Posted: February 24, 2018 at 2:03 a.m.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette hollies illustration.

Q I have two deciduous hollies in my front yard. One has berries and one doesn't. I assume this means one is female and the other male. If I dispose of the male, will the female not have berries in the future?

A Hollies are dioecious plants, with separate male and female plants; only the female plants produce berries. I suspect that one is female and the other male, but it also could be that one is younger and hasn't bloomed yet. You can verify that by checking the blooms this spring. If there are flowers, the male blooms will have anthers with pollen on them, while the female will have a center pistil in the bloom. Whether or not removing the nonfruiting one will block your female will be determined a bit by where you live. If you live in a neighborhood with many landscaped gardens, chances are good that there is a male holly nearby that could pollinate your female holly. If you live out in the country and have no other hollies, then there may not be a male holly near enough to pollinate your female, which would result in no berries.

Q The weeklong bout of freezing weather that was not preceded by substantial precipitation has me worried about my grass as it continues to be a very dry winter. My turf is mostly St. Augustine and typically greens up two weeks before the zoysia every spring. Do you see any value in watering during this dormant time of year? I never have in the past and in fact always shut off my sprinkler system altogether to save the pipes from freezing. But I'm wondering if a once a week dousing might be a good idea. What do you think?

A Time will tell what type of damage we may have from the cold and dry winter. I think February has been kinder to us than September through January. That is when it was really dry. I hope you did water through December. For now I think we are OK with water levels, but do pay attention, especially as we near the greening-up phase in late winter/early spring. Typically we have rain then, but if not, do water. There isn't much we can do today to reverse any possible damage, but wait and see what happens as the lawn greens up.

Q I just trimmed my crape myrtle, and I'm afraid I may have committed an act of "crape murder." I just wanted to get it down to the height I could treat for this bark scale thing. The tree is only a couple of years old, and it's going to be taller than I really want. I'm thinking about replacing it. Have any resistant varieties been identified?

A We do not have any varieties that are known to be resistant to the crape myrtle bark scale, but researchers are trying to determine if there is any difference in varieties and their susceptibility. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service will share the findings once we have them. We do have an excellent database of crape myrtles by size -- you could pick a variety that fits your height requirements to avoid future crape murder. Find that database at

Q I have a gardenia that is 9 or 10 feet tall. It needs pruning, but I don't know how much to prune off nor when I should do it. I live in Faulkner County.

A Gardenias set their flower buds in the fall before going dormant, so wait until after they bloom to prune them. Normally, gardenias bloom in late June to early July for their first flush of flowers. Prune as soon after blooming as possible. We have seen a bit of gardenia damage in some landscapes due to colder and drier conditions. I have been asked by quite a few readers if they should prune this off now. Don't do anything until new growth begins in the spring, and then assess if there is damage. Hopefully it will be minimal and not hurt flowering.

Janet B. Carson is a horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Write to her at 2301 S. University Ave., Little Rock, Ark. 72204 or email her at

Crape myrtle bark scale insects are small and easily overlooked until they multiply and damage the shrub.

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