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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

 

June 16, 2018

Question

Would you know what this plant/tree is?  It must be perennial as it dies back in winter and then reappears in May.  They are in a wooded area about a mile up from the Arkansas River. 

Picture of tree of heaven

 

Answer

The tree in question is commonly called Tree of Heaven - Ailanthus altissima. The deciduous tree is native to China and was introduced as an ornamental in 1784 in Philadelphia.  Today it has naturalized and has become quite invasive.  There are separate male and female trees, with the female trees being prolific seeders with the potential to produce more than 300,000 seeds annually. They also have a deep root system and can send up suckers.  . 


Question

Help our phlox is dying...it started turning brown at the base and worked its way up. The stems are growing very tall as well.


  
AnswerPhlox can suffer from several diseases from root rot to powdery mildew.  Heavy soils, planting too close together or overwatering can all lead to problems.  Tall thin plants can also be due to lack of sunlight.  Take a sample of your phlox with some pictures in to your local county extension office.  If they cannot diagnose the issue they can send it to the disease diagnostic lab. 


Question

I live in the Southeast part of the state. When and how is how is the best time to trim my impatiens?


 

 Answer

Impatiens are annual flowers that do well in the shade.  Some of the new sunpatiens are varieties that also do well in the sun.  Annuals are normally not pruned unless the plants get long and leggy and you need them to bush out more. If that condition happens, then prune when it does.  Otherwise, keep them well watered and fertilize them lightly every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.

 


Question

I don’t remember the real name of the seeds that I have had for years.  I know it’s supposed to attract hummingbirds. I planted them all in one planter since I was not sure any would come up.  Well a lot did!  Now not sure if I can thin them out and replant some in different containers.  Your thoughts please.  

Picture of cypress vine

Answer

The plant in question is commonly called cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit).  It is an annual vine in the morning glory family with pretty red flowers which do attract hummingbirds.  I would definitely thin them out and maybe share with friends. Some gardeners find them to be invasive, as they can reseed.  Soil quality is a big factor in how well they come back.

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Question

Seven years ago I replanted a leaf in water from my home place of mom’s hydrangea bush.  Then planted in the ground. It has only bloomed one time and yet is a beautiful healthy looking green bush. Could you tell me what the problem might be?

Answer

 

There are several reasons for lack of blooms on big leaf hydrangeas – Hydrangea macrophylla.  Old-fashioned big leaf hydrangeas bloom on the old wood, which means they set their flower buds before they go dormant in the fall.  If they get pruned in the fall or early spring, the flower buds are being removed. If the plants get frozen back to the ground by a cold winter or late freeze, they also lose their flower buds.  The last factor can be lack of sunlight.  Hydrangeas do best with full morning sun or filtered sun, with no direct afternoon sun.  Deep shade will give you a green bush but no flowers.


 

Question

We are plagued by mushrooms around an old Hackberry tree stump. They spring up overnight about every two weeks. They smell and attract insects, plus the black slime discolors flowerpots, etc. We've tried vinegar, salt, spraying, nothing seems to work. They die and dry up after a few days then they are back again. Any suggestions?


 

 AnswerYou are probably going to have this problem for the next year or two. You have a lot of decaying roots and organic matter from that hackberry tree you removed, which the mushrooms are feeding on.  With ample moisture the spores sprout and the mushrooms appear.  I get quite a few different mushrooms in my compost. As I see them, I put on gloves and remove them and dispose of them. Over time, they will wear out.  Hot, dry conditions are also not as favorable to mushroom growth. Some people recommend fungicides, but I haven’t seen much effectiveness with them.  Probably not the news you wanted, but short of digging up the stump and all the surrounding roots, there isn’t much more you can do.


 

 

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