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

Hidden Gardens of Bryan/College Station, the College Station Municipal Cemetery: blog series highlighting public gardens with an A&M Garden Club history

The College Station Cemetery and many other cemeteries are another place to find joy or get comfort from a public garden. The A&M Garden Club planted many of the crepe myrtles at the College Station Cemetery, including the row along the fence, in memory of garden club members who have passed on. Arbor Day often marks the day trees are planted in memory of garden club members and this year the club plans to put in a tree or two at Richard Carter Park in memory of garden club members we lost this past year.

In addition to the crepe myrtles bringing blooming beauty of pinks and white, there are many flowerbeds at the College Station cemetery, as well as interesting plants growing among the blades of grass throughout the cemetery. Many years ago, the club helped install rose bushes in the beds along the front, which are reported to be Martha Gonzales roses. Wildflowers mostly crowd out the rose bushes now.  Day lilies were also planted at some time in the past there and a wild passion vine was spotted during my visit which was food for a caterpillar.

The club also used to maintain the designated children’s area of the cemetery, although as club members came and went, maintenance is now done primarily by the City of College Station to keep the gardens and plants watered and groomed at the cemetery to keep it looking nice for all who visit.

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If you have additional information to share about this garden, please comment below or share what you know at our next garden club meeting.

Hidden Garden in Downtown Bryan: Another blog in a series to reveal some lesser known gardens in our area

The A&M Garden Club has a long history of community service in the Bryan/College Station Community, with many gardens in public areas the club has helped with over the years. Another garden many may not be aware of is located at the Carnegie Library in downtown Bryan, 111 South Main Street. Look for Xeriscape friendly plants including Turkscap, Malvaviscus arborerus var. drummondii, which blooms throughout the summer, attracting hummingbirds with red flowers. Some rose bushes and crepe myrtles also remain of the original plantings at the Carnegie Garden that A&M Garden Club contributed to. A large granite marker at the site lists A&M Garden Club as a contributor to this garden. Carnegie Gardenturkscap

Any other club members have details to share about when this garden was established in 1995? or know about other hidden public gardens in the area our club helped make happen?

Next time you are in downtown Bryan, consider visiting this small, out of the way garden to enhance your exploration of the area and knowledge of A&M Garden Club history.

Plant America for Butterflies and Pollinators

monarch on duranta

Late summer in Texas is a little like the middle of winter when temperatures outside keep gardeners indoors more. Both are good times for planning new things for the garden, just like the middle of winter is when it is too cold to linger outside for many, depending on where you live. Garden plans with flowering plants to help benefit pollinators, butterflies and bees and moths and others, is rewarding when pollinators are seen enjoying the fruits of our labor. Helping out our ecosystem and in many cases, our food crops, in the process is a bonus we all benefit from. The thrill of seeing a new type of bee or butterfly visiting flowers in the garden is unmatched. There are so many more types of bees around than just honey bees, it is amazing to see them thriving. Seeing monarch butterflies visiting flowers in the garden during their migrations is magic and can be a great way to introduce children to gardening in ways that will stick with them through life.

Tips for butterfly/pollinator gardening from my Mom:

-include a flat light colored rock for warming up on cool mornings. Butterflies move faster as they warm up

–include a dish of wet soil containing some manure which some butterflies, especially males, like to sip from for minerals.

Hiking trips in National Parks on trails where horses also go confirms this tip as butterflies are almost always spotted on piles of horse manure in the middle of the trail, as well as a few birds.

-include some over ripe fruit, like bananas, for those butterflies that like that rather than nectar. Hackberry butterflies really like those rotten bananas that do not make it into homemade banana bread.

-use organic, pesticide-free, gardening methods. Really important to follow this one to prevent harm to our pollinators. Read retail plant labels carefully or ask where you shop for plants to make sure plants are butterfly safe and pesticide free. Plant milkweed by starting from seed, especially for some of the harder to find varieties, or by using pesticide free plants from retailers

-plant large groupings of the same type of flowers together to make them easier to find. Sure, butterflies can “smell” plants from a long way away, but they waste less energy fluttering around when there are large groupings of flowers. It is more magical when there are many butterflies fluttering around, which happens when many nectar flowers are blooming in a large planting area. Large plantings also make it easier to share some when the plants are a host plant for caterpillars, as there will be enough for all to enjoy. Bees also tend to gather together around large plantings of the same type of nectar flower.

-consider planting native plants which are easier to care for and mesh well with the rest of the ecosystem

-sunny locations are best for butterfly friendly plants

-plant to have flowers available year round. Early emerging Spring butterflies will appreciate having more to choose from than dandelions coming up in unwanted places in yards.

-install a mason bee house

Happy Gardening! Got additional tips to share? Sign in and leave a comment.

 

A&M Garden Club Table at Butterfly Event takes Flight

Our A&M Garden Club educational display on July 22, 2018 at the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History Butterfly release event was well attended. Butterflies abounded. We had a great turn out of members signed up to help with the booth and many others stopped by to enjoy the festivities. We gave away a whole bunch of plants butterflies like, as well as seeds, fun butterfly paper art projects, and information. Members attending had a great time.

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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!!!