1. Published

    My 2018 Garden Calendar is now available. It provides garden tips, a calendar of events, and a picture each month spotlighting University of Illinois Extension volunteers and programs.

    New this year are hyperlinks to information on various topics in the monthly tips. Just click on the underlined-blue links while viewing the electronic copy and it will take you to the connecting ILRiverHort blog, Pinterest pin, or YouTube video.

  2. Published

    The poinsettia is the traditional Christmas flower. It was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, first U. S. ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of southern Mexico.

  3. Published

    Just what are frankincense and myrrh? Certainly, they are part of many Christmas stories, but do you know what those products are and why they were so valuable? Here is more information on both of these plant-based products.

    Frankincense and myrrh are both resins -- dried tree sap -- that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh), which are common to Somalia and Ethiopia.

  4. Published

    Do you know where the sugar you used to bake your Christmas cookies comes from? Sugar is available in many different forms.

    The sugar we use comes from two different plants: sugar beets or sugarcane. Worldwide, 70 percent of our sugar comes from sugarcane. Sugarcane is a tall grass that grows in tropical areas. In tropical setting like Hawaii and Jamaica it grows in fields and looks similar to corn.

  5. Published

    Which type of holiday cactus do you have?

    There are many different types of cacti that bloom between Thanksgiving and Easter. Each is appropriately named by the holiday it blooms near. The differences between these plants are found in the leaf edges. Christmas cacti have scalloped edges while Thanksgiving and Easter cacti have pointed edges. The Thanksgiving cactus is most common, probably because it is easier to get to bloom. They each are available in a variety of flower colors including white, pink, red, and orange.

  6. Published

    Rosemary is a wonderful herb. It not only looks and smells great but makes a great addition to many culinary dishes.

    Rosemary is often found at Christmas time in wreaths and topiaries. If you follow the meaning of flowers, rosemary signifies love and remembrance, making it a great holiday gift.

  7. Published

    I remember mom having nuts in the shell on the coffee table during the holidays. Although I didn't eat many nuts at that time, I liked using the little tools to crack open the nut and dig out its sweet inner meat. Let's look at the plants that give us these delicious morsels.

  8. Published

    Last night while making my newest favorite evening tea I got to thinking about the plants that produce these ingredients. My Spice Special tea is a blend of rooibos, anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, orange bitters, and honey. Let's look at each of these a bit closer.

  9. Published

    A new crop of volunteers completed University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener training on November 7, 2017. Twenty-one energetic trainees culminated their ten-week Master Gardener training course by advancing to intern status.

  10. Published

    I made my first miniature garden at a recent Master Gardener meeting in Canton. It's such a pretty, fun little garden that I smile every time I see it. Are you searching for the "perfect" gift for a gardener in your family? As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, here are some pretty, fun ideas to consider for the gardener on your shopping list.

  11. Published

    I was fortunate enough to camp at Canton Lake twice this summer. While enjoying peaceful kayak rides along the shoreline I found two plants that I'd never seen before. It's always exciting to find new plants, but these were particularly thrilling. They are both native plants, and to me represent a healthy diversity of plant life in that area.

  12. Published

    During the holiday season many different types of plants are available for decorating and display including the spectacular amaryllis.

    Amaryllis flowers make a bold statement. Borne on 1 ½ to 2-foot tall stalk, the trumpet-shaped, 6-inch blooms dominate their surroundings. After flowering, the plant produces attractive, bright green leaves, and with a little care will flower year after year.

  13. Published

    After 30 years of being a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension the towering pampas grasses still amaze me each fall. What energy and power that plant must have to grow over 12 feet tall each summer, just to die back in the fall and start over again the next year.

  14. Published

    While hiking recently I got to thinking about the various plants that stick to our sock and pants. Certainly, they are frustrating; but, as a plant geek, I wanted to know more.

    Sticky plants attaching to clothes, hair, fur, and feathers to disperse their seeds into new areas. They do this with hooks, spines, barbs, and burrs. Let's look at a few common examples that we find here in central Illinois.

  15. Published

    Now is the time to take soil tests. If you have plants that are not growing the way they should, a soil test might be needed to see if soil amendments are needed.

    Soil amendments should be based on a soil test to know the amounts needed. Be sure the sample is representative of the area to be treated. The teaspoon of soil finally used for analysis weighs a few grams in comparison to about 50,000 pounds of soil per 1000 square feet to a six-inch depth.

  16. Published

    Some plants are perfect for Halloween. Bat flowers, devils claw, and corpse flower come to mind. Another creepy looking plant is doll's eyes. I'm not sure why dolls with staring, glass eyes are so scary, but they can be truly frightening to some people. I used to have a recurring dream as a little girl about a scary doll in an old house. Weird, I know!

    I recently found a doll's eye plant while hiking at Siloam Springs State Park. I'd seen this plant in flower many times, but this was the first time I saw its fruit.

  17. Published

    Parts of my backyard and woodland are covered with fallen pine needles. We have a large number of mature white pine trees that yearly drop their needles. Annual needle drop is normal and beneficial.

    Martha Smith, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension said it well, "There is really nothing to be concerned about," "What is happening is commonly called inner needle drop or third year needle drop."

  18. Published

    Most people assume that established trees and shrubs can handle drought conditions. Often this is true, but the severe weather extremes that we've had in recent years has depleted reserves and stressed many plants.

    Please don't ignore your older trees and shrubs. Mature woody landscape plants often do not exhibit symptoms from underwatering for several months; or, some cases it takes 3-5 years to see the impacts of a major environmental event.

  19. Published

    I am continually impressed and humbled by what our University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners accomplish. Although they all deserve accolades, several of our local Master Gardeners were recently recognized at the 2017 Illinois Master Gardener Conference in Normal for their outstanding efforts.

    May Bach, Jennifer Bass, and Kathy Edwards were among 36 Master Gardeners receiving the State Outstanding Master Gardener Award.

  20. Published

    A team of eight University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners was awarded a teamwork award for their Wildlife Federation Mayor's Monarch Garden in Pekin, Illinois. The award was presented during University of Illinois Extension's annual master gardener conference in Normal on September 8, 2017.

    This group's project planted seeds of knowledge in young people to develop their love for gardening and better understand its purpose.