RSS Feed

Author Archives: Dallas Garden Buzz

Another Reason to Visit the Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church!

As if it isn’t enough to make a trip to the Raincatcher’s garden to enjoy the beauty of the garden, make friends, work with other volunteers, get certification hours, shop at a great plant sale (May 19th from 10 am – 3 pm!!!), learn about plants and good gardening practices, etc., now there is one more reason to make the trip to the garden. 

We have a new feathered friend who has taken up residence in an owl box built just for him or her. The owl box is high up in a tree in the courtyard facing the parking lot and the view that this lucky owl gets to see is the beautiful edible garden.  The best part is, when the owl hears voices, he/she tends to stick its head out and seems interested in the conversation! 

Thanks to Colleen Murray(Dallas County Master Gardener) for organizing the owl box at the garden and to Stan Herndon(Community Volunteer) for the photo. 

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

A Christmas Story with a Springtime Surprise

Each year in mid-November I make a trip to our local garden center in search of red lion amaryllis bulbs. Hoping for those showy red blooms to burst open before Christmas, the bulbs are placed in one of my favorite holiday containers. If the timing is favorable, we get to enjoy a profusion of large, velvety flowers for a few weeks, or longer. Christmas somehow seems more colorful and festive with a touch of nature decorating our home.

Over time, I began to wonder what to do with those lovely plants once the blooming ceased. Shamefully, many times, bulbs and all went straight to the trash. Thankfully, I remembered having seen a friend’s amaryllis in a garden bed nestled up against her house. It was mid to late April of 2012 and the amaryllis was filled with beautiful red blooms. That sweet memory changed my attitude about amaryllis. Going forward, I would be a bulb keeper.

Now, ten years later, there is a special place in our garden where those leftover Christmas amaryllis bulbs are placed in their new outdoor home. We chose to locate them in an area that receives morning to early afternoon sun. For the remainder of the day, it is partial shade. As you can see from the photos, they are thriving and gracing our garden with their spectacular springtime surprise. One Christmas, we received a white amaryllis as a gift. It’s now part of the red brigade and looks very stately among the “reds”.

If you would like to enjoy amaryllis year after year, be kind to your bulbs by planting them in the garden. Here are a few simple considerations:

*Amaryllis are easy to grow outdoors in our Zone 8 climate. They can tolerate both sun and shade but, typically, do best with morning to midday sun and bright shade throughout the afternoon.

*Bulbs prefer well-draining fertile soil. Improve drainage by creating a slightly raised bed or mix in some organic matter.

*Sets the bulbs with 5 to 6 inches of soil above them, followed by 5 to 6 inches of mulch.

* When the flowers fade, cut the flower stalk back to just above the bulb. Leave the foliage throughout the summer until it succumbs to the first fall frost. 

*If the plants become overcrowded, divide the clumps and separate as needed. 

FYI…Once planted outside, forced amaryllis bulbs will eventually revert back to their natural spring blooming cycle. Our 15+ amaryllis plants generally start blooming in mid to late April, continuing for a few weeks. 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Pepper Palooza at the Raincatcher’s Plant Sale

We made a decision last year to fill the courtyard at Raincatcher’s garden in 2022 with lots of pepper plants.  Some of the peppers will be grown to use in our very popular pepper jellies but several of the ones we selected are for ornamental purposes.  Ornamental peppers are safe to eat but they are typically used for their attractive color or ornamental quality rather than their flavor.  They are often considered too hot to eat by most people.  

Fish Pepper

A favorite ornamental pepper that you will see growing in the courtyard is the Fish pepper.   Last summer, we fell in love with this pepper plant growing in the edible garden.  In fact, most visitors to the garden asked us about this plant because it is so unusual and beautiful.  The Fish pepper is an African-American heirloom variety that dates back to the 1800’s. It is a large plant and the leaves range from fully white to part green and fully green.  I can testify to the fact that the peppers on this plant pack a lot of heat as I was asked to try it in preparation for the pepper class that was taught at the garden last summer!!!  

Fidalgo Roxa

Fidalgo Roxa is a pepper plant from Brazil and is considered to be “one of a kind.”  The flowers are white and purple and the plant will eventually be loaded with purple, pink and apricot colored peppers.  It is described to have a fruity flavor that is in the upper mid heat range.


Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb (AKA Hot Cherry Pepper) is another variety that we chose to grow this year.  It is a beautiful compact plant with brilliant red cherry-like peppers.  Despite its name, this pepper is described as having a heat level close to a mild jalapeno – medium heat with a sweet taste.  The pepper is fleshy and juicy and can be used as a substitute for jalapenos, in vinegars and is good for stuffing and pickling.  


Shishito Pepper

Shishito pepper is a Japanese pepper variety that is very trendy right now.  They are easy to grow and yield a lot of fruit in a short period of time.  The plants are compact and do well in containers.  They have thin skin which makes them perfect for quick frying, roasting and grilling.  The pepper is considered to be mildly spicy but occasionally you might find one that really packs a punch!  

Aji Dulce pepper

And back by popular demand, we have grown more of the Aji Dulce peppers for the sale this year.  This is a fun plant with red and green lantern shaped peppers.  They are sweet and can be used in many recipes.  If you read the article I wrote for this blog last year, you will remember that the seeds came from Puerto Rico from my good friend Paco.  We have had several requests for this “Paco” pepper plant from people who bought and grew this plant last year!!!   

The Raincatcher’s plant sale is on Thursday, May 19, 2022 from 10 AM – 3 PM at Midway Hills Christian Church (11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229).  You won’t want to miss out on this opportunity to fill your yard with beautiful and useful pepper plants.  Other pepper varieties will also be available along with many annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, yuccas, ground covers, etc.  Hope to see you there!!!  

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

May 19th, Raincatcher’s Plant Sale



11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229 

Thursday, May 19th 

10:00 am – 3:00 pm 

You are invited to shop our wide variety of plants grown, nurtured and donated by our fabulous volunteers at Raincatcher’s.  There will be annuals, perennials, tropicals, sedums, peppers and herbs as well as decorative pots, yard art and other gardening related items. 

Prices start at $2 per 4” pot.  Come to the Courtyard to find that special plant or whimsical item to enhance your garden. 

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.  This sale is a significant fundraiser for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association, which supports our garden.  Thank you for your continued support of RAINCATCHER’S. 

Sarah Sanders, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2006

Vego Beds at The Raincatcher’s Garden

May 4, 2022

Hello to all our faithful readers especially vegetable growers aspiring to be homestead gardeners. We have busy replacing our worn out raised beds with Vego beds (rhymes with Lego).

Cucumber and pepper seedlings are being planted into our new beds.  black-eyed peas, okra, cucumbers, and melons can be started from seed outdoors. (Timing is good for squash seeding as well but we are taking a break from squash vine borers this year.)

Lisa and Mark unloading 1 of the 4 new Vego beds

Raincatcher’s Volunteers are using the existing soil from our veggie beds mixed with compost to fill these new beds.  Beverly suggested the hügelkultur method for those starting brand new beds.

Courtesy of the Vego website, this is a less expensive way to fill new beds.
Raincatcher’s Volunteers inspecting a Vego!
Visitors to the garden have complimented us on the basil and marigolds we have interplanted with the vegetables. We hope it will confuse the unwanted bugs.  Meanwhile, we are enjoying the blooms and the pleasant aromas of flowers and herbs. 

Ann Lamb and Beverly Allen, both Dallas County Master Gardeners!

Don’t forget:


11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229

Thursday, May 19

10:00 am  –  3:00pm

You are invited to shop our wide variety of plants grown, nurtured and donated by our fabulous volunteers at Raincatchers.  There will be annuals, perennials, tropicals, sedums, peppers and herbs as well as decorative pots, yard art and other gardening related items.  Prices start at $2 per 4” pot.  Come find that special plant or whimsical item to enhance your garden.

Spring Garden Tour

If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) 2022 Spring Garden Tour, it’s not too late! They can be purchased for only $15 through 6:00 pm on Friday, April 29th on the DCMGA website or online for $20 on the days of the Tour or at any of the gardens. Your ticket is good for either or both days, Saturday, April 30 from 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday, May 1 from 1 to 5 pm. There are six stunning residential gardens and one school garden on the Tour, all located north of I-635 between Carrollton/Farmers Branch and Richardson. 

New this year, all the gardens will be PlantTAGG® -enabled, allowing tour visitors to access the most current, research-based horticultural information about featured plants using their cell phones. There will also be a variety of educational programs presented in the gardens. 

You can preview all of the Tour’s stunning gardens on the DCMGA website:…

Click here to buy your tickets:

Cynthia Jones, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

Fiddlehead Fern Fronds in Dallas

Don’t be misled by the title. You won’t find them in our Zone 8 climate as the predominant species for fiddlehead fronds is the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) which is found growing primarily in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tips of early spring ferns. Their unique structure is like the ornamental scroll at the end of a violin’s neck.

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, Central Market was featuring a freshly delivered batch of the fronds for $24.99 per pound. Only vaguely familiar with the Ostrich fern, but being an inquisitive gardener, I couldn’t resist the temptation to gather up a small bundle ($7.98) of the fronds to serve with our dinner that night. A careful online search gave me some very helpful tips and useful information for preparing them. Since this was my first experience cooking fern fronds, I chose to go with a simple recipe.  Just a few basic instructions are needed to enjoy this fresh and tender taste of nature. 

1. Select fronds with a rich, green color. They should be wound nice and tight. (I made the mistake of just snatching up a handful which included some that should have been discarded. Note: Take time to be selective.)

2. Once purchased, refrigerate and use within one or two days. 

3. When ready to cook, trim about ¼” off the stems then place fronds in the sink and wash thoroughly. Lift them up into your hands and rinse well. This helps to remove the papery brown covering. 

To prepare; boil the fronds gently for only a few minutes in enough water to cover them. Next, sauté the fronds in about a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of minced garlic until al dente (firm to the bite). Salt and pepper to taste and finish with a light squeeze of fresh lemon.

Our lightly sauteed fronds made a nice topping for some freshly roasted green beans. The taste profile, according to online sources, is best described as mildly nutty with flavor notes of asparagus, spinach and/or green beans. My husband and I agreed that ours were more closely aligned with a hint of asparagus. It was a delightful taste experience that we may enjoy again. 

The seasonal window for fiddlehead fern fronds is extremely short and will soon be closing. Should you desire a new taste adventure give them a try. Also, read the article about Fiddleheads from Mother Earth Gardener and The Spruce Eats for more information about this springtime treasure.

A word of caution: Fiddlehead fronds must be cooked before consuming.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th, 10am-3pm


Dark Purple Opal Basil For Sale!

Dark Purple Opal Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a pretty, aromatic basil cultivar.  It is an upright, bushy annual plant with pink flowers that add to the beauty of the dark purple, almost black leaves.  This basil variety grows a little more slowly than other basil plants and the flowers appear in mid to late summer.  It is suggested to keep the flowers pinched back while using the leaves for culinary purposes.  Grow this basil along with tomato plants as it encourages growth and it repels pests of the tomato plant.  

Dark Purple Opal Basil is ideal for containers and makes an attractive ornamental plant in perennial gardens, herb gardens or containers.  The fragrant deep-violet foliage will be a great accent for your floral designs.

The taste is similar to sweet basil which makes it ideal for making pesto.  You can chop basil combined with other herbs and oil to freeze in ice cube trays and save in freezer bags for use during the winter months. 

We have started this interesting and unusual basil plant from seeds to sell at our annual plant sale (details below).  We will also have sweet basil available at the sale.  Hope to see you there!  


11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229

Thursday, May 19

10:00 am  –  3:00pm

You are invited to shop our wide variety of plants grown, nurtured and donated by our fabulous volunteers at Raincatchers.  There will be annuals, perennials, tropicals, sedums, peppers and herbs as well as decorative pots, yard art and other gardening related items.  Prices start at $2 per 4” pot.  Come find that special plant or whimsical item to enhance your garden.

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st


Some of our sales from last year

The inbox is full of dates we dare not miss.  BUT this is the real thing:  RAINCATCHER’s PLANT sale is coming.  It’s May 19th from 10am-3pm and you really don’t want to miss it

Raincatcher’s gardens are special and the sale is too.  It is a chance to buy plants grown right here not brought from greenhouses or plant farms miles away.  These are the plants that did well.  That could be divided and passed along.  Conditions here are tough—only the strong survive and thrive—and those are the plants you will find at the sale.  There will be plants from the gardens around you as you shop and plants grown by the friendly gardeners that will help you pick the ones that will work for you.  Raincatchers is not just one thing—its large and diverse with sun, and shade veg and herbs plants for pollinators and plants just because they are lovely.  

Every garden should have a bit of fun and you will find that too—maybe just the pot you never knew you had to have or a piece of garden art for the finishing touch.  One of a kind things—to inspire the thrill of the hunt.

Of course it’s a fund raiser for the gardens—but its more RAincatchers goal is to spread the love of gardening and the sale is an important part of that.  The gardeners that will assist you really want you to find things that will work for you will make you happy and brighten your part of the world.

So —save the date May 19th.   We will see you soon.

Plant sale 2021

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener, Class of 2008

Pictures by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2011

Pruning Demonstration from the Raincatcher’s Orchard

April 8, 2022

It was a grey day in March when Raincatcher’s volunteers gathered in the orchard to learn about fruit tree pruning with Jeff Raska.

Fruit trees are pruned to stimulate the growth of new fruit bearing wood and control the direction of the new growth, allowing for maximum harvest, sunlight and airflow.

You may feel like I do and would like to have Jeff standing beside you as you begin. We have provided this video and *some very good notes you can use next year before wielding those shears.

Seasoned Master Gardener Volunteers and Interns in the Orchard, happy with their work having learned the secrets of pruning from our Dallas County Extension Agents

*Fruit Tree Pruning Notes

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Pictures and video compiled by Starla Willis Class of 2011

Notes by Katarina Velasco Graham, Dallas County Extension Agent – Horticulture.  

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

%d bloggers like this: