Q: Our south yard is glowing with moss, a wonderful survivor of the winter cold. It certainly is a worthy ground cover for shady areas!
A: I have long been an advocate of moss, and wish others would embrace it. I get many more questions on how to kill it than how to grow it.
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Q: I read with interest your story on winter damage. I was wondering about my pansies. They are alive, believe it or not, but of course incredibly small and just green — no blooms. I was recently at the races in Hot Springs, and they have the most beautiful pansies. Did it not get as cold there, or what did they do to make their plants recover more quickly? Anything I can do to spur mine back to blooming?
A: Interestingly enough, I was at the track Saturday and saw the gorgeous pansies as well. Hot Springs did get as cold as the rest of the state, and they also have damage. The racetrack must have found a place to buy replacement pansies and replanted. I have seen "living" or recovering pansies in many yards, but they are small and green. Fertilization during a warm weather spurt will help them grow back, but I am not expecting any flowers until about the time we need to pull them to replant with warm season color.
Q: Our red tip hedge has declined to the point it is no longer a hedge, and we need some suggestions for replacing it. I live in Little Rock. The area gets some sun in the afternoon but not a lot and very little in the morning. I've been trying to get some ideas on my walks and have settled on holly as a possible candidate and was hoping you might have a suggestion. I'm not opposed to a mixture and expect some experimenting to get the best choice. The red tip was good until it wasn't.
A: Red top photinia has been plagued with disease now for years, and for the first time that I have seen, actually had winter damage this season as well. Since you had a photinia hedge, I am assuming you want something evergreen and fairly tall. There are many holly hedges — foster, Nellie Stephens and Burford are all good choices. You could also try cherry laurel, one of the columnar southern magnolias, and add in a Sasanqua camellia. Camellias did take a hit from the cold as well, but normally they do well in Central Arkansas. I like a little diversity to add interest, but if you did mix species, your hedge would not be so uniform.
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Q: This is my rhododendron bush that bloomed profusely at Thanksgiving but now is dropping its leaves and looks like it's dying. Do you think I'm going to lose it? [The reader sent a photo.]
A: I am going to guess that the plant is a camellia and not a rhododendron. Rhododendrons do much better in cold than they do heat, and they don't bloom in the fall — they bloom in late spring. Camellia sasanqua bushes bloom in the fall, and they were hit hard by the December freeze. I have two that are old and well-established that have lost two-thirds of their leaves for the first time ever. As with other recommendations, don't prune until new growth begins and we can determine how much damage they have had. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don't have to prune too severely this spring.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org