In addition to workshops, the event offered a room filled with
displays and information from local garden-related organizations.
Doors at the Lincoln College Meyer-Evans Student Center opened at 8
a.m., with folks invited to come in and look around, visit with the
exhibitors, and enjoy coffee and a sweet.
At 9 a.m. sessions
began, with three speakers running at the same time for an hour
each. After a brief break, the process was repeated with three new
presenters. At 11:30 Dianne Noland, a University of Illinois
horticulture instructor and host of the popular PBS series
"Mid-American Gardener," finished out the day with a discussion on
The first three workshops were "Container Gardens," presented by
Anne and Lee Niepagen of Wendell Niepagen Greenhouses & Garden
Center in Bloomington; Karen Lowery of Beason, speaking on "Herb
Basics and Beyond'; and Jan Sickbert, of rural Macon County, who
spoke about her experience with hummingbirds.
In speaking about container gardening, Anne Niepagen shared with
a large group of attendees a variety of slides showing examples of
unique and attractive containers. Included in some of the
suggestions she offered were to use old tables or chairs, old
clothing, shoes or boots, old cookie jars, an umbrella turned upside
down, and a little red Radio Flyer wagon as plant holders.
She told the group that she is always having new ideas, something
her husband and partner, Lee, doesn't always appreciate. She cited
as an example her strong desire to someday come up with an old
Volkswagen Bug and fill it with flowers.
She also talked about adding interest through mixing plant
varieties, textures and colors.
In the second half of the Niepagens' presentation, Lee talked
about the use of potting soils and mixes as well as feeding and
While this talk was going on in the main cafeteria, in the board
room Karen Lowery was sharing with her group the joy of herb
gardening. She shared with the attendees how she plants her herb
gardens between the rungs of an old wooden ladder, which helps keep
them contained to a specific area and makes for an interesting look
in her landscape.
She also talked about the wide variety of uses for herbs, from
decorative to medicinal.
Included in her presentation was a wide variety of show-and-tell
items. Various dried herbs were passed around the room for guests to
examine and smell. Lowery showed the group how she makes herbed
vinegars and had a number of those on display for everyone to see.
For the group of mostly women, one of the more interesting topics
Lowery shared was that sage is used a great deal in medications for
women's health. She also told the group that during the change of
life, a leaf a day will eliminate hot flashes and help them sleep
through the night.
In the back area of the cafeteria, Jan Sickbert spoke about the
hummingbird sanctuary she and her husband have created at their
rural Macon County home. The Sickberts' gardens are designed to
attract hummingbirds, and they provide numerous feeders to help keep
the tiny birds coming back.
Sickbert is a Macon County Master Gardener and in 2012 hosted a
Master Gardener hummingbird festival at her home. Over 300 people
attended. In addition, Vern Kleen, a master permit bander with the
Illinois Audubon, captured and banded for research several
hummingbirds in the Sickbert gardens.
In the audience, Marge Aper of rural Lincoln was at that
festival. She showed pictures and shared her story of Elliot, the
hummingbird who came to live with them and stayed for quite some
time. The Apers kept the bird fed and even caught and held him. Aper
shared pictures of her holding the bird and of placing him in a
special pink research bag so he could be weighed.
She said the bird was a Rufus, which is not commonly found in
Illinois. Their natural habitat is in the states of Washington and
Oregon. She said the bird had been banded for research, and the
first two digits on the band were "L" and "8," which is how they
came to call him Elliot.
Aper said the bird stayed in their yard until Jan. 22; then he
moved on. She also said that it became quite a humorous thing for
them, as her husband, Steve, would often say the couple couldn't go
anywhere or do anything for a long period of time because they had
to stay home "and feed the baby."
[to top of second column]
In the second set of workshops, Dr. Dennis Campbell of Lincoln
College spoke on native plants and planting for spring. Chef Bill
Turney, the founder of From the Field Cooking School in Morton,
offered demonstrations on cooking with herbs; and Harry Lewis,
horticulturist at the Illinois executive mansion, talked about the
renovation of the gardens at the governor's mansion in Springfield.
In Campbell's presentation, he shared that he was a wolf in
sheep's clothing because he is actually a zoologist with an interest
in preserving the insect population. He spoke about the natural food
chain for wildlife and said, "We should be gardening for insects,
not against them." He said that through the use of chemicals and due
to urbanization, we are losing insect populations and species that
are the main food level between plants and predators. He added that
the consequence is that we are also losing the predators.
Campbell said gardening with native plants will help improve the
ecosystem. He offered tips on the good bugs gardeners should try to
attract and the native plants that will help accomplish that.
While Campbell was speaking in the main cafeteria, the aroma of
food cooking in the back area filled the room. Bill Turney was
offering recipes and cooking demonstrations for his group, using
herbs to enhance flavor and aroma as he prepared his dishes.
Turney prepared green beans with fresh herbs and walnuts, and
poached salmon with tarragon sauce. He talked about the dishes,
offered tips on use of herbs as well as other seasonings, and
fielded many questions from his audience.
Harry Lewis hosted his session in the board room and shared a
number of "before and after" slides showing work that has been done
at the governor's mansion. He talked about repurposing items at the
mansion, including cutting up some old columns on the grounds and
reuniting the top and bottom sections to make standing planters.
Lewis shared that the mansion doesn't get much of a budget for
gardening, so he relies heavily on help from a number of people,
including inmates from Logan Correctional Center. He showed as an
example some of the seating areas in the mansion gardens. He said
some of the benches had been found in pieces in a shed. They were
taken to Logan, and the inmate industrial arts department rebuilt
Lewis also talked about and showed pictures of the variety of
garden attractions, including the water gardens and the hanging
Throughout the morning of garden presentations, there came to
light three buzzwords for effective gardening: thriller, filler and
spiller. The Niepagens, Lewis and Dianne Noland all spoke about
achieving eye appeal through these three ideas.
The words are simple and basically self-explanatory. Gardens that
catch the eye will have the component of something that is exciting,
or the thriller; something that ties everything together, the
filler; and something that overlaps or drapes over the edges of
containers, for example, as the spiller.
Noland's closing presentation for the day brought all the
attendees into one room. With the cafeteria area filled almost wall
to wall with guests, Noland talked about using perennials in the
She explained the ideas of using a variety of plants with
different colors and textures to increase interest, she but warned
not to go too far. She said that gardeners can plant too many
different plants in an area, which only serves to make the space
confusing for those admiring it. She suggested choosing a variety
but also repeating plants in a bed.
Noland showed several slides of gardens she has visited as well
as gardens at her own home. She talked about framing the garden
patch by aligning it with items in the background. She showed that
these items could be walls of a building, a building off in the
distance or a wooded area.
She also shared that simplicity works. She showed slides of
creeping flowers over interesting stones and explained that a garden
doesn't have to be big and showy to be visually attractive.
Noland also talked on adding seating to the garden area and
working with water features.
At the end of the morning, dozens of door prizes were given out
to attendees, with most of the items being donated by exhibitors.
In addition to all the Master Gardener activities Saturday,
Lincoln College also offered a tour of their Outdoor Center for
Environmental Education. Seating was limited on the tour, but all 15
spaces available were taken by those interested in seeing what the
college is working on.
[By NILA SMITH]