1. Published

    Extreme winter cold is something that can keep gardeners up at night.  Since plants are dormant, there is little we can do in the way of plant health care and that can be a real helpless feeling.  The extremely cold weather back in December certainly raised concern and my office received a number of calls from worried gardeners. 

  2. Published

    Hollies are common landscape plants and even more common holiday decorations that belong to the incredibly diverse genus Ilex which contains over 400 species, both evergreen and deciduous, that hail from all corners of the globe. 

    A locally adapted holly species or cultivar is relatively easy to grow and they are fairly disease and insect free. They are incredibly prunable, with dormant buds at the ready to fill in and many do quite well with rejuvenation near ground level if their canopy needs an overall reset. 

  3. Published

    When you consider the common field crops in Illinois, it is no doubt that corn (Zea mays) has heavily influenced on agriculture.  However, broomcorn (Sorghum bicolor) is a lesser-known member of the grass family (Poaceae) with an agricultural history of its own in our state.  Its more closely related to other sorghums than it is to the most popular Poaceae member, Zea mays.

  4. Published

    This time of year, many folks have questions while searching for the perfect Christmas tree.  In recent years, I have written several blog posts on this topic, covering various aspects of Christmas tree care, identification, selection, and sustainability. Take a look at our collection of past blogs posts below to learn more information about one of the most common holiday plants.

  5. Published

    Nearly every deciduous plant in the Illinois landscape has lost it leaves for the year, except for one standout. 

  6. Published

    As fall progresses and most plants lose their leaves or retreat to their winter dormancy, portions of the landscape can appear bare and boring for winter.  Evergreens and woody plants are commonly considered the best specimens for winter interested, providing structure throughout the seasons to stand out in winter as other plants fade.  However, there are quite a few native herbaceous plants that hold their own in winter but are often overlooked.

  7. Published

    There are many oddities of the plant world that are hard to pass up without some questions.  Based on the perspective of the beholder, some of these strange phenomena may lead to either wonder or concern. 

  8. Published

    The beauty of fall is upon us with splashes of exorbitant color all around the landscape.  In the past week, red maples (Acer rubrum) have nearly reached their peak color for the season, displaying fire-red leaves that scream for attention.  The brilliant yellows of shagbark (Carya ovata) and pignut hickory (Carya glabra) have been turned on like a switch to produce golden clouds of canopy and an equally stunning understory color in area woodlands. 

  9. Published

    One of my favorite plants of the late summer is the tall and tasseled titan, Joe-Pye Weed.  This common name refers to several native species which often require an additional descriptive word to identify individuals, although many of us drop the descriptor and simply say “Joe-Pye Weed”. 

  10. Published

    Throughout the fall season, garden centers are filled with a beautiful selection of mums (short for chrysanthemums).   In the garden, mums provide a both a spectacular fall display and a late season nectar source for pollinating insects. 

  11. Published

    This past week was the fall equinox which marks the beginning of the fall season. With the cooler weather in recent days, it has really started to feel like the time of changing leaves and brilliant autumn colors. While most of us are thinking of tree color this time of year, there are some spectacular late blooming plants that provide a characteristic fall flare of color late in the growing season.

  12. Published

    Earlier this summer the monarch butterfly was in the news as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated the migratory species as “Endangered” on its Red List of Threatened Species.  This announcement sparked some misunderstanding as many confused the IUCN Red List with the US Federal Endangered Species List.   Both systems include a designation of “endangered”, but each means something different for the monarch and for all of us. 

  13. Published

    Most gardeners who have planted a summer squash in their vegetable garden can attest to the prolific growth of healthy squash vines.  And in good years, many can also recount the bountiful harvest, with fruits ripening faster than you can pick them at times.  I think we’ve all found those enormous zucchinis that seemed to grow overnight like something out of jack and the beanstalk.

  14. Published
    Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)

    The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive pest that impacts a wide range of plants as it feeds throughout the growing season.  This non-native leafhopper was first identified in Pennsylvania back in 2014 and has since spread to 10 other states.  Recent discoveries in Indiana and Iowa seem to be a sign of what is to come for Illinois, so we all need to be on the lookout for this new threat. 

  15. Published

    In recent visits to local prairies, I was reminded of a spectacular native plant that is often overshadowed by its more common hybrid cousins.  Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is native plant with a home range that spans our continent.  It frequents a wide range of locations on the landscape, such as prairies and woodland edges or abandoned pastures and road rights-of-way.  This tough plant thrives in bone dry, full sun or even more mesic and part shade locations, occupying all but the most wet and poorly drained sites.

  16. 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. 

  17. Published

    Native plants are ever gaining popularity as gardeners seek specimens with high ecological value in support of declining insect pollinator populations.  Among the almost 2,300 plant species known to be native in Illinois, our native shrubs are often overlooked and underappreciated in the landscape.  However, many offer a wide variety of ornamental attributes along with high pollinator value.

  18. Published

    Like clockwork, the Champaign County Master Gardeners (CCMG) moved hundreds of plants from the greenhouse out to the Idea Garden on University of Illinois Campus in early May. This annual tradition has been ongoing for over two decades now as part of a plant trial program the gardeners participate in with Proven Winners®. 

  19. 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.

  20. Published

    Greening spring lawns are a welcome sign to many of us, but they are also a sign of yardwork to come for the rest of the growing season.  The desire to get a jump start on mowing for season, or perhaps to get outside and be active after winter dormancy, spurs a lot of early season grass cutting.   However, there may be good reason to slack off a bit this spring.