You are here

The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

Helping Birds Survive the Winter

Wintertime, and the living ain't easy for our fine feathered friends. Birds prepare as best as they can for the cold weather but can still have difficulties finding adequate food, water and shelter. Some birds migrate to get away from cold weather, but not all species of birds do. For those that stick around, the winter weather limits their food sources and leaves them relying on us to help them survive. There are a few things we can do to help birds get through those cold winter days:

Make Seed Available
In winter, Nature’s seed sources are depleted after most plants go dormant, and stocked feeders provide the nourishing diets and extra calories birds need to stay warm. Even if seed is available, the brisk winter winds often blow away seed and excess moisture makes available food inedible. Not to mention the shorter days give birds less time to spend searching for food.

Provide High-Energy Food
Birds burn fat for energy to stay warm. It’s important to choose bird feed that is high in calories and high in fat like suet, peanut butter, peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds. Unsalted peanuts are another excellent winter food, since nuts don't freeze and are high in calories, oil and fat. These high-energy foods give birds the fuel they need to maintain warm body temperatures during the long, cold nights.

Provide Extra Calories
In summer, birds have an endless supply of insects and fruits to eat, but in winter, insects and fruits are nowhere to be found. While some birds migrate, the birds that don’t will adjust their diet from fruit and insects to seeds. Extra feeding helps them prepare for spring mating, and when birds have access to more nutrients in winter, the spring mating season will be more successful. Chicks will have healthier weights and egg laying will happen earlier.

Provide a Safe Place for Feeding
When food is difficult for birds to find, it’s also harder for squirrels, mice, raccoons and stray cats to find, too. Help protect birds by placing food sources near thick brush or other natural canopies to keep them safe while feeding.

Provide Water
It’s difficult for birds to find fresh water in winter once it begins to freeze, but water is essential not only to help them stay hydrated but also to assists them with clean up between flights. Birds not only use water to stay hydrated, but they also utilize water to preen their feathers, which helps to keep them insulated keeping them warmer and healthier. Simply breaking up ice in existing bird baths and keeping them full will help provide them with fresh water during the frigid winter months.

To learn more about what seed attracts specific birds click here .

Pruning, McDonald Garden Center

Why Prune? Winter Pruning of Tress & Shrubs

Winter, a peaceful time in the garden when trees and shrubs spend time patiently waiting for spring’s arrival. This quiet state is an extremely important stage of their annual life cycle and the perfect opportunity for you to help promote good plant health and vigor by pruning. Pruning is a regular part of plant maintenance involving the selective removal of specific plant parts. Although shoots and branches are the main targets for removal, roots, flower buds, fruits and seed pods may also be pruned. Pruning not only helps to boost your home’s curb appeal but also allows for proper plant growth, as well as helping to control insects and plant related diseases. We’ve outlined some of the other key benefit of pruning trees and shrubs during the dormant, winter months:

Improved Appearance and/or Health. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts accelerates the formation of callus tissue and may limit the spread of insects and disease. For trees, pruning a dense canopy allows for better air circulation and sunlight penetration. To avoid future problems, remove crossing branches that rub or interfere with each other and any that form narrow crotches.

Control Plant Size. Pruning reduces the size of a plant, so it remains in proportion with your landscape. Pruning can also decrease shade, prevent interference with utility lines, and allows for better access for pest control.

Prevent Personal Injury or Property Damage. Removing dead or low limbs makes underlying areas safer. Pruning can also reduce wind resistance in trees. Prune shrubs with thorny branches back from walkways and other heavily-traveled areas. We recommend that you have certified arborists handle any pruning work in the crowns of large trees.

Train Young Plants. Training main scaffold branches (those that form the structure of the canopy) helps to produce stronger and more vigorous trees. Shaping branches with hand pruners while a plant is young is much easier than pruning larger branches later.

Encourages Fruiting and Flowering. Proper pruning of flower buds encourages early growth. There are also selective pruning techniques that will help stimulate flowering in some species and help produce larger (yet fewer) fruits in others.

Rejuvenate Old Trees and Shrubs. As trees and shrubs mature, their forms may become unruly. Pruning can restore vigor and enhance the appearance of plants.

To learn more about why, when and what to prune, join us at our Independence location on Saturday, January 11, 2020, at 2PM, for our complimentary Winter Pruning 101 seminar, a comprehensive guide to pruning by the McDonald Garden Center experts. For details of the Winter Pruning 101 seminar information click here .

For addiitonal information on pruning click on the video below.

Gold Collection® Jacob Christmas Rose
Gold Collection® Pink Frost Lenten Rose
Cascade™ Blush Lenten Rose
Winter Jewels® Black Diamond Lenten Rose

Hellebores, The Cure for the Winter Blues

Just when you think the cold, rain, or gloom of winter will never end, up pop hellebores. This hardy perennial, also called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, often times blooms around the Christmas holidays (see the Legend of the Christmas Rose below). This perennial evergreen, features blooms with five petal, cup-shaped flowers. 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. Hellebores can be used in containers, in flower beds or simply tucked under a tree. Or, bring them indoors and display in a vase or simply float flower heads in a bowl of water for a stunning display. Did we mention hellebore are deer resistant?

Gold Collection® Jacob Christmas Rose - characterized by its smooth, dark green foliage with striking, crisp 2 to 3-inch white flowers. This early bloomer flowers from mid-November to January, just in time for the holidays! The flowers mature to a pink and rose color in cool temperatures. In warmer temperatures, they mature to light green.

Gold Collection® Pink Frost Lenten Rose - burgundy stems support leathery leaves with a silver frosting. The flowers are a combination of white, pink, and deep rose tones and are upward facing - unusual for a hellebore. 'Pink Frost' is evergreen, long blooming, and deer resistant too! Makes a superb groundcover and choice perennial for shady borders.

Cascade™ Blush Lenten Rose – features stunning large blooms with deep purple-pink petals that appear from late winter through early spring, Blooms appear atop mounds of deeply lobed, leathery evergreen foliage. Cascade Blush is perfect for naturalizing in shaded borders and woodland gardens.

Winter Jewels® Black Diamond Lenten Rose – dramatic purple to almost black single blossoms atop of clumps of dark green foliage with deep black tones from late winter to spring. Perfect for naturalizing in woodland areas, with excellent resistance to grazing deer and rabbits. Adds drama to shaded beds and borders.

The Legend of the Christmas Rose
According to legend, a young shepherdess named Madelon was tending her sheep one cold and wintry night. As she watched over them, a group of wise men and other shepherds passed by, bearing gifts for the newly born Jesus. Madelon wept, because she had no gifts to bring the Newborn King, not even a simple flower. An angel, upon hearing her weeping, appeared and brushed away the snow to reveal a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink - the Christmas Rose.

Photos provided by Monrovia

Click here for more on hellebores.

Holiday Porch Pacakges
20-inch Wreath or Greeter Door Charm

Holiday Door Decorating in a Snap

Enhance your outdoor spaces this yuletide season with our outdoor porch packages.

When you're getting your home ready for the holidays, often times your indoor decorating take precedents. But once the tree’s all set-up and the inside of your halls has been decked, it’s time to turn your attention to the outside of your home.

Set the holiday scene outdoors in an instant with one of our premium porch packages. We've gathered up some festive decorating components for your front door that are sure to get you and yours in the spirit. Each package features a mixture of fresh greenery that will welcome friends and family at your doorstep with the scents and beauty of winter foliage.

Porch packages are available in two options:

Reindeer Porch Package $34.98 includes:

  • 25-feet white pine roping
  • 10-loop red outdoor bow
  • Greeter Door Charm featuring a mix of noble fir, cedar and cones

Santa Porch Package $49.98 includes:

  • 25-feet white pine roping
  • 20-inch wreath featuring a mix of noble fir and Virginia cedar berries
  • Bow with style

Whatever your preferences are, fresh cut greens can help bring the spirit of the season both inside and out. We offer a wide variety of fresh greens- from the traditional scent of Balsam fir, to the classic look of real holly and berries, our assortment options will help make your decorating project a snap.

Fresh Cut Fraser Fir
Fraser Firs Fresh off the Truck
Beautiful Blue-Green Needles with Great Needle Retention

Fraser Fir, the Tried & True Christmas Tree

"The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There's a kind of glory to them when they're all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy. - Andy Rooney -.

Research* shows that going to get a tree is among the top Christmas experiences people remember as a child. It’s a tradition that can help strengthen family bonds and be shared and passed down for generations.

Most people ponder over this important decision, looking for the perfectly-shaped, fullest, most beautiful tree they can find. But picking out the perfect tree isn't all about looks—the tree's scent, strength of branches, and needle retention all matter, too.

Nowadays, the Fraser Fir has become the standard in Christmas trees. These trees grow to almost perfect shapes and feature attractive blue-green needles with great needle retention (provided the cut tree is kept properly watered). Other features include a delightful, fresh, evergreen scent, and branches that are sturdy enough to hold heavy ornaments. And, because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some other trees.

Having been in the fresh cut Christmas tree business for more many, many decades, we know a thing or two about fresh cut trees. Our buyers work with reputable suppliers to ensure that we can provide the very best trees to our customers. And, we offer a host of complimentary services to help make your tree shopping experience as easy as possible. Here are some of the free services we offer with our fresh cut Fraser Fir trees:

  • All Fraser Fir Trees are Pre-drilled.
  • This allows for easy setup with a Stand Strait stand. (You may use another type of stand if you don’t have a Stand Strait).

  • All Trees Get a Fresh Cut at the Bottom of the Trunk.
  • Once the trees are harvested, sap covers the area where the tree was cut. Making a cut on the bottom of the stump allows for the uptake of water once you set it in a stand. If you take it home and are not ready to put it in a stand right away, simply place your tree in a bucket of water to ensure it continues to take up water until it’s placed in the stand.

  • Branch Trimming.
  • Our staff will trim any branches making it easier to get your tree into the stand or just to give it that perfect look.

  • All Trees are Put on the “Shaker”.
  • This helps to dislodge most of the loose needles or any other debris that may be in the tree from the growing environment.

  • All Trees are Baled.
  • This makes loading and carrying your tree into your home easier. Once your tree is set up in the stand, simply cut off the baling material.

  • We Load.
  • Our staff will load your tree in your vehicle for you.

+Delivery service is available for a fee.

So, bring the sights and smells of the holiday season into your home and make memories that will last a lifetime with a beautiful, fresh-cut Fraser Fir tree.

Click here for tips on how to keep your fresh cut tree in tip-top shape.

*Based on an online survey conducted by the CTPB in September of 2019 of 2,000 parents with children age 0-17

Fresh Magnolia Wreath

DIY Fresh Magnolia Wreath

‘Tis the season for twinkling lights, chilly weather, Christmas trees, and the scent of fresh-cut greens. Set to deck your halls this holiday season with a fresh magnolia wreath- perfect on the front door, above the mantle, on a mirror, or as a tabletop centerpiece. Create this classic wreath with this simple DIY guide. In just six easy steps, you'll have a beautiful wreath that can deck your halls and welcome family and friends throughout the Christmas season.

What You'll Need:

  • Fresh-cut magnolia greens
  • 14-inch wreath form
  • Floral wire
  • Ribbon
  1. Gather magnolia branches from you yard or purchase at your local garden center.
  2. Gently remove the leaves (leaving the stem) from magnolia branches. Discard branches.
  3. Next, assemble leaves (4-6 in a bunch) and wrap the "stems" with approximately a 12-inch piece of wire leaving several inches to attach to the frame.
  4. Take the leaf bundle and attach firmly to the frame making sure the wire is tight enough to keep the bundle from slipping.
  5. Repeat the above step and attach the bundle on the opposite side of the frame several inches away from the other bundle making sure the leaves cover the wire and stems.
  6. Continue all the way around until frame is full.
  7. Add a festive bow if desired!

NOTE: We recommend spraying your wreath with Wilt Stop by Bonide to keep it looking fresh throughout the holidays.

Click here to learn about or register for our December 14, 2019, Fresh Magnolia Wreath Workshop

Rosemary, Fresh, Fragrant & Festive

Rosemary, Fresh, Fragrant & Festive

10 Ways to Use Rosemary

Rosemary is a must-have for every home and garden! It’s one of the most famous, widely grown, and frequently used herbs in the world. This hardy evergreen is easy to grow and is best known for enhancing Italian cuisine, but its wonders go way beyond the kitchen.. While there are too many creative ways to use rosemary to list here, we've picked some

  1. Holiday Decorating - Placed in an entryway, their fresh, crisp fragrance welcomes guests and beckons them inside. Arrange around the buffet, on side servers, or as table centerpieces. With their festive wraps, these tabletop trees and cones add splashes of color and shimmering accents throughout the holiday season. Or, simply place them in a decorative container and add a bow. And don’t forget to tuck a handful of fresh sprigs beneath the ribbon just before delivering packages!
  2. Cooking - Use fresh or dried rosemary leaves to give a slightly spicy and woodsy flavor to dishes. Rosemary is particularly tasty with poultry, meats, fish, potatoes, soups and stews and vegetables.
  3. Landscape - Rosemary is a great landscape shrub! Not only is it a beauty, it's drought tolerant, deer resistant and super low maintenance. Upright varieties will add evergreen structure to the garden, and groundcover type varieties are great for trouble spots like slopes.
  4. Beverages - Add fresh rosemary to water, hot tea, lemonade, or cocktails.
  5. Fragrance - Rosemary is known for its wonderful aroma. Add it to a simmer pot to make your home smell fresh and fragrant.
  6. BBQ Skewers - Remove the leaves and use the woody stems as a skewer to infuse flavor into whatever it is you are grilling. And, don't throw away the leaves - sprinkle those on top for added flavor.
  7. Basting Brush - We love this idea! Infuse a little extra flavor into meat by creating a basting brush using rosemary sprigs. Cut 6 - 8 stems of woody branches of rosemary at least 10 inches long. Remove a third of the leaves at the bottom of the branch. Tie them with cooking twine and use them to brush on marinades.
  8. Infused Olive Oil - Snip 4 or 5 stems of rosemary and simmer with a cup of olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Let the rosemary and oil cool, and then pour the olive oil and rosemary into a bottle. Seal the bottle and enjoy the beautiful and flavorful mixture yourself or give it as a gift.
  9. Container Gardens - Trailing varieties look great spilling over the edges of containers and upright varieties add height. Plant them alone or mix them with other herbs for your own little herb garden.
  10. Health & Well Being - Did you know rosemary is a memory booster? Yep, it’s been shown to enhance concentration and memory by stimulating the human nervous system. Add it to your food, bathwater or your aromatherapy routine.

  11. Care Tips for Rosemary Indoors: To care for rosemary inside your home, the most important requirement during the winter months is sunlight. Place in a bright sunny window, and turn the plant so that it gets sun on both sides. The soil in the pot needs to be well drained. Water it from the top every other day. Water may remain in the saucer to provide humidity for the plant, but do not let the water touch the bottom of the plant. Adjust the watering schedule if necessary to be sure the soil never dries out.

Lifelike Trees
Lifelike Trees
Lifelike Trees

So Realistic Even Santa Can't Tell

Lifelike Christmas trees have come a long way from their modest beginnings and going with an artificial tree over a real one won't make your holiday any less bright. As long as you pick a high-quality tree, no one will ever be able to tell (except for maybe Santa). In fact, over the years, the design of artificial trees has improved so much that some look exactly like the real thing. And best of all, today's lifelike trees come pre-lit making them even more magical.

So why does a lifelike tree make so much sense? Here’s why:

  • no need to water
  • easier to put up and take down
  • ability to leave the tree up longer
  • little or no cleanup
  • uniform appearance
  • less expensive per year
  • reduced risk of fire
  • most come with commercial grade light sets professionally installed

McDonald offers an incredible selection of life-like Christmas trees available in a variety styles. Each quality tree is crafted with care and will offer beauty for seasons to come. These trees offer a natural look with less mess. But, should a problem arise, we offer permanent tree diagnostics to help solve and fix the problem. Visit the McDonald Christmas Shoppe and let one of our expert staff members help you choose a lifelike tree that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.

The McDonald Christmas Shoppe
Gingerbread Houses
Ornaments in all shapes, sizes and styles
Baby it's Cold Outside Theme
McDonald Gift Cards - Perfect for the gardener who has everything!
Lifelike Wreaths & Garlands
Holiday Picks & Sprays
Custom Bows Created by Our Bow Experts

The Holiday Lookbook for 2019 is Here!

Flip through the pages of the McDonald Holiday Lookbook 2019
and step into a magical Christmas wonderland at the McDonald Christmas Shoppe. Every corner is packed with new treasures and collectible wonders. See must-have trimmings for this holiday season. From the holiday classics, to the whimsical and fun, to the wonders of nature - the McDonald Christmas Shoppe will help you create a festive mood this season. Our professional designers are ready to help you dress your home in the latest holiday trends for both inside and out. With an eclectic mix of decorating ideas from the past, present and future, discover holiday themes you will love discovering. Join us for our annual Holiday Open House, Friday-Sunday, November 8-10, 9AM-6PM, at both our Independence and Great Neck locations and experience the magic of our Christmas Shoppe first-hand.

Bio-tone Starter Plus

Bio-tone Started Plus

The ultimate starter fertilizer with both endo & ecto Mmcorrhizae, Bio-tone Starter Plus is super charged to help new plants.

Click here to learn more about Bio-Tone Starter Plus with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal.