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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


December 9, 2017


I am finding branches all over my yard...a lot! Some elm, some oak. A Master Gardener told me it was some type of insect.  What kind and should I be concerned? 



Whenever we see small branches that look like they have been chewed off, it is a good sign that we have twig girdler beetles in action.  The female beetle girdles small branches usually a pencil or smaller in diameter and deposits eggs in these twigs.  She leaves the twig barely attached, so when we have wind movement these small branches fall.  Girdling usually occurs in late summer into fall.  Rake up and destroy the small branches, since they can contain the eggs or larvae.  No sprays are recommended. 


Rosemont Memorial in Benton has a lovely tree near military tomb stores on the south end of cemetery. The leaves are shaped like the gingko tree. Will the seed pods that look like popcorn germinate if planted as I would love to have this tree in my yard?

Picture of popcorn tree

AnswerYou nailed the common name in your description of the seeds—it is commonly called a Popcorn Tree or Chinese tallow tree - Sapium sebiferum.  While the tree does have interesting, white popcorn-like seeds in the fall and pretty fall color, it can become invasive. In central Arkansas northward, it is often limited by cold weather, but it can spread rapidly in the southern parts of the state.  A mature tree can produce more than 100,000 seeds per year and the trees also propagate by means of “runners” or “suckers.” Many southern states have now declared tallow trees a noxious weed.


I’m sending you 2 pics of a disease my Star Jasmine got this summer.  It appears these are eggs, when you mash them it’s kind of milky/gooey.  They are only laid on the branches/stems, not the leaves.  We sprayed all summer with Fungicide 3. Only got worse.   What is it?

Picture of scale on star jasmine 



This is a classic example of the necessity for proper identification for proper control.  You are spraying a fungicide for an insect problem.  You have a nice case of waxy scale insects. There are over 150 types of scale insects.  They are small, immobile, with no visible legs or antennae, pressed tightly against the plant on which they are feeding. The white waxy outer coating on the waxy scale protects the sucking insect underneath the white coat.  As they mature, more and more wax is produced until it eventually covers the entire scale in a thick, white, irregular coat. Wax scale is found on a wide variety of plants including azalea, blueberry, camellia, holly, and others. There is one generation per year with crawlers active in early summer.  Using a dormant oil now will help to smother the existing scale insects, and/or using a systemic insecticide in the spring will also work to control them.



I transplanted some 20 ft. white oak trees this spring.  Do we still need to be watering since we had a dry fall now that the weather is cold with temperatures below 30 at night?




We most definitely need to still water in the winter months if we don’t get ample rainfall.  It is particularly true for newly planted trees.  November and early December have been dry, so water to help get the roots established on your recently transplanted trees. Dormant plants don't need as much water as actively growing plants, but if they are too dry leading up to a hard freeze, they are more prone to winter damage.  Your tree needs moisture for the roots to continue to grow.   How often you water will not be as frequent as in the summer months but if we have more than 2-3 weeks without moisture, I would consider watering. 

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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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