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Garden Water…Herbal Infusions and Flavors

Infused Herbal Water

No matter the season, there’s always work to be done in the garden. Seasonal challenges many times involve weather related temperature extremes serving as the determining factor. In north central Texas, we typically get socked in with sweltering temperatures mid June to early September. This week is no exception. The forecast is for temperatures over 100°. Our weather forecasters have advised caution for any type of outdoor activity. Staying hydrated is of supreme importance as we are reminded to drink lots of water. 

While doing those garden chores, how about some fresh ideas using herbal infusions to flavor your water? Easy to make and so refreshing, follow these simple steps for a cool thirst quencher:

Select the fruits, vegetables and herbs of your choosing

Give everything a gentle wash

Fill a pitcher with tap or filtered water

Add your preferred combination

Refrigerate and allow the fruit and herbs enough time to infuse the water

Fruit and herbs should be removed after 10 hours, or less, but continue to enjoy the water

Create a different flavor combination each day

At Raincatcher’s, taking a water break is a tasty and satisfying experience. We enjoy our time to “pause” and visit with each other. Sipping on herbal infused water gives us that refreshing lift needed to continue caring for our beloved gardens.

Thirst no more!  Here are the herbal infused waters from left to right in the picture above:

Cucumber, Salad Burnet and Borage Blossoms (Starla’s favorite)
Watermelon, Watermelon Flavored Mint
Orange Slices, Blueberries, Lemon Verbena (Linda’s Favorite)
Lemon and Lime Slices, Pineapple Sage
Strawberries, Balsamic Blooms Basil (Ann’s Favorite)
Apricots, French Tarragon

Other flavorful combinations to try:

Parsley and Lemon
Peaches and French tarragon
Cucumber and lemon thyme
Grapefruit and rosemary
Lavender and lemons
Oranges and sage
Strawberries, blueberries and mint

Look for seasonal inspiration in your garden and be creative with your combinations.

Linda Alexander

Photo by Starla Willis

Note: When using borage flower heads for culinary purposes, pick off by grasping the black stamen tips and gently separating the flower from its green back. Sprinkle over salads, or use to flavor water and other beverages.

Our Rain Garden

Here’s a few pictures of our rain garden doing it’s job which by the way is to catch the overflow water from our two gigantic rain cisterns and allow it to sink into the ground rather than out to the street.

The water is typically absorbed in less that 24 hours.

We have selected plants that can survive in standing water or low water situations. The result is a beautiful garden that catches water that would otherwise land in our city storm water drain. The rain garden also serves as a bird and butterfly haven.

Take a look at these beautiful flowers and then let us shower you with plant suggestions. The list will be at the bottom of the page.

Super Ellen Crinum Lily

Texas Star Hibiscus


Rain garden plant list 2020

Crinum lilies, including ‘Super Ellen’ Crinum sp.

Various Daylilies Hemerocallis hybrids

Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea

White Rain Lily Zephyranhes candida

Pink Rain Lily Zephyranthes grandiflora

Red Spider Lily Lycoris radiata

Texas Spider Lily Hymenocallis liriosme

Louisiana Iris cultivars Iris sp.

Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida pupurae

Concord Grape Spiderwort Tradescantia pallida ‘Concord Grape’

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

Summer Phlox Phlox paniculata ‘John Fanick’

Summer Phlox Phlox paniculate ‘Victoria’

Brazos Penstemon Penstemon tenuis

Shenandoah Switch Grass Panicum virgatum

Texas Star Hibiscus, Red and White Hibiscus coccineus

Purple Beautyberry Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Purple Pride’

Turk’s Cap Malvaviscus drummondii

Dwarf (Swamp) Palmetto Sabal minor


Let it rain!

Ann Lamb

Photos by Starla Willis and Susan Swinson

 

A New Discovery

Last week at our local farmer’s market I was taken by surprise. Crowds arrived early creating lines at most stands. After a first pass at a few of my usual stops, something caught my eye. A local grower from Irving was offering freshly pulled carrots straight from her garden. While that may not seem unusual, it was the carrot tops that made me swoon. Lush and lovely, their feathery formation in vibrant shades of green jogged my memory.

A few weeks earlier, my husband and I had dinner at one of our favorite Dallas restaurants. Janice Provost, chef/owner of Parigi’s, is a good friend who loves to “talk garden” with me and enjoys sourcing locally grown, fresh produce. That night she was featuring an appetizer we decided to try.

Appropriately named, our ‘Garden Board Special’ with Carrot Top Pesto was stunning. A colorful combination of bread “planks” slathered with whipped feta and cream cheese then topped with perky little red and yellow cherry tomatoes tumbling across the next layer had us drooling. The finishing touch was a light sprinkling of micro greens drizzled with carrot top pesto. For me, the meal was complete, and a new pesto experience stayed in my head.

Garden Board Special

It must have been somewhat providential that those carrots spoke to me at the market, but it was also the surprising discovery of locally grown edible purslane that motivated me to recreate our appetizer experience. And, thankfully, I had stumbled upon the necessary ingredients to complete the task.

Here is my slightly adapted version of the pesto. If you find it intriguing, start thinking now about your fall carrot crop and a flavorful new way to use them from top to bottom. And, check back in early January for a preview of our ‘Grow and Graze’ lineup of 2021 classes.

 

 

Carrot Top Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup carrot tops (lightly packed)

½ cup flat-leaf parsley or fresh spinach

¼ cup walnuts

1 garlic clove

½ cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Zest of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Lightly toast the walnuts over medium heat until they start to become fragrant. Stir constantly, toasting just until slightly golden brown. 

In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients, including the toasted walnuts, until everything is well-combined and forms a coarse paste. For a thinner pesto, add a few more tablespoons of olive oil, one at a time, until reaching a desired consistency. 

Serve over roasted vegetables, soups, baked chicken, or fresh tomatoes. 

*Substitute pecans or pine nuts, if desired.

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Highly prized, beautiful umbel-shaped blossoms of the carrot tops

This summer, in the edible landscape, we took the advice of Dallas County Interim Extension Agent, Jeff Raska, and let our carrots grow for two seasons. By early summer we were treated to a carrot blossom extravaganza. Beautiful umbel-shaped blossoms soon became lovely spherical, lacy white flowers ready for both the bees and our garden guests to enjoy.  We’re now using those delicate Queen Anne’s Lace looking flowers as a topper for salads, soups and appetizer trays. Our garden adventure was a delightful surprise!

Linda Alexander

Carrot Top Photo by Starla Willis

The Raincatcher’s Color Wheel

The red section of the color wheel at The Raincatcher’s Garden blooming with yucca, sages, red verbena, cannas and poppies.

The color wheel like most gardens is a work in progress, never finished. It is fun to mix flowers and edible plants together. They compliment each other quite nicely.

There is no master plan as to what gets planted. Many of the plants are donated by fellow Master Gardeners. Each year Jim plants seeds and shares them. Rudbeckia, Zinnias and Marigolds are favorites. He also provides pepper plants.

As you know the garden is shaped like a pie, It has 6 wedges of different colors.  Red, blue, green, orange and violet and yellow flowers and foliage fill each wedge.

Go visit the garden, it will make you feel good and you ‘ll probably recognize some of your babies.

Annette Latham, Master Gardener class of 2005

Picture by Starla Willis

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale Online Purchasing Available Now

Welcome to the 2020 Raincatcher’s Plant Sale, pandemic edition. While there’s nothing we gardeners love more than browsing through the aisles looking for plants, we’re hoping that you’ll do some online shopping instead this week. As Master Gardeners, we’re still being very diligent about observing social distancing guidelines and limiting the size of gatherings.

Home grown scented geraniums for sale! View these and a good variety of other
desirable garden favorites via our on line plant sale.

 

On the other hand, we’ve been growing, dividing, propagating and digging plants for months in anticipation of this much-needed fundraiser, so this sign-up is our answer to how to share all these well-adapted and well-loved plants with you while keeping both our community and our volunteers safe.

We hope you enjoy browsing the list of creatively arranged and presented plants here.

Here’s how it works:

Sign up to reserve the items you wish to purchase. There’s no need to create an account in Signup Genius, but we will need your email address.

Watch your email for an invoice in the next day or so from the Dallas County Master Gardener Association Square Payment Processing account. Please pay your invoice with a credit or debit card by Monday, June 1st

Come to the garden at Midway Hills Christian Church for a “no-contact” delivery of your plants on Tuesday, June 2nd, between 10am and 1pm. Please protect your vehicle upholstery ahead of time if needed. You will need to remain in your vehicle for Master Gardeners in protective masks and gloves to load your purchases for you.

Please note: volunteers are not allowed to take cash or checks for this sale. All purchases must be prepaid by credit or debit card.

Enter the church parking lot from the south entrance only and drive around to the west side of the property. Please form a single line if others are receiving deliveries ahead of you.

A Master Gardener volunteer will greet you and get your name then direct your vehicle to a loading area.

Another Master Gardener will bring your pre-paid purchases to your vehicle. Please remain in your vehicle and unlock the back door or pop open the trunk or cargo area, and the volunteer will place everything inside for you.

Easy as pie, you’re on your way home with a car full of plants to enjoy this summer!

  Raincatcher’s 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.

Lisa Centala

Plant Sale Sign Up Genius

 

 

The Japanese Maples At The Raincatcher’s Garden

We are fortunate to have 5 Japanese Maples in our shady courtyard at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ is a classic upright red, the Japanese maple that made Japanese maples famous in America. Oddly enough the name ‘Bloodgood’ came from the family name of the owners of Bloodgood Nursery in New York and had nothing to do with its red color. Fortunately, the name fits this lovely red Japanese maple. It leafs out in the spring with bright red leaves which develop to deep maroon red, providing dynamic contrast throughout the spring, summer and especially in the autumn when the color intensifies displaying shades of oranges and reds which will grab anyone’s attention and make your yard look spectacular.

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ grows upright in habit to around 20-25 feet in thirty years. A very hardy and vigorous grower ‘Bloodgood’ does well in sun or filtered light. While this is typically the first Japanese maple tree for most people, it has also become a necessity in every garden and maple collection due to its amazing red color. Zones 5-9

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ is an upright, slow-growing, vase-shaped form that typically grows over time to as much as 20-25’ tall. It is sometimes commonly called coral bark maple in reference to its distinctive and showy pink bark which provides excellent color and contrast to landscapes in winter. Pink coloration is less pronounced to almost absent in summer. Best pink coloration occurs on young twigs and branches. Palmate leaves with serrate margins emerge yellow- green with reddish margins in spring, mature to light green by summer and turn yellow-gold in fall. Cultivar name means coral tower (sango meaning sea coral and kaku meaning tower/upward growing) as if to suggest this pink-barked cultivar resembles coral rising upward from a reef.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’  is a good sun-dappled understory tree and because of its excellent winter bark it should be sited where the pink bark in winter can be most appreciated. Zones 5-8

Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’ is one of the finest Japanese maples, an outstanding dissectum cultivar with a deep-red foliage. Most dissectum cultivars that start out with excellent red color during spring and early summer turn green or bronze later in the season. Crimson Queen carries its deep red color throughout the entire growing season. Crimson Queen is sun, heat and humidity tolerant, but prefers protection from harsh direct sun. Fall color is an array of bright scarlet tones.

Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’ grows in the classic mushroom shape and older trees develop a beautiful branching pattern. The mounding habit of ‘Crimson Queen’ makes for a specimen tree maturing to a maximum height of 8 to 10 feet, although some top out at about 5 feet due to their weeping characteristic, and a spread, depending on pruning, of 7 to 12 feet. Zones 5-8

Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ Considered one of the top 3 varieties in the world for bonsai, beautiful ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ is a naturally dwarf, layered tree with tight branching. If left alone, it will reach about 5 feet high and wide within a decade and stays much smaller if root-trimmed for bonsai. What makes ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ so distinctive is the way in which the leaves are held. Deeply lobed and quite elongated, they arise in tufts, overlapping one another, as if fanned out for display. This creates little canopies on every branch, a very striking effect.

Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ In spring, the new foliage unfurls in shades of yellow- tinted green, very pale and eye-catching. As summer arrives, they darken to a rich mid-green and remain that way until the cooler temperatures of autumn, when they burnish brightest orange to scarlet. It is outstanding in containers or the garden. Zones 5-8.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ is an older cultivar. A medium sized tree with a most unusual characteristic – the leaves are small and crinkled around upright branches. In Japanese the name translates to Lion’s Head or Lion’s Mane, based upon a mythical lion in Japanese drama because of its shape and growth habit. Bunched up, heavily curled leaves grow at the end of short stout shoots. The foliage is deep green and firm to the touch. The tree structure is stiff – branches and leaves do not wave in the wind, as with most maples. The dark green foliage turns to orange and finally scarlet red in the fall.

Shishigashira is considered a slow growing tree suitable for bonsai enthusiasts. Shishigashira like other Japanese maples, benefits from some pruning to shape the tree, as well as removing any dead branches. The estimated height in 10 years is 12′. Once established this cultivar is hardy to -20 degrees, Zones 5-8

Lisa Centala

Photos show trees at Raincatcher’s in the fall except the last Maple which is new to our garden and photographed last week.

Photos by Starla Willis

My favorite Maple is the Coral Bark Maple because it was given so generously by the Master Gardeners at Raincatcher’s  in honor of my Mother, Betty Haughton.

More about Japanese Maples here.

 

Tornadoes and Shade

My neighborhood lost many trees in the tornado last October. In an initial survey of 71 homes in Northwest Dallas, homeowners reported that at least 250 trees were lost on their properties.

Many of the residents of my formerly shady neighborhood were accomplished shade gardeners. Now they have lost plants that were in shade pre-tornado and must consider replacement plants that can tolerate full sun.

As gardeners in Texas, we have learned that when plants are labeled for full sun exposure we must mentally factor in a calculation for the Texas sun. Many plants, especially seedlings, need a break from the sun after 2 p.m.

Drip irrigation or a soaker hose, combined with 3-4 inches of compost or other mulch, will reduce evaporation and lower soil temperature. This will help but a shade structure or taller plant may be needed to prevent heat stress or worse.

Tall plants such as sunflowers or okra will do well for shading smaller plants.

Have you ever thought of planting sunflowers like these to shade plants?

Garden stores have ready made shade tunnels for rows of plants.  The same effect can be accomplished with 1 inch diameter flexible PVC pipe, garden stakes, and frost cloth. Care should be taken to allow good air flow in order to prevent diseases caused by excess humidity.

Or for those of us who don’t mind improvising, a variety of household items such as laundry baskets, umbrellas, and plastic garden tables will provide shade, if not elegance. Click through this slide show for examples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Cheesecloth may be placed directly over small plants and will lower temperatures by reflecting sunlight.

If rabbits are an issue, a chicken wire cage draped with cloth may mitigate both pest and light problems (unless the rabbits are especially determined).

Texas weather presents many challenges but successful gardeners know how to play it by ear.

Beverly Allen, Master Gardener class of 2018

Pictures by Starla Willis

A Garden of Lettuce

April 26, 2020

Never in my wildest dreams did I think of growing Wasabi lettuce and that I would enjoy it so much. It has a sharp, wasabi-like taste just perfect when used raw in salads.   I planted it and several other varieties of lettuce in my garden in January after visiting the  Dallas Arboretum and their lovely edible landscape.

Something else I did not foresee was a pandemic with the shut down of our usual freedoms to work, shop, eat in restaurants and everything else we take for granted. I have not been inside a grocery store since early March so this little salad garden at my back door has been comforting to me and I have been able to share salad greens with neighbors and family.

If you would like a garden of fresh lettuce, consider planting some of these varieties next fall. I bought all these packages on the seed rack at Nicholson-Hardie Garden Center.

Left to Right as seen above:

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce-a glowing, vibrant bright green

Forellenschluss Lettuce-freckled, also known as Speckles Trout Back, said to hold up well in summer heat. (We’ll see how that goes.)

Mustard Hybrid Salad Leaf Miz America-deep dark red color, mild tasting

Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce-crunchy sweet leaves, good texture

New Red Fire Leaf Lettuce- green at the base of the leaf and dark red at the ruffled leaf edge. Also said to be slow to bolt. ( I hope so.)

Mustard Salad Leaf Wasabina-light green serrated leaf with spicy flavor (This one is cold tolerant.)

Ann Lamb

We have almost 600 subscribers to our blog. We appreciate everyone who reads our blog and we care.  Dallas Garden Buzz writers love to study garden topics and we are happy to research the answers to your garden questions. Our horticultural agents will help us with anything we can’t answer. Ask away in our comments section, we are here for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening With Grandma During The Pandemic

Two years ago when my granddaughter was 8, I gave her this gardening book for children purchased from an online used bookstore.

She loves to garden at my house and seems to find it empowering to trim the suckers off the photinia.  However, I didn’t get any feedback about the book.  

Earlier this year I was surprised to find that she had read the book from cover to cover and had been doing the seasonal activities from it all along.

 We can’t be together or garden for a while so I send pictures to her parents to share with her. 

She has enjoyed following the progress of this “bookshelf garden” that I keep in a sunny window. The leftovers of green onions, carrots, and radishes were planted and are now growing again.

Beverly’s bookshelf garden of repurposed kitchen scraps

I look forward to future in-person gardening projects with my grandaughter but until then I am thankful for this way of continuing our shared love of growing plants. This project has been a helpful tool for teaching propagation, the importance of recycling, and the joy of gardening.

Here is a link describing how children can make their own indoor edible gardens. 

 Gardening Activities-Kitchen Scrap Gardening

Beverly Allen

Dig Into Garden Resources While Sheltering

April 19, 2020

While quarantine has been hard on everyone, it gives us a chance to learn something new. There are many online classes and resources to dig into.

Digging!

Several Master Gardeners have been sending me links which are now compiled below for you to browse.

Susan Thornbury suggests the Texas Wildflower Newsletter here. and eco-friendly low maintenance gardening.

She added this article on what plants can teach us about surviving a pandemic as a must-read.

Beverly Allen has been reviewing techniques to start herb and vegetables from seed and found these guidelines to share from Terrior Seeds.

The Agrilife Facebook Live class (class #2 seed starting) on the same topic are also very helpful.

Kids at home? Garden projects from Garden Design for cute ideas.

Sheila Kostelny has recommended A start to finish guide for growing sweet potatoes.

Here’s one from me. I am imagining myself in France at Monet’s garden.

 

Ann Lamb

 

June 2nd is the date for our scented geranium educational event and lunch. Please consider signing up on Eventbrite.  The date of our event may change depending on health guidelines from Dallas authorities and the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. See the eventbrite link above for more details.

 

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

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