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Our New Favorite Houseplant: Anthuriums

A houseplant that has the potential to bloom year-round is hard to come by. Luckily, we have the solution: anthuriums. This houseplant really makes a statement…and it is easy to care for. We carry anthuriums in several colors including pink, purple, red, and white. Grow anthurium alone or in combination containers with other houseplants.

This plant does best in bright, filtered light. Anthuriums can be potted in regular potting soil but a peat based mixture is preferable. It is very important to choose a pot that has a drain hole. Pot the plant so the root ball is an inch or two below the surface of the soil. Do not pack the soil too tightly around the roots. Water enough to keep the soil lightly moist but never wet. Fortunately, anthuriums tend to be forgiving, even when they dry out a little too much. Regular fertilizing will help your anthurium to grow and continue to bloom again and again. A balanced fertilizer on a monthly basis works well. The larger the plant grows, the larger the blooms will be!

Be sure to look out for two more Anthurium colors coming this fall: black and orange!


Fall Paints Stunning Garden Scenes

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, especially in the garden. For the most part, annoying bugs go away and plant diseases disappear. And, some plants like roses produce their most stunning blooms in the fall, because they are not stressed by heat and pest problems. For me, fall is the time to enjoy the sights of colorful shrubs and trees. Here are some I like:

One of my favorite trees is Virginia’s native dogwood, which features crimson red leaves and berries. A problem-free version of the common dogwood, Cornus florida, is Cornus kousa, or kousa dogwood. Native to China, it resists the fungal leaf diseases that plague native dogwoods on the East Coast. It displays eye-catching fall foliage, and tolerates more sun.

A black gum tree, or Nyssa sylvatica, will stop you in its tracks with its ball of scarlet red leaves in October. Thankfully, it’s not a tree that drops gumballs. It’s a tough tree that likes most soils and isn’t fussy about sun or shade conditions. Pests rarely bother it, and it grows slower than maples but faster than oaks, reaching 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide, which is a nice size for most yards. Best of all, it really needs no pruning and lives a long, long time, giving you years of pleasure for your money.

In the blink of an eye, bright yellow fall foliage cover blankets a ginkgo tree, or Ginkgo biloba. The well-behaved, medium-sized tree has been around since the beginning of time, so it’s no wonder it’s very disease and insect resistant. A word of caution: Buy the male species, because the female produces messy, smelly fruit.

When it comes to fall’s finest shrubs, my first pick is American beautyberry, or Callicarpa. This native species still grows at Monticello where Thomas Jefferson admired its beauty. In late spring, its cascading stem habit is laden with clusters of lavender-pink blooms, followed by tight clusters of bright purple berries that stop you in your tracks when you walk your garden. Once the foliage drops, the berries are still there but not for long if birds frequent your yard.

Virginia sweetspire, or Itea virginica, is a deciduous fall shrub with long-lasting leaves that turn into shades of maroon, yellow and orange. Native sweetspire comes in a Henry Garnet version, which is commonly sold. It’s easy to use because it grows only three to five feet tall, and features graceful, arching branches that bear hundreds of small white flowers in spring. The blooms attract all kinds of pollinating insects, too. In summer, its leaves make attractive backdrops for semi-shade perennials.

Lastly, red chokeberry, or Aronia brilliantissima, offers tremendous red fall color. Late spring clusters of white flowers are followed by large, bright red berries in October. Another forgiving plant, chokeberry likes sun to part shade and tolerates all soils, including clay.

If you don’t have these or any fall-type shrubs in your yard, now is the perfect time to plant them. Winter’s cool weather and frequent rains help new plants establish roots before summer arrives again.

To plant properly any time of the year, dig a hole a foot wider than the circumference of the root ball and the same depth as the root ball. If the plant is coming out of a pot, take your fingers and try to loosen some of the roots, so they will continue to grow outward instead of in a circle the shape of the pot. Set it out in the middle of the hole, and back fill with the soil you just dug out. Water slowly, and apply two to three inches of mulch, making sure that you do not push the mulch up around the stems.

Remember, fall can be the start of your gardening season – not the end of it.

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

Fall is Prime Time for Lawn Care

Fall is Prime Time for Lawn Care

by Kathy Van Mullekom

It’s that time of the year – your cool-season fescue lawn looks tired and worn. It’s been a scorching, hot summer, one that’s taken its toll on a grass that prefers cool temperatures and naturally goes dormant in summer. I’ve had fescue grass most of my life, and it’s a turf that needs TLC to stay green and healthy. Which is why I always give it the special care it needs now through December, so it rewards me with a lush-green carpet many months of the year.

Over the years, Virginia Tech’s Virginia Cooperative Extensions cool-season lawn-care calendar has guided me through that process. The month-by-month listings tell you exactly what to do and when to do it, so there is no guessing game. You can find the calendar – and also one for warm-season lawns like Bermuda and zoysia -- online at

I look forward to the cooler days and nights of September, knowing I can get outdoors and work in my yard without wilting. I hate weeds, so I often hand weed the yard as much as I can but also use a weed killer to spot control minor invaders. Once that’s done, hubby and I broadcast a Virginia Tech-researched and approved turfgrass seed. The annual recommendations by the Virginia and Maryland National Turfgrass Evaluation Program are based on test plots grown in sites such as the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center on Diamond Springs Road in Virginia Beach. You can walk those labeled plots and see for yourself how good grass grows – or does not grow, depending on the variety.

Here’s how to renovate your fescue lawn each fall:

  • Before you sow seed, cut the lawn shorter than usual and use a steel rake to scratch the soil’s surface so any seed makes contact with the ground.
  • If you play hard on your yard -- and have pets or children who run a lot and pack down soil – you may want to aerate your soil before seeding. A core aerator pulls out small plugs of soil, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen in the soil. Aerators can be rented or lawn-care companies provide the service.
  • Using a hand-held or push-type drop spreader, sow the seed over your existing lawn. I recall the days as a child when my father used to hand throw seed, doing it in a sweeping motion that covered the yard in a nice, even stand. I have tried but just can’t get it looking as good as he did.
  • Avoid using a whirly spreader, which is best for putting down fertilizer, because it will broadcast grass seed into your mulched beds, meaning you will have hundreds of grass seedlings to soon remove.
  • Once your seed is down, moisten it – avoid watering too much or you risk moving the seed and rotting it. Instead, water lightly and often, making sure the new seed stays moist until new grass emerges. This is also the time to overseed warm-season lawns like Bermuda and Zoysia with annual rye for wintertime green. Some turf experts, however, warn annual rye can delay warm-season turf’s emergence in spring.
  • Now, a word about thatch and the process called dethatching, or removing that tightly packed layer of organic matter between the grass blades and soil surface. Thatch is sort of an old wives’ tale, something people thought they had to do. Thatch really does not build up unless you go weeks between mowings and allow clumps of grass to lie on top of your yard – ick, ugly sight. Grass clippings are your friend because they decompose and return vital nutrients and moisture back into your soil. Just make sure you cut your grass often and use a mulching mower, and you will never have enough thatch to worry about.
  • Last, but not least, raise your mower blades and let your fescue lawn grow taller in the cool days of fall, winter and spring. Your lawn will reward you with the lushness of a thick carpet that tickles your toes and makes you feel good all over.

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

Fall Lawn Care
New Grass Seeds for 2017
Fall Lawn Kits

NEW Grass Seeds for 2017

“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.” Michael Polan

Beautiful lawns normally don’t just “happen.” They are the result of patience, persistence, and tiresome preparation. Luckily, McDonald Garden Center has figured out a way to take the guesswork out of Hampton Road's lawns.

Proper maintenance, mowing and nutrition are all essential to attaining those blades of glory but ultimately success rests on the grass seed itself. Whether establishing a new lawn or maintaining an existing one, matching the best cool or warm-season grasses to your growing region is crucial.

For more than 70 years, our lawn experts have been gathering valuable information and products to help you establish and maintain successful lawns here in Hampton Roads. To help you on your road to lawn success, we've developed easy-to-use lawn kits specifically formulated for our area. In addition, we're offering complimentary lawn classes every Saturday at 11am, through October 14.

The good news is that we have something no one else will have. We have three tall fescue varieties that are all on the Virginia Tech Category 1 list for 2017-2018. Not only are they all top rated grasses but two of them have the “Lateral Spread Characteristics.” Basically this means it has the potential to spread, which is the hope for fescue as they make advancements. Another benefit to a potentially spreading fescue is the root system is more vigorous and deep, therefore better in our drought and heat conditions we experience in the summer.

The three varieties we offer in our mix are Spyder LS, Firecracker SLS, and Raptor III.

Spyder LS - tall fescue is an initial release from Mountain View Seeds Lateral Spread Technology™ (LS) research program, striving to develop fescues that, through natural mechanisms including increased tillering or rhizome formation, exhibit greater potential for tighter density, particularly under stress, and self recuperation from traffic, wear, or injury. Spyder LS has scored in the highest NTEP grouping for overall turf quality under medium maintenance, traffic exposure, and shade. It is dark in color, vigorous and aggressive, with broad disease resist-ance, particularly to brown patch. Quicker to fill-in, weed presence is minimal. Its drought tolerance is also top rated, reducing irrigation costs and conserving water resources.

Spyder LS is versatile. Its excellent turf performance occurs under varying climates and soil conditions, well down into the transition zone. The inherent genetic characteristics of color, compact growth, and texture and density result in a more manicured appearance under only normal maintenance. Spyder LS is suggested for finer quality residential and corporate turf, sod production, and sports areas, as well as golf course roughs.

Firecracker SLS - is the top-rated, tall fescue performer in the most recent NTEP trials and continues on the tradition of excellence established by the original Firacracker LS. Firecracker SLS offers excellent salt tolerance, allowing it to be used in applications that require effluent irrigation or along roadways and sidewalks. Fire-cracker SLS has excellent Lateral Spread potential as well as great resistance to brown patch and net blotch. Firecracker SLS is dark green and dense, producing a very aesthetically pleasing turf that’s ideally suited for all types of high-quality turf applications.

Raptor III - is the next generation tall fescue in the highly successful Raptor line. Raptor III is one of the top-rated NTEP performers in the latest tall fescue trials. Raptor III ranked #1 in mean turfgrass quality. In addition to its outstanding turf quality, Raptor III is a compact, wear tolerant, tall fescue. Raptor III has excellent disease resistance scoring high in all the NTEP disease trials and showing outstanding resilience to Brown Patch. Raptor III also shows excel-lent turf density, ranking high in both the fall and spring trials.

TIP: Be sure to keep up with mowing, as the grass is growing at a rapid pace this time of year. Mow often enough to avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade in one mowing. Continue to mow your lawn at the highest setting recommended for your lawn.