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University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties

Rock Island County
321 W 2nd Avenue
Milan, IL 61264
Phone: 309-756-9978
FAX: 309-756-9987
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8am - 4:30pm (closed from 12pm - 1pm)

Henry-Stark County
358 Front Street
Galva, IL 61434
Phone: 309-932-3447
FAX: 309-932-3454
Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am - 4:00pm (closed from 12pm - 12:30pm)

Mercer County
2106 SE Third Street
Aledo, IL 61231
Phone: 309-582-5106
FAX: 309-582-7338
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday from 8am - 4:00 pm, (closed from 12pm - 12:30pm)

News Release

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University of Illinois Extension Plans 22nd Annual Nursery School- Lessons in Gardening Symposium for Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Augustana College

(ROCK ISLAND, IL) Get inspired and cultivate your knowledge at Nursery School: Lesson in Gardening, the Quad Cities’ premiere gardening symposium! Produced by University of Illinois Extension, it will be held on Saturday, February 23 from 8 am – 4 pm at Augustana College in the Gerber Center, Rock Island, IL. Horticulture experts will lead workshops and share tips, pointers, ideas and information everyone can use - from the novice to the most experienced gardener.

New this year –classes have been arranged by tracks: Edible, Nature, Ornamental or Do It Yourself. Take all of one track or pick and choose—it’s up to you! This year’s keynote speaker hails all the way from the Toronto Botanical Garden—Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton Director of Horticulture.  He is an energetic and passionate speaker who is much in demand and has presented across Canada and the United States. At Nursery School he will be talking about “Planning & Planting for All Seasons of Interest”. Paul will highlight his personal picks of choice plants and other garden elements that will be sure to add eye-candy to the garden throughout the year. He’s a world-renowned speaker you won’t want to miss! Support for this program is provided, in part, by a grant from the Mel McKay Charitable Trust.


Registration fees are $45 through January 31, 2019.  They increase to $55 on February 1.  You must register by February 18—no walk-in registration will be accepted.  Your fee includes the keynote session and lunch, four additional classes, handouts, access to the Nursery School vendor area, morning coffee and tea, and a tote bag you can fill with catalogs, brochures and money-saving coupons from local businesses. You can register online at University of Illinois Extension’s website serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties which is or call Rock Island County Extension at (309) 756-9978 for more information.  A free shuttle will run from the parking lot to the Gerber Center starting at 7:30 am, note the first session begins at 8:15 am.

Here's the speakers and topics from which you can choose one from each session. Note: class sizes are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Session 1: 8:15—9:30 AM (choose one)

·         Edible: Food to the Table, Vickie Kittilson, Master Gardener

Want to know the food you eat is as healthy as possible? Want to taste the garden-fresh vegetables bursting with sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant colors? Want your family to appreciate the ways things grow and understand the value of food? Come learn how fun and rewarding growing your own vegetable garden can be while learning what it takes to keep your plants healthy and vigorous.

·         Nature: Pollinator Pockets, Martha Smith, Horticulture Educator, Illinois Extension

Do your part to save the pollinators - the bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects critical to our food supply and human survival.  You may not realize that manicured lawns, exotic plantings, and enticing hybrids and cultivars often provide no value to pollinators. Plant a "pocket" of flowers that attract and nurture pollinators in your own yard.  Garden designs discussed are for small spaces and are easy to plant and maintain. By placing pollinator pockets into your landscape, you provide an oasis for pollinators.

·         Ornamental: The Latest & Maybe the Greatest—What’s Trending in 2019, Maria McCulley, Owner, Hilltop Greenhouses, Illinois City, IL

As a greenhouse owner, Maria has first-hand knowledge of what’s new for this year’s gardening season. She will be sharing some of the latest materials available for 2019 and ways to use them in your own space.

·         DIY: Plant a Succulent Trough with a Mix of Plants & Cuttings, Bud LeFevre, Owner, Distinctive Gardens, Dixon, IL

Succulents are among today’s most trendy plants —and it’s no wonder. Boasting an array of colors and textures, they are easy to grow indoors or out. You can get creative in this DIY session where Bud LeFevre from Distinctive Gardens will offer his advice on succulent care and maintenance and help guide you as you put together your own trough container garden with succulents and a mix of plants. NOTE: This session is an additional $30. 00

Session 2: 9:45 - 10:45 AM (choose one)

·         Edible: Wild & Free: Eat the Weeds Deborah Lee, PhD, Holistic Health Practitioner Four Winds Farm, Quincy, IL

Catch Deborah’s passion as she takes you on a journey to explore wild-edible plants in your yard, or nearby. Through slides and samples, you will learn to appreciate a few nutritious ‘wonder-weeds’, plus how to collect and use them. You’ll also learn patterns in nature that help you know what and when to harvest. Take home a list of 100 edible plants and helpful tips.

·         Nature: Living with Backyard Garden Nuisance Wildlife Issues, Dave Shiley, Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator, Illinois Extension

Sociologists have shown through research that people want to have wildlife in their lives. However, what can we do when rabbits, squirrels and even deer wear out their welcome? Dave we will discuss management techniques to help you reduce conflicts with wildlife in your backyard and garden.

·         Ornamental: Hosta, Ella Maxwell, Horticulturist, Hoerr Nursery, Peoria, IL

What makes a great hosta?  With over 6000 registered cultivars the choices are overwhelming. Learn the characteristics that the breeders use to evaluate the diversity. Each of us buy and grow hosta for different reasons. Expand your hosta palate with this informative talk.

·         DIY: Plant a Succulent Trough with a Mix of Plants & Cuttings, Bud LeFevre, Owner, Distinctive Gardens, Dixon, IL

Repeat from session 1. Extra DIY fee of $30 for this make and take.

Session 3 - LUNCH & KEYNOTE, 11 AM- 1:15 PM

LUNCH A: 11:00-12:00 eats first while lunch B attends keynote

LUNCH B: 12:15-1:15 eats second while lunch A attends keynote

Planning & Planting for All Seasons of Interest: Gardening for all Four Seasons Paul Zammit, Nancy Eaton Director of Horticulture, Toronto Botanical Garden

Each passing season in the garden brings forth its own shining stars. Well planned gardens will provide seasonal shifts in drama, color, texture and fragrance. In this presentation, Paul will
highlight his personal picks of choice plants and other garden elements, that will be sure to add eye-candy to the garden throughout the year.


Born to shop? You’ll love our vendor area packed with items of interest to the gardener. You’ll have time during breaks and lunch to look through a wonderful selection of yard art, tools, books, plants and more. PLUS, your paid registration automatically puts you in the drawing for an array of wonderful raffle prizes donated by area businesses!

Session 4: 1:30-2:30 PM (choose one)

·         Edible: Backyard Apples Bruce J. Black, Horticulture Educator, Illinois Extension

Growing your own fruit is rewarding and challenging. In this session, Bruce will discuss how to start apples in your backyard and their successful maintenance focusing on weed management, pruning, irrigation, harvesting and post-harvest handling tips.

·         Nature: Moths Magic Dan Mays, Master Gardener, Iowa State Extension 

One of the most overlooked delights of the garden are small creatures that spend most of their lives right under our noses. Moths tend to go unseen, in spite of the fact they outnumber butterflies 10 to 1, and many moths will easily win a beauty contest against their butterfly cousin. Learn how-to, where-to, and when-to recognize both the beauty and wonder that these winged garden guests impart to your garden.

·         Ornamental: Dazzling Dahlias & Vibrant Zinnias, Chris Noth, Dahlia & Zinnia Aficionado

You may remember Chris from the 70’s band Natty Scratch or have taken a guitar lesson from him at Davenport’s River Music Experience. These days, from the simple gift of a packet of giant zinnia seeds, Noth has become somewhat of an expert dahlia and zinnia grower. He’ll share his resources for learning the basics as well as tips and tricks he’s developed over the years including seed starting in his basement, overwintering the tubers and making spectacular bouquets of total color. Learn how to get blooms as early as possible and sustain the parade of color throughout the entire gardening season.

·         DIY: Making the Most of your Afternoon Tea, Kristin Bogdonas, Nutrition & Wellness Educator, Illinois Extension

Join Kristin for a TEA-rific make-n-take. This session will engage you with a brief history of tea and tea gardens, types of tea, growing herbal teas and brewing recommendations, health benefits and tea samples. Everyone will get to be creative and make-n-take a few sachets from an assortment of herbs and tea ingredients. NOTE: This session is an additional $15.

Session 5: 2:45-3:45 PM (choose one)

·         Edible: Unique & Colorful Vegetable Cultivars, Bruce J. Black, Horticulture Educator, Illinois Extension

The best ways to entice new gardeners is growing unique and colorful vegetables. In this session, Bruce will discuss plant characteristics that cause these changes, and popular & new cultivars of unique vegetables.

·         Nature: Making Your Backyard More Bird-Friendly, Dave Shiley, Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator, Illinois Extension

Many of us enjoy feeding birds by adding a bird feeding station to our backyard. As gardeners we can do much more to enhance the backyard habitat beyond the bird feeder. Learn how trees and shrubs, flowering plants, nest boxes and water can round out your backyard habitat for birds.

·         Ornamental: Hydrangeas Ella Maxwell, Horticulturist, Hoerr Nursery, Peoria, IL

There has been an explosion of cultivated varieties in the hydrangea family.  This talk will help to explain the different species, cultivation, flowering shapes and times, and how to prune.  There is a hydrangea for every landscape situation.  Learn about some of the newest introductions that you can look to add to your garden landscape.

·         DIY: Herbal Vinegar Deborah Lee, PhD, Holistic Health Practitioner, Four Winds Farm, Quincy, IL

This hands-on class will show you how easy it is to safely make herbal vinegar for use in: cooking, salad dressing, gifting and more. Together, we will make an herbal vinegar for you to take home. Participants  will receive a decorative serving container. In addition, a helpful study guide will be useful for years to come. NOTE: This session is an additional $15.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact our office at (309) 756-9978. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your access needs.

Local Contact: Tracy Jo Mulliken, Program Coordinator, Horticulture and Agriculture,