RSS Feed

Category Archives: Uncategorized

African Blue Basil

June 3, 2023

African Blue Basil

If African Blue Basil could speak it might first suggest introducing you to the “parentals”. In this case, that would be a good idea. The African parent is a perennial shrub from forests of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. 

In 1983, African Blue basil was first seen by a nurseryman named Peter Borchard, owner of Companion Plants in Athens, Ohio. He noticed it growing in the path between beds of the two presumed parents, East African basil and ‘Dark Opal’. Borchard dug the hybrid out and brought it into the greenhouse hoping to save seed. No seed formed leaving Borchard with the task of growing more plants from cuttings. Shortly thereafter, African Blue Basil (Ocimum gratissimum) entered the market.

African Blue basil is now identified as a hybrid plant in the Lamiaceae family made
by crossing East African camphor basil and a varietal of purple sweet basil called
‘Dark Opal Basil’. Its strong camphor scent was inherited from the East African
basil used to breed the plant. Though some people may find the camphor odor
and taste too strong to use in the kitchen, others embrace its culinary uses.
While doing morning chores in the garden, the dark purple leaves of African basil
tempt me to experience their crisp, semi-chewy and woodsy flavor with notes of
menthol, musk and cloves. With a refreshing and earthy taste filling my mouth,it’s time to move out of the way and give the honeybees time to forage for nectar.


Before planting in the garden, familiarize yourself with its specific characteristics.
African Blue basil is a rare, aromatic, perennial shrub that can grow up to five feet
tall in some gardens. Plants produce abundant flowers that are pink with a dark
purple base, making it attractive to bees and beneficial wasps. African blue is one
of the few basils that is sterile, meaning it will not produce seeds. Fortunately,
this unique trait allows the plant to stay in bloom for a longer season. As with
other basils, African Blue does best in well-draining soil amended with compost.
Plants thrive in full sun and will form rounded mounds.

Suggestions for cooking with African Blue basil offer a wide range of possibilities.
While best suited as a fresh flavoring or garnish, the leaves may also be used in
pesto’s, chimichurri sauce, salad dressing and dips or sprinkled over soups, tossed
into salads or layered over bruschetta. Also, try it mixed into pasta, spread over
sandwiches, used as a pizza topping or for elevating desserts.

Along with the leaves, African Blue basil flowers are edible and can be used as a garnish in soups, salads and grain bowls.

They can also be incorporated into
cocktails, floated on sparkling beverages or stirred into teas. African Blue basil
pairs well with parsley, cardamom, ginger ale, champagne, green beans,
tomatoes, potatoes, lentils, rice, and feta cheese. For best quality and flavor, use the leaves and flowers shortly after harvesting.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Have you heard? Here’s what all the buzz is about!

May 18, 2023

Saturday, May 20th bee lovers from all over the globe will gather in Rome, Italy to celebrate bees and their importance. It also serves as a chance to raise awareness of the ongoing increasing threat against them from human activity.

The theme this year is “Bee engaged in pollinator-friendly agricultural production”. One of the featured speakers during the Friday, May 19th pre-event is well-known Texas professional beekeeper, Erika Thompson of Texas Beeworks. She will be speaking on behalf of bees and beekeepers at the United Nations in Rome. The title of her presentation is Saving Bees and Pollinators. 

For more information and to register for the webcast, google World Bee Day 2023.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

To celebrate World Bee Day, we will post another monthly bee article tomorrow.

National Wildflower Week

National Wildflower Week takes place each year the first week of May. This weeklong tradition was started in 1987 by The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to celebrate the beauty and importance of native wildflowers across the United States. If you haven’t taken a “road trip” through the Texas Hill Country this spring, there’s still time to enjoy the profusion of wildflower blooms on the highways, byways and Farm to Market roads of Texas. 

 Our journey started with a smart decision to head back to Dallas from Austin last weekend by avoiding 135 and choosing, instead, to travel leisurely up 281. From Marble Falls to Hico, the panoramic views of fields blanketed by wildflowers was spectacular. Roadside stops were frequent, as patches of colorful Texas natives caught our eye.

Cattle grazing in and among pastures of bluebonnets didn’t seem to mind the closeness of our visit. Barbed wire fences stretching through the fields of yellow gave testimony to the hill country vistas so typical of our great state. Even the iconic windmills served to remind us to simply slow down and take in the sights and sounds of country life.

Sometime next week we hope to travel down another favorite route, highway 16 from Goldthwaite to the Willow City Loop. It’s a trip we’ve made countless times with each one somehow surpassing our expectations. A necessary stop at Cooper’s Barbeque in Llano will satisfy our hunger for the remainder of the drive. Here’s hoping you enjoy a few images of the scenic Texas hill country.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

The wildflowers at Raincatcher’s were beautiful this year. We hope you made a “local” road trip to see them on Midway Road.

Here’s a little more information to promote seeds of thought:

How to grow bluebonnets.

Our Texas Wildflower

Plant Sale Today at Raincatcher’s

Raincatcher’s Garden  Annual Plant Sale  

Thursday, May 4th 2023 

10 AM – 3 PM 

Midway Hills Christian Church 

11001 Midway Road 

Dallas, Texas 75229 

We will have annuals, perennials, herbs, peppers,  succulents, shrubs, trees, groundcover, bulbs,  houseplants, decorative pots, yard art, compost and  so much more!! 

All proceeds from this sale go to Dallas County  Master Gardener Projects.


Mealy Blue Sage 

Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) is a low maintenance, perennial plant that is native to Texas and Mexico and is heat and drought tolerant.   It is a 2 – 3 foot sprawling plant that forms a mound as wide as the plant is tall.  Its upright growth and showy flowers make it ideal for the back of a perennial garden.   The leaves have a grayish cast which makes a good contrast to the green foliage of other plants. 

Mealy Blue Sage has numerous flowers on a terminal spike and it requires at least 6 hours of sun for optimal growth and flower production. The stunning purple-blue flower spike brightens the landscape and attracts pollinators to the garden.  Once the flowers are spent, it produces a small, papery capsule that some birds enjoy as food.   The plant will reseed itself after established and the seedlings can be easily transplanted to other areas of the garden. This plant will grow thicker and will flower better in the fall if cut back in mid-summer 

This is yet another fabulous perennial plant that we will have available at our plant sale at Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hill Christian Church (11001 Midway Road, Dallas Texas 75229) on Thursday May 4th from 10 AM – 3 PM.  Hope to see you there!!!  

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener 1993

Four Nerve Daisy

Four-Nerve Daisy (Tetraneuris Scaposa) is a Texas native perennial plant that blooms almost year round.  It is evergreen with gray green foliage and bright yellow flowers that bloom on long leafless stems.  The plant itself is 6 – 12 inches tall (including the flower stem) with a 1 foot spread.  It is heat and drought tolerant and pest and disease free.  It also attracts butterflies and bees!

I have been growing this plant for about 10 years now and it has become my favorite plant.  I have paired it with grape hyacinth and have found this to be a great combination because they both bloom in early spring.  It’s a great border plant or rock garden plant and does well in full sun.  It does not tolerate over watering which is a good thing in my book!!!
This plant has a long taproot and does not transplant well.  It spreads from seeds and does well if dug when the seedlings are small.  I have been digging these tiny seedlings and will have some available at our plant sale at Raincatcher’s Garden on May 4th.

Raincatcher’s Annual Plant Sale

May 4th, 10 AM – 3 PM

We will have annuals, perennials, herbs, peppers, succulents, shrubs, trees, groundcover, bulbs, houseplants, decorative pots, yard art, and more.

Location: The courtyard at 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas 75229

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1998

Tomato Talk

Me-Ann at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden in Florida

Like a bee going from flower to flower for different types of nectar, I am flying all over gathering information from many sources about tomatoes. Last year I learned of a grower, Bobby’s Best. You can find him on instagram-Bobby’

Recently he was kind enough to share his compelling explanation of the advantages of using organic fertilizers. Remember if you feed your soil, it will feed you!

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Download the video after opening the link. If any of our dear Dallas Garden Buzz readers have trouble viewing the link, please let me know.

The Three Different Types of Honeybees in a Hive

*Queen Bee – A hive contains just one queen bee who lives on average three or four years.  Her role is very specific and unwavering which is to mate and lay eggs. She is somewhat larger than the other bees and has a longer abdomen. She also has shorter wings than the others which cover about two-thirds of the length of her abdomen when folded. She has a long stinger but with fewer barbs than those of the worker bees. 

The queen only makes one flight when she leaves the hive as a virgin queen. In this time drone bees are attracted to her and mate with her during the flight, depositing several million sperm cells. That’s enough to last her lifetime. The rest of her life is spent inside the hive (unless conditions become overcrowded because of a growing population, in which case she will swarm, taking part of the colony with her). It’s just too risky outside the hive and she’s too important to the well-being of the colony. Her genetics, along with those of the drones she mated with, determine the quality and temperament of the colony as a whole.

A fertile queen bee can lay more than her own weight in eggs each day (up to 2,000 or one every 20 seconds). You might say that she is an egg laying machine. This role is vital to the continued existence of all the bees. 

Because the presence of a healthy laying queen is so essential to a colony, it’s very important for beekeepers to be able to find and recognize the queen. Often the queen is marked to make her easier to spot.

*Worker Bees – The worker bee is a non-fertile female. She cannot produce like the queen bee. She’s also the busiest bee in the hive. The worker bee takes on many different roles throughout her life. Most colonies have 30,000 to 80,000 female worker bees.

Their first role in life is as nurse bees. The first few days of a young adult worker bee is devoted to looking after the brood. Tasks include preparing brood cells and feeding larvae with a mixture of honey and pollen. After about three days

special glands on the head of the worker become active and secrete a milky substance known as royal jelly. This is a very nourishing liquid fed mostly to the larva of future queen bees and to adult queens. Other bees are only fed small amounts of royal jelly. The nurse bees are also responsible for maintaining the temperature of the brood at a steady 95°F. If the temperature drops, the bees huddle together to generate body heat, and if it gets too hot, they deposit water drops around the hive, then fan the air with their wings to cool the hive by evaporation.

Next comes the care taking role of the worker bee. This involves cleaning debris from the interior of the hive and building and repairing wax comb. This role usually lasts about one week. During this time, they may also take on guard duties at the entrance to the hive.

The final role of the worker bee is foraging. Worker bees forage for nectar, pollen, water and plant resins which bees use to make propolis (also known as bee glue, this is used to seal up gaps in the hive). Foragers make ten or more round trips each day from hive to blossoms; some are dedicated pollen foragers and others are nectar foragers.  A foraging bee visits fifty to one hundred flowers on every collection trip it makes from hive to blossoms. 

Foraging is the final phase of a worker bees’ life. Bees usually die in the field during foraging duties. The length of time they spend foraging will depend on the amount of energy they spend. If foraging sources are close to the hive, then a worker bee can go on foraging for anything between 15 and 38 days. In the winter, when activity slows down completely the worker bee can live as long as 140 days! A typical life span is about 4 to 6 months.

*Drones – Drones are the laziest bees in the colony. The only thing they have on their minds is finding a virgin queen to mate with! Their only role is to produce

These male bees are bigger in size than worker bees and have bigger compound eyes and large muscular wings. They also have no stinger. 

Males are created when the queen comes across a larger drone cell, and when laying the egg, she doesn’t fertilize it. This results in the drone. At first, drone bees are fed by the nurse bees, but as they grow older, they help themselves to honey directly from the hive.

It is believed that the presence of drones in the hive is reassuring to the rest of the colony. If the queen needs replacing, the drones are ready and eager to perform the task. A bee colony consists of several hundred male drones.

The life of a drone bee is short, but sweet, lasting only about 3 months. Because drones don’t know how to forage, they sometimes die of starvation. 

Drones also make good decoys to protect the queen bee during mating flights. With only one queen, a few drones eaten by predators isn’t important. Drones are expendable. 

And, sadly, for the drones who succeed in mating with the queen the end is near. During the process of mating with the queen, the drone’s abdomen is ripped off and the bee dies. How honorable that a life is given for the good of the colony!

Types of Honey

Top to bottom: Liquid Honey, Comb Honey or Honeycomb, Chunk Honey, Crystallized or Creamed Honey and Flavored or Infused Honey

Liquid Honey is the most popular. This is the honey that is extracted from the honeycomb by spinning in a centrifuge or by relying on gravity to drain it from a honey-comb filled frame in a box-style bee house. Many beekeepers or honey connoisseurs believe this is the freshest honey as it still in it’s original state, exactly as the honeybees made it. Raw honey contains natural pollen form the blossoms and some trace minerals.

Comb Honey, Honeycomb or Section Honey is till in its original hexagonally shaped was containers produced with wax that has been excreted by bees. Some consider this to be the jewel of the the beehive. Honey in the comp is uniquely delicate and light because it still inside the was where the bees stored it. A perfect honeycomb specimen has no uncapped cell, dry holes, drips (called weepings) or damage from bruising. It should appear smooth and consistent in color. Honeycomb can be round or square.

Chunk Honey is a chunk or piece of honeycomb floating in a jar of liquid honey. In a typical honey shallow, you’ll see it is possible to cut out three pieces of honeycomb that are four inches by four inches, leaving a narrow piece left over. This “extra” piece is what is reserved for chunk honey, leaving no part of the honey frame wasted. That piece should be placed inside the jar perfectly vertical with the beeswax cells pointing up from the center foundation piece. For consuming, you can choose to either pour the liquid honey out from around the comb or scoops out a chunk of the comb itself. Preferences aside, chunk honey is like the having the best of both worlds..

Crystallized or Creamed Honey is spreadable honey with a lovely granular texture that dissolves on the tongue. It is high in glucose which causes the honey to crystallize quickly. Most honey will crystallize over time. It is still perfectly good. With a unique quality of being both smooth and rough at the same time, many prefer it in this form. Crystallized honey appears creamy and almost opaque in color.

Flavored or Infused Honey is a mild-tasting honey that has flavors steeped or infused into it to enhance its natural flavor. Some interesting added flavorings are fruit flavors, herbs, spices or essential oils. Always check to see if the honey you are purchasing is the authentic varietal or an enhanced product with additives.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Honey Carrot Soup on the left.

Egg Salad Toast with Hot Honey Drizzle on the right.

Raincatcher’s Memories

When I go to the Raincatcher’s garden (est.2005), I am like a Grandmother visiting her grandchildren. The garden has been a blessing to me for many years.

First, I see and smell a Mexican Plum tree and remember Elizabeth Wilkinson’s plan for our garden. The plum is planted in our “under the power lines” garden where you can find trees that will not grow into power lines. In other words, they are just the right height. I give this tree a pat on the head and move on. Grandmothers like to see growth.

Mexican Plum Tree

Next I see daffodils blooming and remember this purchase from Southern Bulbs. Oh gosh Daffy Dil, I remember when you were just a baby.

I spy beautiful Redbuds and think of Eric Larner, our tree expert, and the team leader of the Citizen Foresters of Dallas. He planted these 3 Redbud trees.

And here is a close up of the Redbud. You know how Grandmothers like to get up close.

Under my feet I see bluebonnets. I have to laugh because Lisa Centala put me in charge of the wildflower meadow, but of course we know who really takes care of the flowers of the field.

Bluebonnets ready to pop!

And then there are all the newborns at the garden!

Finally, I want to tell you about two of our gardeners. I am the grandmother so I will call them my greats.

Cynthia and Mark Jones are beaming because for the first time in three years they were able to teach a class to Lakewood Elementary children called Tops & Bottoms. The class is based on the Caldecott Honor book of the same name by Janet Stevens. Lettuce and carrots were harvested from our garden for the children. The students loved tasting the vegetables and reading the book.

So hats off to my greats!

One more beauty-

A trough full of edibles, pansies and swiss chard.

The garden is in good hands. I am a mighty proud grandmother.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardner Class of 2005

Don’t forget our tomato and pepper plant sale on Tuesday at Raincatcher’s.

Tomato and Pepper Transplants for Sale at Raincatcher’s Garden

March 11, 2023

You may not be thinking about tomatoes tonight but I am. March 15th is the frost free date for the Dallas area which means it is not likely we will have a frost after that date. However, next week we may have a few low temperature nights so you may want to wait to plant. Regardless of the date you choose to plant, you are going to want to come to our garden on Tuesday to purchase tomato and pepper plants; lovingly started and tended by Raincatcher’s volunteers. See details below. Ann

It’s time to plant!!!


The MG volunteers of Raincatchers at Midway Hills have grown several varieties of tomatoes and peppers from seed and will have them for sale.

Tuesday, March 14th, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon

Courtyard Garden

Midway Hills Christian Church

11001 Midway Rd. Dallas 75229

$2.00 per 4” pot

Cash or Check only, please

Sarah Sanders, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2006

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1998

Don’t be confused-we have our big plant sale coming up May 4th and will talk it up over the next few weeks.

%d bloggers like this: