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Staff Fall Favs
Meghan, Sunshine Ligustrum
Steve, Pumpkins
Rachael, Indoor Pottery
JT, Ornamental Grasses
Joann, Twisted Orange Celosia
Andrea, Fall Decor
Nikki, Mums
Stephanie, Orchid Phalaenopsis
Jimmy, Celosia
Sandra, Crotons
Michelle, Pansies
Candy & Michelle, Designer Soaps
Wayne, Ornamental Pepper

Staff Fall Favorites Week

Like many of you, our staff here at McDonald Garden Center loves to garden, so we’ve reached out to our Green Team members at both our Independence and Great Neck locations and asked them to pick their fall favs to share with you. From gorgeous annuals and perennials to unique houseplants to gardening gadgets and more, our staff is excited to share some of their top picks. You’re sure to discover a new favorite too!

Meghan + Sunshine Ligustrum
Meghan, our Great Neck Green Goods Lead, has selected the beautiful and versatile sunshine ligustrum as her fall favorite! Meghan explains, "It’s golden/mellow yellow foliage makes any landscape or container pop! It can handle full sun or partial shade. It's an upright, fast-growing evergreen shrub that is drought and heat tolerant as well as deer-resistant. Fully grown, this shrub reaches 6 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide-which makes it perfect for a container or foundation shrub in your landscape." Meghan is experienced in a number of departments and has worked at both of our year-round locations. Come visit her at Great Neck and pick her brain for help on all your landscape projects!

Steve + Pumpkins
I think a lot of us have Steve's fall favorite -PUMPKINS!- at the top of our list too. Our Great Neck Green Team member says, "Nothing says fall better than pumpkins! Carving pumpkins are a fall staple. Carved or not, they are perfect for setting a fall mood. “We have all types- carving, mini, pie, white, etc. at both year-round locations. We also have a great selection of unique varieties that will make your front porch or patio "pumpkin" to talk about!

Rachel + Indoor Pottery
If you're looking to update your decor for fall, make sure to talk to our Deco Manager, Rachel, at our Independence location! She's one of the creative minds behind our beautiful displays around the garden center (including some those beautiful trees at Christmas!) Her pick for this week is indoor pottery- and Rachel explains, "Decorating indoors doesn’t just mean cute figurines and other décor items. I like to pair my plants with some fall inspired pottery to give my home a beautiful autumn feel." Thanks for the tip, Rach!

JT + Ornamental Grasses
Often a man behind-the-scenes in receiving, JT is one of the valued members of our Independence Green Team, whose bright smile lights up the greenhouse. His pick this week is ornamental grasses, and JT explains, "Ornamental grasses are great! Not only do they look amazing, but also add height and texture. I like to walk through them and admire their texture visually and by touch."

Joann + Celosia (twisted orange)
Great Neck Green Team member Joann has selected something extra special for her pick of the week- Celosia Twisted Orange! She says, "This is one of my favorite plants because of the flowers. They remind me of lace. I like the fact that I can cut flowers after the season and dry them for arrangements." What an awesome idea, Joann!

Andrea + Fall Decor
Andrea, our deco and patio buyer, has been at McDonald Garden Center for over 20 years. In that time, she not only has fine-tuned her ability to highlight trends, but also to find decor items that can fit seamlessly into any style. Her pick this week is fall decor as she explains, "Fall is my favorite season, so decorating this time of year is so much fun." Visit both locations to see what Andrea has picked out this season!

Nikki + Mums
When you think fall plants, one often thinks- MUMS! They are the quintessential fall porch must-have - with blooms that keep on giving. Our Perennials Manager, Nikki, picked mums has her fall favorite, saying, "Mums add a beautiful splash of fall color to any setting." And if you've seen Nikki's breathtaking displays in the perennials yard, you know this lady knows what she's talking about!

Stephanie + Phalaenopsis Orchid
McDonald Garden Center has one of the most extensive and impressive collection of orchids in Hampton Roads- as our founder, Eddie Anderson, has always been an aficionado of this unique plant variety. So, it is easy to see why our Great Neck houseplant lead, Stephanie, chose them as her fall favorite. She says, "Phalaenopsis Orchid is also known as a Moth Orchid- and are one of the easiest to grow. You can water your orchid by running room temperature water through it or soak it in water briefly. They are lower light orchids that require bright indirect sunlight and will love sitting in an east facing window. Phalaenopsis Orchids tend to bloom annually in winter or spring, but each bloom can be open for months. They do require orchid specific fertilizer and must get enough light to rebloom." Truly living pieces of art!

Jimmy + Celosia
Longtime Green Team Member, Garden Market Manager, and Virginia Tech Horticultural grad, Jimmy is one of our shining stars at McDonald Garden Center. That being said, it was like Jimmy to have tremendous insight into his fall pick- celosia. He explains, "Celosia Intenz is a summer annual that continues to shine into the fall when others are tired or fading. Best planted in full sun to partial shade, the purple flower spikes on this celosia can reach up to 24" tall and will last right up until a freeze or hard frost. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, the purple color deepens and intensifies for an outstanding fall show! Pairs well with yellow mums or pansies, ornamental grasses, or mixed in a sunny border." Thanks, Jimmy!

Sandra + Crotons
If you're looking for something with fall colors but can also be part of your indoor decor year-round, then you want to hear about Great Neck Green Team Member Sandra's pick- crotons! She says, "Crotons are a fun tropical plant with bold fall colors. It’s a versatile plant that is amazing for indoors during the cooler months and outdoors when it’s warmer. Plus, the more sun it gets, the brighter and bolder the colors are!

Steve + Bright Lights Swiss Chard
You may have seen Steve Bowles, Lead Sales Associate in Garden Supply, giving one of his seminars at our Great Neck location. Whether it's on Lawn Care or Moles & Voles (or as we like to say, "Bowles" & Voles), Steve always gives our customers the information they need to be successful. His pick for fall is bright lights swiss chard- and Steve explains why as he says, "I enjoy growing vegetables from seed. Fall is a great time to grow vegetables. The cooler weather means fewer bugs and swiss chard is easy to grow all season long and will even last through a mild winter. They also taste amazing!"

Michelle + Pansies
We couldn't let this week go by without mentioning superstar fall/winter flower- the PANSY! And speaking of superstars, our rockstar Annuals Manager at our Independence location, Michelle, selected pansies off the list for her top pick right away. Anytime you visit our annuals yard and notice the beautiful, healthy, and exceptional quality of our plants- this fantastic woman is the cause! When asked for her fall fav, Michelle said, "This is a difficult one for me because I love them all but, I would have to choose pansies. My first fall working at the garden center I couldn't understand our customers' obsession with this plant. My husband and I moved here from the north and pansies are a fall plant and only fall. But the pansy here is a fall AND winter plant. On a dark, dreary, cold day to be able to look out the window and see such amazing color- it just brightens my day and doesn't fail to make me smile. So, after living here for 5 years, I have come to know that obsession and the decision of picking the right color." Thanks, Michelle!

Candy + Michele Design's Soaps
Candy, a Green Team member for over 20 years, knows a little something (ok- a LOT something) about what gift/decor items McDonald Garden Center offers that are extra special. Not only is she one of our most requested patio and deco specialists, she has a gift for creating amazing visual displays that intrigue and inspire. In a time where we all need to treat ourselves, Candy explains why our special Michele Design's Soaps should be on your "must-have" list- "Michele Designs, foaming soap and air freshener in Sweet Pumpkin and Fall Symphony both smell like fall and keep your hands clean and sanitary. The freshener makes your space smell like the season."

Wayne + Ornamental Pepper
From our Great Neck location, Wayne, chose ornamental peppers and says, "There's so many different varieties that add a pop of color for fall."

Click here to see even more reasons why we love fall.

Pink Muhly
Miscanthus Adagio
Red Head Pennisetum

FALL-ing for Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are one of the toughest, undemanding, waterwise and quite possibly one of the most practical but under-appreciated perennials in the garden. Large or small, grass brings rich texture, contrast and movement to most any space throughout all seasons. Ornamental grasses are beautiful in beds, borders, on slopes, or in containers. Unlike flowers and shrubs, perennial grasses don’t need much pampering. Once established, they are typically drought tolerant and need little to no fertilizing. In spring, cut them back, right above the root line, to encourage fresh new growth. Perennial grasses are born survivors and are a long-term investment that will be enjoyed for years to come. Here's a look at some grasses that look great in fall:

Red Head - soft, smoky-pink flower spikes appear in mid-to late summer transitioning to red, feather-like plumes in early September. Red Head has fine-textured foliage with a beautiful yellow-green hue that turns golden as the winter weather arrives. Plant in mass, in the back of borders, or use as a thriller in containers. This fast-growing grass thrives in heat, drought, humidity, and extreme sun. It's easy to grow and deer resistant. Plant Red Head in full sun or partial shade and water it deeply until well established. This grass pairs well with other late summer favorites such as zinnias, coreopsis, daylilies and agastache.

Muhlenbergia (Muhly Grass) – is a showy, warm season grass with slender leaves and eye-catching reddish-mauve flower plumes that appear in late summer and fall. This grass’s fine-textured and soft green foliage forms a tidy mound and is ideal when planted in mass, as an accent mixed into perennial borders, or as a thriller in containers. Like most ornamental grasses, pink muhly is heat and drought tolerant and low maintenance. Plant in full to partial shade.

Miscanthus Adagio -is a fast-growing, dwarf variety reaching approximately 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide. The foliage is slender and prolific, giving a fountain-like appearance. Tiny pink-tinged flowers appear in tassel-like plumes above the foliage in August. In fall, the silver-green foliage turns appealing shades of yellow, orange and red and remains attractive throughout winter. Adagio grass is clump-forming, so it will not invade surrounding areas and fits in well with other flowering plants and shrubs. Spectacular in mass plantings or mixed into perennial borders. Prefers partial to full sun.

Celosia Intenz
Celosia Dragon's Breath

Fall Refresh with Celosia

Autumn isn't just for pumpkins and mums. While trees and shrubs begin showing off their fall foliage and begin to bloom, you can also add a little pop to your garden by planting a few fall-blooming celosias that will infuse stunning color up until the first frost. This super tough, drought-resistant annual is adored for its unusual style and texture. It comes in an array of vibrant colors including red, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta and pink. They're perfect for swapping out tired plants in summer containers, or integrating into beds and borders for seasonal interest, or for adding fall curb appeal to your front yard or porch. Here are a few of our favorites:

Celosia Intenz - We just love the purple pleasing color of Celosia Intenz! This annual features showy, purple plumes that bloom throughout the summer and transition right into fall offering amazing color. This versatile plant does well both indoors and out. It looks great on a patio table, in mixed baskets, clustered in the landscape or in a large pot as a filler plant. These also make a great cut flower for indoor arrangements. Celosia Intenz will grow to about 14 inches tall at maturity with a spread of 12 inches. It is considered to be drought-tolerant and prefers a sunny spot. And did we mention that butterflies love it too!

Celosia Dragon’s Breath - Celosia Dragon’s Breath is a vigorous grower that puts on an incredible show of color for mid-late summer into early fall. Featuring upright, jumbo-sized, red-hot plumes accented by rich, maroon foliage that is almost as bright as its blooms. This celosia is well suited for containers and looks stunning in landscape beds. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Dragon’s Breath grows to about 24 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade.

Kelos Fire Celosia - Another eye-catching celosia featuring compact foliage combined with vibrant purple color! Electrifying plumes hold their color through the heat of summer and continue into fall. Great annual color for sunny beds and borders and in containers as a showy accent. Quickly reaches 12 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 15 inches wide. Use indoors as a fresh cut or dried flower. This long blooming annual loves most soil and full sun locations.

To learn how to add even more color to your fall garden, check out our blog "Trees for Beautiful Fall Color".

Timing Your Fall Veggie Garden

Did you know fall is the perfect time get a delicious veggie garden going? In fact, cooler temperatures make this a great time to plant these crops -- many are even tastier and sweeter harvested after a light frost. If you've never grown fall veggies before, we recommend a crop of leaf lettuce, kale, swiss chard and spinach. These easy to grow plants are great for small spaces like a pallet garden and can often be harvested over many weeks.

The secret to having a great fall veggie garden is getting the timing right and that means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward if starting with seed. To do this, start with your area's average first fall frost date, which for Hampton Roads is October 15. Then look at the number of days to harvest for each vegetable you wish to plant. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks; many plants grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.

If you want to start with established plants rather than seeds, we also offer many fall veggies in packs. These plants are ready to plant now for a delicious fall harvest with very little effort. Here’s a few of our favorite veggies to plant now:

  • BROCOLLI
  • CAULIFLOWER
  • BRUSSEL SPROUTS
  • LEAF, HEAD & HEIRLOOM LETTUCES
  • ARUGULA
  • SPINACH

Learn more about what to plant now by downloading our planting schedule guide pdf below.

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Citrus Moonlight Cocktail
Citrus Moonlight Cocktail

Citrus Clair de Lune or "Citrus Moonlight" Cocktail

Make the season a little sweeter with a glass of Citrus Clair de Lune (translated citrus moonlight), a fresh and fragrant concoction, prepared by our own Chef Manu. The blend of sweetness and tart complement each other beautifully, with the decadence of Cointreau and Perrier balanced with a fruity combo of lemon, orange and tangy grapefruit. Cheers!

Cuisine de Jardin with Chef Manu - Citrus Clair de Lune, Citrus Moonlight Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 3 grapefruits
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 tbs. of white sugar
  • 3 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 1 small bottle of Perrier
  • 1 bottle of Sprite
  • 5 oz. of Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Recipe

  1. Cut and squeeze the citrus (3 grapefruits, 3 lemons and 4 oranges). Mix in a container.
  2. Add both white and brown sugars and mix well.
  3. Next add Perrier and Sprite.
  4. Add Cointreau or Grand Marnier.
  5. Garnish with fresh mint and serve over ice.

NOTE: for a fun twist on this citrusy cocktail, substitute mandarinquat for oranges.

Keep refrigerated.

Santé!