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Category Archives: Education at Raincatcher’s

A Delightful Summer Tour

June 28, 2021

Today was a refreshing day in the garden. For the first time in over a year and a half, Raincatcher’s hosted a special garden tour. Our guests for the event were members of the Senior Adult Ministry at Park Cities Baptist Church. They came prepared for a warm sunny morning in the garden followed by a boxed lunch under the shade pavilion. 

Jon Maxwell, Co-Leader of the garden, welcomed the group with comments about the Master Gardener program, our work at Raincatcher’s and the variety of gardening venues our volunteers manage on over an acre of land.

 Next came a very educational and informative visit to the vegetable garden. Beverly Allen and Ruth Klein from our vegetable team highlighted the seasonal crops and different styles of vegetable gardening. The group was especially impressed with the “lasagna method” of preparing garden beds. A quick visit to the blackberry patch gave our guests a chance to pick and taste juicy, fresh blackberries.

Our featured snack during the vegetable garden visit was Tarragon Tomatoes made from freshly harvested Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and French tarragon from the edible landscape. 

Next stop was with Abbe Bolich, Dallas County Master Gardener Association President. She inspired the group with suggestions for adding pollinator friendly plants to their home gardens. In celebration of National Pollinator Week (June 21 – 27), a snack of dried apricots topped with goat cheese and drizzled with local honey was happily shared. Fresh spearmint from the garden topped the treat.

The final stop on the tour was to the edible landscape garden with its cool, shady environment. Our guests were amazed to learn about the countless numbers of edible herbs and flowers growing in some of the themed garden beds; the Hügelkultur, Cottage Garden and Mediterranean beds.  Freshly baked Lemon Verbena Bread made from our perennial lemon verbena plant left the group smiling and happy.  

If you or your group are interested in visiting the garden or would like to schedule a tour, please reply in the comments section of our blog. We are thrilled to be “open” and ready to welcome guests to Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Taarragon Tomatoes

Lemon Verbena Bread

Dried Apricots Topped with Goat Cheese

New DCMGA Partnership Brings PlantTAGG Mobile Experience to Their Gardens

June 4, 2021

Gardening in North Texas has a unique set of challenges. We know there’s always a story to be told and advice to share, from coping with the scorching, dry summer heat to planting in the unforgiving, heavy clay soil. Part of our mission at Dallas Garden Buzz is to share our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening. To that end, we are delighted to announce the new partnership between the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) and PlantTAGG!

What is PlantTAGG?

PlantTAGG is the most technically advanced mobile solution for helping gardeners learn about and care for their plants. It’s FREE to use; and because it’s a web app, there’s nothing to download or install and no credentials to remember. PlantTAGG uses patented formulas to analyze data from NOAA, USDA, Texas A&M AgriLife, and Master Gardeners from around the country. This data is turned into accurate, easy-to-follow plant care guidance localized for your yard and plants.

Beyond the technology, PlantTAGG’s goals to educate gardeners blends seamlessly with the mission of the Master Gardener program. Abbe Bolich, President of the DCMGA, said it best,

“We’re thrilled to partner with PlantTAGG on this exciting new program. Our shared mission to educate the public about best horticultural practices really comes to life in our community gardens with this new mobile experience.”

What does the partnership mean for Dallas gardeners?

This partnership sets the gold standard in gardening by coupling sophisticated, easy-to-use technology with proven, research-based horticultural information for gardeners of all levels. As part of the partnership, we’re rolling out PlantTAGG-enabled gardens across the DCMGA ecosystem – and Raincatcher’s Garden is one of the first to benefit from this new mobile experience. 

It’s easy to use PlantTAGG in the DCMGA gardens – as you can see in this quick video:

For now, you can also try the PlantTAGG mobile experience at R&B 1, Bath House Cultural Center, Lakewood Elementary School Gardens, and Plano East Senior High Pollinator Garden. Other community gardens will launch in the coming weeks, including the Texas Discovery Master Gardeners’ Garden.

What’s next?

Come and see us! We’d love for you to visit Raincatcher’s (or any of the DCMGA gardens) and try out the new PlantTAGG-enabled mobile experience.

Learn more about the DCMGA and PlantTAGG partnership on the Dallas Garaden Buzz blog at

Be sure to follow @dallascountymastergardeners and @planttagg on Instagram to be alerted of new garden launches and other program updates.

Until then, text PLANTS to 46376 to get started at home with PlantTAGG. 

We’ll look forward to seeing you in the gardens!

Cynthia Jones, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

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

Eagle Scout Project Completed At Raincatcher’s Garden


Newly completed handwashing station at Raincatcher’s

Another Boy Scout Eagle project has been completed at Raincatchers!  Boy Scout John Rehagen, a 7th Form, (Junior), student at Cistercian Preparatory School and member of St. Monica Catholic Church’s Boy Scout Troop 412, recently completed a very ambitious project in Raincatchers’ north garden.

This project is the fourth Eagle Scout project to be completed at Raincatchers since our relocation during 2015 from the garden at the Joe Field location.  The completed projects were: Construction of two substantial trash and recyclable receptacles, two garden cedar benches, and the garden information kiosk.

John’s project included the design and construction of a framed cedar surround with a roof, for a large galvanized tub, along with the required plumbing, for a 3 position hand washing station.  It also incorporates an additional 4th station for cleaning garden tools before being placed back into storage.  The hand washing station is now available for garden visitors, especially our younger guests, and volunteers during their time at the garden.  

As all Boy Scout Eagle projects require, John’s project had a written development plan, a formal approval from the Troop’s Boy Scout leadership, a plan for securing funding and volunteer workers, sourced from his troop’s members, friends and family members, along with an actual work plan and projected completion date.  

Eagle Scout project in progress

Upon receiving Troop leadership approval of his project, John used his considerable CAD/CAM skills to construct a “virtual” hand washing station.  The program provided him with the necessary dimensions and a list of materials required. Physical construction started on December 28, 2019 and, fortunately with our good weather, concluded on January 7, 2020.  Substantial manual effort and many man hours were invested by John and his volunteers, including his tenacious younger brother, Brian, during the construction time frame.  

Eagle Scouts demonstrate perseverance, discipline, motivation, leadership, accountability, and achievement.  These personal traits lead to tangible lifelong benefits and college admissions officers recognize the award for its value and it is given considerable weight in their admission decisions.  The fact that the attainment of the rank is based on accomplishing a set of national standards rather than some arbitrary local qualifications makes its achievement an outstanding personal accomplishment!

Very few Boy Scouts actually achieve this prestigious rank.  Only 4% of boys participating in the Boy Scout program since 1911 have achieved the organization’s most prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.

There are always prospective Eagle Scouts looking for worthy projects.  Dallas County Master Gardener project coordinators should reach out to the Boy Scout Troops located near their gardens whenever there is a construction requirement that might fit the description of an Eagle Scout project.

Congratulations, and a Dallas County Master Gardeners’ thank you to John, and his parents, Sarah and Chris, on their son’s truly worthy accomplishment.

Jon Maxwell


Herbs of the Mediterranean, A Grow and Graze Event

Herbs of the Mediterranean

Herbs activate our senses. Join us for a culinary trip to the Mediterranean where we’ll explore some of the world’s best tasting food. Be inspired by this delightfully aromatic way of using fresh and dried herbs in your cooking.

Tuesday, June 25th

A “Grow and Graze” Event Hosted by

 The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Time:  10:00 – 11:00

Location:  11001 Midway Road Church Sanctuary

Instructor: Marian Buchanan, Dallas County Master Gardener, Herb Specialist

(Master Gardeners earn two CEU’s)

Immediately following the program, please join us at our Mediterranean Table

Lunch: 11:15 – 12:30

$15 per person, Reserved seating for 60 available starting May 20th. Deadline June 18th


Iced Herb Gazpacho and Toasted Baguette Slices spread with Every Herb Pesto

Black Olive & Swiss Chard Tart

Green Herbs & Butterhead Lettuce Salad with Herb-Seasoned Croutons

Salad of New Potatoes with Sweet Cicely, Lovage and Green Peppercorns

Mediterranean Summer Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille

Honey-Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Whipped Crème Fraiche and Fresh Berries

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

All members of the public invited for the free lecture. To make a reservation for the lunch use the eventbrite link above.

Linda Alexander

Fig Fest Class and Luncheon

Celeste Fig Tree at Raincathcer’s

Fig Fest, Celebrating a Seasonal Delicacy

With their sweet taste and luscious texture, figs can be used in a variety of culinary dishes. From growing to harvest, we’ll give you the information needed to become a fig expert. Join us; class will be indoors and luncheon reservations are still being taken.

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Tuesday, August 7th – 10:00am*

Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills located at 11001 Midway Road

Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit; class is free.

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, you are invited to join us for lunch. Lunch is by reservation only.

$15 per person

Seating is limited to 48 guests and is by paid reservation only:


Figgy Focaccia and Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey

Fig, Arugula and Walnut Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Fig and Strawberry Tart topped with Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Fig Flavored Tea and Water


*All Members of the Public Invited

Class and Lunch are indoors at Midway Hills Christian Church and lunch reservation deadline has been extended to Friday, August 3rd.

What’s happening at Raincatcher’s?

Lazy days of summer? Not this group! Having just finished our Grazing in the Garden event, next up are two more marvelous learn and eat opportunities. Careful now, the food tickets sell quickly. Lecture is free and no reservations required.  Details below.

Goodness, Gracious, Grape Balls of Fire!

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Tuesday, July 24th-10am 

10:00am – 11:30am, Under the Shade Pavilion, North Garden

11001 Midway Road, Dallas

Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Growing grapes in Texas is easy to do. Learn the basic steps, and you’ll be ready to start your own grape orchard.

(Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Following Jeff’s short presentation join us for a special treat.

Toney Davrados, of Yiayia’s will demonstrate the art of making dolmas. Dolmas are thought of as a culinary legacy from the Ottoman Empire. You’ll be transported back to the 1700’s with the savory, flavorful taste of these delightful delicacies.

$10 per person, Limited seating

(Paid reservations required by Friday, July20th)



(Filled with sirloin, onion, rice, parsley and Toney’s special seasonings)

Watermelon and Radish Salad

Peach and Blueberry Parfaits featuring Yiayia’s Homemade Greek Yogurt

Mint-Infused Iced Tea


Fig Fest, Celebrating a Seasonal Delicacy

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

With their sweet taste and luscious texture, figs can be used in a variety of culinary dishes. From growing to harvest, we’ll give you the information needed to become a fig expert. Join us!

Tuesday, August 7th – 10:00am*

Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

(Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, you are invited to join us for lunch.

$15 per person

Seating is limited to 48 guests and is by paid reservation only:

Reservation deadline-August 3rd


Figgy Focaccia and Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey

Fig, Arugula and Walnut Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Fig and Strawberry Tart topped with Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Fig Flavored Tea and Water

*Public Invited to both events!

Questions? Call the help desk- 214 904 3053 or drop us a line in the comment section.



September 2017 Classes at Raincatcher’s Garden

Simply Succulents, The Plants That Drink Responsibly

Tuesday, September 19th 11am until noon Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX North Education Building, Room 1

Paula Spletter, Dallas County Master Gardener, is a Creative Director for North Haven Gardens in Dallas as well as a popular presenter for both the Dallas County Master Gardener Association and North Haven Gardens. After converting her lawn into perennial gardens, she was a winner on the 2012 City of Dallas Water Wise Tour. Her serious interest in succulents began many years ago, spurred from her yearly trips to California and visiting Dick Wright’s succulent farm, who is known for his Echeveria hybridizing.

Paula will touch on all the facets of succulent care, including propagation, disease and planting. Learn the best ways to keep these great plants thriving and gain the confidence to expand your collection.

Raincatcher’s is a 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. To find the class, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the covered sidewalk to the north building.


Grape Harvest – Home Wine-making Tutorial and Post-harvest Vine Care

Saturday, September 23rd 10am until noon Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX Shade Pavilion

Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist – North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has been consulting with Raincatcher’s to maximize production on our two grape varieties in the vineyard. We planted ‘Carlos’ Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and Champanel, (Vitis champini X Worden), aAmerican hybrid. The birds helped themselves to our first crop, but we’re hoping to beat them to the punch to harvest a second one.

Michael will discuss home wine production, teach the backyard grower how to determine when to harvest, and help us with vine care advice for fall and winter to ensure a good crop next year. Raincatcher’s is a 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. To find the class, please park in the west or north parking lots and come to the shade pavilion in the north garden.

Lisa Centala

Classes open to the public, Master Gardeners receive education credits when attending

Grape photo from our garden by Starla Willis

Succulent Photo courtesy of

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