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Welcome to the "Ask Janet Carson" portion of our website. Here you will find Janet Carson's current "In the Garden" Questions and Answers found weekly in "The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette" Saturday edition. Have fun reading these pages and check back with us weekly. This page is constantly updated and new questions are added on Monday following their appearance in the paper. So stay tuned...

All of the Questions & Answers that Janet writes for all publications are archived.

In the Garden with Janet B. Carson


September 24, 2016


My husband is very cautious about planting trees and large shrubs too close to the house because of roots. I planted a crape myrtle bush right in front of our large picture window on my own years ago (picture included). Now that it is getting bigger, my husband is talking about pulling it up because he's concerned about it being too close to the house. I do not want it moved! I see crape myrtles planted right in front of people's houses everywhere in our surrounding area. Is this indeed going to be a problem?     

                    Crape Myrtle next to house                   


I am not concerned with the roots interfering with the house, but I don’t think it is in a good location.  The crape myrtle will continue to grow larger and it is covering up your window.  I think it would have so much more potential if you moved it to a location where it had room to grow and bloom.    


My fall blooming camellia bush has a bunch of fruit-like growths on them.  I have never seen these before.  What are they?



Camellia sasanqua flowers can set seeds if they get the right conditions, and our mild winter coupled with a mild growing season has allowed them to set more fruits than normal.  These small apple-looking fruits do contain seeds.  While it is possible to grow a camellia from seed, it will take a long time to get a flowering plant when grown by seed.


I saw these trees blooming in a park on Camp Robinson Road in NLR.  They were magnificent! At the time, they were in full bloom. The leaves are very large and the bark is beautiful. A friend and I had no luck identifying them. Someone suggested a Mulberry by the leaf I brought home, which measures over 12" in diameter, but that is not its identity. Having no luck with any books I have, and friends, I knew I could get my answer from you.  Now that I have seen it in bloom, I will be watching for the results of the blooms.

                 Chinese Parasol Tree 


The tree in question is commonly called a Chinese parasol tree—Firmiana simplex. They are an interesting tree with large leaves and the bark stays smooth and green even as it ages.  

 QuestionOne of my friends has two huge KQ ferns that he overwintered last year.  He said he put them in an outdoor house and it had no light and they hardly shedded.  Anyway they came out again this spring and are big and thick.  Do you have any information or more details on how to overwinter ferns or is it worth it?       

AnswerAs long as you can prevent the ferns from freezing, they should overwinter fine in a garage or crawl space under your house.  I am surprised that they did not shed any leaves, since normally they don’t look too spry when you move them back outside.  A little haircut and some water and fertilizer helps them bounce back.     

QuestionWe have a small walk thru the woods to our shop. The ground cover is solid poison oak. After two concentrated doses of Roundup the poison oak is dying. I would like to replace the ground cover with something that would choke out the poison oak. Also want to add some liriope , rocks and existing iris along the pathway. Can I do this in the fall or need to hit any returning poison oak in spring and then plant.  Thanks for your help and suggestions.  


I would be very surprised if you killed your poison oak/ivy completely, especially if you had a dense covering.  From your photo, you have a large area to cover.  You may want to start small and work on a section of a time.  It is a shady spot, so consider smothering out some of the areas by laying black plastic now to keep any weeds from growing back this winter into early spring.  I would try to lay a nice pathway with an underlayment of landscape cloth, then incorporate some rocks and mulch.  I would go pretty slowly on adding a bunch of plants until you know the poison ivy is truly gone since it is difficult to kill poison ivy growing amongst broadleaf plants.  Once you are ready to plant I would try to stick with more woodland type plants—crested iris, cranesbill geranium, toad lilies, trillium, mayapples, etc.   

 Army Worms            

Aug 27, 2016

               Army worms spotArmy Worms

Armyworms are everywhere in central Arkansas. Bermuda lawns are getting hard hit. While we often think the damage is worse in a dry season, high egg survival of fall armyworms is favored by above-average rains in August and September, which we have definitely had.  Fall armyworms tend to feed more actively in the early morning and late afternoon, and often hide during the peak of the day.   After a severe fall armyworm attack, the only vegetation left in the yard will be tough stems.  Bermuda grass is a favorite host, in particular, lush, tender growth—which we also have in abundance after the rains.    The brown color results from drying of the plant due to dehydration after armyworms chew tender growth.   Although fall armyworms feed more actively in early morning and late afternoon, they may eat throughout most of the day in tall forage. Fall armyworms often conceal themselves during the brightest part of the day.  Rarely will it kill an established lawn, but a newly planted lawn can be killed.  Products containingbifenthrin, carbaryl, esfenvalerate, permethrin and others are labeled for control.  Common names usually say lawn insecticide or grub killer. 


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