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Category Archives: Landscape Basics

The Rainbow Garden at Raincatcher’s

If your green thumb is ready to branch out into living color, visit our Rainbow Garden for inspiration and plan on taking lots of photos. You’ll find a colorful mix of flowers and vegetables growing in harmony. In the summer heat, early morning is a good time to stop by. Enjoy iridescent dragonflies and come face to face with giant bees casting their drunken shadows on the garden, touch fuzzy silver green lamb’s ear, and see if you can identify standing cypress. (Hint- it is red.)

See the violet morning glory threaten to take over the purple heart growing beneath it. Compare the many shades of blue flowers and notice the exuberant orange Mexican sunflower. Inhale the aroma of fresh basil and see how the eggplant and strawberries are doing. 

Now take a shady break under the garden’s charming vine-covered entrance arbor and make notes before heading to the nursery to create your own rainbow. The rainbow garden doesn’t get any shade from the hot summer sun and receives only minimal supplemental water so you know these plants can take the heat in your own sunny spots at home. Drop by anytime and let the garden inspire you.

Gail Cook

 Pictures by Starla Willis and Ann Lamb

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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 www.bloominbucks.com 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.

Ann

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.

Elizabeth

Click here for full garden tour information.

October 1st, Dallas County Master Gardener Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Call it love at first sight. Linda and Art Alexander were in the market to purchase a new home in 2006.  They swooned over a Bluffview listing awash in April wisteria, dogwood, azaleas and tulips.  They quickly signed the contract.

Her landscape reflects a love of entertaining. One of Linda’s favorite quotes is: “The ornaments of your house will be the guests who frequent it.” The Alexanders have hosted more than 100 get-togethers at the 1948 ranch designed by noted regional architect Charles Dilbeck.

Visitors to the Alexander garden can see how Linda carefully edited mature landscaping from previous owners to frame the historic home. She developed cohesive garden rooms on the large lot, adding shrubs and perennials along the circular drive to welcome visitors.  Tall live oak trees shade conversation and seating areas for backyard entertaining.  She even planted Oklahoma-red pentas for the fall Texas-OU Red River Showdown post-game party. Linda’s updated raised vegetable beds are tucked behind the guesthouse.

Following herb expert Marian Buchanan’s advice, she particularly loves to grow herbs and uses them for cooking, flower arrangements and in the landscape. She says Art likes the herb scents when he brushes against the plants on a garden path.

You’ll often find Art and Linda in the garden swing in the backyard patio. They welcome the morning sun, cuddle a new grandchild and enjoy the yard they call “our sanctuary.”

Elizabeth

We will be featuring one garden a week until the October 1st Fall Garden Tour on Dallas Garden Buzz. Tour tickets can be purchased now online at the Master Gardener website.  Brunch will be served at the Alexander home and are also available now.  Plan ahead and purchase your tickets because the brunch tickets are limited. The menu will be based on recipes from the Master Gardner cookbook, A Year on the Plate. To pre-order the cookbook, click here.

Tour Tickets purchased before October 1-$15

Brunch Tickets-$15

Cookbook-$40

Deadheading, Just Do It

DEADHEAD—it sounds maybe dangerous—at the least not pleasant. But, I needs to be done.  Here is why.

Flowers bloom for a reason, it has nothing  to do with making gardeners  happy.  Flowers have a serious mission—they want the world to be full of plants.  Not just any plants of course—plants  like them.

Flowers attract pollinators to allow fertilization and seed formation. That’s it.  That is what flowers want.  When they have set seeds they can and usually do, go on to the great beyond with joy—mission accomplished.

We must stop them. Plants covered with fading flowers and  seed heads  do not make for a cheerful summer  show.  Gardeners want  lots of flowers on healthy plants..  For this to happen—deadhead early and often.

Pretty Flowers But Could Be Better With Deadheading

Rudbeckia in Need of Deadheading

How to do it? It’s not at all hard.  For many plants, such as zinnias, coneflowers or cosmos cut the stem of the fading flower back to the first set of full healthy leaves.  This hides  the cut and encourages branching and new flowers.  Do not cut just below the flower.  This leaves a stem to turn brown –not at all the way to tidy up the garden.

Deadheading Cosmos

Deadheading Cosmos

For some plants, like salvias, the best plan is to shear back all the stems about two to three inches. This removes the dead flowers and encourages a fresh flush of blooms.

Be sure to collect the blooms—they are great for the compost.

Don’t forget your herbs! If you want basil for fall tomatoes keep those flowers cut—remember  they are tasty and can go straight to the kitchen.

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

More flowers—tidy garden—sounds perfect—so why the resistance??

First— summer temperatures are still with us and its hot—that’s true.  Early morning is an ideal time to go out—do a bit each day and things won’t get out of hand.  Evening works too—just don’t put it off.

You will be rewarded. You will see things that might well have been missed.  A quick visit by a hummingbird,  a just hatched baby anole or delicate lace wing eggs that look like a tiny modern sculpture.

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

What about bees and butterflies? .

Are they still using those flowers? Well no, those flowers are past their prime for pollinators too. Really you are doing a big favor when you remove the old flowers—more will soon appear as the plant continues to try and fulfill its mission.

Susan

Buy Discounted Tickets Now for DCMGA 2016 Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Five spectacular gardens by members of the Dallas County Master Garden Association will be featured on the 2016 Garden Tour set for Saturday, October 1st.  Visitors will see formal English gardens on Swiss Avenue, edible landscaping in Preston Hollow, a buzzing pollinator garden in University Park, native perennials and ornamental grass in Old East Dallas and landscaping for gracious entertaining in Bluffview.

Make your tour complete by enjoying a seasonal Garden Brunch featuring recipes from A Year on the Plate, the new master gardener cookbook.  Guests will be treated to a menu chosen from fall produce, including Iced Herb Gazpacho and Artichoke Bites.  Brunch will be served on a lovely Bluffview patio shaded by live oak trees from 11am to 1pm the day of the tour.  Visitors can also preorder a copy of A Year on the Plate, the new DCMGA cookbook, at the same location.

Presale tour tickets will be $15 and on the day of the tour, $20 each. Tickets for the Garden Brunch must be purchased ahead at $15 each.  A limited number of brunch reservations will be taken.

Presale tickets for the brunch and tour will be available soon on the dallascountymastergardener.org website using PayPal. North Haven Gardens and selected Calloway’s Nurseries locations will sell only tour tickets in September.

Your ticket purchase will support a major fundraiser for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. The 2016 Garden Tour is the first time DCMGA has opened its members’ gardens in three years. Please help make the tour a success by asking friends and neighbors to attend and by publicizing the tour in venues like Next Door. All profits go to fund the DCMGA educational programs and more than 30 community and school projects.

Elizabeth

GardenTourLogowithDate001

Orphaned No More – Our Incredible Edible Landscape Project

Here at Raincatcher’s, we have a wide variety of demonstration gardens spread all around: we have an orchard, raised vegetable beds, ornamental trees, five types of turf, butterfly gardens, compost demonstrations and even a mixed ornamental bed in the courtyard. But there is one, last, orphaned space; it’s known as the old playground, and in some ways, it’s the church’s secondary entrance.  Which means it’s a very visible space that most people walk past and all cars drive by.  Wrapped in cyclone fencing, the playground was deemed ‘unsafe’ by regulatory agencies, and had been sitting unused when we moved to the church from Joe Field, the location of our previous garden.  We initially used the old playground as storage for all the plants, soil, and other large objects we brought over during our move. Then we disassembled the playground equipment and put it aside, in case we might be able to use it for another purpose.

Playground "Before" Transformation

Playground “Before” Transformation

A year has gone by. The gardens have been installed.  The plants, soil, and other large objects have been moved into their new homes, and it became clear that the playground parts were not going to be needed.  We removed them, and what was left inside the cyclone fence was a greenhouse, the air conditioning mechanism for the church, a couple of compost bins, a chicken coop, mature trees, and the frame for the old swing set.  When you step back from that, you realize that the space is reminiscent of what most homeowners have in their own yards:  some nice things, some not so nice things, a fair amount of shade, some sun.

What it’s inspired us to do is play. (The space was a playground, after all!)  We’re going to be experimenting in this, last, garden, but we’ll be experimenting with a purpose.  Over the next year(s?), we’ll be installing an edible landscape in this space, this crowded, pre-owned space with some sun and a fair amount of shade.  We’ll be designing around our obstacles, turning them into features, and we’ll make the shade our ally instead of our adversary.  We’ll be showing off all sorts of different techniques from hugelkultur to vertical gardening to straw bales to edible flower beds.  Some will be raised, some will be inground; everything will be edible.  There will be some new crops, variations on common crops, and some old crops with new parts to eat.  And so in addition to growing these foods, we’ll also show you how to prepare and eat them.

Why are we going to do this? Because this space has so many similarities to the average homeowner’s yard, it’s a perfect teaching and demonstration tool, and teaching is our mission.  Why do it as an all-edible landscape?  Because there are many examples of ornamental landscaping, and plenty of examples of edible gardening, but there are not as many of edible landscaping.  We’re doing this because people are becoming interested in growing at least some of their food, but are often concerned that it won’t look good, or they can’t because they have too much shade.  This old playground gives us the opportunity to show everyone how they can create a beautiful landscape with edibles.

How are we going to do this? We’re going to do this in stages.  First, we’re going to start with the hardscape.  One of the biggest concerns people have about landscaping with edibles is the aesthetics – whether it’s an overgrown tomato plant, or the fallow season (too hot, too cold to grow edibles) for their climate.  To have a beautiful edible landscape, the first thing you need to do is make sure the landscape looks good before any plants are planted.  Plants (crops) are the ornamentation on top of a good looking base structure, your hardscape.  After all, there will be times when you may not have plants in your landscape; you might have had a crop failure, or have just harvested dinner!

In our next post, we’ll talk about hardscape ‘rules’, and show you how we’ll be incorporating them into our landscape.

Come along and follow our adventures – celebrate with our successes, and learn from our failures!

The Incredible Edible Landscape Team

Lila Rose

Picture by Starla

Note: Lila Rose will be speaking at the Whole Foods at Preston Forest soon about Edible Landscaping. Will add date to this post, so check back with us.

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