On October 6, 2020, we posted an article on this blog about our new Rising Sun Redbud Tree. We planted it with such great expectations of year round color including spring flowers and a combination of three different colors of leaves throughout the summer. Then came February 2021! For the past several weeks, we have been wondering whether this newly planted tree would survive the “storm of the century.” A couple of days ago we got our answer. At close inspection, we saw flower buds starting to form. Within a few days, it exploded with beautiful light purple flowers closely followed by some light green leaves.
I have been encouraged watching plants coming back to life over the past few weeks. Many plants looked dead but now are starting to show signs of life. I’m sure we will lose plants at Raincatcher’s garden as well as our own gardens, but so far I am feeling hopeful that these plants have a great will to continue to live!!!
Jackie James – Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993
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.
In the meantime, we have olives to enjoy!
Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018
St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and we’re ready to bring out the ‘green’. But with last month’s devastating winter weather event, our garden needs a little “luck of the Irish” to show more of its true color.
Plants that persevered under a blanket of fallen leaves include chervil, cutting celery, French sorrel, bloody sorrel, salad burnet, red stemmed apple mint, spinach, everbearing strawberries, creeping thyme and sweet woodruff. A few others are just now peeking out from the cold ground with their delicate little leaves and branches: anise hyssop, calendula, dwarf trailing winter savory, German chamomile, lemon and bee balm, pineapple sage, sweet fennel and summer savory.
With the help of Gail Cook and Jim Dempsey, our very own ‘seed starting saints’, an impressive list of seedlings are due to make an early spring appearance in the edible landscape. Alyssum, anise, aster, bachelor’s button (cornflower) impatiens, variegated rocket cress and sweet William will start arriving in late March and April.
In early May our gardens will be filled with three different varieties of basil, Jimmy Nardello peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatillos, marigolds – ‘lemon gem’ and tangerine’, papalo, roselle hibiscus and white velvet okra.
It makes us so happy to see the garden going green again. Let’s celebrate with an old Irish wish…
May your paths bloom with shamrocks, and your heart ring with songs, and the sky smile with bright sunshine all this happy day long.
Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener class of 2009
Our dear friends, Sheila Kostelny and Paula Spletter, are master gardeners extraordinaire. Paula is a graduate of the class of 2009 who works at Northhaven Gardens as their Creative Director, specializing in color pot combos. She is a garden lecturer and speaker with an extensive knowledge of herbs and succulents. And, with the impressive gift of a custom designed greenhouse built by her sweet husband, gardening year ‘round is her greatest pleasure.
Sheila also graduated in 2009 and has just recently completed her vegetable specialist certification from the Texas Master Gardener Association. Her backyard-raised herb and vegetable garden beds leave you starry-eyed with wonder. Sheila, too, enjoys having a greenhouse to take her through the seasons.
Together, these two ladies have guided us through many gardening projects at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. We love to spend time with them and, yes, when they speak, we listen!
Just recently, we ran across a photo that left us drooling. It was the creative work of nationally acclaimed food stylist and photographer, Eva Kosmas Flores. Photos of her Coconut Lime Tart with a Coconut Graham Cracker Crust inspired us to learn more about the possibility of growing lime trees locally. Paula and Sheila were just the gardeners needed to advise us in the endeavor. Join us in this informative and inspiring Q & A as they take us on a journey of Texas lime tree “tips’”.
To start, when did you become interested in growing lime trees?
Paula: I think when my little sister moved to Florida. When I would visit, she had a variety of citrus trees in her backyard. I’ve always enjoyed growing citrus trees and have quite a collection. I prefer the taste of limes over lemons. A thornless lime is a must have!
Sheila: I have had a Meyer lemon tree for probably 10 years that I purchased at Sunshine’s Miniature Trees on Greenville Avenue. Since that time, I’ve added Persian Lime, Sweet Kumquat, and Arctic Frost Satsumas.
Was there a particular variety that you felt most appropriate for our Zone 8 climate?
Paula: Not really. I went by what was recommended by Texas A & M for our zone and of course what garden friends had success with.
Sheila: To be quite honest, I purchased the Persian Lime tree from Costco 4 years ago. It wasn’t a purchase that I researched ahead of time.
Lime trees are tropical plants so how do you manage year-around care?
Paula: They do prefer some late afternoon shade, especially in our harsh summer months. Surprisingly, they can take pretty cold temperature in short bursts. It’s the prolonged cold temperatures that destroy good tissue. What can’t fit in my “barn” are on flat bed dolly’s and rolled into the house. They are generally starting to bloom in the winter, so I get the extra bonus of their scent.
Sheila: The ability to bring these potted trees into my greenhouse at the threat of 32-degree temperature is a luxury I cherish. I have one Arctic Frost satsuma planted in the ground in my west garden and one planted in its original pot in my raised bed. At the point that I realized that this weather storm was going to hang around a while, I removed the potted satsuma and put it in my greenhouse. I’m not sure if either of them will survive at this point as they have survived temperatures as low as 9 degrees.
When is harvest time and about how many limes does each tree yield?
Paula: For me, harvest is in late fall. The current Mexican lime I have I might get a dozen, or so, limes off it. They are smaller limes and tend to ripen quicker. Fortunately, the birds seem to leave them alone. Strong winds tend to knock the blooms off so I don’t get as many as I should.
Sheila: Harvest time is around November for me. My lime tree struggled this year and I’m not quite sure why. It really started to kick start in December (of all times) and was beautiful when it was placed in my greenhouse in mid-January. It started putting out an abundant amount of blooms and produced 4 limes. At one point, I had my greenhouse heater a bit too high and the citrus didn’t like that at all. It showed its displeasure by promptly shedding it’s leaves, leaving me with ONE lime left. Typically, I can expect about 5 or 6 limes a year and they are wonderful.
What do enjoy most about having lime trees in your garden?
Paula: Oh, the blooms! The scent is intoxicating! I cut stems full of blooms just to have in the house.
Sheila: As with all my citrus, I love being able to watch it produce from bloom to fruit and, as with anything homegrown, enjoy its rich sweetness and flavor like no other.
How do you use the limes from your lime tree?
Paula: They usually don’t ripen at the same time so I’m bad about just peeling and eating them off the tree. But they do make great margaritas!
Sheila: As I mentioned, my lime harvests haven’t been luxurious. However, there’s nothing like a vodka and soda with a squeeze of home-grown lime. 😊
Better get out more of those covers for your plants. This arctic blast is lasting through mid-week next week and temperatures are forecast to drop way down into the single digits. I have checked the weather app on my phone much more than I ever checked instagram or any other media platform and my level of anxiety was rising until I talked to Jeff Raska.
Jeff Raska, our county horticultural agent, gave some advice.
Cover all bedding plants even pansies and kale, cover all soft tissue plants and perennials that have broken bud. Shrubs that are marginally cold tolerant may also need a cover. That would include Pittosporum, Indian Hawthorn, and Loropetalum. Boxwood may get frost damage so consider covering them.
Just like us, our plants are not used to this cold weather snap so protection is in order. Fortunately, we may get rain first and Jeff says that will help a ton!
As far as frost cloth versus using bed sheets, Jeff says he has saved many plants with bedsheets. Frost cloth or frost blankets are better and will give better protection, but if you run out of those, empty out your linen closet and put those bed linens over your plants.
Looking out at my yard, I am deciding which plants are my favorites and prioritizing them. My relatively new bed of pittosporum, my giant kale, and the fall planted ShiShi Gashira camellias in front are getting the frost cloth and I may even double it. The huge Indian Hawthorns that flank my front yard beds will also get special treatment. I wish there was a way to help by Chinese Snowball Viburnums that are already blooming. For them, I will have to say a prayer.
In closing, Jeff reminded me that nature happens, Things will grow back, as long as they don’t get root damage. The sun will shine again.
You may have noticed the brilliant reds and golds of Japanese Maples around town in recent months. The foliage colors and textures were more reminiscent of an autumn drive through New England than fall in North Texas!
The Dallas County Master Gardeners are hosting a sale of Japanese Maples in March. Many of us are familiar with the variety “Bloodgood,” however the Maples we are offering are varieties not often available at local nurseries. This is your opportunity to purchase these trees in one- and two-gallon sizes.
There is a place in every garden for a Japanese Maple. They thrive in afternoon shade (the perfect understory tree!) and will make that special spot in your garden a focal point year-round.
Watch for the sign-up genius link and additional information including varieties available, pricing, and contactless pick-up details, in February.
Cindy Bolz Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013
Before shopping for your Japanese Maple, please read these two articles:
I met Diane at the Raincatcher’s Garden a couple of months ago when she was in the edible garden and courtyard taking photos. I stopped to say hello and she raved about our garden. She lives in the neighborhood and had noticed the garden from the street. Eventually she stopped by to check it out – and the rest is history.
She told me she sends a selection of the photos each week to people to “brighten their day.” Diane sent some of her photos to me and I was so impressed that I thought it would be nice to share some on Dallas Garden Buzz.
We have made two slides shows from Diane’s photos for you to enjoy.
Diane sends weekly emails (subject line Happy Merry Monday) to about 20 friends, family members and former co-workers. Many of the recipients live in Dallas but the photos reach people in Tennessee, Arizona and Ohio as well.
She also shares her efforts with about 25 people from her church who are home bound. Several of these people don’t use a computer so Diane gets copies made and mails the photos to them!!! It is a pleasure to think of all of the people who are enjoying our garden through her images.
DCMG volunteers have worked hard (within the activity limitations of the pandemic) to ensure the garden remains beautiful and well kept. Many of us have found working at the garden to be a much needed retreat from everything that is happening in the world.
As gardeners we take great satisfaction in the knowledge that visitors to the garden and recipients of Diane’s photos are enjoying the positive benefits and beauty of nature.
It was the sweet, anise like fragrance of Mexican Mint Marigold that drew me into the garden on the morning of October 18th. Brushing up against the plants, I yielded to the temptation and immediately tasted one of the delicate yellow blossoms surrounded by slender green leaves. My garden journey was just beginning.
Landscapes bursting with brilliant color, leaves gently tumbling down from trees and pumpkins spilling out from the porch and into the yard welcome fall in all its glory. I find myself truly enchanted, wanting the experience to linger beyond this moment in time.
Spending one blissful day after another outdoors renews my spirit and encourages me to immerse myself fully in the shimmering days of October and November. I’m immediately drawn to the garden where beauty abounds throughout. Join me on a creative journey of discovery among the flowers and foliage of the season.
Bringing the natural world indoors reminds me, once again, that Autumn’s gifts never fail to bring happiness to my home. From soft whispers of golds and ochre to vibrant shades of burgundy and orange, fall arrangements lend themselves to a more simplistic style. Gathering your treasures is almost as joyful as placing them in a cherished vase. Let nature speak to you in a soft, sweet seasonal whisper. Savor every precious sight, smell and color of this magical season.
My first experience with frostweed was in 2008 as an intern in the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. It was a “give away” during one of our classes. For the past twelve years it has continued to grow in my garden.
Frostweed growing in the garden
Grow It, Use It – Frostweed is a lovely perennial plant native to Texas and many other states. It is a member of the Sunflower Family. Frostweed grows from 3’-6’ and is covered with white disc-like blooms from late August until November. It is an exceptional nectar source for butterflies like Monarchs and Great Purple Hairstreaks. It grows well in dappled shade.
During the month of October Red Rubin Basil delivers a vibrant splash of deep purple in the garden. Paired with purple-veined kale leaves in a mustard colored French olive pot, the only elements needed to complete the picture are two glasses of robust Pinot Noir and freshly cut Black Mission Figs. Cheers!
Grow It, Use It-Plant Red Rubin Basil in April and watch the colors intensify as the months pass. A location with morning to mid-day sun followed by dappled shade in the afternoon will reward you with that spectacular fall foliage. Bees and butterflies will visit the spiky blossoms until the first frost ends its growing season.
A simple bouquet of Mexican Mint Marigold surrounded by the bold, deep red and purplish savoy leaves of Red Giant Mustard pair perfectly in an unassuming pedestal vase.
Grow It, Use It – Mexican Mint Marigold can be planted in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. It tolerates many different soil types but must have good drainage. Plant it in a location that receives early morning to mid-day sun. The distinctive anise flavored leaves can be harvested throughout its growing season from spring through frost. The real show-stopper attraction begins around late September when bright yellow, marigold-like flowers attract migrating butterflies and other pollinators. Mexican Mint Marigold is a perennial that usually freezes to the ground in winter but reappears in spring.
Red Giant Mustard gets two bonus points; it has good cold tolerance and is more insect resistant than other varieties. Start outdoors in late September and continue growing until late spring. Plant in partial shade. Enjoy its beauty as a dramatic landscape plant but harvest the spicy mustard flavored leaves for eating.
When the glossy dark-green leaves of Japanese Aralia began to lose their color, consider using them in unexpected and unusual ways. As the browning tips gently began to curl and turn upwards, create a sense of drama by giving each uniquely faded leaf its place within the arrangement.
Aralia and Dried Hydrangeas
Aralia growing under an arbor
Grow It, Use It – Japanese aralia is grown around the world as a cultivated plant. Enjoy adding a tropical feel to your landscape by using it as an understory plant beneath trees or large shrubs. Plant it in rich, moist soil that drains well. Aralias prefer part sun to shade and will typically grow to around 8 feet. Try to avoid afternoon sun which may scorch the leaves. Flower stalks with creamy flowers followed by black berries appear in late fall or winter.
Freshly squeezed rosy grapefruit juice is your invitation to come for a perfectly planned fall brunch in the garden. Cascading branches of ‘Rose Creek’ abelia create a relaxing and peaceful environment where you are embraced by nature. Dreamy blush colored blossoms found in this simply elegant tabletop setting create a calming effect.
Abelia ‘Rose Creek’ at Raincatcher’s Garden
Grow It, Use It – Monrovia best describes this variety of abelia as having showy clusters of small, fragrant, white flowers that emerge from rosy pink sepals in summer. It is best planted in rich, well-draining soil in a location that receives full sun.
Come visit our blog again Wednesday morning to see the remaining photos plus a spectacular ‘Grand Finale’ arrangement. We encourage you to stroll through Raincatcher’s anytime this week to experience the full seasonal beauty of our garden.
Raincatcher’s volunteers have always loved Iris. We have some beautiful blue iris in our garden that came from our orginal garden, and we have a happy surprise for you. We are dividing iris and have some to sell! Abbe Bolich, Dallas County Master Gardener, gives an iris tutorial below. By the way, Abbe will become our new Dallas County Master Gardener Association President next year. We are thrilled she will be sharing her abilities with the Association, which supports the Dallas County Master Gardener program including Raincatcher’s. She follows a long line of selfless, capable Dallas County Master Gardener presidents.
Plant sale information will be below the video.
RAINCATCHER’S PANSY AND PLANT SALE
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is pleased to offer pansies at a fantastic price for your fall and winter landscape color. We are also offering iris and crinums divided from our own collection, as well as plumerias generously donated by Carol Walsh in memory of her husband and 2020 DCMG Intern, Ed Walsh.
Payments for irises, crinums and plumerias may be brought when you pick them up. Please bring a check or exact change if paying in cash. Volunteers will not have cash on hand to make change due to safety restrictions.
All pansies and plants will be staged at Raincatcher’s for you to pick up from the west parking lot. Raincatcher’s is located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX. We will offer delivery in the Dallas area for large orders of 10 flats or more. Please indicate “delivery requested” in the comments section of the slot , and we will notify you to make arrangements. You may pick up your order on Tuesday, 11/3, from 9am until 2pm or contact the garden to make other arrangements for pickup. Volunteers will be available to load your order using strict social distancing and safety measures. You are asked to remain in your vehicle and please wear a mask.
Linda Alexander wrote the following article for the magazine, Estate Life Old Preston Hollow and Bluffview (October edition.) It’s a lovely way to introduce friends to our garden. After reading, enjoy a delightful musical and photographic tour of this special place by watching the video at the end of the aritcle. And, remember to visit us anytime.
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills
Situated just a half block north of the Midway and Royal Lane intersection is a Dallas County Master Gardener project that you are welcome and encouraged to visit. Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is located on the grounds of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Road. Master gardeners are on site every Tuesday from 9am until noon to manage and care for 12 different garden areas. Here you will find lovely examples of unique and beautiful garden demonstrations:
North Garden areas:
*Pollinator Garden – Birds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds all seem to find their place here. Swallowtails and fritillaries along with small skippers and honeybees are attracted to the flowers of ‘Miss Huff,’ a huge variety of lantana. Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ is a favorite of our large native bees. Painted Ladies and duskywing butterflies find the lovely lavender flowers of prairie verbena to their liking. And, the Eastern Black Swallowtail larvae make good use of the common fennel plant.
*Color Wheel – If you need help creating a specific look in your landscape, check out the options in our color wheel. Lemon thyme, jalapeno peppers and airplane plant are stars of the green spoke. Blue lovers might give Stokesia aster, black and blue salvia and Gregg’s mist a try. For a bold red look, we’re growing autumn red sage, salvia Greggii and amaryllis. If you’re drawn to mellow yellow try growing columbine, rudbeckia and Stella d’Oro lilies in your garden.
*Grape Arbor – This year our Champanel vines produced enough grapes to make over 40 jars of jelly. Yummm! You might be inspired to start your own grape arbor.
Fruit Orchard – Peach, pear and plum trees were perfectly selected, trimmed and shaped per our Dallas County Extension Agent’s instructions to yield maximum production. We’re especially excited about the new apple tree espalier added to the orchard last year.
*Raised Vegetable Beds – Gardening enthusiasts will find good examples of what grows best in our Zone 8 climate every season of the year. Fall and winter crops include tomatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens and winter squashes.
*Composting Area – This is the place where food scraps, leaves and grass clippings are turned into the “black gold” of our garden. Digging into a pile of sweet smelling, finished compost is a gardening joy. Applying it to the soil assures us that we are creating a nurturing environment for growing healthy plants.
Central Garden areas:
*Rain Garden – This area directly in front of the church demonstrates the benefit of capturing rainwater overflow and directing it to a low-lying bed filled with plants that thrive in both wet and dry conditions. Look for crinum, purpleheart, purple coneflower, Turk’s cap, dwarf palmetto and American beautyberry.
*Courtyard – Most visible to church members and tenants is an area of sun and shade between church buildings. Ample shade provides the perfect growing conditions for a variety of Japanese maples and redbud trees, bear’s breeches, beautyberries, cast iron plant, hellebores and sedums. Sunny spots welcome a variety of spring- and summer-blooming bulbs, a dramatic candlestick plant, rosemary and hoja santa among many others.
*The Edible Landscape – Located directly behind the church is an old, abandoned children’s playground where we introduced the concept of combining food with landscaping. Throughout the garden we demonstrate creative ways to integrate edibles into traditional beds and borders. It’s a daunting task to follow the criteria that every plant added to this garden must have at least one part that is edible. With over 75% shade and small pockets of sun to work with, our greatest challenge is finding innovative ways to create an edible landscape each season of the year. We are constantly searching for the lesser-known edible annuals, perennials and evergreens to use in creating a pleasing design aesthetic. Sweet woodruff, variegated society garlic and dwarf trailing sweet myrtle are some new examples of adding style and beauty to our edible landscape.
Raincatcher’s garden is a unique place to visit. We often meet guests who come just to experience the tranquility of a quiet and relaxing environment. Others come to have their senses stirred by the vast array of blooming flowers or herb-lined pathways filling the air with their fragrance. Many come for the educational programs and helpful information which can be applied to the home garden. Children delight in finding caterpillars chomping away on the fennel or monarch butterflies darting from one bloom to the next.
Starting in late winter and spring of 2021 we hope to resume our educational agenda of lectures, seminars, tasting lunches and tours of the garden. Follow us on dallasgardenbuzz.com for a listing of upcoming events and registration information as well as gardening tips and recipes.
When creating and sampling recipes for our 2016 cookbook, A Year On The Plate, these two autumn recipes received rave reviews. There’s still time to plant Swiss chard, turnips and kale for a delicious garden-to-table meal.
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.