RSS Feed


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 at 11001 Midway 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.

Monarchs Tagged in Butterfly Garden at Raincatcher’s

October is peak migration month for millions of Monarchs flying through the “Texas funnel” to overwinter in their ancestral roosts in Michoacan, Mexico. As the Monarchs flutter through the Raincatcher’s Garden, we have also had another visitor— one with a butterfly net.


Master Naturalist Ellen Guiling frequently visits the butterfly garden to capture and tag Monarchs. Ellen hovers by the Greg’s Mistflower, then her butterfly net swooshes and snaps to flip the net sock around the circle of the rim to prevent the butterfly’s escape. She gently folds the Monarch’s wings closed in the net then reaches in to hold the butterfly’s body and remove it.  It takes seconds to press a Monarch Watch tag on the discal cell, a spot on the middle of the lower wing.


She quickly checks the sex of the captured Monarch. Two small black dots on the veins of the lower wings signal that this male with his pheromone sacks is probably quite the favorite with the lady Monarchs.  Released into the intense October skies, the Monarch flutters back to the Greg’s Mistflower, ready for his trip south.

Male Monarch-see the spots!

Male Monarch-see the spots!

Ellen has tagged about 40 Monarchs this fall at Raincatcher’s.  After recording the date, location and complete tag numbers with other information, Ellen will send her data sheet to Monarch Watch at, the organization that helps create, conserve and protect Monarch habitats.   Tagging data by volunteers has been critical in mapping Monarch migration patterns. Scientists study the tagging results to answer unanswered questions about Monarch migration, such as whether migration is influenced by the weather and if there are differences in migration from year to year.


Pictures by Starla

More about Monarchs:

A Monarch Pit Stop

Butterfly Migration

Butterflies at the Raincatcher’s Garden

Dallas Butterflies


Raincatcher’s Fall Veggie Garden

Please take a minute to go to this link to see information about our fall vegetable gardens. This link contains names of varieties, spacing information, and you can enlarge the plot plan for easier viewing.  Thank you, Dorothy, for setting this up for us!

Don’t forget tomorrow’s garden tour and sale of our cookbook, A YEAR ON THE PLATE, at 5030 Shadywood.

Questions? Leave a comment, we will answer or call the Master Gardener help desk at 214 904 3053.


Dorothy’s Garden On Tour October 1st!

dorothys-gardenDorothy Shockley still remembers summer suppers at her grandparents’ farm. “Of course, the homemade tomatoes were the highlight, but also, black-eyed peas, squash, fresh onions and strawberry shortcake,” she says.  “I’m sure meat was served, but I don’t think I ate anything but vegetables.”  In the Depression, her grandfather supported his family with a truck farm. “So my dad grew up working that farm.”

In the 1970s, you’d find Dorothy and Tommy at the end of their driveway selling corn they had raised on a one-acre plot on his family’s farm.  To supplement his income at Central Power and Light, Tommy would bring their produce to the office to sell.

Dorothy’s garden reflects her love of fresh vegetables.  It’s no wonder that to this day she would rather have a perfect summer tomato than a bouquet of flowers.

She concedes some space to drought-resistant perennials around the front drive. A large sugar barrel fountain is placed in ‘Coral Beauty’ cotoneaster, Italian cypress, ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia, daylilies, skullcap and ‘Feed Back’ bearded iris.  She is intrigued by wire vine, a groundcover that spreads with a mat of wiry stems and tiny round leaves along a dry creek bed of river rock.  The front door plantings in purple and orange include ‘Lance Leaf’ coreopsis, Angelonia, coneflower and dwarf ruella.

But the side and backyard gardens are reserved for vegetables, herbs and compost.  “Our landscape was designed to give as much space as possible to attractive edible gardening,” she says.  When the Shockleys moved to their new house four years ago, they removed almost all the builder’s landscaping, including 12 trees.

The Cedar Post garden, punctuated by a bottle tree and cannas, is filled with five compost and shepherd’s bins.  In the backyard, visitors shouldn’t miss a darling fairy garden made by Dorothy and her granddaughter. The adjacent “pinwheel” garden is chockfull of eggplant, ‘Celebrity’ and heirloom tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.  Dorothy’s latest project in the three year old garden is a large east bed of okra, cantaloupe, thyme, sage and Mexican mint marigolds.

“Welcome to Dory’s Garden” says a sign in the backyard. Indeed, visitors might be treated to a perfect summer tomato.


Click here for full garden tour information. The Dallas County Master Gardener Tour is this weekend!

Grass Plots at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

We have  five plots of grass, each 10’x20′. Drip irrigation has been installed under each plot. Walk from east to west to learn about the grasses and their water needs.

Buffalo grass occupies the west end of our demonstration as the grass needing the least amount of water. We have watered our Buffalo grass  twice this summer.  Too much irrigation risks the invasion of unwanted Bermuda grass. Sodding is recommended rather than seeding.

Above: Buffalo Grass

Above: Buffalo Grass

The HABITURF plot is next to buffalo grass.  We started this grass by seed, August 2015.

Above: Jim Reseeding Habiturf

Above: Jim Reseeding HABITURF

The prize for the prettiest color goes to the low water St Augustine.

Above: Low Water St. Augustine

Above: Low Water St. Augustine

Unfortunately this grass is not available to the public yet; maybe next year.

Jim told me he likes the Zoysia best.   Try this grass barefooted.  It feels so soft.

Above: Zoysia Grass Palisades

Above: Zoysia Grass ‘Palisades’

He nicknamed the tall fescue as “bad boy” becuase doesn’t look very good at our garden.  We should re-evaluate, though, when temps lower because it is a cool season grass. We plan to reseed the fescue this week.

Above: Tall Fescue,

Above: Tall Fescue, ‘Rebel’

Look to the right under Raincatcher’s Resources on our front page

for  more information about our grass plots.

Interested in flowers, not grass ?

 Come to our garden today to learn the best bulb choices for Dallas.

Enjoy Certified Master Gardener C.A. Hiscock’s tips for picking bulbs for Dallas’ warm winters and clay soils. The free class will be from 11 am to noon, Tuesday, September 27th at the Midway Hills Christian Church Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Road.  C.A. will discuss choices from crinums to rain lilies and will have handouts with favorite suppliers and resources.

Support the Master Gardener Raincatcher’s Garden with purchases of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Delivery for our area will probably be in late November, the perfect time for planting bulbs.

Go to and from the pull down menu, select Dallas County Master Gardeners. With one click, you’re ready to select the bulbs you want from the Brent and Becky’s website.  Smaller jonquilla and tazetta daffodils do particularly well in Dallas and often have four to eight flowers per stalk.


Pictures by Starla


Mary Louise Whitlow’s Garden, October 1, Garden Tour

Above: Whitlow Garden on Tour, October 1

Above: Whitlow Garden on Tour, October 1

Mary Louise Whitlow had an “ah ha” moment in the 1990s. She was watering the grass taking up her home’s parkway with a garden hose.  “Why am I doing this?” she asked herself.  “I don’t even like grass.”

Next thing you know, the grass was out, and she had started on what became a large pollinator garden of native and adapted plants.

Over the years, the garden has expanded past the sidewalk and up the yard’s slope to stop at the shade from her large pecan tree.

Mary Louise grew up in the charming home, one of the few original houses remaining in University Park.  Her grandmother gave the pecan tree to her parents when they moved in the house in the mid-1950s.

Mary Louise’s landscape philosophy is straightforward: buy one or two plants of a variety and see what works with limited water, fertilizer and organic pesticides.  Now she has “more salvias than you can count.”  She particularly loves Gregg’s mistflower and frostweed because the plants attract Monarch and Queen butterflies.  She has found zexmenia to be as “tough as nails” and pipevine so resilient that “the caterpillars eat it to a nub and it’s back in a week.” The Jerusalem sage yellow blooms are so beautiful, she says, that her neighbors “stop and stare.”

Two hugelkultur gardens are mounded by the front door.  Mary Louise has found that the layers of rotten tree limbs, branches and soil are very efficient in breaking up Texas clay soil and retaining moisture.  She has successfully planted tomatoes in decomposing organic straw bales in the backyard.

Her backyard chain-link fence is lined with fig trees, including ‘Alma’, ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Celeste.’  Mary Louise harvested enough figs this year to can 71 pints of fig jam.


Click here for full garden tour information.

Fall Garden Tour, October 1, Burke Garden


Sherry Burke’s neighbor wasn’t crazy about her chain-link fence. She liked it.  After all, the fence had been around as long as her 1940s bungalow.  Sherry planted passion vine to hide the cyclone fence.  The passion vine brought the Gulf fritillaries, and the butterflies won over the neighbor.  Now the passion vine is taking a run over the garage.

In fact, Sherry’s backyard, filled with perennials, native Texas plants and ornamental grass, is a favorite in this casual Old East Dallas neighborhood. Friends look over the fence to see what’s growing, blooming or fluttering.  Monarchs and hummingbirds migrate through.  Tiny hairstreak butterflies are everywhere.  ‘John Fannick’ phlox blooms, a gift from Tony, Sherry’s manicurist.

You won’t find turfgrass. Not a blade.  “All it does is sit there,” says Sherry.  “I wanted something more interesting.”  And in a garden filled with friends and blooms, who has time to mow?


Click here for full garden tour information.


Master Gardener Fall Garden Tour, October 1

quicheDon’t Miss the 2016 Garden Tour and Fall Fresh Garden Brunch on October 1st

What’s the best way to catch your breath when enjoying the 2016 Garden Tour? By indulging in a delightful Fall Fresh Garden Brunch on the patio of Linda Alexander’s garden, 5030 Shadywood Lane.  Linda’s garden will also be featured on the Tour.

Five Master Gardeners will welcome visitors to their stunning gardens for the Garden Tour on Saturday, October 1st.  Gardens on the Tour are open from 10 am to 4 pm.  Brunch will be served from 11 am – 1 pm.

You’ll also get a sneak peak at A Year on the Plate, the new Master Gardener cookbook.  Recipes for the Garden Brunch menu were chosen from A Year on the Plate and feature the best of fall local produce.

You need to act fast to get a brunch ticket for $15. Brunch reservations are limited, and tickets must be purchased by September 24.  Garden Tour and Brunch tickets will be available at the September 22 General Meeting. Tickets for the Tour and Brunch, and copies of A Year on the Plate are available at with PayPal.

A limited number of hardcover cookbooks will be for sale for $40 at the Garden Brunch. Sales will be reserved for Garden Tour visitors. Master Gardeners who have ordered copies of A Year on the Plate will receive their books in late October.

Fall Fresh Garden Brunch

Artichoke Bites

Iced Herb Gazpacho

Henkeeper’s Quiche

Fresh Spinach Salad with orange curry dressing

Breadbasket Trio: Sweet Potato Biscuits and herb butter, Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread and Lemon Verbena Bread

Maple Pecan Tartlet & Cranberry Pear Crisp

Lemon Verbena Iced Tea

%d bloggers like this: