Hello world! We hope you will enjoy our posts, which will coverall aspects of our Garden Club life! Read here for news of our many activities and events!

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 the second Friday of August 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

Cut Flower Gardening  By Suzanne Milstead

Cut Flower Gardening 

Create your own flower arrangements with a cutting garden and keep your house full of fresh flowers throughout the growing season. Whether you plant seeds or use plants, here’s a few suggestions.

Group each plant species together and plant in squares for easier cutting.  Traditionally, repeat blooming annuals are the most popular choice for cutting gardens since you will get a longer season; however, plant any flower that has a long and sturdy stem to hold up the flower in an arrangement.

It is also preferred that the flower maintain its appearance for several days after cutting. For this reason daylilies which only bloom for one day or petunias which have small stems would not make good choices for cut flowers.

 Get creative. Berries, trees, shrubs, ferns, and grasses add texture and color to arrangements. Even fruits and vegetables from your kitchen garden can add a fun and unexpected flare to your arrangements.

A few helpful tips to make your cutting garden a success:
Plant the garden in an area with good sun exposure. Start with a good soil that is enhanced with compost. Mulch to retard weeds and maintain soil moisture.  (If using seeds, wait until the plants are mature.) Keep plants blooming by cutting exhausted blooms (Dead heading)

Favorite Annuals for cutting gardens:
sunflowers, stock, larkspur, zinnia, coneflowers, phlox, salvia, bachelor buttons
Favorite Perennials for cutting gardens:
ornamental Grasses, yarrow, salvia, black-eyed Susan, daffodil, ageratum, roses

Recommended Resources: Dr. Bill Welch, Bountiful Flower Garden, Perennial Garden Color

cut flowers

 

When is a Shrub not a Shrub? When it is a, well, ………… Shrub!

The kind of shrub I’m talking about is not found growing in the garden, although some of its ingredients might be!   The name “shrub” is derived from a variant of the Arabic “Mashrub” (to drink).   The early English version of the shrub arose from the medicinal cordials of the 15th century, and the drink from Iran (then Persia) called Sekaniabin.  The drink gained popularity among smugglers in the 1680s who were trying to avoid paying import taxes for goods obtained from mainland Europe.  Very often they would sink barrels of spirits off-shore to be retrieved later, and the addition of fruit flavors aided in masking the taste of alcohol spoiled sea water.   All along the south and south-west coasts of England there were smugglers’ hideouts; many public houses and inns attest to this with names such as The Smugglers Inn, The Smugglers Arms, etc.  There are also many networks of tunnels from the beaches to the towns that were used as defenses and smugglers alike!

The shrub is related to punch, however punches were usually served immediately after mixing the ingredients, whereas shrubs tended to have a higher concentration of flavor and sugar and could be stored for later use.  The shrub itself was a common ingredient in punches, either on its own or as a simple mix with brandy or rum.  Served during the Christmas season mixed with raisins, honey, lemon, sherry, and other spirits.  The shrub was very popular in most inns and public houses in the 17th and 18th centuries, and although it fell out of fashion by the late 1800s, it is now coming back into favor!!

Fruit preserves made with vinegar were themselves called shrubs.  By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days; afterwards, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration.  The serving of vinegar-based shrub drinks became popular again in 2011 and 2012 in American restaurants and bars as well as London. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an apéritif or used as an alternative to bitters in cocktails. Unlike cocktails acidulated with citrus, vinegar-based drinks will remain clear when shaken.

This would be a wonderful way to use up excess fruit from your orchards or farmers’ markets, and even fruit that is past its prime can be used.  Many people suggest that berries make the best shrubs, but lemons, peaches, pears, and figs can also be used.  Fruit thawed from frozen can also be used.  There are loads of recipes on Epicurious.com, and I have just ordered a recipe book so I can make some Fig Shrub with these:

Garden.Figs.2018

How to make a Fruit Shrub Syrup

2 cups fruit, cleaned, peeled, seeded, and chopped if necessary
2 cups vinegar (any kind will do as long as it is at least 5% acidic – experiment for taste!)
1 ½ – 2 cups sugar

*Sterilize quart sized canning jar and lid.
*Add fruit to hot jar.
*Add vinegar, after first heating it to “almost” boiling, or at least 190 deg. F.  leaving 1//4” headspace in jar.  Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth, and cap tightly.
*Let cool completely, then store in a cool, dark place at least 24 hours, up to 4 weeks until the desired flavor is reached.
*Strain the fruit from the vinegar through a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter.  Do this at least once, and repeat until the vinegar shows no cloudiness.  Discard the fruit or save it for another purpose.
*Place the fruit-infused vinegar and sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Pour into a clean, sterilized container (original mason jar or other bottled.)
*Store the shrub syrup in the refrigerator.  Tightly sealed, it can last for up to 6 months.  Taste before using to make sure the flavor is still good.  Discard immediately if it is moldy or fermenting.

To serve:  mix 1 tablespoon shrub syrup into a glass of still or sparkling water.  Taste and add more syrup if desired.  Shrub syrups may also be used as cocktail mixers, in salad dressings, and more.

 

This above recipe was developed by Emily Ho based on historical recipes and the “Flavored Vinegars” chapter of So Easy to Preserve (Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia, 2006.)

Sources of other information from Wikipedia, snippets from websites, and remembering what I knew as a child!!!

“The Gardens at Texas A&M”

On June 15th, 2018, The Gardens at Texas A&M celebrated the completion of its first phase: the Leach Teaching Gardens.  These seven acres will serve as an outdoor classroom where faculty and staff can teach students and the public about food production, landscape beauty, and the natural environment.  “The Gardens” as a whole is meant to be a peaceful sanctuary on campus, a place where everyone at Texas A&M and in our community can relax, enjoy nature, and learn.

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Future phases will create a Children’s Garden, Great Lawn, Rose Garden, and showcase gardens typical of the various ethnic groups who settled in the Brazos Valley.  The area runs along White Creek, and the public can now enjoy this quiet and peaceful place to observe birds, butterflies and other wildlife.   This is a Texas Garden Clubs Contributing Project, and members of A&M Garden Club are planning a children’s educational program on November 3rd using a National Garden Clubs “Plant America” grant awarded for this purpose!

 

 

 

Library Displays Celebrating National Garden Week

 

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National Garden Week is June 3-9, 2018 and A&M Garden Club has teamed up with our local libraries to promote gardening with displays encouraging library visitors to check out books with a garden theme. Adults and children can find garden and environment related books to enjoy as part of their summer reading. Remember, libraries are air-conditioned and are a great way to escape the heat or rain during our Texas summer. Thank you goes out to the A&M Garden Club members who did a great job on our 2018 library displays!

Milkweeds for Monarchs

A&M Garden Club has been supporting and promoting the National Garden Clubs’ initiative/project to plant butterfly gardens, register butterfly gardens (under the Million Pollinator Project), and help schools and individuals to established Monarch Way Stations.

We held a Milkweed event last week at Lick Creek Park in College Station, TX, which was a great success.   There were people lining up around the building to get in!!!  Several varieties were offered, including:

Asclepias curassivica (“tropical milkweed”),                         A. asperula, (“Antelope Horns”)
                                      See the source image

                            A. viridis, (“Green Antelope Horns” or “Spider milkweed”)

See the source image

A. tuberosa, (“Butterfly weed”)                                             A. incarnata, (“swamp milkweed”)
See the source imageSee the source image

and Gomphocarpus (Asclepias) physocarpus (Balloon Milkweed) – see Featured image at top of this post, plant growing in the wild three thousand miles from land on one of the Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic!!!  It is shown in the middle of the photo – look for the “balloons”!!  I took this photo four years ago, and it took me almost that long to find where I had filed it!!!!

All of the above have slightly different cultural requirements.  The original plan was to purchase plants from a wholesaler and sell them as a fundraiser, but the availability of mature plants was very limited, and those that were available were priced out of our budget.  Hence the starting of many, many seeds!  They are not all “native” to Texas; however, they have widely and successfully naturalized!  Do your research before you buy!!   Which is your favorite?

This seeding project started about 3 years ago, with several members taking some home to start.  The Chairman of the “Butterfly Committee” did a wonderful job of coordinating, sowing and nurturing all these hundreds of plants;   students from one of the Entomology classes at TAMU helped repot, and hours of love and care went into these tiny plants.  We had some two-year old plants, but most were one year seedlings.  One of them even had a tiny baby caterpillar on it;  photos of the “event” were taken before the doors were opened!

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Branching Out by Suzanne Milstead

Branching Out-

As habitats continue to shrink, we’ve all been encouraged to replace this loss with plantings in our yards to support wildlife.   While we do plant annuals and perennials consider adding trees.

Trees provide shelter and food for a wide array of wildlife. More than 100 animal species eat acorns including rabbits, squirrels, and gamebirds. Songbirds and small mammals consume fruits and seeds. Woodpeckers, red tailed hawks, and owls nest in the cavities of hollow or dead trees.  Butterflies, moths, and honeybees use trees as nectar sources.

A few of my favorites include:

Vitex (Texas Superstar) is drought tolerant and produces purple or white spikes spring to fall.  After the spring bloom, trim the dead spikes for reblooming.  This is a favorite for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Mexican plum is a native that gives you fragrant blooms in early spring.  A profusion of white flowers create a feast for the bees.

Rusty blackhaw viburnum is another native flowering white tree with gigantic white clusters of blooms. It blooms mid spring.

American Beautyberry is a native tree or shrub, easy to grow as an understory.  The dark purple fall fruit attract a variety of birds including our state mockingbird.

vitex                        mexican plum

viburnum

beauty berry

For an easy to read chart use this web site:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/etpmctn12910.pdf