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 Hover flies Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:56:00 +0000 Walking in the Illinois State University Horticulture Center garden this week, I see the hover flies (aka syrphid flies or flower flies) are covering any nectar-producing flower in droves. These flies, commonly mistaken for bees are one of our most prolific pollinators in the Illinois garden. In addition to their pollinator services, their larvae are ferocious meat eaters. Hover flies are excellent fliers, flying backwards and forwards and hovering over their beloved flowers.

Hover flies are yellow and black bee-mimics that feed on pollen, nectar and honey dew (frass of phloem feeders.) They mimic bees and or wasps for protection against predators such as birds. They are easily distinguished from bees because they are shiny and bees are fuzzy. They are easily distinguished from wasps in that they have two wings and wasps have four. Sandy Mason, State Master Gardener Coordinator, puts it all in perspective by saying, "count the wings. Two wings fun four wings run. "The female hover fly lays her eggs in amongst the aphids and in two to three days the larvae hatch.

Their larvae which is technically a maggot is muted green, legless, worm like and can be found on the undersides of the leaves eating aphids, thrips, scale, caterpillars and mealy bugs. These larvae are great garden warriors and can be put in the same category of ladybugs and lacewing larvae in terms of the effectiveness in demolishing an aphid population. The larvae grasp the prey with their jaws, hold them up in the air, suck out their body contents and toss the exoskeleton aside. The larvae feed for about seven to ten days before they pupate. According to Cornell University, the larvae can eat up to 400 aphids before they complete their life cycle. For about ten days they pupae. Their pupae is small and brown and they may attach to leaves, stems or fall to the ground

With many generations per growing season, they are here to stay. If you see and aphid or mealy bug infestation in your garden be sure to turn over the leaves to look for these beneficial maggots before you spray.

University of Minnesota, just release a trial garden report on flowers that attracted pollinators and found the following annuals were excellent additions to lure these beneficial insects to your garden. Zinnias was number in attracting pollinators, followed by 'Tangerine Dream' and 'Bambino' marigolds. The list also included salvia 'Coral Nymph,' rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes,' sunflower 'Lemon Queen' and snapdragons as their top performers.

Plant Propagation Workshop at Sarah's Garden on July 29 Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:58:00 +0000 On Saturday, July 29 from 9 A.M. to Noon, the University of Illinois McLean County Master Gardeners will be conducting a Plant Propagation Workshop at the award winning and city treasure, Sarah's Garden at the David Davis Mansion. Many of the plants propagated will be of heirloom origin and a plant that Sarah Davis grew over 100 years ago.

Sarah's Garden is an original, restored 144-year old treasure at the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington, Illinois. The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners of McLean County partners with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the David Davis Mansion Foundation Board to restore, care, provide educational programming, host tours and outreach from Sarah's Garden

This collaboration resulted in Master Gardener development of ever-expanding educational efforts for youth and the public while restoring this unique historic quarter-acre flower garden as a living museum with seven plants original to its 1872 creation and 70 more documented heirlooms. Are you a gardener interested in learning how to create more plants? This hands-on workshop is for you!

Master Gardeners would like to create a unique experience for attendees while giving new plants to grow in their own garden. Be part of this rich history and join the McLean Master Gardeners as they tour the past through horticulture. University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup says, "learning propagation from the Master Gardeners will be a technique you will use for all of your future gardening endevorurs and it is fun to do."

All attendees will

· Expand your collection of roses through cuttings and layering

· Create more perennials using provenpropagationtechniques

· Learn to harvest and save seed to grow new perennials and annuals

· Enjoy an exclusive tour of thehistoricSarah's Garden

· Take home heirloom plants,seedsand bulbs!

Your neighbors will be impressed with your new knowledge of propagation and admire your new heirloom rose in the landscape.

The cost is $10 per person. Register online at or call (309) 663-8306.

Herb Festival at Unity Community Center on July 27 Mon, 10 Jul 2017 11:56:00 +0000 University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners would like to invite you and your family to a festival of herbs at the Unity Community Center, 632 Orlando Avenue Normal, on Thursday, July 27 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Bring the kids to participate in garden festivities while tasting delectable dishes made out of the tasty herbs grown in the garden. University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator says, "Eating dishes that highlight the herbs in the garden is a summer experience you won't want to miss. Growing and using herbs can be easy with a few tips from the gardeners."

This year the McLean County Master Gardeners dedicated their raised beds to these aromatic and edible plants in an effort to educate the youth and the community they live in. The garden is a place to enliven the senses by smelling, touching and nibbling on the plants. Herbs are the easiest way to make a boring dinner dish come alive with depth and flavor.

The festivities will include making an herbal bouquet, navigating through the garden on a scavenger hunt, painting the garden fence, taking home your very own herb pots and tasting a plethora of herb dishes. The vegetable production garden will also be highlighted with a harvest give away.

The festival is a time for eating, merriment and fun with the Master Gardeners. Merriment will be enjoyed by all through adventure, and exploration. Take part in celebrating the hard work and dedication of area youth and Master Gardeners who enthusiastically planned, planted, weeded, watered, and harvested the garden. Whether you are the mayor of Normal or a family of 5, we hope to see you there and give you a tasty treat.

Gypsy moth spraying in Livingston County Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:00:00 +0000 Parts of Livingston County, McLean's northeast neighbor, have been scheduled for spraying this past week along with six other counties in northern Illinois for the gypsy moth, leaving the rest of us wondering will we be next.

Gypsy moth caterpillars eat the leaves of hundreds of different species of trees, leaving behind winter bare trees. The infected trees have a chance of dying from repeat defoliations or becoming stressed enough to possibly succumb to other diseases or insect infestations.

Vast swaths of forestland in the northeast can be completely defoliated in heavy years. The residents in these areas can actually hear the caterpillars chomping on their favorite trees. The U.S. Forest Service considers the gypsy moth the most devastating tree pest.

Scott Schirmer, the northern field operation manager for Illinois Department of Agriculture, has high hopes for combating this pest with Organic Splat-O, a mating disrupter that will be dispersed over numerous acres inundating the air with the scent of the female.

The male is unable to find a female and mate. Scott says it is perfect timing because the caterpillars are almost ready to pupate. Pupation can last 14 to 21 days before adults emerge, mate and lay egg masses on the trunk of trees. These egg masses overwinter and caterpillars emerge the following spring.

An insect with such a broad host range can be worrisome, but Scott is optimistic. He explains, "gypsy moths are not like Emerald ash borer in that they seek mates rather than look for food. Emerald ash borers infest, kill and move on. Gypsy moths form more of a pocket infestation vs. a widespread blanket, therefore, making control plausible."

Scott says there are probably 10,000 gypsy moth traps throughout the state of Illinois. A computer uses historical data to determine if treatment is needed and this year a bloom occurred in Fairbury, Streator and Pontiac resulting in a scheduled aerial treatment of thousands of acres to combat the invasive insect.

He does not want to cause alarm for other counties but does want us to be on the lookout. If the gypsy moth is suspected, USDA may come out to inspect or set up a trap. Homeowners in the infected areas are encouraged to look for the brown fuzzy egg masses that can be on the trunk of trees, lawn furniture, vehicles, and houses. Egg masses should be scraped into a plastic bag, sealed and thrown away.

For more information on life cycle or identification of gypsy moth, visit more information.

A message from Extension Pollinator Garden Writer Sally Whaley Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:10:00 +0000 Extension Pollinator Gardens

By Sally Whaley

Hello, all you grateful gardeners! Well, you now have the warmer, dryer weather that you requested to have your garden flourish. In our Extension Pollinator Garden, our plants are starting to make the landscape colorful. This month we will talk about the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn).

This photo is of the Butterfly Weed (Ascelpias tuberosa). The very beautiful orange blossoms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, native bees, bumble bees and honey bees. The leaves and stalks are larval hosts to Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, and Queens.

The Butterfly Weed is a perennial from the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) family. Our specimen has large bright orange flowers with long, pointed, and smooth edged leaves. The flowers can be yellow or red. It blooms from May until September and loves a sunny spot with well-drained dry to moist sandy soil. It has a high drought tolerance. The flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and are of special value to Native Bees, Bumble Bees, and Honey Bees.

It is a nectar source to many and resistant to deer. This plant is in the 1-3 ft. size class. It is considered an herb but does have poisonous parts. The warning for poisonous parts include the roots and plant sap from all parts. These are not edible and toxic if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, and spasms. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, a cardiac glycoside. Native Habitat is in prairies, open woods, canyons, and hillsides throughout most of the state. The Butterfly weed with its showy, bright color makes it great in a cut flower arrangement.


Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn). Currently, this Autumn Joy Sedum is not in bloom but will be blooming in the coming weeks.

Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn) is a perennial that has pink flowers that bloom from August into November. They will grow to a height of 1 to 3 ft. They prefer moderately fertile, moist soil in full sun, but will also do well in drier soil and part shade. Pruning to 6 to 8 inches will shorten the plant and delay flowering. Propagation of this plant can be done by root cuttings or leaves in early summer. If planting by seed will want to start in the fall and divide in the spring. Autumn Joy Sedum attracts Bees and Butterflies to its showy flowers and seed heads. They come in a variety of pinks and reds. Some problems that may occur with them are mealybugs, scale insects, slugs, and snails, as well as bigger critters, including deer. Sedum is generally a low maintenance plant.

Last month we talked about

Virginia Spiderwort


Dayflower family (Commelinaceae)

Each month the Extension Pollinator Garden Project will profile a plant that is currently in the garden. This month's selection is the native Virginia Spiderwort. The information comes from the website -

Virginia Spiderwort is fairly common in central and southern Illinois, while it is uncommon or absent in northern and extreme western Illinois. In grows in various locations including moist black soil prairies, sand prairies, savannas, thickets, openings and edges of woodlands, sandstone cliffs, and powerline clearances through woodland areas. This plant usually doesn't stray far from areas with trees and shrubby vegetation.

The preference is partial sun and moist to mesic conditions. It also tolerates light shade, and full sun if the soil is sufficiently moist. Growth is best in a fertile loamy soil, but some sand or gravel is acceptable. During droughts, the tips or outer lengths of the leaves may turn yellow or brown. This plant is easy to grow and rarely troubled by foliar disease

The violet flowers grow in clusters and have no scent. The leaves are long and linear, drooping in the middle. Each flower opens up during the morning and closes during the early afternoon on sunny days, but may remain open longer on cloudy days or when it remains in the shade. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about 1½ months. During this time, the flowers bloom sporadically, rather than all at once.

Bumblebees are the most important pollinators of the flowers. Other bee visitors include honeybees, Little Carpenter bees, and Halictine bees. This plant can be found in the bed by the sign at the Pollinator Garden.


Confessions of a new homeowner- Landscape Design Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:36:00 +0000 BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Creating a new landscape or renewing an old can be a daunting task for homeowners. However, if one looks at it as painter's canvas and envisions the design, it can be energizing at the prospect of creating his or her own garden oasis. University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator and brand new homeowner, Kelly Allsup, is excited to transform a bland landscape into the garden of her dreams.

Being, a horticulturist, she understands the process that must take place and encourages homeowners and gardeners to enjoy the process as well as the outcome. "I was thrilled to feel the soil in my hands, to envision where I might plant my vegetables and where I might place a bird bath. My list of plants that I want to grow is long," states Allsup. "I have lived in the home for almost a month and have yet to plant a single plant because I know the process and want to be thoughtful about it." Create a vision for that space in your backyard and use these steps to make your vision a reality.

  1. Understand your soil. It is important to know what kind of soil you have to understand what plants will grow well in your yard. You will often hear horticulturists say, "You must have the right plant for the right place." I will purchase a load of compost for two reasons. The first is I must regrade my yard to have the water flow away from the basement. The second is that I want to build up the soil so I can be successful in growing lots of flowers.
  2. Identify the keepers in the established landscape. I plan to keep roses and ostrich ferns. I will remove the lilacs because they are not getting enough sun and the burning bush because it is a landscape invasive and a detriment to native areas. At first, I was disappointed about the silver maple cascading shade on half of my backyard, but it has grown on me. The bark is beautiful and stately, and there is a plethora of wildlife there to greet me when I am mulling around in the backyard.
  3. Put it on paper. Section out your landscape to lay out exactly how you will use your garden space. The sunniest area is always reserved for the vegetable and herb plants. The area outside your dining room window should account for the view inside. The front yard should use foundation plantings that emphasize your house. Always think how you will use the space. I have sectioned out where I would like to grow prairie natives, shade perennials, herbs, and vegetables according to my sun exposure.
  4. Do the hardscapes first. Paths, porches, arches, and patios should be drawn in before implementing plants. The homeowners before me mulched a third of the landscape with rock. Since you cannot grow plants in rock, it must first be removed. I will remove all the rock and relocate it to the side of the garage. There are various stones and pavers located throughout the landscape that will be used to build a patio so that we can eat dinner in the backyard there.
  5. Start from scratch with the rest. Kill off grass by using pesticides or digging up old plants and lawn. It may take one to two weeks for turf or weeds to die from chemical treatments, but you can plant shortly after. However, in this eco-friendly world, digging up the sod, adding organic matter and tilling may be a bit harder but allows you to avoid using chemicals. I plan to use a shovel to dig up grass.
  6. Account for the mature size of the plants. The biggest landscape fails are when gardeners are not patient enough to give plants the proper plant spacing. Most perennials take about three years to become full grown, and trees may take much longer. If you need a fuller bed, you may want to plant annuals between your perennials. There are already plants on my list that have been eliminated because they will not have enough room to grow to their full potential. I decided that I will not plant plants this year but rather grow a cover crop of buckwheat to build up the soil, prevent erosion and give me time to save money for all the plants that I want to invest in for upcoming growing seasons.
  7. Use arcs. For instance, at the end of turn in a sidewalk, there may be a tree planted (a focal point). Use the tree as the center of the circle and create the planting bed within that arc. The focal point can be an ornamental grass, birdbath or a statue. My patio and landscape beds will follow this design element.
  8. Pick native plants and grasses that are easy to care for and thrive in Illinois' climate. Think about when things are blooming; every garden area should have a spring, summer and fall bloomer. I will fill in my sunniest places with spring blooming native perennials like wild geranium, shooting star, golden alexanders, summer-blooming native perennials like white wild indigo, butterfly weed, purple prairie clover, blue vervain and royal catchfly and fall blooming perennials like black-eyed Susan, liatris, and smooth blue aster. My shade garden will be filled with spring blooming native perennials like Virginia bluebells, Jacob's ladder, columbine, celandine poppy, summer-blooming native perennials like lobelia, lupine, Solomon's seal and wild geranium as well as fall blooming native perennials like mist flower, turtle head, and obedient plant.
  9. Do not forget about textural plants. I will implement grasses, sedums and lamb's ear to add texture to my garden.
  10. Tackle a little at a time. The entire landscape does not have to be installed in two weeks but can be spread out over multiple years as mini projects that one day will be your very own backyard design.

For any questions or accommodations, please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties at (309) 663-8306,

Join the Barn Quilt Heritage Trail at Eureka Public Library Sat, 17 Jun 2017 17:01:00 +0000 Join the Barn Quilt Heritage Trail at Eureka Public Library

Eureka, Ill. – Looking for a staycation idea? Please join University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Program Coordinator Reid Young, as he stops at the Eureka Public Library (202 S. Main St., Eureka) to chat all about the McLean County's Barn Quilt Heritage Trail. The discussion begins at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27.

The trail is a celebration of McLean County's farming heritage and the talents of local quilters, artists, and poets. Over 50 barns throughout the county display different 8 x 8 foot quilt squares painted on plywood. The trail guide includes a map, photo of the barn, a brief history of the barn, a note about the quilt design, and a special poem about both the barn and quilt.

To save your seat on the trail, please contact the Eureka Library at (309) 467-2922 to reserve a seat for this free program. The University of Illinois Extension Woodford County Master Gardeners are providing this unique program. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact the University of Illinois Extension Woodford County Office at (309) 467-3789.