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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

Perennial Flower Garden Design

Have you ever seen a garden that just took your breath away? You visit two months later and the garden is again in full glory and you wonder how do people do it? How do you design a garden that offers visual interest through the seasons? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, highlights University of Illinois Extension resources that will help you create your very own eye-stopping flowerbed.

The Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design program has helped many gardeners create amazing outdoor spaces. Created by Martha Smith, extension educator in horticulture, this program is available online at There you'll find lessons designed to help the homeowner evaluate their landscape, select a garden site, and follow a step-by-step approach to creating a perennial garden suited to their own personal tastes. The information is free and available anytime you are ready to begin.

If you prefer a face-go-face program, don't miss this year's Gardeners' Big Day. I started this annual event in 2000 in partnership with Spoon River College and am proud of how the event has grown and expanded over the years. This year's Big Day will be at Dickson Mounds Museum on April 6th. I will give the keynote presentation to kick off the day. My "New Plant Runway" presentation will highlight the top new plants for 2013. Every year new plants are introduced to fit a particular horticultural need or garden niche. The best of the best is promoted each year through the various gardening organizations and plant testing groups. See the top plants this year and select a few to try in your own garden.

Another popular Extension program is the 4-Seasons Gardening Telenet Series. The 2013 series begins on April 9th with "Spruce Problems" and ends October 1st with "Landscape Design." In between are programs about pollinators, tomatoes, your yard after the drought, plants for dry sites, winter garden tips, and more. These are broadcast simultaneously to Extension offices all over Illinois.

While on our website, be sure to visit my horticulture and blog pages. My "ILRiverHort" blog provides general garden information and the "Community Garden Programming" blog is a place to learn more about community, school, and youth gardens. In the Master Gardener My "Eye-Spy on Current Plant Problems" Master Gardener page gives information on current plant issues and pests. The horticulture pages provide links to other sites. You'll also find links to my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and our YouTube garden sites.

Finally, if you prefer to talk to someone in person about your plant or garden design questions, our 200 Master Gardener volunteer covering Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties are happy to "Help Others Learn to Grow." You might even consider being a Master Gardener too.

More information about any University of Illinois Extension horticultural program is found on our website at or by calling your county Extension office at 547-3711 (Lewistown), 543-3308 (Havana), 347-6614 (Pekin), or 685-3140 (Peoria).

I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming program. Have fun designing your new garden!

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