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Green with Envy - Tips for Healthy Houseplants

It's actually not that difficult to keep houseplants happy, but you do need to pay attention to their basic needs and take care of any potential problems right away. Here are some tips to help you have a green thumb indoors.

Avoid Over Watering - it’s counterintuitive, but overwatering is the most common reason plants fail – particularly in the winter. Overwatering can cause browning of leaves, fungus, gnats, and dropping of leaves. Wait to water your houseplants until they become dry. Test the soil with your finger. When the top inch is dry, then add water.
Nice Idea: Use the same watering vessel each time, so you know to add the same amount whenever you water.
Neat Idea: place a cork pad under your plant’s saucer. This will eliminate water stains on your carpet or hardwood floors.

Clean the Green - keep your leaves free of dust and grime this will keep your plants healthier – plus they’ll look better. Take a half of a lemon and squeeze it into a quart of water using a soft cloth. Wet it with the lemon mix and wipe gently. Support the foliage using your other hand so you won’t bend or break the leaf. Unless you live in a dust bowl, you’ll probably only have to do this once every six months or so.

Feeding - your houseplants need food during the winter, but less is more. If your directions say 1 tablespoon or 1 scoop we recommend cutting that in half. Feed only once a month until spring. Personally I believe organic fertilizers are better for plants.
Who knew: Using filtered or bottled water will help eliminate dead ends. The minerals in tap water will settle to the ends of the leaves and cause the dead ends.

Check for Pests - keep an eye out for pests. They usually will attack the new growth and also hide on the underside of the leaves and along the stem. They are not harmful to humans and are easily able to control. If you do discover pests grab yourself an organic insect spray. Lay out some plastic under the pot and start spraying at the bottom of the plant.
Spray the foliage on the underside and then on top, working your way up. Your treatments may take several applications 7 – 10 days apart. The sooner you discover those pests, the easier it is to get under control, so check your plants often.

Wait to Repot - if you feel your plant needs to be repotted into a bigger container, it’s best to wait to late winter or early spring. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures are more conducive to root expansion. Choose a container that is 4 – 6 inches larger than the existing pot. When choosing a pot the saucer is important. You want at least 2″ of space between the saucer edge and the bottom of the pot.

A Guide to Poinsettias: History, Care, and Maintenance

The History of the Poinsettia

One of the most recognizable and sought-after plants of the holiday season, poinsettias have had quite a journey. Though interesting in their own right, the origin of the poinsettia is more unassuming than one would think (as they now adorn not only the White House corridors, but the entry way of your local Applebees.)

The poinsettia was not prized by the Aztecs for their striking red bracts but for their medicinal purposes, as they were highly effective in reducing fevers. It wasn’t until 1828 that poinsettias made their way to America-a voyage that would change the horticultural-based retail market forever.

The story began when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the son of a French physician, was appointed the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by President Madison. Even though he had followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated with a degree in medicine, Poinsett was fiercely dedicated to his love of botany. While visiting Mexico, in 1828, he found himself drawn to the strikingly red blooms. (Actually, they are not flowers but colored bracts, a kind of modified leaf.) He sent them back to his greenhouse in Greenville, South Carolina, as well as to his botanist friend, Robert Buist. Buist sold the plant as “Euphorbia pulcherrima,” meaning beautiful, as he was also taken by the plant’s vibrant hue. When the poinsettia broke through the cracks of his greenhouse floor, he also became impressed with the plants’ strength!

So though Poinsett is responsible for bringing what we now know as the poinsettia to America, others helped cultivate it to its smaller size. In fact, the large, original version still grows as a tree in Mexico.

Interesting Facts/Care and Maintenance
So now that we’ve journeyed to the present- what makes them special and how can you best care for them this holiday season?

Poinsettias are the #1 selling holiday plant in the USA but take caution if you have a latex allergy. The poinsettia is in the Euphorbiaceae family, a group known to ooze a milky sap. This sap has been known to produce a reaction to those who have an allergy to latex. This sap also causes nausea for our furry friends, so best to keep Fido and Fluffy away.

Though poinsettias have been referred to as the lobster flower and the flame leaf for it’s red color, there are more than 100 varieties available today. You can get still that traditional rouge at McDonald Garden Center, but rising in popularity are our painted poinsettias. Really want to up the glam factor? Try one with glitter!

There are varying stories about the origin of the poinsettia. Many in Mexico and Guatemala know the plant as “La Flor de la Nochebuena” or “Flower of the Holy Night,” while the Aztecs refer the plant as “Cuitlaxochiti,” or “flower that grows in soil.” In Spain, the poinsettia isn’t attributed to Christmas at all, but is instead called “Flor de Pascua,” which means, “Easter Flower.”

Care and Maintenance

• Poinsettias should be placed in a south facing area with lots of light or bright, filtered light.

• Ideally they should be kept at 68° during the day, and bit cooler temps at night.
•Water regularly and make sure the soil is moist to the touch.
•Keep away from windows and heaters

Can my Poinsettia come back?
If you want your poinsettia to “bloom” again next season, it is possible, but it takes some work. The best way to ensure success is to continue to water your poinsettia until the middle of spring. When you get to that midpoint, you can allow the stems to shrivel up by drying the plant out. Keep in a cool area until spring ends. Early summer, repot and cut all growth to a couple inches above the soil line. In about a month, move the pot outside, but only in the shade. Continue to cut growing tips until mid summer. Before the fall season, return the poinsettia indoors. Find an area with lots of sun, watering and feeding regularly.
When fall begins, its time to start the process of returning the leaves to whatever color they were the previous year. This can take up to two months. First, change over from a nitrogen-based fertilizer to one made for houseplants. (Plant Tone from Espoma is a nice option.) Place the plant in 13 hours of complete, uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright sunshine per day. After about two months, remove the time spent in darkness and place in the sunniest area of your home. Then enjoy!

Two Takes on a Persimmon Treat

It's that tasty time of year where treats are aplenty, and sweet sensations steal the scene. A way to bring a bit of freshness into the festivities is by using one of our favorite fruits, persimmons. A beautiful and vibrant edible, persimmons add a depth of flavor with a brightness that fits well into any holiday menu.

We know how easy it is to get caught in the hustle and bustle, so we're bringing you two ways to prepare this fantastic fruit. The first is from our very own Chef Manu, a complex yet achievable torte with layers of hazelnut biscuit, persimmons mousse, and chocolate mousse. The second, is a quick but delicious creation from McDonald Garden Center founder Eddie Anderson. With these two greats offering up their recipes- how can you go wrong?

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - Hazelnut Persimmon Torte

A work of art with delicate, fluffy layers of flavors, this Hazelnut Persimmon Torte adorns your holiday table like a star on a Christmas tree.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup Hazelnut flour
  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • ½ cup Butter, softened
  • 3 Eggs
  • Almond extract, 2 drops

Mousse Filling:

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar Fruit 10
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Gélatin.
  • 9 oz. chocolate
  • Fresh raspberries, 1 small carton
  1. In a bowl mix softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at the time. Next, add hazelnut flour and the almond extract. Press in a sheet pan and cook at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.
    In a bowl, mix the cream and the sugar until creamy. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Open the persimmon fruit and extract the pulp and place in the pan on the stove to warm. Add the gelatin and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently fold in half of the whipped cream and the fruit mousse. Melt the chocolate and add to the other half of whipped cream mixture and mix together gently.
  3. Layer the persimmon, fruit cream on top of hazelnut crust and top with the chocolate mousse. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Mr. A’s Easy-as-Persimmons Treat

This fresh, tasty, and colorful, concoction, created by our very own Mr. Anderson, is a delightful blend of sweet and tart and is the perfect escape into the whimsical this season.

Ingredients

  • Persimmons (ripe)
  • Greek yogurt or whipped cream
  • pound cake loaf (store bought)
  1. Cut the tops off the ripened persimmons.
  2. Scoop the inside of the fruit into small cups.
  3. Top with plain Greek yogurt or whipped cream.
  4. Serve immediately.

The Best of Gift Guide 2016

Thoughtful gifts from the heart always add warmth to a cold, wintry season. Family owned and operated, we’ve been in the heart-warming business since 1945 and remain committed to offering quality products our customers can be proud to give their loved ones. To take the guesswork out, we have thoughtfully compiled a list of our top six gift-giving items that sparkled bright this season.

6. Jewelry Boxes
These beautiful keepsake boxes are elegant and timeless-the perfect gift to be passed down generation to generation. With charming touches like pearls or high-quality beads, these delightfully delicate boxes both adorn and adore.
five different styles to choose from (from $9.99—$49.99)

5. Barebones Tools
Barebones tools are high-quality, superior products that every gardener covets. Their attention to detail and dedication to using exceptional materials inspires gardeners to “dig deep,” both literally and figuratively.
choose from cultivator, scissors, spade, square hoe and essential gardeners gift sets (starts at $19.99)

4. Simplux Candles
Simplux Flameless Candles are stunningly realistic and boast patented TRUE-FLAME Technology® that makes them virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The three-dimensional flame will never burn out, always remains cool to the touch, and is safe around the home, children and pets. Those qualities make the Simplux candle perfect for weddings, events and everyday use.
available in pillar and melted candle styles, from 5-inch to 9-inch ($19.99-$34.99)

3. Heirloom ornaments
You can’t get more local than these hand-painted, Hampton Roads centric heirloom ornaments that commemorate some of the most unique, beautiful, and iconic places in our great community. Truly a unique and cherished gift item, these heirloom ornaments are exclusive to McDonald Garden Center.
starting at $29.99

2. Poinsettias
These exquisite beauties are the definition of classic Christmas. One, if not the most, popular plants of the season, poinsettias' timeless sophistication and embracement of the holiday spirit gives that lovely feeling of nostalgia to its recipients. Shopping for a non-traditionalist? Don’t worry, we have you covered with a full spectrum of colors and new, unique varieties.
red, pink, creamy white, coral, and more (from $4.99 to $39.99)

1. MGC Gift Cards
Cliché? Perhaps. Failsafe? Absolutely! With McDonald Garden Center’s wide variety of products- from plants to pottery and deco to daisies-give your gardener what they really want…Choices. Gift cards available in store or by clicking here.
$10-$300

Lifelike Trees - A Fit for All

Post by McDonald Garden Center's Garden Guru, Mike Westphal

McDonald Garden Center takes great pride in offering the highest quality, lifelike, prelit Christmas trees. We have more than 60 different trees to choose from featuring both LED and Incandescent lights. They come in a variety of sizes, 4.5-foot, 6.5-foot, 7.5-foot and 9-foot, as well as many shapes from slim to medium to full.

If you haven't looked at artificial trees in a while, you won't believe how lifelike they really are. A majority of our trees have a molded lifelike tip that allows for more diversity in styles, needle shape and color in our trees. Molded tips hold up better then the traditional material most of us are used to.

All of our trees are very easy to setup. Branches are hinged to a central post and fold out with ease, and the lights are clearly labeled for easy hook up. Most trees come in three to four sections.

Some of my favorites this holiday season are:

Minnesota Spruce - this tree has an amazing shape. Minnesota is a medium to full tree with lots of incandescent bulbs that warm the home. The lifelike needles are a medium to dark green with a hint of bright green new growth at the end. The needles surround the branch and create a lush and full look. Lots of lights and lots of tips make this tree a real beauty. Minnesota is available in 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes.

Nordmann Fir - inspired by nature, this tree looks like it was found deep in the woods. A dark green, lifelike needle that is flat like a traditional fir featuring hundreds of LED lights make this tree standout. The branching is irregular, so you get short and long branches that create an unusual but striking shape. One of our best and easiest trees to decorate. Nordemann is sure to be a conversation piece in your home for many years to come and is available in 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes.

Jessup Fir - this tree is designed to look just like a fresh cut Fraser Fir. The needles and the shape immolate it to perfection. This medium-sized tree has great spacing in the branches, which creates a full silhouette but also allows space for lots of ornaments and decorations. A classic for any home, Jessup is available in 6.5-foot, 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes.

Melville Fir - a medium to slim tree with a small needle and bright green new growth at the tips make this tree stand out from the rest. Featuring a perfect Christmas tree shape, Melville has plenty of nooks and crannies for decorating. This tree is available in 6.5-foot, 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes.

Ridgeline Fir - the best slim tree you will ever find. Almost completely made out of molded tips, which makes this tree look like the real deal. Tons of lights and branches that peak out all over help make this tree a real joy to decorate. Ridgeline is available in 6.5-foot, 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes. (We also have three other styles of slim trees available, Brookhaven, Osage and Montgomery - you won't find a better selection in slim-line trees in Hampton Roads).

Deerfield Fir - if you want Christmas to be easy, then look no further. This tree instantly pops into shaped. With spring loaded metal branches, all you do is plug in each section and you are ready to decorate. The stiff, metal branches makes hanging those heavy ornaments a breeze. You want easy, we got it. Deerfield is available in 7.5-foot and 9-foot sizes.