Green Acres Nursey and Supply / Green Acres Nursery and Supply

With flowers sort of like a fuchsia or honeysuckle, cestrum likely is the mystery plant that a local reader admires.

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    Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address.

Garden detective: How to make cats stay off lawn

Published: Saturday, Mar. 1, 2014 - 12:00 am

In our neighborhood, we have a ton of cats. The cats use our front and back lawns as the neighborhood litterbox. You cannot believe the amount of cat poop on our lawn! We always have grandkids at the house and they like to play on the back lawn. What can be done to keep the neighborhood cats from ruining the lawn and making an unsafe and unsanitary environment for the grandchildren?

– Al Ikemoto, Elk Grove

Preventing the cats from visiting your property may be almost impossible. However, there are several steps to discourage the cats, said UC master gardener Carol Hunter.

Cats have a tendency to mark their territory and the odor encourages them to return. Sanitation is one step that helps prevent their return.

Remove any evidence of their presence and hose down the area thoroughly. Whenever an uninvited cat is present in the garden and you see it, frighten it away with loud noise, or spray it with the hose.

We were unable to find any University of California research regarding cat repellents. But there are several commercial products available that discourage cats from using your yard as a litter box. As with all products, follow label directions carefully. There are also devices – such as ScareCrow and Stay Away motion-activated deterrents – that will spray water when a “critter” activates it. That can help keep cats at a distance.

My neighbor has this attractive plant in a tub which we’ve been admiring for some time now. The plant at first looks like a fuchsia or a coral honeysuckle from a distance. Upon closer examination, the leaves have a feltlike surface; it’s definitely not a fuchsia. It’s a 6-foot-tall shrub, not a vine like honeysuckle. It’s been frost-hardy here in Sacramento, and we’re all curious to know what it might be.

–Chuck Hatch, Sacramento

According to UC master gardener Fran Clarke, your mystery plant most likely is a cestrum hybrid.

Cestrum elegans “Smithii.” a pink-flowered hybrid of red cestrum, usually grows in areas with warmer winter temperatures, but will survive in more protected locations of Sacramento.

Red cestrum, a native to Mexico, is the most common example of this attractive shrub. The tubular flowers may attract butterflies and hummingbirds, but all parts of the plant are considered toxic, especially the berrylike fruit.

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