Prairies to Perennials An almanac of all things that grow in Lincoln's backyard. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Bringing Gardening Inside Tue, 14 Nov 2017 10:11:00 +0000 University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers can choose from a variety of volunteer opportunities.Some plan and care for demonstration gardens. Others present programs on a variety of horticultural topics or answer gardening questions from the public. For the past 15 years, Master Gardeners have visited St. Joseph's Home on Thursdays from Spring through Fall, talked with residents and their family visitors, and spend time with residents doing a garden-related activity. Many of the residents formerly had yards planted with flowers, fruits and vegetables, and share memories and experiences during the weekly meetings.

Activities  include PowerPoint presentations, some have lots of plant materials to pass around and discuss, and some are "hands on" like repotting residents' plants that have overgrown their containers. Occasionally, local experts make guest appearances and share their knowledge on topics including orchids, day lilies, and birds. When the activity involves in-season fruits and vegetables, the program frequently includes a tasting or edible snack.

One activity that's popular year after year is flower arranging. In the companion pictures, you can see Master Gardeners Pam Catalani, Mary Kern, Frank Thornton, and Chris Schmitt preparing flowers for residents,one arrangement in progress, and some finished vases for residents to take to their rooms.

The Garden Club is a volunteer activity that brings the garden inside to share with folks who have limited opportunities to get out. While this Committee receives little attention, the  Master Gardener volunteers find it a satisfying and worthwhile way to encourage interest in horticulture.

Article and photos contributed by Barbara Rogers, Master Gardener volunteer

Fall Garden Tasks Thu, 02 Nov 2017 15:22:00 +0000 Don't let recent cool temperatures make you think that the gardening season is over. Fall is a great time to get a few last chores done and get a head start on next spring. Here are a few items to add to your fall garden "to do" list.

It's not too late to plant spring bulbs. While bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, they can be planted until the ground freezes. Select firm, disease free bulbs. Plant large bulbs such as tulips and daffodil 6 to 8 inches deep. Small bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth should be planted 3 inches deep. Be sure to plant bulbs with pointed end up and flat side down.

Clean annual plant debris from vegetable and flower gardens. This includes plant remnants and weeds. Don't underestimate the power of a few weeds. Remember the saying "One year of seeds equals seven years of weeds."

Perennial flower beds should be mulched. Be sure to do this after plants are dormant, around mid-November. Mulch with a loose organic mulch to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Most plant debris can be removed from the garden, however ornamental grass foliage can be left as it adds winter interest to the landscape.

Start a compost pile with leaves and garden debris. Many gardeners enjoy turning composting leaves, lawn clippings, shredded twigs, and vegetable and food waste into something that can be reapplied to the landscape. Composted material is a great soil amendment. A compost pile should be contained structure. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate- tie four pallets together or stack several layers of concrete blocks together. The minimum size for a compost pile should be 3' x 3' x 3' and the maximum size is 5' x 5' x 5'. For compost bin ideas stop by the Master Gardener demonstration gardens located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in front of building #30.

Enjoy the beauty of fall while preparing your garden for winter.

Plant a Pollinator Pocket Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:22:00 +0000 Pollinators are crucial to the pollination of more than 150 food crops in the United States. Many of these being fruits, nuts and berries which wildlife depend on and humans enjoy eating.

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, flies, wasps and bats. As gardeners, we can provide pollinator-friendly gardens that provide valuable habitat to insects and wildlife. Consider including native plants in gardens. Native plants once established need less water, don't need fertilized, require less maintenance and are better adapted to local growing conditions.

A well designed pollinator garden should include:

  • A variety of flower shapes, sizes and bloom times
  • If possible, use native plants
  • Clumps of similar flowers
  • Located garden in full sun
  • Provide a nesting location such as bare ground or a hollow stump or log
  • Provide shallow water sources

Pollinator plant and design ideas can be found by visiting one of our University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer demonstration gardens.

-Extension office, 700 S. Airport Drive, Springfield

-Demonstration gardens, along 8th street, in front of Building #30, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield

-Imagination Station Children Garden, Henson Robinson Zoo, Springfield

-Prairie Wildflower Garden, Lincoln Memorial Garden, behind Ostermeier house, Springfield

While at the Children Garden at Henson Robinson Zoo, check out the pollinator faceboard or read a good book from the Treehouse Library.

National Honey Bee Day Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:16:00 +0000 Happy National Honey Bee Day, August 19, 2017. In 2009, the first National Honey Bee Day was celebrated, this day continues annually on the third Saturday in August. This national day was started by grassroots minded beekeepers to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion.

Most beekeepers are considered hobbyist. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, there are currently 3,930 beekeepers in Illinois with 28,586 colonies.

A few facts about honey bees:

  • Honey bees visit approximately 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey. Flying approximately 55,000 miles to collect enough nectar to make one pound of honey.
  • The average honey bee worker makes 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • Honey bees are the only insects that produce food that humans eat.
  • A honey bee flies between 12 to 15 miles per hour.
  • Honey bees produce honey, propolis, royal jelly, and beeswax.
  • Honey never goes bad.
  • A hive contains three type of bees- a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
  • Honey bees communicate with one another by smell and dances.
  • A honey bee never sleeps.
Visitor to the Demonstration Gardens Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:05:00 +0000 On the first day of the Illinois State Fair, University of Illinois Extension master gardener volunteers observed a monarch butterfly. This butterfly could have been the same one that emerged on August 6, but no way to know for sure. Monarchs are easily recognized by their orange and black wings.

A few quick facts about monarch butterflies.

  • Butterflies have a 3.5 to 5 inch wingspan.
  • Monarchs spend the winter in the mountains of central Mexico.
  • They have a complete metamorphosis life cycle.
  • Egg stage last 3 to 8 days.
  • Caterpillar (larva) stage last 9 to 14 days.
  • Chrysalis (pupa) stage last 8 to 15 days.
  • Spring and early summer adult stage is 2 to 5 weeks.
  • Late summer to early fall adult stage may fly to central Mexico, living nine months.
  • In 1975, the monarch butterfly became the Illinois official insect.
  • A pollinator garden should include milkweed plants for caterpillars, and nectar producing plants for butterflies.
  • A pollinator garden should be placed in full sun with protection from wind.
  • For more tips on starting a butterfly garden, visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Butterfly Gardens brochure,
The demonstration gardens are located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, in front of Building #30, along 8th street. If you have questions, call (217) 782-4617.
Treasure Found in Nature's Hideaway (Part 2) Tue, 08 Aug 2017 15:48:00 +0000 University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers are thrilled to report the emergence of the Monarch Butterfly from the chrysalis. Volunteers have been observing the chrysalis inside the bean teepee within the Idea Garden on the Illinois State Fairgrounds!

The chrysalis has been observed and photographed daily from July 29 to August 5, and we can hardly believe our good fortune to be there immediately after the Monarch emerged from the chrysalis and while it's wings were still drying!

The chrysalis began to darken on day 7 of our observation and the shape of the wings became clearly visible.

The Monarch emerged on day 8 of our observation. Pupal (chrysalis) stage is where the caterpillar transforms to an adult. This stage takes 10 to 14 days to complete.

Monarchs are capable of flying 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico and back again to the southern United States. Millions migrate every autumn, often stopping in the same rest spots each year. Some even fly as far as Hawaii and eastern Australia. In early spring and summer, returning females travel north in relays, new generations replacing old, laying their eggs along the way. The fully grown caterpillar changes to a barrel-shaped, leaf-green chrysalis studded with gold dots, then shows the colors of the developing butterfly inside. The change from egg to butterfly takes about 4 weeks. There are many generations a year.

The demonstration gardens are located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, in front of Building #30, along 8th street. If you have questions, call (217) 782-4617.

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." – Hans Christian Andersen

Contributing author and photos by Karen Kirk, University of Illinois Extension Sangamon county Master Gardener volunteer

Treasure Found in Nature's Hideaway Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:50:00 +0000 Treasure Found in Nature's Hideaway

Nature's Hideaway is one of five "Idea" gardens within the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens in Springfield.. Nature's Hideaway encourages family gardening using readily available, inexpensive materials and seeds that are fun and easy. This garden features a bean teepee surrounded by zinnias, a small vegetable bed, and flanked by sunflowers in each corner.

While scouring bean plants for remnants of those very persistent Japanese Beetles and removing expired leaf debris from the teepee a hidden treasure was discovered . . .

A Monarch chrysalis was observed. Master Gardeners have observed the chrysalis daily and have already seen changes; note the outline of wings in the picture. What a great hiding place!

We are fortunate to have a "Pollinator Pocket" Garden with several varieties of milkweed as part of our Idea Gardens and are so pleased that at least one Monarch caterpillar has found a perfect hiding place in "Nature's Hideaway Garden."

A wide variety of bees, caterpillars, butterflies, and moths are regularly observed enjoying sustenance and shelter within the gardens.

Please come out to enjoy a variety of gardening ideas expressed in five different garden displays.

French Country Garden

The French Country gardens originated in England in the early 18th Century and spread to France. They were oftentimes inspired by paintings of such artists as Monet. The gardens can be as formal (such as neat manicured beds and clipped hedges) to wild and rambling beds. The colors can range from cool pastels to bolder colors and give off a rather romantic feeling.

Nature's Hideaway

Nature's Hideaway encourages family gardening using readily available inexpensive materials and seeds that are fun and easy.

Pollinator Pocket

Gardeners can help support pollinators through "pollinator pockets." Mini-gardens with selected flowering plantsthat provide food and shelterto bees, butterflies and other creatures vital to our own food supply.

Sensory Garden

A Sensory Garden is designed to stimulate the five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell and sound using plants with different shapes, sizes, colors, textures, scents and flavors, as well as other elements in the garden.

Difficult Gardening

The Difficult Gardening Plot demonstrates gardening options in difficult situations. Creation of borders to conceal street traffic, potted plants when time and space are limited, and plants that "hide" poles, antennas, etc. are shown. Other gardening options include easy to grow plants, such as zinnias, in other than optimal soil conditions and plants that require little care such as succulents.

The demonstration gardens are located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, in front of Building #30, along 8th street. If you have questions, call (217) 782-4617.

Contributing author, Karen Kirk, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer.