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Flowers for a warm Texas fall

An extra Thanksgiving greeting to all our readers. We think you will enjoy this blog of a fellow Texan. Look at her Leopard plant!

 

Source: Flowers for a warm Texas fall

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!

From all of the plant lovers, seed starters, soil amenders, bakers, composters, diggers, trimmers, mowers, brick layers, planters, harvesters, propagators, jam and jelly makers, fund raisers, and every other volunteer who lovingly nurtures and cares for Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, we wish you a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving.

Crocus Sativus…Worth Its Weight in Gold

As autumn leaves began to fall throughout the edible landscape, we noticed little touches of purple peeking through the bee balm in our greenhouse beds. Much to our surprise, crocus bulbs that had been planted over two and a half years ago, were starting to bloom. As we gently lifted back drooping branches of bee balm more crocus plants appeared. It seemed that the crocus was whispering to us for help, “please don’t cover me up”.

Crocus crying out!

With many other garden chores on the agenda that day, we took a quick departure and started the process of carefully digging up over 15 clumps of crocus plants. Everyone agreed that a new location was essential for the health and survival of our precious plants. We choose three spots in between the raised beds under the swing set frame. Our crocuses now have their own permanent, mostly sunny, location with no competition from other plants.

Crocus replanted

If you are interested in growing crocus in your garden, here is some helpful information to get you started:

*Crocus sativus is an autumn blooming crocus which produces the highly prized and expensive spice, saffron. The spice is actually the red stigmas of the crocus flower.

*Each saffron crocus bulb will only produce one flower. Each flower will only produce three yellow styles, each of which ends with a crimson-red stigma. It takes about 50 to 60 saffron flowers to yield about 1 tablespoon of saffron spice.

*Saffron crocuses need well-draining soil and lots of sun.

*Saffron crocus multiply rapidly so in a few years’ time you should have enough for your garden.

*Saffron crocus are hardy down to -15F. Fertilization may be applied annually but isn’t required.

*Saffron crocus only blossoms during a short period in the fall. Once a flower blooms, it must be harvested that same day, as it begins to wilt almost immediately.

If you’re wondering why saffron is so expensive, consider this; since each flower contains only three delicate stigmas, it takes upwards of 50,000 flowers to yield one pound of dried saffron.

Conclusion: At Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, we’re hopeful about a venture into the saffron market someday!

Linda Alexander

Meet Diane – A Frequent Visitor to the Raincatcher’s Garden

Our new friend, Diane

I met Diane at the Raincatcher’s Garden a couple of months ago when she was in the edible garden and courtyard taking photos.  I stopped to say hello and she raved about our garden.  She lives in the neighborhood and had noticed the garden from the street. Eventually she stopped by to check it out – and the rest is history. 

She told me she sends a selection of the photos each week to people to “brighten their day.”  Diane sent some of her photos to me and I was so impressed that I thought it would be nice to share some on Dallas Garden Buzz. 

We have made two slides shows from Diane’s photos for you to enjoy.

Diane sends weekly emails (subject line Happy Merry Monday) to about 20 friends, family members and former co-workers.  Many of the recipients live in Dallas but the photos reach people in Tennessee, Arizona and Ohio as well.

 She also shares her efforts with about 25 people from her church who are home bound. Several of these people don’t use a computer so Diane gets copies made and mails the photos to them!!!  It is a pleasure to think of all of the people who are enjoying our garden through her images.

DCMG volunteers have worked hard (within the activity limitations of the pandemic) to ensure the garden remains beautiful and well kept. Many of us have found working at the garden to be a much needed retreat from everything that is happening in the world.

 As gardeners we take great satisfaction in the knowledge that visitors to the garden and recipients of Diane’s photos are enjoying the positive benefits and beauty of nature. 


Jackie James

Dallas County Master Gardener 1993

Enchanted Part II

Linda has done such a beautiful job teaching us how to bring our gardens indoors. We have several more arrangements to show you. Feast your eyes and learn about the plants that you can grow in your own backyard.

 

You might think of this arrangement as something akin to the “moody blues”. Drooping, berry laden branches create a somewhat mystical scene captured in this nighttime photo. Aralia and elephant ears leaves lend the right amount of weight needed for balance. FYI…this arrangement is best used in an outdoor setting. Beauty berries inside the house aren’t worth the worry.

Beauty berry growing in the Raincatcher’s courtyard

Grow It, Use It –At Raincatcher’s we are growing Mexican Beauty Berry, commonly known as black beautyberry, in a shaded part of the courtyard that receives some morning sun. It has a sprawling habit with woody, multi-stemmed branches and large, toothed, green foliage. Leaves appear in late April followed by small pinkish-white flowers in July. Late summer and into September the dark mulberry fruit on arching stems makes a dramatic statement in the garden. Wildlife, including a variety of birds, raccoons, squirrels and some rodents, enjoy it as a food source. Master gardeners at Raincatcher’s rush to get berries harvested ahead of the critters so that our jelly making can begin. After making multiple jars, we are sold out for this year.

“A tisket, a tasket, a green and purple basket”. My slightly modified version of this late nineteenth century nursery rhyme was inspired by a trip to the aster bed in the north garden at Raincatcher’s. Just a few snips later a simple, green, ceramic container filled with purple asters served as a perky little centerpiece for the dinner table.

Asters exploding with blossoms in our fall garden at Raincatcher’s

Grow It, Use It – Daisy-like flowers blooming from August until early November are superstars in the fall garden. As other flowers are fading, asters give us their most spectacular performance. It is recommended that potted nursery specimens be planted in a loamy, well-draining soil in full sun sometime in the spring. These fast-growing perennials will be ready to put on a good fall display in their first year.

 The bold strokes of a Russian painting are repeated in a treasured collection of chinoiserie pieces. Mexican Mint Marigold is nestled inside a cherished blue vase from my late grandmother. A delft blue vase brought back from Holland and given to me by my mother holds a small bouquet of fall ageratum. A trip to Istanbul, Turkey yielded this unique hand-painted, glazed vase holding a cluster of small blue flowers. A combination of purple fall asters and orange zinnias draws your eye to similar colors found in the painting. Lastly, while on a trip to the mountains of West Virginia, our visit to a glass-blowers studio resulted in the purchase of this adorable trio of miniature vases. Individual Mexican Mint Marigold blossoms give them a stronger presence.

Blue Ageratum, love it!

Grow It, Use It – Blue Ageratum (Mist Flower, Wild Ageratum) is a vigorous perennial bearing fluffy-looking, bluish-purple flowerheads. It grows in a large stand, reaching 2 to 3 feet. Bloom time is July – October. Sow seeds after last frost. Attracts bees. Orange zinnia is an old-fashioned annual that is easy to grow. Seed directly into the garden after the last spring frost date. Summer blooms continue into fall. Wonderful cut flower to use in garden-type arrangements.

An old, tarnished copper vessel gives flowers and foliage in this arrangement a place to shine. Except for Firebush, all plant material listed above has been carefully gathered and rearranged into this spectacular fall display. If possible, take a tour of the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills in the next few days where you will see most of these plants in their best fall wardrobe. Don’t delay as some are starting to fade while others will soon succumb to the colder nights of November. And finally, remember to use your garden to grace your home with the gifts of the season. Let nature be a treasured friend.

Firebush glowing

Grow It/Use It-Firebush is a perennial semi-woody shrub that can grow about 5-10 feet tall. It’s bright red-orange tubular flowers bloom from late spring till the first frost. They attract butterflies, including zebra longwing and gulf fritillary, as well as hummingbirds. Plants grow well in a range of soils, both alkaline and acid. Firebush will grow successfully in part shade or full shade but likes full sun. This trouble-free shrub does not have insect or fungus problems and thrives without fertilizer.

Linda Alexander


Dallas County Master Gardeners love having visitors (masked and socailly distanced) at our garden. We are located on the campus of Midway Hills Christain Church, 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas.

Come take in the beauty of our fall garden and learn about our carefully selected plants.

 

 

 

 

Enchanted

It was the sweet, anise like fragrance of Mexican Mint Marigold that drew me into the garden on the morning of October 18th. Brushing up against the plants, I yielded to the temptation and immediately tasted one of the delicate yellow blossoms surrounded by slender green leaves. My garden journey was just beginning.

Landscapes bursting with brilliant color, leaves gently tumbling down from trees and pumpkins spilling out from the porch and into the yard welcome fall in all its glory. I find myself truly enchanted, wanting the experience to linger beyond this moment in time.

Spending one blissful day after another outdoors renews my spirit and encourages me to immerse myself fully in the shimmering days of October and November. I’m immediately drawn to the garden where beauty abounds throughout. Join me on a creative journey of discovery among the flowers and foliage of the season.

Bringing the natural world indoors reminds me, once again, that Autumn’s gifts never fail to bring happiness to my home. From soft whispers of golds and ochre to vibrant shades of burgundy and orange, fall arrangements lend themselves to a more simplistic style. Gathering your treasures is almost as joyful as placing them in a cherished vase. Let nature speak to you in a soft, sweet seasonal whisper. Savor every precious sight, smell and color of this magical season.

My first experience with frostweed was in 2008 as an intern in the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. It was a “give away” during one of our classes. For the past twelve years it has continued to grow in my garden.

Frostweed growing in the garden

Grow It, Use It – Frostweed is a lovely perennial plant native to Texas and many other states. It is a member of the Sunflower Family. Frostweed grows from 3’-6’ and is covered with white disc-like blooms from late August until November. It is an exceptional nectar source for butterflies like Monarchs and Great Purple Hairstreaks. It grows well in dappled shade.

During the month of October Red Rubin Basil delivers a vibrant splash of deep purple in the garden. Paired with purple-veined kale leaves in a mustard colored French olive pot, the only elements needed to complete the picture are two glasses of robust Pinot Noir and freshly cut Black Mission Figs. Cheers!

Grow It, Use It-Plant Red Rubin Basil in April and watch the colors intensify as the months pass. A location with morning to mid-day sun followed by dappled shade in the afternoon will reward you with that spectacular fall foliage. Bees and butterflies will visit the spiky blossoms until the first frost ends its growing season.

A simple bouquet of Mexican Mint Marigold surrounded by the bold, deep red and purplish savoy leaves of Red Giant Mustard pair perfectly in an unassuming pedestal vase.

Grow It, Use It – Mexican Mint Marigold can be planted in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. It tolerates many different soil types but must have good drainage. Plant it in a location that receives early morning to mid-day sun. The distinctive anise flavored leaves can be harvested throughout its growing season from spring through frost. The real show-stopper attraction begins around late September when bright yellow, marigold-like flowers attract migrating butterflies and other pollinators. Mexican Mint Marigold is a perennial that usually freezes to the ground in winter but reappears in spring.

Red Giant Mustard gets two bonus points; it has good cold tolerance and is more insect resistant than other varieties. Start outdoors in late September and continue growing until late spring. Plant in partial shade. Enjoy its beauty as a dramatic landscape plant but harvest the spicy mustard flavored leaves for eating.

When the glossy dark-green leaves of Japanese Aralia began to lose their color, consider using them in unexpected and unusual ways. As the browning tips gently began to curl and turn upwards, create a sense of drama by giving each uniquely faded leaf its place within the arrangement.

Aralia and Dried Hydrangeas

Aralia growing under an arbor

Grow It, Use It – Japanese aralia is grown around the world as a cultivated plant. Enjoy adding a tropical feel to your landscape by using it as an understory plant beneath trees or large shrubs. Plant it in rich, moist soil that drains well. Aralias prefer part sun to shade and will typically grow to around 8 feet. Try to avoid afternoon sun which may scorch the leaves. Flower stalks with creamy flowers followed by black berries appear in late fall or winter.

Freshly squeezed rosy grapefruit juice is your invitation to come for a perfectly planned fall brunch in the garden. Cascading branches of ‘Rose Creek’ abelia create a relaxing and peaceful environment where you are embraced by nature. Dreamy blush colored blossoms found in this simply elegant tabletop setting create a calming effect.

Abelia ‘Rose Creek’ at Raincatcher’s Garden

Grow It, Use It – Monrovia best describes this variety of abelia as having showy clusters of small, fragrant, white flowers that emerge from rosy pink sepals in summer. It is best planted in rich, well-draining soil in a location that receives full sun.

Come visit our blog again Wednesday morning to see the remaining photos plus a spectacular ‘Grand Finale’ arrangement.  We encourage you to stroll through Raincatcher’s anytime this week to experience the full seasonal beauty of our garden.

Linda Alexander

Raincatcher’s Pansy and Plant Sale, Sale Ends Friday, October 30th

Don’t miss out. Our sale ends at 10:00pm tonight. Please take a look at our sign up genius to see the beautiful pansies you can get for $17.00 a flat. Iris like the pretty one pictured below and crinums and plumeria also are available. We are changing the pick up time from Tuesday to Wednesday to accomodate Election Day on Tuesday.

Note new pick up time: November 4th , 9am-1pm for pick up.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805084EAFAD22A4FC1-raincatchers3

Basic Iris Care From The Raincatcher’s Garden and Important Plant Sale Information

Raincatcher’s volunteers have always loved Iris. We have some beautiful blue iris in our garden that came from our orginal garden, and we have a happy surprise for you.  We are dividing iris and have some to sell! Abbe Bolich, Dallas County Master Gardener, gives an iris tutorial below. By the way, Abbe will become our new Dallas County Master Gardener Association President next year. We are thrilled she will be sharing her abilities with the Association, which supports the Dallas County Master Gardener program including Raincatcher’s. She follows a long line of selfless, capable Dallas County Master Gardener presidents.

Plant sale information will be below the video.


RAINCATCHER’S PANSY AND PLANT SALE

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is pleased to offer pansies at a fantastic price for your fall and winter landscape color. We are also offering iris and crinums divided from our own collection, as well as plumerias generously donated by Carol Walsh in memory of her husband and 2020 DCMG Intern, Ed Walsh.

A flat of 18 4″ pansy pots is only $17 including tax. Prepaid orders will be filled by Green Lake Nursery and brought to Raincatcher’s for customer pickup next Tuesday, 11/3. All pansy orders must be received by Friday, 10/30, and paid for by Monday, 11/2, at noon please. Green Lake may sell out of your variety, so paying via Signup Genius using your credit or debit card is the best way to ensure availability. You may bring cash (exact change only please) or check made out to DCMGA by Raincatcher’s Garden on Thursday, 10/29, from 9am until 2pm. You may also contact Raincatcher’s garden through Sign Up Genius by clicking on the mail icon next to “Created by:  Raincatcher’s Garden” at the bottom of the sale description or “Contact Raincatcher’s Garden” at the bottom of the signup confirmation after you’ve placed an order to make arrangements to drop off your payment. 

Payments for irises, crinums and plumerias may be brought when you pick them up. Please bring a check or exact change if paying in cash. Volunteers will not have cash on hand to make change due to safety restrictions.

All pansies and plants will be staged at Raincatcher’s for you to pick up from the west parking lot. Raincatcher’s is located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX. We will offer delivery in the Dallas area for large orders of 10 flats or more. Please indicate “delivery requested” in the comments section of the slot , and we will notify you to make arrangements. You may pick up your order on Tuesday, 11/3, from 9am until 2pm or contact the garden to make other arrangements for pickup. Volunteers will be available to load your order using strict social distancing and safety measures. You are asked to remain in your vehicle and please wear a mask.

Video by Starla Willis

More about iris care, click here.

Ann Lamb

Raincatcher’s Press

Linda Alexander wrote the following article for the magazine, Estate Life Old Preston Hollow and Bluffview (October edition.) It’s a lovely way to introduce friends to our garden. After reading, enjoy a delightful musical and photographic tour of this special place by watching the video at the end of the aritcle.  And, remember to visit us anytime.

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Situated just a half block north of the Midway and Royal Lane intersection is a Dallas County Master Gardener project that you are welcome and encouraged to visit. Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is located on the grounds of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Road. Master gardeners are on site every Tuesday from 9am until noon to manage and care for 12 different garden areas. Here you will find lovely examples of unique and beautiful garden demonstrations:

North Garden areas:

*Pollinator Garden – Birds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds all seem to find their place here.  Swallowtails and fritillaries along with small skippers and honeybees are attracted to the flowers of ‘Miss Huff,’ a huge variety of lantana.  Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ is a favorite of our large native bees. Painted Ladies and duskywing butterflies find the lovely lavender flowers of prairie verbena to their liking. And, the Eastern Black Swallowtail larvae make good use of the common fennel plant.

*Color Wheel – If you need help creating a specific look in your landscape, check out the options in our color wheel. Lemon thyme, jalapeno peppers and airplane plant are stars of the green spoke. Blue lovers might give Stokesia aster, black and blue salvia and Gregg’s mist a try. For a bold red look, we’re growing autumn red sage, salvia Greggii and amaryllis. If you’re drawn to mellow yellow try growing columbine, rudbeckia and Stella d’Oro lilies in your garden.

*Grape Arbor – This year our Champanel vines produced enough grapes to make over 40 jars of jelly. Yummm! You might be inspired to start your own grape arbor.

Fruit Orchard – Peach, pear and plum trees were perfectly selected, trimmed and shaped per our Dallas County Extension Agent’s instructions to yield maximum production. We’re especially excited about the new apple tree espalier added to the orchard last year.

*Raised Vegetable Beds – Gardening enthusiasts will find good examples of what grows best in our Zone 8 climate every season of the year. Fall and winter crops include tomatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens and winter squashes.

*Composting Area – This is the place where food scraps, leaves and grass clippings are turned into the “black gold” of our garden. Digging into a pile of sweet smelling, finished compost is a gardening joy. Applying it to the soil assures us that we are creating a nurturing environment for growing healthy plants.

Central Garden areas:

*Rain Garden – This area directly in front of the church demonstrates the benefit of capturing rainwater overflow and directing it to a low-lying bed filled with plants that thrive in both wet and dry conditions. Look for crinum, purpleheart, purple coneflower, Turk’s cap, dwarf palmetto and American beautyberry.

*Courtyard – Most visible to church members and tenants is an area of sun and shade between church buildings. Ample shade provides the perfect growing conditions for a variety of Japanese maples and redbud trees, bear’s breeches, beautyberries, cast iron plant, hellebores and sedums. Sunny spots welcome a variety of spring- and summer-blooming bulbs, a dramatic candlestick plant, rosemary and hoja santa among many others.

*The Edible Landscape – Located directly behind the church is an old, abandoned children’s playground where we introduced the concept of combining food with landscaping. Throughout the garden we demonstrate creative ways to integrate edibles into traditional beds and borders. It’s a daunting task to follow the criteria that every plant added to this garden must have at least one part that is edible. With over 75% shade and small pockets of sun to work with, our greatest challenge is finding innovative ways to create an edible landscape each season of the year. We are constantly searching for the lesser-known edible annuals, perennials and evergreens to use in creating a pleasing design aesthetic. Sweet woodruff, variegated society garlic and dwarf trailing sweet myrtle are some new examples of adding style and beauty to our edible landscape.

Raincatcher’s garden is a unique place to visit. We often meet guests who come just to experience the tranquility of a quiet and relaxing environment. Others come to have their senses stirred by the vast array of blooming flowers or herb-lined pathways filling the air with their fragrance. Many come for the educational programs and helpful information which can be applied to the home garden. Children delight in finding caterpillars chomping away on the fennel or monarch butterflies darting from one bloom to the next.

Starting in late winter and spring of 2021 we hope to resume our educational agenda of lectures, seminars, tasting lunches and tours of the garden. Follow us on dallasgardenbuzz.com for a listing of upcoming events and registration information as well as gardening tips and recipes.

When creating and sampling recipes for our 2016 cookbook, A Year On The Plate, these two autumn recipes received rave reviews. There’s still time to plant Swiss chard, turnips and kale for a delicious garden-to-table meal.

Kale Salad with Warm Cranberry Almond Vinagrette 

Minestrone Soup

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a research, education and demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church.

Linda Alexander

Video by Starla Willis

Rising Sun Redbud Tree

During the stay at home order, I found myself watching most of the Texas A&M AgriLife’s Water University online training classes.  The classes were great but one thing I particularly liked was that a lot of the classes are at 6 or 6:30 PM – HAPPY HOUR!!!  I would set up my laptop on the kitchen table, pour myself a glass of something and get out a bag of chips and salsa.  When I knew my friend Sarah Sanders was also watching the class, she would do the same and we would text back and forth about the plants we liked.  It was not the same as attending a meeting together but we are doing the best we can under these unusual circumstances.

We noticed one tree that was mentioned in almost every class.  It was the Rising Sun Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis).  The instructor, Daniel Cunningham (Horticulturist) said he has one planted outside his kitchen window.  Sarah and I were determined to find a spot for one in the courtyard at the Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church.  We have a large, square brick planter that was initially planted as an herb garden, which was a great idea since it was so close to the kitchen where we do all our cooking for the garden luncheons.  However, years passed and we now have a huge fabulous edible garden just a few steps away.   It seemed like a great time to repurpose the area for a beautiful view from the church windows.

Rising Sun Redbud Tree, so aptly named. Look at that foliage!

Here is what we love about this tree.  It’s a compact tree (10-12 feet tall with a 10-15 foot spread) and has multiple seasons of interest.  It blooms pink flowers in the spring and attracts birds and butterflies.  Then, the heart shaped leaves start out as yellow, orange and apricot and turn to lime green when it gets hot.  The very best part is that, at some point during the growing season, all of these colors are on the tree at the same time.  Then in the fall, the leaves turn orange.  I’ve also read that the bark is smooth and yellow, making it attractive in the winter months.  It almost seems too good to be true!

 

 

Since September is an ideal time to plant trees, Beverly Allen, Sarah Sanders and I strapped on our masks and headed to the courtyard with shovels and rakes in hand.  Eight bags of compost were added to the bed.  We dug a hole and hoisted a 15 gallon Rising Sun Redbud tree into the planter.

Jackie James, Sarah Sanders and Beverly Allen, the planters.

We are hoping we chose just the right tree to plant in just the right spot so it will be a beautiful and fun addition to the courtyard and also easily visible from the Fellowship Hall window.  Can’t wait until we can get together again to attend a monthly meeting or enjoy one of our delicious luncheons and have the added bonus of getting to look at this tree out the window. Thanks for the idea, Daniel!

Jackie James – MG Class of 1993


As Jackie said, this is a great time to plant trees and here are two videos to help you:

How to plant a bare root tree

Redbud Tree planted by Dallas County Master Gardener Eric

 

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