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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers Nan Hampton, Jimmy Mills and Barbara Medford to be the culpable and capable parties. Yet, others think staff members Damon Waitt, Joe Marcus and Philip Hawkins might play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Carnation, WA
Plant identification, possibly Actaea rubra, red baneberry
I came across a plant that has leaves similar to the astillbe shrub, stands about 3 feet high, and instead of a flower spire, has a chunk of bright red berries the size of medium-sized pearls atop its...
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Redmond, WA
Leaves shriveling on non-native Japanese maple in Redmond WA
My husband and I bought a Japanese Maple 3 years ago which we planted in an old wine barrel for our patio, along with some ivy and grass to keep the surface covered. Until recently, it has been doing ...
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Redmond, WA
My Mock Orange fails to flower in Redmond, WA.
I planted a Mock Orange shrub about 5 years ago. The first few years, it only produced leaves but no blossoms. Then, last year, it finally produced 4-5 blossoms on 2 of the branches. This year, it a...
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Woodinville, WA
Eliminating yuccas from yard in Woodinville, WA
My plant areas are being overrun by Yucca plants. They are also growing and destroying my asphalt driveway. How can I get rid of some of them permanently?
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Woodinville, WA
Distressed non-native weeping willows in Washington State
What could be causing my weeping willows to be distressed year after year?
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Bellevue, WA
Cutting Juncus effusus back from Bellevue WA
I read your posts about Juncus effusus and just have one follow-up question. When is the best time to cut them back to the ground - before winter or early spring? I live in the Pacific NW. I recent...
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Bellevue, WA
Canadian Marine West Coast Plants
What type of plants are found in the Canadian marine west coast climate?
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Monroe, WA
Saving seeds of western red cedar from Monroe WA
I would like to know how to save and store seeds of western redcedar if not planning on planting them their current year.
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Renton, WA
Native trees for property in Washington State
We bought a piece of property on Lake Wenatchee, Washington. It was cleared more than we would like and want to know what types of trees grow well there and can handle the snow. Should I wait until ...
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Kenmore, WA
Low maintenance, shade tolerant groundcover for Pacific Northwest
What's a good low maintenance, shade tolerant ground cover for the Pacific Northwest? It needs to have good erosion control, too.
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Maple Valley, WA
Erosion control plantings in Washington state
Hi, I am trying to do an eagle project that involves putting vegetation onto a hill to prevent erosion. I live in Washington state where there is plenty of rain so erosion is a big problem. We are t...
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Seattle, WA
Identification of gooseberry plant
Grew up in Colorado, our yard and several near us had medium to large size deciduous shrubs that produced small (.25"-.375") red berries that were very tomato-like. Delicate with a thin skin, sligh...
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Seattle, WA
Maintenance policy for Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
Greetings, I am a volunteer at the University of Washington’s Elisabeth C. Miller Horticultural library. I am currently developing a maintenance policy for our database of gardening questions and ...
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Seattle, WA
Root rot in trees near Lake Wenatchee State Park, WA
Lake Wenatchee State Park, WA has been closed due to root rot for a year. I own a cabin 1 mile from the State Park. I cannot find a single piece of information about whether private property near th...
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Seattle, WA
Why is Rhus aromatica more deer resistant from Seattle
I have a large area that I would like to cover with Rhus aromatica. My landscaper says that in his experience, Rhus typhina and glabra in this area are heavily browsed by deer. I noticed in your dat...
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Seattle, WA
Non-native acacias for Washington State
Hello! I have been unable to find any sources for the seed of Prairie Acacia, Acacia angustissima var hirta. Var angustissima, from tropical America, is in cultivation, but I think it is tender to col...
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Seattle, WA
Local native plant for grave marker in Washington
Dear wildflower expert, Our friend’s dog died, and is buried in western Washington, near the town of Monroe. My wife is from central Texas, and thought a Texas perennial would be a nice marker. ...
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Seattle, WA
Grass for Seattle Arboretum
I am writing to you on behalf of the Arboretum at South Seattle Community College Arboretum. I am interested in Panicum virgatum Switch Grass as a plant for a very heavy clay garden in our Arboretum a...
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Seattle, WA
Propagation of poinsettias
How do I grow poinsettias from seed pods?
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Seattle, WA
Arborvitae and flower garden fighting for space in Seattle WA
Hi, I put in dozens of Arbovitae, mature evergreen trees, 4 yrs ago for privacy. They are doing well, but I was surrounding a flower garden which now appears to be suffering due to the root system of ...
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Seattle, WA
Growing non-vascular moss as a lawn from Seattle WA
I have lots of moss in my back yard. How can I encourage it to grow over the whole yard?
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