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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

The Colors of Honey

May 19, 2021

Take a quick look at the six jars of honey shown above. What did you notice? If the first thing that caught your eye were the different colors, then a brief description of honey’s relative visual properties might provide some insightful information. And, yes, it’s true that most of us generally choose honey based on color.

Honey Colors

The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies commercial honey (the jars you typically find in the grocery store) into 7 color categories:

*Water White (0 mm – 8 mm) (Colorless and transparent)

*Extra White (8 mm – 17 mm) (Very light-yellow tint while remaining transparent)

*White (17 mm – 34 mm) (Slightly more yellow/very light amber, also transparent)

*Extra Light Amber (34 mm – 50 mm) (Transparent with a light orange/amber hue)

*Light Amber (50 mm – 85 mm) (Deeper orange /amber hue, not fully transparent)

*Amber (85 mm – 114mm) (Deep orange color and not transparent)

*Dark Amber (114 mm – 140 mm) (Very dark and opaque, referred to as “motor oil black”)

How Honey Color is Measured 

The color of honey is typically measured using a continuous scale known as the Pfund scale of measurement. The scale consists of a glass wedge that varies in its color from lightest to darkest amber. The honey to be evaluated is poured into another wedge-shaped container and then the color is compared with the amber scale. The place where the color of the honey matches closest to the scale is then marked as the result. The final measurement is thus given in a number ranging from 0 to 140 mm (according to the scale length where the match occurs). 

What Determines Color?

The color of honey is determined by its floral source, or blossoms of the nectar, and mineral content. Honeybees forage for both nectar and pollen. Nectar is the bee’s source of energy while pollen provides protein and other nutrients. As the bee forages, pollen grains collect on its head. The bee then uses its front legs to transfer the pollen to the pollen baskets located on its hind legs. Bees mix dry pollen with nectar to compact the pollen in the pollen basket. Honey, therefore, gets its color from the pollen that a hive gathers to make it. 

Light colored honeys like citrus, rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus and thyme contain high amounts of calcium. Darker honeys contain higher amounts of potassium, chlorine, sulfur, sodium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Iron is what gives buckwheat honey its deep brown color. 

Lighter-colored honeys generally have a milder flavor but with a pronounced floral aroma often accompanied by herbal, spice, vanilla, butterscotch or other enticing flavor notes. As the honey gets darker in color, the aroma and taste become more distinctive. All honey tends to deepen in color as it ages, but this change does not affect its flavor.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that soil, climate, water, wind and sun all contribute to every honey’s sensory attributes, including color, aroma and flavor. This unpredictable mosaic of natural conditions is a gentle reminder of the ever-changing profile of varietal honey. Clover honey from this year may surprise your taste buds with a slightly different flavor profile in the future. 

(Honeybee gathering nectar from Sage blossoms)

Examples of light honey floral sources:







*Apple Blossom





Examples of dark honey floral sources:








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

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

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

Friends of the Garden

Many of you have seen these color change artists in your own gardens but do you really know what they are and how they help to limit plant pests?

The green anole, Anolis carolinensis, is a small to medium-sized lizard, with a slender body and a long tail.  Its head is elongated and has numerous ridges between its eyes and nostrils, and smaller ones on the top of its head.  Its toes have adhesive pads to facilitate climbing.  The males are 15% larger than the females, and the male dewlap (throat fan) is three times the size of the female’s and ranges in color from bright orange to a light pink, whereas the females dewlap is lighter in color.  The extension of the dewlap from the throat is used for communications.  Males can also form a dorsal ridge behind the head when displaying or when under stress.

The green anole’s body coloration can vary from dark brown to bright green and can be changed like many other kinds of lizards, but anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons.  The anole changes it color depending on mood, level of stress, activity level and as a social signal, (for example, displaying dominance).  Although often claimed, evidence does not support that they do it in response to the color of their background.

Ever seen one with either no tail or a very short one? An interesting fact is that the anole, like many lizards, has an autotomic tail, which will wiggle when broken off to distract a predator and allow the anole to escape.

This species is native to North America, where it is found mainly in the subtropical parts of the continent.

An anole’s diet consists primarily of small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, moths, cockroaches, small beetles, and other arthropods, including spiders, as well as occasionally feeding on various mollusks, (think snails and slugs), grains and seeds.

Jon Maxwell, Dallas County Master Gardener

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.

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.

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