The Garden Scoop Featuring 'In the Garden' News-Gazette articles by Ryan Pankau, Horticulture Educator, and other horticulture articles. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 A Closer Look at Rain Gardens Mon, 11 Mar 2019 14:36:00 +0000 Rain gardens are one way for homeowners to use garden design as means to mitigate storm runoff by capturing and detaining water before it leaves our properties. Although these carefully designed gardens function as tiny rainwater detection areas, you wouldn't know it unless they were inundated with storm water. When it's not raining, they are attractive gardens filled with pollinator habitat and native plants with beautiful blooms.

Earlier this winter I mentioned rain gardens in this column and many readers have expressed interest in learning more about them. I hope to take a closer look at rain gardens this week to answer folk's questions and give you a better idea about where a rain garden might fit into your landscape.

A rain garden is simply a slight depression on the landscape which detains water during storm events, allowing it to slowly infiltrate, or soak in, after the storm. It is filled with native plants which help with infiltration while creating a gorgeous garden space as well. They are constructed at strategic locations in our landscaping that receive storm water runoff from the slope of the surrounding area or the gutters and roofing system of our home.

One of the biggest keys to installing a well-functioning rain garden is identifying the proper location. The ideal location is somewhere in the landscape with a relatively small drainage area (< 5,000 sq. ft.) where there is already concern for how stormwater is discharged and the conditions are right for infiltration of water into the soil profile. Additionally, the garden needs to be placed at least 10 feet from building foundations, wells and septic systems. To protect adjacent shade trees, the garden itself should be located outside the dripline of nearby trees in full sun.

Although it seems tempting, an area where water already ponds is not a good rain garden site. The fact that water ponds there already indicates that conditions are not right for good infiltration of storm water. Perhaps the soil is compacted or other physical properties of soil in that area do not allow water to infiltrate well?

With some careful design, your rain garden can be placed "upstream" of an area where water ponds to intercept some, or all of the runoff prior to ponding. By intercepting the runoff, a rain garden allows time for the water to infiltrate the soil, becoming groundwater instead of surface water that must find someplace to go.

Rain gardens capture storm runoff with the use of small constructed berm on the downhill side of the garden. The garden area inside the berm is dug out until level and serves as a pooling area for incoming rainwater. The berm serves as a mini dam, holding back stormwater and giving it time to infiltrate. Although talk of berms and dams do make me think of a pond-type structure, rain gardens are different from ponds since they very ephemeral, drying up shortly after the rain concludes. The berm that is constructed is quite small, often only inches tall. Once the vegetation in the garden is mature, the berm is often nearly undetectable.

Deep-rooted, native prairie plants are the superstars of rain gardens. Not only do they provide beautiful native flowers and foliage, but their deep root systems aid in infiltration of the rain water. As a storm event begins to fill your rain garden, plant roots begin to absorb and use the water. In addition, all the channels that roots make throughout the soil are conduits for rainwater to enter and infiltrate. It is a well-known fact that roots and organic matter in the soil increase infiltration rates significantly.

If you are interested in learning more about rain gardens so you can design and install your own, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a very concise and useful manual for homeowners and landscapers. This guide contains details on how to calculate the drainage area contributing to your rain garden in order to properly size the berm and garden space. It also has great instructions for measurement, layout and installation the garden. There is a wonderful list of prairie plants that work well in rain gardens with details about the preferred soil type, light preference, height and flowering time of each plant. This guide can be downloaded online at:

Ryan Pankau is Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. Originally published in the News Gazette on Saturday, March 9, 2019

Create a Holiday Wreath- Sign up for VCMG Dec 4, 2018 'Make and Take' Class Mon, 05 Nov 2018 08:25:00 +0000 'Creating a Holiday Wreath' featuring Master Gardener Mary Stonecipher

DANVILLE – The holidays are right around the corner and finding time to shop, bake, decorate and enjoy time with loved ones can be challenging. How about spending quality time with friends and family while you make a fresh, fragrant evergreen wreath! Do you have someone who is difficult to buy for? This year, surprise them with a handmade wreath. If they enjoy being crafty, sign them up for the class, and give them both the gift of a fresh wreath and a new decorating skill.

The Vermilion County Master Gardeners will again hold their seasonal "Make a Holiday Wreath" class on Tuesday, December 4. The class will start at 6 p.m. and take place at International Greenhouse Company at 70 Eastgate Drive in Danville. Master Gardeners Mary Stonecipher and Pat Sollars will teach how to create a beautiful wreath. A $15 fee includes a metal wreath ring, floral wire, pinecones and a variety of fresh evergreens. Bring ribbon and decorations to add your own personal style. Master Gardeners will be on hand to help make a bow from your ribbon. You will also need hand pruners to cut branches and garden gloves to protect your hands.

Fresh wreaths add natural beauty to our homes, look festive and fill the air with their wonderful fragrance. Register now, as this class fills up quickly and we are unable to take walk-ins. Your $15 fee reserves your seat. Attendees may pay with cash or check at the Vermilion County Extension Office (3164 North Vermilion, Danville, across from the Village Mall). Credit card payments may only be processed online through the University of Illinois Extension website at If you have questions, contact the Extension Office at (217) 442-8615. Proceeds from this class fund Master Gardener programs in Vermilion County.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodations to participate call (217) 442-8615.



Time to Sign up for Master Gardener Training Fri, 12 Oct 2018 12:00:00 +0000 Are you searching for a unique gift for a friend who just retired? Would you rather be outside in your garden than anywhere else? The University of Illinois Extension Office will be holding Master Gardener Training Classes starting in January 2019. Master Gardeners are volunteers who have a love of gardening and a passion to share it with others, but despite the title, don't claim to know everything about gardening. The program focuses on learning for the love of learning. This stress-free approach, opportunity to meet fellow gardeners and share knowledge with the community is exactly what makes the Master Gardener program so popular.

During Master Gardener training, attendees have the opportunity to learn about gardening from University of Illinois educators and other Horticulture specialists in a way that is both interesting and practical to the home gardener. The classes are geared for all levels- from beginners to more experienced gardeners. Trainees attend class one day a week for ten weeks. Each session covers a different garden related topic such as Small and Large Fruits, Plant Diseases, Insects, Annual and Perennials, Vegetables, Trees, Shrubs etc. The class price is $200 with commitment to volunteer 60 hours in 2 years. Partial financial assistance is available for need-based applicants.

An extensive manual developed by University of Illinois educators for gardeners in Illinois is included in the class price.

One of the most rewarding parts about being a Master Gardeners comes from the friendships made with fellow gardeners and making a difference in your community. Master Gardeners volunteer at a variety of different community garden projects. They grow vegetables for the local food pantry, work with veterans and children. They hold a Garden Day Workshop each March, educational garden themed classes each month, a weekly radio show, speaker's bureau, annual plant sale in May and Garden Walk in June. They also research and answer questions from the public through the Extension office Horticulture Hotline. Clearly no matter where your talents lie there is something for everyone!

To start the application process or for more information please contact Tabitha Elder at the Champaign County Extension Office at 217-333-7672 or Jenney Hanrahan at the Vermilion County Extension office at 217-442-8615 or visit our website at


Vermilion County Master Gardeners Garden Walk Sunday June 11, 2017 Thu, 01 Jun 2017 16:09:00 +0000 Each year, the Master Gardeners highlight different areas of Vermilion County. This year's walk will feature gardens in the North Danville area. The Garden Walk offers the perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy the beauty of summer as you meander through gardens that are only open to the public on this one day. Bring a friend or family member and find new ideas for your own garden. Vermilion County Master Gardeners will hold their 17th annual Garden Walk on Sunday, June 11, from Noon-5 p.m. Tickets are $10.00 and available for purchase at the Vermilion County Extension Office (Plaza 31, 3164 North Vermilion, Danville across from the Village Mall), Danville Gardens, Berry's Garden Center and Big R in Danville and Tilton.

You may also purchase tickets on the day of the walk, Sunday June 11 Noon-5pm at Sunset Memorial Park 3901 Vermilion in Danville or at Bismarck Elementary School from Master Gardeners who will be stationed at each garden.

The Cunningham Children's Garden, located at Bismarck School, is the first stop on the walk. Come and explore a garden planted by children! Master Gardener Sue Colby has been working with students at Bismarck Elementary for many years to create a space filled with color, texture, butterflies and other garden elements. The Cunningham Children's Garden has a rock garden filled with succulents, school of fish (and boat), perennial bed and art work done by students and teachers over the years.

Forty-four years ago, Master Gardener John Bodensteiner and his artistic wife, Bonnie, moved into their home. At that time, it was a blank canvas without trees or flowering plants other than wildflowers. Over the years, they have used Bonnie's creativity and John's wealth of horticulture knowledge to design a small botanic garden. You will find milkweed growing sporadically in the garden beds to attract monarch butterflies. John's orchard includes apple, pear, plum, cherry, peach and pawpaw trees. For the 2017 Garden Walk, they have worked with their grandchildren to create an Alice in Wonderland theme. As you walk through the garden, you will find several tables depicting the "unbirthday" tea party. Teapots, cups and saucers and several wonderland characters are incorporated within the garden setting. Enjoy the short birthday party skit performed by the Bodensteiner's grandchildren.

Larry and Bonnie Messmore started with a bare lot in 1972. They have always enjoyed spending time outdoors however when they retired they decided to dedicate more time and energy to perfecting their garden. The results are impressive with over 75 skillfully pruned shrubs and trees. This includes an extensive collection of peach, plum, apple and cherry trees. Blueberry bushes have their own raised bed with perfect soil conditions resulting in bushes loaded with fruit. Larry has devised a system with self-watering strawberries and potatoes. There is a large vegetable garden planted vertically to make the most of space, limit diseases and best of all simplify weeding. Larry and Bonnie welcome you to enjoy their garden and look for their salute to our military.

Master Gardener Marjorie Loggins shares her property with her son, Bill Cannon. Their gardens reflect their wide-ranging taste in horticulture. Bill has an appreciation for hydrangeas, hostas and hardy hibiscus. Marjorie is known for her love of trees—magnolia, smoke trees, Hinoke cypress, Mugo pines, oak, walnut, blue spruce, white pines and even crape myrtle can be found in the landscape. Her gardening style includes Japanese and formal English elements; both are very different but are similar in organization. She has designed five flowerbeds to encompass this diversity. There is a large pond in the front yard and two more in the backyard. A pagoda, vegetable garden and variety of fruits including strawberries, peach trees and grapes await visitors.

Simon and Shirley Leung have created an eclectic space with lots of color and texture in their plants. An immaculate koi pond graces their backyard. Simon is always happy to answer questions on how to best maintain a pond! Keeping with the water theme are two fountains. Animal topiaries add a touch of whimsy balanced with statues, arbors and trellises. Reblooming irises, roses, lilies and hydrangeas fill garden beds, along with the less-common shrimp plant. Garden art, like hand-blown glass gazing balls, accent the different areas. The Leung's have added a new garden in the front of their home since they last appeared on the Garden Walk years ago.

The gardens at Sunset Memorial Park began in the 1960's when the Darby family purchased the property. Mature trees, flowering shrubs and perennials like crocosomia, hardy hibiscus, butterfly flower, liatris, amsonia and baptisia frame colorful annuals planted in masses. A swan pond is home to two mute swans and their 2017 babies. It has become a community treasure. The Darbys are honored to be the park's caretakers and invite you to visit. The park's dedicated team of horticulturists includes landscape architect and Master Gardener Mary Stonecipher along with a talented grounds crew who use flowers and plants in the landscape to bring healing and comfort to everyone who visits.

Julie and Bob Colby's property has grown and transformed from a weedy half acre in 2002 to a full acre of native plants, trees and flowering shrubs. Julie has been a Master Gardener for 8 years and has taken Master Naturalist classes as well. Her garden reflects how she has evolved as a gardener. Julie and Bob coexist with nature, working to make their property friendly to hummingbirds, pollinators, bats, birds, deer and more. While many have issues with deer in urban areas, Julie and Bob have learned that with the right native plants, deer tend to stay away from prized perennials. Special features in the garden include garden art and memorials to people and pets the couple has lost over the years.

Each year, the University of Illinois sponsors the Vermilion County Garden Walk through its Master Gardener program.  Homeowners have spent months preparing for this year's event, which will showcase special and unique gardens that are private the other 364 days of the year.

Proceeds from the Garden Walk fund Master Gardener involvement and educational programs in community gardens. In addition to spreading knowledge and beauty in our communities, Vermilion County Master Gardeners work with children and veterans as well as provide fresh vegetables through the Plant-a-Row and Garden Share programs. The Master Gardeners wish to extend a thank you to their sponsors: Berry's Garden Center, Big R, Country Arbors in Urbana, Danville Gardens, Georgetown Pallet and Schuren Nursery.

Planting Milkweed for Monarchs Mon, 15 May 2017 17:03:00 +0000 Consider this- the monarch is the only butterfly known to migrate like a bird. They can fly 100 miles in a day and travel up to 3000 miles to reach their winter habitat in Mexico. Upon arrival, they will join tens of thousands of fellow monarchs and spend the winter gathered in fir trees. As spring approaches, they will breed, lay eggs and a new generation will start the cycle all over flying north in search of milkweed.

That's where we can help. Monarchs will look for milkweed plants when they are ready to lay their eggs. Newly hatched caterpillars only eat milkweed. The toxins in milkweed which are poisonous to so many animals keep predators away from the yellow striped caterpillars. Even humans find the milky sap to be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. It is also a skin irritant.

As many people know, schools, gardeners and naturalists have been working to re-build the monarch population by restoring milkweed to our landscape. Native butterfly weed, swamp milkweed and common milkweed are all excellent choices for a monarch way station. These plants will survive in your garden for many years.

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed is a native milkweed and is the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year. It forms a small shrub-like plant but will die down to the ground completely over the winter. The plant has bright orange flowers that are attractive to many pollinators and is fairly easy to grow.

I have also had great success with annual milkweed. Tropical milkweed or blood flower is very appealing to both hummingbirds and butterflies and is pictured in the photo. With its showy red and yellow blossoms, Asclepias curassavica is a showstopper in the garden and a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. It is only a perennial in zones 8a-11 so seeding is not an issue. This annual blooms until the first frost and is deer and rabbit resistant.

No matter what type of milkweed you choose-and there are many types-try to make room in your garden for at least one or two plants. The monarch butterfly needs your support.



Vermilion County Master Gardener Annual May Plant Sale in Danville Thu, 11 May 2017 09:18:00 +0000 Everyone likes a sale and gardeners are no exception. The Vermilion County Master Gardeners will hold their annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 13 at The First Presbyterian Church, 100 North Franklin St. Danville from 7am - 2pm.

The event will take place inside the First Presbyterian Gymnasium. As always there will be a wide selection of annuals, perennials, heirloom tomatoes, herbs and even some house plants to choose from. Having the opportunity to talk with the gardener who grew the plant you wish to purchase is a unique experience.

There will be a special section for pollinator-friendly plants. Many people are interested in attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Master Gardeners will be on hand to suggest plants that will help you create a habitat to draw in nature.

Arrive early for the best selection as this is a popular community event. Doors open at 7am. Volunteers will be available to help load plants into your car. Admission and parking are free.

Proceeds fund Master Gardener involvement and educational programs at community gardens including projects with children and veterans. In 2017, Vermilion County Master Gardeners volunteered over 7,500 hours in Vermilion County. They grew and donated about 1,500 pounds of fresh produce to the local food pantry through the Plant a Row and Garden Share program last summer.

Call the Vermilion County Extension office 217-442-8615 for more information.

University of Illinois*U.S. Dept. of Agriculture* Local Extension Councils Cooperating University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need reasonable accommodations to participate call 217-442-8615.

Celebrate Spring with Garden Day Workshop-Keynote Speaker Doug Tallamy Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:23:00 +0000 The landscape is drab and we impatiently await the first tulip. But hang in there, because the University of Illinois Extension Garden Day Workshop and Spring Festival is right around the corner! For over a decade, local gardeners have celebrated the arrival of spring by attending this yearly event. Garden Day features everything plant lovers enjoy: speakers who entertain and educate, a wide variety of vendors to shop, a delicious made-from-scratch lunch, a silent auction, door prizes and a raffle room. It is a great way to shake off the winter doldrums and get inspiration for this year's garden.

Vermilion County Master Gardeners will hold this year's event on Saturday, March 11, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at DACC in Danville, IL. The doors open at 8 a.m. and the public is welcome to start shopping at the multitude of vendors and visit the raffle room. If you wish to listen to the speakers, enjoy the tasty lunch prepared by the DACC Culinary Arts School and receive a bag filled with garden information and goodies, the price is $25. It should be noted that this event has sold out the last several years with no room for walk-ins.

The first program will be 'Garden Trends' with DACC Horticulture Educator, Amanda Krabbe. Scatter gardens for the lazy gardener; underused edibles like immature sweet corn, carrot tops, radish pods and squash blossoms;and micro greens—What do all these things have in common? They are current garden trends that will be discussed in Amanda Krabbe's thought-provoking presentation. There will be micro greens to taste after her presentation.

The second program, '8 months of Color in the Garden,' will have you dreaming of beautiful blooms with Vermilion County Master Gardener Pat Sollars. Sollars has been gardening since she was a child. She has been featured on numerous Garden Walks, holds her own annual plant sale and heads the Master Gardener speaker's bureau. Pat also collects perennials with over 300 different types in her Danville garden. She will share how to achieve long-lasting color in the garden by using shrubs, trees, annuals, bulbs and of course perennials, providing you with gorgeous blooms from early spring through late autumn.

The Keynote speaker is the popular author Doug Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware-Newark. Tallamy has been called the 'guru of the habitat gardening movement'.

Tallamy has said, "We can no longer view plants only as ornaments but must consider all of their roles when selecting them for our landscapes." Many homeowners are concerned that natives are prone to insect damage, messy, unattractive and cannot be used formally. Tallamy will dispel these misconceptions and suggest ways to make your property a showpiece without losing its ecological function in the local ecosystem.

Think, as Tallamy does, about having something blooming every week from early spring through late autumn so birds and pollinators have a steady diet. This will create a living space that works with nature providing a healthy and therapeutic environment for both homeowner and wildlife.

Doug has said planting a garden is not merely outdoor decorating. "Plants do so many things, and if we only look at what they look like—if we only look at their decorative value—then we're ignoring all those wonderful things they do, and we actually pay a heavy price for that."

To reserve your spot in this annual event, stop by the Vermilion County Extension office at 3164 N Vermilion in Danville to pay by cash or check. You may wait and pay $30 at the door, but space is limited and in recent years Garden Day sold out before the big day with no room for walk-ins.

To pay by credit card, visit the website We can only accept credit card payments online.

Profits are used to fund and maintain Master Gardener educational programs and community projects in Vermilion County. If you have questions, call the University of Illinois Extension office at 217.442.8615 and ask for Jenney Hanrahan.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need reasonable accommodations to participate call 217.442.8615.


University of Illinois * U.S. Dept. of Agriculture * Local Extension Councils Cooperating