Flowers, Fruits, and Frass Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 "What's Wrong With My Tree?" Series: Common Problems and Solutions Fri, 19 Apr 2019 11:44:00 +0000 You are invited to attend these in-person hands on workshops designed to help you better able answer questions from the public. All the workshops will be at the Bloomington Extension office and start at 1:00. Sessions will run 60-90 minutes. The public is  invited.

The Extension office receives an extensive amount of questions regarding tree health, including the not so simple question, "what is wrong with my tree?" During this session on tree diagnosis, we will help the volunteers attempt to answer this question. Registration is available at

April 25: Illinois' Most Unwanted Invasive Pests with Kelly Estes,Agricultural Pest Survey Coordinator for University of Illinois.
Hearthe latest most unwanted insects pests in Illinois that threaten farmers, gardeners and homeowners.Kelly will discuss identifying characteristics, host preferences, where these insects are right now, and what their population means for Illinois.

May 02: Top 12 Tree Insects with Kelly Allsup,U of I Extension Horticulture Educator.
Kelly will address the most likely insect culprits of tree decline in your backyard: telltale signs and symptoms, diagnosis, and the prevention treatments available. Participants will leave with educational handouts to assist with identifying these tree insects.

May 16: Assessing Tree Health with Chris Enroth,U of I Extension Horticulture Educator.
Identify the most common environmental tree issues that cause tree decline in the landscape. Tree health can be difficult to determine, but routinely checking your tree may help you notice problems as they appear.

May 23: Tree Diseases with Diana Plewa,U of I Plant Diagnostician Outreach Specialist.
Every home owner, Master Gardener and Master Naturalists should know the eight most devastating tree diseases that come into the Plant Clinic each year. She will discuss the telltale signs and symptoms for identification, when to send plant samples to the Plant Clinic for a definitive diagnosis, as well as prevention and treatment methods.

Spring into Action with Livingston County Master Gardeners Help Desk on May 2nd Thu, 18 Apr 2019 11:28:00 +0000 Spring into Action with Livingston County Master Gardeners Help Desk

PONTIAC, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension Livingston County Master Gardeners will open the walk-in Help Desk for the 2019 growing season on Thursday,

May 2. The Help Desk is located at the Livingston County Extension Office [1412 South Locust, Pontiac] or by calling them at (815) 842-1776. From May 2 on, the volunteers are available from 9 a.m. to Noon every Thursday throughout spring, summer and early fall.

In 2018, the service answered hundreds of questions on gardening and landscapes, helping gardeners with their woes.

Master Gardeners are community members that have been trained by University of Illinois specialists and educators to assist with your local questions. Questions range from plant and insect identification, to weed identification, tree problems, growing vegetables and fruits, and how to create a beautiful landscape. While some questions can be answered immediately, many must be researched. Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, says Master Gardeners "are kind of like plant detectives asking questions, looking at pictures and doing research."

Master Gardeners also have access to a wide variety of University of Illinois resources in order to answer your questions.

An office visit is often required if a phone call cannot help, says Kelly Allsup. "Bring your questions and any samples you have. To prepare for your visit, you may view or print guidelines at Samples should be enclosed in a plastic bag or container and should be fresh to obtain a good diagnosis." If the problem is too widespread or on too large of a plant, pictures can be instrumental in good diagnosis.

Visit the University of Illinois Extension Livingston, McLean & Woodford County's website for more programs just like this one at

When Magnolia blooms scout for Spruce Spider Mite, Zimmerman Pine Moth and Eastern Tent Caterpillar Fri, 12 Apr 2019 08:30:00 +0000
  • Spruce Spider mite
  • – Problem

    • Feed on needled evergreens and most active during the spring. Damage appears as stippling as mites feed on chlorophyll. Heavily attacked foliage will turn brown.

    – Detection

    • Hosts are Juniper, pine, douglas fir, fraiser fir, and larch.
    • Spend the summer as eggs, hatch again in the fall.
    • Vigorously shake the tree to scout on top of white paper. Smash dots. Those making greenish streaks are usually spider mites that are feeding on the foliage; those making yellow-orange streaks are usually predaceous mites that are feeding on the spider mites.

    – Control

    • Insecticidal soap, miticides, and spray again in another week.
    • Hard water spray foliage.
    • Look for predators
    • Zimmerman Pine Moth

    – Problem

    • Pitch flows from wounds of trees.
    • Kills branches.

    – Detection

    • Host all pines but primarily Scots and Austrian pine.
    • Adults active in mid-July to mid-August laying eggs.
    • Eggs hatch in August.
    • Larvae feed on bark and buds.
    • Overwinter in hibernaculum (silken web).
    • Emerge in April and bore into stems.

    – Control

    • Prune out damaged branches.
    • Drench bark with permethrin in spring and then again in mid-August for younger larvae.
    • Plant resistant varieties.
    • Eastern Tent Caterpillar

    – Problem

    • Heavily infested trees defoliate but soon leaf out again.
    • Stresses tree.

    – Detection

    • Larvae hatch at bud break of their hosts.
    • When newly hatched the larvae are black but develop yellowish whitish stripes.
    • Larvae migrate to crotch angle of a tree where they form a communal tent.
    • They leave the tent throughout the day and feed on leaves as they grow bigger so does the tent.
    • When they are fully grown caterpillars they find a protected source and pupate.
    • Adult moths emerge two weeks later brown with white bands.
    • After mating, female moths lay their eggs in reddish brown clusters that wrap around pencil-size-diameter branches. Each egg mass is about 1/2 inch long and contains 100 to 300 eggs. These eggs do not hatch until the following spring when bud break occurs.

    – Control

    • Removal tents at night.
    • Spray Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, Spinosad, Neem Oil or Permethrin.
    • Apply as young larvae have hatched when saucer magnolia is in pink bud.
    • Resources

    – Phil Nixon. University of Illinois Extension Specialist in Entomology.

    – Pest Management for the Home Landscape. University of Illinois Extension

    – Coincide: The Orton System of Pest Management. Donald A. Orton and Thomas L. Green Ph.D.

    – Insects that Feed on Trees and Shrubs. Warren T. Johnson and Howard H. Lyon

    – Morton Arboretum Plant Health Care Reports

    – Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter. University of Illinois Extension


    Photos by Phil Nixon and Rhonda Feree

    The Perennial Plant of the Year Is... Fri, 22 Mar 2019 12:14:00 +0000 The Perennial Plant Association chooses a perennial plant of the year using the following criteria: It must be suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions, be low maintenance, have pest and disease resistance, be readily available in the industry and have multiple seasons of interest or excellent foliage attributes. Past winners have been Allium 'Millenium,' Butterfly weed and Japanese anemone. The 2019 perennial plant of the year is Stachys monnieri 'Hummelo.'

    I must admit I have not personally grown this cultivar but was first introduces to it when reading Roy Diblik's book The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden. He is a noted plants-man that designs lush, gorgeous, but low maintenance gardens. He actually started the gardening trend of using plants that work well with each other without a lot of gardening maintenance.

    He uses Stachys 'Hummelo' in several of his designs. He raves about the clean and strong foliage and the beauty of it the moment it emerges in April, because it is glossier than straight Stachys. It starts to bloom rich saturations of purple in late June and ends in September turning an attractive brown. The flowering spikes are two to three inches, held six to eight inches over the foliage. However, removing faded flowers will encourage more buds to form for weeks on end. Diblik uses these in his sun garden locations, mixed with plants like prairie drop seed, perennial salvia, coreopsis, blue indigo, coneflower, perennial geranium, moor grass. He uses them in shade gardens mixed with plants like sedges, perennial geranium, eastern wood aster and autumn moor grass.

    Stachys, Wood betony, requires additional watering during establishment period but afterwards becomes drought resistance and covers the ground in a short period through spreading stolons providing remarkable flower display especially when in masse. Martha Smith, horticulture educator for University of Illinois Extension and perennial guru says, "Hummelo is hardy throughout all of Illinois and deserves and space in your sunny border."

    Smith adds Stachys'Hummelo' received the highest rating out of 22Stachysstudied in the Plant Evaluation Trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The trial ran from 1998 through 2004. It received this rating based on strong flower production, plant health, overall good growth habit and winter hardiness.

    Go with the professionals. Plant the 2019 perennial plant of the year this spring, be a successful gardener with little effort, and make the neighbors comment.

    Raised Beds: Benefits and Considerations Fri, 15 Mar 2019 13:10:00 +0000 With a little spring preparation, your garden season can be more rewarding than ever: raised beds simply make gardening vegetables and herbs easier.

    When gardeners choose to grow in raised beds, the soil stays looser which means the roots are happier. And every gardener knows happy roots means happy shoots. The soil also warms up faster and stays warmer; this helps with germinating seeds and allows them be planted earlier than they could go into the ground. Coupled with better air movement for disease prevention and less pest pressures, the warmer and looser soil in raised bed gardening gives you a higher yield of goodies during the growing season.

    Consider the following when planning your raised bed:

    • Ensure that your bed gets at least 6 hours of sun to grow most vegetables and herbs. If you have dappled shade, limit yourself to salad greens, swiss chard, kale, mustard, parsley, lemon balm, mint and chives.
    • To prep your site, kill off existing vegetation with cardboard or moist newspaper at least 6 sheets thick.
    • Build as close to the water source as possible, and consider adding drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is relatively affordable, and makes mid-summer watering less of a task. In 2018, Reid Young, Program Coordinator for University of Illinois Extension, installed a large drip irrigation system for raised beds at the Unity Community Center for $250. A smaller home system can be much less expensive. Reid tells me "with a little forethought, it's not too difficult to install. And it saves a lot of time and water compared to watering with a garden hose." Installation was completed in an afternoon.
    • Raised beds can be as short as 6 inches tall, but I would recommend building 12-24 inches high. Build no wider than four feet or you will have difficulty reaching all of your plants. If your beds will be longer than 12 feet the, boards need to be reinforced or they may warp.
    • Lumber treated with arsenic was phased out in 2004. Lumber is now treated with copper and is approved for growing food, but be sure to wash vegetables well. Untreated cedar is an excellent choice for rot resistance and durability, but can be very expensive.
    • Reinforce corners with corner brackets of pieces of wood.
    • Soil should be one-third topsoil, one-third organic matter, and on-third vermiculite and perlite. No more than 35% topsoil should be used, as it will hold too much water and will not provide the benefits of excellent root growth.
    • To find the volume of soil you need, multiply length by width by height. Remember to use actual dimensions, and consistent units of measure! Soil is sold in bulk by the cubic yard, and by the cubic foot in bags.

    For in-depth information on raised bed vegetable gardening, search for our Four Seasons Gardening webinar Growing Vegetables in Raised Beds or Containers.

    Hydrangea, Part 1: Panicled and Oakleaf Fri, 01 Mar 2019 12:11:00 +0000 Hydrangeas have long held the eyes of gardeners and landscapers for their bigger-than-life ornamental appeal. This horticulturist planted two hydrangeas in the landscape within a few months of buying a house. Hydrangeas have what most horticulturists call multi-season appeal and if you are a gardener who has experienced fading daffodil and tulip foliage, or the yellowing foliage of daylilies at the end of the season then you know what I am talking about. This growing season, I challenge homeowners to try their hand at growing one of the four beautiful hydrangea species that populates central Illinois gardens.

    Hydrangea paniculata, also known as panicled hydrangeas, includes favorites from the industry Limelight, Pinky Winky, Quick fire, and Tardiva. These are some of the most winter-hardy hydrangea, and they are also tolerant of urban conditions like pollution. These shrubs grow six to ten feet high depending on cultivar, and bloom early to mid-summer. They bloom on new wood and should be pruned in late winter or early spring. Horticulturist Sandy Mason suggests cutting them all the way to the ground every few years. Larger flower panicles can be produced by thinning the plant to 5-10 primary canes.

    Limelight is known for its copious amount of flowers. The foliage turns different shades of red during the fall.

    Pinky Winky blooms white that turns pink with age creating a two-tone effect. The flower display is extremely impressive because the strong stems keep the flowers upright, stealing the show.

    Quick fire produces smaller, less full, but super prolific white flowers that turn reddish purple, on a plant that is more compact. This plant tends to bloom a month earlier than other panicled hydrangeas.

    'Tardiva' grow up to ten feet tall, blooming in the middle of summer and have a looser panicled flower than the others on the list. The bloom goes from white to purplish pink with age. Leaves may turn yellowish or have a tinge of purple during the winter months.

    Hydrangea quercifolia, also known as oak leaf hydrangea, is one of my all-time favorite shrubs. It grows about six feet tall and six feet wide in a "roundy moundy" shape. The shrub blooms large cone-shaped blooms that add color starting in May. The blooms last to the end of summer where they have transformed from white, to purplish pink, to brown. It is adaptable and can be grown in full sun to afternoon sun, and boasts large dark green leaves that turn rusty red in the fall and are reminiscent of oak leaves. This plant blooms on old wood, meaning pruning must be done after flowering in late summer. As with most hydrangeas, supplemental watering during drought will keep it happy.

    Check in next week for smooth hydrangea and big leaf hydrangea!

    Hydrangea Continued – Smooth and Big leaf

    Hydrangeas have long had major appeal to gardeners and landscapers in the industry for their bigger than life ornamental appeal. This horticulturist planted two hydrangeas in the landscape within a few months of buying a house. Hydrangeas have what most horticulturists call multi season appeal and if you are a gardener with experience of dealing with fading daffodil and tulip foliage or the yellowing foliage of daylilies at the end of the season then you know what I am talking about. This growing season, I challenge homeowners to try their hand at growing one of the four beautiful hydrangea species that populates central Illinois gardens.

    Hydrangea arborescens are known as smooth hydrangea and the most commonly planted cultivar are 'Annabelle'. They usually have large heart shaped leaves equally massive summer flowers. Their colors go from green to white to brown. In nature, this plant is loose and wild looking but in a cultivated setting where additional water and fertilizers are provided it make a nice clump-forming shrub. Flowers appear in June and second floral display in August if spent flowers are removed. These plants respond well to being cut within 6 inches of the ground and remove the outer canes in late winter

    'Anablelle' grows three to five foot tall with large round white flowers that are 6 inches round and puts on a show for six to eight weeks. Anabelle will not tolerate full sun unless supplemental watering is provided.

    Hydrangea macrophylla is known as big leaf hydrangea. This hydrangea has a rounded mounded habit and asserts either pink blooms in basic soil or blue blooms in acidic soils. They are your litmus tests for soil pH. If consistent moisture is not being applied this species needs to be grown in partial shade. This species has two forms; lace caps or mopheads. The most common cultivars are Endless Summer, 'Nikko blue' and lacecap 'Twist and Shout.' It is best to prune after flowering. Sometimes even the best pruning practices can still leave you with out blooms as harsh Illinois winters can destroy stems; this is why it is best to give them somewhat o fa sheltered location.

    Endless summer blooms in July pink and white in Illinois alkaline soils. Endless summer has the unique ability to bloom on new wood and old wood making the bloom more reliable.

    'Nikko Blue' reliant on soil pH for bloom colors but blooms in early June.

    'Twist and shout' Abundant lacecap blooms all summer long, blooms on old and new wood and has red stems that boast red leaves during the fall months.

    Aluminum is what causes the flowers to turn blue and typically, there is enough

    Aluminum in the soil, but the pH can lock up the aluminum particles in the soil

    making it unavailable to the plant. Lowering the pH by applying aluminum sulfate or sulfur can turn your hydrangeas blue. Sulfur is a safer bet when trying to lower pH as sulfur reduces the chance of aluminum toxicity that can occur from using aluminum sulfate.

    Gardening Mistakes that Cost Big Fri, 22 Feb 2019 12:29:00 +0000 Do not try to grow grass under trees or in shady areas of your landscape.

    Generally, lawns are seeded with a mix of Kentucky blue grass, fine fescue and rye grass. Each type contributes to the whole of the lawn, but none of them will grow well in full shade.

    Instead, consider growing groundcover or making a mulch ring. Shade-loving sprawlers like vinca, pachysandra, sweet woodruff and ajuga can be bought in flats of 24 or 36 and spaced 6-12" apart. A mulch ring around the base of a tree helps retain moisture, limit soil erosion, improves aesthetics, and can even prevent lawn mower damage. Never spread mulch more than 4" thick—no mulch volcanos hugging your tree's trunk!

    Research before you plant.

    A masterful gardener chooses the right plant for the right place. Ask yourself a few questions before walking into a greenhouse or nursery: What kind of soil do I have? What is the sun exposure? Does the soil have good drainage? How much area do I want to cover? Then follow two simple landscape rules: plant in groups, or drifts, of three or more, and choose plants with nice foliage. Most flowering perennials have short blooming periods.

    Avoid permanent mulch like landscaping fabric and rocks.

    These may be efficient at reducing weeds for the first few years, but eventually soil and debris will accumulate and landscape fabric will have to be pulled up, and rock will have to be dug out to remove the weeds.

    Plant landscape trees properly.

    The most common and costly mistake in planting trees is planting too deep. You may even find that a young nursery tree is planted too deep in the pot that you bought it in. When transplanting, find the place where the roots start to spread out from the trunk, and place it at soil level.

    Preparing your soil.

    It is easy to add some organic matter like compost to give the roots a chance to spread and take hold.

    Checking the roots when buying plants.

    If the roots are white and have not a fully formed root ball, then the plant may not be healthy. Also check for thick, encircling roots. This plant has overgrown its container; tree roots can girdle the tree.

    Avoid invasive plants.

    Many plants can have invasive qualities and will be difficult to deal with in about two to three years. If you want to be cautious with your sweat investment, turn down that free plant from the neighbor, it is probably invasive.

    Get a soil test!

    Adding fertilizer to your lawn or garden without knowing your soil's current makeup is like taking a random product off the shelf at the drugstore for a headache. It's not likely to work the way you want it to, and it could even be dangerous. Don't spread, spray, or pour another dollar on your lawn without giving your soil a checkup!