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Perfect Fall Companions

As nights become cooler and days get shorter, it’s time to get your fall garden off and running. We love pairing mums with companion plants for a truly unique fall garden. Try some of these out-of-the-box plants along with those beautiful mums we all know and love -- and sit back and enjoy a beautiful view this fall.

Sedum - Attractive, clumping perennial that displays large, plate-like flower clusters that start pink then turn to a rosy russet. It's succulent, solid-looking leaves give it a substantial presence in the garden. A fine addition to the rock garden or mixed border, where its flower heads will remain attractive well into autumn.

Ornamental Peppers - Ornamental peppers are a great addition to the fall garden. With foliage of all shades, the real shining star of ornamental peppers is the fruit it bears in bright colors of fall in many shapes and sizes. We especially love using ornamental peppers in container combos!

Encore Azaleas - Another wonderful shrub for the fall landscape. If you love the colorful flowers that an azalea shrub offers, then you'll love our Encore varieties. They bloom three times per year ~ summer, spring, and fall, yes, even fall!

Heuchera - These perennial plants are one of our favorites for all seasons, including fall. From woodlands and rock gardens to containers, borders, and groundcovers, Heucheras make quite the statement.The stunning foliage of these fast-growing, deer- and pest-resistant perennials is so multi-colored they’ll stand out in any crowd. A wide selection of varieties is available with large, heart-shaped or rounded leaves, the striking colors and variegation patterns.

Autumn Sage (Salvia) - Add these stunning perennials with spikes of purple or red tubular blooms to your landscape. Enjoy them from spring through fall! They prefer full to part sunny spots.

Plectranthus - A quick-growing annual that grows 24 to 30 inches tall and does well in either shady or partially sunny locations. Those grown in sun are more compact and the purple color on the undersides of the leaves is much more intense. Spikes of dark lavender flowers bloom from spring until fall.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

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Fall Flowers: Extend the Beauty of Your Garden

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Last month, my pollinator perennial garden was an overgrown jungle – one very much alive with beaucoup butterflies. After a couple years of milkweed, bee balm and mountain mint spreading and multiplying, it was time to thin out, clean up and make room for fall-flowering perennials and annuals.

First, I removed the fading foliage of perennials that had suffered lack of water while I was on vacation. Then, I sparingly pruned perennials that still had life in them, leaving ripe seed heads that provide a natural food source for birds throughout fall. As I pruned and cleaned, I also pulled up some of the bee balm that was spreading into my favorite shrubs that provide structure to the pollinator palace – hydrangea, Yuletide camellia, nandina, lantana and wax myrtle. The cleaning also uncovered the hiding place of a teeny baby turtle, which I carefully picked up and placed in a vegetative spot where predators could not see him. I laughed as I moved him, his little legs squirming and struggling to get free.

For fall color and pollinating purposes, I’m planting plenty of asters, including New England aster which is a larval host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly’s caterpillar and a perfect fall nectar plant for many butterflies, moths and insects. Goldenrod (sneezeweed, not goldenrod, makes you sneeze), toad lily, sedums and fall-flowering crocus will add more bursts of color. Then, I’ll place a few pots of lemon yellow mums on the nearby patio and sit back to enjoy several more weeks of seasonal splendor.

photos by Kathy Van Mullekom

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Fall for Orchids

Orchids are among the most spectacular of all flowering plants! Available in a myriad of colors, shapes and sizes there is an orchid for everyone. They range in size from a two-inch plant that can sit in the palm of your hand to five-foot giants. Some can be fragrant with luscious scents of citrus, raspberry, lilacs, coconut and even chocolate. No matter your preference, the beauty of the flower is undeniable.

Never grown an orchid before, no worries. Orchids make an ideal beginner plant and are relatively easy to grow given the right care. Because individual orchids have so many different growing requirements, it is important that you get detailed care information for your certain type of orchid, since the care can greatly vary depending on the type you have. For example, Cymbidium orchids prefer cooler weather, so be sure it is kept in a cool place year-round. Moth Orchids enjoy light so find a place near a bright window.

It’s all about getting a quality plant with the correct advice, and the McDonald Garden Center staff can help you select and advise you on the best way to encourage your plant to flourish for many years to come. McDonald Garden Center has one of the largest collections of orchids in Hampton Roads! Here are four you may like to consider:

Phalaeonopsis – also known as Moth Orchids, are thick-leaved plants with elegant, arching sprays of blooms that can be seen in many designer magazines and sitting on coffee tables across America. Color range includes whites, pinks, lavenders and yellows in both solid colors and mixes of stripes and spots, with blooms lasting as long as three months. Phalaenopsis are low-light orchids and will thrive in an east window, or a shaded southerly or westerly exposure.

Cymbidiums – produce large, attractive flowers that come in a rainbow of colors and are one of the most popular and desirable orchids in the world because of their beautiful flowers. These orchids make great houseplants, and are also popular in floral arrangements and corsages. Cymbidiums typically bloom once a year during winter and spring seasons, with blooms lasting for about four weeks. A few hours of weak morning sunlight and shady afternoons are ideal for this variety.

Dendrobiums – possess a long bamboo-like stem loaded with flowers and comes in a wonderful array of colors from white to purple, pink, and even green. This orchid loves the heat and will grow quickly throughout the summer. When choosing a spot for your Dendrobium, select a place in medium to bright light. These plants like strong, natural sunlight;.

Paphiopedilums – also known as the lady slipper, this is an excellent plant for the beginner, since it is among the easiest and most rewarding orchids to grow. Due to their waxy or lacquered appearance, they are often mistaken as being artificial. The blooms are available in broad array of colors, shapes and sizes with flowers lasting anywhere from one to three months. Place this orchid in or near a sunny window.

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