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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener

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

Rising Sun Redbud Tree Continued….

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

Photos by Jackie and Starla Willis

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


Going for the Green

March 15, 2021

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


Dallas County Master Gardener Japanese Maple Sale Coming Soon

The Joy of Japanese Maples

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:

 The Japanese Maples at the Raincatcher’s Garden

Dallas County Master Gardeners and Japanese Maples

Crocus Sativus…Worth Its Weight in Gold

As autumn leaves began to fall throughout the edible landscape, we noticed little touches of purple peeking through the bee balm in our greenhouse beds. Much to our surprise, crocus bulbs that had been planted over two and a half years ago, were starting to bloom. As we gently lifted back drooping branches of bee balm more crocus plants appeared. It seemed that the crocus was whispering to us for help, “please don’t cover me up”.

Crocus crying out!

With many other garden chores on the agenda that day, we took a quick departure and started the process of carefully digging up over 15 clumps of crocus plants. Everyone agreed that a new location was essential for the health and survival of our precious plants. We choose three spots in between the raised beds under the swing set frame. Our crocuses now have their own permanent, mostly sunny, location with no competition from other plants.

Crocus replanted

If you are interested in growing crocus in your garden, here is some helpful information to get you started:

*Crocus sativus is an autumn blooming crocus which produces the highly prized and expensive spice, saffron. The spice is actually the red stigmas of the crocus flower.

*Each saffron crocus bulb will only produce one flower. Each flower will only produce three yellow styles, each of which ends with a crimson-red stigma. It takes about 50 to 60 saffron flowers to yield about 1 tablespoon of saffron spice.

*Saffron crocuses need well-draining soil and lots of sun.

*Saffron crocus multiply rapidly so in a few years’ time you should have enough for your garden.

*Saffron crocus are hardy down to -15F. Fertilization may be applied annually but isn’t required.

*Saffron crocus only blossoms during a short period in the fall. Once a flower blooms, it must be harvested that same day, as it begins to wilt almost immediately.

If you’re wondering why saffron is so expensive, consider this; since each flower contains only three delicate stigmas, it takes upwards of 50,000 flowers to yield one pound of dried saffron.

Conclusion: At Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, we’re hopeful about a venture into the saffron market someday!

Linda Alexander

Meet Diane – A Frequent Visitor to the Raincatcher’s Garden

Our new friend, Diane

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. 


Jackie James

Dallas County Master Gardener 1993

Enchanted

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.

Linda Alexander

Basic Iris Care From The Raincatcher’s Garden and Important Plant Sale Information

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.

A flat of 18 4″ pansy pots is only $17 including tax. Prepaid orders will be filled by Green Lake Nursery and brought to Raincatcher’s for customer pickup next Tuesday, 11/3. All pansy orders must be received by Friday, 10/30, and paid for by Monday, 11/2, at noon please. Green Lake may sell out of your variety, so paying via Signup Genius using your credit or debit card is the best way to ensure availability. You may bring cash (exact change only please) or check made out to DCMGA by Raincatcher’s Garden on Thursday, 10/29, from 9am until 2pm. You may also contact Raincatcher’s garden through Sign Up Genius by clicking on the mail icon next to “Created by:  Raincatcher’s Garden” at the bottom of the sale description or “Contact Raincatcher’s Garden” at the bottom of the signup confirmation after you’ve placed an order to make arrangements to drop off your payment. 

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.

Video by Starla Willis

More about iris care, click here.

Ann Lamb

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