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IN THE GARDEN: Palms notoriously slow to recover after damage

by Janet B. Carson | April 24, 2021 at 12:42 p.m.
Black cherry (Prunus serotina) is the continent's largest native cherry and a source of food for pollinators and animals. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q Please tell me the name of this shrub/tree [the reader sent a photo].

A The tree in question is a black cherry (Prunus serotina), sometimes called wild cherry. It is the largest native cherry tree in the U.S. The showy white flowers appear as clusters in early spring followed by dark, pea-sized fruits in late summer. This plant provides nectar for pollinators and is a larval host plant for several species of butterflies. Fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail, white-tailed deer and small mammals. Because of the heavy fruit set, it does self-sow. If not managed, the plants can become weedy and aggressive.

Q Thank you for your wonderful articles in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. They've been so helpful to me as I acclimate to gardening here since moving from Buffalo, N.Y. The plants in the new Diamond series are great, but I always have trouble finding them here in NWA. I'd love to get a few of the coleus, so might you be able to guide me where to purchase them please?

The FlameThrower series of coleus was selected for the 2021 Arkansas Diamonds program. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)
The FlameThrower series of coleus was selected for the 2021 Arkansas Diamonds program. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

A The Arkansas Green Industry Association does keep a list of nurseries that participate in the Arkansas Diamonds program on their website. Here's a shortcut link: arkansasonline.com/424gem. In Northwest Arkansas, I see Westwood Gardens, White River Nursery and Sharum's Garden Center listed.

Q Our palm fronds in Hot Springs look dead, brown and shriveled up. I am getting mixed advice on the internet whether to remove them (and apply copper fungicide).

A A lot of palms look dead throughout Central Arkansas. They are not one of the most common plants we grow, but there are "hardy" palms available at many garden centers. Even where palm trees are common and plentiful, they had winter damage this year. The jury is still out as to how damaged they are. Palms are notoriously slow to get growing after damage. Look in the center of the top of the plant — that is where new fronds will emerge. Remove the old, dead fronds and wait to see what happens. If the plant feels firm at the top, there is hope. If it is soft and mushy, not so good. Once the weather warms up permanently you should be seeing signs of new fronds. Palms aren't going to look fabulous quickly, even if they are alive, so be patient.

Q Not sure if you remember me sending you pictures of my sub-freezing-weather-damaged Nandinas or not, from this year. You told me to wait and see what happened before doing any more pruning. I had taken the opportunity to prune them all to the same height. Here is a picture of them looking really good. I have watered them pretty well even though, as you very well know, they don't need much watering. I did that to see if it would help kick-start them. Not sure if it helped or not but after each watering they seemed to put on new growth. Might just be my wishful thinking that it had something to do with them bouncing back better than if I had not watered them. Thanks for your guidance. I love these bushes, especially in the winter with all of the red berries and green leaves.

To encourage Nandinas to leaf out lower in the shrub, cut a few canes at the soil line. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
To encourage Nandinas to leaf out lower in the shrub, cut a few canes at the soil line. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A Nandinas are tough plants, and I was fairly certain they would recover — and they have. One thing you may want to do is stagger the stem height. All of the new growth will commence at the top of each cane. To have some foliage at the base to cover up other woody stalks, cut some of the canes at the soil level.

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 arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email jcarson@arkansasonline.com

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