JANET B. CARSON: Innovative


If you’ve been to any local nurseries and garden centers recently, you might think the earlier claims of plant scarcity were wrong, but take a close look.

Annual flowers are still coming – luckily growers can produce them much faster than they can from woody shrubs, vines, and perennials. If you are looking for specific varieties, you may or may not find them; but nurseries have worked tirelessly to find new sources of plants to meet demand, and growers have grown as fast as possible.

The larger tropics have been very difficult to find, but smaller pots of hibiscus and mandevilla are appearing.

Although there are selections of woody plants, the larger specimens are rare and specific varieties are also missing.

Producers and retailers continue to say it will be another two years or more before they fully recover from the effects of winter losses associated with high demand.

The good news is, now is a good time to try new plants – or smaller plants. Keep in mind that small plants grow faster!

You probably also notice a little sticker shock. Supply and demand, coupled with rising shipping costs, lack of transportation and limited availability, have increased retailer spending, which is passed on to consumers. This doesn’t just happen in the area of ​​plants, but in almost everything you buy these days.

Everyone I talk to in the plant world keeps saying that they’ve never had a year like this. People are gardening at record levels – a big deal to have, in my opinion. So keep planting. Visit your local nurseries and try out new (or old) plants.

◼️ Everything that grows in your garden should now grow. I know some plants still look pretty jagged.

◼️ Gardenias grow from top to bottom of their stems but still look like a sore thumb in my garden. I cut some of them to speed up the filling process, and I let others grow.

◼️ Indian hawthorns have all their growth at the base, and if you have the time and patience to let them grow back, they will eventually do so. But it won’t be quick.

◼️ Most loropetalum look like they haven’t seen anything wrong – really amazing. Even my 15 foot tall plants collapsed. It took them a few months, but you would never know they lost all of their leaves after the February snowfall. I have seen plants across the state that still look bad. Start cutting them if you haven’t already. There were a few casualties, but far fewer than many expected.

◼️ So far, the rain has stimulated new growth, but when it stops, as it surely will, it will take over the watering chores. This is not a year to let plants struggle on their own. A little extra TLC should make them healthy and happy again.

◼️ The vegetables are growing well, and I still see a lot of vegetable plants in nurseries and garden centers. It’s not too late to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other summer vegetables. If you’ve planted vegetables, you are probably seeing a lot of fruit set.

◼️ We always harvest the cool season crops, and as you remove them, replant with heat lovers.

◼️ Summer squash is producing, and tomatoes and peppers won’t be left out. Watch your squash plantations. Any rain combined with dense foliage can lead to fruit rot. Remove any affected plants as quickly as possible to keep the rest clean. You may need to remove a few leaves to open up the air circulation.

◼️ Lawns are also growing in leaps and bounds, as are weeds. How clean your lawn is will determine whether or not you spray herbicides.

◼️ Weeds in flower beds and vegetable gardens are also at high levels. A good hoe can help, as can mulch.

◼️ Poison ivy is at an all time high in any garden, along with Virginia creeper. Every time I think I pulled it all out, I see more of it the next time I walk in the garden. Both are native plants and both are aggressive.

◼️ Container gardens also love all the rain, but remember to fertilize regularly. Annuals and tropical flowers will benefit from regular fertilization each year. Containers require more frequent but lighter applications. Daily watering eliminates nutrition faster. To keep plants blooming freely all summer, fertilize and water as needed.

Styrax bears olive-shaped fruits that hang in the fall. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Janet B. Carson)


Styrax is a genus of small trees or large bushes commonly known as snow bells.

There are two native species: Styrax americanus and Styrax grandifolius. Both produce white flowers on tall, shrubby plants. But the most showy small tree of its kind is the Japanese variety, Styrax japonicus. It will grow to 20 to 30 feet tall and wide, in full sun or partial shade.

The white or pinkish-white flowers of the styrax appear from mid-May to mid-June.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Janet B. Carson)

The white or pink flowers of the styrax appear from mid-May to mid-June. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Janet B. Carson)

Clusters of fragrant white or pink flowers began to appear in mid-May and bloom until mid-June. The olive-shaped fruits persist until fall.

Styrax prefers well-amended, well-drained soil with uniform moisture throughout the growing season.

Read Janet Carson’s blog on arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

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