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Plant of the Week: Madison Jasmine

Vines add an impactful finishing touch to any landscape, by providing color, texture and vertical interest. Vines are ideal for hiding eyesores, providing privacy, softening the monotony of plain fencing and transforming a plain arbor or pergola into a focal point of your garden. They are also the perfect choice in tight spaces since they grow vertically. Most require low maintenance and often draw the attention of colorful butterflies and delightful little hummingbirds.

Reach new gardening heights with one of our favorite flowering vines - Madison Jasmine. You'll love this easy-to-grow, evergreen climber that produces beautiful clusters of starry flowers you can smell from feet away! It's summer buttercream blooms are what makes this plant vine stand out in a crowd. Madison offers year-round beauty, especially during summer when it's rich green foliage flowers putting on a brilliant summer show in the garden. It's also a very cold hardy jasmine with glossy, dark green leaves that change to a rich bronze-red in winter. Madison is the ideal addition to any trellis or arbor, or planted along a fence and prefers full to partial sun and rich soil well-drainage soil.

Showy Summer Perennials

We love perennials that come back each year in the garden. Perennials are considered to be ornamental plants that reappear for more than one growing season. This does not mean they live forever, but they do offer a repeat performance for many seasons! The term perennial is generally reserved for plants with showy flowers, excluding ornamental grasses, trees, shrubs and other woody stemmed plants. Perennials are great planted in the landscape or in containers. With so many varieties to choose from, there is one that is perfectly suited for your garden. Here's our top summer perennials...

FOR SUNNY SPOTS:

  • Mexican Petunia (Ruellia Purple Showers) is a long blooming perennial that thrives in hot, sunny conditions. Deep green foliage with hints of burgundy provide the perfect backdrop for the scores of vibrant blue-purple flowers. Works well in combination plantings and in beds.
  • Sedum Angelina is a drought tolerant, moderate-growing groundcover with fleshy green/yellow leaves in the spring and summer and fiery orange/red foliage in the fall and winter. Angelina makes an excellent groundcover and looks great as a spiller plant in container combinations.
  • Stella D'Oro Daylilies boasts fragrant, ruffled, buttercup-yellow flowers with an apricot throat. It's blooms measure about 2-½ inches across. Stella loves the heat and thrives in containers on patios or planted together in large numbers. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Miss Huff Lantana puts on a colorful show with vibrant yellow, pink & orange blooms. You simply can't beat lantana for summer-long blooms and heat tolerance. This easy to grow perennial attracts butterflies too. We recommend putting this in the ground and reserving 8-10 inches for it to grow.

FOR SHADY SPOTS:

  • Autumn Ferns are a bold and beautiful choice for shady borders and woodland gardens. Thse dwarf-growing ferns with young papery fronds display coppery-red color, maturing to deep green.
  • 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.

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

Holy Hydrangeas!!!

There are some plants that should be in every garden and Hydrangeas are at the top of our list ~ an absolute must-have! Nothing says summer like these beautiful blooming shrubs. In colors ranging from white to pink to blue, these softball-sized flowers brighten up any landscape. These shade-loving shrubs infuse color in the garden at a time when most spring-blooming plants are no longer flowering. Hydrangeas make a great addition as a stand-alone “feature” plant, or grown in rows to create a privacy hedge. Their blooms also make some of the best cut flower arrangements.

Here are a few of our favorite varieties:

Bloomstruck - rose-pink, violet, or blue flower heads on red-purple stems with glossy dark green leaves. Extremely strong stems, above average heat tolerance and great disease resistance, especially to powdery mildew. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.

Nantucket Blue - a repeat-blooming Hydrangea with abundant blue flowers from spring through fall. Flowers will be pink in alkaline soils, and blue in acidic soils. A rapid grower reaching 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.

Endless Summer Original - this is a real Hampton Roads favorite! It's a mop-head variety with the unique ability to bloom consistently on both old and new wood. The result is a plant that provides beautiful flowers all summer long. The flowers grow up to 8" in diameter, with PINK blooms in alkaline soils or BLUE blooms in acidic soil. And, who doesn’t want an Endless Summer?

Enchantress - striking ruby-black stems support big mophead flowers on this exquisite re-blooming hydrangea. A superb border shrub for color throughout summer; blue in acidic soils and pink in more alkaline soils. Flowers age to a vintage cream-splashed green color. Prized for cut or dried flower arrangements.

Annabelle - Annabelle features stunning pure white flowers, much larger than the species- up to 12 inches across! Flowers appear in late spring to summer, often continuing into fall. Strong, straight stems hold the huge flower heads up well, despite heavy rain. This full, lush shrub needs plenty of room to show off its spectacular beauty.

PLANTING TIP: When planting Hydrangeas, dig the hole twice as wide and the same depth as the shrub's rootball. Set the base of the Hydrangea at ground level. Fill with soil, water thoroughly and mulch to help the plant conserve moisture.

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Much Ado About Pots

A Guide to Container Planting

Container planting is not just for small spaces. Utilizing pots can be a three-dimensional artistic display, customized to your character and offering a form of expression that exudes beauty of design. Being able to splash color and greenery on spaces where there’s no dirt to dig offers a variety of opportunities for functional creativity. Container planting is low-maintenance but high-reward. Detail-oriented for the nuance-hungry eye, pots can take on whatever personality fits the creator- from whimsical to austere. Here’s a nuts and bolts guide for maximizing your pots’ potential.

1. Natural Selection - Choosing a Pot

Ever design an entire room around a paint color? Bedroom décor around a carefully chosen bedspread? The same idea works with pots. Pick a pot that speaks to you and chose the rest accordingly. Classic urns like fiber clay can compliment the craftsman-style homes in the historic area of Norfolk or Yorktown, whereas a modern ceramic pot with geometric elements enhance a contemporary balcony at an oceanfront condominium in Virginia Beach.

Larger pots are easier to construct. Not only do you have more room to create, smaller pots have trouble keeping the soil moist enough to sustain a flourishing root system. Annuals need 8 inches of soil depth. Grasses and shrubs need an average of 1.5’-2’ of space.

Remember, once packed full of soil, large pots can be extremely heavy. Keep this in mind when choosing a pot that may need to be moved. Go for lightweight materials (nice ones are metal or composite). Like some glazed pots, they are also porous and keep the soil moist. Fiber clay pots are lightweight and available in many sizes and shapes. Go with a quality brand as thin, poorly-constructed ones, can break in cold weather. Even though they are fragile, terracotta and clay pots are extremely popular. They are exquisite but must be stored in a frost-free location.

2. The Choice is Yours - Selecting Your Plant Material

Choosing the right plants is the main event. Mix it up! Use dramatic annuals with grasses and shrubs that change color in the fall. Be brave; don’t be afraid to play with textures, colors, and foliage. Bill Kidd, McDonald Garden Center Vice President of Purchasing and experienced horticulturalist advises,

“Having the right pot/plant combination can really elevate the aesthetic value of that exceptional plant you want to showcase. Think about the particular characteristics of your plant and how they can play off of each other. ”

Try to avoid using too many species of plants. A full planter is beautiful, but too many types of plants can look chaotic. Select those you really want to focus on and add fillers to occupy the remaining space. Choose small and let them fill out. This will lead to a healthier, more productive planter with longevity.

It’s better to select plants that have similar needs. You don’t want to plant a pot full of shade plants with one full sun needing flower. Same goes for water. There are some plants, like tomatoes and basil, which grow well together. Using this method is called companion planting and is quite effective. Ask a McDonald Garden Center expert how you can use companion planting to supercharge your garden goals.

3. Dig It - Planting & Maintenance

Choosing the right soil is critical to the success of your container garden (and really anywhere you plant.) Ordinary garden soil is heavy and can disease your plants. McDonald Garden Center can provide you with high quality McDonald Garden Soil, specially formulated for this area, to protect your investment.

Plant your tallest plants in the center and work outward. Fill soil to about 1-2 inches below the lip of the pot. Water generously, let sit, and repeat until soil has retained moisture. Fertilizing really makes a difference in how well and fast your planter will fill out. Greenleaf fertilizer was specially formulated by McDonald Garden Center owner, Eddie Anderson, to meet the needs of the Hampton Roads gardener and has great success on working with plant product that is native to the Tidewater area.

Roots will get waterlogged without drainage so make sure to check your pot for proper drainage holes. Cover with pottery shards, stones, or screens to keep soil intact.

If you leave your pot on a deck, be careful of excess water that can lead to wood rot. Even consider a plant stand or pot feet.

A standing display of garden mastery, fully-bloomed planted pots are conversation piece that are sure to be a hot topic on those afternoon outdoor BBQs with friends and family. But it’s those quiet evenings, when you’re enjoying your outdoor space alone with a warm breeze and breath of fresh air, that you can truly relish the satisfying admiration of your personality in colored efflorescence.

Turn up the Grill with BBQ Rosemary!

It's official, grilling season has begun. Get prepared for your outdoor cooking and entertaining by adding Barbeque Rosemary to your landscape. This plant boasts long, upright stems which are perfect for skewering and roasting vegetables and meats, and it's foliage is especially good flavor for grilling. It will quickly form an upright hedge of aromatic needles with profuse, blue-purple flowers. Barbeque Rosemary can grow to be four to six feet tall. Best of all it is heat tolerant, drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Rosemary is a fabulous herb for arid gardens. It is a beautiful foundation shrub that will provide year round coverage. This plant will thrive in full sun, but should have good drainage. Add it to a Mediterranean garden as a hedge or simply use in a pot as for the kitchen or on the grill.

We love making skewers for kabobs with these rosemary sticks. Cut off the branches that you need and strip off the leaves to use as a skewer for meats, veggies, and even fruits such as strawberries or pineapple. The savory essence of rosemary comes through beautifully without overpowering the food. After one try you won’t want to go back to ordinary skewers again!

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Strawberry Chocolate Mint Pie

Decadent and rich but with a fresh and fragrant nuances, this strawberry chocolate mint pie is a heavenly balance of sweet and soothing.

Crust:
200g flour
100g butter
1 egg yolk
Water

Crème pâtissière:
1/2L whole milk
5 egg yolks
125g sugar
50g flour
1 vanilla bean

1 pound of strawberries
Chef Jeff’s Chocolate Mint
Ceramic balls (or dry beans) for baking crust

Crust:

  1. Dice butter and mix with flour and salt until grainy.
  2. Add egg yolk, then assemble the dough into a ball.
  3. Mill the dough by pressing the palm of the hand on the edges of the dough to make it smooth. Repeat 4-5 times.
  4. Assemble the dough into a ball and let rest 2 hours.

Crème Pâtissière:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil with the vanilla bean (cut in half) over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl. Add flour, mixing until smooth and free of lumps.
  3. Thin egg-yolk mixture with approximately 1/4 cup of warm (not boiling) milk mixture.
  4. When remaining milk begins to boil, add it to egg-yolk mixture, and stir well.
  5. Return to saucepan, and place over high heat.
  6. Cook, whisking constantly, until pastry cream thickens and boil (approx one minute.) Turning the pan as you whisk helps to easily reach all areas of pan.
  7. Put into a bowl and let cool.

Assembly:

  1. Roll the dough into a large disc and place into pie plate. Line with parchment paper and fill with ceramic balls or dry beans.
  2. Cook in the oven 350f for 25mn.
  3. When it's done cooling down put the crème pâtissière inside.
  4. Chop the mint and add on top of crème.
  5. Cut the strawberries in half and place on pie (working from the outside in, in a circular pattern).
  6. Top with a sprig of mint.

Powdery Mildew Alert

Everyone knows that April showers bring May flowers, but recently Hampton Roads has experienced more than its fair share of rain. And even though rain is good for plants, these unusually wet conditions can lead to the development and spread of many diseases that affect plants and vegetables. Prolonged periods of leaf wetness and humidity can create conditions that are ideal for disease development like powdery mildew.

What is the powdery mildew?
Powdery mildew is one of the most widespread and easily identifiable plant fungal diseases; it looks just like its name. The mildew forms a white or gray powdery film on a plant's leaves, stems and fruit. From vegetables to roses, ornamental trees and shrubs, almost no type of plant is immune.

Where does powdery mildew start?
Mildew typically starts on a plant’s lower leaves and untreated can spread over the entire plant. When the leaves become covered with the fungus, photosynthesis is affected and leaves will begin to turn yellow and drop off. As a result, the plant will become stressed and will not flower or fruit.

All forms of powdery mildew are not the same.
There are many forms of powdery mildew and each is species specific. Grapes will suffer from the powdery mildew that affects only grapes, roses suffer from rose powdery mildew, and so on. Although all plants can suffer from the fungus, certain species are more susceptible. Some more frequently infected woody ornamentals include lilac, dogwood, azalea, sycamore and rose. Many perennials may also become plague-ridden, including garden phlox, bee-balm, aster, yarrow, coreopsis and rudbeckia.

Can I prevent powdery mildew?
Preventing the spread of powdery mildew is the best and most cost effective way of dealing with the fungus. Here are a few tips to help combat the fungus in your garden:

Do not crowd plants - adequate plant spacing will help to increase the air circulation around plants to discourage disease development.

Do not grow susceptible plants in the shade - although powdery mildew prefers warmth, it does not tolerate high temperatures. Plants that are shaded most of the day will stay cooler encouraging the growth of mildew.

Cleanup and dispose of infected leaves and stems – cleanup and remove or trim infected leaves and stems and dispose of them.

Water soil, not the plants - splashing the leaves with water can spread the spores, so be sure not to water from above. Run a hose to the base of your plants instead of using a sprinkler system.

Apply a fungicide like Neem - neem is an effective organic fungicide for the prevention and control of various fungal diseases including powdery mildew and can be safely applied on fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, spices, roses, houseplant, flowers and trees & shrubs. Neem oil is extracted from the neem tree, native to India, and is a natural insecticide/fungicide that is kinder to beneficial insects and mammals.

For more serious issues with powdery mildew - use Fertilome Systemic Fungicide to control and rid your ornamental plants of the fungus. For use on ornamental plants only, not for edible plants.

10 Reasons You Should Be Growing Grapes in Your Backyard

Ever daydreamed of picking huge clusters of sun-warmed, juicy grapes from your own backyard vines? Here are ten solid reasons to add these highly-productive and also decorative vines to your edible landscape this season. Cheers!

Gardeners have been cultivating grapes for more than 6,000 years; if they can do it, so can you. Growing grapes is easier than you think, and the benefits range from the “It’s like I never tasted a grape before” flavor to the old-world elegance they add to the landscape. Here are our top ten reasons why you need to get growing grapes.

  1. Fruit, of course!
    Baskets and baskets of the most luscious fruit over a long season once the plants are established. There’s a grapevine for nearly every climate. If you have sunshine, can provide good air circulation, well-drained soil, and a sturdy structure such as an arbor, fence or post-and-wire system, you can grow grapes. And, because they don’t have to travel, grapes grown at home can be picked at their peak of ripeness. Need more? How about homemade juice, jelly, raisins, and even grape leaves for stuffing and garnish. Oh, and if you’re so inclined, your own house wine?
  2. They’re a good value.
    Grapevines are long-lasting plants that can thrive for decades if planted in the right spot and given the proper care. While some varieties take a longer time to mature or have limited hardiness, it’s not uncommon for a grapevine, especially in a warmer climate, to be producing bushels of fruit when it’s pushing 50 years old. That’s quite a return on an investment of around $40.00 for a large, five-gallon plant.
  3. They fall into the “less is more” category.
    One healthy, vigorous grapevine can produce about 20 pounds of fruit each year. Just a few vines should be enough to keep an average household happy.
  4. They’re easy to grow.
    Grapes don’t require lots of care except for regular annual pruning which is necessary to limit growth of the vine and to maximize fruiting; this is particularly true if you’re growing grapes for production such as wine-making. Pruning also helps the plant conform to the trellis on which it’s growing. Grape fruits form on one-year-old growth only; pruning heavily in late winter encourages abundant vigorous, fruit-bearing vines. That said, mature grapevines that have not been pruned for a few years can be cut back severely and will start productive growth again. Don’t let this intimidate you. If you’re up for wielding a sharp set of pruners, you’re good to go.
  5. They add drama (and shade, too) to the landscape.
    If the leafy canopy of a grapevine trained over an arbor is an alluring focal point, imagine what a few rows of trained vines laden with fruit would be. Showstopper. That canopy also provides cooling shade in the depths of summer and one more thing—the vine’s deep roots tap moisture in drought conditions making them an excellent choice for water-wise landscapes.
  6. They play well with other vines.
    Those sturdy, twisty, thick canes are the ideal host for a variety of other climbers such as roses, jasmine, trumpet vines, passion flower, clematis, or even annual vines. Combining vines can produce a stunning show from spring to fall (the grapevines in my own zone 9 yard are combined with pink jasmine and white Lady Banks roses—the show starts in February and doesn’t end until November). The trick is to get the balance of plants right. Two companion climbers for every grapevine is about right.
  7. They’re so good for you.
    Besides being easy to grow and prolific, grapes are a rich source of vitamins A, C, B6, and folate, and they contain essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron. Grapes are also loaded with phytonutrients such as resveratrol, which are now believed to play a role in longevity. All that and tasty, too.
  8. They’re lovely winter, spring, summer and fall.
    No matter the season, grapevines add interest and a sense of maturity to even a new garden. In winter, the vines have a rustic architectural quality often in contrast to the refined structure on which they’re twined. Spring brings bright, spearmint-green foliage, summer shows off those distinctive large leaves and come fall, those same leaves of many varieties turn rich red, gold, and amber. Even if they didn’t give you fruit, grapevines would still be an awesome garden plant.
  9. They’re loved by beneficial insects.
    Lady beetles and lacewings, wonderful insects that dine only on landscape pests and don’t harm good bugs or plants, will make a beeline for grapes particularly if you add a row of yarrow, catmint, purple coneflower, and penstemon nearby.
  10. They’re humble-brag material.
    As in, yes, that’s my own wine label. If you have the space and the right climate, you can grow grapes for making wine. There are three major types of grapes — American (Vitis labrusca) European (Vitis vinifera), and Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) as well as hybrids make from combining American and European varieties. It’s the European varieties, such as this Cabernet grape, which prefer a warm and dry Mediterranean-type climate (zones 7-10) with a longer growing season, that are used in making wine. Mature wine grapes produce about 12 pounds per vine, and it takes 40 pounds to make 12 bottles. You’re going to need a lot of vines, but, seriously, how cool would that be?

Post Provided By Monrovia

Lavender Crème Brûlée

This Week’s Cuisine du Jardin/w Chef Manu Featuring Crème Brûlée

A delicate balance of aromatic and sweet, crème brûlée infused with lavender is an ethereal play of perfumes for the palate.

Ingredients:

• 2 cups heavy cream
• ½ cup whole milk
• 5 lavender flowers (Monrovia Hazel Lavender)
• 1 vanilla bean
• 6 egg yolks
• ¾ cup sugar

6 terracotta medium-sized cassolettes

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 260°F
2. In a medium saucepan bring cream, milk, lavender, and vanilla bean to a boil. Remove immediately from heat to infuse flavors.
3. Separate egg yolks (discard whites) and whip with sugar until mixture reaches a light yellow color.
4. Slowly pour cream into egg mixture using a mesh strainer.
5. Gently whip until smooth.
6. Pour about ½ inch of water into a metal baking pan.
7. Place cassolettes evenly in pan and pour mixture slowly to the top of each.
8. Bake at 260° F for 1 hour 20 minutes.
9. Let chill for at least 5-6 hours (preferably overnight)
10. When ready to serve, coat top of crème brûlée with granulated sugar.
11. If possible, caramelize until golden brown with handheld torch. If no torch is available, set oven to “broil” and remove when tops bronze.

Yield: 6 medium-sized cassolettes (a variety of sizes pictured)

Plant of the Week: Lavender

Lavender Love!

The invigorating aroma, the lovely purple color of the flowers – it’s no surprise that lavender has been a prized commodity since the dawn of recorded history. Lavender is an herb garden staple that is cherished for its fragrant, purple flowers used in dried flower arrangements and potpourris. As an edible, lavender can be used in a variety of ways. The chefs in Provence, France, have incorporated this herb either alone or as an ingredient of herbes de Provence for years. Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavor to most dishes.

A few ideas to get those culinary juices flowing: infuse simple syrup with a smidge of lavender and use to sweeten iced tea and lemonade. Grind lavender into sugar and use it in your favorite butter cookie recipe or infuse cream for lavender-scented whipped or ice cream. Make your own blend of herbs and flowers (we like lavender with mint and rosemary) and rub on lamb or chicken before grilling. It’s important to remember that when cooking with lavender a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly.

For Hampton Roads, the varieties Dutch, Provence and Grosso are some of the better performers. Lavenders thrive in full sun, and plants are very drought resistant once established.

Stay tuned for this week’s Cuisine du Jardin/w Chef Manu featuring Lavender Crème Brûlée.