Sandra Mason: The bodacious beauty of bananas

Ready for a plant that screams "I love humidity"? The big and bold leaves of banana plants in your garden make a statement of tropical grandeur.

If you are looking for a landscape showstopper, bananas are it. With a basic understanding of the banana plants, we can easily grow them in our summer gardens or in containers.

Sandra Mason: Fabulous Phlox

Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) conjures up images of English country gardens and grandmas in housecoats, but don't cast off these plants as old-timers. Their fragrance and multitude of colors are a perfect fit for sunny modern gardens.

With 100 possible cultivars, garden phlox includes all manner of colors in shades of pink, salmon, purple, lavender, scarlet, red and white.

Letter from Birdland: Big plans for my new little corner

In Birdland, we're still lucking out with cool days and low humidity. We've had so much rain this summer that I hadn't watered at all, but I did drag the heavy hose across the yard to water the new trees and then out to my new path to water the transplantings I got from Gayle — black-eyed Susans, sedum, irises and lilies.

Sandra Mason: the Midas touch

Yellow is great in the landscape, as long as you don't go overboard

Sandra Mason: Cultivate your curiosity

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." Naturalist John Muir made this statement in 1911. It is as true today as it was then. Beyond television and technology, have you ever wondered how the world (including us) is hitched?

Sandra Mason: Take gardens to new heights

With every year I add to my birthday celebrations, my desire to have the garden rise to my level instead of me lowering to ground level has risen exponentially. Sometimes, the ground just seems a long way down.

Sandra Mason: Summer stars

Some people study ballplayer stats. Gardeners study plant stats.

Unlike a ball player's physical stats, plant stats can vary significantly, depending on the growing conditions. In particular, plant heights are listed as ranges — 3 to 6 feet for example.

Weekend planner: Cultivating ideas

By this time of year, gardeners have grown tired of tilling, planting and weeding. They're at the point they like to take a break and visit other gardens, hence the Champaign County Master Gardeners Garden Walk from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at a variety of private and public gardens in Urbana and Champaign.

Sandra Mason: Garden walks are a harvest of great ideas

We often read how gardens are the reflection of the gardener. Right now, my garden is reflecting controlled chaos. Yet the garden visions that waft through my dreams offer views of paradise rather than pandemonium.

June is the month to take a break from your own utopian endeavors, stand up straight for a day and enjoy the reflections of other gardeners during garden walks.

Books to help you get your hands dirty

I am a big gardener, so late spring is my favorite time of year. It's warm enough to get outside and have conversations with my dirt and perennials, but not too hot that I just want to stay indoors.

This has been a great spring for many of my plants. The roses had some problems dealing with last winter, but the hostas and peonies are going wild.