Jim, Could I ask some questions about starting seeds for our 2019 gardens.
Tag Archives: The Raincatcher’s Garden
Dallasites on Facebook have taken notice of the colorful fall foliage, with one poster saying, “All of that rain must’ve helped because I’ve never seen such pretty autumn leaves in Texas as I have this year.”
Another commenter said, “This year has been the prettiest of the 13 years we’ve been here.”
While that’s all conjecture, Daniel Cunningham, horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and self-proclaimed “Texas Plant Guy,” said Texans taking notice of brighter colors might be onto something.
Cunningham explained that cool weather helps to break down the chlorophyll — that’s the green pigment in plants — allowing the yellow and orange pigments to shine through. When temperatures reach just above freezing, it increases anthocyanin formation, and that pigment produces the red and purple leaves.
The rain storms that plagued North Texas recently may have also helped the trees keep their leaves longer, giving them more time to change colors for all to see.
A commenter in a Facebook thread of Frisco residents comparing North Texas’ fall leaves with the colors of Northeastern fall leaves said, “As a lover of all things fall and someone who finally did a fall foliage trip a couple of years ago, it really is stunning this year.”
Cunningham said that autumn is the best time to plant trees in Texas as well as the perfect excuse to head over to a local tree nursery.
It’s great people actually care about the colors of trees because I think sometimes people are interested in pretty flowers and the colors they can bring but sometimes forget trees,” he said. “In North Texas, we don’t always have a fall so it’s good to enjoy that this year.”
Another Facebook user said, “It’s gorgeous if you take side streets to your destination wherever that may be just to see the foliage.”
“Folks, get outside and enjoy it,” he said. “Whether you do that by walking in your neighborhood or hiking around DFW, do it because we probably only have two more weeks of this lovely fall color to enjoy.”
Thank you to the Dallas Observer and Nashwa Bawab for allowing us to print this story.
Japanese Maple picture by Starla
This Fall has been spectacular with so many kinds of trees with brilliant fall colors. Some had said it has to do with our long hot summer while others have said the rain came at just the right time and it’s a combination of the two weather factors.
What do you think is causing such beautiful fall color in 2018?
What trees would you recommend for fall color? Say someone wants to buy a tree this fall in hopes for future fall color in their yard.
What about Shantung Maples, I see alot of those in my neighborhood and I like the shape of them. Ann
Hi Ann – So good to hear from you. I agree with you 100 % on the beautiful fall colors for many of our trees in the Urban Forest. There are many different opinions on the reasons for the beautiful colors this Fall. The truth is that tree people know that temperature(highs and lows), water, first freeze date, all play a part in the Fall colors but cannot figure out the exact timing of these variables to come up with a nice tidy equation that will let us all know when to expect the beautiful colors.
My neighbor from New York planted a Bradford Pear a few years ago . She loved the Fall colors but also found out the final ending for Bradford Pears is not pretty. I suggested she might want to look at the Shantung Maple. She planted one four years ago and every year would ask me when the beautiful oranges and reds would show up. I told her to be patient, the yellow colors looked great but it wasn’t until this Fall that she finally got the brilliant oranges that she has been waiting on. I am thinking of trying one of the Shantung maples at RCG. I have given up on the Ginkgo. They require too much tender loving care for the first two years and we need to recommend trees that are hardy and can survive with a minimum amount of care to the public. I would also like to be able to fine a Big Tooth Maple but availability in the nurseries is very limited.
I think you are on the right trail with the Shantung.
Have a great Holiday season,
Thank you,Eric, and thank you for all the effort and thought you put into our demonstration forest at Raincatcher’s!
Picture by Starla Willis
Eric Larner is a Dallas County Master Gardener from the class of 2006 and a Citizen Forester. He and his wife, Jane(also a Master Gardener) work at The Raincatcher’s Garden and many other places in Dallas planting and speaking about trees.
Where have all the butterflies gone? We enjoyed so many this fall in our garden.
By late November, most butterflies have bred and died. Their offspring overwinter in egg, larva, or chrysalis form until next spring.
Fascinating news from the Native Plant Society-click to read their newsletter.
Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates, nature’s grand finale!
Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service inspired us to start planting, growing and harvesting the fruits of the season. For Raincatcher’s, it was our last and final class of 2018 in the series. With an abundance of fall fruits ripe and ready for harvest, we gathered up our pens and paper for a very educational presentation. Highlights from Jeff’s lecture included the following:
General Information for Fruit Trees
Your first consideration should be selecting the right variety for our climate and soils. Plant trees during dormancy, January to early February in a slightly raised mound rich in compost and top-dressed with mulch. Bare root trees are preferred as they will outgrow a container plant. Want to know if you have a healthy tree? Scratch the root. If it’s the color of cooked spaghetti, it’s a viable tree.
All fruit growth happens within the first 45 days of fruit set (after bloom). At that time, the plant needs constant water (1-3” per week). The fruit won’t get any bigger or sweeter after the first 45 days, it just develops the seed.
In terms of “chill hours,” our Zone 8b previously was between 600-950 hours. Currently we are between 600-800 hours. Our winters are getting colder but shorter due to climate change.
Apples and pears need a cross-pollinator…another tree that blooms at the same time. Both trees grow spurs, short and stout twigs that bear the fruit buds year after year. That’s one reason you can espalier the tree and have fruit on those limbs. This is in contrast to peaches that bear fruit on new growth every year.
The second consideration is pruning. As a ‘rule-of-thumb’, if you can’t see the fruit then you’re not getting enough sun. Thin the fruit when it’s the size of a nickel. The goal here is to have only 3-4 fruits per limb, spaced about 6 inches apart. Each flower will produce one fruit; too many fruits on a limb will create smaller fruit and risk the branch breaking under the weight.
The third consideration is fertilizer. Instead of fertilizer, mix finished compost into your mound, then top-dress 1-2 times per year. Finished compost is homogenous. When you hold a fistful, there are no telltale leaves or twigs in it. If you do choose to fertilize or use chemicals, don’t use them before a rain event. Rain doesn’t wash the chemicals in, it washes them out. Mulch for weed control. Not only do weeds take nutrients away from the plants, they are a home for the insects that attack the plant.
Apples (Best varieties for the DFW metroplex, with chill hours)
Mollies Delicious (500-600)
Golden Delicious (500-600)
Granny Smith (400-600)
Aim for a variety that has about 600 chill hours. A tree that has more, or less, will live but won’t bear fruit. When is the fruit ripe? Look for green that is starting to add color, or if a bird pecks at it. If you cut it open and find a black seed, it’s ripe. If the seed is green, it is not yet completely ripe.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex, with chill hours)
Shin Li (500)
In addition to chill hours, these varieties are resistant to fire blight. *Bartlett is especially vulnerable to fire blight and strongly not recommended for this area. All the above varieties can cross pollinate with one another.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex)
Wonderful and Al-sirin-nar
The pomegranate is a part of the crepe myrtle family. It is a wild and unruly bush that needs to grow as a bush and fruits best when not pruned to grow as a tree. However, it can be trimmed to maintain an attractive form. It is self-fertile and doesn’t need another plant for cross-pollination. Pomegranates don’t ripen after being picked. Wait to pick until the fruit is ripe, it should give a little when you squeeze it gently.
(Best varieties for the DFW metroplex)
Eureka (a flat variety, less tannic and can be eaten when firm or soft)
Hachiya (this is the cone-shaped variety, very tannic and only edible when soft)
Based on the variety, persimmons can be self-fertile or need cross-pollination. Persimmon tree branches are thicker and can handle a heavy fruit load.
Immediately following Jeff’s presentation, members and guests were treated to bountiful buffet table bursting with seasonal flavor. It was a feast for both the eyes and the palate.
A few of the recipes that were developed for this special event will be posted tomorrow:
Baked Brie with Roasted Persimmons
Butternut Squash-Pear Soup garnished with Parmesan and Chopped Rosemary
Salad of Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears with Pomegranate Dressing
Autumn Orchard Crisp
written by Lisa Centala and Linda Alexander from Jeff Rasks’s presentation
Our yellow flower tour starts as the cheerful yellow daisy like flowers of zexmenia welcomes visitors to the garden. It is hard to go wrong with this native plant. Zexmenia asks little beyond a sunny spot with a bit of room to spread. Butterflies and bees are frequent visitors to the lasting display of clear yellow flowers.
If your garden could use a little sparkle or if you want to do more to provide the nectar pollinators need to live, add some , or all, of these lovely yellow and you will do both.
You can see all of these plants at Raincatcher’s garden at Midway Hills Christian Church. Garden work is on Tuesday mornings and you are always welcome.
Pictures by Starla Willis