|The mission of the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is to educate the community through fellowship and demonstration using research-based gardening information.|
Flower of the Month
The Edible, Delectable Hibiscus Roselle
The hibiscus is a well-known flower to our gardening community. It is a decorative plant that comes in many colors: red, yellow, white and more, but did you know that certain varieties of the plant are edible? Specifically, the Hibiscus sabdariffa var. sabdariffa, known as Roselle, is a particularly valued plant as a medicinal and food source.
Roselle is a tropical hibiscus plant related to okra. It can grow to 7 or 8 feet and has a delicate white flower with red center that is especially attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. While several parts of the plant are edible, it’s the calyx found at the bottom of each flower that is the most used. The bright red color of the calyces hold the seed pods; their color and tart taste make them a great replacement for cranberries or making jams and teas. Calyces can easily be stored frozen or dried, be sure to separate the seed pod.
Uses for Roselle include: chopping the Roselle calyces as a replacement for cranberries and using the leaves as a spicy replacement for spinach in salads and making hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus tea, known in Mexico and the Caribbean as Agua de Jamaica, is very easy to make. The simplest of recipes calls for separating the pod seeds, boiling the calyces for 10-15 minutes and, presto, you have Agua de Jamaica tea. In homage to Texas and its love of sweet tea, you may want to add your favorite sweetener.
Hibiscus is a crowd pleaser in many ways; it beautifies our gardens, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and provides an interesting food source. If you have an opportunity to acquire the plant, look on the internet to find some ways you can use it to add interest and Latin taste to your menu.
To find out more about the beautiful and versatile plant, contact the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association at 936.539.7824.
November in the Garden
As the leaves fall off the plants in our gardens and many plants die back, it is a perfect time to look at the layout of the garden. It is much easier to see the outlines or bones of our gardens at these times. If you don’t like what you see, draw up new ideas with structure, evergreen plants or other architectural plans.
Our weather is typically pretty good in November, so try to get out and work in your garden before the holidays suck you in. Here is what you could be doing:
- Clean, sharpen, and oil garden tools.
- Rake leaves and start a leaf mold compost.
- Add organic matter to beds.
- Start forcing bulbs like paper-whites, hyacinths, and amaryllis for the holidays.
- Keep weeding. It’s easier to see the weeds once garden plants die back.
- Keep watering, paying particular attention to anything you planted late in the growing season.
- Perennials can be divided now.
- Keep your fall vegetable garden going. Harvest often and succession plant the following: cilantro, parsley, dill, mint, lavender, rosemary, lettuce, spinach, and other greens, onion sets, leeks, garlic, kale, cabbage, etc.
- Winterize the lawn with an organic, slow release fertilizer or compost.
- Plant fall and winter color such as pansies, dianthus, dusty miller, ornamental cabbage, snapdragons, alyssum.
- Sow wildflower seeds.
- Mulch! Mulch, mulch!! Spring mulch is gone now and putting down a 2-3 inch layer of mulch will help protect plants from cold, reduce weeds and reduce need for water. Use pine straw, bark mulch, compost or leaves.
- Be on the lookout for pillbugs and snails eating your transplants.
- If you want to plant roses next January or February, prepare the beds now with pine bark mixed with soil or compost.
Critters of the Month
Snails and Slugs
My garden has them; your garden has them. Maybe a little knowledge about these troublesome critters will help gardeners deal with them better.
The snail is basically a shelled gastropod. The name is usually used when talking about land snails (terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusca). Any gastropods that have a coiled shell large enough for the animals to retract into completely can be called snails. The word “snail” is most often used when talking about land snails, but it should also include sea snails and freshwater snails. Gastropods that naturally lack a shell, or have only an internal shell, are usually called slugs. Land snails that have only a very small shell (that they cannot retract into) are usually called semi-slugs.
Snails play many roles in our lives. We like to eat certain varieties, but most are pests and carry disease; some snail shells are used as decoration and some are used in jewelry.
Slugs are basically snails without a shell. This fact makes slugs a different type of pest than snails are. Slugs can squish themselves into small spaces that snails cannot. Slugs will actually eat our garden plants down to nothing faster than snails.
Gardeners don’t like snails or slugs. How can we get rid of them or at least control them? We can use diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells, copper shavings spread around the affected plants or a copper wire placed around plants to create a barrier that snails and slugs cannot cross. Also, we can put out snail/slug bait such as a flat pan of beer or an upside-down melon rind, and we can attract animals that will eat the snails and slugs. Non-poisonous snakes and toads are the best for that. They will eat the snails and not bother the plants. These tips may help you control these troublesome gastropod critters.
Step Into Our Gardens….
By Pat Sheridan, Master Gardener
A garden organized around a unifying theme is a theme garden. Ideas for theme gardens are limitless. There are Japanese gardens, butterfly gardens, rose gardens, and vegetable gardens, to name just a few. Here at the AgriLife Extension, we have several examples of theme gardens: the children’s discovery garden, the square foot garden, the fairy garden, and the culinary herb garden, and more.
Checkout the Shakespeare Garden…
Within the Herb Area lies the Shakespeare Garden:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…” A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” Ophelia
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…” Romeo and Juliet
Did you know that herbs and other plants were frequently mentioned in the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare? It seems that he was very knowledgeable of the characteristics and uses of many plants. In his day (the 1600s), plants had symbolic significance. Every mention is thought to be important to the story. His writings speak about more than 30 different herbs and flowers and the settings were sometimes in gardens.
Our Shakespeare garden features bronze fennel, creeping thyme, chamomile, yarrow, rosemary, bay laurel, tansy, rue, the red rose, but plants may vary with the season and weather conditions. We even have a bust of old Will himself to watch over the plants in his garden.
Some well- known public gardens in America that contain areas dedicated to Shakespeare are located in Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and on the Folger Shakespeare Library grounds, Washington, D.C. Closer to home, Festival Hill and Mercer Botanical Gardens are worth a visit.