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 Gardening For Climate Change Mon, 11 Feb 2019 09:40:00 +0000 Rain Gardening is among the newest buzzwords at University of Illinois. The buzz is a response to another buzzword in the news: climate change.

Illinois' recently-retired state climatologist, Jim Angel, says one way climate change is affecting the Illinois landscape through more frequent torrential rains, as opposed to more frequent, lighter rains. These weather patterns can cause flooding and runoff. Any farmer with a bare field knows this is a problem, as nutrients or soil leech out of their field.

For a homeowner, runoff can be easily managed by a well-covered yard (grass, clover, groundcovers); but flooding is a different concern, with an unexpected solution for this soggy ground situation: rain gardens! A rain garden is usually bowl-shaped, intended to capture storm water and melting snow. These gardens slow down the surges of water caused by excess water events, and prevents them from entering into streams and sewage systems (which have to treat water before it can be released back into streams). Instead the water soaks back into the soil, and can even recharge ground water at a rate 30% better than a standard lawn does.

Rain gardens can be planned to capture runoff from your roof, roads, or parking lots. The Southern Lake Michigan Rain Garden Manual gives you further design principles like estimating size, testing soil, understanding slope, building the bed, garden designs, and plant lists.

There are considerations for which garden plants work best in a rain garden situation. Many of our favorite gardening plants would not be happy if their roots were perpetually wet, especially grasses. But some native Illinois plants thrive in times of flood and can tolerate some drought. These plants are well adapted to a rain garden. A rain garden plant must grow greater than six inches tall and be without lower basal leaves.

The Illinois-Indian Sea Grant put together a list of plants that would thrive in rain garden, native to Illinois and attract wildlife:

Columbine are a woodland species that attract bees and butterflies on its early spring blooms.

Golden Alexanders thrives in the wet prairie, and blooms bright yellow in the spring on one to two foot stems, but lacks drought tolerance so may benefit from some shade in a rain garden.

White wild indigo grows three to six feet, blooming white pea-like flowers, and the leaves can be a food source for skipper and some butterflies like the orange Sulphur.

Great blue lobelia prefers part shade because it is not fully drought tolerant, as it is native to wet prairies. It boasts blue flowers starting in the summer and into the fall.

Prairie drop seed is native prairie grass with dense tufts and sprawling leaves. The upright airy inflorescences are spectacular in the summer sun followed by seed heads with great winter interest to birds, but are also pleasing to the eye!

Bringing Mackinac's Beauty to Home, Lawn, and Garden Day 2019 Fri, 01 Feb 2019 12:13:00 +0000 He is an award winning garden designer from Mackinaw Island, author, overall plant enthusiast, and this year he will be the keynote speaker for Home, Lawn and Garden Day. McLean County Master Gardeners welcome Jack Barnwell for a presentation about landscaping and gardening on the island, on Saturday March 2.

Jack has over a decade of experience creating breathtaking commercial and private garden displays in one of the world's premiere summer vacation destinations. Barnwell's roots grow deep on the island: before becoming the island's premiere landscape designer, Jack spent his summers there as a child.

The color in Barnwell's installations comes from using vigorous plants that pack a lot of punch. He does show a preference towards Proven Winners. "They are putting out top notch plants right now," Barnwell says. "They are really focusing on garden performance, not just how it looks in the garden center." He is a huge fan of hydrangeas, Bloomerang reblooming lilac, astilbe, brunnera and sweet woodruff for his cottage designs.

Jack's success in gardening is how he has embraced the unique challenges of the island to inspire his designs. He builds raised beds to show case his colorful annuals because he says "soil is the key to gardening triumphs. Fluffy soil equals happy plants." He also discourages gardeners from breaking up the root balls of annuals when planting containers. The water surrounding the island is reflected in the curves of his beds. He uses floating stones in lawns because of how they fit the cottage designs of the island.

Barnwell is easy to spot in his trademark Australian bush hat, as are his extremely colorful designs. His hat has become such a symbol of his work and a part of his image that when he wants to go incognito on the island, he just takes it off.

Jack is set to write a book on container combinations that is sure to be a best seller because his container designs are a knockout, broadcasting beautiful color and form. Through this experience as an award winning landscaper, he has identified the best techniques for design, plant selection, and maintenance practices that create stunning displays, while minimizing care so that his crew can handle it all!

Barnwell will share many of these concepts, stories, and more on this immersive journey to Michigan's crown jewel, plus over 30 breakout sessions from local experts! To sign up please visit

Pruning Blackberries for Productivity Fri, 25 Jan 2019 12:07:00 +0000 As a child, my grandparents would send me to the unmanaged portions of their property to pick blackberries with my sisters. Most of the time we brought enough back for grandma to make a pie, and probably just as much sun sweetened fruits in our bellies.

For backyard garden blackberries, active management of these brambles will boast more produce. Suggested blackberry cultivars for central Illinois 'Chester' (thornless), and 'Illini Hardy' (thorny), a very cold hardy cultivar, which produces great tasting fruit but has millions of thorns. "Everthornless" is a thornless variety developed at University of Illinois, but is actually suited for the Pacific North West's mild winters.

Blackberries are perennial crops but the shoots, or canes, that grow are individually biennial. That means that each individual cane will only live for two years.

In early spring, plant new plants 4 to 6 feet apart in a hedgerow when the soil is not wet. Plant hedgerows 10 to 12 feet apart for Illinois semi-erect varieties. Avoid planting in soil that recently had nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes or eggplant.

Most plants purchased online will come bare root, and should be soaked in water at least 30 minutes before planting. Plants bought from nurseries or greenhouses may come potted up and will not require soaking if properly cared for prior to planting. To plant, dig a hole one and a half times larger than root system and fan the roots out. Water immediately and at least every two to three weeks after planting. Remove the tips of laterals, and snip the main stem back to 4 inches from the ground to force new growth.

The first year of growth, the canes are called "primocanes" and do not produce flowers or fruit. In the second year of growth, the canes are called "floricanes" and they produce flowers and fruits, and can be preoductive for up to 20 years. If you let blackberries and raspberries grow without pruning or cutting back, there would be a mixture of primocanes and floricanes present at any given time, which can lessen productivity and harbor disease and pests.

In early March, remove any broken, dead or diseased canes first. Canes should be cut as close to the ground as possible. Prune to only four to five large floricanes canes spaced to about four inches apart. The remaining canes should be cut back to four to five feet tall and lateral branches should be cut back to a foot. Thornless blackberries need to have all laterals removed within 24 inches of soil.

Spring- Mulch shredded bark up to three inches thick prevent weeds and conserve moisture. Apply fertilizer a month after planting.

Fall- Mulch with shredded leaves or straw up to three inches thick to protect roots and prevent heaving. Keep mulch away from roots.

Wedding Flower Trends for 2019 Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:30:00 +0000 It may be hard to predict what a bride will want for her wedding day, but is likely to include gorgeous flowers. Barn weddings with rustic materials have been popular for years, but floral designers are seeing a shift in 2019 towards a 1970s bohemian style, and an elegant industrial style. Here are some field reports on what brides are asking for this year.


Pastel blooms have passed their prime. Brides want brighter and bolder flowers with red, orange and jewel tones. Classic and elegant pale pinks, blush, taupe, and off-white flowers are replacing the traditional white blooms. Coppers and silvers are replacing golds.


Brides are opting for large bold flowers in a minimalist design rather than flower-packed arrangements. Protea is a tropical that comes in an array of textures and colors, and makes a statement as a single blossom. Peonies will continue to be popular for weddings because of their soft textural layers and pretty colors; however, peonies have a short window of availability, lending well to the late spring bride. Greenery continues to be popular but care-free pampas grass may be the new alternative.

"With social media and Pinterest, we're finding that brides are much more knowledgeable about the varieties they really love," says local floral designer, Candice Hart. "Also, with the local flower movement going strong, many brides are opting for blooms that are in season on their wedding date, as opposed to shipping a peony from Chile in October, for example"

Fluffy dinner plate dahlias are very popular in late summer and fall. "We can never seem to grow enough dahlias," says local flower farmer, Audra Wyant of Lexington. "They come small and large, and in a wide variety of colors from dusty pinks to deep, bold reds. They are amazing in the field and even more stunning in a bouquet; and they last longer when they are purchased locally."


Brides may opt for a bohemian feel by wearing a floral crown on their wedding day with dramatic, cascading, and wild looking bridal bouquets. Or she may select something smaller and minimal. Out are uniform bridesmaid bouquets and boutonnieres in favor of several different but cohesive arrangements. Responding to the emerging bohemian styles, Wyant says "we planted 100 lavender plants last year. We utilize it in bouquets and boutonnieres and it was a big hit and provides a lovely, soft fragrance."


Brides are opting for minimalist arrangements with high-quality statement flowers in low, opaque containers, inspired by traditional Japanese Ikebana arrangements. "We're finding lately that our brides are still wanting to create a lot of impact with their table centerpieces, but are moving away from taller arrangements that may block a guest's view," notes Hart. "We're creating centerpieces that are shorter in height, or opting for stands and containers that guests can see through across the table."

Statement Pieces

Statement pieces like floral arches, flower walls and floral chandeliers will reign supreme in 2019. "Brides are wanting their weddings to be unique, and a signature flower wall photo backdrop or large flower hanging installation at the reception, are ways they can set their weddings apart from the rest," says Hart.

Early Spring Bloomers Fri, 11 Jan 2019 12:30:00 +0000 Even non-gardeners welcome the sight of early blooming perennials. Here are some early spring bloomers to look out for in the garden.

Iberis semperverins, known as Candytuft, is a low-growing, mounded perennial that puts out numerous rounded tufts of flat white flowers, covering its slender evergreen foliage. These flowers make their appearance as early as March, and can be a sight to see when there are few blooms in the garden. Requiring well-drained soils and full sun, they are commonly planted in rock gardens, or seen draping over a retention wall. Spring maintenance is important for attractive growth, by cutting back or shearing the plant to one-third or one-half its size after it has bloomed. This practice prevents the plants from looking scraggily or being open in the center for the remainder of the year.

Candytuft is classified as a "subshrub" because overwintering buds are located above ground, whereas herbaceous perennials have a growing point is below ground. This evergreen subshrub benefits from snow cover for protection; a harsh winter may kill off its tips, which would require pruning in the spring. If there is no snow cover, covering the foliage with evergreen boughs, a different style of mulching than many are used to, can protect against winter dryness and sun scorch. Even though the flowers look delectable, they are deer resistant.

Another welcomed early spring bloomer, Phlox subulata, or Moss Phlox, forms a mat of low growing evergreen foliage that generates a bountiful cover of colorful flowers. These fragrant early spring bloomers come in array of colors from pink to magenta, with red, white, lavender, and even blue. Moss phlox would respond well to the slightly alkaline soil of Central Illinois. Like the Candytuft above, shearing in spring after flowering will keep the plant tidy. Unlike Candytuft, which does not like to be divided or transplanted, moss phlox may need division after flowering every three to five years to maintain vigor.

The next early spring bloomer is a great addition to a full-to-partial shade garden, boldly displaying pink buds that open to blue flowers on long and narrow silver spotted foliage, called Pulmonaria saccharata, Bethlehem sage. A favorite amongst horticulturists for its low maintenance, great mottled foliage, and early nectar for bumblebees. Long-tongued bees love the pink buds, and blue flowers indicate that pollination has occurred. Remove flower stems after blooming to initiate basal growth of new leaves for the rest of the growing season. Plants do best in organically rich soils.

Register Now for Home, Lawn and Garden Day by Brittnay Haag Thu, 03 Jan 2019 10:18:00 +0000 Register NOW for Home, Lawn and Garden Day - a day of gardening fun and learning!

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners would like to invite you to their 17th annual Home, Lawn and Garden Day on Saturday, March 2 at Catholic High School in Bloomington. Home, Lawn and Garden Day is a day dedicated to garden fun! It is an ideal place to get inspiration for future garden projects, fall in love with a must-have plant or learn the basics of everyday gardening. McLean County Master Gardeners host their annual Home, Lawn and Garden Day just in time to beat the winter blahs. Register at the University of Illinois Extension website at or stop by the McLean County Extension Office (1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington) beginning January 7.

This year's Home, Lawn and Garden Day is packed full of gardening speakers and workshops including keynote speaker, Jack Barnwell. Jack is a landscape contractor, author, and award-winning garden designer based on Mackinac Island, Michigan. As the owner of Barnwell Landscape and Garden Inc., Jack has over 20 years of experience creating breathtaking commercial and private garden displays in one of the world's premier summer vacation destinations. As a consultant for Proven Winners, he contributes to the design of beautiful gardens at prestigious properties all over the US. During his presentation, he will share the best techniques for design, plant selection, and maintenance practices that create stunning displays of color and form, while minimizing care so that anyone can handle it!

The day will open with a presentation for all by Dr. David Kopsell, Assistance Chair, and Professor of Horticulture in the Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University. During his presentation titled "Landscape Design Tips, Techniques and Secrets" you will learn some basic design principles, color and shape combinations, and plant choices to help make your yard look amazing. You will leave with the skills and knowledge to transform any outdoor space like a pro!

During the mid-day session, Master Gardeners that you often hear on WJBC radio will have a question and answer segment of questions submitted by attendees. Researched-based solutions will be presented, combined with fun and practical advice! Don't forget to submit your questions during the online registration process.

The fee for this day-long program is $50 and includes, the welcome and keynote sessions, choice of three additional break-out sessions, morning refreshments, and lunch. Hands-on workshops may have additional costs to cover materials that may be used. With over 35 break-out sessions to choose from, there is sure to be something for every kind of gardener.

Some of the breakout sessions offered include shade gardening, pruning, Mason jar terrariums, pollinator plants and habitat, native plants, raised bed vegetable gardening, and garden photography. See more workshop choices online during registration.

There will also be plenty of time to visit and shop with the many exhibitors. It is an excellent opportunity to meet and talk with local garden center representatives about new products or to purchase a garden treasure. There will also be a silent auction this year to support the McLean County Master Gardeners community projects. For questions about the program, please contact us at (309) 663-8306. Workshops fill up fast, reserve your spot January 7!

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact: Brittnay Haag, Extension Horticulture Educator - Livingston, McLean, and Woodford at (309) 663-8306 or email her at

Build a Terrarium during the Holidays Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:21:00 +0000 Terrariums a century-old trend of bringing nature inside during the winter, terrarium gardening has had a revival gardeners as of late and would make an excellent gift for the holidays.

The invention of terrariums is attributed to English Botanist, Dr. Nathanial Ward. He used a closed bottle filled with tiny ferns and grasses growing in soil in order to observe a hummingbird moth chrysalis. Once the moth emerged, he continued to watch how the ferns and grasses continued to grow for four years, during which time he never opened the bottle to add water.

Although most gardeners today are building an open system, without a lid, requiring some water but not as much as a normal houseplant. These open system ecosystems provide for ample creativity by building a mini landscape but also require minimal care.

Terrarium Supplies: Open glass container, soilless media (not the stuff in the backyard, but the stuff you buy in a bag), 2-3 small succulent or tropical plants, ornamental knick-knacks or trinkets.

  1. Fill soil at least ¼ the depth of the container or as deep as the root balls of the plants you have chosen.
  2. Add either all succulents, or all tropical—do not mix and match as each have different light, temperature, and moisture needs!
  3. Water with a mister or add small amounts of water at a time with a spoon. In the beginning, the roots are small and the entire media does not need to be saturated.
  4. Add whimsy! Reflect your gift-recipients interests with fun or meaningful trinkets placed among the plants

Care: Place in a well-lit window. Do not fertilize until the second year and then only about ¼ the rate for houseplants. Some plants may require pinching back to keep small. Pinch plants back to a node, where the leaf attaches to the stem, and this will cause the plant to grow wide instead of tall.

Why no rock? In the past, most terrarium gardeners believed rocks under the soil created better drainage. However, this is a horticulture myths passed from gardener to gardener. Experiments have demonstrated that water does not easily move from fine texture layers to course textured layers. This is because cohesion of water is stronger than the gravitational pull. Water is held tightly in the soil and must be completely saturated to allow water to go to the next gradient level, and by then the soil is too moist.