1. Published

    Happy New Year! Where did 2016 go? Whether you toast in the New Year with sparkling grape juice or a more spirited drink, it is interesting to think of all the plants that make up spirits.

    Spirits are actually named by the fermented material from which they are distilled. Various grains make up whiskey, vodka, gin and most types of schnapps. Brandy is made from fermented grape juice, and fruit brandy is made from other fruits. Rum and cane spirits come from fermented sugar cane juice or molasses. Tequila and mezcal come from the fermented pulp of the agave plant.

  2. Published

    Once the Christmas holiday is over, the chore of taking down and disposing of the cut Christmas tree remains. Today, because of solid waste regulations, most communities will no longer permit the used Christmas trees to be hauled out with the garbage and sent to the sanitary landfill.

  3. Published

    What is a Christmas Rose? It may be roses given at Christmas or a particular china pattern. It could also refer to a perennial plant called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose.

    The Christmas and Lenten Roses are Helleborus plants that are said to bloom at Christmas or in the winter. In actuality, they bloom in February or March in our part of the world. Still, they are a joy to see blooming during the gloomy days of winter.

  4. Published

    My 2017 Garden Calendar is now available. It provides garden tips, a calendar of events, and a picture each month spotlighting Master Gardener (MG) projects. Here is a preview.

    January displays MGs teaching over 2000 students about watersheds during the annual Peoria Clean Water Celebration. A tip suggests that we feed and water birds regularly.

    February features the Peoria MGs providing gardening information at the Peoria Home Show, which is February 24-26. It is also a good time to prune landscape plants, except early spring bloomers.

  5. Published

    Holly and mistletoe are symbols of the Christmas season. They are very different plants, but both quite beautiful in their own unique ways.

  6. Published

    Cranberries are a staple for many people during the holidays. We use them to make cranberry salad or jello for the holiday dinner. Many people also string them with popcorn to make a beautiful garland decoration. I love to eat cranberries and find their history and production practices fascinating. Jennifer Fishburn, University of Illinois Extension Educator in Horticulture, explains all about cranberries in her following news article.

  7. Published

    Last year I had a lot of browning on one of my evergreen yew plants. It is next to the house near the dryer vent. The vent's hot air caused my plant to dry out quickly, with some areas dying completely. This year I am prepared to protect this plant and others like it. Here is how I'll do that.

    Narrow-leaved evergreens such as yews, arborvitae, and hemlock are especially susceptible to winter browning, also called desiccation. Broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons , azalea, and boxwoods are also prone to winter desiccation injury.

  8. Published

    There is nothing like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree to put you in the holiday spirit. Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect tree for your home and assure it stays fresh throughout the holiday season.

  9. Published

    If you plan to add an evergreen tree to your landscape next year, consider using it as a Christmas tree now. Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as it sounds. It requires some planning ahead, and only allows a Christmas tree in your home for a few days.

  10. Published

    Are you searching for the "perfect" gift for a gardener in your family? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, provides the following some ideas that might prove helpful.

    Gardeners always love gift plants and flowers. Since gardeners tend to be choosy about the type of plants they grow, get them a gift certificate to their favorite nursery. Or, give them a monthly subscription to receive fruit or plants each month for the next year.

  11. Published

    If you grow strawberries, you may be wondering when to cover them for the winter. Recently retired University of Illinois Extension Local Foods and Small Farms Educator Mike Roegge provides the following tips.

    Straw is traditionally applied to strawberries when they have gone dormant. You don't want to cover them too soon as you can smother the plant. We've had a couple of days of 20-degree temperatures in December, so strawberries should be dormant. Dormancy can be noted as the plants will turn a slight purple/red color.

  12. Published

    As the holiday season approaches, it seems appropriate to discuss the issue of sweet potatoes versus yams. Officially a sweet potato is never a yam, but sweet potatoes are often sometimes referred to as yams.

  13. Published

    Are you searching for the "perfect" gift for a gardener in your family? As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, here are some tools and gadgets that every gardener needs.

    Gardening is therapeutic, but it can also be hard work. Proper tools help get a garden job done safely, efficiently, and maybe even faster. Always choose the right tool for the job.

  14. Published

    Paperwhites are routinely sold in stores during holidays.

    Many bulbs are easy to grow indoors for seasonal display and beauty. Common examples are Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus.

    Of all the types of narcissus, the paperwhite narcissus is the one most commonly sold for forcing indoors. This is because it doesn't need an extended cold treatment to induce flowers. Boxed bulb kits often include a pre-cooled bulb that is all ready to bloom indoors. Simply pot up and water thoroughly to get it started.

  15. Published

    Deer hunting season is upon us, and so it seems appropriate to do an article about deer damage to landscape plants. Fall and winter are a time when deer can cause significant damage to landscape plants. Two types of damage can occur: antler rubbing and browsing.

  16. Published

    You see the ads in the newspaper, along roadsides and just about everywhere else at this time of year: FIREWOOD FOR SALE.

    Knowing where your firewood comes from can keep you from making some costly mistakes, according to Duane Friend, a University of Illinois Extension Educator in environmental and energy stewardship. Friend is the co-author of University of Illinois Extension's new "Firewood in Illinois" website, http://web.extension.illinois.edu/firewood/.

    Friend offers a few tips for people who are in the market for firewood:

  17. Published

    Recently, I've had several people send me pictures asking, "What is this beautiful plant with purple berries?" My answer each time was beautyberry.

    The beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.) has show-stopping purple fruit in the fall. In fact, the genus name Callicarpa means beautiful fruit in Greek.

    These deciduous shrubs produce bright, glossy clusters of violet-purple fruit that encircle their stems in the fall. The fruit is typically at its peak coloration in October. It has small, pink flowers in mid-late summer, though they are not nearly as showy as its fruit.

  18. Published
    I invite you to check out my video that details my vision for my University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit horticulture program. My 2017 goals are to continue building on the successful program, support our current volunteers, and introduce new innovative ways to reach new audiences. This short eight-minute video was created with the help of Anita Wilkinson, CommunicationsProgram Coordinator, and Julia Pryor, Master Gardener Program Coordinator. 
  19. Published

    Fall provides us with brilliant colors: orange pumpkins, yellow mums, purple asters, and bronze autumn joy sedums. The fall flower garden has a lot to offer and brings a change in flower color. Notice how the fall flowers offer deeper orange and burgundy instead of bright red and yellow.

    Most people think of mums as the main fall flowering plant. Mums are important, but don't rule out asters, sedums, Japanese anemone, and ornamental grasses.

  20. Published

    Last weekend I walked around my gardens with a journal and took notes. I jotted down what worked and what didn't and began preliminary plans for next year. This really helps me, since I tend to forget these things over the winter.

    My notes this fall tell me to definitely plant a Mandeville in the blue pot by the pool, but to begin training it sooner to grow over the deck. I will continue to use impatiens under the pergola in either orange or white. The lantana did very well in my concrete basket planter, but the calibrachoa struggled in the square blue pots on the patio.