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OPINION | JANET B. CARSON: Breaking Ground

by Janet B. Carson | May 29, 2021 at 1:34 a.m.
"Pink Chimes" is a showy cultivar of Styrax, a genus of small flowering trees or large bushes. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)


If you have been visiting local nurseries and garden centers lately, you may think the earlier claims of plant scarcity were wrong, but look closely.

Annual flowers are still coming on — thankfully, growers can produce them much more quickly than they can woody shrubs, vines and perennials. If you are looking for specific varieties, you might or might not find them; but nurseries have been working tirelessly to find new plant sources to keep up with demand, and growers have been growing as fast as possible.

Larger tropicals have been very hard to find, but smaller pots of hibiscus and mandevilla are appearing.

While there are woody plant selections out there, larger specimens are few and far between, and specific varieties are also missing.

Growers and retailers are all still saying it will be two or more years before they fully rebound from the effects of winter losses coupled with high demand.

The good news is this is a good time to try new plants — or smaller plants. Keep in mind, smaller plants grow faster!

You are probably also noticing a little sticker shock. Supply and demand, coupled with rising shipping costs, lack of transport and limited availability have raised retailers' expenses, which carries over to consumers. This isn't just happening in the plant arena but in almost everything you buy these days.

Everyone I talk to in the plant world continues to say they have never had a year like this. People are gardening at record levels — a great problem to have, in my opinion. So, keep planting. Visit your local nurseries and try some new (or old) plants.

◼️ By now, everything that is going to grow in your garden should be growing. I know some plants still look pretty ragged.

◼️ Gardenias are sprouting up and down their stems but still look like a sore thumb in my garden. I am cutting some back to speed up the process of filling in, and I am letting 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 eventually will. But it won't be fast.

◼️ Most loropetalum look like nothing bad ever happened — truly amazing. Even my 15-foot-tall plants leafed back out. It took them a couple of months, but you would never know they lost all their leaves after February's snow. I have seen some plants across the state that still look bad. Start cutting those if you haven't already. There were some casualties, but way fewer than many expected.

◼️ So far, rain has boosted new growth, but when it stops, as it surely will, take over 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.

◼️ Vegetables are growing well, and I am still seeing ample supplies of vegetable transplants at nurseries and garden centers. It is not too late to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other summer vegetables. If you have planted vegetables, you probably are seeing a lot of fruit set.

◼️ We are still harvesting the cool-season crops, and as you remove those, replant with heat lovers.

◼️ Summer squashes are producing, and tomatoes and peppers won't be far behind. Monitor your squash plantings. All the rain coupled with dense foliage can lead to fruit rotting. Remove any affected plants as quickly as you can to keep the rest clean. You may need to remove a few leaves to open up air circulation.

◼️ Lawns are also growing in leaps and bounds — along with weeds. How weed-free you want your lawn to be will determine whether you spray herbicides or not.

◼️ 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 all gardens, along with Virginia creeper. Every time I think I have gotten it all pulled, I see more the next time I walk the garden. Both are native plants, and both are aggressive.

◼️ Container gardens are loving all the rain too, but remember to fertilize regularly. Annuals and flowering tropicals are going to benefit from regular fertilization every year. Containers need more frequent but lighter applications. Daily watering does leach out nutrition faster. To keep the plants blooming freely all summer, fertilize and water as needed.

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


Styrax is a genus of small trees or large bushes commonly called snowbells.

There are two native species — Styrax americanus and Styrax grandifolius. Both produce white blooms on large, shrub-like plants. But the showiest small tree in the genus is the Japanese variety, Styrax japonicus. It will grow to 20-30 feet tall and wide, in full sun to partial shade.

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

The clusters of fragrant white or pink blooms started appearing in mid-May and flower through mid-June. Olive-shape fruits persist into fall.

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

Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.


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