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story.lead_photo.caption The round-leaf ground cover creeping into a reader’s creeping thyme is green dichondra.

Q I was wondering if you have ever seen bumblebees making a nest in a decorative birdhouse? Last summer some bumblebees decided to raise their baby bees in our birdhouse on our patio. When it was very hot last summer they would come out and fan themselves before returning inside the birdhouse. They never were aggressive to us while we sat on the patio. We hope they return this year because we really enjoyed watching them.

A Bumblebee boxes or nests are all over Pinterest and in gardening magazines. These insects do like confined spaces, and their colonies are not nearly as large as those of honeybees. Many times they nest in the ground or in confined spaces close to the ground. It looks like your birdhouse is close to the ground, which would not be attractive to birds but would be to bees. I would not be at all surprised if they did return again this year. And you are correct, when it gets hot the workers beat their wings to cool off their box. Nature can be quite entertaining.

Q Three years ago I was given the saddest, most pathetic gardenia I had ever seen. It had only brown, falling leaves and was 6 to 8 inches tall. I took it home and nursed it. New clean pot, fresh clean soil and fertilizer. I put it on our south-facing deck during spring and summer and in our garage during the winter. Now it is about 8 feet tall, and I am far too old and infirm to keep taking it in and out. I live in Rogers. Will it continue to do well in the ground? It will be in a sun-part-shade area of my front yard. I am going to have someone put it in for me. Will it survive? I do hope so.

A Gardenias are at best marginally winter hardy in Northwest Arkansas. They rarely die outright but can be frozen to the ground in a cold winter. If you want to give it a try, plant it in on the northeastern side of your house, preferably where you have a bit of protection in the form of other plants. It does need filtered sunlight or morning sun to set flowers, but get it established now to get a strong root system going before next winter. There are several newer varieties available that are showing more winter hardiness, but I doubt you know what variety you have. Once a killing frost occurs next fall, add extra mulch around the root zone, then see what happens.

Q Could you please help? This terrace has rock and chat over poor soil. [The reader sent a photo.] The area faces south and gets a lot of sun. I have thought of cotoneaster, sedum and crown vetch. Which of these would you recommend, if any? I would welcome any ideas you have. I will have a view of it from the house, but anything's better than this.

A Wow, this is a challenge for sure. A steep slope and poor soil to boot. You have a few options. Carolina jasmine is an evergreen vine, which you could plant at the top and the bottom. This vining plant typically grows up things like a trellis or tree, but I have seen it used as a ground cover in full sun, and it did quite nicely. It would take full sun and would spread more quickly than the others since it is a vine. Your other option would be one of the sedums. You also might try zoysia grass. I know of two cases (one in Texarkana and one in Fayetteville) where they plant it and don't mow it. It looks like a weeping grass and would only have to be cut back once a year in the spring.

Q May I have your help in identifying this round leaf ground cover getting fresh with my creeping thyme, please? [The reader sent a photo.] I want to keep the thyme and am not sure whether to encourage or dissuade the interloper.

A The plant in question is green dichondra, which is a perennial weed in Arkansas. The silver leafed variety is a great annual plant. The green form was once used as a lawn substitute in Florida. It can be quite persistent and, I am afraid, may try to take over your creeping thyme, so I would remove it. I also see a few wild violets in the mix, and they can be a pest as well.

Q Can I kill the sprouts around a "Cleveland" pear tree with a woody brush killer and not harm the main tree? [The reader sent a photo.]

A No, my guess is that the sprouts are root suckers, which are attached to the mother tree. It is possible they are seedlings, but as close as they are to the tree, I think they are attached. Killing it with an herbicide would damage your tree. Since it is a type of ornamental pear, that may not be a bad thing, but I don't think that is what you want to do. Cut them out slightly beneath the soil line. Hopefully that and mowing will keep them in check.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Carolina jasmine, a sedum or zoysia grass are options to cover a reader’s hillside.
Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Treating these pear suckers with herbicide would harm the parent pear tree.

HomeStyle on 05/04/2019

Print Headline: JANET B. CARSON: In the Garden


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