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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


August 11, 2018


Can you please identify this beautiful, flowering potted tree for me?

Picture of Duranta



The plant in question is Duranta, commonly called Golden Dewdrops for the small, golden berries that form after the flowers.  This is a tropical plant that will not overwinter outdoors, but it blooms all summer long until a frost.  It will grow in full sun to partial shade.  Originally the flowers were pale lavender or white, but with new varieties there are bold purples, variegated flowers and variegated foliage on some varieties.  .


I live in Fayetteville and have the variety of hydrangea that is supposed to bloom all summer called Forever and Ever.  The first year I had them they were gorgeous and bloomed profusely all summer. They have grown too tall for their space and I have tried pruning them in Mid-February and late September.  This year I've had one bloom from six bushes.  What is your recommendation?  


Forever and Ever is another variety of reblooming hydrangea.  It is a big leaf variety (Hydrangea macrophylla) but it is one that blooms on both the old wood and the new wood.  What that means is that when the plant goes dormant in the fall, the largest flower buds are set for the next seasons bloom.  If the plants make it through the winter with no damage, the best time to prune them would be after the first flush of flowers in early summer from the buds that were set last fall.  By pruning in February you are removing the blooms that were set on the old wood from the previous season.  In cold winters, die-back often occurs in NW Arkansas which also kills those same buds.  After the first blooms, the plant should continue to put on new blooms from the growth it produces during the current growing season.  You should be seeing more blooms.  How much sunlight does it get?  Hydrangeas need morning sun or filtered sun to set flowers. If they are in deep shade, they will be nice green plants, with few blooms. 

QuestionCan you identify this plant? It came up voluntary in a new flower bed. Thought it might be a Paulownia that you featured a couple of weeks ago but leaves are different. Buds start out with a small bit of yellow but open up as black spiked balls.

Picture of Velvet leaf     Picture of velvet leaf

AnswerThe plant in question is an annual plant commonly called Velvetleaf - Abutilon theophrasti. Some consider it a weed, and some consider it a wildflower, however it is native to India.  According to Wildflowers of Arkansas by Carl Hunter, the seed heads were once used to pattern the edge of pie crusts! Another common name is Pie Maker.  It produces a lot of seeds, so if you don’t want it returning, you may want to start pulling. 


QuestionI planted phlox this year and I noticed some weird looking things on top of the soil. They appeared in clumps. Do you know what they are?

Picture of birds nest fungi



You have a type of cup shaped mushroom known as one of the birds nest fungi.  They look just like a tiny birds next with eggs inside.  The egg-like structures are filled with the spores of the fungus.   They will actually help your mulch break down into humus or compost, so they are beneficial.   They often appear in mulch, around dead trees or in soils heavily amended with compost.  The cup actually catches rain as it falls which then will eject the “eggs” out.  Where they land they begin the process all over again.      




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