Buying bargain plants at the garden center can be very tempting, but before buying that marked down plant, it's important to give it a good inspection.

Usually when a plant is marked down it's either because it is towards the end of the season for that plant, or it's because there is a problem with that plant. Some of these problems may include various diseases or insects that are infecting the plant which you could then spread to the other plants in your home or garden.

Plant of the week!

This week's featured plant is Trumpet Honeysuckle(Lonicera sempervirens).This vine is blooming beautifully in my garden right now.

Honeysuckles get a bad rap because of their very invasive cousins the Exotic Honeysuckles (Lonicera tartarica, L. morrowii, L.maackii).These honeysuckles can easily take over an area and easily crowd out our native species.

Were you able to dry some of the herbs or flowers you grew in your garden this summer? If so, there are a multitude of easy gifts you can make for the holiday season using those herbs. And if you're not an herb grower, don't worry, they're just as easy to purchase at the grocery store! We made the following easy gifts at a recent fall gardening program.
The first item is a Herbal Potpourri Sachet Bag that has multiple uses.

Plant of the Week!

On a tour of the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield this week, it was hard not to notice the beautiful Bottlebrush Buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) blooming!

The bottlebrush buckeye is a multi-stemmed, suckering shrub that suckers to form a colony which usually ends up being taller than it is wide, about 6-10' tall and 15-20' wide. Bottlebrush buckeye is noted for being one of the best summer-flowering shrubs for shade areas and is a great shrub for filling a large space in the garden.

Plant of the Week!

If there ever was a quint-essential perennial that instantly reminds me of summer, it's got to be the Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida). This dependable perennial is blooming beautifully right now.

More than likely if you've got black eyed susans in your landscape, it's the 'Goldsturm' cultivar. 'Goldsturm' grows about 2-3 feet tall with bright yellow flowers and is really the standard cultivar for this species. 'Viette's Little Suzy' is shorter at only 10-14 inches tall with yellow flowers.

Plant of the Week!

This week the Tiger Lilies (Lilium lancifolium) are blooming beautifully in my garden. Tiger lilies are actually a bulb, similar to how all other true lilies grow. This lily in particular grows to about 4 ft in height and has formed a nice clump in my garden. The flowers of the tiger lily are orange with black spots with the characteristic curled back petals. They typically bloom from about August to September.

Last week I wrote about the browning that is occurring on evergreens this spring, but we also have some other problems that are being noticed on evergreens throughout the landscape.

The popular First Detector Program, is returning to northern Illinois next year, this time with more new topics.

Japanese beetles have made their annual emergence and the damage can be seen in many gardens. So far, we haven't heard reports of any large numbers of Japanese beetles in Northern Illinois. It's been believed that the numbers would be lower this year because of the harsh winter we had this season, and so far that is looking true. In my own yard I have only seen minor damage to my sweet potato vine and knock out roses, both preferred treats for the Japanese beetle.

Plant of the Week!

This week the beautiful Japanese Tree Lilacs (Syringa reticulata) are blooming! This lilac differs from the much loved Common Lilac in size and flower. The Japanese tree lilac is more of a small tree in habit growing to 15-25 feet tall.

Now that fall has arrived and the winter season is approaching, many of us start to notice various insect critters trying to find shelter inside our homes.

The good news is that most of these insects are perfectly harmless and are simply a nuisance. In fact, many of these insects are actually quite beneficial because they eat other soft bodied pests we don't like, like aphids. Now that the season is ending, these insects are simply just looking for a place to survive the winter.

Plant of the Week!

Two weeks ago we discussed the Bearded Iris, but this week it's all about the Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica). Siberian iris looks quite different with its fine textured strap like leaves as opposed to the fan like foliage of the bearded iris. Without flowers, the plant looks like a nice mound of grasslike foliage.

Evergreens are always a nice addition to the landscape. They provide a pop of green foliage in the winter when everything else in the landscape is without leaves or winter interest. But these evergreens are more than just for landscape use, evergreens can be easily cut and harvested for use indoors or outdoors as seasonal decorations.

Reading my weekly newsletters this week I came across a good article with some tips on overwintering perennials in containers. I for one love to add perennials, like Coral Bells which has excellent foliage color choices, to my container mixes, but I always remove them early enough to get planted in the ground before winter. Being able to overwinter them in the pot would be nice. Here's what Paul Pilon of the Perennial Pulse Newsletter has to say:

Plant of the Week!

This week's plant is a lovely shrub, the Shrubby Cinquefoil or Potentilla, (Potentilla fruticosa). I have this shrub surrounding my mailbox and its blooming now with lovely yellow blooms.

The great feature of the potentilla is its adaptability. It prefers a full sun location with moist, well-drained soils best, but this species tolerates both wet and dry sites and is very tolerant of alkaline soils, as well as part shade. Overall, no serious pest or disease problems as well.

While the name "weed" in any plant name scares many gardeners, milkweed plants add beauty to the garden and are essential for providing habitat for monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweed plants and then the larvae feed only on these leaves. These larvae then go through metamorphosis to transform into an adult Monarch butterfly.

Milkweeds of any kind make a great addition to the garden and there is a species for just about any type of growing condition that you may have.

Last winter was a tough one on many of our evergreens. Most gardeners had severe browning on many of their evergreen trees and shrubs, and some were even killed by the cold winter winds of winter.

The questions about Maple Tar Spot have started to come in to our local Extension offices, which is a standard occurrence this time of year.

Several different fungi in the genus Rhytisma infect the leaves of maples and cause raised, black spots to form on upper leaf surfaces. The diseases are called "tar spots" because their appearance so closely resembles droplets of tar on leaf surfaces, making this disease very easy to identify.

This summer I've been trying out some various hydroponic setups that one could utilize in their own home or in the classroom. I initially started the project to show teachers in the hopes that they could implement a system in their classrooms. I showed these setups at the local Summer Ag Institute for teachers and a few are going to try out hydroponics this school year!

Plant of the Week

The irises are blooming beautifully in my garden and it seems in everyone else's gardens right now! The Bearded Iris (Iris x hybrida) is looking particularly great.

I'm a big fan of flowering bulbs of all kinds, especially when I'm able to force those bulbs indoors. Forcing is a technique that imitates the environmental conditions that bulbs encounter outdoors, thereby tricking them into flowering earlier. So essentially, you can bring the outdoor beauty of bulbs indoors!

University of Illinois Extension is pleased to announce that Master Gardener Training will be held in Ogle County on Fridays beginning September 5 to November 21. This will be the first time that training will be offered in the fall instead of the spring! The trainings will be held from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm at the Ogle County Extension office located at 421 W. Pines Rd. in Oregon. Interested people should apply now for the training.

Have you noticed less Garden Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), being sold in local garden centers this year? If so, this is due to a recent disease outbreak on impatiens called Downy Mildew of Impatiens (Plasmopara obducens).

In 2011, the U of I Plant Clinic began receiving reports that downy mildew was a problem in landscapes in the Chicago area. The disease has continued to spread to other areas of Illinois at this point.

Plant of the Week!

This week you can see Elderberry blooming along roadsides and in gardens everywhere. The most familiar of the Elderberry's is American Elder or Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. This particular elderberry looked beautiful along the water last week when I toured the Midway Village Museum in Rockford.

During the spring, summer, and fall my windowboxes are filled with beautiful blooming and foliage plants, but once frost hits, I pull all those plants out and my windowboxes are left bare. Very dull and boring. To make these windowboxes usable year-round, I add some winter interest to the boxes using evergreens.

If you're a lover of coneflowers (Echinacea sp.), then this is your time of year. The coneflowers are blooming beautifully in many gardens across Northern Illinois. Some gardeners have made note though, that their purple coneflowers in particular are looking a little peculiar this season.

There are two common types of cicadas in Illinois, the dog day or annual cicada and the periodical cicada. Annual cicadas make their emergence yearly during the heat of summer, but now is the time for the periodical cicadas to start making their emergence. Luckily, here in northern Illinois we will not have an emergence of the periodical cicada this year. In Southern Illinois, the periodical cicada makes it emergence every 13 years, but here in the northern half of the state, they emerge every 17 years.

Plant of the Week!

This week I'm featuring the Perennial or Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus mosheutos). Many gardeners are familiar with the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) that many of us grow as houseplants in the winter and set outside for the summer, or the shrub hibiscus, better known as Rose-of-Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus. This hibiscus though, is a great addition to the perennial landscape here in Illinois with its hardiness to zone 4.

We've gotten many calls and samples concerning fire blight this season, and the same goes for our plant clinic on campus in Champaign-Urbana according to their recent report.

As gardeners I'm sure many have heard the folk tale that ants are needed to help open up the buds on your peonies. I've always heard this as well, but logically, never believed that to be true. In my head I just always pictured muscled up ants prying open the peony buds. Not very likely.

Plant of the week is back! This week I'm featuring the Bridalwreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia or Spiraea vanhouttei). You may have noticed it's lovely white flowers blooming now.

Bridalwreath spirea has clusters of white, double flowers in mid to late spring with branches that arch gracefully. It's best grown in full sun with moist, well-drained soils ideally, but tolerates dry sites as well.

Plant of the Week!

This week's plant is not only an ornamental, but it's also edible. Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla) will produce fresh white, orange, yellow, pink, or red leaf stalks making it a colorful addition to the vegetable garden, as well as to the landscape. Think about trying swiss chard as an edging plant for the landscape or mixing it in with your common annuals in containers. The bright petioles are a great colorful addition!

 

Winter can be a tough time for greenhouses. Even if you're not growing anything in your greenhouse for the winter, there is still care to be take to protect your structure from heavy snow loads this time of year.

Plant of the Week!

This week's plant is an unusual one that you don't see planted too often. The Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial, hardy to zone 7, which is closely related to globe artichoke. I've seen this unique vegetable growing in various gardens this summer and the foliage is really striking. The silvery leaves of cardoon can reach 3-5 feet in length with crowns 4-6 inches in diameter under ideal conditions.