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Herb Day 2003 scheduled for Jan. 18

[DEC. 28, 2002]  URBANA -- Whether you are interested in raising herbs in a home garden or commercially producing and marketing them on a small scale, the educational and entertaining sessions planned for Herb Day 2003 should satisfy you. Herb Day is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1001 Killarney St. in Urbana, just off Interstate 74 at Exit 183 (Lincoln Avenue).

A day of herbal fun, food and fellowship is planned for Herb Day 2003, with noted herbal experts from around the country set to present educational sessions that will inspire herb gardening and use in the coming year.

Betsy Williams, owner of The Proper Season in Andover, Mass., and author of "Are There Fairies at the Bottom of My Garden?" will speak about designing and planting herbal theme gardens. Her talk is entitled "Fairy Dreams and Other Herbal Themes." She will also present "Mrs. Thrift's Herbal Tips," an in-character interpretation of the usage of a wide variety of herbs.

Deanna House, home economist and cooking author from Ada, Mich., will entertain us with her unique style of "Efficient Herbal Cooking." Deanna's light, humorous presentation and encouragement of audience interaction make for a lot of fun.


William Handel of the Illinois Natural History Survey, Urbana, will present a historical perspective on "Native American Prairie Plant Medicine," a look at how the original residents of the Illinois prairie used the plants around them.

Finally, Jan Powers of Peoria will demonstrate "Containing Your Passion for Herbs," a talk about how to design and construct beautiful, functional herb container gardens.

As in past years, there will be a retail area, with vendors of herbs, everlastings, equipment, books  and many other herbal products. This area will be open for shopping to Herb Day 2003 attendees as well as interested members of the general public from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is no entrance fee for those attending only the retail event.


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"This event has blossomed into far more than a chance to see and hear nationally known and respected herb experts. The conference has become an annual gathering place for herb enthusiasts from all over Illinois and surrounding states, where they can renew their collective enthusiasm for herb gardening," said Chuck Voigt, U of I Extension specialist.

Herb Day 2003 is sponsored by U of I Extension and is open to professionals as well as members of the general public. Cost of registration, including lunch, is $39 per person. This includes seating in the lectures, an information packet, an herbal theme lunch buffet and access to the retail area. There will be vegetarian options on this buffet, or a vegan plate can be arranged in advance.

Lunch reservations must be received no later than Jan. 10. To reserve registration and lunch, mail checks, payable to the University of Illinois, to Herb Day 2003, Attention: Carol Preston, S-406 Turner Hall, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801.

Space in the lecture room is limited to 250 participants. On-site registration will be accepted only if spaces are not filled prior to the event. On-site registration will also cost $39 but will not include lunch. For more information, call (217) 333-7738 and mention Herb Day 2003. Credit card orders cannot be accepted.

[U of I news release]

Poinsettia pointers

[DEC. 23, 2002]  The poinsettia is a plant that is native to Mexico and has become the traditional potted plant at Christmas time. While many believe that the red, pink or white color is the flower, it is actually called a bract. Bracts are colored leaves. The true flowers are there, but they aren't very showy.

Many of the improved varieties offered today last an amazingly long time. To keep them looking good and lasting, keep the room temperatures between 60-68 degrees (if possible) and with very high humidity. Temperatures over 75 are really hard on poinsettias, especially with low humidity. Try to place your poinsettia by a bright window just out of direct sunlight. Remove it from the window at night if there is a danger of chilling. Keep soil moisture at moderate and uniform levels, and never let the pot stand in water.


[Photo provided by John Fulton]

Re-blooming poinsettias is a common goal, but bear in mind that this is one of the most difficult plants to succeed with. If you're a gambler, or a die-hard horticulturalist, here are the basic steps to improve your success.

After you are done displaying your poinsettia, gradually withhold water. The leaves should soon turn yellow and drop. Store the dried-off plant in a cool (meaning 50-60 degree), dry, dark basement room until April or May. During this period, water lightly with just enough to keep the roots and stems from drying out too much.

When you bring the plant back up, prune stems to about six inches. Remove from the pot, take some old soil from the roots, then repot using a well-drained mixture. If there are several plants in the pot, separate and pot them individually. Use a pot that provides plenty of room. Water the plant well and place in a warm, sunny spot for renewed plant growth. You can put the plants outside when frost danger has passed, but be wary of direct sun in the hottest part of the day. You may have to repot the plant if it becomes root-bound. If you're into starting cuttings, you may have decent success by starting new plant from the shoots that appear on your old cut-back plant in the spring.


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Keep the plant actively growing during the summer months by watering regularly and applying a complete liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks. As new shoots form, pinch them back so that two nodes (leaf pairs) remain on each. Stop pinching off shoots in August. Also, you may want to remove some of the weaker stems completely, allowing only a few of the stronger ones to develop. Control insects as they appear, and if plants become diseased they should be pitched.

Before cool weather in the fall, place the plant inside at a south window with full sun through the day. Watch the temperatures and moistures. Temperatures should be 60-65 during the day and 70-75 at night. Moisture should be moderate. Starting the last week of September, your plant should be exposed only to natural sunlight (this means no house lights after dark). Probably the best method is to put the plant in a closet overnight. Once the leaf color forms you can increase non-daylight light.

With these recommendations, and a little bit of luck, your poinsettia should be ready for the holiday season. If you're really into poinsettias, try the University of Illinois Extension "Hort Corner" pages on poinsettias. Point your browser to http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/
and enjoy.

[John Fulton]



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