Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

It is difficult to write this article, as it is my last one. After 30 years of service, I retire October 1 from University of Illinois Extension.

Over the years, writing this blog has been one of my favorite tasks. Through these many articles, we have explored many horticultural topics together, and I have learned so much along the way.

Together we've explored lawn care, growing vegetables, flower maintenance, water gardens, and landscaping for wildlife. We learned about specific flowers including my favorites: lily-of-the-valley, poppies, jack-in-the-pulpit, and tropicals. We discovered new and old houseplants, such as Norfolk Island pine, Boston fern, Ti plant, Easter Lilies, and Poinsettias. We learned how to grow food indoors and how to start seeds to plant outdoors in the spring. We now know where various "spirits" come from and more about spices, coffee, and sugar.

My favorite articles are the ones that discuss how plants help us live better and healthier lives. This is the message I leave you in my last column.

I've written many times about the psychological benefits of plants. Because of their simplicity, plants and natural scenes reduce physical and mental excitement and improve our health. They help us heal faster, concentrate better, and reduce stress. Overall, being around plants simply makes us happier. A 2010 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that just five minutes outside is all it takes to get the mood-boosting effect that plants and nature provide.

More than that, we cannot live without plants. Plants cleanse our air, provide the oxygen we breathe, and are the source of all the food we eat. They provide us with medicine, cosmetics, cleansers, and so much more.

A search begins soon to find my replacement.

Thanks for allowing me to share my love and passion for plants with you. Happy Gardening!



Rhonda Ferree began her career with Illinois Extension in 1988. Throughout her career she served as Illinois Extension specialist in pesticide safety education, Fulton County Extension horticulture and crops educator, Fulton County Extension director, West Central Illinois Extension associate regional director in Springfield. She retired in 2018 while serving as horticulture educator for the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit.


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