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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening
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.

SquirrelBuster® Feeder Classic
SquirrelBuster® Feeder Standard
SquirrelBuster® Feeder Mini
Nature Creations Birdhouse Unique Folk Art Birdhouses Creations

"Tweet-Worthy" Accessories for the Birds

Bird watching is an activity that brings nature to life! The connection to nature and other living creatures is a basic need, and birding is an activity that encompasses both. Even better, it is something you can do as a family - it gets you outdoors and connecting with each other as well as the environment. Studies have shown that birdwatching can also do wonders for your wellbeing - it really does make you happy! Here are few “tweet-worthy” birding accessories that are sure to lift your spirits:

SquirrelBuster® Feeders - If you want to keep the birds happy and the squirrels away from their food, then check-out these award-winning, patented, squirrel-proof technology feeders by SquirrelBuster®:

Classic Feeder - Four ports and wire mesh shroud allows for wide variety of perching and clinging birds to share the feeder.

Standard Feeder - Just the Right Size at the Right Price. Weight adjustable for Select Feeding.

Mini Feeder - This compact feeder is ideal for smaller spaces.

Nature Creations Unique Folk-Art Birdhouses - These beautifully hand-crafted folk-art birdhouses are made from re-purposed wood and metal from weathered barns and houses. Enjoy them as a wonderful accent indoors or adopt a bird family outdoors and provide them with a cozy shelter. Available in a variety of styles.

Photos provided by Brome Bird Care and Nature Creations Unique Folk-Art Birdhouses Creations

Tips for Pumpkin Picking & Carving

In the world of pumpkins, there are the varieties that are great for carving - and those that are made for eating. Selecting the perfect pumpkin for carving can be a real adventure considering all the different shapes, sizes, and colors out there. And like people, every pumpkin has its unique characteristics, giving it a personality all its own. Pumpkin carving is a tradition your whole family can enjoy, so here’s a few tips on picking and carving one.

Choose a design before shopping for a pumpkin. Think about which shape would best suit your design - tall and narrow or fat and round. If you're using a stencil, look for a pumpkin with a shape similar to the pattern you're planning to carve.

Look for a pumpkin that's...

  • firm and free from cuts, soft spots and bruises.
  • sits well on the ground and is stable.
  • includes a bit of stem.

When carving...

  • wipe your pumpkin off with a little bleach and water (approx. 1 tsp. bleach to 1 cup water) before you begin. This will greatly cut down on fungus.
  • don't cut into your pumpkin around stem. Cutting out a stem cap weakens the pumpkin. Instead, access the pumpkin from backside – this will help preserve freshness. Hiding the opening in the back also gives the pumpkin more visual appeal.
  • scrape and clean the inside of the pumpkin as much as possible. The cleaner you get it, the longer you'll have a great looking jack-o-lantern. (gut it out twice as much as you think you need to).
  • place your finished masterpiece in a dry, shady area - it will last longer!


  • Tall, thin shapes are perfect for funny and whimsical faces. Round shapes are ideal for happy and scary ones.
  • Oddly shaped pumpkins are perfect for creating unique characters.
  • Consider a white pumpkin, when unlit, white pumpkins appear to glow as the daylight fades.

Click here >> to find out more about our upcoming pumpkin workshops.

Lavender, SuperBlue
Russian Sage, Crazy Blue
Salvia Back to the Fuchsia

NEW Perennials, For the Perennial Lover

Who doesn’t love perennials? Versatile, dependable and enjoyable year after year, and once established, most perennials are low-maintenance and give your garden color and texture. McDonald carries a wide selection of perennials that are well suited for Hampton Roads conditions and soils. Check out these three new perennial varieties:

Lavender SuperBlue - lavender seduces the senses with lyrical color and caressing fragrance. Meet the most colorful Lavandula angustifolia, its short spikes packed with aromatic, deep blue florets. Blooming June to September, the 12" tall herbal plants are remarkably hardy, tolerant of heat and humidity. Use fresh or dried in cut bouquets and sachets. Prefers full sun. Cold, deer, drought and rabbit resistant.

CrazyBlue Russian Sage - a compact and colorful, easy care perennial for use as an accent, border or mass planting. Violet-blue flower spikes arise from the lacy, gray-green aromatic foliage, adding an airy feel to the landscape. Hardy and heat tolerant, and sturdy, interlacing branches do not fall open in wind and rain. Prefers full sun. Deer and rabbit resistant.

Salvia Back to the Fuchsia - a new Proven Winners salvia, Salvia Back to the Fuchsia is part of the Color Spires series. This colorful perennial produces cool fuchsia flower spikes atop the neatly mounded, aromatic foliage. Lovely when planted in drifts. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Prefers sun. Salt tolerant. Attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Dee rand rabbit resistant.

Plant information and photos provided by Monrovia, Burpee and Proven Winners.

Watering, McDonald Garden Center

Watering Tips During Drought Conditions

We've been lucky to have such amazing, sunny weather here recently, but our plants haven't been getting much rainwater. This recent dry spell in addition to the periods of heavy rain that we experienced over this last year may have resulted in plants not developing a deep enough root system needed to withstand a period with no rain (especially trees and shrubs). Therefore, it is crucial that you water during this period with no rainfall. Established plants should receive one inch of water over the area once a week. Plants installed after February of this year may need more frequent watering. Here are a few more of our watering tips to help keep you plants healthy and thriving:

When watering trees or shrubs, be sure to give each plant ample watering every time you water. Holding the hose on the plant for a few seconds or even a few minutes is not enough to really get the root system covered. Instead, set your hose down near the base of the plant and set the water pressure to a medium to lower level- not a trickle and not full blast. This will ensure water is getting deeper into the ground and not running off the surface.

Lawns are also struggling in this time of drought. Make sure to water one inch every three days on established lawns and new lawns every one-two days. To best measure one inch of watering, turn on the sprinkler and use a tuna can or Tupperware dish that is an inch deep as a rain gauge. Time how long the sprinkler takes to fill up the container then run your sprinklers for this amount of time at each watering.

Plants require water throughout the day and dampness and darkness will cause fungus issues. In-ground sprinkler systems are great, but do not deliver adequate amounts of water to landscaped areas (areas with trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals). Be sure to apply additional water to irrigated areas in these dryer times. In-ground watering systems for lawns work well, but make sure they run in the morning and are getting at least an inch of water to all areas of the lawn.

Applying mulch will keep roots cool or warm depending on time of year and helps keep moisture in the soil.

Remove weeds from landscaped areas and around newly planted trees or shrubs as these will consume water before it gets to the desirable plants roots as well as reduce nutrient uptake for the plant.

Small Shrubs and perennials (1 gallon-3 gallon) 3-5 minutes per plant
Medium shrubs and perennials (3-5 gallon in size) 7-10 minutes per plant
Larger shrubs (7-10 gallon) 10-15 minutes per plant
Tees (10-15 gallon) 20 minutes per plant.

Water like the pros- we water every day! Our favorite tool is a good hose and a watering wand. Feel free to come in and talk with one of our experts for advice on watering and all your watering needs. For information on watering
click here

Brilliant Autumn Fern
NEW Shade-Loving Perennials for the Garden
Heuchera Forever Red
Heuchera Forever Red
Heuchera Carmel
Heuchera Carmel

Shade-Proof Perennials

Contrary to what most people think, gardening in the shade isn’t any harder than gardening in sunny areas of the landscape. Just like planting in sunny conditions, planting in shade requires a little for thought and planning in choosing and placing plants. Many full and partial-shade plants are really pretty, so you don’t have to sacrifice beauty in order to garden in the shade! Some shade-loving plants offer colorful or variegated foliage to brighten up those dark areas. Here are a few shade-loving plants that we think you’ll love, too.

Brilliance Autumn Fern
This handsome coppery red selection is brighter red and significantly more dramatic than others in the species. A bold and beautiful choice for dappled sunlight to deeply shaded areas. Leaves mature to deeply cut, dark green. Easy to grow and adaptable.

Heuchera FOREVER® Red
This lovely, fast growing Heuchera has the reddest leaves ever, a great crown, and it is a vigorous grower. The leaves are cut and somewhat ruffled and reddest in the spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler. The 14″ spikes with white flowers in mid-summer complement and contrast with the foliage. Exposure: Part shade, full sun, full shade. Bloom Time(s): August & September

Caramel Coral Bell
New leaves emerge bright gold and mature to a peachy orange. The soft but showy color adds warmth and contrast to mixed containers and woodland borders. Thrives in the high heat and humidity of the South. Sun tolerant in cool northern gardens. Evergreen in mild winter areas; an herbaceous perennial in colder regions. Plant in partical to full sun. Water regularly - weekly, or more often in extreme heat or containers.

Plant information and photos provided by Monrovia and Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Tullip Bulbs

Fall Planting for Spring Color

It's just beginning to feel like fall, and winter is around the corner... so why are we talking about spring?! Well, fall is the perfect time to plant spring-flowering bulbs ~ like tulips, daffodils, crocuses & hyacinth. While it may seem odd to plant bulbs now, the reason is that spring-flowering bulbs need time to develop a solid root system before winter sets in.

A flower bulb is really an underground storehouse and flower factory. Within the bulb is just about everything the plant will need to sprout and flower at the appropriate time. All bulbs need is to be planted in the ground at the appropriate season of the year, given liberal water, and then sit back and let Mother Nature do the rest!

Nothing is more satisfying than planting dormant brown bulbs in autumn and watching them emerge in late winter or early spring with their fresh green shoots and colorful flowers. In order to take advantage of many spring favorites, their bulbs should be planted in the fall after the first frost (typically around October 15th in Hampton Roads). Bulbs require a long period of cool temperatures in order to bloom. It's vital to get bulbs planted before the ground freezes, so they can develop a strong root system.

Now's the time to start planning and purchasing bulbs, so you will be ready to pop them in the ground as cooler weather sets in. So, make a small investment in planting spring bulbs in the fall, and you'll be greeted with cheery early blooms come spring. And remember, fall bulbs can also be forced indoors, for beautiful color indoors.

For more on planting spring bulbs in fall click here.

Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red

Ornamental peppers are a great addition to the late summer and early fall garden. With foliage of varying shades, the real shining star of ornamental peppers is the fruit it bears in assorted, vibrant colors that are available in many shapes and sizes. This annual is an exceptionally versatile plant- use them in mass plantings, pots and hanging baskets, or simply welcoming guests to your front door.

If you are looking to add a pop of color to your fall garden, look no further than Onyx Red. Its attractive compact, branching habit, bold dark foliage and shiny red fruit along with its outstanding performance earned an All-America Selections award. Plants are heat tolerant, vigorous growers that retain their neat, compact habit, making Onyx Red a wonderful addition in beds, borders, containers and dramatic mass plantings.

The Fall Veggie Garden

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of vegetable gardening. Cooler weather makes gardening more enjoyable and there are less insects to bug you. Actually, frost tends to improve the flavor of many cool weather crops. And, an added benefit is that many of these plants are visually pleasing in your yard, giving your landscape a boost in appearance.

To get started, we’ve compiled a few easy steps for fall veggie garden success.

  1. Prepare the Soil.
    Start from the bottom up to really have success. We suggest turning over the soil as one of the most important steps. This process aerates and mixes soil components.
  2. Fertilize with Compost.
    When fertilizing a vegetable garden, organic fertilizers are recommended. They consist of natural, organic material such as forest products, vegetable waste and animal manure. It can be purchased in bags, bulk, or made at home. McDonald Compost (sold in bag or bulk) will do the trick!
  3. Plant Your Garden.
    Dig the hole a bit larger than the plant’s root ball, place the plant in it, and firm the soil around the roots to the level of the surrounding soil. Water to eliminate air pockets and provide moisture to the root system.
  4. Water & Weed Regularly.
    Be sure your veggie garden receives water and you remove the weeds so that the weeds are not competing with the nutrients your plants need to perform their best.

Check out this list of cole crops that will flourish until frost arrives.

Pansies, McDonald Garden Center

Pansies – Timing is Everything

This time of year, we get this question a lot “When will you have pansies?” Pansies are perfect for providing color when the rest of the garden looks as if it's beginning to shut down for the season. These cool-weather lovers can actually make it through frosts — and even single-digit temperatures — and some varieties rebound in the spring. However, there is always the temptation to plant pansies too early in order to get a jump on the fall season, but planting them when it’s too warm will actually delay your enjoyment.

Pansies dislike temperatures above 70 degrees and their growth and flowering will be disappointing if planted while it’s still too warm. In Hampton Roads, temperatures usually don’t drop into the 70-degree range until almost October, so we are typically fully stocked in the beginning of October. If the weather moderates earlier, then we will have them in late September.

Pansies are often available at other suppliers, however, through our experience and research, pansies grown above 70 degrees will stretch, wilt and often die. Premature planting when temperatures are too warm may also result in yellowing leaves and leave them vulnerable to frost damage or pest and disease infestation.

October is the perfect month to plant pansies when the air temperatures have cooled off with day temperatures generally in the 70’s and ground temperature are still warm and aids in root growth and strong plants that will reward you with loads of blooms well into mid-April.

So remember, O before P (OCTOBER before PANSIES) and resist the temptation to purchase those pretty, little pansey faces before it’s time.