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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Holiday and Seasonal Topics
Planting black tupelo tree

Fall is a Great Time to Plant Trees, Shrubs, and Bulbs

Fall is known for planting spring flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. According to Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, fall is also an excellent time to plant woody plants and some perennials. "Most plants prefer a particular season of the year to be moved," says Ferree. Deciduous plants are most easily transplanted in the fall after the...

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pool view on 9-17-12

Gardening in August

While walking around our yard last night my husband Mark commented that our gardens look better than ever. We usually spend August enjoying the garden instead of working in it all the time. Still there are several activities that can be done in August. First and foremost, don't let up on mosquito control. Dump the water! Mosquitoes will grow in almost anything that holds water. Take a walk aro...

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tree planting

Energy Efficiency and Trees by Duane Friend

Energy costs have hit everyone hard! Certainly, there are many tips for conserving energy costs from programmable thermostats to lighting tips. One big influence on home energy costs is the home landscape. External air temperature, solar radiation, wind movement, and humidity influence your home. Proper use and placement of plants and structures can help modify these factors and thus re...

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Post Beetles

Winter's Impact on Insects and Plants

Unfortunately, the winter has taken a toll on many plants. Evergreens are especially impacted, many showing significant winter desiccation or even death. The severe cold winter compounded plant stresses already inflicted by recent severe droughts and other weather extremes. Not only did trees likely not have enough internal reserves going into winter, but they were also not able to take up more...

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Fulton/Mason County Master Gardener Greenery Workshop
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Holiday Cones

Each year the Fulton and Mason County Master Gardeners hold a greenery workshop during their last meeting of the year. Attendees bring greenery and other decorations to use in their arrangements. I brought boughs of pine, cedar, and bayberry and pinecones, ribbon, and lights for decorations. This year I was fortunate to have my sister Lynn Miller and Mom Doris Simmons join me. They brought heml...

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Rhonda Ferree pulls sugarcane through a press in Costa Rica.
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Sugar-n-Spice and Everything Nice

Sugar and spice make everything nice, especially Christmas cookies. But, do you know where your sugar and spice come from? The sugar we use comes from two different plants: sugar beets or sugarcane. Worldwide, 70 percent of our sugar comes from sugarcane. Sugarcane is a tall grass that grows in tropical areas. In a tropical setting like Hawaii and Jamaica, it grows in fields and looks s...

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2018 Garden Calendar

2018 Garden Calendar Available

My 2018 Garden Calendar is now available. It provides garden tips, a calendar of events, and a picture each month spotlighting University of Illinois Extension volunteers and programs. New this year are hyperlinks to information on various topics in the monthly tips. Just click on the underlined-blue links while viewing the electronic copy and it will take you to the connecting ILRiverH...

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Source:  University of Illinois Extension


The poinsettia is the traditional Christmas flower. It was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, first U. S. ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of southern Mexico. The colorful parts of the poinsettia are actually modified leaves called bracts. The real poinsettia flower is the small yellow "ball" in the middle of the colored bracts. The r...

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Frankincense and Myrrh

Just what are frankincense and myrrh? Certainly, they are part of many Christmas stories, but do you know what those products are and why they were so valuable? Here is more information on both of these plant-based products. Frankincense and myrrh are both resins -- dried tree sap -- that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh), whi...

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Holiday Cactus
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Holiday Cactus

Which type of holiday cactus do you have? There are many different types of cacti that bloom between Thanksgiving and Easter. Each is appropriately named by the holiday it blooms near. The differences between these plants are found in the leaf edges. Christmas cacti have scalloped edges while Thanksgiving and Easter cacti have pointed edges. The Thanksgiving cactus is most common, proba...

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Give Rosemary as a Sign of Love and Remembrance

Rosemary is a wonderful herb. It not only looks and smells great but makes a great addition to many culinary dishes. Rosemary is often found at Christmas time in wreaths and topiaries. If you follow the meaning of flowers, rosemary signifies love and remembrance, making it a great holiday gift. Rosmarinus officinalis is a tender perennial plant that is native to the coo...

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English walnut trees in California.
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Nutty for Nuts

I remember mom having nuts in the shell on the coffee table during the holidays. Although I didn't eat many nuts at that time, I liked using the little tools to crack open the nut and dig out its sweet inner meat. Let's look at the plants that give us these delicious morsels. There are two types of walnuts: Black and English. In the shell nut mixes feature English walnuts ( Juglans r...

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Miniature Garden

Fun Garden Gifts

I made my first miniature garden at a recent Master Gardener meeting in Canton. It's such a pretty, fun little garden that I smile every time I see it. Are you searching for the "perfect" gift for a gardener in your family? As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, here are some pretty, fun ideas to consider for the gardener on your shopping list. Make them a miniature garden or give t...

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During the holiday season many different types of plants are available for decorating and display including the spectacular amaryllis. Amaryllis flowers make a bold statement. Borne on 1 ½ to 2-foot tall stalk, the trumpet-shaped, 6-inch blooms dominate their surroundings. After flowering, the plant produces attractive, bright green leaves, and with a little care will flower year after...

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Actaea pachypoda%u2013 White baneberry or Doll%u2019s eyes
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Doll's Eyes…A Great Halloween Plant

Some plants are perfect for Halloween. Bat flowers, devils claw, and corpse flower come to mind. Another creepy looking plant is doll's eyes. I'm not sure why dolls with staring, glass eyes are so scary, but they can be truly frightening to some people. I used to have a recurring dream as a little girl about a scary doll in an old house. Weird, I know! I recently found a doll's eye plan...

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IMG 7548
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Pine Needle Drop

Parts of my backyard and woodland are covered with fallen pine needles. We have a large number of mature white pine trees that yearly drop their needles. Annual needle drop is normal and beneficial. Martha Smith, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension said it well, "There is really nothing to be concerned about," "What is happening is commonly called inner needle dr...

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Spoon River Drive Scavenger Hunt

The Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive is about to begin! I challenge you to ignore the crowds and traffic jams and to focus on our beautiful Spoon River Country. As a former guidebook stated, "The Spoon River Valley is filled with woodlands and fertile farmlands that provide both a natural beauty and rich cultural heritage." During these two weekends, take the opportunity...

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floral arrangment Ferree

The Meaning of Flowers

Flowers are a great way to communicate your love and affection. Over the years, flowers have developed meaning and are known as a way to convey a special message. Flowers can represent everything from friendship to true love. Chrysanthemums show friendship. Gardenias represent secret love. Lilies are a traditional wedding flower and mean chastity, innocence, and purity. Give a primrose...

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Fairy Garden at Danville Gardens

2017 Garden Center Trek reveals Fairies, Succulents, and Butterflies

I enjoy shopping for plants each spring. In addition to our usual local spots, my husband and I like to visit new garden centers each year. This year's garden shopping trek included Jacksonville, Springfield, Champaign, Danville, and Ottawa. At each location, I pay particular attention to new plants and garden trends. This year's trends were obviously fairies, succulents, and butterflies....

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Rhonda Havana tree planting 2015 e

Celebrate Arbor and Earth Days

Arbor Day and Earth Day happen each April. This year Arbor day is April 28 and Earth Day is April 22. Both offer an opportunity for us to step back and enjoy our natural world. Arbor Day was founded about 145 years ago in Nebraska, on April 10, 1872, after much urging from Julius Sterling Morton, a journalist and member of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture. Morton got the board to appro...

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2017 garden calendar

Gardening in February

February often gives me the winter blahs. When that happens, gardening tasks help perk me up. Consider these various February gardening activities to reduce the winter blues. GENERAL Repair and paint lawn and garden tools, window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use. Continue planning for the sum...

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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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