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Q Our two crape myrtle trees in the back yard have already lost 90 percent of their leaves. A lot of bark came off before this occurred. Should I be concerned? We live in Malvern.

A That amount of leaf shed this early is not ideal, but the fact that they shed leaves instead of dying and remaining attached is a good sign. Bark shed is a natural occurrence on crape myrtles as they age. Did anything get sprayed near them? Do you see any black on the stems or any white specks? Crape myrtle bark scale has hit the state in a big way and heavy infestations can cause problems. Inspect the tree, if you suspect the scale, you can treat now. If the bark is clean, all you can really do now is wait for spring and see how they leaf out. We have had ample rainfall, so watering isn't necessary right now.

Q My garden is about the size of a football field. I only want to plant half of it. What do I need to do to the half I leave fallow for a full season?

A Wow, that is a large garden. If you plan to leave it fallow for a season, whatever area you don't plan to plant in vegetables, plant in a cover crop or green manure crop. There are choices for fall/winter and spring/summer. This keeps the ground covered to prevent weeds, but will also enrich your soil. Here is a link to a fact sheet which explains more about them:

Q What is this [writer submitted a photo]? It comes back every year but only blooms at this time.

A You have the Mexican bush sage, Salvia leucantha. It is one of the tallest and showiest of the salvias, with bloom spikes seemingly covered in purple velvet. It dies to the ground after a killing frost and then reappears in the spring to bloom in the fall. It is reliably winter hardy in the southern two-thirds of the state, but sometimes dies out up in the northern tier if we have a particularly cold winter.

Q I planted pink slipper hydrangea in full sun this spring. It was doing well until purple spots showed up on leaves. We cut off the worst damaged leaves. I really would like to save this plant.

A Ruby Slipper is a variety of oakleaf hydrangea. While the oakleaf hydrangeas are not as susceptible to leaf spot diseases, they can get them. With all the hard rains we had in September, many hydrangeas of all sorts have some leaf spotting. They are deciduous plants and will be shedding their leaves soon, so I wouldn't worry. Rake up the leaves as they fall and dispose of them. Watch the plant next spring for any signs of problems. From the pictures you sent, the damage is minimal, and I think they should be fine.

Q We have about 15 potted hibiscus stationed around the pool in colors red, yellow, pink, light and dark orange. They have grown into small bushes and need to be trimmed in order to store them in the garage for winter. My question: Could we trim them at this time of year? I realize a lot of buds would be cut, but it won't matter in the garage.

A Continue to enjoy the hibiscus while they bloom, and cut back as much as needed when you move them into the garage. I think many of our tropical flowering plants are making a nice late show. As you know they do die back a bit in the garage, so don't cut them back severely, do that when you move them back outside next spring, and repot.

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

Mexican bush sage is one of the tallest and showiest of the salvias.

HomeStyle on 10/13/2018

Print Headline: In the garden

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