruning and unnecessary chemicals.
  • Last, but most important, I resolve to enjoy my garden every day of each season, walking the garden and enjoying the moment. During that time, I won’t fret about any weeds or any plant problems I see, so I can soak in the beauty of what happening that very minute.

With these resolutions in mind, I’m excited to embrace a New Year of gardening and know that each season will be the very best I can make it. Happy New Year!