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Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Gardening in North Central Texas is enough to make you throw away your trowel.  Our summers are hot enough for a blast furnace.  Our winter chill can freeze pipes and coat trees with ice.  We’re pummeled with spring storms and hail, but when we most need the rain, not a cloud is on the horizon.  Dallas’ unforgiving black clay forms clods hard as rocks and is so alkaline, its pH is off the chart.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ shares our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening in our North Texas heat, clay soil, limited water, and high alkalinity.  In the world of gardening, there is always a story to be told and sage advice to share.  As we dig, trim, harvest, and cook, we’ll give you the best information we can gather from our “hands on” work in the Earth-Kind/WaterWise Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road in Dallas.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ is written by Dallas County Master Gardeners, volunteers trained by the AgriLife Extension Service, an agency of Texas A&M University.

Celebration of Roses in Farmer’s Branch

Saturday I attended the Farmers Branch Celebration of Roses. What a privilege to hear Mike Shoup of Antique  Rose Emporium fame talk about “Pioneer Roses” and Scott Ogden, landscape artist and author teach the subject of  Moonlit Gardens.

Afterwards I happily wandered through the Farmers Branch Rose Trial gardens at 2610 Valley View Lane, Farmers Branch, Texas.

Hundreds of roses are on trial in these gardens from Earth-Kind® Roses to David Austin roses, all displayed and labeled perfectly.

Above: View of Part of the extensive Farmers Branch Rose Garden

Above: View of Part of the extensive Farmers Branch Rose Garden

For example, a rose called Jude the Obscure: “A great favourite of many gardeners. ‘Jude the Obscure’ is very free-flowering, bearing very large, incurved, chalice-shaped flowers. The petals are medium yellow on the inside and pale yellow on the outside. Its award-winning fragrance is extremely strong with a delicious fruity note reminiscent of guava and sweet white wine, which delights all who smell the flower. An excellent short shrub with strong, upright, bushy growth and light green leaves. We recommend planting it near to the house or close a seating area or path, where its delicious perfume can be enjoyed at close quarters. In warmer climates it can be trained as a superb climber. Named after the character in Thomas Hardy’s novel of the same name.”

Thanks to this description from the David Austin website, I will now be reading  Thomas Hardy!

Meet the David Austin Rose, Jude the Obscure

Meet the David Austin Rose, Jude the Obscure

Being a plant nerd, I have always wanted to see the Green Rose.  Yes, there is a rose with green flowers and it is growing in the Farmer’s Branch Rose Gardens.

Close Up of Green Rose

Close Up of Green Rose

Now that I have seen it and compare it to other rose beauties,  I will be shopping David Austin and Pioneer Roses.

Thank you Farmer’s Branch!


Get to know Farmer’s Branch aka the “City in a Park”.  Last weekend’s events included Bluegrass music, a chili cook off, and arts and crafts along with The Celebration of Roses.  Mark your calendar for future events here.

A Monarch Pit Stop


The first semi-cool days around October bring the annual Monarch butterfly migration through Dallas.   Some of the Monarchs, coming from the northern states, follow a corridor through Dallas as they continue on their trip to their wintering grounds in the highlands of Mexico.  These travelers need all the “fuel”/nectar they can get for their long journey.  Even an urban backyard can provide a respite for them.

Picture by Janet D. Smith

Picture by Janet D. Smith

One of the Monarch’s favorite nectar plants is frostweed, Verbesina virginica . It is such an exceptional nectar plant, drawing in not only Monarchs but also Pipevine Butterflies and Great Purple Hairstreaks, that it has been selected as monitoring plant by Monarch Watch.  Dale Clark, local butterfly rancher and founder of the Dallas County Lepidopterists’ Society, says that he has seen Monarch butterflies literally drop out of the sky when they see a patch of frostweed.

Frostweed, a perennial, is a member of the sunflower family.  It will grow in sun but prefers shade or part shade.  It requires very little water.  Because it can grow up to six feet tall, it is best to use it in the back of a border and in a more natural, rather than formal, landscape.  It has large green leaves on a straight, winged stem.  Native Americans would sometimes roll the leaves and smoke them like tobacco.  It blooms in late September through October in Dallas, making it a perfect nectar plant for the migrating Monarchs.  The blooms are large composites, dirty white, and (at least to me) rather drab, but obviously Monarchs, bees, and small wasps see beyond superficial beauty and flock to it in droves.  Even a small group of frostweed plants may be covered with four or five Monarch butterflies on each flower.  It is a sight to behold!!


Picture by Larry Waisanen

Picture by Larry Waisanen

Like many plants, especially our native plants, frostweed has several common names. Karen H. Clary in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine’s October 2012 issue says:  “Frostweed has other names, including iceplant, white crownbeard, Indian tobacco and squawweed.  Native Americans- including the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Mikasuki Seminole- used the leaves to treat fever, chills and body aches, and they used the roots as a purgative to treat indigestion.  Mat t Turner, in Remarkable Plants of Texas, attributes the name “squawweed” to a specific use for women.  Turner notes that the Kickapoo, as late as the 1970’s, were still using hot decoctions of the plant for near-term and post-partum issues, such as cleansing the womb and stanching excessive bleeding.”

Frostweed gets its most commonly used name from the fact that with the first freeze, its stem splits and sap oozes out of the winged stem.   The sap freezes into fantastic ribbons forming mini-ice sculptures.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center says that “the ice crystals formed on the stems of this and other plant species have been given many names – among them: ice ribbons, ice flowers, ice fringes, ice fingers, ice filaments, ice leaves, frost flowers, frost ribbons, frost freaks, frost beards, frost castles (Forrest M. Mims III, crystallofolia (coined by Bob Harms at The University of Texas), rabbit ice and rabbit butter.”

Frostweed after Frost!

Frostweed after Frost!

There is one important fact to remember if you plant frostweed in your garden.  Not only is the “frost” part of its name representative of one of its important characteristics, but the “weed” part is too.  Just be careful, it will reseed freely—and probably in amended soils will spread rapidly by underground rhizomes.  I have my frostweed growing at home in un-amended black gumbo clay soil under the shade of a huge cedar elm.  I am also very careful to immediately cut off any flowers that are going to seed, bag them, and put them in the trash (not the compost pile).  Doing this I have never had problems with frostweed’s being an uncontrollable “weed.”

So, think about doing your part to help the Monarch “fuel up” for their long journey to Mexico.  Frostweed is a great plant for the Monarchs—but just take some extra precautions so it doesn’t become a “weed.”



A Gardener’s Fright

There is one symbol of Halloween that no gardener wants to have in their garden.  What is it?  Witches broom.

Above: Close up of Witches Broom, A symptom of Rose Rosette Disease

Above: Close up of Witches Broom, A symptom of Rose Rosette Disease

Witches broom, a symptom of rose rosette disease, is the scourge of anyone growing roses.  Though it was for many years considered to be primarily a disease of Rosa multiflora, the wild rose which is now an invasive species in many parts of the country, rose rosette disease has become more prevalent in many areas.  Earth-Kind® roses, perhaps because they have been planted so extensively, close together, and in large groups, seem to be particularly plagued by rose rosette in the Dallas area.  However any rose may be infected.

Above: Rose Rosette Disease affecting American Pillar Rose

Above: Rose Rosette Disease affecting American Pillar Rose

Rose rosette disease is often seen in the spring but intensifies as the season progresses.  Symptoms are variable but, according to University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension, often include increased growth/rapid elongation of the shoots, abnormal red discoloration of the shoots and leaves, witches broom (prolific clustering of small shoots), and over-abundance of thorns.  Some of these signs may at first be confused with glyphosate (example: Round-Up) or growth regulator ( example: 2-4-D) herbicide damage.  However, rose rosette disease is progressive and plants exhibiting symptoms should be carefully monitored.  Unfortunately, sometimes by the time rose rosette disease is confirmed in an affected rose, the virus has spread to other roses near it.

The disease causing agent has only been identified within the past several years.  The rose rosette virus, called RRV, is transmitted by an eriophyid mite, Phyl­locoptes fructiphilus,, and through grafts.  The mite is extremely small and cannot fly.  However it can crawl, move from plant to plant by air currents, or attach itself to insects.

Currently there is no effective control available for rose rosette disease in existing infected plants. However the facts that it is caused by a virus and spread by a mite give some clues as to how to prevent its spread to healthy plants.  Though miticides have been tried, miticides that control spider mites are not effective against the eriophyid mite.  According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the insecticide Avid is registered for control of both spider mites and eriophyid mites on roses.  However, the use of an insecticide or miticide is not recommended without using cultural control methods as well.

Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends the following cultural controls.  Early detection is the key:

1)  If any wild roses are present in the area, remove and destroy them.  Continue monitoring them for regrowth from roots.

2)  Remove any suspected roses by bagging and destroying them.  Be sure to remove all the roots, both to prevent re-growth of the infected plant and to keep the virus from spreading to other rose roots nearby.  It is not recommended to plant another rose in the same space, though plants other than roses can be grown there with no problem.

3) If you live in an area where wild roses are present, avoid planting downwind as the eriophyid mite can move by air currents.

4)  Be sure to consider the mature size of each rose plant and space them so that the canes and leaves do not touch each other.  The eriophyid mites do not have wings and must crawl from plant to plant, so proper spacing makes it more difficult for the mite to move from rose to rose.

5)  Finally, purchase only healthy roses from reputable dealers.  If you detect any signs of rose rosette disease in a plant before purchasing, do not buy it.  Remember, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


If you take all these precautions, hopefully you won’t have a frightful experience with your roses.


Pictures by American Rose Society


Grace Academy’s Fall Field Trip to the Demonstration Garden

For five years we have enjoyed our relationship with Grace Academy kids.  We see them as first graders in May, they return as second graders in the fall with remarkable growth!

Grace Academy  Second Graders and Teachers, 2014

Grace Academy Second Graders and Teachers, 2014

As Dallas County Master Gardeners, we spend vast amounts of time preparing for these visits and a lot of heart goes into our preparation.   We introduced  them to photosynthesis, seed formation, and plant identification.  Their faces lit up with the wonder of it all.Grace Academy and Michele-plant ID

Cotton is a favorite topic: how to grow it, how it’s used, and how to spin it.  It’s an enthralling topic for all of us. Brush up on your knowledge of cotton here.

Grace Academy kids spinning cotton with Carolyn

The children made self watering containers using recycled water bottles. A Hyacinth Bean seed is planted in each container. It’s important to talk about seeds and the energy they have to create a new plant.

Grace Academy kids making self watering containers

After all, every beginning starts with a seed.



Hummer Festival 2014

I feel so lucky to have been at  The Hummer Festival 2014 in Rockport, Texas last Saturday.


My son and I attended the lecture, Hummingbird Friendly Yards, and  visited several homes in Rockport where hummingbirds like to congregate.  We saw dozens of Hummingbirds like these two females at a feeder.


Hummers don’t care what type of feeder you have purchased. Just make sure the sugar water (4parts water to 1 part sugar) is clean and the color red is on the feeder. Here’s how one homeowner added red.


There are many varieties of Hummingbirds  that buzz through  Rockport: Buff- Bellied, Rufous-tailed, Black Chinned, Caliope, Allens, Anna, Broad- Tailed, Broad- Billed and the Ruby Throated which is the most prevalent.  I would like to see Anna because we share the same name.  The male Ruby Throat has guess what…a ruby throat!


Too bad we missed the class, Photographing Hummingbirds and other Small Birds. Next year I will try to catch that and have a little bit sharper pictures.  Other interesting classes were: Smart Phone Digiscoping with a practice session, Binoculars, Scopes, and More, Endangered Hummingbirds What Can We Do to Preserve Them. you could follow the birds by boat, bus, or on foot.



More Hummingbird Info Here.

Farewell to the Field Fall Luncheon, We are Moving in November!

Farewell to the Field Fall Luncheon Reservations

Come bid the Joe Field Road Earth-Kind® WaterWise Demonstration Garden a fond good-bye at “Farewell to the Field,” 11 a.m., Tuesday, November 4th.  Your $35 reservation will treat you to our most fabulous fall luncheon yet and a last stroll of the Joe Field location. All proceeds from the luncheon go to help in relocating the garden.

As always, photos and recipes will be posted after the event  on our blog. You might come away inspired to make some delicious additions to your own Thanksgiving menu.

Your check is your reservation.  Sorry, no refunds.  For more information, please contact or reply in our comment section to find out where to send your check.

Proceeds will be used to help with relocation expenses


Welcome wassail bowl

Baked Brie with Cranberry Sauce and Walnuts

Swiss chard Turnovers

Smoked turkey breast with cranberry spice chutney

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Bibb lettuce salad tossed with raspberry maple dressing

Sweet potato crescent rolls & sour cream yeast rolls

Cranberry pear crisp with flavored cream or  Pumpkin cheesecake topped with cinnamon whipped cream

Sparkling water, orange infused iced tea, Texas pecan coffee

Yellow-Bellied Racers


Our progeny is not sociable.  Ana tapped on the glass of his cage, and the very young, very little, very spotted Yellow-Bellied Racer tried to bite her.

Juvenile Yellow Bellied Racer

Juvenile Yellow Bellied Racer

Ana, Judy and I were checking out Horticulture Director Roger Sanderson’s herpetarium at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park.  It’s the new home of our garden’s snake.  Correction: Ana and I were looking attentively at the slithering residents.  Judy was watching from a very respectful distance.

Anyway, there he was, the sole hatchling of 9, some say 10, snake eggs Hans discovered in June at the bottom of the garden’s compost pile.  Hans was excited. Other Gardeners shrieked like 14-year-olds at a rock concert.

Snake Eggs Found at our Garden

Snake Eggs Found at our Garden

If he makes it back to 2311 Joe Field Rd., the racer has long lost cousins to look up at the garden.  Mama Racer chose Cindy’s compost piles for her nest last summer, too.  Luckily we haven’t seen hide nor hair of her or the kids.

At the moment, our guy is about as round as your little finger, maybe 10 inches long, and covered with brown spots and blotches, much like a newbie whitetail deer.  By his third birthday, he’ll trade the spots for a solid blue-grey back and a yellow belly, thus the moniker.  Frogs, lizards, small snakes, rodents, birds, and insects are on the menu.  Racers aren’t constrictors or poisonous, but are very fast on their feet belly.  Don’t know that I’d want to get up close and personal.  When captured, Racers struggle violently and bite.  If all else fails, nasty stuff is expelled through their vents.

Nope, Racers can wind their quick way through the creek and brush without me.


More about long lost cousins click here.


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