If you are lucky enough to have a neighbor with a large maple tree, you are probably in the same boat as myself right now. Maple seeds that are germinating everywhere!  My particular neighbor has a large silver maple tree that rains helicopters (samaras) all over my yard. Don't worry, I pay him back in the fall with all the leaves from my large oak that he has to rake up.

Last weekend I had the privelege of visiting a friend in Washington D.C and it just so happens to have been the same time that the cherry trees were blooming! It was a beautiful site. This week's plant of the week has to be Cherry Trees (Prunus sp.) of course then!

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It seems to be the season for odd oak galls. I've had several questions come into the office and while prepping for a fall tree walk this past week, I discovered many oak galls.

This week's Plant of the Week is Love in a Mist (Nigella damascena), a great blue flowered addition to the landscape. As gardeners know, blue is not a common color in flowers, so this flowering annual is a great choice.

This summer I devoted an entire raised bed to growing dahlias and it's been lovely! Dahlias (Dahlia sp.) are an excellent cut flower which is why I love to grow them. Flower colors are various and foliage colors can be shades of green, but some varieties have darker foliages which provide a great contrast to the brightly colored flowers:

This week's plant of the week is one of my favorite flowers, the Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteata). As a florist, I've come to appreciate flowers that hold up really well as a cut flower, as well as a dried flower, and strawflower is great in both categories. It lasts very well in a vase and looks almost exactly the same in color and shape once dried.

It looks like we'll be getting a frost here in Northern Illinois on Friday, so it's time that those last houseplants make their way indoors. But this question comes up every fall: How can I bring my houseplants in from outside without bringing in spiders or other insects with it?

This past weekend I was overcome with zone envy while visiting Los Angeles on vacation. Neighborhoods were abloom with trees full of stunning bluish purple flowers. After some google research, I identified the trees as Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia).

While beautiful on the west coast, California Extension states that mature trees will only survive a freeze as low as 25°F. Not exactly ideal for Illinois, hence the zone envy.

This week's Plant of the Week caught my attention in an herb garden while visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix a few weeks ago. The way the flowers were circling the stem was very intriguing. Upon inspection I realized that the perennial was Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis sp.)

I discovered this week's Plant of the Week while checking out the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin last week during a conference. I had seen this plant several places around town and finally found one with a sign that I could identify it with it at the garden. 

I've noticed several cases of White Mold (Sclerotinia sp.) over the past few days. While at a field day last week, I noted several different annual flowering plants dying as a result of this fungus. And another email today concerning green beans looked like a similar problem. This fungus infects more than 370 species of plants, including many common landscape annuals and perennials.

This week's Plant of the Week is Beardstongue (Penstemon digitalis). I've noticed many beautiful Beardstongues blooming in landscapes this past week.

Several species of Beardstongues can be found in the garden, but Penstemon digitalis is a pretty solid performer.  'Husker Red' is a cultivar that you see very commonly which has a really nice dark purple foliage and is slightly shorter that the straight species:

Reading through my weekly Perennial Pulse newsletter written by Paul Pilon, I came across a great little article about incorporating some edible perennials into the landscape this year. We think of perennials as mostly being ornamental in our landscape, but why not add some edible perennials to the mix! Here are a few of his suggestions:

Rhubarb

This week's plant of the week is Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia). I love Bergenia for multiple reasons, but mostly because another of it's common name is Pigsqueak. How cute is that! The name comes from the fact that the leaves are very glossy and leathery and when you rub the leaves together it makes a lovely sound.

So you received some beautiful flowers from a special someone this Valentine’s Day? Lucky you! They are probably looking gorgeous on your desk or dining room table right now. But have you thought about how long those flowers will last? Here are a couple of tips to help lengthen the life of your blooming beauties.

1.       Change the water frequently

I didn't get around to Plant of the Week on Friday, so here is last week's Plant of the Week, the Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris, also known as Anemone pulsatilla). I just planted a pasque flower in my landscape and I'm loving it so far!
 
Pasque Flower is an herbaceous perennial that is best grown in fertile, humusy, gritty, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Kind of specific right?

Limited on space or don't want the hassle of having to dig potatoes to harvest? Try growing potatoes in containers. I've done that the past few years in my garden with great success.

Spring has sprung! Finally! That means it's time to get back to my weekly plant of the week feature. This week many lawns are full of the lovely blue flowers of the Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica).I've noticed many beautiful expanses of blue lawns driving through communities this week.

The vast majority of calls into out help desks and hotlines this summer have been tree questions, many of them in urban settings. And that's for good reason. Urban trees have to tolerate a lesser than ideal location in many cases.

Many people are aware of the environmental and psychological benefits that these urban street trees impart on our small towns and large cities, but it's not until a tree is gone or problems arise that many realize the benefits that the tree provided.

This week's Plant of the Week, the American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) I noticed on a walk along the prairie at the Apple River Fort Museum in Elizabeth. I was struck by the blue color of the flowers, but wasn't sure exactly what it was, so I pulled out my trusty Illinois Wildflowers book by Don Kurz and identified it.

Did you know that each year, Pantone selects a color of the year? Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has designated a color of the year based on trend forecasting across a variety of industries and markets, including fashion, travel and housing. For the first time ever, Pantone has selected 2 colors! For 2016, the color experts have chosen the blending of two shades—Rose Quartz (Pantone 13-1520) and Serenity (Pantone 15-3919)—as the color of the year.

Cacti and Succulents are by far my favorite group of plants. The colors, flowers, and interesting growth habits are like nothing else in my opinion. But one of my favorite things about this group of plants is the ease in which you can make more plants. Through the use of cuttings or division, you can very quickly expand your collection of cacti and succulent plants. 

Now is the time of year we 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.

A few weeks ago, lawns were a sea of beautiful blue because of the Siberian Squill blooming. This week while walking through my neighborhood, I noticed a different sea of purpli

Earlier this week I discussed the amazing mood improving effects of flowers, but are you thinking of giving a gift that lasts a bit longer? Blooming plants are a great option then!

Here are a few blooming plants that can help bring anyone out of the winter blues:

1. Kalanchoe

Self watering containers are a great solution for us gardeners who don't like to water our containers very often. There are a multitude of these types of containers available on the market, but unfortunately some can come at a steep price. I have some self watering containers as window boxes which I love, but they were a bit of an investment.

To lower the costs, I've been experimenting with a make your own type of self watering container and I've had great success so far.

This week there are two beautiful blue flowers blooming in my garden. Last year I featured Virginia Bluebells as a plant of the week, which are stunning, but this week I want to focu

Now is the time of year when you're probably getting pretty stir crazy stuck inside because of the snow and cold weather. If you're like me, you're dreaming of being out in your garden working away. That time will come soon, but now is the time to starting planning for next year's garden by gaining some new knowledge! We have a variety of great gardening programs coming up in the Northwestern Illinois area. I may be a little biased because I'm speaking at all of them, but they are all great programs! Click on the name of the program to go straight to the registration page.

Last week I noticed some striking white flowered shrubs while walking the Highland Community College campus. Upon closer look, I realized the shrubs were European Cranberrybush Viburnums (Viburnum opulus). I'm a big fan of Viburnums and this one is especially nice!

Poinsettias are the quintessential festive houseplant! And with Christmas now just 10 days away, this is December's Houseplant of the Month. Grab a poinsettia from your favorite garden center and enjoy! The traditional scarlet red variety may be the first to come to mind, but did you know that they also come in white, cream, pink, apricot and bi-coloured?

Interesting Facts about Poinsettias

Valentine's Day may just well be one of my favorite times of year. Probably because I'm a floral designer and horticulturist and anytime flowers or plants are the focus of a holiday, I'm ecstatic!

While on a walk around my neighborhood this past week, I noticed some lovely large Catalpa trees in bloom. Likely the trees growing in my neighborhood were the Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), but the other Catalpa species in Illinois is the Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides). Northern is hardy to zones 4-8 and Southern is hardy to zones 5-8.

Here in the northwestern corner of Illinois, we got about 15 inches of snow this past weekend. This amount of snow definitely causes some road and travel problems, but what does that much snow mean for trees and shrubs? It means there is a lot of weight on the branches! Especially this particular snow, which was very wet and heavy.

Did you miss out on one of our in person Winter Container Garden Workshops? Don't fret! We've got a video for that! I demonstrate how to make an eye-catching winter evergreen container in this Youtube video.

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This week's plant is the Purple-leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). This lovely shrub is blooming now in my front yard.

This upright deciduous shrub typically grows 6-10’ tall and 5-8’ wide, but can also be trained as a small tree. Its most noted feature is the reddish purple foliage that retains good color throughout the summer. I've used this foliage several times as a cut foliage in arrangements and it holds up well for that use as well.