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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass 2019

creeping charlie and dandelion among turf grass

Weed Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace

Originally published by Kelly Allsup on May 19, 2019. Mammoth dandelions, carpets of Creeping Charlie and a smattering of lambsquarters, purslane and foxtail are flourishing while we stay in our homes during the rainy spring. Weeds can be a conundrum for most gardeners and may even cause...
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tree cookies painted like santa evergreen ginko leaf ornament wood burned ornament

Nature Ornaments for the Holidays

Perhaps my favorite thing to do during the holidays is to make my own ornaments. Glittery baubles, shiny tinsel, twinkling lights, and baroque glass ornaments just are not my style when decorating for the holidays. I am inspired by nature and entrenched in a family tradition of making art. In...
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bare tree reflects rooting system below

Basic Components of Tree Biology

Trees are vital to our environment, and understanding their biology can help us to protect them from stresses caused by the urban environment, extending their lives and promoting their health.  The average components of the tree consist of 5 percent fine feeder roots, 15 percent larger transport...
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Poinsettias grow in a large scale greenhouse

How Your Poinsettias are Grown, and Making Them Last

Before I became an educator for the University of Illinois Extension, my career solely focused on growing plants in a greenhouse. High-quality poinsettias were one of the most important crops for a grower. Clients had long-standing orders for these holiday treasures, and expected long-lasting,...
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Brittnay Haag teaching at Horticulture Center Children's Garden

Extension Grows Youths' Interest in Horticulture

Our unit director, Bobbie Lewis-Sibley, often says, “I wish there were a garden in every school,” a response to youths' unfamiliarity where their food comes from, and a deficiency of interaction with the natural environment. At the Unity Community Center, Extension’s after-school site in Normal,...
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Local Christmas Trees: A Gift to the Earth

Originally published by Kelly Allsup on November 22, 2019. This holiday, give a gift to the earth by buying a live Christmas tree. Many would think that buying a fake tree would be the more environmentally friendly option, because you are not actually chopping down a tree. However, most fake trees...
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golden beets and red beeds

Thankful for Our Local Food System

Last Thanksgiving, my family feasted on sweet potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts, squash, and apples, all grown here in McLean County. We had a local business smoke our turkey for the holiday; our dessert featured cookies and macaroons and a festive dried flower arrangement from a local baker and...
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brown bat held in blue laboratory gloved hand

Going to Bat for a Much-Maligned Creature

The mere mention of bats causes some people to cringe or cover their heads. That reaction likely stems from a fear instilled in us through movies and books, not reality. The bat does make a great bad guy, because it comes out at night to feed, often live in great numbers, and perhaps even drink...
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brandywine viburnum

Ornamental Fall Berries Provide Year-Round Awe

Have you ever heard a horticulturists encourage the use of plants having “multiple seasons of interest”? This might be said in response to someone’s complaints about forsythia, for example. Forsythia blooms in spring, an explosion of lemon-yellow blossoms covering the plant. But the rest of the...
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Bronze leaves of Tree of Heaven

Not All Trees Are Good Trees

In the world of landscaping, trees are the backbones of the landscape. They are permanent structures that have stately features, shade our homes, provide spring floral displays, and some amazing fall color. There are, however, some trees that just behave badly. You’re likely familiar with maples...
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jumping spider stares into camera

Eight-Legged Jumper Not Such a Threat

It’s the time of year that people adorn their homes with horror-movie-sized black spiders and webs in hopes of prompting the public’s arachnophobia — their fear of spiders. In contrast to most people, I suffer from arachnophilia — a love of spiders. This is due to my background working with...
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Goldenrod: Not to be Confused with Ragweed

Goldenrod produces the rich golden yellow plumes that sprinkle the Illinois landscape this time of year. Throughout the Illinois prairies and woodlands, we have Canada goldenrod (like the goose, it’s not “Canadian”), early goldenrod, Missouri goldenrod, stiff goldenrod, zigzag, elm-leaved, blue-...
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root flare top root soil line

Establishing an Urban Treescape

George Monibot, environmental activist, says “there is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called a tree. […] A natural climate solution.” The statement leaves you baffled. Simply planting a tree can help solve climate change. In school we...
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Black Swallowtail by Deanna Frautschi

Break bad fall garden cleanup habits

Are you ready for a break from the garden? Breaking some old habits in your usual fall garden clean up could make a huge difference to butterflies, moths, bees, and other beneficial insects that overwinter in the Illinois landscape, and be a more environmentally sound practice. Bad habit 1 -...
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night blooming cereus cactus

Succulent Cacti

Forget itty-bitty succulents tucked into a small shallow dish. Succulent Cacti are the new trend! They are just as interesting and easy to care for but make a much larger impact on your plant-scaping efforts. Architecturally, these plants are usually naked branches without leaves, and some are...
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Virginia bluebells

Spring Bloomers for Bees

Get your gardens buzzing next spring by planting bee-friendly bulbs and spring bloomers this fall. Bumblebee queens, honey bees and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March. Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow...
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Grape Hyacinth

The Art of Planting the Bulb

In Illinois, we plant hardy spring-flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils in the month of October. For the most part, these can be easy ways for gardeners to add color, and non-gardeners to be successful in growing flowers because they really need little care aside from a few tips. Even though...
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In The Know on Spring Flowering Bulbs

Daffodils, Tulips, Crocus and Hyacinth bulbs seem to materialize from snow on the saturated ground, provoking gardeners to celebrate the coming spring. However, gardeners are not planting these hardy bulbs in the spring soil, but the previous fall to over-winter in their garden beds. Bulbs require...
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