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Garden Reference Desk

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

 

May 20, 2017

Question

Due to my holly bushes being full of bees, I didn't get my liriope under the bushes trimmed early and then forgot about them.  Is it too late to trim it now?

  

Answer

You can still trim it but it is going to take more time. Instead of just cutting the whole plant back, you will now need to selectively cut the older leaves so that you don’t cut the new growth that is up and growing.   If you do cut the new growth, it will have that cut look all summer. It won’t hurt the plant, it just won’t be as attractive. 


Question

We have a 6 year old Cornus florida, flowering dogwood that must have partially died with the drought last year in Fayetteville, AR.  This spring it is leafing out on only about 1/4 of its branches, the others are lifeless and dried up at least at the ends.  Would you advise me about pruning out the dead wood or not pruning it?  How long should I give it to find out what is alive still and how do I determine how far back to prune it, if that is what I should do.
Thanks again, a fellow MG.

 

Answer

Once a dogwood tree begins to decline, it is very hard to reverse. We did have some erratic weather this spring and some plants did not leaf out well at first, but by now you should have foliage on any branches that are alive. If you only have 25% of the tree living, I would call it quits and remove it and start over.  If you want to give it one more shot, cut back to green growth and see what happens. Dogwoods are not drought-tolerant trees, and when they are in decline they are a calling card for borers to finish off the job.


Question

How do you care for a "cross Vine"?  Also known as a Greenhaw vine. I obtained this plant from Williamsburg, VA and it needs to be trimmed badly.

 

Answer

Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata is the better-behaved cousin of the trumpet-creeper. This native perennial vine blooms usually from April through May. Its woody vines climb well and can grow 50 feet up into trees, but can be trained on a fence or trellis.  Several improved varieties such as ‘Tangerine Beauty’ and ‘Jekyll’ can have some sporadic blooms off and on through the summer. It blooms best in full sun. If it needs pruning, do so as soon after flowering as possible.


Question

I have some questions about a snowball bush.  Where on the snowball bush should a limb be removed?  How long should the limb be?  What does the burial process of the limb consist of? 

 

Answer

Snowball bush, Viburnum opulus blooms in the spring.  Depending on which variety you are growing they can be up to 10-12 feet tall or a dwarf one is 2-3 feet tall.  They typically have multiple branches, and can be thinned or cut back to your desired height.  I am assuming by burial process you mean layering a branch for propagation.  Don’t cut that limb—instead take one of the lower growing tender branches and lay it down in the ground. Mound some soil over a portion of it and it should root while attached to the mother plant.  Once rooted, it can be transplanted. 


QuestionI have 5 single trunk crepe myrtles that planted in 2009. The trees are all healthy and have developed beautiful thick trunks. They have never been pruned and are now over 20' tall. I know they are overdue for a good prune. When is the optimal time and how far down should I go? Their blooming hasn't been great due to the larger oaks around but I'm sure they could look better. I prefer a high fairly dense crown.

 


Answer

I do like the look of a single-trunked crape myrtle as well as the multi-trunked versions.  The time to do any pruning would be in late February through early March.  If you prune this late you will remove potential blooms or delay flowering. How much you take off would be based on what you are looking for.  I normally don’t recommend taking off more than 1/3, but if there is room for them to grow tall, possibly just a little thinning may be all that is needed. Definitely keep those beautiful large trunks intact.   Blooming is always best on crape myrtles in full sun. 


 

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