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”.
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.
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!
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.
During the stay at home order, I found myself watching most of the Texas A&M AgriLife’s Water University online training classes. The classes were great but one thing I particularly liked was that a lot of the classes are at 6 or 6:30 PM – HAPPY HOUR!!! I would set up my laptop on the kitchen table, pour myself a glass of something and get out a bag of chips and salsa. When I knew my friend Sarah Sanders was also watching the class, she would do the same and we would text back and forth about the plants we liked. It was not the same as attending a meeting together but we are doing the best we can under these unusual circumstances.
We noticed one tree that was mentioned in almost every class. It was the Rising Sun Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). The instructor, Daniel Cunningham (Horticulturist) said he has one planted outside his kitchen window. Sarah and I were determined to find a spot for one in the courtyard at the Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church. We have a large, square brick planter that was initially planted as an herb garden, which was a great idea since it was so close to the kitchen where we do all our cooking for the garden luncheons. However, years passed and we now have a huge fabulous edible garden just a few steps away. It seemed like a great time to repurpose the area for a beautiful view from the church windows.
Rising Sun Redbud Tree, so aptly named. Look at that foliage!
Here is what we love about this tree. It’s a compact tree (10-12 feet tall with a 10-15 foot spread) and has multiple seasons of interest. It blooms pink flowers in the spring and attracts birds and butterflies. Then, the heart shaped leaves start out as yellow, orange and apricot and turn to lime green when it gets hot. The very best part is that, at some point during the growing season, all of these colors are on the tree at the same time. Then in the fall, the leaves turn orange. I’ve also read that the bark is smooth and yellow, making it attractive in the winter months. It almost seems too good to be true!
Since September is an ideal time to plant trees, Beverly Allen, Sarah Sanders and I strapped on our masks and headed to the courtyard with shovels and rakes in hand. Eight bags of compost were added to the bed. We dug a hole and hoisted a 15 gallon Rising Sun Redbud tree into the planter.
Jackie James, Sarah Sanders and Beverly Allen, the planters.
We are hoping we chose just the right tree to plant in just the right spot so it will be a beautiful and fun addition to the courtyard and also easily visible from the Fellowship Hall window. Can’t wait until we can get together again to attend a monthly meeting or enjoy one of our delicious luncheons and have the added bonus of getting to look at this tree out the window. Thanks for the idea, Daniel!
Jackie James – MG Class of 1993
As Jackie said, this is a great time to plant trees and here are two videos to help you:
Some tasks in the garden are not glamorous-ok a lot of garden tasks are that way-weeding, deadheading, and putting down mulch to name a few. With covid restrictions and shelter in place requirements keeping me at home, several of the mundane jobs finally got my attention.
The trees have been trimmed, beds transformed, plant material rearranged, and, with the help of my husband, areas were weeded that were long overdue.
Now I need to mulch the paths in the area which were formerly my raised garden bed. You see, several years ago, I was inspired by friends to plant a vegetable garden and wrote about it in Dallas Garden Buzz.
I am a social gardener, so veggie gardening solo, was not as fruitful as I had hoped and now my beds are filled with weeds and paths are not walk-able. I wasn’t sure what to do about this problem until I read our garden’s weekly email. Instructions on how to lay cardboard and mulch for a new garden area were included. Perfect timing!
Cardboard layer, mulch will be put on top
While at the garden, I found cardboard had already been laid in several layers and then I came across Master Gardener intern, Dotti Franz. Tirelessly and seemingly indefatigable she was working to cover the 8 x 20 patch of cardboard with mulch. It was hot with no shade, not ideal weather but because of determined Dotti I was inspired to pitch in and work with her.
Now it’s my turn in my yard. These simple steps will help me as I take back yet another area of my yard!
Finished project, Dotti has covered the cardboard layer with mulch.
Here are the steps:
· Place cardboard down overlapping and possibly several layers–
· BE SURE THAT TAPE IS REMOVED FROM THE CARDBOARD BEFORE LAYING IT DOWN -the cardboard will decompose but the tape will NOT and it will be a nuisance.
· Water the cardboard after it has been placed where you want it. – The heavier material is not likely to move and shift as much and the mulch has a better chance of sticking. It will need to be watered again before all the mulch is distributed.
· Put mulch down
· If you have to transport mulch from a pile, a ”mulching” pitchfork and wheelbarrow are needed-– we came to love the gorilla dump cart–Pull the lever and the back dumps!
· Place the mulch on the cardboard and spread it with the flexible tine leaf rake.
· Continue by overlapping where you’ve already been and then rake it to achieve coverage and the 4 inches of mulch –
· After the mulch has been laid down, water it so it doesn’t blow away – There was a slight breeze which helped with our perspiration but not the fly away mulch.
This is not a one time job, good mulch will last a year or so, then you will need to have new mulch added. Remember, the mulch is used to improve your soil and to keep weeds down and some people like it for its aesthetics.
Cardboard (the larger the better) – Remember remove tape
Water hose / water
Mulch – we have rough shredded tree mulch delivered to our garden — bags are options as well
Rake with flexible tines
Wheel barrow to transport
“Mulching” pitchfork to move from pile to wheelbarrow
Water – moving mulch is hard work and we need to stay hydrated — before, during and after
Thanks Jon, Fern, and Dotti for inspiring me and letting me know that I can do it. I will tackle this job now that the weather is cooler.
Tracy and Aaron McLaughlin live only a few miles away from the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. But after an hour and a half tour of the edible landscape last week, visits to the garden may be happening on a regular basis.
Tracy first discovered the garden a few weeks ago when dropping her 3-year-old son off at preschool. A casual stroll around the garden resulted in a friendly conversation with several master gardeners working in the edible landscape. Sensing her desire to know more about the garden, an appointment was scheduled for the upcoming Friday evening with Tracy and her husband, Aaron.
Our tour began with an overview of the edible landscape garden objective of using only edible plant material to create a visually stunning design spanning all four seasons of the year. Tracy and Aaron were anxious to learn as much as possible during our visit. As we emphasized during our conversation with them, composting is the core project of building healthy garden soil. The method we use in the edible landscape was carefully explained. They were ready to give it a try.
Time seemed to pass far too quickly as we toured each unique feature of the edible landscape. From the white velvet okra standing like soldiers in the Hügelkultur to the Stonescape surrounded by impressive mounds of Mexican Mint Marigold and the feathery gray, green curry plant, our guests left with hearts of gratitude and happy smiles across their faces.
Following their visit, Tracy and Aaron shared some highlights of the tour:
“We found a lot of awesome plants that we want to incorporate into our garden. Overall, we thought that learning about the expanded shale to help improve our soil was a huge discovery. We will be incorporating it into our garden beds!
The tips about composting were especially helpful. Also, locating plants with similar watering needs together was good information. And,using a variety of plant material in the garden.
We loved the scented pelargoniums. The overall beauty of the garden was inspiring. Going forward we would like to learn how to rotate crops and always plan ahead.”
Searching through the 2020 spring seed catalogs earlier this year, we found something that caught our eye. Entering into the new year, our garden “theme” had already been announced. The edible landscape would be adorned with the color “white”. From white pansies and alyssum to white carrots and white velvet okra, seeds were ordered and the fun began.
But, still needing that extra touch of white magic, we went back to the catalogs and started flipping through the pages. Almost immediately, we found the answer. A bell-shaped, velvety white eggplant named ‘paloma’ was the perfect solution. As soon as the seeds arrived, they were placed into our seed starting mix of perlite, vermiculite and sphagnum peat moss. After a few months in the greenhouse they were transplanted into several different locations in the edible landscape.
The summer heat seemed to slow down their growth initially but nearing the middle of August, things improved. We continued to keep them evenly moist in their sunny garden beds and waited for the first fruits to appear. And finally, over the past few weeks, we have been blessed with the most adorable little white eggplants you’ve ever seen.
Harvested Paloma Eggplant
Not surprisingly, the best part was yet to come. Anxious to experience the taste profile of our little gems, we tossed around a few recipe ideas for volunteers to try.
I should have realized that gardening was going to be an important part of my adult life as I stood in front of a candlestick tree as a child at the State Fair of Texas. I stood staring at this beautiful, tropical-looking plant with a corn dog in one hand, cotton candy in another and a lizard on a string “leash” pinned to my shirt. (As far as the lizard is concerned, I feel compelled to quote Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”!!!).
Years went by and I didn’t give that fabulous plant a thought until I volunteered as a docent for one of the first Master Gardener fall garden tours. I spent several hours at Kay Passmore’s garden that day and found myself staring at the candlestick tree again. She had many in her yard and commented that they reseed freely.
For the past couple of years, we have been planting candlestick trees in the courtyard at Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church. At this very moment, there is a big candlestick tree in the courtyard that just starting blooming. Every time I work in the courtyard, I find myself standing and staring at this awesome plant, but without the corn dog (vegetarian now) and cotton candy (yikes!). And, thank goodness, the only lizards in the vicinity are the ones running freely in our garden rather than pinned to my shirt (what were we thinking?)!!!
Our lopsided well loved Candlestick Tree in the Raincatcher’s courtyard
The candlestick tree (Cassia alata)is native to Central and South America. It is an annual in Dallas and grows easily from seed. It is best to soak the seeds in water overnight and then plant them directly in the ground in full sun after the danger of frost has passed. It can grow from 6 to 15 feet in a season and it blooms late summer to fall. It is a drought tolerant plant and it attracts pollinators to the garden. Another fun fact about this plant is that the leaves fold up at night.
Next time you’re at the garden, take the time to check out this plant. Or make a special trip to the courtyard just to see it – it will be worth your effort!
If you have never grown this plant, I strongly suggest you try one next spring. Hopefully, we’ll have some seeds to share by then!