University News

Horticulture Teacher Shows How to Grow a Green Thumb

September 13, 2007

Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL -- Anyone can have a green thumb, just ask Mari Loehrlein, a Western Illinois University horticulture professor in the agriculture department. Better yet, check out Loehrlein's new book that outlines everything one needs to know about cultivating his or her green thumb.

Loehrlein recently authored "Home Horticulture Principles and Practices." A book signing will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 at New Copperfield's Book Service, north side Courthouse Square in Macomb. What's unique about this book is that it can be used both in the academic classroom and by the average gardener, according to Loehrlein.

"I wanted to write a book that could easily be used by a homeowner as well as a horticulture professional," Loehrlein explained. "While there's enough 'technical' information to be used in the classroom, it's also easy for the weekend gardener to use as a practical guide."

Loehrlein started the book three years ago after a casual mention to a textbook representative. The book she had been using in her WIU horticulture classes was out of print and she could find nothing else like it on the market. When she mentioned her quandary to the rep, he suggested she write a book. Loehrlein got in touch with Delmar Publishing and the rest is horticulture history.

"The process is fairly in-depth. I had to submit a book proposal and once that was accepted, I had to submit a comprehensive outline. One of the greatest things was that other horticulture professors reviewed the outline. Their feedback prompted me to add chapters I hadn't really thought about including," she said. "And I kept hearing from them that a book like this was really needed as they were also working with outdated texts and manuals."

Based on their feedback, Loehrlein's extensive horticulture background and her desire to publish a book for both practitioners and homeowners, Loehrlein created a book with what she calls a "dual personality."

"I am using this text in my Introduction to Horticulture class so the students can learn the technical terms; however, it's not an intimidating book for persons who just want to learn how to control pests in their garden, how to properly prune a shrub or what type of flower to plant in the shady area of their yard," she said. "I worked hard to tie the technical side of the field with the basics."

Scattered throughout the book are photos that Loehrlein took of her own landscaping successes, as well as others she has come across in her work. She also drew many of the sketches, which were refined by Delmar's illustrators.

Another unique aspect of the book includes hands-on activities and reviews at the end of each chapter -- features that students, practitioners and homeowners can all understand and use.

"This book is a good reference manual for the general public. It provides basic information, easy-to-use charts and tables and standard guidelines to produce a thriving garden, flower plot and more," Loehrlein said. "The chapters run the gamut, from plant science to pest and weed control to how to grow from seeds to house plants to landscape design."

Loehrlein joined Western's agriculture faculty in 1997. She teaches greenhouse and nursery management, introductory horticulture, landscape design, landscape management, home horticulture, plant propagation, turf management and plant identification. Prior to working at Western, Loehrlein worked in a breeding and research program for Sunworld, International in California. In 1995 she bred a new geranium cultivar, "Camelot."

"Some people are born with green thumbs, but others grow them through trial and error, through advice from others and through reading or attending classes," she said. "This book is for anyone who wants to grow green thumbs."

Loehrlein's book is available at New Copperfields, and through Delmar Publishing at

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing