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Q Would it be OK to plant jonquil bulbs now in containers and put them in an unheated garden shed for the winter? That's the only way I can think of to keep the squirrels from messing with them.

A You can store the containers in an unheated shed, but monitor it. You need to be sure to move the pots into sunlight once the bulbs start to break the surface of the soil. You also need to water periodically. You could keep them in the yard by laying a chicken wire cover over the top of the pot to keep the squirrels out. Again, watch to make sure you remove the covering before the leaves grow too tall.

Q I planted six boxwoods this time last fall. It looked like good soil, and we had pulled up rangy azaleas first. They did well all spring and summer. Last month they started dying, twig by twig, starting from one end of the row and slowly working to the other end. I tried a 3-in-1 pest spray recommended at the nursery, but they continue to die back. I feel they've been watered adequately. Hate to lose the investment, but if I pull them up, will future plants be in jeopardy? Or might adequate soil amendment help? I've seen just a few other boxwoods like this around, but most look very healthy.

A I would take a sample in to your local extension office. You want to sacrifice one plant and take in stems, roots and even the crown of the plant. There is a boxwood blight, and they also can be affected by nematodes. It seems a bit quick for the whole planting to be affected, so I would want to know what is going on before replanting in the site. The sample will be sent to our disease diagnostic lab, and it can identify the cause of your problems.

Q We have several crape myrtles in our yard that are not doing well and appear to have dark "mold" on them. What do they need?

A This is becoming one of the most frequently asked questions in Arkansas. Before the arrival of the crape myrtle bark scale insect, we considered crape myrtles fairly bulletproof. Occasionally a variety would be susceptible to powdery mildew, or aphids would attack, but many gardeners planted crape myrtles and just forgot about them. Now that the leaves are falling off the trees, we are seeing even more clearly the black stems and trunks that indicate a plant has crape myrtle bark scale. These insects feed on the trunks of the trees. If you look closely you will see the white, felt-covered insects. As they feed, they give off a sticky substance called honeydew. It is on that substance that the black sooty mold forms. The insects multiply rapidly during the growing season, and a heavy infestation makes the trees look unsightly, but it also can weaken the trees and reduce blooming. If your trees are infested, use a soft brush and soapy water and clean the trunks now. Then spray thoroughly with a dormant oil. This will give you a good start on control, but unfortunately usually won't give total control. Crape myrtles have peeling bark as they age, and the insects can protect themselves from contact sprays by hiding under the bark. Next spring, use a systemic insecticide and that should take control of the problem. This is a relatively new insect for gardeners across the South, and researchers are working on other biological controls and options. We will share as we get them.

Q I received this plant as a gift. I would like to know what it is and how to care for it.

A The plant in question is a bromeliad. It is naturally an epiphytic plant, taking moisture out of the air and through the foliage in the rain forest. In your home it doesn't require a lot of water and it will keep its colorful bracts for months. Bromeliads come in a variety of sizes and shapes, along with various colors. On many bromeliads, once the mother plant finishes with her flowers, small pups or babies will appear at the base of the plant. These can be grown into new plants and should color up and bloom when they are a year or more of age. Our edible pineapple plant is a bromeliad.

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

jcarson@arkansasonline.com

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/JANET B. CARSON
Bromeliads are epiphytes — they take moisture from the air.

HomeStyle on 11/25/2017

Print Headline: IN THE GARDEN

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