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Corning Ware and Cornflower’s

July 11, 2021 

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If you are a baby boomer like me, this is probably a familiar dish. Chances are you might have received similar pieces as wedding gifts during the late 60’s – 70’s. I certainly did. And for the early part of our marriage, corning ware was used often in my kitchen. But I never gave much thought to the blue floral design embossed on the side until we started growing bachelor’s buttons at Raincatcher’s in the edible landscape cottage garden.

A quick google search led me to a fascinating story dating back to the time of Napoleon. As Queen Louise of Prussia was being pursued by Napoleon’s army, she sought protection for her children by concealing them in a field of cornflowers. In order to distract them and keep them quiet, she made wreaths from the flowers. In 1871, the year of Germany’s unification, Wilhelm, son of Queen Louise, honored his mother when he made the cornflower the symbol of unity. Later, the cornflower became the National flower of Germany. 

The name “bachelor’s button” refers to a time when single men with an interest in a specific woman wore them on the lapel of their jacket. If the flower faded too quickly, it was a sign that a woman’s interest in him was not mutual.  Additionally, English maidens wore the cornflower as a sign they were eligible for marriage. If the girl concealed the cornflower under her apron, she had her choice of bachelors.

So, why then, did Joseph Baum, an artist at the Charles Brunelle Advertising Agency in Hartford, Connecticut, choose to feature the cornflower as Corning Ware’s trademark design in 1958? That part of the story seems to have been lost but an endearing answer might be found in the flower’s symbolism. Today, the cornflower symbolizes remembrance, anticipation, fertility, wealth, prosperity, love and the future. Could it be that he was suggesting we should use our lovely corning ware dishes for favorite family recipes that would transcend time? If so, I’m thrilled to still have one of those memorable vintage dishes in my kitchen. And, that adorable blue cornflower emblem on the dish has a new and special meaning for me.

Tips for Growing Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus)

*To get the most blooms and sturdier stems, plant in a location that receives full sun. (At Raincatcher’s, our cornflowers get a little afternoon shade.)

*If soil is predominantly clay or is sandy, mix in some organic material. We add compost yearly.

*Place plants at least 7 inches apart. Mature growth height is around 15-30 inches. 

*Deadhead plants regularly to prolong their flowering periods. For taller species, staking may be necessary. We’ve had ongoing issues with them falling over so all plants are now supported with bamboo stakes.

*Mulch around plants with bark to keep soil moist and to prevent the root system from getting too much sun. 

*Regular watering will keep the plants healthier.

*Cornflowers make excellent cut flowers and attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating and beneficial insects.

*Cornflower seeds are easy to harvest. When the seeds are ripe, the seedpods open up. Once this happens, extract the seeds for next year.

*Enjoy the vibrant blue flowers in salads, raw or cooked. Their sweet to spicy flavor will remind you of cloves. 

A bit of trivia: 

Bachelor Buttons were the favorite flower of President John Kennedy. His son John John wore one at his wedding to honor his father.

And, it has been reported that the most valuable blue sapphires are called Cornflower blue, having a medium-dark violet-blue tone.

Cornflowers Growing in the Edible Landscape Cottage Garden

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

July 4th Garden Party

July 4, 2021

Watering Can Filled With Flowers From Our Gardens

Volunteers from the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills gathered in a shady area of the edible landscape Tuesday for an early July 4th ‘Garden Party’ celebration. A refreshing summer rain the night before brought in a light summer breeze that cooled the air as the line formed for lunch. It was the first time in over a year and a half that we had officially been together for any type of event. 

Friendly conversations, laughter and happy faces reminded us of how much we enjoy spending time celebrating life’s simple pleasures. The fragrant smell of fresh basil lifted our spirits as we savored some of our favorite picnic foods. Summer’s bounty satisfied all who attended.

Following lunch, volunteers were asked to listen as three short quotes were read which hinted at the ‘presidential-type’ garden theme for 2022. Stay tuned over the next few months for clues.

FYI…Here’s the first clue.  

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

If you can guess who spoke these words, then you’re getting close to the knowing the theme.

The big reveal will be sometime in December! For now…Happy 4th of July to Everyone!

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008


Our Crowd Pleasing 4th of July Menu

Lunch To Celebrate!

Jalapeño-Pimento Cheese Spread

Peach, Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Fresh Basil and Mint

Old-Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Strawberry Basil Lemonade 

Squash Vine Borer Part II

June 29, 2021

Master Gardeners share information which is one of the perks about becoming a Master Gardener. Beverly wrote this email to me recently and knowing how devastating it is to have your squash plants devoured by pests like the squash vine borer, I wanted to send this on to you.


Ann, it may be too much information in more ways than one but do you think readers would like a follow up on the squash borers?  I read advice to slice the affected stem to remove borer larvae and did that for the first time today. Sharon Law Wright and I were picking blackberries and checking on the plants in the north garden today and noticed frass on the kuri squash. The stem had a large opening. We opened it further with sharp secateurs and found the borer easily. One squash plant that I replanted in the Edible Landscape after removing borer damage has survived. We did the same thing with the otherwise healthy kuri squash today. 

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Plan Ahead-Easy To Grow Late Summer and Fall Gardening

June 9, 2021

Planning your garden can be panic inducing. What do I plant? Do I start from seed or transplant? I like squash but so do squash borers (a lot)!


When planning our gardens we keep the basics in mind like irrigation plans, soil, light, and available space. But what to plant and when?


You might find it helpful to start with some tasty and easy to grow plants. 
Here are some plants with minimal requirements other than regular watering starting with okra as early as July.

Okra, seed outdoors in July or August. Harvest the pods every two or three days. Slice in half lengthwise, toss in olive oil, and roast in the oven at 425֯ F for 15 minutes or so. 

 

Swiss Chard, seed outdoors mid-August to late September.  It grows in hot and cold weather and usually can be harvested all year.  Remove stems and sauté as you would spinach.

 

Radishes, seed outdoors late September to mid-November.  Many varieties take only 25 days until ready for harvest. The French Breakfast variety was a favorite with the vegetable team this year.  Serve thinly sliced on buttered bread or a whole wheat tortilla. 

Artichokes (perennial!), plant transplants in mid-October.  We get many compliments on the beauty of the artichokes in the Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden. You may harvest the globes or allow them to develop into an eye catching and exotic looking flower. 

Happy gardening!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Annual Plant Sale at The Raincatcher’s Garden

May 4, 2021

Our annual plant sale started many years ago during the time when our garden was on Joe Field Road (too many years ago to remember the exact date of the first sale!).   Raincatchers Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church is our home now and we have continued our annual plant sale at our new location.  We have always enjoyed having an in person sale on our beautiful courtyard but last year due to the pandemic we put on our thinking caps and came up with a socially distanced, online, drive thru sale.  Thanks to all of our loyal customers, it was a great success!

This year, we are happy to announce that our sale will be on the courtyard again.  All volunteers are fully vaccinated, masks will be required and hand sanitizer will be available.  We plan to limit the amount of shoppers on the courtyard if needed so there might be a short wait directly outside the courtyard before you can start your shopping spree!!!  

Now for the fun part – we have tons of decorative planters of all sizes planted with succulents, house plants and a variety of herb pots including pizza pots (a combination of a bell pepper plant with oregano and thyme).   We will have a good variety of perennials, annuals, herbs, veggies, and ground cover starting in 4 inch pots or larger.  We have apricot trees from Oklahoma and both red yucca and soft leaf yucca plants plus many more plants to numerous to list here.  There will also be yard art and when you check out, you can select a packet of free seeds from our garden.  However, a photo is worth a thousand words so please check out our slide show below to see a sample of what you will have to look forward to at our sale.  

Hope to see you on the courtyard on Thursday, May 13th.  More details will follow closer to the date of the sale!

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Sarah Sanders Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2006

Please thank Beverly Allen for this preview of some of the plants that will be for sale:

The North Garden Veggies Are Back

April 27, 2021

The vegetable crops in the north garden are thriving again. All of the raised beds are going strong. We had such nice yields from our Bloomsdale and Regimen spinach that we were able to donate 12-gallon bags to a food bank. Yesterday onions were harvested and donated and we picked a bountiful crop of purple potatoes.

Team leader, Lennard Nadalo, did his homework on tasty varieties. We especially enjoyed the Flamboyant French Breakfast radishes, Runaway and Wasabi arugula. 

Hoping to delight our frequent preschool visitors, we constructed a teepee and planted Sunset runner beans to climb the poles.

This week the vegetable team was pleased to see peppers developing well on the varieties we are growing for the jam and jelly team fund raising efforts.  We have started an heirloom variety of cucumber especially for the team to try branching out into bread and butter pickles this year.

Looking ahead to fall, we are considering small varieties of brassicas that have a better chance of success in our climate. 

Volunteers have started vegetables from seed at home.  Gardeners are tending okra and roselle hibiscus in the greenhouse to be ready in time to plant in May.  The converted turf bed has been tilled and looks perfect for planting.  Other volunteers took time and care creating the central brick lined bed that will have heat loving plants such as cucumbers and okra.  The compost team provides the nutrient dense material that makes our plants thrive.  We appreciate the many donated packets of seeds.

The spirit of cooperation among all gardeners at Raincatchers has contributed a great deal to the successful revival of this area.  Thank you!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

My perennials: Alive, dead or in-between? Evaluating plants 2 months after Texas freeze

Gardening friends, this is a helpful resource from Austin.

Source: My perennials: Alive, dead or in-between? Evaluating plants 2 months after Texas freeze

Raincatcher’s Garden Glorious Spring

April 11, 2021

Come see our garden at 11001 Midway Road. Nestle carefully in front of our bluebonnets for photos!

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

Growing and Harvesting Shallots in the Edible Landscape

Last fall around early November we filled two of our swing set raised beds with shallot bulbs. During the winter months they continued to grow, even through the unprecedented freeze. This past week we noticed that the green tops were starting to wither and fall over. Our shallots were letting us know that harvest time was close. 

Shallots ready for harvest

Tuesday morning, we made the decision to pull them out and prepare the ground for our next crop. A little careful digging around the base of each clump followed by a gentle tug helped us to coax them out successfully. The next step was to let them dry for about a week or two. 

Shallots drying out after harvest

Shallots typically mature in about 90 to 120 days. Because ours were started as a fall crop, we chose to pull them after about 120+ days. If we had allowed them to stay in the ground until mid-April, a more pronounced bulb shape would have developed. But the pepper plants that Jim started for us were growing rapidly in the greenhouse and needed to be transplanted in the shallot bed. Springtime weather had arrived, and our shallot days were over. 

Over half of the shallots were spread out across a wire mesh frame for drying in the sun. On rainy days, they were moved to the garage. The remaining shallots were used to make an incredibly flavorful spring soup from Half Baked Harvest, Herby French Shallot Soup. 

Shallot soup looking so yummy

Shallots are easy to grow and add a perky touch of green to the winter garden. Next fall, we’ll expand our crop to other sunny areas of the edible landscape where shallots can be harvested at different times during the spring. A big pot of Herby French Shallot Soup will be our reward.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener, Class of 2008

Arbequina Olives

We harvested the arbequina olive tree last November and preserved the fruit in a very strong brine. The brine leaches out the bitter oleuropein that makes olives straight off the tree inedible. The result was tasty but very salty!

Gardeners at Raincatcher’s took every precaution possible in mid-February to stave off sub-freezing temperature damage. Looking back, we wish we had double wrapped our precious Arbequina Olive. We don’t think our olive tree will survive but are waiting a few more weeks to see how it fared.

Brown leaves due sub freezing temps

In the meantime, we have olives to enjoy!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018


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