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
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.
“Dear Mrs. Jones, Thank you for the best field trip ever! It was awesome! Thank you for helping us make seed balls. We had so much fun!!!!!”
First graders from Lakewood Elementary had a five exclamation point (!!!!!) assessment of their field trip to the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.
One hundred and fifty pairs of sneakers never stopped from the moment they hopped out of four school buses on November 3rd . Every 15 minutes, timers took the students to another station: seed balls, real live clucking chickens, wiggly red wigglers, “name that vegetable,” herbs and compost. Elizabeth Wilkinson, Cynthia Jones, and Annette Beadles organized the field trip.
“Dear Raincatcher’s Friends, I love you! I love you! I love pumpkins!”
Annette compared the circumference of pumpkins—and first grade volunteers. Cynthia showed students how to roll, mash, divot, and taco-fold clay, soil and wildflowers to make seed balls for their school.
Dear Garden Friends, Thank you for a great time! I love my journal!
Jan Larson assembled 150 journals and sharpened pencils, one for each child. They carried their journals all day, making notes at each station.
The field trip was even the topic of discussion at a Lakewood hair salon. Jan was telling her stylist about the field trip, and a young woman in the next seat joined the conversation. “Are you talking about the field trip to the Raincatcher’s Garden?” At Jan’s nod, the mom said she was a chaperone on the field trip and remarked that it was “amazing.”
With some tears, the Lakewood visitors returned to their classrooms, long-used “temporary” buildings outside an old East Dallas school in need of major repairs. The forty master gardener volunteers, including DCMG board members, might have kept these thoughts from Rachel Carson in mind:
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”