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Author Archives: Dallas Garden Buzz

Local Gardeners and Their Lovely Lime Trees

March 3, 2021

Our dear friends, Sheila Kostelny and Paula Spletter, are master gardeners extraordinaire. Paula is a graduate of the class of 2009 who works at Northhaven Gardens as their Creative Director, specializing in color pot combos. She is a garden lecturer and speaker with an extensive knowledge of herbs and succulents. And, with the impressive gift of a custom designed greenhouse built by her sweet husband, gardening year ‘round is her greatest pleasure.  

Paula Spletter with her citrus collection

Sheila also graduated in 2009 and has just recently completed her vegetable specialist certification from the Texas Master Gardener Association. Her backyard-raised herb and vegetable garden beds leave you starry-eyed with wonder. Sheila, too, enjoys having a greenhouse to take her through the seasons. 

Sheila and her lime tree which looks a little sad this year but has produced one lime. Usually it is more productive.

Together, these two ladies have guided us through many gardening projects at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. We love to spend time with them and, yes, when they speak, we listen!

Just recently, we ran across a photo that left us drooling. It was the creative work of nationally acclaimed food stylist and photographer, Eva Kosmas Flores. Photos of her Coconut Lime Tart with a Coconut Graham Cracker Crust inspired us to learn more about the possibility of growing lime trees locally. Paula and Sheila were just the gardeners needed to advise us in the endeavor. Join us in this informative and inspiring Q & A as they take us on a journey of Texas lime tree “tips’”.

To start, when did you become interested in growing lime trees?

Paula: I think when my little sister moved to Florida. When I would visit, she had a variety of citrus trees in her backyard. I’ve always enjoyed growing citrus trees and have quite a collection. I prefer the taste of limes over lemons. A thornless lime is a must have!

Sheila: I have had a Meyer lemon tree for probably 10 years that I purchased at Sunshine’s Miniature Trees on Greenville Avenue.  Since that time, I’ve added Persian Lime, Sweet Kumquat, and Arctic Frost Satsumas.  

Was there a particular variety that you felt most appropriate for our Zone 8 climate?

Paula: Not really. I went by what was recommended by Texas A & M for our zone and of course what garden friends had success with.

Sheila:  To be quite honest, I purchased the Persian Lime tree from Costco 4 years ago.  It wasn’t a purchase that I researched ahead of time.   

Lime trees are tropical plants so how do you manage year-around care?

Paula: They do prefer some late afternoon shade, especially in our harsh summer months. Surprisingly, they can take pretty cold temperature in short bursts. It’s the prolonged cold temperatures that destroy good tissue. What can’t fit in my “barn” are on flat bed dolly’s and rolled into the house. They are generally starting to bloom in the winter, so I get the extra bonus of their scent. 

Sheila:  The ability to bring these potted trees into my greenhouse at the threat of 32-degree temperature is a luxury I cherish.   I have one Arctic Frost satsuma planted in the ground in my west garden and one planted in its original pot in my raised bed.  At the point that I realized that this weather storm was going to hang around a while, I removed the potted satsuma and put it in my greenhouse.  I’m not sure if either of them will survive at this point as they have survived temperatures as low as 9 degrees.

When is harvest time and about how many limes does each tree yield?

Paula: For me, harvest is in late fall. The current Mexican lime I have I might get a dozen, or so, limes off it. They are smaller limes and tend to ripen quicker. Fortunately, the birds seem to leave them alone. Strong winds tend to knock the blooms off so I don’t get as many as I should.

Sheila:  Harvest time is around November for me.  My lime tree struggled this year and I’m not quite sure why.  It really started to kick start in December (of all times) and was beautiful when it was placed in my greenhouse in mid-January.  It started putting out an abundant amount of blooms and produced 4 limes.  At one point, I had my greenhouse heater a bit too high and the citrus didn’t like that at all.  It showed its displeasure by promptly shedding it’s leaves, leaving me with ONE lime left.  Typically, I can expect about 5 or 6 limes a year and they are wonderful.

What do enjoy most about having lime trees in your garden?

Paula: Oh, the blooms! The scent is intoxicating! I cut stems full of blooms just to have in the house.

Sheila:  As with all my citrus, I love being able to watch it produce from bloom to fruit and, as with anything homegrown, enjoy its rich sweetness and flavor like no other.

How do you use the limes from your lime tree?

Paula: They usually don’t ripen at the same time so I’m bad about just peeling and eating them off the tree. But they do make great margaritas!

Sheila: As I mentioned, my lime harvests haven’t been luxurious.  However, there’s nothing like a vodka and soda with a squeeze of home-grown lime.  😊

Linda Alexander

Coconut Lime Tart with Graham Cracker Crust

Advice from Texas AgriLife on growing citrus

The joys of growing Citrus in North Texas

Cheers for Chervil!

February 25, 2021

As volunteer master gardeners took a walk-about around the garden this week to access freeze damage to our plants, something unexpected caught our eye. Our lovely, delicate little chervil plants had not only survived the freeze but appeared to be just as perky and robust as before. Left unprotected during the extreme cold event, they seemed to be welcoming us back into the otherwise “brown” garden. 

Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium, is a member of the carrot family. (Coincidentally, just a few steps down from our chervil plant, a tiny little carrot sprig had survived, as well.) Chervil is an annual herb that grows best in cooler weather. In our Zone 8 climate, it succumbs to the sweltering summer heat. Seeds can be sown in place in early spring and again in fall. Some of our local garden centers already have 4” pots in stock, as well.

Chervil growing in our garden after the freeze

The taste of chervil can be described as parsley-like with a hint of myrrh or anise. You may know it as one of the herbs that make up the traditional French herbal spice mixture fines herbs. Fresh chervil wilts easily, so harvesting as close to preparation time as possible is advised. Use it generously in salads, cream soups, with eggs and salmon and added at the last minute to many classic sauces. 

Scrambled eggs sprinkled with chervil

In 2014, we discovered a recipe that earned the “super star” award in our cookbook, ‘A Year on the Plate’. Every Herb Pesto received a perfect score from our tasting committee. Most members agreed that the small amount of chervil (1 tablespoon) called for in the recipe gave it a refreshing lift. 

Chervil grows best in a location with morning or filtered sun and rich, slightly moist soil. At Raincatcher’s, we planted it on the south end of our Hügelkultur bed where it receives filtered shade from the red oak tree. We also have a clump growing in the sensory garden where it is thriving in morning sun and afternoon shade.

A graceful clump of chervil growing in your garden is something to be celebrated. Its feathery, pale green foliage with tiny white flower clusters that reach 3 inches across is a charming plant for the fall, winter or spring garden. Our vote is for all three!

Linda Alexander

Assessing Freeze Damage in Your Landscape

February 24, 2021

Question: Will my landscape survive last week’s deep freeze?

Answer: The short answer is: it’s too soon to tell.   Damage to soft, tender plants may be immediately recognizable; leaves look water-soaked, dark green and withered. Stems may collapse and get mushy.  However, damage to woody plants, trees and shrubs may take longer to appear and will depend on the part of the plant that was injured and the growth stage of the plant at the time of frost.  Buds, shoots and small branches are the most susceptible.  Winter damage usually does not become apparent until spring, when growth normally resumes. Winter damaged plants are slow to initiate growth, may show distorted growth, death of leaf and flower buds, or die-back of shoots and branches.  

With warmer temperatures on the horizon, it may be tempting to rush out and begin pruning branches and shoots that look dead. Instead, we encourage you to wait. 

Winter is still with us and the average last frost date is around March 16. Premature pruning can actually aggravate the damage that has already been done.  Pruning cuts will expose previously protected plant tissue to the elements.  Pruning can stimulate new growth that will then be susceptible to freezes later in the season.  Because dormant branches and dead branches can look the same, there is a risk of removing healthy tissue the plant needs for recovery in the spring.  Allowing dead limbs and foliage to remain at the tops of plants can help protect the lower leaves and branches from future frost.

TAMU recommends delaying pruning until time reveals the areas of living and dead tissue and until the threat of additional frosts and freezes has passed.  Fortunately, trees and shrubs have the ability to leaf out again if the initial growth is damaged or destroyed. Good care during the remainder of the year, such as mulching and watering during dry periods, should aid in the recovery process.

The University of Massachusetts has a great site about the effects of cold damage on landscape plants.  Not all the information will be applicable to our Texas climate, but the principles of assessment and treatment of frost damage can be used in any situation where a severe and unexpected freeze has occurred.  

 

Margaret Ghose Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2017


More questions about freeze damage?

Dallas County Master Gardeners would like to help.

Volunteers staffing the Dallas County Master Gardeners Help Desk provide FREE gardening advice to area residents. These Master Gardeners welcome the opportunity to help solve your gardening problems.  You can easily contact us by sending an email to dallasmg@ag.tamu.edu

This is the best way to contact the Help Desk.  Include your name and zip code, with as much information as possible regarding the nature of your problem.

Ice Creations in the Garden

February 20, 2021

Just before the extreme winter temperatures fell upon us last week, my husband called me quickly to our backyard. He was concerned about the unusual ice formations surrounding the stems of our Frostweed plant. Had he forgotten to turn off the sprinkler system or was our plant in distress?

Most years, after those beautiful fall blooms have faded and the plant turns brown, we would already have cut it down to ground level. Seems this year, it was overlooked. As we carefully touched the somewhat intriguing white substance, it was evident that the plant stems were covered in frost.

After doing a little online research, I discovered the reason for the plants name.  Frostweed, Verbesina virginica is a Texas native biennial that ranges in height from 3 to 6 feet. Our plant has easily reached the six-foot mark. It blooms in late summer and continues blooming until frost. The plant was named Frostweed because of this unique characteristic of producing intricate ice formations from its stems. Only a few species of plants are capable of producing these ice creations, more generically referred to as “frost flowers.”

Frost flowers at Raincatcher’s Garden

As early as 1833 John Herschel, son of the famed astronomer William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus in the 18th century, made an interesting observation. In a letter printed in Philosophical Magazine he describes going for an early morning walk several winters before noticing “a remarkable deposition of ice around the decaying stems of vegetables.” A few days later, he found a similar strange ice formation, this one seeming to emanate in a kind of riband-or frill-shaped wavy excrescence.”

Herschel’s letter is one of the earliest recorded observations of the phenomenon of “frost flowers” (sometimes called ice flowers or ice ribbons). However, he could only hypothesize about the cause of these formations. Not able to explain, he concluded that “It is for botanists to decide.”

Scientists are unsure why only a few plants in nature produce crystal ice patterns into ribbons or clusters that resemble flowers, and why only certain types of plants are affected. One theory is that frost flowers develop when air temperatures are freezing but the ground temperature is warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active and the air temperature is cold enough to freeze the upward flowing plant juices. Perhaps, as the moisture in the plant freezes, the ice crystals push out through the stem. They may emerge from a small slit to form thin ribbonlike strands. Or they may split open a whole section of the stem and push out in a thin, curling sheet.

Another theory is that the stems rupture and crack in just the right way so sap oozing out forms into wide ribbons that freeze into the ice patterns.

As you can see from the photographs, our frostweed plant seems to have formed frost crystals resembling spun cotton candy. Notice, also, that the formations are mainly around the base of the plant descending upwards for about two feet.

Frost Crystals

Whatever the true scientific reason for this phenomenon of nature, we now know that next fall when blooms are spent, frostweed will remain in our garden throughout the winter months. Even our 5-year-old granddaughter, Sadie, was so intrigued with the crystals that she couldn’t resist gathering up a handful. Oh, the joy of experiencing childlike wonders found only in nature.

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Linda Alexander and Beverly Allen

Related Posts for more learning about Frostweed:


Japanese Maple Sale

For tree information and purchase click here.

Baby, It’s Getting Cold Outside.

February 10, 2021

Better get out more of those covers for your plants. This arctic blast is lasting through mid-week next week and temperatures are forecast to drop way down into the single digits. I have checked the weather app on my phone much more than I ever checked instagram or any other media platform and my level of anxiety was rising until I talked to Jeff Raska.

Jeff Raska, our county horticultural agent, gave some advice.

Cover all bedding plants even pansies and kale, cover all soft tissue plants and perennials that have broken bud. Shrubs that are marginally cold tolerant may also need a cover. That would include Pittosporum, Indian Hawthorn, and Loropetalum. Boxwood may get frost damage so consider covering them.

Just like us, our plants are not used to this cold weather snap so protection is in order. Fortunately, we may get rain first and Jeff says that will help a ton!

As far as frost cloth versus using bed sheets, Jeff says he has saved many plants with bedsheets. Frost cloth or frost blankets are better and will give better protection, but if you run out of those, empty out your linen closet and put those bed linens over your plants.

Looking out at my yard, I am deciding which plants are my favorites and prioritizing them. My relatively new bed of pittosporum, my giant kale, and the fall planted ShiShi Gashira camellias in front are getting the frost cloth and I may even double it. The huge Indian Hawthorns that flank my front yard beds will also get special treatment. I wish there was a way to help by Chinese Snowball Viburnums that are already blooming. For them, I will have to say a prayer.

In closing, Jeff reminded me that nature happens, Things will grow back, as long as they don’t get root damage. The sun will shine again.

Ann Lamb

Cold Weather Headed to Dallas!

February 9, 2021

I am going to make this brief because freezing weather is about to descend on us and maybe you are like the gardeners at Raincatcher’s Garden, scurrying to prepare.

Our olive tree has been wrapped around the trunk and covered with frost cloth and mulched. Our potted Meyer lemon tree in the courtyard has been protected also with frost cloth. Frost cloth gives about 8° extra warmth.

We are not worried about our two new Satsuma citrus trees. We puts tents over them but did not wrap them as thoroughly as the olive tree and lemon tree because they are hardy down to temperatures as low as 15-20°.

Read about these two Texas Superstar® plants in the links below.

For more information from Texas AgriLife about how to protect your garden during cold weather, click here.

Stay warm!

Ann Lamb

 

‘Orange Frost’ Satsuma

‘Arctic Frost’ Satsuma

 

Dallas County Master Gardener Japanese Maple Sale Coming Soon

The Joy of Japanese Maples

You may have noticed the brilliant reds and golds of Japanese Maples around town in recent months. The foliage colors and textures were more reminiscent of an autumn drive through New England than fall in North Texas!

The Dallas County Master Gardeners are hosting a sale of Japanese Maples in March. Many of us are familiar with the variety “Bloodgood,” however the Maples we are offering are varieties not often available at local nurseries. This is your opportunity to purchase these trees in one- and two-gallon sizes.

There is a place in every garden for a Japanese Maple. They thrive in afternoon shade (the perfect understory tree!) and will make that special spot in your garden a focal point year-round.  

Watch for  the sign-up genius link and additional information including varieties available, pricing, and contactless pick-up details, in February. 

Cindy Bolz Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

Before shopping for your Japanese Maple, please read these two articles:

 The Japanese Maples at the Raincatcher’s Garden

Dallas County Master Gardeners and Japanese Maples

From Christmas Trees to Mulch

January 14, 2021

Christmas trees waiting to become mulch

DCMG Jim Miller, who works part-time at a local Lowes, asked the store manager if he could have any unsold Christmas trees after Christmas. The manager agreed and 275-300 trees were placed behind the store outside the fence.

 

 

 

 

Christmas tree mulch to be used at Raincatcher’s Garden

Next, DCMG Beverly Allen asked Randall with Precision Tree Care & Gardenscape Corp. if he would be willing to bring a truck and chipper to the location behind Lowes, shred the trees there, and transport the mulch to Raincatcher’s, about a mile away. He agreed to the job and on Friday, January 8, the work was complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out what we achieved!

  1. The unsold trees were not added to a landfill.
  2. We have more “free” mulch that can also be used for compost, according to DCMG Cindy Bicking.
  3. We worked as a team to complete the task.
  4. We set the example for future recycling of trees, pumpkins, leaves, etc.

A HUGE win-win for all parties!

written by Dallas County Master Gardeners-Abbe Bolich and Julie Garza

Compost vs Mulch, what’s the difference written by beloved Master Gardener, Carolyn Bush

“Variegated” The Edible Landscape Theme for 2021

January 12, 2021

 In the edible landscape we look forward to a new calendar year and the joy of introducing our annual theme for the garden.  Planning starts months in advance as we pour through catalogs, the internet and numerous books filled with ideas that inspire and excite us. Even Pinterest captures our attention with a global look at interesting possibilities used throughout the world.

Over the previous few years, we’ve filled our garden beds with edible plants that help promote the theme. In 2019 we choose an ombre theme. Tiny little green basil plants in our raised sidewalk beds were followed by red rubins that gracefully yielded to the dark purple opal varieties. It was a visual feast for the senses. For 2020, we used the color white in various garden beds. With the early spring arrival of white alyssum as a ground cover to white velvet okra standing like soldiers in the Hügelkultur, we were pleased. But it was those spectacular lacey white blooms of the carrots growing in our raised sidewalk beds that made the most stunning appearance.

For 2021 our plan is to explore and find creative ways to use variegated edibles in the garden. Several plants had a pre-introduction this past fall: variegated society garlic in the raised sidewalk beds and lemon variegated thyme in the Mediterranean bed are up and growing. But there’s more to come.

Variegated Society Garlic Growing Now In Our Garden

It wouldn’t be spring without nasturtiums, so we’ve ordered seeds for the variegated Alaska mix. We even found a grower in Pennsylvania who has shipped variegated tomato seeds to us for our summer garden. 

Our Statuary bed will have a new spring cottage garden design. Look carefully and you’ll see variegated oregano, dianthus and basil plants with variegated leaves. And just when you couldn’t imagine another kind of mint, we’re filling our crescent beds with variegated apple scented mint.

Variegated Oregano

 

Variegated Apple Scented Mint

 

During the next few months, we’re going to “dig in” and get this theme moving forward. By spring, our edible landscape should be showing signs of a variegated wonderland. We invite you to take a stroll around the garden and enjoy our work. 

Linda Alexander

Seeds were started in late December and will continue through January. Plants will go into our garden beds after about 7 weeks of growth. Here are some of our seed sources. We do not gain any compensation for listing these but want to help you in your seed search:

botanicalinterests.com
sowtrueseeds.com
burpee.com
Etsy (sunkissedseed)
Last year we wrote this article about Jim’s seed starting methods. Review here.
And to read an article about shopping for seeds click here.
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