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Anderson family planting the Emancipation Oak sapling
Eddie Anderson at Emancipation Oak dedication
Eddie Anderson's Emancipation Oak sapling arriving at the White House

Planting Memories and Cultivating Traditions

As we kick off the Thanksgiving season, we'd like to bring to light the importance of spending time with our loved ones and take a moment to pause and be thankful. Each year, families across the world participate in their own unique and time-honored family rituals that hold a special place in their hearts. Some of our fondest memories as a child were created out of the traditions our parents and grandparents taught us.

Our founder, Eddie Anderson, and his son, Mark (owner and CEO), shared the importance of the stories and memories that go along with the plants in their home gardens. “These plants carry the memories of the events in our lives” explains Eddie.

Recently, the Anderson families gathered together to plant a sapling from the historic Emancipation Oak tree. Located on the campus of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, the Emancipation Oak is quite possibly the most iconic tree in the state of Virginia. National Geographic has named it as one of The 10 Great Trees of the World. This grandiose, southern live oak is estimated to be more than 200 years old and the trunk itself is 9 to 10-feet in diameter. Its reputation dates back to before the Civil War and continues to be an enduring symbol of the university’s rich heritage. Prior to the Civil War, Virginia law forbid the education of slaves. However, in 1861, Mrs. Mary Smith Peake taught children of former slaves under the great oak tree, located merely three miles outside of the protective safety of Fort Monroe. Night classes were held under the tree for adults. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued a preliminary copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming that all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”. It was an important time in the war as it turned the fight around from preserving the nation to a fight for human freedom. In 1863, the Virginia Peninsula's African American community gathered under the Emancipation Oak to witness the first Southern reading of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

In 2010, Eddie Anderson planted a batch of acorns from the Emancipation Oak. One of the seedlings was given to President Barack Obama for planting on the White House grounds. The remaining 12 offspring have since been growing at the Anderson's home in Hampton, Virginia. To read the complete article click here. With all the challenges 2020 has presented us with, this year seemed like the perfect time for Eddie Anderson to present his son Mark with one of these prized saplings.

These days, life is more chaotic than ever, and it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day demands and distractions and forget all of the things in our lives to be grateful for. Coming together as a family, to not only remember the love for each other, but also our country, was a special moment for the Anderson family. Eddie expressed,“It linked three generations together. Even the neighbors joined in to sing 'America the Beautiful.' Maybe one day they will tell their children how they helped plant the tree. Maybe they will read their poem again. They may talk about the importance of trees or they may just drift off into the memory of a happy family event. We never know what part of the day will stick with young minds. The photos record the event and established a benchmark in the development of the tree and the family. October 18th was a beautiful, sunny day to plant this living witness to the progress of the family.”

And as the Anderson family came together for one special moment, we at McDonald Garden Center thank you for the many moments you and your family have shared with us. We are so grateful to hold a special place in the Hampton Roads community and we thank you for letting us share in your lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos provided by Angie Anderson


Rosemary, the Christmas Herb

Rosemary- it fills the air with an assertively pine-like fragrance, adds flavor to holiday dishes and even masquerades as a tree! Legend tells us that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a white-flowered rosemary bush when she lay down to rest. When she arose, the flowers were blue. It was then called the Rose of Mary, hence, its link to the Christmas season.


Rosemary is applauded for its health benefits, including its ability to boost memory, enhance mood, protect the immune system and reduce inflammation and pain. Just smelling rosemary has been linked to improving mood, and relieving stress. Research suggests that rosemary also contains substances that are useful for increasing circulation and improving digestion.


Traditionally, rosemary is cold hardy (even in Hampton Roads) and is perfectly happy outside. But with friends and family coming in, you may be tempted to bring your rosemary inside. And with all those aromatic benefits we told you about- why wouldn’t you?

When you bring a rosemary plant indoors, place it in a cool, sunny location with high humidity. To raise humidity without increasing soil moisture, place some pebbles in a saucer, add some water, and set the potted rosemary on top of the pebbles. Water it regularly and thoroughly but remove water that accumulates in the saucer. As with all potted plants, a good potting mix is essential for proper drainage. After the holidays, you can plop it into the ground.

Feel free to continue cutting sprigs off your rosemary all season for cooking. The growth will slow, but once placed outside, spring temperatures will help to revitalize this perennial. With normal conditions, it should come back nice and full.

TIP: One of our favorite decorating hacks for the holidays is to wrap your rosemary tree with Invisilites. Click here to learn more about Invisilites.

Gather Round, The Holiday Tablecape

Thanksgiving is knocking on the door, with Christmas just around the corner and this holiday season, family meals mean more than ever. So, what better way to set the scene for making memories at home than with a beautiful holiday tablescape.


Tablescaping takes the concept of the centerpiece to the next level. Instead of just using a single piece in the center of your table, tablescaping uses an assortment of elements to create a themed vignette limited only by your available table space and your imagination- the sky’s the limit. And don’t just stop at the dining room table. Tablescaping can be done lots of places- mantles, bookshelves, side and entryway tables, etc.

TIP: Tablescaping gives you the opportunity to shop your home. Look around and see what kinds of items you can mix and match- photo frames, mirrors, fabrics, pretty napkins, flowers, foliage, fresh or faux fruits and berries, baskets, books, candles, trays, vases, or bowls.


Tablescapes can be super simple, with a few candles or a small floral arrangement, to full-on transformations with custom centerpieces, specialty tableware, linen napkins and more. Follow these six simple steps to create a beautiful tablescape this holiday season.


The key to a great tablescape is layering your pieces, from the table runner to picks and lights to ornaments and seasonal pieces. Layering helps to create depth, dimension and interest. Before getting started, think of the layering order for assembling your tablescape:

  1. Start with a base (tablecloth, table runner, placemats, garland, etc.).
  2. Add in a centerpiece (floral arrangement, pedestals, candles, etc.).
  3. Next, weave in picks then lights.
  4. Add in other elements like pumpkins, gourds, apples, votives, pinecones, ornaments, etc.).


Consider the season or the occasion when selecting an overall theme. Use nature’s timing to influence your tablescape. Colorful fall foliage and fall produce (mini pumpkins, gourds, pinecones, etc.) at Thanksgiving or fresh or faux greenery and berries at Christmas. Everything on your table should correspond to the chosen palette. We recommend choosing two or three complementary colors (drawing inspiration from your centerpiece), and one contrasting color.


Once you have chosen a theme and color palette, decide on your centerpiece. Oftentimes, the centerpiece provides the inspiration for the rest of the décor. Whether your scheme is pumpkin-inspired fall or festive holiday, your centerpiece serves as the foundation and focal point of the table. Centerpieces can include but are not limited to:

floral arrangements • seasonal holiday décor or produce (ornaments, pumpkins, gourds, persimmons) • flowers and plants • assorted candles • pedestals or cake stands • and more.

TIP: Use a variety of heights and textures to add dimension to your design. Just remember not to pile your tablescape too high or your guests may have a hard time seeing each other across the table.


Select from garlands or individual greens (fresh or faux), table runners, tablecloths, etc. Whether you use fresh or faux greenery is really up to you. Nothing says Christmas like the smell of fresh-cut greens, but keep in mind that they do require regular care and don’t last as long. Faux garlands and greenery don’t have an expiration date and come in lots of options including pre-lit and pre-decorated. This can make decorating more efficient. A faux garland also allows you to easily transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, letting you use the same garland for both seasons. If you’re using a table runner, opt for a neutral one. Often bold prints or heavy floral runners can distract from the overall design.

TIP: For round or square tables, wrap the garland in a circular shape. Make sure to fluff all the branches, so they are spread out evenly.


Now it’s time to add more texture and depth to your base. Depending on the season, use holiday-inspired picks and sprays. Make sure you balance each side (what you add to one side, add the same to the other side).


Lights add ambiance, dimension and sparkle to your design and are available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors. Be sure to consider string light length in your design. Light options include but are not limited to:

Invisilites • Durawise lights • votives or candlesticks • candles (real or flameless) • lanterns • and more.

TIP: Flameless candles are ideal for tablescape designs. They’re safe- no flame, no mess, drips, or spills.

Invisilites - are micro LED lights on a thin, flexible wire that are super easy to use. They come in a variety of styles, designs and colors, that can be coordinated with any décor for the holiday season or to use year-round.

Simplux Candles - are stunningly realistic and feature 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 are safe for use around children and pets.

Lumineo Durawise Lights – these battery operate lights are available in either 48 or 96 light counts and can be used indoors or outdoors. With a built-in timer that stays on for 6 hours and turns off for 18, all you do is set it and forget it. Available in cool white, warm white, and multi-colored with a choice of black or transparent wire.


Depending on the time of year, incorporate additional seasonal elements for added interest. Bring in outdoor elements from your yard like pinecones, twigs, greenery, and flowers. Incorporate platters, candlesticks and candles – anything goes! Embellishments can include but are not limited to:

fresh or faux greenery • pinecones • berries • flowers • fruits (red or green apples, oranges, lemons, limes, persimmons, etc.) • ribbon • lights • ornaments • candles • pedestals and vases • twigs • and more.

TIP: Add ribbon last. Cut ribbon into smaller pieces. Pinch the ends and work ribbon into your design (a piece at a time) instead of using one continues piece of ribbon, which can be cumbersome to work with. This method works well in trees too.

Click here to view The Garden Guru's video "How to Make a Holiday Tablescape."

First Snow
All is Calm and Brigth
Snowmen Snowing
Merry Little Christmas
Boho Chic
Merry and Bright

The More the Merrier, Our Top Seven Holiday Themes

Holiday decorating- it's a ritual that we at McDonald Garden Center just love, and we’ve been doing it for more than 75 years! So, in the spirit of the season, we've picked our top seven yuletide themes to help get you and yours in the holiday spirit.

Choosing a predominant theme can help to create a cohesive feel and make your decorating style unique and personal. And whether your style is understated, rustic, glam, totally over-the-top colorful, or all natural, our themed collections offer something for every taste. Get ready to deck your halls with some of our favorite holiday theme selections.


Charming details make this theme extra special.

Wintergreen offers a modern, farmhouse feel with a combination of rich greens and creamy whites with a touch of gold. Trimmings include classic magnolia and eucalyptus picks, natured-inspired Santa and pinecone ornaments, tabletop trees and Santas, green plaid ribbon, goblets and plates, and festive firs. Incorporate twinkling lights to elevate the look of this charming theme.


The perfect palette is sometimes the simplest.

First Snow features pure whites complimented by soft, celadon and forest greens. Accessories include fury snowman pillows, polar bears, owls, and shimmering glass celadon and deep green ornaments. Add some simple white lights to make this theme come alive!


Express the spirit of the season with this elegant, dual-toned theme.

All is Calm and Bright is another winter white look, accented with elegant gold and a dash of blue. Trimmings and accessories include orb-shaped ornaments, coned-shaped trees, winter-white berry picks, nutcracker ornaments, and more. Weave in some soft, white lights to compliment this sophisticated look.


Sprinkle in some magic.

Merry Little Christmas (Christmas Gnomes). Add holiday cheer with this jolly theme featuring vivid reds and soft grays spattered with sky blue. Accessories include plush Santa sloths and gnomes (in various sizes), knit gnome hats, red snowflake picks, buffalo red plaid ornaments, Santa gnome ornaments, assorted gnome ornaments (in various sizes and patterns), clear ornament with full-size mittens, and gnome pillows. Thread in some red and white or assorted colored lights for a little added magic.


So much merry in one place!

Merry and Bright features vibrant colors in pinks, greens, reds and blues. Accessories include fuzzy llamas, plush gnomes, sequined owl ornaments, and feather-white picks adorned with colorful orbs. Add a modern Merry Christmas pillow to complete this fun and festive feel. Enhance the merry vibe even further with white or assorted colored lights.


Create a bohemian retreat.

Boho Christmas Chic features and eclectic look filled with earthy tones, textures and patterns. This trendy theme includes llamas, owls, snowflakes, star and tree ornaments, colorful macrame garland and keychains, pinecone and magnolia picks, pink, beige and white stockings, and boho-inspired ceramic pottery for plants. Add some colored or white lights to add some sparkle and shine.

See all of our holiday theme selections and more during our Open House Friday, November 6, through Tuesday, November 10, 2020 • 9AM-6PM.
Click here to view The Garden Guru’s Top 5 Holiday Themes video.
Clck here to see our Holiday Lookbook for 2020