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The Garden Scoop 2021

What is the most sustainable Christmas tree option?

Each year, millions of fresh cut Christmas trees are sold across the country adding to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Have you ever considered the sustainability of a fresh cut tree versus an artificial tree?  Fake trees can last for many years, but what is the impact of...
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How to identify common holiday evergreens

Evergreen foliage has long been a traditional holiday decoration since it encapsulates the green of the growing season well beyond the first frosts.  The holiday season is an excellent time to practice your evergreen tree identification on the many non-natives that are so plentiful at retail...
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Locally raised turkeys make a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving meal.

Finding local foods for your Thanksgiving feast

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us are stocking up on all the ingredients for our favorite dishes so we can contribute to the family feast.  The Thanksgiving meal has traditionally been a celebration of the year’s harvest, making it a great time to focus on the bountiful...
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A mature American elm at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL

Breeding elms to combat Dutch elm disease

Over this past week, the fall weather has brought bare branches to the previously color-filled canopies of so many trees in the landscape.  As the autumn leaf drop has progressed, there are several elm trees that I pass each day which have held onto their fall color and really look spectacular...
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Coralberry is a native shrub with colorful berries that mature each fall as the leaves change.

The Native Coralberry and an Unwanted Lookalike

Every plant has its peak season of both ornamental and ecological interest.  With so many plants in full fall color right now, its hard to consider another ornamental attribute.  However, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is a native shrub with a spectacular display of...
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Pineapple sage is an interesting annual that is currently in full bloom, providing a rare splash of color late in the gardening season.

Pineapple Sage

Earlier this week, I was visiting a neighbor and noticed an eye-catching plant in rare form for this time of year.  It was filled with abundant red blooms that almost glowed against the backdrop of green leaves behind it.  Whorls of the tiny flowers filled the spiky stalks that jutted out...
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 Daffodils are one of many bulbs that need to be planted in fall for an early spring flowering display.

Fall Bulbs for Pollinators

As the last asters of the year are wrapping up their flower display and monarchs are migrating through to more southern latitudes, spring flowers aren’t always at the center of attention for most gardeners.  However, now is the time to set the stage for some of the most beautiful and early...
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Garlic is typically planted in fall by separating bulbs into individual cloves for planting.

Fall Garlic Planting

As the vegetable growing season quickly approaches fall frosts when production screeches to a halt, there is actually one crop that can be planted now in anticipation of next year’s growing season.  Garlic (Allium sativum) is an easy-to-grow bulb crop that does best when planted now for a...
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The star shaped flowers of New England aster provide a much needed floral resource for migrating pollinators, like the monarch butterfly.

Fall Flowering Asters

Fall flowers are some of the best of the year since they take a whole season of waiting to finally display their splendor.  Beyond their beauty, they provide a valuable food source for pollinators late in the growing, which can be especially important for migrating species such as the monarch...
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Non-native, invasive jumping worms can be identified by a cloudy white band that completely encircles the worm’s body

Jumping Worms Invade Illinois

Each gardening season there seems to be a new invasive species we have to worry about.  Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of our ever-globalizing economies.  Despite the best measures to track and limit the indiscriminate spread of exotic biota, regulatory agencies and the industries...
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Smooth sumac is a commonly occurring native plant that boasts a spectacular fall display of fiery red leaves.

Native Shrubs for Fall

Shrubs are often overlooked in autumn, typically playing second fiddle to overtopping shade trees that steal the fall display.  However, quite a few deciduous shrubs have spectacular fall color to offer in the landscape.  In many settings these smaller woody plants can help provide eye-...
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Roadside plantings of pollinator habitat can present some risk of insect mortality from passing traffic, but the benefits outweigh the risks.  Photo Credit: Jeff Kohmstedt, Prairie Rivers Network

Pollinators and Roadways

Amid all the pollinator conservation efforts in recent years, many gardeners have transitioned areas of lawn and other uses to vibrant pollinator gardens.  As homeowners search for new spaces to install pollinator habitat, many have questions about how and where to place these important oases...
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Tree Root Collar Disorders

The root collar of a tree can be defined as an area of the lower trunk that transitions from trunk tissue to root tissue.  It is typically associated with the basal flare, or the trunk flare of the tree, which is the wider portion of trunk that insects the ground.  In recent years,...
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This purple coneflower is infected with aster yellows, which produce odd and deformed flowers that can actually be interestingly attractive at times, but must be controlled to limit infection of other susceptible species in the landscape.

Aster Yellows on Coneflower

It is always interesting to observe plant diseases and try to unravel the mystery of how a particular plant became infected and to look toward solutions.  So many of these ailments have an incredibly fascinating path to infection, often including multiple species when you consider the pathogen...
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Zinnias are spectacular annuals that produce abundant blooms throughout the season.


Landscaping is typically designed to provide functional beauty to our yards and community spaces by brightening up the build environment with plant life.  While beauty can lie in the form of interesting foliage, brilliant fall color, or unique growth habit, flowers are always the showstoppers...
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August is a great time to start a fall garden including cool-season crops, like this lettuce, that will thrive in the milder temperatures of the late growing season.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

In the heat of July, it seems out of place to consider fall frost, but it is an important detail for vegetable gardeners planning a fall garden.  There are a variety of garden crops that can be planted in July and August for fall production, many of which are cool-season crops that actually...
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Common milkweed in bloom

Aphids on Milkweed

Many gardeners are starting to integrate more and more milkweed into their landscaping in support of monarch butterflies.  Plants in the milkweed genius (Asclepius) are the exclusive food source for monarch caterpillars, making them incredibly important in the race to sustain...
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Urban trees provide a variety of benefits which are going to be increasingly important as climate change impacts Illinois in coming years.

Climate Change Adaptations for the Urban Forest

Last month, the US Forest Service released a technical report titled, “Climate Adaptation Actions for Urban Forests and Human Health.”   The report includes a summation of the current research related to urban trees and climate change, looking at how trees benefit human health, how...
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As the summer heat intensifies and rainfall dwindles, watering newly planted trees and shrubs becomes incredibly important.

Watering Trees and Shrubs

Although rainfall has been significant so far this summer, newly planted trees and shrubs need watering as daily high temperatures creep up and rain dwindles during the drier part of our summer.  The next few months can be critical for woody plants struggling to become established in their...
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