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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


January 7, 2017


I was reading in "Birds and Blooms" about the Winterberry Holly (Ilex Verticillata) about it was a good bush for berry food for birds.  The range shown for this holly did not include Arkansas, but did extend to areas further south but east of Arkansas (in Alabama).  My question is, will it thrive in Arkansas, and are there any pet concerns (poisonous to dogs)?



Ilex verticillata is one of two species of deciduous hollies--the other being Iex decidua. They are quite hardy throughout Arkansas.  Both of these hollies are quite showy in the winter landscape if they are female plants.  As with all hollies, there are separate male and separate female plants, and only the females can produce fruit.  The Ilex verticillata plants typically have more berries than the I. decidua varieties, but both are beautiful.  All holly berries contain a toxin that if eaten can cause stomach upset in children and pets, but consider how many hollies grace our landscapes.  Although I am sure it has happened somewhere, I have never heard of a dog dying of holly poisoning.  While mild to moderately toxic to humans and pets, it is a food staple for birds and other wildlife.  


I have been given a Plumbago that has gotten quite large...I have cut off Rubber Tree Plants, and rooted the cut off portion, and it has sprouted from the cut off stalk...would the Plumbago do the same?



I wonder if you have a plumbago or a plumeria.  There are two plants commonly called plumbago--one is a semi-evergreen groundcover in the shade with dark blue flowers - Ceratostigma plumbaginoides while the other is a moderately hardy perennial with pale blue flower with a sprawling growth habit - Plumbago auriculata.  Neither would grow tall on a thick stalk like a rubber tree produces.  However, Plumeria--the tropical plant which produces showy, fragrant blooms and is often used to make the traditional leis in Hawaii will form a stalk similar to a rubber tree and could root easily if cut back.  If you have ever been to Hawaii, they sell small pieces of unrooted stalks in convenience stores all over the place, and they easily root and grow into plants once home.


Do you have available on the internet a yearly schedule for applications to lawns for weed control, feeding, seeding, all that encompasses growing healthy lawns?  I am on a corner lot and primarily have Bermuda with the front and street side yard on a downward slope.  The back yard has five (5) large oak trees so it is very difficult to grow grass in that area.  Any guidance will be most appreciated. Thank you for your attention.



We have a wealth of information on the UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service website on lawn care.  Here is a link to the lawn section:

There is a lawn calendar for each grass that can be grown in Arkansas plus much more.  For heavily shaded areas, don't try to grow grass.  You can use a groundcover, create landscape beds for shade plants or simply have a mulched area.  Grass and shade are not a good combination.


You mentioned a tall slender tree as a suggestion for someone to plant in a recent column.  What was the name of that tree?


I actually mentioned several.  One of the new trends in tree species is the fastigiated form--or a narrow, columnar growth habit. There are fastigiated selections of sweetgums, oaks, tulip poplars, bald cypress, ginkgo and many more.  Here is a repeat of what I listed:  –Many species are now sold in this fastigiated form, from columnar oaks, slender silhouette sweet gums, fastigiate hornbeams and gingkoes, elms, and tulip poplar all have fastigiate forms. Many have great fall color. For blooms there are a few crabapple and cherry varieties with the fastigiate form. You might also try a sourwood tree. It is a beautiful tree with white flowers in late spring and outstanding fall color. Its natural growth habit is fairly narrow and it grows to about 30-35 feet tall.

 The Arkansas Master Gardener year-round gardening calendars for 2017 are now available. The calendars give you monthly gardening tips, plus outstanding garden photos taken by Arkansas Master Gardeners in Arkansas.  To order a calendar, stop by the Little Rock State Extension Office (2301 S. University Avenue).  Or you may choose to have the calendar mailed to you.  Calendars for pickup are $1.00 each or $3.50 per calendar if mailed.  Please contact Holly Beason at 501-671-2237 to order calendars.

Picture of the 2017 Arkansas Master Gardener Calendar 


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