Flowers, Fruits, and Frass Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Start the Holiday season off with Nature inspired crafts in Eureka Tue, 21 Nov 2017 16:18:00 +0000 Universityof Illinois Extension and Heartline and Heart House are teaming up to celebrate the holiday season by offering a free make and take Holiday Nature Ornament Program. Not only are these type of ornaments trending this holiday season but also they can be very affordable, easy to make and a fun family affair. These small ornaments can adorn any tree small or large to fulfill that great gift idea.
Many people, especially women, experience high levels of stress during the holidays according to research done by the American Psychological Society. They may have to decorate the home, buy presents, plan dinners, and organize family events all while managing the stresses of everyday life and without breaking the bank. It can be an overwhelming task for us all.
Let University of Illinois Extension and Heartline and Heart House reduce this stress by helping you cross one thing off your list and start the season on a positive note with these very personal naturally inspired ornaments. The program will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28 at the Heartline and Heart House location at300 Reagan Drive in Eureka.
University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Kelly Allsup, will lead a demonstration to make two different kinds of ornaments using seasonal favorites including cinnamon sticks, oranges, and cranberries. All are welcome & encouraged to attend this festive workshop and kick off your holiday season with nature.For more information on this program or details on future Extension programming, please contact us at your local Extension office at (309) 467-3789. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Kelly Allsup at (309) 663-8306
Putting the Pollinator Garden to bed by Karl Hedding Sun, 19 Nov 2017 10:30:00 +0000 Regardless if you have a pollinator garden or not, that is, for any type of garden, waiting until the spring to cut back plants and cleanup dead plant material provides a hotel for insects to overwinter in and can be a source of seeds for the birds. However, always remove diseased plant material in the fall. Don't compost the diseased material. For example, Bee Balm may have powdery mildew by the end of the summer. Bee Balm is a great plant to have for pollinators so you don't need to remove the plant from your garden, just clean up any diseased plant material.

A high-quality pollinator garden will have both native and non-native plants. Non-native plants (e.g. Japanese Anemone, Lantana, Zinnias, Cosmos) tend to not reseed themselves as readily as native plants. But of course, some will reseed themselves and what applies to native plants applies to them also. Most natives will propagate themselves by seeds. Others will propagate underground. (e.g. Missouri Sundrops, Prairie Coreopsis). Native plants will tend to reseed themselves because they've not been modified by breeders to not reseed themselves.

Native plant propagation is good because you probably need more native plants in your pollinator garden. Pollinator gardens tend to be more successful in an English Country Garden style than in a more formal garden because of the reseeding. You need many plants with many flowers with a high volume of pollen and nectar. A more formal garden will still attract pollinators, but there will be much less pollen and nectar available to them because of the fewer plants and blooms.

It helps greatly if you know your native plants. Then you will know whether to leave the seed heads on until spring or cut them off in the fall. For example, Smooth Aster and Tall Joe Pye Weed will produce many flowers on one plant. You will probably only want one or two in your garden depending on the space you have. You will probably want to cut them back in the fall. On the other hand, one Yellow Coneflower will not produce that many blooms. You need many more of these plants. You may want to wait until spring to cut them back.

Some natives reseed too easily and will require heavy weeding out in the spring if the seed heads are not cut off in the fall – e.g. Golden Alexanders, Hyssops, Obedient Plant. Don't compost these seed heads or your composting area will be taken over by these plants. These plants can crowd out other desirable pollinator plants if left to themselves. Some natives that reseed too readily such as Columbine and some of the Milkweeds need the seed heads cut off when they're done blooming earlier in the growing season. Some natives are annuals such as Canada Anemone. You have to let these reseed if you want plants next season.

Three or more inches of mulch applied in the spring will keep down the number of plants reseeding themselves. You will still get new plants, just not as many as when the mulch is thin or it's bare soil. If you want more reseeding, then keep your mulch thinner, but you will get other undesirable weeds and grass in your garden also. Heavy mulching will encourage the spreading of native plants that propagate underground such as Tall Goldenrod, Missouri Sundrops, and Prairie Coreopsis. Knowing when your native plants bloom can also influence the quantity you want of that plant. Spring and fall bloomers are in highest demand from pollinators.

So, if you know your native plants, you will know the habit of the plant, then you can decide what you want more of and let it reseed itself and what plants you don't need more of and cut off the seed heads. You can transplant the voluntary native seedlings in the spring to where you want them and weed out the rest if you have too many. In my home pollinator garden, it is not possible to have too many Great Blue Lobelia, Blue Vervain, Rattlesnake Master, Royal Catchfly or any of the Beardtongues, Figworts, or Spiderworts. I don't cut off these seed heads until spring. It took me ten years to go from one Large Flowered Beardtongue plant to three plants. They are a challenge to get to propagate in the garden.

After a number of years, you'll reach a point where you have a sufficient number of a particular native plant and you want to limit its spreading. For example, I've reached that point with my Prairie Petunia and Wild Geranium. Cut off those seed heads when you reach that point. You can also harvest your own seeds and try propagating them yourself.

You can tell the quality of your Pollinator Garden by how many new plants the pollinators bring into your garden. For example, this year pollinators added Tall Goldenrod to the Extension Pollinator Garden. Tall Goldenrod is what is growing along the railroad tracks behind the Extension Office. It is an undesirable native plant. Stiff Goldenrod is a better choice. Seedbox is a native plant the pollinators added to my home Pollinator Garden this year.


All Photos by John Hilty

Fall Nature Scavenger Hunt for Kids Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:00:00 +0000 We read in the news all the time that we are a generation of phones and internet. Any question is answered with a quick tapping of fingertips, amounting to instant gratification.

I personally am grateful that I can look up anything anytime because my job requires me to answer a barrage of gardening questions that has been backed up by research. However, my childhood was spent in the piney woods of east Texas, where we played with sticks, pine cones, vines and the occasional armadillo.

Perhaps I am the last of my kind: A generation that played in the creek, climbed trees and marveled at the little finds in nature but now raise a generation of YouTube stars playing games and music videos.

Now with a little one in my home, I am constantly barraged with questions like "May I have my phone?"; "May I play games on the Amazon Fire?"; "May I watch YouTube videos on the television?"

I hear myself say, "Why can't you go outside and just play?" She is stunned, taken aback, and replies, "What would I do?"

She is without the comprehension to explore and be outside in nature and this I must change or I will not pass down my love of nature and everything in it.

This weekend, her father and I will guide her on a nature scavenger hunt but will incorporate the phone. We will collect materials from the park and our backyard in a paper bag and bring them home to make a centerpiece. We will print the pictures to put in frames on her bedroom wall. We will ask her to do what we naturally did as kids.

Nature scavenger hunt

  • Find three different colors of leaves
  • Find a simple leaf
  • Find a compound leaf
  • Find a pine cone
  • Find an acorn
  • Take a picture of a spider web
  • Find a seed head from a flower
  • Find a fallen branch
  • Take a picture of a cloud
  • Find a round rock
  • Look for a bird
  • Take a picture of a hole in a tree
  • Spy on a squirrel or rabbit
  • Find a blooming flower
  • Look for a pill bug
  • Take a picture of something that smells good
  • Take a picture of something that is soft
Have you found these fall insect invaders near your home? Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:15:00 +0000 Typically on the top of our home invader list in Illinois are the Asian lady beetles," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. It seems this season, there may be another to explore.Asian lady beetles originally released to help farmers with the pecan aphid, commonly like to overwinter in our homes. If there is a crack or crevice leading its way to the inside of your home, then you may be vulnerable to this and other unwanted inhabitants. They can be identified from the native ladybug by the black M shape just behind their head. Although they do not reproduce indoors or harm anything inside, they emit a foul odor, stain surfaces in your home and occasionally bite."
Another new potential home invader may be looking for a spot to overwinter in Illinois homes this year and that is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)," mentions Allsup. We have heard about invasions of homes in the Mid-Atlantic States in the past. They are a nuisance because they do what stink bugs do best – stink, but only when threatened.This invasive insect was first identified in 1998 in Pennsylvania and is considered a stowaway from Asia.
BMSB's have a large host range feeding on the landscape, native and agriculturally important produce. According to a new study by a University of Maryland entomologist, adults have a strong preference for ripe fruit, leaving the nymphs to eat other plant material. This has caused many growers on the East Coast, where the population has skyrocketed, to forfeit efforts to be organic and start using chemicals. Traps have also been developed using an aggregation pheromone.
The BMSB has piercing mouthparts and is capable of damaging a multitude of crops from apples to pears to soybeans and landscape ornamentals. University of Illinois Extension Entomologist, Mike Gray, has said, "BMSB are capable of causing economic losses to soybean and corn producers."
In the past, Kelly Estes, state survey coordinator at the Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program, has also stated, "The combination of lower populations of BMSB and highly managed crop systems in Illinois have kept detection and economic injury levels low.""Most reports of this insect have come from urban areas in early spring and fall, generally from homeowners and master gardeners detecting these invasive insects in their homes looking for a place to overwinter," states Estes. However, they are expanding their territory with almost half the counties in Illinois having positive identifications and seven new counties this year with confirmations including Christian, Hancock, Woodford, Mercer, Douglas, Jersey and Grundy.The BMSB body has the shield-shape characteristic to stink bugs and it is as wide as it is long.
The three most identifying characteristics are its black and white banding on the antennae, the alternating dark/light banding on the edge of the wings and the smooth shoulders. They are capable of aggregating in manmade structures and recent USDA studies show they prefer large dead trees that are still standing in the forest-like oak or hickory on the East Coast. After overwintering in April, the adult lays 20-30 eggs with nymphs emerging shortly after. There can be multiple generations per year depending on seasonal temperatures.
To control Asian Lady beetles and BMSB in the home,1.Use a vacuum to suck up adults or drop them in soapy water2.Take steps in early fall to caulk cracks and crevices around the house3.Prevent movement in from the outside by repairing windows and putting on door sweeps4.It is not recommended to use sprays in the home because insecticide residues are relatively ineffective in providing control.The USDA currently classifies Illinois as being at low risk for the pest, as large numbers have not been recorded. Allsup encourages homeowners and gardeners to be on the lookout for this invasive pest as in the past few weeks she has found five BMSB on the screens of her windows at her Bloomington home.
If you believe, you have found a BMSB and it has not been found in your county yet, please submit it to your local Extension office to get positive confirmation for your county. For more information on BMSB, please contact University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator for Livingston, McLean & Woodford Counties, Kelly Allsup atkallsup@illinois.eduor (309) 663-8306.
Turning of seasons, in nature and life Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:33:00 +0000 The yellow leaves of the sugar maple, the reddish purple leaves of the ash and the multi-colored leaves of the sweet gum have begun to litter the ground, foreshadowing the end of a season and the celebration of the natural cycle. These fallen leaves will insulate the trees and plants while providing hiding places for insects, providing shelter materials for wildlife and building up the soil.

For some of us, the leaves fall too soon; we are not ready for the upcoming season of dying and dormancy. We are not ready to let go of the vibrancy of life that we have cultivated. We are reminded of every moment of love we put into our garden space and every moment of reprieve it gave us back. This season, I had to say goodbye to my muse, my teacher, my mentor, my father, and most of all, my beautiful tree.

Sitting in the grasslands of Texas where my father lived, I wrote his eulogy surrounded by the things he loved. Plants everywhere. Tomatoes in straw bales, herbs to feed his chickens, newly planted hibiscus bushes and a half-used bale of hay with a pitchfork propped against it. Hay strewn under the trees was mulch fitting for the landscape. We shared this love for gardening, so much so I would write about a man who broke the rules of conventional gardening, and he would experiment with new gardening ideas for me.

Gardening is beyond the science of soil and the training of trees; it touches us and is carried down to the next generation. His father and mother taught him to grow vegetables; he taught me to care for plants; and now I teach my niece how to plant seeds. With my father, there was never a question of whether he would garden, but a familiar obligation to grow and a joy within the process.

The fallen leaves will be broken down by bacteria and microbes and inevitably will initiate new growth. His legacy lives in the new generation. He did what all people should do; he taught the next generation how to grow. I ask, When you step into the garden, who joins you? Who is your muse? Do you carry their legacy to grow? I know I will continue to write about him as he will always be my muse. I may label him as a gardener I knew, an old man in Texas, my father who taught me to love nature.

Chrysanthemums: A flourish of fall colors : Tips and Tricks for the Illinois Gardener Fri, 13 Oct 2017 12:28:00 +0000 Chrysanthemums: A flourish of fall colors
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. –Chrysanthemums come in a myriad of colors and flower forms, just in time to spruce up a tired flower garden or create a festive fall display. The garden centers are overflowing with these must-have bursts of color. Some gardeners have tried and failed to overwinter these mature mums bought from the garden centers. Gardening mistakes are the cause to not successfully overwinter fall planted mums states University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Kelly Allsup.
Gardening mistake number one is not amending the soil of the planting hole. These garden center mums are grown in a soilless media of peat, perlite, vermiculite, bark, etc. A media that is far different from the soil in your garden. This media is more aerated and has better drainage. Add 4 inches of organic matter (compost, leaf mold or well-rotted manure) to the area before planting.
Garden mistake number two thinking all mums are hardy. Plant breeders have chosen chrysanthemums for their flower color, flower form and perhaps height. With breeding comes differences in hardiness.
Garden mistake number three is improper watering. When planting chrysanthemums only tease out the roots if they are encircling. This root ball/ garden soil differentiation will cause the root ball to dry out faster than the surrounding soil even if it is amended. Check the area directly around the roots to determine if watering is needed.
Garden mistake number four is not mulching. Mulching is great insulation for the roots to make it through our Illinois winter. In the spring, gradually remove the mulch.
Garden mistake number five plant as early as you can. Plant now rather than waiting for the blooms to cease. The earliest you can plant the better root growth you will get before the ground freezes. Chrysanthemums used in fall displays and then transplanted late in the fall may not have a chance to prepare for winter.
Garden mistake number six not putting in a protected location. We know that our homes and landscapes can create microclimates much warmer than our designated zone 5b. Do not plant garden chrysanthemums in open, windy areas.
Garden mistake number seven planting near lights. Chrysanthemums bloom when the days shorten and the nights lengthen. An overhead street lamp may interrupt this process causing flower buds to not form.
Garden mistake number eight cutting back dead plants. Leaf the top growth as a form of insulation in the winter and cut back when you see new growth in the spring.
Garden mistake number nine not pinching. If you have successfully overwintered, pinch your chrysanthemums by July 4 for compact plants. Some gardeners pinch a few times throughout the garden season. This is how greenhouses and garden centers round mounds covered in flowers.
For additional questions, please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306 or email her of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-663-8306
Should we grow saffron crocus in Illinois? Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:20:00 +0000 Just yesterday, I began thinking about the fall bulb-planting season. I already have designs to plant early flowering spring bulbs for the bees like crocus, snow drops, siberian squill, winter aconite, hyacinths and grape hyacinth. However, I keep coming back to fall crocus. Wouldn't it be nice to have a fall blooming bulb in my garden and harvest saffron?

Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) (Colchicum autumnale) blooms in the fall. It is planted the same time as spring bloomers so that it may receive a cold treatment before flowering. Sometime in September and October, it will bloom for 15 days and the stigmas are harvested and dried to become the coveted spice saffron.

The stigmas (the female part of the flower) protrude out like bright red party streamers against the muted purple palette of the petals. Each stigma is removed from the flower using tweezers. These harvested stigmas are then placed in an airtight container for a month before the flavor develops.

As they dry, they lose about 80 percent of their weight. Therefore, a gardener would have to plant 150 corms and gently pull 450 stigmas for one gram of dried saffron. Despite the laborious nature of harvesting saffron, gardeners may want to just have these around for extra color in the fall.

Saffron is primarily grown in Iran, Spain and Italy. However, researcher Margaret Skinner from the University of Vermont wants to bring the crops here to our farmers, saying we have better soil. Margaret and her team experimented with saffron in high tunnels (plastic-covered, unheated greenhouse structures) and found "We got higher yields of saffron, in terms of weight, than what's reported in field production in Spain and Iran."

These crocuses are zone-hardy to 6, which is most likely why they were grown under cover in Vermont. However, Central Illinois is Zone 5b, and most of our gardens live in microclimates.

Up against our house or in our backyard garden, the microclimate is determined by sun exposure, heat, water, light and wind, which is why some gardeners can get away with growing plants not hardy to our area.

Plant bulbs in September two to four inches deep and four inches apart. The first year, maybe 60 percent of the bulbs produce a flower and the second year, two flowers may be produced. As the corms multiply, they can handle light shade and may be disturbed by the neighborhood squirrels.

Photo by University of Missouri