By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Kari Houle doesn't mind spicing things up in the garden.
"A lot of times we seem to get stuck in a rut. We think vegetable garden, perennial garden, herb garden," said Houle, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator for Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties. "When I look at the garden, it's how can I intermix, how can I spice things up."
Houle will offer some suggestions at the 18th annual Gardener's Palette on Saturday, March 2, at John Wood Community College's Paul Heath Center. Early registration for the program -- sponsored by Extension Unit 14, Adams County Master Gardeners, John Wood Community College and the city of Quincy -- is on through Feb. 22.
Presenters will cover a wide variety of topics, with Houle focusing on container gardening and providing a spark to the garden with annuals. Paired with perennials, annuals are "a great way to add some color," Houle said.
"Annuals are a way to extend the garden and build upon it," she said. "It's so much fun seeing new varieties of annuals coming out. There's always something new, something different. Staple annuals like petunias, geraniums and even zinnias have got new varieties."
New ideas for the garden will be featured at the event, which is designed to get people thinking about spring.
"Gardener's Palette is a great way to get motivated," Houle said. "By the very beginning of March, people are starting to ramp up, even though seed catalogs already are starting to hit the mailbox now."
Breakout sessions target plants for the shade, gardening and aging, water management, seed saving, small fruits, new uses of vegetables in the kitchen, diversifying the landscape, beneficial insects, trees and small space vegetable gardening. Some sessions, including the interactive "What's Your Gardening IQ?" which tests gardening knowledge, will be offered twice and should be "tons of fun," Houle said.
A vendor's area highlights the latest products for lawn and garden and new and veteran gardeners.
"The big hope is maybe we'll see new people, people who haven't gardened before," Houle said. "There's a lot of great information coming through even if you're a new gardener, just getting started, so much information that really gets your feet on the ground and gets you running."