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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
Juniper berries

Spirited Plants

Happy New Year! Where did 2016 go? Whether you toast in the New Year with sparkling grape juice or a more spirited drink, it is interesting to think of all the plants that make up spirits. Spirits are actually named by the fermented material from which they are distilled. Various grains make up whiskey, vodka, gin and most types of schnapps. Brandy is made from fermented grape juice, an...

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IMG 5069

Disposing of Your Christmas Tree

Once the Christmas holiday is over, the chore of taking down and disposing of the cut Christmas tree remains. Today, because of solid waste regulations, most communities will no longer permit the used Christmas trees to be hauled out with the garbage and sent to the sanitary landfill. However, Christmas tree disposal does not have to be a problem, because there are several environmental...

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Christmas rose (Helleborus sp.)

Christmas Rose

What is a Christmas Rose? It may be roses given at Christmas or a particular china pattern. It could also refer to a perennial plant called the Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose. The Christmas and Lenten Roses are Helleborus plants that are said to bloom at Christmas or in the winter. In actuality, they bloom in February or March in our part of the world. Still, they are a joy to see bloomi...

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Herbs growing indoors in an Aerogarden.

2017 Gardening Calendar

My 2017 Garden Calendar is now available. It provides garden tips, a calendar of events, and a picture each month spotlighting Master Gardener (MG) projects. Here is a preview. January displays MGs teaching over 2000 students about watersheds during the annual Peoria Clean Water Celebration. A tip suggests that we feed and water birds regularly. February features the Peoria MGs...

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Photo by Julia Pryor

Holly and Mistletoe

Holly and mistletoe are symbols of the Christmas season. They are very different plants, but both quite beautiful in their own unique ways. Mistletoe is actually quite a pest in the South. It is most often found in the South, although it is occasionally found in Southern Illinois. It is a semi-parasitic plant that attaches itself to deciduous trees and "feeds" from that...

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All About Cranberries

Cranberries are a staple for many people during the holidays. We use them to make cranberry salad or jello for the holiday dinner. Many people also string them with popcorn to make a beautiful garland decoration. I love to eat cranberries and find their history and production practices fascinating. Jennifer Fishburn, University of Illinois Extension Educator in Horticulture, explains all about...

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Winter desiccation on yews.

Winterize Evergreens to Prevent Injury

Last year I had a lot of browning on one of my evergreen yew plants. It is next to the house near the dryer vent. The vent's hot air caused my plant to dry out quickly, with some areas dying completely. This year I am prepared to protect this plant and others like it. Here is how I'll do that. Narrow-leaved evergreens such as yews, arborvitae, and hemlock are especially susceptible to w...

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Christmas tree production in Oregon

Selection and Care of Fresh Cut Christmas Trees

There is nothing like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree to put you in the holiday spirit. Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect tree for your home and assure it stays fresh throughout the holiday season. The first step to the perfect tree is the selection. The most popular cut tree sold is the Scotch pine, but there are other types available too. Scotch pines are often loc...

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Live Christmas Trees Can Live Years in Your Landscape

If you plan to add an evergreen tree to your landscape next year, consider using it as a Christmas tree now. Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as it sounds. It requires some planning ahead, and only allows a Christmas tree in your home for a few days. Many trees used as Christmas trees also make good landscape trees. We typically think of pines, firs, and spruces when talking about Chri...

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