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SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl
SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl
The Flower of 1,000 Blooms
Perfect in Pots or Borders

It's SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl

There’s no doubt that the sunflower has always been reminiscent to a perfect summer day. Whether you’re soaking in the sun on your patio or sitting in an office all day, just having a pot full of these bright and cheery blooms around will lift your spirits. Their dazzling, yellow petals, also known as “rays,” have a distinct sun-like appearance that has made them a crowd favorite. Sunflowers are heat-loving and extremely easy to grow and thrive during the dog days of summer.

New on the sunflower scene for 2019 - SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl, Helianthus, by Monrovia. There are so many features of this little beauty that it’s hard to pick out our favorite. While most sunflowers are grown from seed, this one doesn’t produce seeds, which is why it produces so many flowers. This award-winning, multi-branching, heat tolerant, non-invasive annual produces over 1,000 flowers in a single season, throughout summer, well into the fall up until November. Its compact size makes it an excellent choice in borders and containers. Prefers full sun locations.

FUN FLOWER FACT: Sunflowers not only pivot to face the sun as it moves across the sky during the day, but they also rotate 180 degrees during the night to greet the morning sun.

Watering Tips

Waterwise, A Guide to Summer Watering

Hampton Roads' summers are long, hot and humid, and we're approaching that time of year when water becomes the essential elixir in your garden. Plentiful spring rains are a thing of the past and the summer sun beats down relentlessly, scorching plants, lawns, and trees. You water, but is it enough? Is it at the right time of day? Why is it so difficult to keep everything from drying out? Here are some tips to ensure your plants and lawn make it through the extreme heat of summer:


  • Water between 5:00am-10:00am in order to prevent evaporation which occurs during the hottest part of the day. Morning is better than evening, since dampness encourages growth of fungus.
  • Water long enough to soak the roots. A light sprinkling evaporates quickly and results in shallow root systems.
  • Allow an inch of water per week on your lawn.
  • Adjust your hose to create a gentle rain. Sprinklers that produce a fine mist waste water due to evaporation.

Vegetable and Flower Gardens

  • Keep soil loose so water can easily penetrate.
  • Remove weeds to reduce competition for water.
  • Place the water where you want it and avoid evaporation by using soil-soakers or slow-running hoses, not sprinklers.
  • Too much water can be just as bad for plants as not enough. Plants that are submerged in water for too long may rot or drown from lack of oxygen.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Water deeply using a soil-soaker.
  • Water only when needed. Check the depth of soil dryness. While the surface may be dry, moisture is retained beneath the surface to sustain trees and shrubs.
  • Mulch to reduce evaporation. Add a 2" to 3" layer of wood chips, pine needles or grass clippings to keep soil cool in summer.
  • Mulch not only reduces weeds but also adds landscape interest.
  • Water plants growing in full sun more often than those in shade.
  • Do not fertilize during the summer. Fertilizing increases a plant's need for water.

Look for these plant clues for signs of over-watering or under-watering:

Signs of Over-Watering

  • Soil is constantly damp.
  • Leaves turn yellow or a lighter shade of green.
  • Young shoots are wilted.
  • Leaves are brittle but still green.
  • Algae and mushrooms are growing.

Signs of Under-Watering

  • Soil is dry.
  • Older leaves turn yellow or brown, and drop off.
  • Leaves are wilted or curl.

For additional tips on watering check out our blog on The Five W’s of Watering

How to Revive a Struggling Plant

Plant SOS

Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, walks you through his best tips for saving a struggling plant.

For whatever reason, sometimes plants just have issues. There are many reasons why your plant may be struggling - not enough light, too much light and overwatering are just a few of the reasons why your plant may not be thriving. Luckily, there are some things you can do to nurse your plant back to health:

Remove Brown, Yellow or Spotted Leaves:
It’s important to remove any unhealthy leaves from your plant in order to conserve energy. Plants use a lot of energy when trying to keep unhealthy leaves alive. Once bad leaves are removed, the plant can focus on keeping healthy leaves growing and formation of new leaves.

Check the Condition of the Soil & Repot if Necessary:
Soil that is black and shows signs of mold needs to be replaced. A good potting soil helps the plant to retain moisture, provide enough air for growing roots to be able to breath and not rot, and supports your plant by providing anchorage for the roots. McDonald Potting Soil is an all-purpose soil specifically formulated for Hampton Roads and is available in both traditional and organic formulas.

To refresh soil, remove the plant from its container and loosen-up and remove soil around the plant. Place a thin layer of fresh potting soil in the bottom of the container and place the plant back into the pot. Next, fill in around the plant with potting soil.

TIP: lightly packing the soil around the plant will help to prevent air pockets and will also help to establish a good root to soil connection.

Fertilization is key, as plants need a lot of nutrients in order to sustain large growth and blooms. Every time you water, the nutrients that the plant has not already used are leeched out of the soil. By consistently feeding, you are ensuring that your plants maintain all the nutrition necessary to grow and bloom big. We use McDonald Greenleaf Fertilizer (available in organic or traditional formulas), which was developed specifically for plants in Hampton Roads and is a great general all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer. Simply sprinkle two tablespoons of Greenleaf around the basket or container.

Add a Vitamin Supplement:
Once the plant has been repotted and refreshed with new soil, add a vitamin supplement to help revive and reduce the amount of stress the plant may have been experiencing. We recommend Superthrive. Simply add a capful to a gallon of water.

Water your plant as usual and in two to three weeks, it should be healthy and thriving once again.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa)

What to Sow and Grow in May

Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities, and careful plant selection allows gardeners to continue growing throughout the year. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet, which include specific planting tips, light requirements and watering specifications. Here are our recommendations for what seeds to plant in the month of May:

Where would summer be without zinnias? These easy-to-grow, annual flowers bloom in a variety of colors and sizes that provide striking garden views. Commonly grown in containers and window boxes, zinnias can also enhance the appearance of the landscape when planted in large masses. Prefers full sun locations.

Whether you are planting your first vegetable garden or have years of experience, growing snap beans should be at the top of your garden to-do list. They adapt quite well to a variety of soil types, provided the location is in an area with good drainage. When harvesting green beans, pick them once they have reached adequate size, but do not allow them to over ripen. Plant in full sun.

Sometimes called Chinese parsley, this annual herb has a distinctive aroma and flavor that is often used in Mexican and Asian cuisine. Cilantro looks like flat leaf Italian parsley, but the leaves are thinner. It grows in a rosette of stemmy leaves that are ready to harvest shortly after planting. Young leaves have the best flavor, so be sure to harvest often. Prefers full sun to part shade.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa)
An easy-to-grow perennial that produces clusters of bright orange, yellow or red blooms all summer long. Butterfly weed is appropriately named as the nectar and pollen-rich flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects throughout the blooming season. Butterfly weed also makes a nice cut flower. Plant in a warm, sunny spot.

With lots of varieties to choose from, this annual herb offers something for every palette. While the taste of sweet basil is bright and pungent, other varieties also offer unique tastes that are true to their name like: lemon basil, anise basil and cinnamon basil. Many gardeners mix various types of basil in their flower beds, where it is ready for a quick harvest anytime. Keep your plant from producing flowers by pinching off the flower spikes when they appear. By pinching off flowers, you'll help your plant produce more delicious, edible leaves and not waste energy on flower production. Prefers a warm and sunny spot.

Another easy-to-grow option featuring compact flowers ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. Marigolds are a great addition to pots, baskets and borders or simply scattered throughout the garden. And, did you know that marigold plants produce unique compounds that give off strong odors that deter many insects and pests? By planting marigolds alongside your vegetables, not only are you providing lovely flowers, but you're also helping keep your veggies safe from pests - naturally! Marigolds are also beneficial for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Looks great in dried floral arrangements too. Prefers full sun locations.

To learn more about sowing seeds click here Sow, Now's the Time.


Million Bells
Sweet Potato Vine
New Guinea Impatiens

Summer Annual Cheat Sheet

Post provided by Kate Karem of Monrovia

The original post by Kate has been edited to reflect the best summertime annuals that thrive in Hampton Roads

Annuals are the eye candy of the summer garden, and if you’re not already shopping for them, we’re betting you will be soon. Who can resist all of those racks and tables maxed out with instant color. Fanciful visions of cascading window boxes, edge-spilling containers and hanging baskets, and blank spots instantly filled in, dance in you head. It’s magic time! And every year, you get to create an whole new “plant painting” without breaking the bank.
Before you head to the garden center, here’s a quick cheat sheet of a few annuals you’ll likely see there, and ideas about how to use them. Which ones spark your creativity? Are there others that you love? Share in comments!

What are “annuals”?
They’re plants that complete their life cycle in a single growing season. If you live in a zone that experiences a fall killing frost, when they’re done, they’re done. In the warmest zones, some annuals can winter over.

Many of the annuals we love to use for summer color originated in warmer climates like the southern United States, Mexico, and South America. That’s why (with a bit of care) they sail through the heat of summer, even in full sun. Here are just six of the amazing variety of full sun annuals you’ll find in stores this summer. We chose these for their chameleon-like ability to work in just about any design scheme.

Angelonia - angelonia is a heat-lover that’s perfect for upright, spiky interest. Mix the rainbow of colors–white, pink, purple, rose, red–or mass in a single hue. Deer and rabbit resistant! Up 14″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Hummingbird gardens, cottage planters, rose gardens.

Million Bells - calibrachoa’s petunia-like blooms are a billowy mass of color that thrive all summer, even in heat and humidity. Great in pots, but also a excellent, unexpected bedding plant. Up to 15″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Suspend hanging baskets in groups of three at different heights.

Dahlia - happy and carefree, bedding and bush dahlias are shorter and more compact, serving up ultra-bright, all-season color to borders and beds, but also as cut flowers. Up to 18″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Adds height to window boxes. Harvest when blooms are almost fully open.

Verbena - when it comes to quickly softening hard surfaces or covering bare spots, few annuals do it better than verbena. Pillow-y and spill-y, it’s a spreading low grower. Butterflies go nuts for it. Up to 8″ tall and 3′ wide.
Ideas: Hanging baskets, of course, but also gentle slopes and berms.

Geranium - Calliope or Caliente are what works best in Hampton Roads. Sun and heat lovers, they also tolerate partial shade. And the colors!! Up to 16″ tall and 24″ wide.
Use: Juxtapose it’s formality by planting in a blowsy cottage garden.

Lantana - continuous summer color from large flower clusters on a compact, waterwise, sun-loving plant that tolerates heat and humidity. Perennial in mild winter region, annual elsewhere. Up to 16″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Use in wildlife gardens to attract bees and butterflies.

While few bloom enthusiastically in very deep shade, there are many annuals that actually appreciate a respite from summer’s direct, overhead rays, especially hot afternoon sun. When choosing plants for areas that are not full sun, it’s a good idea to observe before buying. Note the light conditions at 8 am, 11 am, 2 pm, and 4 pm–this will give you the best info on how much sun your spaces gets, and at what time of the day. These six annuals are a great place to start.

Caladium - only difficult thing about Caladiums is deciding which to choose. Splotched, striped–choose one that makes you smile. Perennial in temperate, frost-free regions, annual elsewhere. Up to 18″ tall, 12″ wide.
Ideas: Use in low, trough planters where they can flutter in even a light breeze.

New Guinea Impatiens - unlike classic impatiens, which are shade lovers, New Guinea impatiens flowers can tolerate up to half a day of sun in most parts of the country. Flowers are bigger, too. Up to 18″ tall, 9″ wide.
Ideas: Use where you need a carpet of near endless color. And, in butterfly gardens!

Coleus - such a valuable little color wonder for areas that always seem to be on the damp side (but that drains well, too). Many colors and leaf shapes–you could become a collector. Pinch often! Up to 18″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Lovely massed, but also use them to contrast taller, grassy foliage plants.

Sweet Potato Vine - a distant relative of the ‘Morning Glory’ vine, sweet potato vine–black, green, or brown– grows big and fast. Works in sleek modern settings, vegetable gardens, cottages. Trailing, 16″ tall and 24″ wide.
Ideas: Tie the long stem up onto a trellis for a quick, green screen.


  • Choose carefully both in terms of light needs and watering requirements. Look for well branched, bushy plants, and then get them into the ground ASAP!
  • Feed regularly (every 3 – 6 weeks) to keep them healthy and to ensure a near constant supply of blooms. Always make sure to water well before applying fertilizer (liquid or dry) to avoid shock.
  • Annuals do not have very deep root systems and can dry out quickly on a hot day. Grab your coffee, grab a hose and give them a good, dep soaking in the morning. In the evening, grab a drink and do the same! Water whenever the soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface.
  • Pinch (use your thumb and forefinger) to remove spent flowers as needed. Many newer varieties are “self cleaning” so the flowers sort of disappear, but the stems will get leggy. Around midsummer, prune back by several inches. You’ll be rewarded with a fresh flush of new growth and flowers.

Click here to see the original post by Kate Karem of Monrovia Summer Annual Cheat Sheet by Monrovia.