RSS Feed

Author Archives: Dallas Garden Buzz

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:
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.

Let Us Enjoy Lettuce…A Healthy Start to 2021

January 2, 2021

When planning the fall design for the Statuary bed in our edible landscape, lettuce was our first choice. We imagined rows of fluffy green lettuce heads sitting next to pops of purple in each of the four wedges. After searching through various seed catalogues, we narrowed it down to our favorite selections. 

Flashy Trout Back Lettuce

Flashy Trout Back was the preferred choice for a speckled green lettuce. This variety is an heirloom European lettuce dating back to the 1700’s. It is a cutting romaine type with a sweet, nutty taste and leaves lavishly splashed with wine-red speckles and streaks. During the past few months, we’ve enjoyed watching the “speckles” darken from red to maroon as the lettuce matures. Enjoy its vertical shape for wraps, fajitas, sandwiches, and cut up in salads.

Salanova Lettuce

We chose Salanova for a purple/red punch of color. This lettuce is a full-sized variety with a unique core that, when removed with one cut, separates and is ready for use. It is favored by chefs and home cooks for its full flavor and texture, small size, dense head and long storage life. Salanova pairs well with Dijon mustard, yogurt, radish, cucumber, mint, bean sprouts, tomatoes, spring onions, red onions, garlic, anchovies, fish, duck breast, prawns, poultry and new potatoes. The leaves will keep up to five days when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. 

Tango Lettuce

In the raised swing set frame beds, we choose Tango, a lettuce classic. Deeply lobed, pointed leaves with curled margins are the signature of this variety. Uniform, attractive plants form tight, erect rosettes. Lettuce stalks of this variety have a delicious, tangy flavor, firm yet tender and crisp. Ideal for salads.

For harvesting all three lettuce varieties we made the decision to follow the “cut and come again method. Using a sharp knife, a horizontal cut is made across the bottom of each lettuce head about 1 ½ inches within an inch of their base. Different varieties will have different growth rates, but a general rule of thumb is that new lettuce leaves will be ready to harvest again about two weeks after cutting. We are hoping to get three or more cuttings from each head. 

During the month of December all three lettuce varieties were harvested weekly. Everyone who took fresh lettuce home agreed that the taste was far superior to what comes from the grocery. Sometime around the middle of January we hope to start our second “cutting”. Then, in March we will be introducing a new Monticello “lost lettuce”. Stay tuned!

One special way to enjoy all three lettuce varieties is to combine them in a salad bowl mix. For extra color and flavor, I like adding dried cranberries, mandarin oranges and toasted walnuts. Tossed with Orange Walnut Vinaigrette from P. Allen Smith, it may become a favorite fresh salad this year.


Linda Alexander

Orange Walnut Vinaigrette Recipe

Special fresh lettuce and herb offer from the Edible Garden at Raincatcher’s:

Tuesday, January 5th we will be harvesting lettuce and herbs and would like to share. Drive by the back of our Edible Landscape and we will fill your bag (bring your own bag) with fresh produce from our garden.  Line up at 10:00 am.

Please stay in your car and let us harvest for you. This offer is being made to Dallas Garden Buzz friends and we will give away lettuce and herbs until we run out. The herbs that are available are:

Salad Burnet
Thyme (Lemon and Odena’s Kitchen)
French Sorrel
Bloody Sorrel (smaller leaves are a nice addition to fresh salads)
Italian Parsley
Calendula Flowers (limited amount)
Winter Savory (limited amount to use in soups and stews)

Happy New Year From Raincatcher’s!

December 31, 2020

Dear readers, weary of 2020, please watch this video even if you saw it the first time we released it.

We are hoping you have lots of hope for 2021 and will have your best garden ever. We plan to send  information and ideas via this blog straight to your inbox for implementation into your garden plot.

We preach composting, mulch, proper plant selection, water-wise design, efficient irrigation, soil improvement when necessary, and appropriate maintenance. As one garden retailer says, we believe in improving the earth one garden at a time. Join us in 2021 for more education on these subjects.

Thank you, Starla, for this video.

Ann Lamb

It’s That Time of Year!

Master Gardeners fell in love with this recipe almost five years ago. McIntosh apples are a must and can be found at Central Market now.

Very Best Homemade Applesauce

6 large McIntosh apples (use only this variety)
¾ cup white sugar, use more or less
1 ⅔ cups water
12 whole cloves

Wash and quarter apples, but do not peel. Remove seeds, if desired, before cooking. Place apple pieces in a large saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients. Before cooking stir some to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook slowly with lid on until apples are mushy.
This doesn’t take long. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Put cooked apples through an “old timey” cone-shaped metal ricer, pushing with wooden large- fitted dowel or wooden spoon, catching sauce in a large glass bowl. (Can use metal wired sieve with a large bowl underneath). Push apple pulp through sieve with wooden spoon. Seeds, whole cloves and peels will be removed. Stir sieved applesauce and refrigerate. Serve with sugar cookies.

Note: This recipe came from the University Park Elementary School Kindergarten class in 1989 via Patty Brewer. Apple peels will make sauce a beautiful rosy pink color so there is no need to add red food coloring.

Linda Alexander

Using Homegrown Evergreens For your Christmas Decorations

When you dream of a home filled with the colors, sights and scents of the season what images come to mind? In the following photographs discover some creative ways for using winter greenery during the holidays. Find joy in letting the fragrance of nature invigorate your home with a fresh, festive spirit.

An antique wooden dough bowl becomes the perfect cradle for freshly cut cedar branches adorned with bright, red McIntosh apples. In the days following Christmas those same apples will be used to make a favorite recipe, Very Best Homemade Applesauce. Cooked and jarred rosy applesauce goes straight to the freezer after cooling with the promise of being savored throughout the new year.

Grow It/Use It

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus Virginiana)

This cedar can be grown almost anywhere in the country. They can handle the cold up north and heat in the south. The green foliage of this tree grows on a pyramidal shape creating a stunning, elegant evergreen look. In the winter, small blue-hued berries emerge from the trees, attracting birds. Mature Height: 30 -60 ft. Mature Width: 8-25 ft. Prefers full to partial sun. Makes for a perfect wind and noise screen.

For many years, I’ve accumulated a nice collection of pinecones given to me by friends …some from Oklahoma, others from east Texas. While the natural look is my preference, many of them have been embellished with bright silver or 24 kt gold spray. Over the years they’ve been used in a multitude of ways but this year I decided to combine them all into one large wooden dough bowl filled with greenery from my yard. Japanese Plum Yew and Boxwood clippings were plentiful this year and added a lovely green accent. If you are drawn to the rustic chic design aesthetic, here’s a little glitz and glam to give it some holiday sparkle.

Grow It/Use It

Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) ‘Prostrata’

This is a versatile evergreen spreading yew with dark green needles making it attractive to use for foundation or mass plantings. (My favorite place to use it is for filling in under large trees and other semi-shady areas.) Slow growing 2-3 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. wide. It is an easy-care plant that can be sheared annually to help maintain a tidy, neat appearance.

Boxwood (Buxus)

Boxwoods are everywhere. From elegant, formal landscapes to hedges and foundation plantings, their versatility is endless. We have a 30-40 ft. long boxwood hedge growing on the west boundary of our property that has never been trimmed back. As you can see from the photograph, it is over 7 ft. tall with branches gently drooping downward to the ground below. It has become a nice privacy screen for our 70-year-old property. When planting boxwoods, choose a spot appropriate for their needs. A full or part sun location is needed for optimum growth. Consider planting them in an area that is protected from winter wind to avoid a condition called winter bronzing. When left untrimmed, growing boxwoods is a low maintenance task. Older boxwoods, like mine, should be thinned to allow sunshine to reach the inner foliage. My preferred time to do this is in December when the clippings are used for my Christmas decorating projects.

A vintage stone reindeer and sleigh once used to hold Christmas cards is now adorned with Lady apples left over from Thanksgiving. Tucking sprigs of boxwood and holly under the apples provides a pleasing contrast of colors.

Grow It/Use It

Dwarf Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Dwarf Burford’)

Dwarf Burford Holly is a broadleaf evergreen that typically grows as a shrub 8-10 ft. tall. Dull white flowers appear in May. Fall and winter is when it gives us those showy clusters of small red berries. For the densest foliage and heaviest berries, plant Burford holly in full sun and well-drained soil. It is perfect used as a natural hedge.

The same tarnished copper container used for a fall arrangement has been polished up for the holidays and filled with an assortment of garden greenery. Included in the mix are boxwood, cedar, magnolia, cherry laurel, Burford holly, Savannah and yaupon holly.

Grow It/Use It

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)

Neil Sperry calls it Texas’ Star Native Shrub.  He says that “no shrub that grows wild in the Lone Star State is any better suited to our landscapes and gardens than this great holly”. Mature size to 20 ft. tall and wide but can grow larger in exceptional conditions. In nature, all yaupons are shrubs. What we commonly see are lower branches that have been removed allowing plants to be trained to grow as small trees. Small bright red berries mature in winter and remain attached to plants until cedar waxwings and other migrating birds feed on them in early spring. Female plants produce berries but there must be a male plant somewhere nearby. When planting, it’s important to know that yaupons produce a denser canopy in full sun.

Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana)

The Cherry Laurel is a dependable, easily grown, North American native that is densely foliated with glossy, dark green, evergreen leaves. The tree can reach 40 ft. in height with a 25 ft. spread though it is often seen smaller when grown in the open. It is attractive when allowed to grow naturally into its upright-oval, dense form. Plant in full sun to full shade on any well-drained soil. In springtime, tiny, creamy-white showy flowers appear in fragrant clusters followed by small, shiny, black cherries, which are attractive to wildlife. You can expect to see many seedlings beneath the crown each year from germinating seeds.

Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora)

A magnificent tree cultivated for its glossy green leaves and lovely white blossoms. The leaves are so beautiful they may be reason enough to start growing a southern magnolia. For a healthy tree with the maximum number of spring flowers, plant your magnolia in full sun. Give it plenty of room to grow and reach its possible height of 80 ft. with a spread of 40 ft.

Growing up in Durant, Oklahoma, I attended college locally at Southeastern State University, a school that is still known today as the “Campus of 1,000 Magnolias”. But my love affair with magnolias started much earlier. My childhood home was only three blocks from campus and the elementary school I attended (Russell Elementary) was located on the college campus. As a child, my friends and I probably climbed most of the trees on that campus. It was our favorite place to play and ride our bicycles. I’ll always treasure those sweet memories. 

One concept that starting trending a few years ago is the “Hot Chocolate Bar”. This three-tiered stand sprinkled with faux snowflakes is an attractive way to invite guests to indulge in the experience. Cinnamon sticks, spoon shaped peppermint sticks, hand crafted marshmallows and chocolate chips make customizing your cup of cocoa fun and easy. Burford holly branches bursting with red berries complete the look.

Candlelight takes this centerpiece from simple to something enchanting. Three round glass vases partially filled with water are ready for clippings from a holly berry bush. Floating candles cast a soft glow on the table as dinner begins.

Two vine formed deer give this woodland scene a sense of magical wonder. With branches of freshly cut Deodar cedar and pinecones scattered around their feet, a covered patio tabletop arrangement suddenly feels like a visit to the forest.

Grow It/Use It

Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

Deodars are not native to this country, but they offer many of the advantages of native trees. Drought tolerant, fast-growing, and relatively pest free, these conifers are graceful and attractive specimens for the yard. Plan to give them plenty of space to grow as they can rise to 50 ft. tall. Deodar cedars grow into a loose pyramid shape, with 2-inch-long whorled needles that give the tree a soft allure. The branches extend almost horizontally, angling slightly down, and the tips rise slightly. Thanks to my neighbor and fellow Bluffview garden club member, Barb Babb, for graciously allowing me to take an armful of clippings from her trees for my Christmas arrangements. As you can see from the photographs of Deodar’s growing on her property, these trees are most beautiful when they keep their lower branches. Needles of the deodar cedar are a silvery-green, making it an incredibly attractive and popular ornamental.


Linda Alexander

Lesson from a Compost Queen

For almost as long as I can remember, Cindy and Roger have been making compost for our garden. It supplies vital nutrients for our plants at Raincatcher’s Garden. Dig into the article below to hear what they collect to get their compost cooking in the fall. Cindy, our compost queen, also gives her “compost recipe.”

Cindy with her steamy compost!


Here it is December already. Halloween and Thanksgiving are in the past, so
PUMPKINS AND GOURDS of every shape, color, and size are now on the curbside!
They are waiting for bulk pick-up by the city to be taken to the LANDFILL. What a
way to end up after being such a pretty embellishment for the holidays. What a

Since Roger and I enjoy “harvesting by the side of the road” during bulk pick-up
periods to augment our compost bins at home and especially at Raincatcher’s
Garden of Midway Hills, we have been keeping our eyes out for those jewels of

During fall and winter bags of leaves are abundant. They are our primary
“brown/carbon” source for our compost recipe. “Green/nitrogen” sources are
becoming scarce since grass clippings and fresh vegetable/fruit scraps are dwindling
down to almost nothing. What shall we do to come up with that green ingredient?
Look for fresh items curbside? Pumpkins fit the bill, don’t they?

We put out the word, and many pumpkins and gourds magically appeared in our
compost area in the past couple of weeks. We harvested bags and bags of dried
leaves that were also waiting for pick-up. Jim and I cranked up the old mower at
Raincatcher’s and started chopping pumpkins and leaves, mixing them in our large
bins and adding shredded paper and any other compost contributions.

Today we filled a third new bin to the top. The pumpkins are juicy enough that we didn’t have to
add any water this week. If we don’t get the forecasted rain on Friday, we’ll add some
water next week—the “blue” ingredient in our compost recipe. The temperature in the
bins today ranged from 130° to 160°—great cooking temperature for compost piles.
Some of our fellow gardeners said that they had more pumpkins if we wanted them.
Silly question—of course we want them!

After leaving the garden, we went “harvesting,” filling the bed of our pickup almost to overflowing. We dropped by the garden and off-loaded our bounty.

Pumpkin pile ready for compost

Now we have a supply of “green” material available when we need it during the winter to balance our compost recipe. By next spring, as we turn the bins to add air and moisture when needed, our
compost mixture will have changed from piles of leaves and clippings to BLACK
GOLD—also known as COMPOST!


Cindy Bicking, “Compost Queen”


GREEN—nitrogen sources, such as green grass, fresh fruit & vegetable scraps, coffee grounds

BROWN—carbon source, such as dried leaves, shredded paper, hay





<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: