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FLOUR POWER - Pâte à Choux

Choux pastry, also called pâte à choux ("pot-ah-SHOO"), is a light pastry dough used to make dumplings, éclairs, cream puffs, beignets and a number of other ethereal French pastries. While puff pastry calls for tiring amounts of rolling, the consistency of choux lends itself to amenable malleable manipulation. So “rise” to the occasion and follow this easy recipe by our very own Chef Manu for pâte à choux.

Choux Fun Fact: A cream puff is a choux pastry ball filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream. Puffs can be left plain or topped with chocolate sauce, caramel or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Ingredients (Serves 12):

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt

Choux Pastry Recipe

  1. Add water, salt and butter in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add flour to boiling water.
  3. Stir with a spatula and mix for approximately 5 minutes over low heat until the dough begins to form a ball.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, vigorously working into dough after each addition.
  6. Using a spoon or pastry bag, form the choux dough into small balls.
  7. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

Salmon Choux Recipe:

  • 12 choux
  • 1 pack ricotta
  • Smoked salmon (4 slices)
  • Herb mixture (basil, dill, thyme, mint)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cut the top off the prepared choux pastry and top bottom half with a slice of smoked salmon.
  2. In a bowl, stir together ricotta, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, dill, basil, thyme and mint. Test the flavor and adjust the seasoning according to taste.
  3. Using a pastry bag, squeeze the ricotta and herb mixture on top of the salmon. Add another piece of salmon, a bit of green asparagus and sprinkle with herb mixture.
  4. Put top back the top of the choux.

DROUGHT TOLERANT COLOR

Is your garden looking a bit dull? High temperatures have taken a toll on just about everyone’s garden. But no one needs to finish out the summer with drab outdoor surroundings. There’s a wonderful group of plants that provide late summer color (and into fall) that are not only beautiful but drought tolerant too. Keep in mind when planting any perennials, trees or shrubs at this time of year, no matter how drought tolerant they may be, you’ll need to provide regular watering to get them established. After they have rooted in, you can gradually cut back on watering. Please note: supplies and selection will vary at each McDonald location.

CALIBRACHOA (Annual) - formerly known as million bells, calibrachoa is an easy to grow, sun-loving, low maintenance plant that displays masses of bell-shaped, petunia-like blooms from spring until the first light frost. The blooms cover long, cascading branches that make the plant ideal for containers or hanging baskets.

COREOPSIS (Perennial) - if you haven’t planted coreopsis recently, you’re in for a treat. Breeders have been busy, and now there are new colors and color combinations. Look for red as well as orange varieties. Then scout out the new patterns and color combinations of traditional yellow, orange and red.

DAYLILIES (Perennial) - practically indestructible, daylilies will flower their heads off in almost any sunny spot. They are drought and insect resistant and offer a wide range of colors and bicolors depending on the variety.

LANTANA (Annual) - a colorful favorite in so many options, Lantana comes in lavenders, pinks, yellow and oranges. With a spreading growth habit, these sun-lovers thrive in window boxes, container gardens and in landscape beds.

MANDEVILLA (Annual) - because it blooms so profusely, mandevilla is an excellent plant for adding color to sunny decks, patios, balconies, and other outdoor spaces. It also looks beautiful on a trellis, fence, or mailbox! Find it in pink, white and red! Plus, it’s drought toleran, so it makes a great vacation-home plant that requires less watering.

SALVIA (Perennial) - salvia produces wonderful clusters of violet-blue flowers from midsummer to early fall. These flowers are loved by butterflies and hummingbirds and are great cut flowers.

SEDUM (Perennial) - famous for their ability to put up with just about anything, sedums (stonecrop) are the perfect solution for dry or rocky areas. Resistant to drought, heat, humidity, and poor soil, sedums store moisture in their thick, succulent, green, golden, purple, or red leaves, resulting in long-lasting color and a strong tolerance for almost any weather conditions.

SUCCULENTS (Annuals) - resilient and handsome, these drought-tolerant gems are perfect for container gardens. No matter where you live, succulents can bring a bit of the desert to your backyard. Sun-loving, drought tolerant and attractive, these adaptable plants have taken up residence in troughs, pots and other vessels anywhere in your outdoor spaces.

MOSQUITO REPELLING SOLUTIONS 101

Mosquitos are an issue in Hampton Roads every summer. This year, with the dangers surrounding the Zika Virus, McDonald Garden Center has taken action to find the solutions that will help our customers enjoy their normal gardening and outdoor activities. Here’s what we discovered:

GET THE SKINNY ON ‘SKITOS - the most important part of controlling mosquitos is to understand how they find us in the outdoors. Typically mosquitos will hide in large shrubs and shady locations during the heat of the day. From there, they have three ways of detecting humans: chemical sensors, visual sensors and heat sensors. The chemical sensors can sense carbon dioxide through the wind from over 100 feet away; this is what draws them out of hiding when they sense you are around. They can also find you through visual sensors, although there is little you can do to prevent them from seeing you, unless you stand still and wear the same color clothing as your surroundings. As they get close they also can sense your body heat.

SPRAY THE DAY AWAY - the sprays you spray on your skin and clothing help confuse these sensors and aide it keeping them away. The active ingredient is called “DEET” (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET has still been proven to be the most effective at confusing these sensors. Organic solutions are getting better, by using natural oils from plants that help confuse their sensors. Organic sprays may need to be sprayed more often to keep them away as they don’t last as long as DEET will. As well as spraying your skin and clothing, spraying the yard and surrounding shrubs will also aide in preventing the mosquitos from finding you, Below you will find more detail on these products.

PEST FIGHTING PLANTS - when using insect repelling plants, candles, or torches, knowing where they are coming from and the wind direction will help you determine the best areas for these to be placed. Most people will place the repellants in a space that will blow through the area they are in, when in actuality it is better to have them placed behind you, this will act as a blocker of your scents that attract mosquitos. When they blow through your scent it mixes in with the repellant scent and is still detectable. Typically our wind direction is from east to west. More specifically in the summer it is from the southeast to the northwest.

To keep it simple, determine the wind direction and repel from behind you down wind, NOT through you.

Below is a list of the products McDonald Garden Center carries that will help control the mosquito’s while still being able to enjoy the outdoors:

ORGANIC SOLUTIONS:

  1. MOSQUITO BEATER NATURAL H/E - this is an all natural spray that will repel mosquito’s, gnats and flies from any outdoor area and is safe to spray on plants, patios and lawns. It has a residual effect that can last up to 2 weeks and the one bottle will treat up to 5,000 sq ft. Pleasantly scented and made from cedar oil, citronella, geranium oil and lemongrass oil.
  2. ORGANIC MOSQUITO PERSONAL SPRAY - an organic small personal spray that you can spray on your skin or clothing that will protect and repel from mosquito bites, 2oz size fits in your pocket or purse easily and has up to 200 individual pumps, DEET-free, and a refreshing lemon scent.
  3. MOSQUITO REPELLING PLANTS - citronella geranium, lemongrass, mint, marigolds, wax myrtle and more are all plants that can be used around the yard to help repel the mosquitos. These plants contain oils that inhibit the mosquito from smelling your scent. Leaves can be crushed and then used directly on the skin or plants can be placed on patios or sitting areas to help keep them away.
  4. MOSQUITO DUNKS - a biological and organic solution to killing the larvae of mosquitos. They can be used in fountains, ponds, or any water garden feature, as it will not harm fish, pets, birds, humans, or any other wildlife.
  5. BUG BUSTER-O or ROSE / FLOWER SPRAY or TAKE DOWN SPRAY
  6. - all part of the new Monterey Organic line of solutions, all have pyrethrin in them which is derived from a plant extract and proven to kill mosquitos and other listed insects. All products OMRI Listed.

TRADITIONAL SOLUTIONS:

  1. OFF DEEP WOODS 8OZ BONUS SIZE - research shows that DEET is still the best and most effective way of keeping mosquito’s and other insects from biting. The EPA has not identified any risks of using DEET, while some research has shown using products with 30% or less DEET is recommended,- Deep Woods is 25%
  2. MOSQUITO AND GNAT BARRIER - residual insecticide that can last up to four weeks, spray vertical plants, large shrubs and wooded areas to prevent mosquito’s as well as many other insects, including ticks and fleas, permethrin.
  3. BROAD SPECTRUM AND BUG BLASTER SPRAYS - one of the longest residual insecticides on the market, which can last up to 6-8 weeks on plants and up to 8 months in soil. Both products have Bifenthrin in it, but the broad spectrum is much less concentrated and therefore is safer on edible plants. This will also cut the residual effect it may have. However a $9.99 hose end concentrate will work well to keep mosquitos away and is very economical. The Bug Blaster is much stronger with a very high residual effect and is great for fleas, ticks and mosquitos, as well as other insects around the home and in the landscape and lawn.
  4. OTHER INSECTICIDES: - malathion, pyrethrin and deltamethrin have all shown similar results as well to killing mosquito’s, however have been found to become less effective on

Fell free to chose more than one solution to aid in effectiveness and remember, education if the first step to living a pest-free life. Good luck and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Be sure to check out our Mosquito Repelling Workshop this Saturday, July 23, 11AM, at all locations. Learn more at https://www.mcdonaldgardencenter.com/events/mosquito-repelling-planter-w...

Plant of the Week: Citronella Geranium

Linger outdoors a little longer thanks to the mosquito plant! If you love being outdoors in the summer, make sure you pick up a few of these! Nicknamed the mosquito plant, the citronella geranium is a drought-tolerant, vigorous grower, with thick, lacey-green leaves that give off the fresh scent of citrus. Some believe that mosquitoes will avoid the strong citrusy scent at all costs. It is grown more for the foliage and the scent, not the flower, although in spring you will see small, lavender flower bloom. Their rounded, bushy habit and convenient size makes them perfect for planting in containers, which can be placed just about anywhere.

Growing and caring for mosquito plants is easy, making it an ideal plant for both indoors and out. Can be grown outside during the summer, but should be taken inside before the first frost. Prefers at least six hours of sunlight every day whether it is planted outside or indoors near a window but can also tolerate some partial shade. Surround your deck, patio or garden this summer with the lemony-citrusy fragrance of this scented geranium!

Be sure to join us on Saturday, July 23, for the Mosquito Planter Workshop, at 11AM, available at all year-round locations. Learn more and register for the workshop at https://www.mcdonaldgardencenter.com/events/mosquito-repelling-planter-w....

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

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CREPE MYRTLE CREPES

Crêpe Myrtle Crêpes

It’s Crêpe Myrtle time and, we’re going ‘crêpe’ crazy! Here’s one of Chef Manu’s French-inspired recipes, featuring tasty Crêpe Myrtle Crêpes. Savored for centuries, crêpes are celebrating a revival today and aren’t just for “les Français.” Crêperies are popping up from Soho to San Fran.  These wafer-thin pancakes are extremely versatile - perfect for brunch, lunch, a light dinner, and most certainly dessert. Crêpes are easier to make than you think and can be dressed up with sweet or savory toppings and flavorful fillings. Make them in advance and refrigerate or freeze to fill later for a party or for quick treat.

And, for crêpes of another kind, be sure to join us at the Crêpe Myrtle Fest, Saturday and Sunday, July 16 & 17, 9AM-6PM, and SAVE BIG!

Ingredients /Serves 4:
1 cup of flour
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup of butter, melted

Preparation:

  1. Combine flour in a medium bowl with salt and sugar.
  2. In another bowl, beat eggs and milk lightly with a fork.
  3. Slowly and gradually pour egg mixture over flour, whipping gently.
  4. Add melted butter.
  5. Dough should be thin (add additional milk or butter if the consistency seems to thick)
  6. Preheat pan and pour a small ladle of batter in the center, spreading in a circle over the entire surface.
  7. Cook for approximately a minute on each side.  

Sweet Options: Serve with Nutella, Biscoff Cookie Spread, peanut butter, fresh squeezed lemon with a bit of sugar, or any kind of fruit jam/fresh fruit.

Savory Options: any combination of lunchmeat and cheeses (swiss, cheddar, ham, chicken, turkey, etc) .

CREPE MYRTLES: BEST OF

There’s just something about a crepe myrtle. Vibrant blossoms that radiate elegance on lengthy, artistic limbs that seem to beckon the summer sun. And although we struggle to find a favorite, we’ve compiled a list of our most prized varieties of Hampton Roads’ “favorite tree.”

Princess Holly Ann - with vibrant cherry red blooms, this mounding dwarf crepe myrtle blossoms from summer to fall. True royalty, the Princess Holly Ann showcases deep green foliage in summer with purplish-red growth in fall while reaching 4-5 feet tall with a 2 1/2 to 3 foot spread. This disease resistant, heat and cold tolerant, shrub is just the thing for garden beds, containers and mass plantings.

Princess Jaden - luscious lavender flowers bloom from summer through fall over the dark green leaves that turn copper to reddish purple. This princess takes her time as a slow grower that reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. Perfect for borders, containers and mass plantings, plant Princess Jaden in full sun.

Natchez - sometimes it’s not just about the blooms. The Natchez crepe myrtle allures all with a dark, cinnamon bark that exfoliates as it gets older. This gives the structure of the tree interest even when defoliated during the winter months. Small but stunning, the Natchez reaches around 20-25' tall. Even in smaller yards this crepe is an eye catcher. The leaves turn a beautiful orange/bronze color during the fall before dropping while flowers are a crisp, cool white.

Catawba - Crepe Myrtle Catawaba is deciduous tree with stunning purple flower clusters on an upright, rounded form that blooms from spring until fall. Its foliage is green from spring through summer changing to rich shades of orange and red in the fall. Catawba is extremely drought tolerant, likes full to partial sunlight and is adaptable to a variety of soil conditions. Catawba has a rounded habit but can be limbed up to create the look of a small tree. It grows to approximately 15-20 feet high by 10-12-feet wide. A welcome, colorful addition to entryways, landscape beds, mixed perennial or shrub border and even containers, it is often seen around Hampton Roads as a foundation planting around large buildings or lining residential and public roadways. Catawba is easy to grow and requires little maintenance other than fertilization and pruning once a year.

Dynamite - with a name like dynamite, this crepe has a lot to prove! Luckily, this upright tree, growing up to 20’ tall and wide with deep red flowers and glorious red-orange fall blooms, the Dynamite delivers on all fronts. A true stunner, this crepe loves full or partial sunlight and is adaptable to a variety of soil conditions.

Ebony Flame Crepe Myrtle - as fiery as its name implies, the Ebony Flame exploded in popularity with ember red blooms contrasted by striking charred, black foliage. Drought tolerant, this crepe myrtle flowers during the summer and fall months. Expect the Ebony Flame to grow about 10-12 feet tall and 8 feet wide at a moderate pace. Crepe Myrtles perform exceptionally well in Hampton Roads, tolerating the area’s heat and humidity.

Ebony & Ivory - “Living in perfect harmony,” Ebony & Ivory is one of the most requested crepe myrtles on the block. If you're looking for a truly unique crepe... this one is a must-have! You'll adore its clusters of pure white blooms with yellow eyes that pop against its intense, dark purple, almost ebony, foliage. This upright grower blooms summer into fall and reaches a mature size of 10 to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Ebony & Ivory makes and excellent accent plant in the landscape and rest assured - Ebony & Ivory is disease resistant and drought tolerant. If you looking for summer-blooming perennials to pair with this crepe -- we recommend gallardia, agastache, lantana, coreopsis, coneflowers and daylilies.

Planting Tips:For new plantings, dig a hole one and a half times wider than the plant’s container; place plant in hole, keeping the top of the root ball ground level; and back fill with dirt. Water thoroughly and then mulch around the base to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. New plantings require more frequent watering than established plants. Wind, temperature and soil are factors to consider in watering. Feed plants in early spring and again in early fall with an all-purpose fertilizer, following label instructions.

STAFF PICK 'EBONY FLAME' AND 'EBONY IVORY' CREPE MYRTLES

Staff Pick: Mike
Crepe myrtles “The Locals' Favorite” have two standouts “Ebony Flame,” a black leaved variety with brilliant red blossoms and “Ebony Ivory,” also with black leaves and pure white blooms. Both of these will provide the pop of contrasting color one needs to create colorful focal points and screens in the garden.

These trees provide year-round interest. In Spring, the vibrant black leaves distinguish this crepe myrtle variety from nearly every other tree. Summer showcases the matured black leaves and an impressive bloom time of 90 days. Fall brings striking red leaves while winter reveals the patterns of the bark with eye-catching contortions.

Tolerant of a wide variety of soils and conditions, the elegant and stark contrast of the Ebony Flame and Ebony Ivory continues to be a timeless stunner for generations to enjoy.

STAFF FAVORITE 'CHUCK HAYES' GARDENIA

R.J. | Store Manager

Even though the gardenia is famed for its intoxicatingly sweet, fragrant flowers, the Chuck Hayes Gardenia is my favorite plant for a variety of reasons. First, it was developed right here in Virginia Beach by Mr. Chuck Hayes, at the Virginia Tech test site. It has superior performance and is more cold hardy and heat tolerant than other varieties.

'Chuck Hayes' features dark, leathery foliage and produces a ton of white, velvety, aromatic flowers. Slow growing to a mature size of approximately 4’ high and 4’ wide, a fully matured shrub can produce up to 50 blooms! It produces double blooms in the summer with another heavy re-bloom in the fall. It is the perfect choice when planted in borders, containers or just as a showy, single specimen in the landscape. It prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil in full sun or partial shade. If you would like a hardy, gorgeous, fragrant bloomer that will take all the weather that Hampton Roads has to offer, than be sure to add some of these beauties to your landscape.