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Category Archives: Summer

August Color in the Garden

Starla said, “my favorite color this week is violet.”

Thank you, Starla, we like it and welcome back!

Ann Lamb

Click here for other August photos

Send us your comments about the eclipse! We are interested!

Touch-Me-Not or Sensitive Plant, Mimosa pudica

Do  you ever experience going back in time?   Ok, not time travel per say, but something reminding you of a place, a person,  an event, a smell, a plant,  a food  and you go back  to a simpler time

Most recently,  it was the smell and taste of a peach cobbler.  This time  going back to my grandmother’s kitchen and her orchard where we played in the red sandy soil for hours on end.

All of a sudden you are transported to that moment, the memory washes over you, and you smile at the wonder, the beauty, the remembrance. What takes you back?

The Touch-Me-Not Plant and It's Pretty Pink Flower

The Touch-Me-Not Plant and It’s Pretty Pink Flower

For me,  the touch- me- not plant  found in the field took me back to my first introduction of the magic of the leaves closing up when touched. I was a child again: amazed, mesmerized, and in awe of the wonders of this world.


Take the trip back:  treasure it, enjoy it,  relive it; because soon enough the reality of today will be present.






Happy 4th of July

coreopsis and flag


4th of July

Pictures by Starla!

What I Like About August

Walking through our hot, August garden last week, here are some of the things I saw and loved:

Cosmos Growing High  into the Sky

Cosmos Growing High into the Sky

Garlic Chives in Bloom

Garlic Chives in Bloom

And from my garden at home:

Orderly Okra

Orderly Okra

The tag that came with this plant reads:

Okra, Jing Orange

60 days. sun. drought tolerant. Lovely pods area deep reddish orange and quite colorful. This Asian variety produces lots of flavorful 6″pods. Unique. Pick pods when young and tender. (I recommend picking at  1.5-2″)

For an okra recipe you will love, click here.

For more about what’s blooming in August, click here.


What Would We Do Without Turk’s Cap?

All gardeners have those tough spots where nothing seems to want to grow.  Dry shade? Morning shade followed by hot west sun? Neglected, hard to water spots? It’s enough to bring on a tension headache.

The bright apple green leaves and red furled blooms of Turk’s cap Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii are often just the right solution.  I love easy to grow plants, but this Texas native is almost beyond belief.  Shade, sun, or a little of both? Moist or just on rainfall alone?  Clay, loam, sand, or limestone soils (with good drainage)?  Insect damage? Very minimal. All North Texas gardeners have to do is cut the stems back to the ground after a hard freeze in the fall.

The blooms on Turk’s cap are so unusual.  The vermillion red flowers are twisted into a loose tube of overlapping petals, with a red stamen protruding from the center.  The flowers are said to resemble a Turkish turban, thus the name, Turk’s cap.  Butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the blooms.  The marble-sized fruit is edible and is enjoyed by a number of birds and animals.

Red Turk's Cap, Dallas Garden Buzz

At the Demonstration Garden, we have enjoyed a Turk’s cap with pink blooms for many years.  I hope it is the Greg Grant introduction, named after the first woman horticulture student at Texas A&M, Pam Puryear.  Her namesake has been designated a Texas Superstar by the AgriLife Extension Service.

Pink Turk's Cap

Pink Turk’s Cap

The variety name for Turk’s cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii,  honors another groundbreaking botanist in Texas.  Thomas Drummond was a Scottish naturalist, born in Scotland about 1790.  In 1830, he came to America to collect plant specimens from the western and southern United States.  He arrived in Velasco, Texas, in March 1833, and collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds in the almost two years he worked in central Texas.

Although Turk’s cap will adapt to full sun (and I do have several blooming like crazy in west sun), I really think it should be ideally planted in morning sun, afternoon shade.  I have found that if Turk’s cap is in deep shade, the blooms are limited.  Although Turk’s cap is drought tolerant, the plant will wilt noticeably in full sun.  It loves heat, and is a dependable August bloomer.  The bloom season runs from May to November.

For a low maintenance light to medium-shade garden, mix Turk’s cap with southern wood fern and caladiums.


Pictures by Starla and Ann

For more perennial information see our post on Gardening With Perennials.

Okra Pilau For Dinner Tonight

I am making this okra recipe tonight!  Last summer I let you know of my obsession  with okra. For an okra review: click here.

Green Fingers Okra in a Dallas Garden

Okra Pilau

Yield: 4 servings

8 bacon slices, diced
11/2 cups sliced fresh okra*
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
11/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups water or chicken stock

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet.

Sauté okra, onion, and bell pepper in hot drippings over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in rice and next 3 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat; stir in bacon. Let stand 5 minutes.

You can use any variety of okra (preferably from your garden) for this recipe that Tim says will make okra lovers of us all.

Red Velvet Okra will be in my skillet tonight.  I love it’s color even though the okra turns green when cooked.

Red Burgundy Okra, Dallas Garden BuzzYou can’t eat Okra leaves but how lovely they are to have in your garden. Harvesting Okra every day requires your careful attention and looking in and around the whole plant and under every leaf to find Okra that may be hiding.  if you let it go an extra day, you end up with giant Okra good for drying and seed saving but not much else.

Okra Leaf, Dallas Garden Buzz

For the healthy benefits of okra including a hair rinse recipe, read this.

Ok now, all this about Okra is persuading me to get out in the garden and start picking.  Hope you are, too.


Rudbeckia Nitida ‘ Herbstonne’

Dallas County Master Gardeners and our visitors have been admiring a statuesque green-eyed coneflower in our garden all through July. And why shouldn’t they? Rudbeckia Nitida ‘Herbstonne’ is no slouch. It stands 4 feet tall featuring large daisy like flowers  that surround  a green cone. Even its foliage is arresting with rich green, deeply cut leaves at its base. Stunning!

Large Coneflower at the Demonstration GardenWith a good deadheading after the first bloom, it will flower all through the fall.

Looking up Through Rudbeckia HerbstonneStand and gaze at it, after  finishing garden chores, of course. You may be in line with the bees and butterflies who adore it.

Another View of Rudbeckia HerbstonneThis perennial appreciates  full sun and well drained soil in a Water Wise Garden.


Princess Caroline In Our Dallas Garden

Grasses Planted June, 2013, 2311 Joe Field Road, Dallas, Texas

June 18, 2013

In mid-June we  planted ornamental grasses between the arbor and the Mexican plum tree:

  • Pennisetum purpureum (Purple Fountain Grass)
  •  P. alopecuroides ‘Hamelin’ (Dwarf Fountain Grass)
  •  Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)
  • variegated Liriope
  •  Princess Caroline, a Pennisetum hybrid, our favorite. 

We planted 3 1-gallon size Princess Carolines on 3 foot centers. The foliage is a lush purple with leaves that are wider than that of Purple Fountain Grass. These plants are filling in very quickly despite the heat and drought early in July. This welcome rain should really give them a growth spurt.

Same Area After One Month's Growth

July 9, 2013

This area was full of weeds, dallisgrass and nutsedge when we began to prepare it in 2012. Mulching with newspaper/shredded tree trimmings took care of most weeds; dallisgrass and nutsedge required hand digging for removal. We amended native soil with expanded shale and compost during the winter. Spring rain and warmer temps bought germination of weed seeds as well as the beautiful poppies and larkspur you’ve seen in previous posts. Since planting the new grasses, drip irrigation is now in place and weeding continues each week, especially to root out residual nutsedge. At our next opportunity, adding a 3” layer of shredded tree trimming mulch should finish this area off nicely.

Close Up View of Princess Caroline Grass

We think you will like this ornamental grass as much as we do!

To read more about  Pennisetum purpureum ‘Princess Caroline’ click here!

Susan S

Night Walks

 In Dallas, our afternoons are best spent inside under a cooling fan.  Outside, the June sun sears our gardens.  I find myself planting Mexican sunflower outside my window to catch glimpses of its brilliant orange flowers through the glass. 

But summer gives us a delightful hour to enjoy the garden.  The sun, spent from its day, sinks to the horizon, and dusky twilight beacons us to leave the dinner dishes in the sink and treat ourselves to time outside.  A breeze cools us, drifting up from the creek below the hill.  Colors of the flowers are richer without the bleaching sun’s rays.  Tomatoes have soaked up the sweetness of the day and wait to be picked and nestled in the tucked edge of a t-shirt. 

The just opened George Bush Library in Dallas is surrounded by a lovely landscape of Texas native plants.  Ann photographed this coneflower and the summer moon on the evening of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. 

Purple Coneflower at The George W. Bush Library


Picture by Ann

Vitex agnus castus

The beautiful  blue blooms of the Vitex tree are swaying in our summer breezes.

Vitex or Chaste Tree

Yesterday I visited the Dallas Arboretum and took a walk  under a lane of  fragrant Vitex aka Chaste Tree located at the back of the garden along the shores of White Rock Lake.   The snarly branches of  blue blooming Vitex  with the  yellow St John’s Wort planted at its feet almost made me swoon!Vitex Trees at the Dallas Arboreteum

Once established, Vitex is a drought tolerant tree and delight to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.   Shear it back after every bloom cycle to keep up the maximum flowering production  By doing this, you can get three bloom periods every summer. Texas A&M agrees!

It will also need a good shaping in winter months.  Some gardeners  cut it to the ground every year to keep it shrub size. At our garden  we have let it  grow into a 15 foot tree.

*Here are some different ways to use chaste tree in the landscape:

1. As a single specimen in the lawn (See ours at The Demonstration Garden)

2. In a row along a property line or a driveway

3. Limbed-up in a border with lower plants growing beneath it (As seen at The Dallas Arboretum)

4. As a small patio tree ( I have also seen it grown as a topiary)


*List adapted from Grumpy Gardener of Southern Living

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