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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Wildlife and Nature
140
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Nature Journaling Reduces Stress

I've mentioned many times that I love to journal, and I usually write surrounded by plants and nature. I use nature journaling as a creative form of self-expression, but I find that it also promotes relaxation and calmness. Many people journal. In its most basic form, journaling is a daily record of news and events that happen in a person's life. Writing down our day-to-day happenings s...

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swallowtail butterfly
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Butterflies Spread Cheer

I am seeing more butterflies this summer than I have in recent years. As I walk my property, I see monarchs, swallowtails, buckeyes, hackberry, painted ladies, cabbage whites, and more. This year I even saw a viceroy while mowing! Although there are many reasons for the increase in butterflies this year, I'd like to think that my choice of plants has helped. Adult butterflies suck necta...

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Kim St John Butterfly Habitat at Wildlife Prairie Park

Butterfly Gardening

If you love butterflies, you could also put in a butterfly garden habitat in your own yard. You don't need a lot of space to attract our native butterflies. There are two different types of plants you can grow for butterflies: nectar food sources and larval food sources. Nectar sources attract the adult butterfly. Many different types of flowers will serve as a nectar source. Av...

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Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit! Elmer Fudd from The Looney Tunes said it right, "Bugs Bunny?! You're a pesky wabbit!" I have replanted my tomato plants three times this spring. The first two times the plants were gone by the next morning, and I think the "cute" little rabbit I saw hop down my walk is the culprit! My first line of defense was to learn more about rabbits...

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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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Ferree Journal Quote

Natural Journaling

Nature Journaling …Allows us to slow down and see the natural world from a different perspective, while it Offers a creative outlet for self-expression Promotes relaxation and calmness Enhances outdoor experiences Builds positive connections with nature and people What to...

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Dandelion with pollinator next to white clover

Take a new look at dandelions

Earth Day falls every year on April 22. As you use this day to reflect about our world around us, you might  try to look at a small piece of our world from a completely different viewpoint. Take dandelions, for example. To many people the dandelion is a weedy pest that invades our lawns, but other people find many positive attributes in the plant. Kids l...

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Spring beauty
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Spring Wildflowers

I have been enjoying walks through our little woods. Many of the earliest wildflowers are about to perform their annual spectacular show. Woodland wildflowers are beautiful and a welcome sign of spring. Here are some examples of the earliest flowers to bloom in the woods. A common woodland wildflower is the spring beauty ( Claytonia virginica ). This is a low plant with loose clusters o...

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White tailed deer
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Fall and Winter Deer Damage

Deer hunting season is upon us, and so it seems appropriate to do an article about deer damage to landscape plants. Fall and winter are a time when deer can cause significant damage to landscape plants. Two types of damage can occur: antler rubbing and browsing. Antler rubbing is done by males during the mating season. They do this in the fall to remove the soft velvet covering and to s...

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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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living with wildlife website

Choose Treatment Properly for Moles

Moles become active each spring, with tunnels appearing as raised areas of soil in lawns and garden beds. "Questions about mole control are probably the most common question I've received in my 27 years with University of Illinois Extension," says Rhonda Ferree, Extension Educator in Horticulture. "Mole damage is frustrating and unfortunately homeowners sometimes resort to costly, ineffective,...

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Illinois Audubon Society birding adventure
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Birding Equipment...how to use binoculars

Each winter our garden pond attracts many different types of birds. We keep a small area of open water in the pond, which the birds love. The past couple of weeks we have been inundated by robins. We also commonly see Eastern bluebirds, cedar waxwings, finches, and various sparrows each winter. Occasionally a coopers hawk swoops down to eat frogs. Although some birds stay year...

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Lightning Bugs on the Decline

I hear a news report about the decline of the monarch butterfly almost every day, but there are other insects in decline as well. One that is a favorite of all ages is the lightning bug, which some folks also call a firefly. As a kid I remember catching lightning bugs on warm, summer nights. We put them in empty canning jars or pickle jars, poked holes in the lids, and watched the bugs...

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Native Habitat Resources

I attended a Pollinator Conference recently in Rock Island, IL and learned of several resources that are available for those wanting to develop native habitats and attract more pollinators. First, here are a few questions to consider before getting started... What other plants are already there? Are there invasive or other undesirable plants there that need removed? In par...

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Red admiral butterfly on Mexican zinnia on 9-17-12
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Butterfly Larvae Food Plants

Efforts to save the monarch butterfly are everywhere with many people pledging to plant milkweed for monarch larvae to eat. There are two different types of plants you can grow for butterflies: nectar food sources and larval food sources. Nectar sources attract the adult butterfly and many different types of flowers will serve as a nectar source. Providing larval food plants is where b...

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Bee on purple cone flower

Bee-nificial Bees!

Beekeeping is an increasingly popular backyard hobby. It also fits the growing trend to protect pollinators, which are so important to our food supply. There are many different types of bees. Bumble bees are the only truly social bees native to the United States. They are important pollinators and according to a University of Minnesota entomology website, are used commercially to pollinate cro...

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garlic mustard
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Garlic Mustard is Invading Our Woods!

I first wrote about garlic mustard in 2001. Since then, this dreadful weed has gotten even worse. Many hundreds of man-hours and dollars have been spent trying to prevent it from choking out more of our native wildflowers. Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is not a weed to take lightly; if you have it, control is imperative. In Illinois, the plant behaves mostly as a biennial....

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Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with Regal Fritillary butterfly
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A Milkweed for Every Location

Current buzzwords in the world of gardening include pollinators, butterflies, natives, and monarchs. It seems that everywhere I look I read something about the importance of pollinators and how we can protect them. One of the best plants for pollinators, especially butterflies, is milkweed. My colleague Candice Miller, Horticulture Educator in northern Illinois, recently posted the foll...

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Goldfinches on a finch feeder
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Bird Feeding Basics

Now is the time of year when I really enjoy feeding the birds and watching them from the comfort of my warm home. Before his retirement, Extension Educator Bob Frazee always had good tips on how to feed birds. Here is some of his information. Since enjoying birds is a major objective, you will want to locate the feeder where it can be conveniently viewed – and used. Due to differences in body...

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Virginia bluebells
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Spring Wildflowers

A University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator said that spring walks are very enjoyable. "Many of us look for morel mushrooms, but there is much more to see at the same time," said Rhonda Ferree. "Woodland wildflowers are beautiful and a welcome sign of spring." A common woodland wildflower is the spring beauty ( Claytonia virginica ). This is...

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Hummingbird on feeder in 2011

Hummingbirds

One of the most popular presentations at our annual Gardeners' Big Day was on hummingbirds in 2002. Here is my article that ran on March 30, 2002 about that informational and entertaining presentation. Lois White from Smithfield presented an informative and energetic presentation on attracting hummingbirds to your yard. Lois is a dynamic person with an obvious love of hummingbirds. On L...

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swallowtail on sweet william

Are there less butterflies this summer?

I've heard several comments this summer about butterfly numbers being less than in previous years. One reader reported that she has had hardly any butterflies in her butterfly garden since the drought began. Why is this happening? I am not an entomologist, but from what I've read I wonder if the warm spring has more to do with it than the current drought. Certainly the drought and other...

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