1. Published

    Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) has received a lot of attention lately, with reports of expanding populations statewide and subsequent increased human contact with this toxic plant. However, there is some confusion about the risk this plant poses to humans and animals, along with what measures should be taken for protection. 

  2. Published

    Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is one of only two hydrangea species native to Illinois.  This small and often overlooked native shrub is much more prevalent in southern Illinois, although it occasionally occurs in our part of the state as well.  Its dainty lacecap flowers attract a wide range of pollinators and its foliage serves as food source for the caterpillars of two native moths, lending ecological value to this attractive, shade-loving native.

  3. Published

    The timing of spring can vary each year based on weather, but there are always ques in nature that line up in similar fashion year after year.  While climatic conditions on exact calendar dates my vary, the sequence of emerging biota is consistent and based a long evolutionary history which has carefully lined up everything from blooming plants to hatching insects and birds. 

  4. Published

    The spring vegetable gardening season is nearly upon us.

  5. Published

    Each spring as temperatures warm, there is a narrow window of weather suitable for plant growth prior to tree leaf out.  During this time, the forest understory begins to awaken as some of our earliest emerging native plants take advantage of the unique conditions. 

  6. Published

    The spring-like weather this past week has been phenomenal.  Although we may see a return to cooler weather since March is known to “come in like a lion”, it was certainly a sign of things to come.  I’m really looking forward to March’s exit as it “goes out like a lamb” and the 2022 gardening season takes shape.

  7. Published

    The benefits of green space in urban areas has long been documented to improve our lives in a wide variety of ways.  However, recent research has Illuminated the special role that trees and larger woody plants serve in our communities.  Beyond ecological and environment benefits, these extremely valuable landscape plants have been shown to improve our mental health in amazing ways.   As researchers work to further explore the fascinating relationship between trees and humans, the importance of woody plants in proximity to schools is becoming more apparent.

  8. Published

    On a recent trip to southern Illinois I couldn’t help but notice an incredibly unique native plant whose evergreen foliage is reminiscent of something from the tropics, making it seem so out of place in the winter landscape of Illinois.

  9. Published

    In recent years, gardeners have become increasingly interested in maximizing the benefits their garden spaces can provide for pollinating insects.  We know that these important insect friends are struggling with declining populations reported by research from around the globe, which had put additional emphasis on the need for more pollinator habitat. 

  10. Published

    Plant identification can be incredibly challenging for beginning botanists or even experienced plant people. There are tons of terms to learn and understand just to start identifying plants by leaves and other plant parts. Throw in a leafless winter, and it makes for a difficult skill to develop with confidence.

  11. Published

    While this winter has brought little ice and snow cover, this past weekend’s winter weather put a coating of ice on most smooth surfaces.  Gardeners, businesses, parks and others with landscaping near walkways must apply deicing salts for safety, but these products can harm plant life. 

  12. Published

    Nothing beats the warmth of a crackling fireplace on these coldest days of the year.  Each winter, as my family enjoys the cozy warmth of our woodstove room, I’m always thankful for the firewood supply we’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate over the past season. I enjoy the process of collecting and splitting wood that we can salvage from downed trees in our area.  It’s great exercise which results in some supplemental heat during the colder part of each winter.

  13. Published
    White pine needles are in bundles of 5.

    Evergreen foliage has long been a traditional holiday decoration since it encapsulates the green of the growing season well beyond the first frosts.  The hol

  14. Published

    With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us are stocking up on all the ingredients for our favorite dishes so we can contribute to the family feast.  The Thanksgiving meal has traditionally been a celebration of the year’s harvest, making it a great time to focus on the bountiful harvest that has occurred right here in Illinois.

  15. Published

    Over this past week, the fall weather has brought bare branches to the previously color-filled canopies of so many trees in the landscape.  As the autumn leaf drop has progressed, there are several elm trees that I pass each day which have held onto their fall color and really look spectacular as they grasp their foliage late into the season.

  16. Published

    Every plant has its peak season of both ornamental and ecological interest.  With so many plants in full fall color right now, its hard to consider another ornamental attribute.  However, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is a native shrub with a spectacular display of berries that mature in coincidence with fall colors each October.  Its coral-pink to almost purplish berries are an attractive ornamental aspect that provides winter forage for birds.

  17. Published

     

    Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs in the landscape.  Since winter dormancy is right around the corner, it’s a low stress time to install woody plants.  I always try to wrap up my fall plantings by about Thanksgiving, but plants can actually be installed anytime up to the point when soil freezes. 

  18. Published

    Earlier this week, I was visiting a neighbor and noticed an eye-catching plant in rare form for this time of year.  It was filled with abundant red blooms that almost glowed against the backdrop of green leaves behind it.  Whorls of the tiny flowers filled the spiky stalks that jutted out in all directions, creating a display that no human or pollinator could miss. 

  19. Published

    As the last asters of the year are wrapping up their flower display and monarchs are migrating through to more southern latitudes, spring flowers aren’t always at the center of attention for most gardeners.  However, now is the time to set the stage for some of the most beautiful and early blooms of spring. 

    Fall is actually the ideal time to plant spring flowering bulbs.  These amazing plant structures are tiny powerhouses of energy that can be planted now to explode with flowers and foliage as spring temperatures awaken them next year. 

  20. Published

    As the vegetable growing season quickly approaches fall frosts when production screeches to a halt, there is actually one crop that can be planted now in anticipation of next year’s growing season.  Garlic (Allium sativum) is an easy-to-grow bulb crop that does best when planted now for a summer harvest next year.