1. Published

    This past week’s warmer weather has been an exhilarating blast of spring when contrasted with the icy, extreme cold just one week earlier.  The warmup has spurred many of us to get back out in the garden to start getting ready for spring.  While our landscape beds and gardens will be places of burgeoning spring beauty as plant life begins its annual revival in the coming weeks, they are also ecological hotspots of awakening spring life in the insect world.

  2. Published

    Wintertime offers few activities out in the garden, other than filling bird feeders and carefully watching dormant plants for any sign of awakening as spring nears.  However, winter dormancy is the ideal time to prune woody plants.  With trees and shrubs inactive in their winter slumber, pruning now can avoid interruption of the many plant process at play throughout the growing season.

  3. Published

    The snow-blanketed wintertime landscape often lacks the beauty we can recall from other times of the year when plants were in bloom or filled with wonderful green foliage.  It leaves both humans and wildlife searching for plant life that retains interest either in the form of ornamental beauty for us, or shelter and habitat for all the animals that share our landscape. 

  4. Published

    With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many of us are seeking floral gifts to express our affection for family, friends, and significant others.  While nothing beats the spectacular blooms and intricate arrangements that cut flowers offer, we all know their lifespan is limited.  This year, consider a much longer-lived houseplant as gift that will continue to add lush greenery and even beautiful blooms for years to come.

  5. Published

    What will your 2021 vegetable garden look like?  Where will you source seeds or plants?  What new crops are you interested in planting this year?  All these questions are on the minds of many gardeners this time of year. In 2020, there was an unprecedented interest in all types of gardening since most of us had a lot of time at home.  All signs indicate this trend will continues in 2021. So, whether you are ready for the gardening season or not, now is the time to start planning.

  6. Published

    The plant kingdom has not always had the diversity we know today.  It has taken hundreds of millions of years of evolution to bring about the diverse, complex group of flowering plants known as angiosperms.  And for many millions of years prior to the emergence of angiosperms, the plant kingdom consisted of primarily of gymnosperms.  

  7. Published

    Plant names provide the botanical vocabulary we use to describe the plant world to each other.  They are important descriptors that facilitate both backyard gardening and scientific study by establishing a widely agreed upon naming convention of species.  In our current system of plant language, each plant species has a formally established scientific name as well as a less formal and more regionally applicable common name.

  8. Published

    Deicing salts are essential to winter travel in Illinois and provide necessary safety in a landscape setting by melting dangerous ice on precarious steps, sidewalks, entryways and other areas of frequent foot traffic.  However, winter damage from salt can be a major problem in some landscapes by negatively impacting plant health or sometimes outright killing plants from overexposure. 

  9. Published

    Freezing rain is a regular part of winter weather patterns in central Illinois, resulting in occasional ice storms that can damage property, take out utilities and wreak havoc on tree canopies.  By meteorological definition, an ice storm occurs when ice accumulation is greater than 0.25 inches.  On average, our area of Illinois experiences about 5 days of freezing rain per year which rarely result in an ice storm, but can nonetheless cause major damage in any instance.

  10. Published

    Poinsettias are a symbol of the holidays that have adorned wintertime homes in the US since their rise in popularity almost 200 years ago.  These gorgeous plants are native to Mexico and naturally reach full bloom near the holidays, making them a ubiquitous plant of the holiday season.  On average, they account for about one quarter of all potted plants sold in the US each year.  With all this popularity, it is surprising to me that there are a number of misconceptions or myths surrounding this plant.

  11. Published

    Woody plants are some of the largest and most long-lived plants in the landscape, forming the majestic and expansive canopy of our urban and natural forests.  With all of this wonderful woody growth, have you ever stopped to think about why woody plants attain greater height than their smaller, herbaceous cousins?  What mechanisms are at play in woody plant growth compared to other plants?  How do cultural practices like pruning or impacts like storm damage effect the growth of these plants?

  12. Published

    Native plants are becoming a larger part of our built environment each year as more and more gardeners begin to recognize their value. Natives support local ecosystems and wildlife habitat in ways that are increasingly important as our human footprint on the landscape grows.  From professionals to backyard gardeners, there is a growing demand for native plants, especially as many realize their ornamental and functional value in the landscape as well.

  13. Published

    Thanksgiving brings us a feast that, for many gardeners and naturalists, signifies the final harvest and close of the growing season. As we draw further away from the growing season and nearer to the winter solstice, many of us turn our focus to bringing light and greenery into our homes. Whether it is candles, twinkling lights, wreaths, garlands, or trees, these holiday traditions span centuries and cross many cultures.

  14. Published

    Fall is an excellent time to add new trees or shrubs to the landscape and many of us have already taken advantage of mild weather and sunny days to get new plants in the ground.  With the lion’s share of work complete after digging, planting and mulching are finished, we often overlook some of the final steps to prepare new woody plants for winter.

  15. Published

    Insects are a celebrated part of our natural ecosystems, but when they enter our homes, it’s rarely anything to celebrate.  Each fall as cold weather closes in, there are a few usual suspects that surface at my house to cause a hubbub.  However, these exotic houseguests are rarely a serious issue, simply existing as annoying roommates that congregate around light fixtures and windows.

  16. Published

    Images of witches, skeletons, and other specter abound this time of year.  But we really don’t need to look much beyond the natural world for a dose of spooky entertainment? This week, I’ve compiled my list of the top four spookiest native trees that all offer some great Halloween-related attributes everyone can enjoy on All Hallows’ Eve.

  17. Published

    Fall color is upon us with so many plants entering their annual push toward winter dormancy and putting on a great display in the meantime.  As deciduous plants show their true colors this time of year, it offers the observer an opportunity to quickly identify many species by the color and timing of their autumn display.   

  18. Published

    For many gardeners, an entire season of continuously blooming plants is a primary goal.  Not only do these fantastic flowers deliver ornate beauty throughout the year, but they are also greatly beneficial to pollinators by providing a continuous food source of pollen and nectar.  Since many plants have a limited flower display, sometimes only spanning a few weeks, it is often difficult to find the right arrangement of plants for an entire growing season of continuous blooms. 

  19. Published

    The term native often means different things to different people.  Most definitions draw a line between geography and time scale which typically is demarcated by the point of human intervention or influence on the landscape. I really like this definition from the Forest Service in 2012, “A native plant is an endemic species that occurs naturally in a plant community, ecosystem, ecoregion, or biome habitat without direct or indirect human involvement.”

  20. Published

    Shade trees are some of the most valuable plants in most urban landscapes.  They provide energy saving shade as well as valuable habitat for wildlife in a sometimes otherwise inhospitable built environments.  However, a mature shade tree takes considerable time to develop the canopy and branch structure that provides such benefit, which is the primary reason their high value when weighed against other landscape plants.  So, it pays to identify tree ailments effectively in the interest of protecting our investment in time and tree value.