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 their production? A cut tree likely takes less to produce, but is it a bad thing to cut a tree down?
Evergreen foliage has long been a traditional holiday decoration since it encapsulates the green of the growing season well beyond the first frosts. The hol
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 harvest that has occurred right here in Illinois.
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 as they grasp their foliage late into the season.
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 berries that mature in coincidence with fall colors each October. Its coral-pink to almost purplish berries are an attractive ornamental aspect that provides winter forage for birds.
Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs in the landscape. Since winter dormancy is right around the corner, it’s a low stress time to install woody plants. I always try to wrap up my fall plantings by about Thanksgiving, but plants can actually be installed anytime up to the point when soil freezes.
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 in all directions, creating a display that no human or pollinator could miss.
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 blooms of spring.
Fall is actually the ideal time to plant spring flowering bulbs. These amazing plant structures are tiny powerhouses of energy that can be planted now to explode with flowers and foliage as spring temperatures awaken them next year.
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 summer harvest next year.
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 butterfly.
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 involved just cannot stay ahead of things. Without a crystal ball to predict the future, we are often left with a problem that was unforeseen, but irreversible.
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-level fall interest in the garden as blooms fade and many of the herbaceous plants we rely on for beauty throughout the growing season just don’t have as much appeal.
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 of floral resources in the landscape.
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, arborists have spent considerable focus on the root collar, identifying a number of common disorders that can lead to declines in tree health or mortality.
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, host and potential vector species.
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 of the growing season. In fact, many gardeners plan their entire landscape based on flowering displays.
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 perform better as temperatures drop in the late growing season. However, planning now is required to ensure plants have adequate time to reach maturity prior to the season-ending frosts that are inevitable.
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 imperiled monarch populations across our continent.
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 climate change is impacting urban trees and how we can help our urban forests adapt.
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 new planting location and the water we provide can really make the difference.
This week, June 21-27, 2021, is National Pollinator’s Week, which is a time set aside by congress to honor and appreciate the amazing process of pollination. Governors in all 50 states have also acknowledged this special week by making their own proclamations to recognize pollinators in their respective states.
The plant world is filled with amazing feats of both helpful and harmful attributes when you consider all the ways that humans interact with our floral friends. Everything from disease treatments or cures, to irritating rashes and seasonal allergies, or even highly toxic compounds all come from plants.
The ornamental value of landscape trees can be weighed by a variety of attributes, from interesting bark in the wintertime or colorful blooms in spring to the character of leaves that persists during the growing season. However, the foliage that embellishes branches to create a summertime canopy of beauty is often lost in the sea of green chlorophyll that fills the plant world during the growing season. I have always been interested in landscape trees with unique or interesting foliage that can provide a different splash of foliar color in summer.
Soil microorganisms are an integral part of all ecosystems worldwide, but they often go unnoticed. These tiny pillars of the soil environment perform a variety of incredibly important ecosystem functions, such as carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. In addition, they also help to build more resilient soils, remove soil contaminants, and can help to regulate some disease and pest populations.
This past Saturday, we celebrated 15 new graduates of our Master Naturalist Training. The graduation day festivities included group presentations to showcase outreach projects they worked together to develop over the past few months. There were some very well-developed projects presented, and all did a great job of relating science and nature to their target audience.
Herbs are a wonderful garden addition that provide easily accessible, fresh herbs for culinary use. However, I find that herbs are too often overlooked in most garden plans and can really provide a ton of ornamental and ecological benefits as well.
Over the next few weeks, some of central Illinois will experience a rare phenomenon that only occurs every other decade. As soil temperatures warm, millions of insects will emerge from the ground in forests, city parks, yards and gardens. They will carefully navigate the terrain and scale a close by, large object (such as a tree trunk) to shed their nymphal skin and enter the world as adult cicadas.
Spring is a time of abundant blooms as well as one of the best times of year to establish new woody plants in your landscape. This year, consider adding one, or all, of my favorite Illinois native spring-flowering trees to your landscape, and you’ll enjoy spring floral displays for years to come.
Anyone who has gardened long enough likely has a pile of seed packets squirrelled away with intentions of using those seeds someday. Many times, I keep seed packets in my collection because I just can’t stand to throw things away, especially seeds that may have some viability. However, it can be tricky to figure out exactly how viable my old seeds remain in storage. With all the time that carefully goes into preparing a garden bed, I rarely have the guts to sow many of the seeds from years’ past for fear that my efforts will go to waste. So many times, I wind
As spring continues to bring warming temperatures, home gardeners begin the tricky business of deciding when to plant what in their vegetable garden. In the past week or so, I have started receiving questions from anxious gardeners ready to get the season started.
Every spring, the awakening plant world has those hard-to-miss harbingers which alert us that winter is over and help to welcome spring. In native plant communities, I think of spring ephemeral wildflowers as the primary signal and watch intently for their blooms each year. However, in the built environment, there are other, nonnative plants that signal spring with their unmistakable displays. While tulips and daffodils are probably a few of the most recognized ornamental plants in the early spring landscape, there is one shrub that has always been the beacon o
The ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea has been a mainstay of the ornamental shrub world since its release in the 1960’s. This showy shrub is filled with beautiful snowball-like flowers that adorn its spindly branches each summer. The blooms begin as pretty green puffs that turn white at maturity, often lasting 6-8 weeks throughout June and July, and gradually changing to a tan color to provide interest throughout fall and winter.
Hydrangeas are one of the most popular landscape shrubs in the US. They are known for their exquisite flowering display, with many offering a season of beautiful blooms that remain attractive into winter. Beyond flowers, these amazing shrubs offer additional ornamental beauty from neat and interesting leaves to ornate, peeling bark, making them quite versatile in the landscape.
Each year, we receive quite a few questions about hydrangea care, with the most common question being, “Why isn’t my hydrangea flowering?”
This past week’s warmer weather has been an exhilarating blast of spring when contrasted with the icy, extreme cold just one week earlier. The warmup has spurred many of us to get back out in the garden to start getting ready for spring. While our landscape beds and gardens will be places of burgeoning spring beauty as plant life begins its annual revival in the coming weeks, they are also ecological hotspots of awakening spring life in the insect world.
The snow-blanketed wintertime landscape often lacks the beauty we can recall from other times of the year when plants were in bloom or filled with wonderful green foliage. It leaves both humans and wildlife searching for plant life that retains interest either in the form of ornamental beauty for us, or shelter and habitat for all the animals that share our landscape.
Wintertime offers few activities out in the garden, other than filling bird feeders and carefully watching dormant plants for any sign of awakening as spring nears. However, winter dormancy is the ideal time to prune woody plants. With trees and shrubs inactive in their winter slumber, pruning now can avoid interruption of the many plant process at play throughout the growing season.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many of us are seeking floral gifts to express our affection for family, friends, and significant others. While nothing beats the spectacular blooms and intricate arrangements that cut flowers offer, we all know their lifespan is limited. This year, consider a much longer-lived houseplant as gift that will continue to add lush greenery and even beautiful blooms for years to come.
The plant kingdom has not always had the diversity we know today. It has taken hundreds of millions of years of evolution to bring about the diverse, complex group of flowering plants known as angiosperms. And for many millions of years prior to the emergence of angiosperms, the plant kingdom consisted of primarily of gymnosperms.
Plant names provide the botanical vocabulary we use to describe the plant world to each other. They are important descriptors that facilitate both backyard gardening and scientific study by establishing a widely agreed upon naming convention of species. In our current system of plant language, each plant species has a formally established scientific name as well as a less formal and more regionally applicable common name.
What will your 2021 vegetable garden look like? Where will you source seeds or plants? What new crops are you interested in planting this year? All these questions are on the minds of many gardeners this time of year. In 2020, there was an unprecedented interest in all types of gardening since most of us had a lot of time at home. All signs indicate this trend will continues in 2021. So, whether you are ready for the gardening season or not, now is the time to start planning.
Freezing rain is a regular part of winter weather patterns in central Illinois, resulting in occasional ice storms that can damage property, take out utilities and wreak havoc on tree canopies. By meteorological definition, an ice storm occurs when ice accumulation is greater than 0.25 inches. On average, our area of Illinois experiences about 5 days of freezing rain per year which rarely result in an ice storm, but can nonetheless cause major damage in any instance.
Deicing salts are essential to winter travel in Illinois and provide necessary safety in a landscape setting by melting dangerous ice on precarious steps, sidewalks, entryways, and other areas of frequent foot traffic. However, winter damage from salt can be a major problem in some landscapes by negatively impacting plant health or sometimes outright killing plants from overexposure.
Rock salt for snow and ice
Rock salt, or sodium chloride, is the most commonly used deicing agent. It is relatively inexpensive, very effective, and widely available.