Q: A few weeks ago, a few of these items showed up in our yard. Do you care to hazard a guess as to what they are? They look like alien creatures to me, although I suspect they are just a type of mushroom.
A: The recent rains and milder weather spurred on many types of mushrooms. The one you have is a bit obnoxious in that it smells to high heaven — thus its common name, stinkhorn mushroom. They grow in damp wood mulch, and once mature, they emit a foul-smelling green slime (which yours have) that attracts flies and beetles to the area to transmit the spores to other areas; so eradication is close to impossible. Knock them down and dispose of them as soon as you spot them or smell them, and aerate the soil — that should help. The sooner they are gone, the less chance the flies can get in there and repopulate them.
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Q: I have two Fatsia japonica that suffered through the winter. I'm pleased to see new growth around the base, but I'm unsure how to prune. I would like to cut the big trunks down to the base but I'm afraid I'll kill it. New growth may come from the upper part of the trunks, but they're so ugly. What do you recommend?
A: Fatsias did take quite a hit this winter. Many of them are growing from the root zone, and I don't think you will find any new growth coming out on the upper branches. You can wait another couple of weeks if you want to make sure, but I think it would be fine to cut back all the dead top growth. It is the new foliage at the base that will use sunlight and produce food through photosynthesis. Lightly fertilize in a couple of weeks, and then again six weeks later to help them rebound. It will take time to restructure, but they will get there.
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Q: I thoroughly enjoy your articles on Saturdays and have a question concerning loropetalum plants. Obviously, the deep freeze in December hurt them badly. I have seven Jazz Hands Dwarf Loropetalums, and two look completely gone while the others are showing some growth. Do I cut back any on the ones with growth; and for the ones that have died, do I replant now? If yes, what is best way to plant, with water and plant nutrients?
A: For the second time in three years, loropetalum got hit hard by the winter cold. Some are beginning to sprout on the lower stems, and some are showing no signs of life. Prune back to where you see new growth beginning. Plant availability should be starting at most local nurseries and garden centers, but there is going to be a lot of demand, since plant damage was quite widespread. You might want to start putting in your orders as soon as possible.
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Q: I live in north Bentonville, in a valley. I want to put an evergreen screen outside my yard fence. I need evergreen, deer resistant, hardy plants that can take poor soil. I have lots of deer. The area receives about half sunlight. Any suggestions?
A: When it comes to "deer resistant," the key word is resistant. Sometimes deer eat things on the deer resistant list. But you do have several options, including a number of hollies — Burford, Nellie Stevens and Foster holly are all good choices. Some of the dwarf southern magnolias, like Little Gem, Bunny Ears, etc., would also work. For some needle-type evergreens you could try are Cryptomeria or our common Eastern Red Cedar. Good luck.
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 [email protected]