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Perfecting the Pond

Like mud? Try enlarging the pond in the wildlife area of the Demonstration Garden on a cool Tuesday morning.  The dirt—well mud—was flying as Jim, Michelle, Sue and friends dug out the pond and added six-inch shelves for bog plants.  After adding a thick new liner, the pond is perfect for a picture for DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ! Gardeners arranged flagstones around the pond edge to hold the liner, filled the pond with water and returned aquatic plants, and installed a new pump with a fountain head.  Whew! As Jim commented, that’s a lot of work!

Dallas County Master Gardeners: Jim, Starla, Sue, and Michele  Taking A Rest After Digging the Pond

Dallas County Master Gardeners: Jim, Starla, Sue, and Michele
Taking A Rest After Digging the Pond

Vegetable updates: Radishes and lettuce planted last week are up and growing; carrots are taking their time to sprout.  Onions and leeks planted a few weeks ago are doing well; the spring potatoes have not made an appearance yet.

Master Gardeners also worked to trim back roses and grass, pull weeds, and start rose cuttings for the May plant sale.   We had a great turnout (welcome interns!) and good productive workday in the Demonstration Garden.


A Very Good Day at the Garden

Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Thought I might give you a report .  We had a pretty day at the garden and we got a lot accomplished:

1)  roses trimmed

2)  planted radishes, carrots, lettuce, and beets

3)  cleaned up the herb beds and planted

4)  weeded

5)  removed most of the brown material in the RainCatcher Garden

6)  cleaned up the Color wheel

7)  trimmed asparagus

8)  worked the compost bins

9)  removed the ‘umbrella’ plant from pond – BIG job

10) divided and planted most of the huge papyrus plant

11) removed water lily pots, bailed nasty water from the pond and remove the damaged pond line

12) will dig pond deeper, but not bigger and will decide what type of liner to use

We had a very good day.

Above: Cleaning out the Pond, Red Roots Belong to our Papyrus to be Divided

Above: Cleaning out the Pond, Red Roots Belong to our Papyrus to be Divided


Pictures by Kim and Michele

For more about our pond click here.

Tomorrow: More about that lovely little plant in the box at the top of the page-Nasturtium.

Noah’s Ark WaterGardens

Themed gardens are very popular now.  Gardening magazines feature articles on “Growing Your Own Salsa Garden” (tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, onions), a Marian or Biblical Garden concentrating on those plants found in the bible, and moonlight gardens featuring white/light colored plants that glow in a full moon and flowers that bloom at night.

Even a pond could have a veritable Noah’s Ark of water plants– and with Noah saving the animals during the 40 days and 40 nights of rain and flooding, what theme could be more appropriate for a water garden.   The DemonstrationGarden’s small pond contains at least two of these “Noah’s Ark” plants that are readily available in area nurseries.

Parrot Feather in Demonstration Garden Pond

So come on board the Ark and try a few of these animal themed water plants in your pond:

Horsetail Rush: This 2-3 foot spiked plant was used by Native Americans as a scouring agent as its stiff stems contain silica.  There is also a pretty variegated variety called Zebra Bulrush that has white stripes along the green spikes.  It grows to about 2-5 feet.  Both of these plants are very easy to grow and will tolerate some shade as well as full sun.

Lizard’s Tail:  The bright green foliage of this plant has fragrant, 4-6 inch spikes of fragrant white flowers that look like a lizard’s tail.  It grows well in shade and flowers in the spring.

Cardinal Flower:  A favorite of hummingbirds, its bright red flowers appear in the summer on 2-3 foot tall plants.  It prefers full sun.

Parrot's FeatherParrot’s Feather:  This beautiful feathered plant is a must for water gardens, especially those in part shade or even full sun.  Its appearance softens a pond and it provides oxygen for fish that also use its long trailing stems to hide or lay their eggs.  It can be grown in submerged pots or left to trail on top of the water.  The Demonstration Garden has a nice stand of parrot’s feather growing in its pond.    In the evening, the plant closes up and a drop of water sparkles on the end of the feathered fronds.

Chameleon Plant: Heart shaped leaves of crimson, green, yellow and cream decorate this showy plant that can be grown barely submerged in a pond.

Lousiana Iris “Black Game Cock”: Its velvety black-violet flowers with a gold crest in the center are a beautiful addition to a full sun pond.

Canna “Bengal Tiger”:  With showy large yellow and green striped leaves and large bright orange flowers, this tropical canna thrives in full sun.    

        Frog's Bit, Dallas Garden BuzzFrogbit:  This small floating plant looks similar to a miniature water lily, though it gets its name from how it resembles the chin of a frog in water.  Tiny cup shaped white flowers appear in July and August.  Be careful though, this plant can be aggressive and easily cover a pond.  Keep it thinned!!

Cattail, Dallas Garden Buzz

Cattail:  There are many species of cattails growing wild throughout the US.  Some may grow up to 6-8 feet tall.  Often the Dwarf Cattail, with a maximum height of 3 feet, is used in ponds as a background plant.  Cattails require full sun to grow well and since they spread by rapidly by creeping root stalks and seeds, it is best to grow them in containers.

Finally, during those forty days and forty nights of rain, what plant would Noah have found very useful (and which is found at our DemonstrationGarden)?   An Umbrella Palm, of course.

Umbrella Plant, Dallas Garden BuzzThis readily available plant grows 3-4 feet tall in full or partial sun.  With its long strap-like leaves that form an umbrella shape, it would probably be most appreciated by Noah and his family.

Do you have a favorite water garden “Noah’s Ark” plant to add to this list?  Let us know.


Pictures from our garden by Ann and thanks to Tamu Aquatic Plant ID  for Parrot’s Feather, Frogbit, and Cattail.

Texas Style Fall Color

Fall Gardens in Dallas trump summer gardens!   Remember this instead of  falling into discouragement in our 100° plus days with hardly a drop of rain. The Dallas County Master Gardeners who garden at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road all agree we  love our version of fall color!

Bottle Tree Framing a view of Maximillian Sunflower, Desert Sage, Lantana, and Salvia Blue Spires

This area of the garden is relatively carefree after amending the soil, careful plant selection, and mulch, mulch, mulch!

Rosy Creek Abelia, Salvia Blue Spires, Muhly Grass, Papyrus On The Right In Our Pond

We do have an agonizing  bind weed issue that keeps us humble, but we will save that part of the story for another time. 

 Enjoy the mellow quality of Autumn in Texas. Temperatures are less and color is more!


Mosquitofish: The Little Fish That Can

This summer, residents of Dallas County have seen a record number of cases of West Nile virus, a serious and sometimes fatal disease spread by mosquitoes. The County has tried to slow the spread of mosquitoes by fogging neighborhoods with insecticide and even spraying from airplanes crisscrossing the affected areas.  Who would have thought that a small, dull-grey fish saddled with a genus name Gambusia (derived from the Cuban Spanish for “useless”) would play an important role in controlling West Nile?

Here at the Demonstration Garden, our small pond is stocked with these one to three inch fish (and one gold fish!) that are enthusiastically contributing to “natural” mosquito control.

Field Trip Participants from Grace Academy Searching Our Pond For Gambusia

Gambusia affinis  is more commonly known as mosquitofish because of its affinity for consuming large amounts of mosquito larvae.  It is estimated that adult females can consume 100 mosquito larvae a day and can eat more than their body weight a day (and they don’t even get fat!!)  Young are born alive and a female can give birth to about 60 babies, several times a year.  Mosquitofish can live in relatively inhospitable environments such as those with low oxygen concentrations and high temperatures.  This means that they can live in small, un-aerated ponds and, importantly in the war on West Nile, stagnant, unused swimming pools.  Many cities, starting in 2008 in California and now in Dallas, are using mosquitofish as mosquito control in stagnant ponds and ditches.

As with anything, one can get too much of a good thing.  Native fish in a stock pond or lake, and even goldfish and koi in an ornamental pond, already eat mosquito larvae.  The introduction of mosquitofish outside their natural range has proved damaging to smaller native fish because of the mosquitofish’s aggressive nature and competition for food   Still, the little fish, that in Russia helped eradicate malaria and has a monument dedicated to it, is one of several weapons for West Nile control in Dallas.  Who knows…. this little fish might save your life.



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