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A Merry Gardener

Horticulture for daily living
In the Garden
volcano mulch

Volcano Mulch

The tension is building in the hearts and minds of gardeners as the wet and cold weather continues to delay most outdoor garden activities. Before the weather breaks and releases the surge of pent up garden energy, I want to get on my soapbox for a moment to attempt to turn the tide against one of the worst practices landscaping that I continue to see everywhere I look. Well-meaning hom...

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Helleborus  Walhelivor  MO Botanic photo from website

Lenten Rose

This February, the ice and chill have me dreaming of spring. I have buried my desk beneath a foot high stack of seed catalogs and scribbled garden plans on sticky notes. I can officially say that plant fever has set in. In this unique month, when Valentine's Day coincides with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I cannot think of a more apropos time to highlight one of the earliest harbing...

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borage feeding web
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Holes and Frass; Garden Guests

One morning in mid-July I found a surprise in my herb garden. My lovely borage ( see my post on borage ) had been turned into lunch by some hungry lepidopteran larvae (caterpillars)...

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Edible Ornamental, Uncommon Herb – Borage

Giant, bright blue eyes in a child have the power to strike me still. The astounding, azure blue star of a borage flower catch me and hold me fast. Few flowers produce such a remarkable and moving color as that of the clear-sky blue borage blossom. Borage is an herb unknown to many. It is an annual, growing 2-3 feet tall with a basal rosette architecture. The leaves are rough and covere...

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C  annuum NuMex Easter

Spice Up Your Landscape with Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental chile peppers may provide just the kick you're looking for to spice up your landscape. Breeders at the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute have paired the vibrant and variable colors available in chile peppers with a compact growth habit and upward-facing fruits. The result? A whole suite of ornamental chile pepper cultivars....

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Spring Struggles

If you have ever found yourself second-guessing your spring planting enthusiasm because of all of the miserable failures that you have faced, know that you are not alone! Novice and expert gardeners alike face a number of challenges early in the growing season. In the hopes of demonstrating that your own failures are not uncommon and certainly are not cause to give up, I've decided to share a f...

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Roses are Red, Pruning's for You

With Valentine's Day just behind us, I have roses on the brain. It's a good thing too, because it is time to get out and do some spring pruning on your rose bushes. While it may still be a little bit early according to the calendar, the early warming here in Southern Illinois has spring on the fast track. Forsythias are blooming, maples are breaking bud, and daffodils are showing their sunny fa...

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Tranel and Hager

Weed Smarts - Sharing the Science

The biggest piece of the U of I Extension mission is sharing research knowledge with the public. The College of ACES (Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences) has been running a Twitter campaign called #askACES, in which researchers are given th...

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Dreaming up the Summer Garden in Winter

In the throes of winter, thoughts of the summer garden may seem but a distant memory, or a future long in the distance. However, winter is a great time to begin dreaming up new ideas for next year's garden. A blustery January evening is the perfect time to settle in to your favorite chair with a hot mug of tea and a stack of seed catalogues. The reality is that if you are going to start...

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Beloved Butternut

As nights grow colder and frost begins to make its sparkling appearance on lawns and cars, gardeners turn to the warm and spicy flavors of fall to keep the chill at bay. Many fall-harvested crops seem to have been made to perfectly harmonize with the characteristic holiday spices. One of my favorite fruits of the season is the butternut squash. This winter squash, from the same plant family as...

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