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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening
Cherry Frost™
Sweet Spirit™
Plum Perfect™
Crazy Love™
Eternal Flame™

Petal Perfect Roses

"There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

Roses offer color, fragrance, form, and habits to suit just about any garden situation. With over 150 species of roses and thousands of hybrids, roses can be found in nearly every color and in a variety of shapes and sizes. And nowadays, the steadfast efforts of breeders have yielded roses with the best attributes of different varieties in new forms. Today’s roses offer longer blooms time, are hardier and possess better disease resistance. In short, these are not your grandmother's, or even your mother's, fussy rose varieties.

If you're a fellow rose-lover or just looking to add a punch of color to your landscape, here are a few new and popular roses that you'll want to add to your garden this year:

NEW for 2019 - Cherry Frost™ (Climbing Rose) - features beautiful clusters of small, cup-like, crimson-red blooms surrounded by dark green foliage. This repeat bloomer has excellent disease resistance.

NEW for 2019 - Sweet Spirit™ (Grandiflora Rose) - an aromatic rose with an abundance of bright, fully doubled, rose-red blooms and dark foliage. These bushy, mounding plants show increased resistance to black spot and improved tolerance to humidity.

Plum Perfect™ Sunbelt® (Floribunda) - lavender-toned, ruffled petals and medium green foliage accompanied by the mild, sweet scent of sugary raspberry and cassis. This self-cleaning variety is well suited for hot, dry gardens making it an ideal choice for those who don't have time to fuss over super sensitive cultivars. This variety performs very well in heat and humidity and is disease resistance.

Crazy Love™ (Grandiflora) - a robust, repeat bloomer that flaunts clusters of full-double blooms in an unusual blend of copper, amber, apricot, and salmon trimmed in semi-glossy, dark green leaves. This continuous blooming rose tolerates hot and humid climates and is disease resistant.

Eternal Flame™ (Hybrid Tea) - dramatic large, fragrant blooms with ruffled petals of soft yellow that pop against the dark green foliage. This blooming machine puts out flush after flush of gorgeous citrus-scented blooms. Offers above average winter hardiness and exceptional disease resistance.

Photos courtesy of Star Roses & Plants and Kordes Roses

McDonald Garden Center has
A healthy orchid’s roots will be light green when dry and dark green when wet.
Orchid leaves should be free fro obvious blemished, bugs, soft spots.
select a plant with unopened blooms, you'll enjoy the overall show for longer.

Tips on Selecting an Orchid

Nowadays, most people don’t give much thought when buying an orchid. Orchids are readily available in grocery stores, big box stores and online and, oftentimes, priced for just about anyone’s budget. But if you want your orchids to endure, a little more thought than simply putting a Phalaenopsis into your grocery cart is needed. McDonald Garden Center offers some unique and interesting plants — and orchids are among these. In fact, we have one of the largest orchid selections in Hampton Roads.

When selecting an orchid, it's a good idea to take a few steps to guarantee you're getting the healthiest plant possible, one that will survive long past its first bloom. Here are a few steps to help ensure that you’re orchid will endure overtime:

Give it the Jiggle Test
Gently grab the plant near the potting media and wiggle it a little. If the roots haven't firmly affixed themselves to the pot, gently lift the orchid from the container and carefully inspect. If it's firmly affixed to the pot, don't tear it out - you don't want to damage the roots. It's okay if a few roots are poking out of the top of the pot.

It’s Root-a-mentary
The roots are the most important part of the orchid plant. Orchid roots are extremely specialized organs that collect water and perform photosynthesis. A healthy orchid’s roots will be light green when dry and dark green when wet. There should be a long, pointed and shiny green growing tip. The longer the growing tip, the better. Dead orchid roots are shriveled and tan when wet and white when dry. A plant with no living roots will not survive very long. When repotting, it is best to removed the non-functioning dead roots.

Assess the Leaves
Some orchids have thin, pencil-like leaves, while others have fleshy, flat leaves. Look for leaves that are thick and rubbery, lightly colored, and firm. Leaves should be slightly yellow-green, almost like a green apple. Leaves should also be free from bugs, obvious blemishes, and mushy spots.

Tip: Mushy spots are often caused by viral bacterial. The bacteria is easily spread through unsterile cutting tools and splashing water. When handling infected orchids, sterilize everything that touches the plant. Alcohol dips between each use of tools and hands is helpful when disease is found.

Don’t “Count" on the Blooms
If you're buying an orchid in flower, resist the urge to buy a plant with all of its blooms already opened. Long-lasting orchid blooms might last for a month or more, but if you select a plant with unopened blooms, you'll enjoy the overall show for longer.

What’s in a Name?
If you are buying an orchid for exhibition or crossing with other orchids, it's a good idea to make sure your orchid has a tag containing its full name whenever possible. Beware of plants labeled as "ORCHID" or "FLOWERING ORCHID." It's best to know the orchids full species or hybrid name whenever possible. This way you can learn more about that particular variety, and if you decide to start a collection, it's good to know what you're growing.

Acclimate Your Orchid
It's okay to display your new orchid on the table for a week or so when you first get it home, especially if it's in bloom, but keep in mind that no orchid will survive for long on a dining room table without proper care (light and watering, etc.). Your orchid will need an adjustment period to get acclimated to the new growing conditions. In commercial production, the plants are in an accelerated state. It takes time to adjust to the slower growth in the home environment. If the room is dark or the air is very dry for too long, you may have some bud loss. For long-term success, it's best to enjoy your orchid in a key position for a few days then move to your best growing area to improve vigor. An inexpensive houseplant light meter is very helpful in identifying the best locations for your plant. Remember, you're most likely to lose unopened buds when you take the plant home.

In the first few days after you get your orchid home, it’s best not to expose the plant to direct sunlight, cold drafts or downdrafts from vents, or get carried away with watering. It’s better to let an orchid dry out somewhat than drown. Orchids like high humidity and regular moisture, but they have a limited tolerance for constant exposure to water, which can cause black rot and kill the plant.

Orchids are one of the most prevalent species on earth. Armed with the species name, it is easy to find the part of the world and the growing conditions that occur in that plant's native habitat. The American Orchid Society
information sheet is very reliable when researching new species or when identifying problems. Click here to view The American Orchid Society information sheet.

Snake Plant
Boston Fern
Peace Lily
Golden Pothos

Freshen the Air, the Natural Way

Of course, that potted Boston fern is beautiful, but can it really improve the air quality in your home or office? Well, according to studies by scientists at NASA, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia and other institutions, houseplants are effective, natural purifiers.

Scientists studying the air-purification abilities of indoor plants have found that plants can absorb gases such as carbon dioxide, benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke) and formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner), all of which are every day, indoor VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that plants help to remove.

So, how do indoor plants eliminate pollutants from the air? Plants absorb these gases via their leaves and roots, and microorganisms that live in the soil of potted plants also play a vital role in counteracting VOCs and other pollutants. It's this ability that facilitates photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy and carbon dioxide into chemical energy to fuel growth. These VOCs and other indoor air pollutants (such as ozone) have been linked to many acute conditions, including asthma and nausea, as well as other chronic diseases like cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Although most houseplants can be an effective way of removing indoor air toxins and contaminants, some plants are better at it than others. Researchers have found plants most useful in removing VOCs include spider plants, Boston ferns, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants, and peace lilies.

Click here to learn more about houseplants for cleaner air.

Smaller varieties are ideal for tabletop display.
Calathea are loved for their large, oval, distinctly patterned, and vibrantly colored leaves.

Bold and Beautiful Calathea

Calathea is a tropical plant also known as the Zebra plant or Zebrina plant (Calathea zebrina). These trendy houseplants are loved for their large, oval, distinctly patterned, and vibrantly colored leaves. Leaves can be curved, ribbed, round, oval or pointed and exhibit various unique patterns. Leaf colors range from yellow, rose, white, and even olive. Calathea's fancy foliage makes smaller varieties an excellent choice for tabletops, and larger specimens are suitable as a floor plant.

Calatheas originate from the jungles of the Amazon in South America, growing beneath the shady layers of overgrown foliage in warm, humid conditions making them a perfect fit for low-light areas within your home such as a bathroom or hallway or any room that receives limited amounts of light.

Calathea plants can be a beautiful addition to your home. Just make sure to take the time to provide it with everything it needs. Here are the basic Calathea care requirements:

Calathea prefer bright, indirect light; so, placing it in front of an east, west, or north window is ideal. Too much direct sun can burn the leaves and may cause leaf colors to fade.

Keep the soil moist but never soggy. Allow the top 2-3 inches to dry out before watering. Never let a Calathea plant sit in water. Water as soon as the surface begins to dry up. During the cooler and darker winter months, you may water a little less.

Feed your Calathea monthly in the spring, summer, and fall with a basic houseplant food and follow the directions on the package. Feed only during the growing season.

Calathea like temperatures between 65-80 degrees and do not like cold drafts or temperatures below 55-60 degrees.

Humidity is a must for a Calathea plant. Brown leaf edges may be a sign that the air is too dry. Humidity can be increased by placing your Calathea on a tray of wet pebbles (be sure the pot is on the pebbles and not in the water), or by grouping plants together to create a greenhouse effect.

Use a good, light, porous indoor potting soil that retains water but drains quickly.

Click here to view Calathea varieties.

Hoya Houseplant
Hoya Hanging Basket
Hoya are available in many different varieties.
Flowers grow in umbels usually with many flowers per umbel.
Trailing Hoya varieties can be trained to grow up and around structures.

Hooray for Hoyas

Hoyas are tropical plants with thick, leathery, leaves and small clusters of star-shaped, fragrant flowers. Often referred to as wax plants due to their thick, waxy leaves, this low maintenance houseplant comes in a variety of leaf sizes, colors, shapes & textures.

Hoya blooms are just as diverse as their leaves and are available in many colors, sizes and forms depending on the species of Hoya. Flowers grow in umbels (a flat-topped or rounded flower cluster in which the individual flower stalks arise from about the same point), usually with many flowers per umbel. Some bloom in the first year & others take a few years to establish before they bloom.

These semi-succulent, vine plants love to send down trails of leaves, so they are often seen in hanging baskets. Even a plant novice can be successful growing a Hoya plant, which are, for the most part, very easy to grow. Basic requirements include well-drained soil, warmth and lots of humidity. Here are a few general guidelines for caring for a Hoya, but as always, talk with one of our houseplant experts for detailed care for specific Hoya varieties.

Light the Way:
Hoya plants don't tolerate much direct sunlight, however they do require very bright light in order to bloom. Place your plant in an east-facing windowsill where it will receive sunlight for about three hours in the early morning and bright, indirect light for the rest of the day. Hoyas will live in low light but may not bloom.

High and Dry:
Water soil thoroughly, but wait until the top one-third to one-half of the soil is dry before you water the plant again. Be sure to use a pot with drainage holes and empty the drainage tray. Use room-temperature water, since cold water can shock them. In winter, water sparingly giving the plant just enough to keep the soil from drying out completely.

Food for Thought:
Low-maintenance Hoyas don’t require a lot of fertilizer, but you can fertilize if you want it to bloom better. Use any general-purpose houseplant fertilizer and follow the directions on the packaging.

Flower Power:
Keep your plant slightly pot-bound, since it is more likely to bloom if its roots are a little crowded. Hoyas usually flower during the spring or summer, although some types can bloom sporadically throughout the year given the proper conditions. Don't move your plant after it has begun to set buds or it may drop them.

Keep it Neat:
Hoyas are fast-growers, so you can prune back long vines if you prefer to keep it compact. The best time to prune is early spring before Hoyas start their most vigorous time of growth. And, don’t pinch or snip off the spent flowers, as the short and leafless stems on which they appear will produce more flowers in subsequent years if they aren't broken off.

Keep it Warm:
Remember, Hoyas are tropical plants, so you don't want to keep them in extremely cool temperatures. Try to maintain the room where you have your plant located at a temperature of at least 50 degrees.

Click here to see Hoya varieties.

On the Front Door
As a Centerpiece
In a Bedroom
In the Kitchen
On a Mirror

Holiday Wreaths, Not Just for the Front Door

When it comes to holiday decorating, wreath, fresh or faux, are a timeless symbol of the holidays. And, while wreaths can usually be found decking the front door, there are countless other ways to integrate this holiday staple into your yuletide decorating. Here are few simple and delightfully unexpected ways to decorate with wreaths:

Hang Them Up High - Hanging a wreath is easy but turning it into a stunning chandelier is a great way to take your holiday decorating to new levels. Take an ordinary fresh or faux wreath and wap it with ribbon and bows and hang your favorite ornaments for a unique Christmas piece for your living room or dining room area.

Let Them take Center Stage - Centerpieces are a big part of holiday decorating but can be time consuming and expensive to make. Turning an ordinary wreath into a stunning table-top display is easy. Incorporate festive ribbon, metallic ornaments or tuck a few red berries in and around the wreath. Or add a subtle glow to the table by placing a hurricane lamp with a candle in the middle of the wreath. Go a step further and fill a glass container with cranberries and water and add a few floating candles. It’s a simple yet beautiful way that will set the right mood for your holiday celebration.

Now’s the Time - Wreaths are an excellent way to add seasonal style to everyday items. Give a wall clock a holiday makeover by covering the frame with an evergreen wreath and take the ordinary to extraordinary.

Light the Way - Giving your side table or nightstand a festive touch is easy. Simply lift a lamp, place the wreath on the table, and set the lamp directly in the center of the wreath. Now you have a quick and easy accent for every room in your home!

Bring Them Indoors - Wreaths aren’t just for outdoor use; they can make a great addition to indoor rooms as well. Create a cozy, festive feel to a living room with a wreath above the fireplace mantle or give your wreath some depth and hang it directly in front of a mirror in most any room. For something unexpected, place a wreath on the wall directly behind the bed in a guest bedroom to help get your guests into the Christmas spirit! And, while you’re at it, add one in the master bedroom, too.

Don’t Forget the Kitchen - The kitchen is the heart of the home especially during the holidays. Adding small touches of Christmas decorating in this otherwise unchanged space is a fun way to dress-up the area. Add wreaths to a breakfast nook, on cabinets, to the back of chairs and open walls, or place smaller wreaths on kitchen window. And, don’t forget about the kitchen island.

National Poinsettia Day 2018
Red Gltter
Winter Rose
Ice Punch
Traditional Red

Celebrate National Poinsettia Day

It's December 12th, and that means it's National Poinsettia Day! The poinsettia is one of the few flowers of North America that can claim its own day thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. It is Roberts who is credited for bringing this beautiful traditional Christmas gift to our land. And it all happened like this: Ambassador Poinsett was on a diplomatic mission to Taxco, Mexico. The year was 1828. Admiring the tropical environment, he became entranced with the plant’s beauty, its medicinal uses, and its artistic applications by the natives of the region. So enamored was the ambassador that it was one of the first things he brought back to the United States.

The plant proved to have a major impact on not only Christmas in the USA, but agriculture, for many years to come. Because of its important role in the celebration of Christmas and its beautification to America, Congress set December 12th each year as National Poinsettia Day. The good Ambassador would be amazed at what started as simple cuttings from Mexico have become. According to USDA, poinsettias are the number one potted plant grown in the nation! Here’s a few of our favorite poinsettia varieties:

Winter Rose - similar to the traditional red poinsettia but with a twist. This unique variety has puckered, down curling leaves and bracts that resembles a large, open rose. Perfect for the traditionalist who likes an edgy touch.

Picasso - speckled with tiny dots of red and white resembling tiny brushstrokes on the leaves. If you’re looking for something outside the box this season, then Picasso is the one for you.

Ice Punch - a nice mixture of pink-red with a pale pink in the center. This variety features brats that are pointier than most. Ice Punch works well as a statement piece on its own or several grouped together.

Red Glitter - features red bracts covered in white speckles and splashes. For those who are looking for something fun and but classic at the same time.

Traditional Red - you can't go wrong with this showy holiday favorite. Nothing conveys the joy and spirit of the season like this Christmas classic.

Poinsettias are easy to keep beautiful and blooming throughout the holidays and beyond as long as you follow a few simple tips:

  • Avoid exposing the poinsettia to freezing conditions. Do not leave it in the car while you finish shopping. Take it home and place it inside the house as soon as possible after purchasing it.
  • Place your poinsettia in a spot with bright natural light, but do not expose it to direct sunlight.
  • Do not place your poinsettia in an area where it will be exposed to drafts, heat from appliances, radiators, or ventilation ducts.
  • The color of your poinsettia will last longer with temperatures around 65 degrees F during the day and 60-65 degrees F at night.
  • The soil should be kept moderately moist; check every few days and water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Before watering, remove the pot covers or foil wrapping; water to saturate the soil, and then allow the pot to drain. Do not let the plant sit in standing water.
Pink Frost
Shooting Star
Monte Christo
Cinnamon Snow

Hellebores, the Cold-Weather Bloomer

There are few shade perennials that can compete with the seasonal interest of hellebores. Also called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, bloom-time often coincides with the Christmas holidays. This hardy perennial offers beautiful blooms all through the dreary days of winter and into early spring. Hellebores features blooms with five petaled, cup-shaped flowers with dark green foliage that makes for a beautiful back-drop. Available in a variety of colors from white to pastel-yellow to pink and purple, this intriguing perennial is without a doubt the star of the winter landscape. And, throughout the summer the deep green foliage creates visual depth and interest in the landscape, too. This low maintenance plant is drought tolerant but will also thrive in moist, well-drained soil. And did we mention that hellebores are deer resistant. Not only will they grace your table with beautiful cut flowers, they'll provide color in your landscape at a time when there virtually is none. Here are some of our favorite stunning selections:

Pink Frost (Heritage Gold Collection) - a blend of white, pink, and deep rose on upward-facing petals - unusual for a hellebore. Burgundy stems support leathery leaves with a silver frosting. This upright grower blooms winter to early spring and is happy in beds, borders, or containers. Plant in part to full-shade.

Frostkiss Pippa's Purple - oodles of outward-facing, purplish-pink flowers overtop foliage that is mottled and veined with pink and silver, mellowing to mint on dark green. Pippa has a winter bloom-time and is ideal nuzzled into beds or containers. Plant in part to full-shade.

Shooting Star (Heritage Gold Collection) – dusty-rose buds open to white flowers that fade to sage-green with dark-red stems. Blooms winter to early spring and is right at home in beds, borders, and pots. Plant in part to full-shade.

Monte Christo (Heritage Gold Collection) – creamy blooms tinged with a peachy-rose-blush. Foliage is blue-gray with red stems. Blooms winter to early spring and is the perfect perennial for beds, borders, and containers. Plant in part to full-shade.

Marlon (Heritage Gold Collection) – large, cream flowers that mature to green on cinnamon-colored stems surrounded by deep-green foliage. This compact grower blooms late winter to spring and does best in beds, borders, and containers. Plant in part to full-shade.

Mahogany Snow (Heritage Gold Collection) – large, creamy with light-pink petals that age to a soft mahogany-pink. Mahogany Snow blooms winter to early spring and fits perfectly into shady beds, borders, or containers. Plant in part to full-shade.

Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow (Heritage Gold Collection) – large, creamy-white flowers blended with rose and cinnamon hues and cinnamon-red on the flipside. Foliage is deep green. This winter-time bloomer is well-suited for shaded beds and borders. Plant in part to full-shade.

Jacob (Heritage Gold Collection) - smooth, dark green foliage with crisp, 2 to 3-inch white flowers that mature to a pink and rose color in cool temperatures and turn light green in warmer climates. Stems are a rich burgundy highlight by dark green foliage. Blooms in winter and performs well in beds, borders, and pots. Plant in part to full-shade.

Jesko (Heritage Gold Collection) - large, pure-white blooms maturing to pale yellow-green with deep green, leathery textured leaves. Jesko is a compact grower and blooms in early winter. Perfect planted in pots, or in a shady spot in the landscape. Plant in part to full-shade.

Photos courtesy of Skagit Gardens

Holiday Lighting, McDonald Garden Center

Easy Holiday Decorating with Invisilites, with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal

Invisilites are one of our favorite ways to brighten your holiday décor during the upcoming season. 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 will compliment any décor for the holiday season or all year-round.

We have the largest Invisilite selection in Hampton Roads. They come either on green, copper, or silver wire, and we carry them in both battery-operated and plugin. Our collection also includes snowflakes and stars, as well as gold, silver and red ornament string lights.

The possibilities are endless with these little lights. Use them in wreaths, garlands, small trees, houseplants, poinsettias, lanterns, glass containers, centerpieces, topiaries, figurines, mantles, branches, and so much more!

Lifelike Trees

Guide to Choosing a Lifelike Tree, with the Garden Guru, Mike Westphal

Check out the video on the Guide to Choosing a Lifelike Tree, with the Garden Guru, Mike Westphal:

Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, shares some information on some of the most realistic, lifelike trees. Learn about the different functions, sizes, and options offered by leaders in the industry.