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Thursday, July 22, 2004 02:15 am

A stroll in the garden

This year, the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Illinois State Fairgrounds features several changes and additions, including a new landscape design in the Identification Garden, a Shakespeare Garden, and a native-plant research project.

Visitors have the opportunity to see what's new at the garden at "Evening in the Garden," a special event on Tuesday, July 27. Free tours will be offered continuously, 6:30-8 p.m., beginning in front of the University of Illinois Extension Building, Building 30, on the state fairgrounds.

Master gardeners with the University of Illinois Extension's Sangamon-Menard Unit will be on hand to answer questions on the wide variety of annuals, herbs, and perennials.

The 5,000-square-foot demonstration garden is divided into four distinct areas:

• The Identification Garden showcases many of the colorful flowering plants displayed at the fairgrounds.

• The Herb Garden boasts more than 70 herbs used in cooking.

• The new Shakespeare Garden features plants mentioned by the Elizabethan playwright in his works.

• The Lorraine DeSouza Perennial Garden contains perennial plants of interest for every season. Peak blooms in mid-July include Knockout roses, Russian sage, black-eyed Susans, and butterfly bush.

Members of the Flower Buds Junior Master Gardeners have planted a butterfly garden, and members of the group are participating in a plant-research project, "Native Herbaceous Perennials as Alternative Crops for Illinois Nurseries." Researchers at Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been evaluating native species for use as alternative nursery crops in a project supported by the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research. As part of this project, junior master gardeners are conducting trials of six native plant species, testing for plant performance and consumer appeal. For more information on this project, visit the EIU Web site at www.eiu.edu/~n_plants/.

Other features of the demonstration garden include a grape arbor and plots that feature five different turf grasses. The grape arbor features Glenora seedless-grape cultivar.

For more information on "Evening in the Garden," call the Sangamon-Menard Extension Unit at 782-4617.

Site for fresh farm food

Consumers can find sources of fresh, locally grown food listed at a new Web site, Illinois Farm Direct (Illinoisfarmdirect.org).

The site allows visitors to search for farm locations geographically and by types of commodities.

More than 500 farmers are listed on the site, as well as nearly 200 of the state's farmer's markets.

Products available from participating farmers include blackberries, eggplants, veal, organic heirloom potatoes, duck and goose eggs, organic vegetables, and leaf lettuces.

A printed version of the Farm Direct locations can be purchased directly by sending a check for $3, made payable to The Land Connection, to TLC, P.O. Box 197, Goodfield, IL 61742-0197. (Include your address.)

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