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Learn Something New in 2014

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

My grandma Simmons used to tell me that we should learn something new every day. I still think that is a great idea and have decided to make that my New Year's resolution this year. If you want to join me, University of Illinois Extension can help. We cover many topics, including gardening.

Our Master Gardener program provides the most comprehensive educational opportunity for gardeners. Julia Pryor coordinates our Master Gardener program for Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties.

"Those who complete Master Gardener training will provide 60 hours of volunteer service in a two year period helping with local projects to become active Master Gardeners," says Pryor. "Area projects include community gardens, school projects, church and civic presentations, horticulture hotlines, and much more."

Training begins January 27th and is held every Monday from 9 – 4 through March 31st. There are still a few spots left in this class, so contact Julia at or call 309-543-3308309-543-3308 for more information.

On January 9th at 10:00 a.m., I am teaching a program on Energy Efficient Landscaping for the Fulton County Home Education Association (HEA). This "lesson for living" will provide tips on how your landscape can help keep your energy costs down and make your yard more environmentally friendly. The free workshop will be given at the Extension office in Lewistown. For more information, call 547-3711.

I'm trying something new for the OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) class on January 8th and 9th at Bradley University. Whimsical Garden Fun combines the science of gardening with a bit of art and culture. I'll discuss how to send messages with flowers and how to capture a garden's beauty through journaling, photography, and sketching. I even plan to play my guitar and sing Scarborough Fair, which uses parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in a whole new way.

Other upcoming programs include information about invasive species (1st Detector Training and Emerald Ash Borer workshops), local foods, tea gardens, bargain gardens, and much more. I am speaking at several Garden Day events this year, including our own Gardeners' Big Day on March 29th at Dickson Mounds.

I hope you will be able to join us in your quest to learn more about plants for your home and garden. If you have trouble fitting a face-to-face program into an already busy schedule, our website is available 24/7 with a plethora of information.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.

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