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IN THE GARDEN: Unidentified plant is hellebore, an evergreen perennial when kept in shade

by Janet B. Carson April 23, 2022 at 2:04 a.m.
Hellebore, commonly called Lenten rose, blooms in late winter and is an evergreen perennial for the shade. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q: My friend has had this plant growing in a shrub bed for years [the reader sent a photo]. He bought it from a plant sale here in Saline County, and it’s been about this size over the years. I like horticulture very much but can’t ID it for him. Thanks for your help.

A: The plant is a hellebore, commonly called Lenten rose. It is a wonderful evergreen perennial for the shade. It produces its blooms in the winter and rests in the summer.

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Q: This large yaupon holly bush [the reader sent photos] is pushing my brick retaining wall farther apart every year. I have gotten a price from a brick mason to remove the affected portion of the brick wall and redo it, but not before digging out enough of the roots along the inside of the wall to lay down a block interior wall down low, as a barrier against further damaging the new cosmetic wall. That wall would be lower and hidden by soil. My two questions are: 1) Can the holly take so much root removal? and 2) is an interior wall even necessary if 8 inches of impacted roots are removed and backfilled with soil? It should be noted that the original separation was not caused by the holly but happened when an oak tree went down in 2008, causing the separation. It has since widened due, I am guessing, to the holly’s vigorous growth since. Your opinion is very much valued as I do not want to kill the tree. The cost of the job as described is $1,200.

A: While there are never any guarantees about damaging a section of roots, I would say the holly should recover. I don’t think a barrier is needed. The fact that the wall was damaged by a large tree and that damage left an opening now filled by holly roots means the holly roots are being opportunistic and moving in where an opening is provided. If the wall is solid, as far away from the wall as the holly is, I think you are fine. If you can wait until late fall or early winter to do the work, there would be less stress to your holly. If you do the work now, make sure you water well all summer to compensate for the holly’s loss of moisture-gathering roots. You might also want to do a little thinning of excess branches. I also see at least four — or five — separate holly trunks in the picture. They could be root suckers or seedlings that have grown up.


Q: I drove Interstate 30 from Little Rock to Dallas on March 31 and came back April 5. I noticed hundreds of plants that I do not remember seeing in such abundance on previous drives. They were in various stages of growth, and when I came back this way they were “blooming” a purplish fuzz. Were they thistles? They seemed similar to the pictures I saw online though not nearly as tidy.

A: I would be surprised to find a copious amount of blooming thistles this early in the year. Typically, they are a later blooming wildflower/weed. If the plants you saw were a dark purple, it could be a verbena. Another possibility is some type of clover. Without a picture, I can only guess.

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Q: I like to use creeping Jenny or sweet potato vine as “spillers” in my mixed potted plants. As the summer progresses, even though I keep them trimmed and well watered, it seems the spillers — especially the sweet potato vine — suck the life out of everything else. Is this normal?

A: Annual sweet potato vine and creeping Jenny are both vigorous plants. Planting them beside less vigorous plants or using too small a container can create that problem. Consider using a larger container, and put in something that will grow tall enough to compete.

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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