focus on one sunflower in front of a field of sunflowers lit from behind by sun

Nothing says summer like a brightly blooming sunflower (Helianthus annus). Often considered a weed in a farmer's field, many homeowners find joy filling their landscape and gardens with these majestic giants. The colorful, sunny blooms elevate a garden display and double as a snack for you and your garden wildlife.  

A plant stem is broke in half revealing the open cavity in the stem.

As the winter chill thaws, gardeners erupt with excitement for the big botanical blitz that is spring. We scan the aftermath of winter, spotting the evidence of last year’s gardening efforts in our brown landscapes: dried plant stems, partially mulched leaves, and hints of green, our emerging spring bulbs. 

pollinator on oregano flower

With a new year comes new gardening trends we can all get excited about. Each year, predictions are made about types of plants, colors, containers and how we utilize them. Experts use last year’s gardening purchases to make these predictions.

It is almost pawpaw eating time! For those not already in the know, you too could soon have the opportunity to try your first delicious pawpaw fruit.  If you’ve never heard of pawpaw before, don’t know what the fruit or the tree look like, and are interested to hear what all the hullabaloo is about, read on!

Amorpha canescens - Lead Plant - Layne Knoche

Originally published by Kelly Allsup on April 30, 2021

Whether you have an area around your home that gets full sun or shade, is wet or dry, there is a native shrub option for you. Native shrubs are touted as easier to care for and provide ecosystem services like flowers for pollinators and berries for birds. When planting native shrubs, plant in groups and water during the establishment period.  

Are you ready to take your butterfly gardening to the next level and allow some of your beautiful plants to be eaten by caterpillars?

Choose the right plants, give them some care, and voila — caterpillars. The most grown caterpillar food in our gardens are milkweeds for monarchs and parsley for black swallowtails. By adding a few more native shrubs, perennials and annuals, as well as allowing certain weeds to remain, the caterpillar café could be open in no time.

Shrubs

plox from pixabay

While designing a perennial flower bed, remember to add personal favorites, and throw out “garden design rules” that don’t fit your vision. Some of the plants I choose are favorites because they are tough, dependable, and beautiful.

blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)

silvery checkerspot by kathy dumler

Are you ready to take your butterfly gardening status to the next level and allow some of your beautiful plants to be eaten by caterpillars?

Choosing the right plants, some care and voila caterpillars. I am not only altering the habitat of my backyard for the greater good, I will have some more willing specimens for my Instagram posts.

Hedge Apple Woods, Bloomington, by Rick Tindall

In this time of social distancing and limited activities, enjoying nature should be made a priority for all who need a bit of stress release. Have you bathed in the forest lately, hugged a tree or had a therapy session with an oak?

Black Swallowtail by Deanna Frautschi

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.