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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


January 13, 2018


I’m covering Lavender, Rosemary, roses with porous plant covers when the really low temperatures are predicted. The lavender and rosemary are large bushes and are looking good. My Ajuga and creeping jenny aren’t looking good, and the pansies and other winter annuals look pretty sad.  Should I start cutting them back now or just pull them up and be done until spring?



Winter is just beginning so we have a lot of potential weather left.  At this point, I would just ignore your ajuga and creeping jenny. Ajuga should be evergreen, but creeping jenny is deciduous and does die back each winter.  The winter annuals may have some damage, but should bounce back.  You can cut back damaged foliage on the Swiss chard, mustard and kale but then be prepared to cover the rebounding plants if they start growing again.  They should do ok unless temperatures dip much below 28 degrees.  How much growth we see on these plants will be determined by what else Mother Nature has in store. 


I have a North facing slope measuring about 15’ X 100’ probably 75% shaded & am interested in cleaning up the weeds, poison ivy, privet & various other volunteers and planting a ground cover that is dense & low to the ground. Also we need to take into account all the leaves that the fall presents me with from multiple dogwoods, red buds, hackberry and a very mature water oak. Any suggestions?

AnswerThere are several options.  Moss would be a great option--it gives you a green blanket and you can still walk on it.  You can blow the leaves off of the groundcover with no problems each fall.  You can also plant ajuga, Asiatic jasmine, or any number of others.  This is a large area that you are planning on covering so I would do it in stages.  Do a thorough job of cleaning up a small area, then plant. Each year you can spread out the area and gradually get it planted, and control the tenacious weeds.  Privet and poison ivy are tough performers.


Is the deciduous holly you wrote about recently the same thing as what I know as Possum haw?  Are they available at local nurseries?




There are actually two different species of deciduous holly plants and unfortunately, common names are used interchangeably.  The two species are Ilex decidua and Ilex verticillata.  Ilex decidua is the plant most commonly referred to as possum haw.  Birds, deer and a variety of small mammals including possums (which could be the source of the common name) are attracted to the fruit. These native hollies have a lot of genetic variability and thus you can find red, orange and yellow berried varieties.  The most common selection we find at local nurseries is 'Warren's Red' but you can also find the orange/red berried 'Council Fire' and 'Byer's Gold' with yellow berries.  Some of the Ilex verticillata varieties in the trade are 'Red Sprite' and 'Berry Poppins'.  Female plants are the ones with the showy fruit which we see along the roadsides right now. 


We have a large corn plant in our lobby which is at least six feet tall.  We recently repotted it in a larger pot and noticed that it grew seeds.  Recently it bloomed with small flowers with a lovely fragrance.  Now the flower petals are dropping to the floor and it’s quite sticky. What is this and why did it bloom?  The people we visit with say they have never seen this before.



Many houseplants have the capability of blooming in their native environments.  In the low light conditions of a typical home or office, we rarely see blooms.  There are a few plants though, that we can frequently see flowers.  The corn plant dracaena is one, along with jade plants and the sanseveria or Mother-in-law plant.  It means you have some really good growing conditions for the plant.  We often find that once the plants begin to bloom, they do so every year.  The fragrance is quite sweet, and can be a bit cloying in a very small space.  The fragrance tends to be more intense at night but enjoy it while it blooms. 


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Shared by a reader:

Bromeliads for Brunch?

For decades, our nation has been “dumbing down”.
The depths to which we have gone simply astound.
I purchased a Bromeliad last summer.
The tag attached to it was a bummer.

“Not Suitable for Human Consumption” it said.
I read it again, not believing what I read.
I eat a lot and like a variety of food;
Bromeliads for Brunch doesn’t sound that good.

Last week, I bought a new Chrysanthemum.
“This Plant Not Edible” was on my new Mum.
Due to the frequency of these warning quotes,
they obviously think we’re a bunch of goats.

Apparently, this a real problem today
for them to continue to warn us this way!
I keep hoping their assessment is not true;
on my part, it may be optimism which is undue.
Robbie J. Huffman © 



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