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IN THE GARDEN: Vine in question is star jasmine — an evergreen, growing in sun and shade

by Janet B. Carson June 11, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
Confederate jasmine, also called star jasmine, grows in sun to deep shade but flowers best in full sun. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Q: What is the name of this vine? I saw it growing at a local store, and it smells amazing. I would love to plant some at my house. Is it hard to grow?

A: The plant is Confederate jasmine or star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). This evergreen vine is not a true jasmine but has sweet-smelling white flowers. It will grow in full sun to deep shade, but it won't bloom well in heavy shade. I have it on the west side of my house, and it froze back in winter 2021 but has rebounded to bloom well this year. I would say Little Rock is probably its reliable northern range, and in a cold winter it can suffer.

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Q: I'm hoping you can identify the flowering plants in the photos attached. These prolific plants grow along the shoreline and in the water at Lake Rayburn in Bella Vista.

A: The large yellow flowers are called "yellow flag" or "yellow water iris" (Iris pseudacorus). They are found in wetlands, along riverbanks and in water gardens. I had some in my water garden years ago, but they were too aggressive for me, so I pulled them out. The purple ones are also an iris but I can't tell for sure what type. Japanese irises and Louisiana irises will also do well in boggy, moist areas.


Q: We have really been having a problem in the evenings when we sit outside with buffalo gnats. They bite us around our ears and neck and make large welts that itch for several days. We have [a mosquito killing service] and that helps with the mosquitoes but it does nothing for the buffalo gnats. Any suggestions?

A: You are not alone. We have had a lot of reports of buffalo gnats this year. The only good news is that they tend to disappear with hot weather, so they should not be a nuisance that much longer. Some things to try: Wear light-colored clothing because they are more attracted to dark clothing. They also have a difficult time flying in wind, so consider putting a fan outdoors with you and see if that helps. Products containing DEET do help repel them, but these biters tend to favor the head and neck where you might not want DEET. I have heard that vanilla extract repels them; it is not a scientific theory, but worth a try — and better than smelling like DEET. At least you will smell good.

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Q: What is this "growth" on one of my 27-year-old crabapple trees? [The reader sent a photo.] It's growing out of a knot where a limb was removed many years ago. It does have some cedar rust as well, but otherwise has been a good spring bloom performer. I've been watching the blob grow this year and thought it was time to identify it.

A: I think what you have is a fungal fruiting body of internal decay called heart rot. The fungus comes out where a wound or crack is on the tree. They can be a variety of shapes and sizes, and even vary in color. If the tree is still blooming and trying to live, and is not a hazard to nearby structures, let it go until it finally succumbs. There isn't anything you can do to reverse the rot.

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Q: My backyard has a chain-link fence, and along most of it there is an additional chain-link fence running parallel to it in the neighbor's yard with a utility easement area. This area is filled with privet, bind weed, honeysuckle, ivy and other undesirables. A couple of years ago passionflower joined in and has covered most of the privet. Can you help me identify a newer large-leaf plant in the attached picture that is now part of the mixture?

A: The large-leafed plant is a mulberry tree. Notice the three different shaped leaves. Some are heart-shaped; some have a mitten shape, and others have three lobes. It can be a messy tree when it bears fruit and can reseed.

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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