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Category Archives: Spring

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

PLANT SALE 

RAINCATCHER’S GARDEN OF MIDWAY HILLS 

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

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: https://dallascountymastergardeners.org/first-peek-at-our…

Click here to buy your tickets: https://form.jotform.com/220395346419156

Cynthia Jones, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

PURPLE IS THE NEW GREEN! 

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!  

RAINCATCHERS GARDEN AT MIDWAY HILLS

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

COMING SOON—–SAVE THE DATE

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

Spring is Here!

March 30, 2022

An early poppy

At Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills we feel incredibly thankful for the refreshing sights and sounds of springtime. Walk with us along the garden path and discover the flourishing stages of development: bright green buds on shrubs and trees, tiny shoots of radish and lettuce peeking out of the soil joined by poppies poking out of the walkways while a wave of wildflowers explodes in a colorful display. Allow the sights of vivid greens to soothe you out of the grayness of winter and into the splendid joy of spring.

Linda Alexander

Beverly Allen…Vegetable Garden
After all the winter freezes, it is wonderful to be able to get all the plants we started indoors
from seed into the ground. I’m hoping for bountiful harvests of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers
and eggplant.

Sun Gold Tomato


Fern Brown…Edible Landscape
It’s amazing how a plant can transform in a short period of time. Just a couple of weeks ago, I
thought the asparagus was in plant Heaven but, lo and behold, it is alive and thriving!
Gardening, especially in the spring, is nourishment for the soul, a sign of new beginnings.

Asparagus!


Jon Maxwell…Raincatcher’s Garden Leader
I really enjoy and look forward to the return of our families of purple martins. They add such a
spirit of joy and happiness to our gardening activities. They also are a wonderful indication that
the garden is awakening from its winter slumber and that bright, sunny, warm days are just
ahead for us.

The Return of our Purple Martins


Jackie James…Courtyard Garden
“Walking through the courtyard this morning, I was so excited to see a big yellow iris just
starting to bloom. It’s the first iris I have seen this year and I was so happy to catch it blooming
at Raincatcher’s Garden!”

Yellow Iris in the Courtyard

Ann Lamb…Wildflower Area
“Bluebonnet seedlings have sprouted all over the front area of our garden. I think we have the
best and prettiest stand of bluebonnets in North Dallas. This year Indian Paintbrush seeds were
planted in the early fall of 2021.

Bluebonnet seedlings

Dates to Remember:

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

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

Garden Guests

May 23, 2021

Carolina Wren Hatchlings

The Audubon Society describes it as a “rush and rumble” sound. It was exactly what I was hearing repeatedly over the past month while working in the greenhouse. Close by, yet unnoticed, a little wren kept darting in and out of potted plants on a high shelf just outside the back of the greenhouse. 

Sometime around mid-March, when the chance of freezing temperatures had ended, our scented pelargoniums were moved from inside the greenhouse to a large 5-tiered shelving unit outside. We were getting them acclimated to the cooler temperatures before planting in the edible landscape. Nestled on the top shelf, right next to the back greenhouse wall, five medium-sized peach scented pelargoniums were thriving in their temporary environment. 

As temperatures warmed, a decision was made to get the plants into the ground and ready for their semi-permanent, seasonal home. Reaching carefully for one of the taller plants, it seemed odd to find a scattering of leaves, twigs and stems surrounding the base. As I gently lifted the plant down to eye level, that familiar chirping sound filled the air. 

Thankfully, Starla, had agreed to meet me at the garden to take pictures. With our iPhones in hand, we quietly moved in to get a closer look. Much to our surprise, at least three tiny baby wrens were snuggled down in the make-shift nest waiting for mamma to feed them. Mamma wren had done such a fine job of camouflaging her babies that it was difficult to see how many were in the nest. Respectful of the home she had made for them, Starla quickly snapped a few photos of babies anxiously awaiting, with beaks wide open, for mamma to appear.

Seconds later, Starla had captured the perfect photo and we returned the plant to its location on the shelf. Two of the five peach pelargoniums have now been planted in the edible landscape. The pelargonium holding the wren’s nest will remain undisturbed until the little birds are old enough to leave. Two other pelargoniums are flanking it, giving them a little added protection from rain and high winds. Eventually, all pelargoniums will go to their new home in the edible landscape but, for now, we’re enjoying the sweet sounds of the wren’s cheerful trilling songs.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

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

Spotted Manfreda Plant

May 12, 2021

Spotted Manfreda Plant

Several weeks ago during a recent work day at the garden, we noticed a flower stalk coming up from the middle of a couple of our spotted manfreda plants on the courtyard of Raincatcher’s Garden.  This particular succulent plant, also know as Texas Tuberose or Manfreda maculosa is short (grows 12 – 15 inches tall) with silvery green leaves and is covered with purple spots. It is native to southern Texas and northern Mexico and does best in full sun.  It is considered a tender perennial but is often an evergreen plant in mild winters.  It completely died back this past winter and not only came back this spring but quickly produced a flower stalk.  

Manfreda in Bloom

The plant eventually grows into a thick clump of shoots connected at the roots and is often referred to as a ground cover plant.  The best part about the growth habit of this plant is that it is begging to be shared.  In fact, I got my plant many years ago from a couple who were on the city of Dallas Water Wise Garden tour.  As soon as I asked the home owner about the plant, she quickly retrieved a trowel and dug up an offshoot for me.  I have lost count of how many of these plants I have given to gardening friends as well as planting several in the courtyard at Midway Hills Christian Church.

The Alien Looking Flower of the Manfreda

I did a bit of research about the flower and I found that the relatively tall inflorescent carries mildly fragrant tubular flowers.  The flowers lack colorful petals, but have especially long pistils and stamens.  One website described the flower as “alien looking.”   

This is a plant to consider growing in your garden or in a container.  And if you’re lucky, it will gift you with a large, alien looking flower!

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

We will have a couple of varieties of manfreda plants available at our plant sale on May 13th and 14th.   Hope to see you there.

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Flower Photos by garden friend, Diane Washam 


PLANT SALE LOCATION: 11001 MIDWAY ROAD, DALLAS, TEXAS 75229

MAY 13TH AND 14TH

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