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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette dog fennel illustration.

Q Nutgrass and Bermuda grass have taken over my iris beds. Now that it has gotten cold, can I do something to eradicate the two weeds so that I can start clean next spring? Will Roundup work now?

A Unfortunately, nutgrass and Bermuda grass are warm season perennial weeds. Now that the weather has grown cold, they have gone dormant, and herbicides will not be effective. Roundup only works on actively growing plants. You can clean up the top growth to make the planting look less weedy, but both weeds will grow back next spring. There is a grass-specific herbicide that can work on the Bermuda grass after it has greened up, but it won't touch the nutgrass. You could lift the irises next spring after bloom, then use Roundup on the weeds after they emerge, and then replant the irises. Good luck, whatever you do, it won't be easy or effective with just one shot.

Dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) spreads by seeds and rootstalks, which come from the main taproot and grow laterally in all directions, so it can spread aggressively. Crushed leaves and flowers release an odor that dogs appear to enjoy. It is not edible.

Q This plant just appeared in my yard [the reader sent a photo]. One friend says it's asparagus fern. Is it edible or desirable?

A The plant in question is a native perennial called dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium). The plant spreads by seeds and rootstalks, which come from the main taproot and grow laterally in all directions, so it can spread aggressively. When crushed, the leaves and flowers release an unpleasant odor somewhat like fennel. The common name refers to the odor, which dogs appear to enjoy, thus the common name. It is not edible, and I find it too invasive to be desirable.

Flowers of groundsel (Baccharis halimifolia), an increasingly invasive bush seen along roadsides. Reader photo via Janet Carson for In the Garden of Dec. 1, 2018

Q This tree/bush every fall has these copious white flowers, if they can be called that [the reader sent a photo]. I can't find it in my Carl Hunter books. Any ideas?

A The plant in question is groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia). The plant is in the daisy family and native to the coastal areas of the southeastern United States, but it is spreading. We see it growing thicker and thicker every season on roadsides. It is showy in the late fall and early winter, but it freely reseeds itself and can become quite invasive. There are separate male and female flowers, with the females more showy. In its saltwater-heavy native areas, it is commonly called salt bush because it is tolerant of salt sprays.

Overshadowed by oak seedlings and poison ivy are the small paired leaves of a fine native ground cover - partridgeberry. It thrives in shade, has small white flowers in spring and red berries in fall. But it is slow growing and thus not sold in garden centers.

Q Could you give me some info on this ground cover? [The reader sent a photo.] It is located in a wooded area near my home in Hot Springs Village. I am interested in acquiring some to plant in an area that has mostly shade.

A The evergreen small-leafed, dark green ground cover is a wonderful native plant called partridgeberry (Mitchella repens). It is a ground-hugging plant that thrives in the shade but is slow growing. It has a small white flower in the spring and beautiful red berries in the fall. I would encourage it and let it spread. I wish it were common in the landscape trade, but I think its slow growth is the reason it is not commonly sold. If you can find it at a nursery, buy it. Unfortunately, in your picture, you also have a good stand of poison ivy and some hickory seedlings. Use care in killing those so you don't damage the partridgeberry.

Q My red tip photinias are dying from leaf spot disease so I am removing them. Can you suggest another bush that would provide a screen from the street?

A You have several options. There are many species of holly that grow large and can provide screening, including standard yaupon holly, Foster holly, lusterleaf holly or "Nelly R. Stevens" holly. You can also try cleyera, one of the little leaf magnolias or one of the standard arborvitae.

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

HomeStyle on 12/01/2018

Print Headline: JANET B. CARSON: In the garden

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