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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Chicago Peace Rose at Cantigny Park 9-08
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Heirloom Flowers Making a Comeback

Old fashioned flowers and flowering shrubs are the most recent gardening trend. Roses, hydrangeas, sweet pea, lilac, and more are becoming commonplace again in our gardens. Technically, an heirloom is defined as a plant that is open-pollinated. These are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds, or wind and the resulting seed will produce plants that are identical (or very s...

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Sweet corn and watermelon growing in a garden.

Supersweet Sweet Corn

Did you know that the sweet corn you eat this summer most likely has direct ties to the University of Illinois? John R. Laughnan, a University of Illinois professor of botany and plant genetics, discovered supersweet corn in 1953. He discovered that the kernels of a mutant of corn were "unusually sweet and have a pleasant malty flavor." Unfortunately, the sweet corn breeders of the day...

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Spruce Tree Problems

Many spruce trees are showing dieback this year. According to Rhonda Ferree, extension educator in horticulture, the cold, wet spring has brought out many trees diseases. Many of these diseases are causing significant damage on evergreens throughout central Illinois. The first spruce disease is Rhizosphaera needle cast. Spruce trees with purple/brown one- and two-year-old needles are su...

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Pink Poppy on May 7, 2012
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Poppies are one of my favorite flowers. I am not sure why, but I have a fascination with poppies. I collect antique Hall china in the orange poppy pattern and have my kitchen decorated in poppies. Of course, I also plant poppies in my garden. There are many different types of poppies. One source lists 39 different species alone. Most people grow either the perennial Oriental poppy or on...

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Club moss
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On a camping trip in Southern Illinois my husband Mark kept taking pictures of non-flowering plants. His pictures made the ferns, mosses, lichens, and club moss look like something right out of a fairytale. In fact, these non-flowering plants do have their very own kingdom in the plant world. Instead of reproducing by flowers and seeds, these plants use spores to multiply. We were all particula...

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Beware of Dangerous Carrots!

While on a recent motorcycle ride with my husband Mark, I saw a lot of plants in the carrot family Apiaceae growing along roadsides. One of my favorite vegetables is the very edible carrot, but unfortunately the carrot family has a number of dangerous, poisonous plants in it too. The first two dangerous carrots I'll cover are stomach poisons, which means they are poisonous if eaten....

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Beautiful hydrangeas grace the front yard of Jim and Marcia Forquer, 229 N. 14th Ave., Canton, June 2012 Bright Spot.

Gardening Blues

The color blue is sometimes difficult to use in the garden. This is partly because there are very few true blue flowers in nature and partly because some of the most striking blue-flowered plants are challenging to grow in Central Illinois. Still adding a touch of blue to the garden appears to be gaining in popularity. Rhonda Ferree, extension educator in horticulture, provides the following ti...

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Red admiral butterfly on Mexican zinnia on 9-17-12
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Butterfly Gardening

Butterfly Gardening Butterflies are such beautiful creatures and watching them flit from plant to plant brings joy and relaxation. This is why butterfly gardening continues to grow in popularity. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, explains how to attract more butterflies to your own backyard. "There are two different type...

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Grow Your Own Strawberries

Have you had fresh strawberries yet this year? I love fresh strawberry shortcake, but I most enjoy eating them right in the garden. I usually also make strawberry jam and freeze some for winter treats. If you don't grow your own, local strawberries are available at many locations near you. You'll find them at farmer's markets, roadside stands, and sometimes growers sell at local grocery...

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