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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Landscapes (Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers)
Watering bags work well for new trees.
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Reduce Tree Stress to Keep Them Healthy

The most common questions we get in our Extension offices are about trees. Unfortunately, most people do not notice their trees until they show major dieback or leaf drop. Often by the time we get the call, the tree has irreversible damage, and I have no magic formula to save it. The odd weather patterns the last past few years have left many trees stressed. Stressed trees are less able...

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goldenrod
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Goldenrod

The goldenrod is making a fantastic display this fall in my prairie and other unmown areas. I love watching the waves of gold sway on a sunny fall day. Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) thrives in sun to part sun and is a deer-resistant perennial. There are thirty different types of goldenrod that grow in Illinois. They range from the three foot to seven foot tall. Each has a cl...

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Tropical hibiscus
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Huge Hibiscus Flowers are a Garden Standout

Have you noticed the huge hibiscus blooms this summer? Hibiscus has magnificent flowers that make quite an impressive display each summer. There are many different types of hibiscus. The rose-of –Sharon ( Hybiscus syriacus ) is a popular shrub hibiscus. Herbaceous perennial hibiscuses are available in tropical and hardy forms. Tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinens...

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A tall row of elephant ears grow against the front of Becky Poindexter's home at 1028 E Chestnut, winner of the September 2011 Bright Spot award.
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Gardening with Summer Bulbs

I'm growing several summer bulbs this year. These include cannas, caladium, and elephant ears. Summer bulbs are summer-blooming plants that have some type of underground storage structure, but most of them don't look like bulbs. The vast majority of summer bulbs are not cold hardy and will not survive our winters. They are often referred to as 'tender' bulbs. These plants need to be dug...

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Climbing rose on May 7, 2012.  Notice the carpet of petals forming below the plant.
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Heirloom Flowers Making a Comeback

Old-fashioned flowers and flowering shrubs like roses, hydrangeas, sweet pea, lilac, and more have always been common garden plants. Technically, an heirloom is defined as a plant that is open-pollinated. These are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds, or the wind and the resulting seed will produce plants that are identical (or very similar) to the parent plant. Heirlooms are popular fo...

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State champion Bald Cypress tree in Southern Illinois along Cache River basin. That is my husband Mark kayaking up to it. It is only accessible by watercraft. The tip of my yellow kayak is shown at the bottom of the pictures - among the duckweed and watermeal.
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Waterlogged Plants

Central Illinois continues to receive excessive spring rains, which have resulted in waterlogged soils and flooding. Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, says "It is important to understand what is happening to plants growing in these conditions and what to expect later." Rhonda describes this as "a wait-and-see situation." Many herbaceous plants are experienci...

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Wool sower gall on white oak

Help, my Oak tree has weird bumps and growths!

We get lots of questions each year about abnormal growths on oak and other trees. These abnormal growths, called galls, can be very disturbing to the people whose plants are affected. Fortunately, most galls affect only the appearance of the trees and are not detrimental to plant health. Galls are a plant's response to insects, mites, bacteria, fungi, or nematodes. Galls are actually cr...

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Four Seasons social media pic

Perennial Flower Garden Design

Have you ever seen a garden that just took your breath away? You visit two months later, and the garden is again in full glory, and you wonder how do people do it? How do you design a garden that offers visual interest through the seasons? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, highlights University of Illinois Extension resources that will help you create y...

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Plants for a Dry, Shade Garden

Several years ago I created a secret shade garden behind my backyard gazebo. What started as a few trees, shrubs, and a bench, has grown to a dense garden of various dry-loving, shade plants. Since I garden in the dry sand of Mason county, typical moisture-loving shade plants like hosta, fern, and azalea don't do well. Instead, here are some plants that work for me. Northern Bayberry (...

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State champion Bald Cypress tree in Southern Illinois along Cache River basin. That is my husband Mark kayaking up to it. It is only accessible by watercraft. The tip of my yellow kayak is shown at the bottom of the pictures - among the duckweed and watermeal.
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Big and Historic Trees

Big trees seem to fascinate and almost mesmerize us. They bring wonderment as we surmise how old it is and what it has "seen" through its life. Here are some of my favorites. No words can describe what I felt when I saw my first giant sequoia tree in California's Sequoia National Park. They are all grand, but the grandest of all is the General Sherman tree. It...

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Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.)
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The Beautiful Beautyberry

Recently, I've had several people send me pictures asking, "What is this beautiful plant with purple berries?" My answer each time was beautyberry. The beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.) has show-stopping purple fruit in the fall. In fact, the genus name Callicarpa means beautiful fruit in Greek. These deciduous shrubs produce bright, glossy clusters of violet-purple fruit that encirc...

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This beautiful display of fall blooming chrysanthemums at the home of Ron and Joan Bankes, 826 Taylor Ct. in Canton is the October 2010 recipient of the

Asters and Mums

Fall provides us with brilliant colors: orange pumpkins, yellow mums, purple asters, and bronze autumn joy sedums. The fall flower garden has a lot to offer and brings a change in flower color. Notice how the fall flowers offer deeper orange and burgundy instead of bright red and yellow. Most people think of mums as the main fall flowering plant. Mums are important, but don't rule out a...

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2005-03-19 069
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Fall Bulb Planting

Start next year's flower display this fall. Now is the time to set out the spring flowering bulbs. It seems like a lot of work now, but after the long winter, you will enjoy those blooms. In addition to the standards such as tulips and daffodils, try some of the other small flowering bulbs. For example, anemones, snowdrops, and winter aconite all bloom very early and have extraordinarily beauti...

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Maple in decline with possible verticillium wilt.
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Tree Cankers and Vascular Wilts on the Rise

As I've written in previous blogs, the droughts of 2012 and other recent weather events continue to take a toll on tree health. Trees can take three to five years to show symptoms from a severe event such as drought. Unfortunately trees under stress are less able to fight off insect and disease problems. Plant diagnosticians at the University of Illinois Plant Clinic describe the follow...

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Oak Tatters on Bur Oak

Bizarre Oak Leaf Damage

Every year I get questions about bizarre oak leaf damage that most people think is caused by a terrible insect infestation. Although some insects feed on oak trees, often the samples I see have a condition called Oak Tatters. I have an oak tree in my yard that gets oak tatters every year. Oak tatters have been happening for the past several years in Illinois, particularly those in the w...

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Oak tatters on white oak on 7-13-12
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Don't Prune Oaks Now?

Oak trees are majestic, but some are in danger of a disease. One of the best ways to protect oak trees is to prune them at the proper time. You have probably heard that it is not wise to prune oak trees during the active growing season. The actual act of pruning does not harm the tree. The problem involves what you will attract to the tree—insects that may carry the oak wilt fungus....

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ems oakwilt 8-06

Drought Impacts Trees for Years to Come

I continue to get calls about large, old trees that are in major decline. Many of these are just now showing symptoms from the severe drought of 2012. Major weather events have a detrimental long term effect on landscape plants. Many people feel that large trees won't be harmed by drought because they have large root system. This is not the case. Instead we often see substantial tree di...

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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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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

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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Mosses

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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Contorted hazelnut in winter
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Twisty Curvy Plants

Twisty curvy and weeping plants are fun to look at, but hard to use in the landscape. They are so unique and special that they must have a special spot to really work. Most should be used as a planned focal point, since they definitely draw one's attention. Usually, one is enough in the landscape as more than one is too distracting. What do I mean by twisty curvy plants? These are plants that...

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Silver maple flowers in the spring.
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Not so Obvious Springtime Flowers

Spring flowering plants make an impressive display at a time of year when we need it most. Redbuds, magnolias, forsythia, tulips, and so many more are a welcome sign that we are finally past the long winter. But, if you look closely you will find some less obvious spring displays that are just as welcome and impressive in their own way. One of the earliest flowering shrubs is witchhaze...

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White pine on Western Illinois University campus, March 2011

Pine Trees Picturesque with Age

Have you ever noticed how a pine tree changes shape as it ages? On my way to Springfield recently, several old pine trees caught my attention. Pine trees have distinctively different needle structure than other evergreens. Pine needles are in clusters of 2, 3, or 5 and range from one to several inches long. Pine trees also have distinctive habits. Most pine trees start out pyramidal in youth (...

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Topping trees causes weak, wind-damage prone growth.
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Do Not Top Trees

I cringe when I see topped trees. Not only is it unsightly to see a tree in such an unnatural state, it is also harmful to trees. Correct pruning is an essential maintenance practice for ornamental trees and shrubs. However, most homeowners regard pruning with considerable apprehension. Pruning is not difficult if you understand the basics and learn why, when, and how to prune....

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