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Rhonda J. Ferree

Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture

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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
oakleaf hydrangea on 6-4-12
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Hydrangeas in my garden

Last year I decided to devote a corner of my yard to hydrangeas. There are so many different types of hydrangeas in the marketplace right now. I'm curious to try them in my own yard. So far I have Oakleaf, Quickfire, and Pinkie-Winkie. Unfortunately, most hydrangeas do not like dry soil conditions. Since I garden in sand, that is difficult. I do irrigate, but irrigation is not always as good as a...

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blossom end rot on tomato

Blossom End Rot

Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that she has received many vegetable related calls lately. "Most of them pertain to the drought we are in". "In particular, we expect to see a lot of blossom-end rot this year". As the name suggests, blossom-end rot develops at or near the bottom (or blossom end) of the fruit and appears as a slight, water-soaked...

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Part of yard without irrigation on 7-13-12
NOTE: We are watering the spruce tree!
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Drought...Too many sad, dry plants in my yard!

Drought! Some say that this is the worse drought they have ever seen. Garden and agricultural plants are burning up in the hot sun without any rain in sight. I garden in sand, which makes the problem even worse. The irrigated parts of my yard look great, but plants that have to endure the drought conditions are suffering. Some plants will not survive. The pictures above show a few examples. R...

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Tomato on right and tomatillo on left on 7-13-12. Notice leaves go all the way to the ground on this tomato. I rotated it to a new location this year. Last year's tomatoes had lots of foliar leaf blight.
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My Garden on July 13, 2012

As I walked around my yard last night, I saw drastic differences between plants grown in irrigation and those enduring the drought. The irrigated portions are lush and healthy. I especially admire the cherry pie rose, banana trees, cardinal climber vines, zinnias, lobelia, vinca, herbs, and so much more! Most amazing is our irrigated lawn. If you've followed my posts over the past year or so, you...

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Watch for Mites on Evergreen Trees

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Rhonda Ferree warns homeowners to watch for mite damage on evergreen trees and shrubs. Hot, dry summers result in increased mite feeding on plants. Ferree most commonly sees mite problems on the dwarf Alberta spruce, but they can attack a wide range of plants. Spruce spider mites are one of the most damaging pests of spruces and many other...

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Lilac shrubs drying up from drought on 7-13-12
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Water Trees NOW

2012 is quickly becoming one of the driest summers we've ever seen in west central Illinois. The past few weeks I've written in this column about drought tolerant plants and how to water landscape plants. At this point, I am most concerned about trees and shrubs, so that is my focus this week. Most people assume that established trees and shrubs can handle drought conditions. Often this is tru...

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Tree Diseases

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Rhonda Ferree reports that thiss seems to be the year of tree diseases. "Now don't be alarmed," says Ferree, "I've seen a lot of diseases on trees this year, but happily most of them are not devastating." The reason for the increase in tree disease this year is weather. Spring weather conditions this year were perfect for many tree dis...

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Gloriosa daisy on 6-11-12
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Drought Tolerant Plants

I am amazed by plants that can grow in very hot, dry conditions. In fact, certain plants seem to thrive in the hot, dry weather. Since I garden in the even drier sands of Mason county, I have tried to use drought tolerant plants, whenever possible. Here are some plants that have worked well for me over the years. The old standard annuals seem to do best for me in drought years. The...

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Zinnia exhibiting fasciation on 7-13-12
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Fascinating Fasciation

Some of my plants are showing fasciation this summer. Fasciation is a relatively rare condition that happens when plants grow abnormally into flattened or contorted shapes. Almost all of my celosia have fasciated stems. It is also occurring on flowers in my Profusion Fire zinnia, which came back from seed this year in my garden. For more information on this weird phenomenon, r...

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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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2012 Drought Warning! WATER your Landscape and Garden Plants

This year is quickly becoming one of the driest in history. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that if your yard is like hers, your landscape plants are suffering from the dry conditions. The rapid onset of poor looking landscape plants is cause for concern. Here are some resources with more information about how to manage plants during this dr...

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Bagworms...Is it too late to spray?

I had a question about bagworm control. Here are the current University of Illinois Extension recommendations. If the bags are less than ¾-inch long you can use the microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Dipel, Thuricide). If large bagworms are present (more than about 3/4-inch long), a conventional insecticide probably will provide better results....

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