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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener Association

Friends of the Garden, Part II

June 5, 2023

14 Fascinating Facts About Ladybugs

(These are excerpts from a story by Rosemary Mosco and orginially published on and updated for 2023)

  1. Ladybugs are named after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

One of the most common European Ladybugs is the seven-spot ladybug, and its seven marks reminded people of the Virgin Mary’s seven sorrows.  Germans even call these insects Marienkäfers, or Mary’s beetles.

  1. They are not bugs!

Ladybugs are not bugs – they are beetles.  They are part of Coleonptera, the beetle order.  

  1. Some people call ladybugs birds, bishops, or cows.

In parts of England, and for reasons that are unclear, the ladybug is a bishop.  Nowadays, most people in England use the word ladybird, perhaps because these insects are able flyers. 

In several languages, the portly, spotted ladybug is affectionately known as a little cow.  French people sometimes use the term vache à Dieu, which means “cow of God”.

  1. Ladybugs come in a rainbow of colors.

You’ve probably seen red ladybugs with black spots – but members of the ladybug family come in a wide range of hues, from ashy gray to dull brown to metallic blue.  Their patterns vary, too; some have stripes, some have squiggles, and some have no pattern at all.

  1. Those colors are warning signs.

To avoid being eaten, ladybug species with bright colors are walking billboards that say, “Don’t eat me, I’ll make you sick!”  And that is because…

  1. Ladybugs defend themselves with toxic chemicals.

A lot of ladybugs produce toxins that make them distasteful to birds and other would-be predators.  These noxious substances are linked to a ladybug’s color, the brighter the ladybug, the stronger the toxins.  Don’t panic:  Ladybugs won’t harm you unless you eat many pounds of them!

  1. They lay extra eggs as a snack for their young.

Ladybug moms lay clusters of eggs on a plant, but not all of those eggs are destined to hatch.  Some of them lack embryos.  They’re a tasty gift from the mother ladybug; the newly hatched larvae will gooble them up.

  1. Ladybug larvae look like alligators.

What hatches out of those ladybug eggs is a long, spiny larva that looks a little like an alligator.  Though ladybug larvae may be intimidating, they’re not harmful to humans.  They crawl around, feeding and growing, until they’re ready to turn into something even weirder…

  1. Ladybug pupae look like aliens.

Once the larvae find a nice spot in the garden, they turn into an alien-looking pupa.  Protected by a hard covering, the ladybug then makes an incredible transformation from larva to adult, bursting out of its old skin.

  1.  Adult ladybugs fly with hidden wings.

When a ladybug takes flight, it lifts up its protective, hard covered wings, that are not suitable for flight, and slides out another pair of wings that are light weight, slender and perfect for flight.

  1. Ladybugs survive the winter as adults.

They enter a state of rest and cuddle together in groups, often in logs or under leaves.  Some even find comfort in our homes, the harlequin ladybug enjoys the warmth that is provided.

  1. They’re voracious predators – mostly.

They are a natural form of pest control.  They’re favorite foods are some of our worst plant pests:  aphids, scale bugs, and mealybugs.  A single ladybug can eat 5000 aphids across its lifetime.

  1. Humans are spreading ladybug species around the world.

People have introduced non-native ladybugs to combat agricultural pests, and in some cases they’ve hitchhiked on imported goods.  The results have not always been beneficial as they push out the native species and introduce a deadly fungal parasite.

  1. They can be bad for your wine.

After devouring the aphids on nearby crops, such as soybeans, if vineyards are nearby, the ladybugs take up residence in bunches of grapes.  When ladybugs become frightened during harvesting, they squirt out a smelly defensive liquid fluid.  The resulting wine has a particular stinky flavor that has been likened to peanuts or asparagus.

There are additional sources on the use of beneficial insects at:

Jon Maxwell, Dallas County Master Gardener

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

What is Tupelo Honey?

May 24, 2023

(A $120 bottle of Gold Reserve Tupelo Honey)

“She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey

She’s an angel of the first degree

She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey

Just like honey baby, from the bee”

In 1971 singer-songwriter Van Morrison released his album Tupelo Honey. Shortly thereafter, the album reached number 27 on the Billboard charts. As a result, the name and brand of Tupelo honey reached a national audience. Then in 1996 Tupelo honey once again gained recognition in the media spotlight with the release of the major motion picture Ulee’s Gold starring Peter Fonda. Not only did Fonda win a Golden Globe for his performance in the film, but Tupelo honey also earned the distinction of being known as the Queen of the Honey World.

Tupelo honey is light golden amber with a greenish cast. The first taste is of cinnamon with a tinge of anise. That gives way to a whisper of jasmine and something citrusy like tangerine rind. 

Tupelo honey is unique for its unusually high fructose to glucose ratio. Because of this ratio, raw Tupelo honey is very slow to, and rarely ever crystallizes. The higher fructose to glucose ratio also makes Tupelo honey one of the sweeter honey options.

Considered by many to be the most expensive honey in America, it seems strangely odd that the best Tupelo honey producing region in the world is the Florida panhandle along the Appalachicola, Chipola and Choctahatichie River systems of creeks and backwaters. It comes from the nectar of the White Ogeechee Tupelo trees. The Tupelo tree, also known as the swamp gum tree, is abundant in only a few places in the country including Northwestern Florida, Southern Georgia and Louisiana. Beekeepers load their beehives on barges and float them in the swamp for the 3-week blooming period, being careful to avoid the alligators lurking in those waters. The little flowers are very delicate and can be easily destroyed by high winds or severe rain. This is why the demand for Tupelo honey will always exceed the supply! 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Try this Tupelo Honey Recipe:

Tupelo Honey Grilled Salmon

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.

Scenes From Harvesting Red Potatoes

May 17, 2023

Mark Jones demonstrating how to dig under the potatoes and lift them out to minimize damage.

These potatoes were hilled up with compost but we did not add any support to keep the compost in place and they peeked out of the soil. The skin became scaly. 

Ruth Klein with a gigantic red potato

Ruth Klein and Yuliana Rivas Garcia digging up potatoes

It is fun when the potatoes pop up out of the soil.

We improvised to keep the compost from sliding off after we hilled up the potatoes. The added layers of compost increase yield and keep the potatoes from being exposed to the sun.

Cynthia Jones preparing just over 68 pounds of Red La Soda potatoes for North Dallas Shared Ministries Food Pantry.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Red La Soda and Kennebec potatoes were planted in February

“Happy Together”

‘Brilliant Pink Iceberg’ Floribunda and onion chives at Raincatcher’s in the edible landscape

Imagine me and you, I do…
I think about you day and night, it’s only right!

Just as the Turtles sang to us in 1967, some things belong together. In the plant world this loving and beneficial relationship is commonly referred to as “companion planting.” You might even have heard the popular expression…” roses love garlic.” Let’s consider several reasons why.

From the New York Botanical Garden

*Members of the onion family such as chives, ornamental alliums and edible onions are rumored to increase the perfume of roses, ward off aphids and prevent black spot. Herbs and other aromatic plants make wonderful rose companions. 

According to Birds and Booms

*Garlic protects roses from not only bad bugs, it can also help prevent fungal diseases. Aphids don’t love garlic, they hate it!

The Garlic Farm offers this advice – 

*Plant three to four cloves in a circle around each rose bush, and the sulphur present in the garlic will disperse into the soil and be taken up by the roses – making it a less palatable treat for little bugs.

Gardening Know How says – 

*Rose lovers have planted garlic, chives, garlic chives and onions in their rose beds for many years. Garlic has been known to repel many pests that bother rose bushes. Garlic chives have interesting foliage, repel some pests and their pretty little clusters of white or purple flowers look wonderful with the rose bush’s foliage. 

Seasoned gardeners offer these tips – 

Included in the list of rose companion plants are alyssum, lavender, marigolds and parsley. 

Be sure to check on the companion plant’s growth habit as to height. In many cases, you might want lower-growing companion plants. Herbs will work well planted in the rose beds but, again, check their growth habits to be sure.  

Pairing members of the allium family with your roses helps to ward off aphids with their strong scent and may prevent black spot.

So glad we knew about this dynamic relationship when planting our beautiful rose topiary a few years ago and surrounding it with garlic chives. As you can see from the photo, they seem to be saying… yes, we are indeed happy together!

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Lenten Rose 

May 2, 2023

Lenten Rose in bloom

Lenten rose plants (Helleborus x hybridus) are not roses at all but a hellebore hybrid. It was given its name because the flower looks similar to a rose and it blooms in early spring often during Lent.  This is another plant that we will have at our annual Raincatcher’s Plant sale on Thursday, May 4th.  

It is an evergreen, slow growing perennial and the blooms on the heirloom varieties are downward facing.  The flowers are very long lived, sometimes remaining for eight to ten weeks.  

Lenten rose thrives in partial to full shade which makes it a good plant for adding color and texture to dark areas of the garden.  Try planting it in small groups of 3 to 5 plants (18 to 24 inches apart) or plant along walkways and edging.   As you can see from the photo, it looks great planted alongside purple oxalis and holly fern.  It is best to keep the soil moist but it can tolerate drier conditions once established.


Lenten Rose foliage with Holly Fern and Purple Oxalis

We hope to see you at our plant sale on Thursday, May 4 from 10 AM to 3 PM.  Raincatcher’s Garden is located at 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church.  Raincatcher’s is a Dallas County Master Gardener program and all proceeds from this sale benefit master gardener programs.   

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener 1993 

Come shop the sale on Thursday, May 4th, 10am until 3pm.

Midway Hills Christian Church 11001 Midway Road Dallas, Texas 75229

Feed the Bees…A Smorgasbord of Plants for Zone 8

Bees require both nectar and pollen sources for survival. Each source has a specific purpose, nectar for energy and pollen for protein. Let’s do our part by offering them blooming plants throughout the seasons and help to avoid a feast or famine situation for the bees. Included in this post is a partial listing of nectar and pollen sources along with photos of seasonal plants loved by honeybees. Be proactive and intentionally plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year.



*Basil (especially African Blue and Cinnamon)





*Mexican Sunflower 

*Moss Rose



*Sweet Pea



*Anise Hyssop

*Fall Aster





*Scented Geranium

*Lambs Ear




*Shrimp Plant



*Black-eyed Susan Vine







*Morning Glory







*American Beautyberry


*Butterfly Bush

*Cherry Laurel


*Crepe Myrtle

*Fire Thorn

*Flowering Quince






Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Pictures by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2009

Veggie Greenrose

Green Rose in a Vase

On a typical Sunday morning following church, my husband and I can be found enjoying brunch at our favorite local bistro. A few weeks ago, was no exception. Parigi is owned by a dear friend of ours who, in “oh so chic” Parisian style, never fails to greet guests with a petite tabletop centerpiece of fresh flowers.

Taking a seat at our usual window table, we were mesmerized by the small but stunning floral display in front of us. Our server smiled as we inquired about the apple-green petals with bronze tips resembling a rose but tightly connected in a lettuce-type formation. Her answer was and short and simple… “I only know that it is called ‘Veggie Greenrose’.”

Brunch was delightful and relaxing but once in the car, a google search took me to a source that provided the best explanation. Here is an abbreviated version of what I learned. 

Our admiration was for a unique rose known as Green Rose, thought to be a descendant of Old Bush, a two-hundred-year-old form of Rosa chinensis viridiflora. China roses are extremely hardy and well suited to Zone 8. One grower observed that many winters, in Zone 8, the Green Rose never loses its leaves but remains a vibrant green with a tinge of red. 

While the buds on Green Rose bloom like any other rose, when open, there are never any petals. Interestingly, the rose bloom is made up of sepals on top of sepals followed by more sepals. Characteristic of its design, the sepals usually come together to form the “holder” of the flower. This holder is called a calyx, but the Green Rose never makes a true flower. Without a flower, there is no seed and no next generation of the plant. 

Thankfully, gardeners throughout the years who held Green Rose in high esteem, chose to take cuttings that were graciously shared with family and friends. Today, this rose exists due to the kindness and love of these special admirers. 

However, locating a source for Green Rose can be challenging. Once again, thanks to the internet, Mountain Valley Growers in Squaw Valley, California had them in stock. I ordered three small plants. Joyfully, my order arrived two weeks ago.

Following their instructions, Green Rose spent a few days acclimating to our climate. After a carefully selected location, it is now growing in my garden. And my dear friend and fellow master gardener, Ann Lamb, agreed to grow one of the plants in her garden. We plan to compare their growth over the next few months and eventually start taking cuttings to share with family and friends.

Ann and Linda with our beginner Green Roses

It is enchanting to consider a diminutive and wonderful rose that first appeared as early as 1743 in the area that later was named China. Even more intriguing is the fact that, at one time, it was forbidden for anyone outside of the Forbidden City to grow this rose. It was the sole property of the emperors!

Emperors aside, Ann and I have no walls or thoughts forbidding anyone to grow a beautiful rose that should have a place of honor in any rose garden! Let us know if you would be interested in having a cutting someday.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

We have several rosarians amongst our Master Gardener crowd. Has anyone grown the Green Rose? If you have, send us a picture.

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

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