We are members of Texas Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs, and the Garden Club year typically runs from September 1st through May 31st. On August 12th we will have our “Membership Social/Pot Luck” at our regular location, the College Station Waste Water Facility, 2200 North Forest Parkway, College Station, TX 77845, starting at 9.30 am. You are welcome to join us and find out who we are, and what we do! Find us on Facebook, and check our website amgardenclub.com
So what do you do when it is raining cats and dogs (and elephants) in Texas while a life-threatening hurricane named Harvey wreaks havoc 100 miles or less away? First you try to catch up on all necessary email and computer work in case the power goes off for an extended period of time, like when Hurricane Ike arrived in 2008 when the power was out for over a week! Especially for online bill paying!! Then you try to remember all the blog topics you have been thinking of posting, and wishing you had written them down.
In view of all the rain we are receiving, after a dry summer, I’m reminded of three plants I “almost” regret planting, because I know they will spread like crazy now they are watered!
- Ruellia, aka Mexican Petunia. (The tall kind)
Over thirty years ago a neighbor gave me a 6″ pot of Ruellias after I had admired them in her flower bed, which was bordered with grass on one side and her house on the other. The man who cut her grass was evidently mowing down the escapees, but she didn’t tell me that. I have been trying to get rid of them for all these years, but their roots run underground and the plants pop up everywhere – they run under fences, around walls, and nothing deters them. Bees and butterflies love them, and to be honest they are beautiful! A bulldozer would seem to be the only workable deterrent, but then they would creep back under the fences into my garden from their places of “safety”. The low growing cultivar “Katie” is relatively well behaved and easy to control.
- Poncirus trifoliate (Trifoliate Orange
I acquired this at a propagation class about 9 years ago. This is commonly used as a dwarfing root stock for citrus trees such as Meyer Lemon, and goes by the name of “flying dragon”. Our task all those years ago was to graft an apricot or something on to the root stock. The graft appeared to take, and then failed, leaving the unwieldy base. I decided to grow it in the garden because a) I heard the fruit makes good marmalade, and b) I could take cuttings and make my own dwarf trees. Wrong! The fruit is so small that it would take thousands to make a pint of marmalade, and the branches have such wicked hooked thorns that it is positively dangerous! So I cut it down. It regrows, to be cut down, regrow, cut again!!!
- Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland Sea Oats) The classic invasive!! A fine looking clumping grass, the start for which was given to me by a fellow Master Gardener years ago. The seed pods stand high above the plant and have a similar look to oats – the ripple and rustle in the breeze, and are great to use in dried flower arrangements. The trick to stop multiplication is, of course, to cut off the seed heads before they drop. The trick to the trick is to find all the seed heads because they have a tendency to “hide”! The new plants that come up from the seeds are easy to pull up, but there are so many that it becomes a major task. In retrospect it is easy to see why this plant is used extensively in erosion control – it grows in sun or shade, wet or dry, even in sand dunes! I have given away many, many “starts” – I just hope the recipients don’t remember who gave it to them!
The backyard garden can bring surprises at the most unexpected times. Just when you think August Texas heat has decimated any hope of beauty with only the hardiest of native or adapted plants showing any spark, garden magic happens to lift the spirits. Spouse-unit of A&M Garden Club member Deana D took this photo today in their backyard. This container grown pineapple bloom has been years in the making from a cut off pineapple top from the grocery store. Raccoons or squirrels kept digging it up in the first few months after planting and it received inconsistent care in its container by yours truly, but apparently this plant had the grit it takes to live and bloom despite not always getting ideal nutrition or watering. It brings inspiration to do the same through good times and challenging times.
May you also find something to delight and inspire in your garden and if you’d like to share with other A&M Garden Club members, please contact one our blog contributors (find out more at the upcoming meeting). Happy Gardening!
Our A&M Garden Club exhibit was a popular air-conditioned destination on July 29, 2017 at the Brazos Valley Museum of National History in Bryan, Texas. Visitors were able to get their questions answered, learn more about gardening for butterflies, and take home butterfly friendly plants, flower seeds, informational flyers, and for youth we had butterfly paper folding projects, wildflower bookmarks, and butterfly refrigerator magnets made out of recycled materials. The milkweed plants became very popular as word spread that baby monarch caterpillars were on some of the plants.
Once again, volunteering for our community through the A&M Garden Club pays off in a surprising way with a fun photo tip from Pete W., our very own Michelle W.’s spouse who volunteered with her at our July 4, 2017 Heritage Park Garden Club exhibit booth. While we were waiting for the crowds to show up after it stopped raining, we got to chatting about cameras and the many things there are to take pictures of if you just look around and that the best camera is the one you have with you to take a picture, which for many is a cell phone camera. Pete shared that he likes to carry a small camera with him even on shopping trips because when they visit a plant nursery or a garden department at a home improvement store he finds great photo opportunities while Michelle is shopping, as you can see in these pictures Pete shared.
We all have times when our own yards may not have flowers or plants looking nice enough to photograph but we do not have to wait to take great garden photographs worth sharing, we just need to take pictures where life is giving us beauty which may even be on a routine errand.
We encourage all A&M Garden Club members to consider sharing garden-related content for our blog. Thanks for sharing these pictures Pete.
A&M Garden Club members Judy S and Deana D put up a display to educate Bryan library visitors about birds in Texas and what individuals can do to help make their yards and gardens an inviting place for birds to visit.
To help make your garden bird friendly
- provide food
- provide water
- provide shelter
- provide a place to raise young
- provide nesting materials
Food can be provided by planting native plants, although many gardeners enjoy providing food using bird feeders with seed and other treats for birds. Hummingbirds are attracted to nectar producing flowers, such as coral honey suckle. Many birds eat acorns and nuts like pecans, and berries are also a good way to help our feathered friends. Using organic gardening methods will help provide insects for birds and make visiting your yard safer for birds.
Shelter and places to raise young can also be a part of the landscape, such as dense bushes for hiding or building nests in. Bird houses can also be a fun way to make a yard bird friendly and can showcase creative talents with unique designs.
Water can be provided with a bird bath, or a water garden, or even the drip from the drainage hose on an air conditioner.
We hope you’ll get a chance to stop in at the Bryan library and see the display about birds and browse the library shelves for gardening inspiration to help resident and migrating birds.
BAI MAKRUT (KAFFIR LIME) – Citrus hystrix
In these “sensitive” times I feel it necessary to add the following note from the internet: “Known for a long time as Kaffir Lime, the Thai name “bai makrut” is now considered the much more politically correct term, as “Kaffir” in Arabic means “unbeliever” and as such, Kaffir can have derogatory implications.”
A rather uncommon herb/citrus in the western world is the Kaffir Lime, known by the people from Thailand as “green gold”. Not easy to find, it can be very expensive to buy whenever you find it, so if you know someone who has one, be nice to them and they might give you a start! It is supposedly quite difficult to root a cutting, but it is recommended that you are very generous with mist!!!
Also known as Makrood, this plant carries its dark green glossy leaves in the shape of an 8 – like two leaves growing back to back. It has many wicked thorns, up to 1 ¼” long, so care is needed when handling. These thorns can apparently be trimmed off without damage to the plant. Both the leaves and the grated rind of the small, bumpy fruit are treasured in Thai cooking. It should be grown in a large pot here in Texas, outside in the summer, but moved inside in the winter since it is not at all frost hardy. In summer it would prefer some afternoon shade and regular light feedings of fish emulsion (or liquid seaweed, 1 ounce to 1 gallon of water.) It could reach 8-10 feet in height in ideal growing conditions.
When harvesting the leaves, cut each one individually rather than cutting a branch off. This helps to preserve the shape and strength of the tree. Sometimes refrigerated fresh leaves are available packaged, in Oriental markets. The dried rind might also be found in powdered or grated form, and is used in curries, curry pastes, and soups
A few ways to use Bai Makrut:
*The leaves should be used whole when simmering in soups, stews and curries, like a bay leaf. The leaf is rarely eaten; the one exception is when it is shredded extremely finely, such as for Tod Mun (fried fish cake).
*Fresh, tender young leaves are the preferred choice for salads; do not use dried kaffir leaves in salads *The midrib and stalk may be bitter in older leaves; if this bitterness bothers you, tear the leaf and remove these parts for cooking, including simmering.
*Flavor rice – When cooking your rice, especially jasmine rice, throw in a few leaves. The flavor will be imparted to the rice.
*Add to a marinade, suitable for chicken, pork or lamb dishes.
*Make a syrup – add a kaffir lime leaf to sugar overnight and use the sugar to make a syrup the next day.
*Add perfume to bath time. Add some fresh leaves to a hot bath. A delightful fragrance will waft from your bathwater.
*Bruise a few leaves and add to an outdoor citrus-scented potpourri. The scent will linger in the evening air when eating outdoors.
*Freshen up. Use a bruised kaffir lime leaf to rub over your hands. This will freshen them and impart a delicious scent to your skin. Naturally, test a small area of skin for reactions before using this treat regularly.
(Fruit photo from the internet – my tree is too young!)
A&M Garden Club did it again with a successful booth at the Heritage Park in Bryan 4th of July event. Sudden downpours of rain at the start of the event gave way to clearer skies. Water puddles were navigated by enthusiastic booth visitors adopting plants, getting instructions from garden club members about how to take care of their new plants, taking handmade pressed-flower book marks, and learning more about butterflies. The event was well organized and we were grateful to be a part of it. We had fun and provided valuable gardening info and plants to our community.