September Club Meeting: Designs and More with Recycled Glass Wine Bottles at the A&M Garden Club September 13, 2019

September Club Meeting: Designs and More with Recycled Glass Wine Bottles at the A&M Garden Club September 13, 2019

A&M Garden Club met at their new location to officially start off the year. The room at the CHI St Joseph Medical Center in College Station worked well for having refreshments, a ways and means table with garden related items available for a donation, and a classroom setting with plenty of room for our program and business meeting.

For our educational program Sarah M demonstrated many clever uses for wine bottles other than storing wine. Some glass colors are more easily recyclable than others, but all glass wine bottles can be recycled or put to use in other ways. Often glass wine bottles are made into more glass wine bottles but those with a creative bent can do so much more than recycle to make good use of wine bottles.

A technique called slumping is used to reshape wine bottles into another useful item such as a serving dish or spoon holder.


Bottle trees are a lovely way to accent the garden and some believe blue bottle trees are especially helpful to absorb evil spirits.

Bottle lights can be used to create a magical look for not much money.

sherry E wine lights

With some ingenuity and skill, wine bottles can be made into a plant container that works well for succulents or to automatically water herbs in a kitchen window with the addition of water wick. Bottle cutters are available for purchase that can help make cutting wine bottles really easy.

wine bottle self watering plants  succulent planter in a bottle

Wine bottles can be used in floral design. Mechanics to allow for interesting angles of bottles include mounting tape. Some mounting tape can even be re-used with the application of water to loosen its hold. A Parallel design is 3 things lined up in parallel, and bottles can be used as vases or as the parallel element in a design.parallel design with wine bottles          floral design with bottle

Experienced designers in the audience created designs as the finale to this informative and fun program. Heather shared that moistening the green oasis foam often used in floral designs to keep plants looking their best by providing water and support is best done by setting it on the top of the water and letting it absorb the water rather than pushing it down into the water which lessens its ability to do its job and creates air pockets.

oasis foam Heather mass design

Ann G reminded members of the unique shopping available through National Garden Club.

Helen Q’s horticultural minute delighted us with information on stumpery gardens, a beautiful way to re-purpose tree stumps as a landscaping technique.

Compost Bins help You get Composting

A garden of compost bins was discovered at Zilker Botanical Gardens, inspiring me to talk composting, which is a way to make some really rich soil your plants and surrounding outside environment will benefit from.

compost 3 sidedcompost basic plastic

compost chicken wire
chicken wire, inexpensive and easy to move when ready to turn pile
compost drawer
nice drawer to pull out to access your composted soil

compost galv steel

compost GGG
wood slats are removable for easy turning and harvesting of compost

compost rec plastic

compost round
recommend NOT putting bermuda or other invasive grass and weeds in compost
compost spin it
turns from the outside to mix compost. some have handles for turning

Composting helps keep waste out of the landfill. Making your own compost is easy and a good way to put plant kitchen waste to good use. It’s best to have a mix of greens and browns. Greens are things like vegetable scraps, whereas browns are things like shredded paper and fall leaves. Some say 30/70 mix is best, and others say 50/50 mix between greens and browns best. I recommend adding browns for sure if your compost is smelling not so good or too wet. Composting goes quicker and stirring your compost is easier if plant material is in small pieces when it is added to the compost bin. It’s best to stir your pile, but you do not have to, it just takes a lot longer if you do not mix your pile. If you want to get scientific about your compost, there are compost thermometers that will help you figure out when your pile is getting too hot and needs to be turned to cool things down to make sure you are composting at a fast rate and that your pile is getting hot enough. A pitchfork is my go-to tool for turning compost. Some bins are designed in a barrel shape so you turn the whole bin to mix the inside contents, so manual turning with a pitchfork is not needed. The barrel turning methods can be especially good if you are squeamish about interacting with rotting vegetation on its way to being soil.

You’ll want to put your compost area away from your house, as unpleasant critters like roaches are almost a given, at least in Texas. If you have an open pile, bigger critters will likely help you keep roach numbers down. Adding more browns also seems to help keep roach numbers in check. Turning your compost at least weekly to monthly can help keep rodents from deciding to make it their home. Having an enclosed design can also help keep critters out. One critter you want to see in your compost that helps speed up the process is earth worms. If you want really speedy and high quality compost, you can start worm composting, which is a bit more elaborate than just tossing plant waste into a compost bin.  Coffee grounds and frequent turning may help deter ants.

Compost is ready when you no longer recognize anything in it. You can sift out non-composted plant material and add to a new pile if most of the compost is ready. When it smells like sweet earth, it’s ready.

Compost for your garden. Compost for the environment. It’s the right thing to do.


Were you a WILD CHILD?

It is time to get your wild on again and join the latest efforts to assist the earth in these times of  deforestation, climate change, loss of wildlife, pollinators and flora.  Re-Wild!  Re-wilding can be achieved in spaces large and small, in the countryside and home landscape, and even in rooftop gardens.

So, what exactly is Re-wilding? No, it doesn’t mean letting everything revert to nature and becoming a health hazard and public eyesore!   Much of East Texas would disappear under vast coverings of Kudzu – the plant that ate the South!!!

Rewilding starts at home – everyone can do this!  

Consider allocating a small (to start with) area of your lawn to a wildflower meadow, in an area with minimal foot traffic.  No need to do it all, or all at once!  When established it will require minimal attention, thus aiding in water conservation.  No fertilizers or herbicides to wash down to the rivers and creeks.  Hours of enjoyment to pollinators and human observers alike!  If you have a H.O.A. (Home Owners Association) that prohibits “wild” – talk to the other members, sign a petition, and pester them until they change the rules!!!  (The same goes for growing vegetables in your front yards!)  Note:  Keep an area close to the house where you need to water – this can help with cooling, and help prevent the house foundations from drying out, subsiding, and even crumbling, in severe drought conditions!


By digging a pond in your garden, you’d also be inviting some truly unique wildlife. Perhaps most interesting of all is the tadpole shrimp – thought to be the oldest animal in the world.  Garden ponds can also draw in more familiar creatures, like frogs and toads.  And who doesn’t love to see birds splashing in the shallows and dragonflies and damselflies flitting about eating those pesky mosquitoes (Yay!  Go dragons & damsels!!!)  You might occasionally see a water snake, or a turtle, but that’s all part of it!A pond that is only one square meter in size can suck as much s 247g of carbon from the air every year. 

If you are lucky enough to have a flat roof on a house or outbuilding, you could plant an incredible “green roof”.  Such roofs provide cooling benefits to the structure, and can help to reduce heating bills in the winter, and air conditioning bills in the summer.  In the absence of a flat roof, porch planters and window boxes can be valuable in helping us breathe easier with plants providing oxygen at our windows and doors.


Plant a tree or two! 

Trees don’t have to be massive Oaks to be beneficial to humans by providing the oxygen we breathe and sucking up the CO2 that we don’t want!  A small “orchard” of ornamental trees and fruit trees will provide beauty, and food for you (and the birds – please do share!)

Reforesting the Earth will take decades, but right now, people on all continents are planting trees like crazy – thousands and thousands of seedlings every year.  There is much work still to be done in the Amazon rainforests and other places in the world, where unfortunately there is more of a living to be made by the natives than by engaging in sustainable agriculture.

A wilder world is a cooler world – in more ways than one! 

Climate change  drives species to extinction and exacerbates threats such as habitat loss, by destroying the habitats themselves or changing the conditions that make them hospitable to different species.  But it might surprise you to learn that across vast swathes of the world, nature is already returning to places where dense habitats were once destroyed by humans. Even on your own doorstep, your local environment could be wilder than it was 100 years ago.  As more and more people around the world are abandoning rural landscapes and moving to live in cities, in their absence, the land they once used for agriculture is regenerating as shrubland and forest. These new habitats have ushered in wolves, brown bears, lynx and boar.    Not all of these species are welcome of course because they have been absent for a long time and are not familiar residents – except for boar, in this part of Texas, which has become one of the biggest pests on earth!!  However, numbers could be controlled if only the folks would learn how to cook ‘em ………  in this land of barbecues it always amazes me!!!  Good eats gone to waste!!!


One thing we have to remember is that since time began, species of flora and fauna have become extinct, gradually being replaced by something more suited to the changing climate.  Yes, we love the Monarch, but perhaps the “plan” is for something even more beautiful and amazing to come along!  If we love and care for the Earth, the Earth will care and provide for us!  Just think of the children of the future being entertained by stories of Monarchs, like our children of today are fascinated by tales of dinosaurs!!!

Natural Observations, make it official


Do you like scavenger hunts? Check out and get looking and logging observations in nature.

Want to share your observations of plants, bugs and animals in your garden and the gardens and other nature spaces you visit?

Your first thought for posting a picture of that amazing bug or native plant you just saw might be one of the usual social media sites like FB or IG, you know what I’m talking about. You can do more than just share with friends, you can help with research and be a “citizen scientist” by posting your observations on, instead of or in addition to the usual FB, IG, etc, posts. Researchers and others interested can use the data posted by citizen scientists to track monarchs and monarch food availability, for example. You will need to sign up with a user name and then login and upload an image of what you saw and the location, which you can get with GPS coordinates or use the map on the site to get the approximate location of your observation if you do not have exact GPS coordinates. I log my observations on a desktop computer, but most mobile devices have apps to use for in the field real time observation logging. If you are competitive, there is even a ranking of observers. Maybe you’d like to have a competition with a family member for getting the first bluebonnet flower observation logged in the Spring, for example.

Observations you make are verified by others and some will be tagged as research grade, so you know you got the identification correct. Data can be searched in many different ways: location, date, range of dates, observation type (monarch), category (mushrooms or birds), and more filters are available for narrowing your search to something specific are possible. Or you can just zoom in on the map of observations and see what others have logged observing in a particular location. For example, I used the observations map and zoomed in on the Leach Teaching Garden in College Station, Texas, to see what others had logged in that garden.

I first heard about from someone that logs invasive plant species in our area, but I mostly log insects, owing that to my Uncle Bill encouraging me to log monarch butterfly and milkweed observations.

So maybe your significant other rolls their eyes when you exclaim “Honey, look! a Peucetia viridans!”. Instead of interrupting their game of Candy Crush, get the excitement of sharing your observation by posting on and do good at the same time.

The more we know about all the precious critters and plants we share our world with, the better care we’ll take of our world and all that live in it. Recording your observations of nature on goes well with our A&M Garden Club mission and our parent organization mission of National Garden Clubs,  “National Garden Clubs, Inc. provides education, resources, and national networking opportunities for its members to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility.” and The National Garden Club Conservation Pledge of “I pledge to protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet earth and promise to promote education so we may become caretakers of our air, water, forest, land and wildlife.”

4th of July A&M Garden Club Event finds new homes for hundreds of plants

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A&M Garden club once again enjoyed giving away plants and gardening advice at the Bryan, Texas 4th of July Heritage Park event organized by the Brazos Valley Heritage Society. It is an old-fashioned family friendly event with a live band, flag raising ceremony, a children’s parade, community organization booths, and plenty of opportunity to talk in person, one-on-one with other people in the community. Some visitors got plants nestled in re-purposed plastic bottles fashioned into critters to add whimsy to their garden and spread the word of reusing and recycling rather than just throwing plastic away. Minimizing negative impacts on our environment through gardening activities is an on-going theme of National Garden Clubs, as well as the current theme of Plant America.   A mixture of native plants, butterfly friendly plants, houseplants, succulents, vegetables, and many just easy to grow plants meant there was something for everyone wanting a plant. Visitors were surprised plants were being given away at no charge, but many club members cannot help but grow plants from cuttings and seeds and always have plenty of plants to pass along to new homes and delight in sharing their hobby and inspiring others to garden.

Community Gardens DIG

Community gardens are more than just gardens where members of the community grow vegetables. They can be any garden area that brings people from the community together to garden. The Brazos County Arboretum and Demonstration Idea Garden, called “the DIG”, is one such garden bringing Master Gardeners together as they tend to vegetables, trees, and other plants that grow well in the Brazos Valley. The garden is open to the public to learn about gardening or just enjoy. Visiting at different times of the year is recommended, as there is always something new to see. Many of the things Master Gardeners care about are what Texas Garden Club members care about. “Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. promotes the love of gardening, floral design, horticulture, civic responsibilities, landscaping, environmental concerns, and garden therapy for men, women and children and encourages participation and support in educational programs for both the very young and advanced students. It is the purpose of this organization to preserve, protect and conserve the natural resources of this country and to maintain and enhance the beauty of our lands.” accessed 5/27/19.

It should be no surprise that some A&M Garden Club members are also Master Gardeners helping maintain the DIG or have done so in the past. The DIG lives up to its name as a great place to get ideas for gardens and educational activities inspired by gardening. To visit, go pretty much any time during daylight hours, as there is ample parking and it is not locked. It is at 2619 West Highway 21 in Bryan. I have plans to visit again in different seasons to get more ideas and more content for our club blog about gardening. Are you an A&M Garden Club member and want to contribute to our blog? We’d love to review your submission(s) to post here, just contact Deana, Helen, or Suzanne.

Five popular landscape plants that are potentially poisonous to people and pets. (Part 1)

The intent of this article is not to scare, but to raise awareness of “what could happen” – exercise caution at all times and research plant characteristics before buying!


  1. Oleander – Nerium oleander

Its use as a poison is well known. In fact, oleander is reportedly a favorite suicide agent in Sri Lanka, where oleander poisonings exceed 150 per 100,000 each year. That’s a high number. Approximately 10% of these ingestions are fatal.

Despite the danger, oleander seeds and leaves are used to make medicine. Oleander is used for heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, painful menstrual periods, leprosy, malaria, ringworm, indigestion, and venereal disease; and to cause abortions.

Oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden plants and is toxic when eaten by dogs.  These plants contain a cardiac glycoside poison which produces symptoms similar to those seen with foxglove poisoning. Oleander poisoning is often caused by the ingestion of dead or dried leaves which apparently are more palatable to animals than the green leaves.


2.  Castor Bean – Ricinus communis

Perhaps as a child you might have been given castor oil to ease intestinal problems.  This oil is made from Castor Beans, so you might be surprised to learn that castor beans contain one of the most poisonous substances in the world, ricin. Just one castor bean has enough ricin to kill an adult within a few minutes.  Throughout history ricin has been used in assassination attempts!   Despite this grim quality, castor bean plants are frequently grown for decorative purposes, even in parks and public places.  The ASPCA warns that castor bean plants are highly poisonous to dogs, cats and horses. The beans of the plant are particularly dangerous, although the poisonous factor, the ricin protein, exists throughout all of its parts.

3   Daylily – Hemerocallis sp.

 Daylily poisoning in cats is caused by the consumption of plants of lily variety, particularly Easter Lily, Stargazer Lily and Tiger Lily.)   While not a true Lily (Lilium sp.) the pollen, stem, leaves and petals of many varieties of daylilies are poisonous to felines in even the smallest amounts. Direct consumption of the plant or simply grooming the fur after making contact with the plant can pose a threat for daylily poisoning in cats, causing kidney failure.   Dogs do not appear to be affected, and of course Daylily roots and flowers are edible for humans.

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4   Datura

Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are commonly known as daturas, but also known as devil’s trumpets, not to be confused with angel’s trumpets, its closely related genus Brugmansia. (Datura flowers face upwards, Brugmansias hang down.)  They are also sometimes called moonflowers, jimsonweed, devil’s weed, hell’s bells, thorn-apple and many more.

.Since this is a night-blooming plant, (flowers usually last into the day) its flowers must be pollinated by nocturnal visitors. Various species of sphinx and hawk moths are common pollinators. During the early morning hours, species of bees and even hummingbirds aid like to visit.

Sacred Datura is still used by some Native American cultures in religious ceremonies. Medicine men, holy men, spiritualists and even self-proclaimed witches have used it since ancient times. Thankfully, accidental ingestion by animals or humans seldom occurs, because all parts of the plant are extremely bitter, but the warning is warranted because accidental ingestion could be fatal.


5   Duranta – Duranta erecta and Duranta repens

Duranta is in the same plant family, Verbenaceae, as lantana.  While it is popular     nursery plant, it is highly poisonous to pets and children, with many documented deaths.  Duranta erecta‘s toxicity has been known since the late nineteenth century when ingestion of its fruit killed a two-year-old boy in Queensland, Australia.   In 2006 it was designated a Texas Superstar – I would question “why”, except it has pretty light blue or lavender flowers, and the fruit is a small yellow or orange berry, sometimes with both appearing at the same time.   In many places it is now considered invasive, with birds freely redistributing the ingested berries.