1. Published

    National Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April, putting it on April 25th this year. Are you ready to plant a tree? If not, Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that you can plant one soon or start planning for the next Arbor Day.

    "Recent research has shown that improperly planted trees can suffer in later years". "Therefore, follow these recommendations when planting trees".

  2. Published
    April brings us our fourth gardening trend for 2014: Dress up Your Yard. I often talk about my various outdoor garden rooms. Outdoor spaces are truly an extension of your home. You might have a kitchen for barbeques, a dining room to entertain guests on the patio, a lawn for games, a firepit for socializing, and so on.

    Outdoor spaces are fashion statements that reflect our personal style. I was first intrigued by this concept when I visited a Chinese garden in Portland, Oregon.

  3. Published

    Many people consider getting plants established in shady areas of the yard as a challenge. Fortunately, this does not have to be true. There are many options available to gardeners for shady areas. Want to learn more?

  4. Published
    University of Illinois Extension recently named Rhonda Ferree as the new statewide coordinator of the Master Naturalist program. Ferree also serves as an Extension horticulture educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties

    The U of I Extension Master Naturalist program provides science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards.

  5. Published

    This month's 2014 garden trend is "Drink Your Garden" Coincidentally I also just bought a new book called The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart. Intrigued? Simply put, there are many different plants that you can grow to make your own delicious drinks.

  6. Published
    Learn more about gardening by attending a garden day event this spring.

    Garden day events are sponsored by University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners and are held all over the state. You can find a garden event to attend on almost every Saturday between late February and early April.

  7. Published

    I am so fortunate that I had opportunities during this cold, snowy winter to visit two tropical locations. I went to Costa Rica in December to pick up my son from his semester of studying abroad and I just returned from my husband's employee reward trip to the Dominican Republic.

    Obviously I enjoyed the warm, sunny weather in both locations, but I also love seeing the tropical plants there. Many native plants there are ones that we grow here as houseplants.

  8. Published
    My Dad and I are planning some of our garden catalog orders together this year. This serves many purposes. We inspire each other to begin planning and some catalogs offer discounts or free shipping for larger orders.

    Now is the time to plan your purchases from garden catalogs. I recommend you try to place most of your orders as soon as possible. However, with the myriad of catalogs available, how can we choose which catalogs to place our order and our trust? Here are some tips to consider.

  9. Published

    Following a few suggestions can prolong the beauty of flowers given on Valentine's Day and other special occasions, says a retired University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

    "Whether you are giving roses, carnations, mums, or some other type of flower, you want them to last," says James Schuster. "Start with buying young flowers. Young rose buds have just their outer petals open, show no browning and on red roses there is no noticeable 'blue blush' showing through the red.

  10. Published

    I am hoping for some warmer weather so I can do some winter pruning. Winter is a perfect time to prune most trees and shrubs.

    Correct pruning is an essential maintenance practice for ornamental trees and shrubs. However, most homeowners regard pruning with considerable apprehension. Pruning is not difficult if you understand the basics and learn why, when, and how to prune.

  11. Published
    As promised I'm writing each month about a 2014 garden trend. Trend two from the 2014 Garden Media Group report is "Super Foods, Super Models." Let me try to explain what that is.

    My interpretation is that the trend is to grow your own highly nutritious food (super foods) using nontraditional methods (super models).

    The main reasons people state for growing their own food is taste, nutrition, and quality. I can vouch for the taste and quality part. For me, there is nothing like the taste of a ripe tomato picked off the vine on a hot summer day.

  12. Published
    I taught a Whimsical Garden Fun series for Bradley University's OLLI program this month. This one was a bit different for me because I combined the science of gardening with a bit of art and culture. The first day, during Communicating Your Garden, I taught how to capture a garden's beauty through journaling, photography, and sketching. The second day we discussed The Meaning of Flowers and I played my guitar and sang Scarborough Fair to cover the lost herbal meanings of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.
  13. Published

    If you have trouble growing houseplants, the Mother-in-Laws tongue is for you.

    "The Mother-In-Laws Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as snake plant, is one of the most durable houseplants and is a plant that anyone can grow," says Rhonda Ferree, extension educator in horticulture.

  14. Published

    This is for the participants in my class today at Bradley University's OLLI program.

    January - Carnation

    • General - Fascination
    • Pink – I'll never forget you
    • Red- Admiration (My Heart Breaks)
    • Purple – Capriciousness (fickle)
    • White – Sweet and lovely, innocence, love
    • Yellow – Disdain
    • Solid – Yes
    • Striped – I cannot be with you
    • February – Violet
    • Symbol of modesty & humility
    • Blue – Faithfulness

    March - Daffodil

  15. Published

    This year I plan to write once a month about one of the 12 garden trends from the 2014 Garden Media Group report. The trends are based on many facts and figures. They include technology and smart gardening techniques meant to find balance in the garden.

    The first garden trend is Ground Up: table to garden to table. According to the natural marketing institute, only 25% of our U.S. households compost. Food scraps make up 11.7% of our waste with 97% of that going to landfills. We obviously need to reduce food scrap waste.

  16. Published
    A few of my favorite Herb Garden resources
    • The Complete Book of Herbs – Lesley Bremness; Dorling Kindersley Publishing
    • Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press

    Websites to check out
    University of Illinois Herb website
    Herb Quarterly Magazine
    Richter's Herbs
  17. Published
    During a program today I was asked for a listing of horticulture social media sites. Here is what I came up with. This features most of our Extension sites, plus a few more. Enjoy!


  18. Published

    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.