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Holy Hydrangeas!!!

There are some plants that should be in every garden and Hydrangeas are at the top of our list ~ an absolute must-have! Nothing says summer like these beautiful blooming shrubs. In colors ranging from white to pink to blue, these softball-sized flowers brighten up any landscape. These shade-loving shrubs infuse color in the garden at a time when most spring-blooming plants are no longer flowering. Hydrangeas make a great addition as a stand-alone “feature” plant, or grown in rows to create a privacy hedge. Their blooms also make some of the best cut flower arrangements.

Here are a few of our favorite varieties:

Bloomstruck - rose-pink, violet, or blue flower heads on red-purple stems with glossy dark green leaves. Extremely strong stems, above average heat tolerance and great disease resistance, especially to powdery mildew. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.

Nantucket Blue - a repeat-blooming Hydrangea with abundant blue flowers from spring through fall. Flowers will be pink in alkaline soils, and blue in acidic soils. A rapid grower reaching 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.

Endless Summer Original - this is a real Hampton Roads favorite! It's a mop-head variety with the unique ability to bloom consistently on both old and new wood. The result is a plant that provides beautiful flowers all summer long. The flowers grow up to 8" in diameter, with PINK blooms in alkaline soils or BLUE blooms in acidic soil. And, who doesn’t want an Endless Summer?

Enchantress - striking ruby-black stems support big mophead flowers on this exquisite re-blooming hydrangea. A superb border shrub for color throughout summer; blue in acidic soils and pink in more alkaline soils. Flowers age to a vintage cream-splashed green color. Prized for cut or dried flower arrangements.

Annabelle - Annabelle features stunning pure white flowers, much larger than the species- up to 12 inches across! Flowers appear in late spring to summer, often continuing into fall. Strong, straight stems hold the huge flower heads up well, despite heavy rain. This full, lush shrub needs plenty of room to show off its spectacular beauty.

PLANTING TIP: When planting Hydrangeas, dig the hole twice as wide and the same depth as the shrub's rootball. Set the base of the Hydrangea at ground level. Fill with soil, water thoroughly and mulch to help the plant conserve moisture.

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Your Berry Best Yard

Make your yard its berry best for holiday cheer.
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Nothing says “happy holiday” like clusters of bright red berries on a bush.

For me, nandina berries are cherished parts of my December décor because they carry fond memories of days with my grandmother in Lynchburg, Va. A gravel driveway wrapping its way around her red brick home was lined with dozens of nandinas that produced beaucoup berries when cold weather arrived.

At my grandmother's house, the nandinas were the standard Nandina domestica, nicknamed heavenly bamboo, because they produce suckers that quickly turn into tons of baby plants you can divide and use elsewhere or give away as thoughtful gifts.

As I moved into adulthood, I took the offspring from some of grandma’s nandinas my parents rescued when a highway project claimed her property. Each time I moved, those nandinas went with me, and I recently gave some to my son for his new home in Virginia Beach.

Today, there are many types of berry-making nandinas, including:

  • Stunning Sienna Sunrise nandina with fiery red new foliage that cools to lush green in summer and reddens in fall and winter.
  • Harbor Belle nandina with burgundy foliage in fall and winter.
  • Plum Passion nandina with purplish-red leaves in spring and summer, followed by deeper reds in winter.

Nandinas are no-nonsense plants because they thrive in all growing conditions – sun or shade, wet or dry soil. They know no real pest or disease problems. They can be used as stand-alone specimen plants, as hedges with eye-catching seasonal interest or as shoreline and bank erosion controllers. Standard nandinas are best pruned in late winter or early spring to keep them vigorous; otherwise, they get too tall and leggy and bare at the bottom stems.

All in all, nandina is a fool-proof multi-season evergreen for any yard.

NOTE: McDonald plant selection varies by season and location.

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Plant of the Week: Autumn Embers Encore Azaleas

Get fired up this fall with Autumn Embers Encore azaleas! Well known for being hardy and low-maintenance, these reblooming azaleas add vivid, multi-seasonal color unlike any other azalea. This dense, rounded shrub features an abundance of semi-double, fiery, orange-red flowers that are produced in spring and fall and sporadically throughout the summer. Autumn Embers reaches a height of three feet by three and half feet wide and is ideal planted in garden beds and borders, foundation plantings, large containers or as a focal point in the garden. Azaleas prefer partial sun to partial shade, although Encore azaleas will tolerate more sun than most other varieties. So, color your landscape with the colors of fall with Autumn Embers.

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

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