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Eastern Red Cedar
Wax Myrtle

Memory Garden Keeps You Connected

By Kathy Van Mullekom

Every time I move, I create my all-time favorite garden. Each is different and memorable.

First, there was the woodsy shade garden with camellias, azaleas, ferns and Japanese maples. Large-cupped, yellow Carlton daffodils emerged early spring under deciduous trees before they leafed out, and violet-flowering, cold- hardy geraniums (Geranium Rozanne) popped with summer color.

My next garden was totally the opposite – full-sun days called for roses, ornamental grasses and perennials. Black and Blue Salvia, milkweed, Joe-pye weed and coneflowers attracted bees, birds and butterflies, while Knock Out roses charmed the days with never-ending rosy-red and pink hues.

In both gardens, evergreens such as wax myrtle, eastern red cedars and arborvitae gave the gardens good “bones.”

At my newest garden, a retirement home in Virginia Beach, I’m establishing a “memory garden” that reminds me of those two long-loved gardens.

Ken and I cleared a small wooded area at the back of our grassy lawn. There, we planted three eastern red cedars, three Yuletide camellias, three wax myrtles and a couple hundred Carlton daffodils. I always plant in odd numbers, placing them in triangular or slightly staggered formations – much like floral arrangers do.

Our former gardens also featured numerous bird feeders, so our Virginia Beach site does, too.

Native eastern red cedar produces blue fruits in summer that birds feast on in winter. The large shrub, or small tree, grows 15 to 20 feet tall, with blue-green foliage that provides nesting sites and predatory protection for songbirds. The plant grows in full sun or dappled shade. During the holidays, bring in fragrant branches of the cedar to give your home fresh scents.

Wax myrtle is one of the most versatile home garden plants you can use. A large shrub or small tree, its lower and interior branches can be removed to show off its interesting branch structure. Planted closely together, wax myrtle makes a showy hedge that can grow naturally or sheared to shape. The native evergreen features soft, olive-green foliage with a spicy odor that repels insects and deer, according to gardening professionals. It grows in sun or shade, and wet or dry soil. In April, teeny flowers appear on male and female plants, but the females produce blue-gray fruits that birds love to eat August through October.

Yuletide is my all-time favorite camellia for several reasons: it stays relatively small, and flowers a holiday red at just the right time of the year, Thanksgiving to Christmastime. Its flowers are small but showy enough to brighten up a wooded area. The blossoms can be cut for holiday arrangements, and look stunning just floating in a pretty bowl of water. Camellias can be pruned immediately after they finish flowering, removing crossing and rubbing branches to allow air and light to infiltrate the plant and thereby reduce the possibility of disease and pests.

In addition, my memory garden contains nandinas to honor my grandparents who loved and grew them, as well as my favored Nikko blue-flowering hydrangeas.

Now, when I sit on my new paver patio and look toward the woods, I am reminded all the goodness gardening has brought into my life – yesterday, today and forever.

Kathy Van Mullekom gardens in southeastern Virginia Beach; contact her at

Fairy Gardening with Mike Westphal

Fairy Garden How-To's

Fairy gardening continues to be a trend we love and with all the customizable options the threshold for whimsy reaches glittery unicorn and pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow status! These miniature gardens bring magnanimous amounts of fun to all ages and are the perfect solution for a kid’s birthday party, bridal shower, girls night out, or anniversary. Or maybe it’s just you, your fairy garden supplies, and a nice pinot noir!? (sounds pretty magical to us!) Whatever may have sparked your interest, Mike Westphal is here to bring you all the latest tips, and simple how-to instructions so you can be successful with your fairy garden.  

Need some additional inspiration? Check out our Pinterest page

Mulch Madness, McDonald Garden Center Bagged Mulch

Mulch to Talk About

Selecting the Right Mulch

There is no one, universal mulch for everything. There are pros and cons to every mulching material. Whatever the material, mulch needs to stay put to be effective, but should also be easy to remove and apply.

Natural mulches are very common and are composed of plant matter. Examples include straw, shredded leaves, bark, pine needles or wood chips. These mulches decompose over time, which helps improve the soil but it also means they must be replaced once or twice a year. Colored mulches are made by adding a dye to a natural mulch. They typically come in colors such as brown, black or red. Whether you’re using rich black to make your perennial garden pop or soft red to accent your home, colored mulch gives you more flexibility and creativity in your garden.

8 Tips for Magnificent Mulching

Not all plants are the same, but these basic directions provide good rule-of-thumb guidelines for applying mulch.

  1. Spring fever. After a long, cold winter, nothing says Spring is here like a new bed of mulch. So apply mulch in the early Spring. Not only will it look great, it will help warm the soil and make your neighbors envious!
  2. Stay out of the weeds. Always weed before applying mulch.
  3. Scratch the surface. Lightly rake the soil to loosen up the surface before mulching.
  4. Feed first. This is an ideal time to feed evergreen and acid-loving plants such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Dogwoods and Hollies with a high quality plant food like Holly-tone. So before you mulch, apply it in a circle around the drip line of shrubs or trees.
  5. How mulch is too mulch. A uniform depth of 2 to 3 inches works for most mulches around established plants. Mulch that’s too deep can actually smother young plants.
  6. No volcanoes! Never pile up mulch next to anything. Keep mulches 2 to 3 inches away from the stems of woody plants and 6 to 12 inches away from buildings to avoid pests such as rodents or termites and other insects.
  7. Put a ring around it. When mulching around trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to a little beyond the drip line. The basic idea is to cover a realistic portion of the root system.
  8. Give it the smell test. Replenish or replace mulch when it decomposes. Mulch should smell woody

Content provided by Espoma.

Moelleux au Chocolat
Pot de Crème a la Lavande
Chef Manu Molion

Cusine de Jardin - Featured Confections from the Cooking with Herbs Seminar

Craving a little sweetness is not unfamiliar to any of us and for those of you who were fortunate enough to grab a seat at last weekend’s Outdoor Show seminar with Chef Manu, Cooking with Herbs, we promised we’d share his recipes for Moelleux au Chocolat and Pot de Crème a la Lavande. From a decadent, gooey, melting in the middle chocolate pudding to a creamy, mouth-watering custard infused with lavender, these two treats are sure to thrill anyone with a sweet tooth.

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - “Moelleux au Chocolat”


  • 4.5 oz. chocolate (ideally about 70% cocoa solids)
  • 3.5 oz. unsalted butter
  • 4.5 oz. sugar icing
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 eggs yolk
  • 3 thyme branches


  1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees.
  2. Melt the chocolate, thyme and butter in a double boiler.
  3. Mix together the sugar icing and flour in a separate bowl.
  4. Next add the eggs and mix well.
  5. Butter two ramekin dishes.
  6. Once chocolate and butter are melted, pour the mixture into the bowl with flour, sugar icing and eggs and mix completely.
  7. Pour mixture into the ramekins to about ¾ full.
  8. Cook for approximately 7 minutes.
  9. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through.
  10. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (there will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir.
  11. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins.
  12. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins to the top (it’s easier to spoon in the last little bit).

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - "Pot de Crème a la Lavande"


  • 1 carton of heavy cream (500 ml)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 lavender branches


  1. Preheat the oven to fan 230 degrees.
  2. Place four, 175ml ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm deep (or a large deep cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin.
  3. Pour the cream into a medium pan. Lay the vanilla pod on a board and slice lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife to split it in two.
  4. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in and set aside. Add the lavender to the pan.
  5. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand mixer until paler in color and a bit fluffy.
  6. Put the pan with the cream on medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear at the edges, remove the pan from heat.
  7. Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so, and scraping out the seeds from the pan.
  8. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through.
  9. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (there will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir.
  10. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins.
  11. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins to the top (it’s easier to spoon in the last little bit).
This Year's Show Theme "Flower Power"

Outdoor Show 2017- THE DIRT

It’s finally here! After nearly a year of planning the 24th Annual Outdoor Show is days away! Our staff is all hands on deck to make sure our customers have an awesome weekend full of groovy displays of color, gnarly exhibits from industry experts, and totally far-out seminars on a wide variety of topics.

With weather being unpredictable in Hampton Roads (80 degrees one day and freezing the next..really?!?) we have to stay on our “A” game. Luckily, with the majority of our show in covered tents, keeping the area climate controlled and comfortable, no matter what this weekend brings, is very attainable. We’ve run the gamut when it comes to weather during our Outdoor Show (some of you may remember a few times when we had snow!) but rest assured you will have a fabulous time no matter what Mother Nature throws our way!

This year’s theme is “Flower Power” and our creative team has gleefully taken this inspiration and ran with it. (Like, Usain Bolt record-breaking ran with it) We have tons of colorful displays throughout the show with two particularly impressive displays not to miss. One is a large display in the greenhouse, which has the Volkswagon “Thing” and the other, in the large tent, is a small sampling of what our team of landscape designers can do. (Warning: those visiting the landscape design display may have overwhelming feelings of inspiration and/or yard envy).

There is definitely no shortage of plant mayhem at this years’ event. Naysayers say, “There’s no way they can have color at the Outdoor’s too early!” Well, naysayers, we DO have color. And a TON of it! Tropicals, houseplants, annuals, you name it, we’ve got it. And not just your run of the mill plant material- we have the newest and trendiest for 2017, with the industry leaders and growers AT THE SHOW to tell you all about their products. Want to find out more about the annual plant of the year: Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunia? Our friends from Proven Winners will be there to give you all the details! Maybe you want to plan your garden and order everything online to have it shipped to McDonald Garden Center? Talk to our Monrovia peeps (and even pick up a coupon)!

Our major sponsors are back again- Wavy TV10, Southern Auto Group, and Simply Baths by Quality Advantage (YAY!), and they’re bringing the excitement as usual. New to the block this year, we are over the MOON to have the Ronald McDonald House Charity under the tent. (The marketing dept had a field day with the “McDonald” connection..) We are so happy to have them, that we are giving away a 4-nch primrose for every $10 donation to their charity. (Inside Tip: Don’t miss the big red shoe!)

In addition to some awesome local vendors, we have fantastic booths from our in-house vendors. Want to know more about orchids? Visit expert Steve Urick in the greenhouse! Been wanting to get some of those super trendy succulents but weren’t sure how to care for them? Now’s the time!

If you’ve followed our blog or seen our videos on social media, you may have heard the names Chef Manu (Cuisine de Jardin) or Mike Westphal, Garden Guru. Both of these gentlemen will be offering seminars at our show, along with Lynnhaven River Now, Tidewater African Violet Society, the Butterfly Society of Virginia, the Tidewater Beekeepers Association, and more! There truly is something for everyone. (Insider Tip: The first 30 people at the Chef de Cuisine seminar get to taste test some amazing food!)

What separates this show from others, I can honestly say, is the passion our staff and our vendors have for gardening and home décor. Don’t be surprised to leave the show with something completely different than you imagined! Come with an open mind, leave with a full pot. The Outdoor Show takes place all weekend long, Friday-Sunday, March 3-5, from 9:00am to 6:00pm each day.

We look forward to seeing you!