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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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New Buffalo, MI
Native plants of dune erosion control in Michigan
We care for Lake Michigan dune near our home in New Buffalo and would like to provide erosion control with native species that will also enhance the beauty of the dune with long lasting flowers. The ...
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New Buffalo, MI
Native plants for backyard in Michigan
I am an inexperienced gardener but would love to know the best plants/bushes to plant in my backyard. I would love floral and fragrant. I am in Southwest Michigan, near New Buffalo and since this is...
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Grand Beach, MI
climbing vine for growth in sand
I live in Grand Beach, MI. My house sits on a sand dune. I want to plant a flowering vine that will grow up a fence. The area has plenty of sand and I have a trickle watering system. Can you pleas...
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Three Oaks, MI
Identification of thorny vine in Michigan
We have a species growing around our rural SW Michigan property that I'm trying to identify: I either see stalks up to 3 ft tall, or much longer vines if they find anchor. The most notable characte...
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Bridgman, MI
Wild onions in southwest Michigan
During the spring every year there are "Volunteer Onions" that grow in my lawn and garden. I live in Michigan, sw. question---are these onions? what are they--they smell like onions--- can they be e...
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LaPorte, IN
Plant Identification
I am trying to identify a small tree or large plant here in Indiana. I have seen it from 6 ft to as tall as 15 to 20. It is a green leaf with pink cone shaped growth at the ends of a branch. The co...
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LaPorte, IN
Treating stings from stinging nettles in Indiana
How can I remove hairlike thorns (as from nettle-type weed)? My hands react within 24 hours with swelling and pain, esp in morning. In past when I have then been able to locate the offending thorn, th...
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Porter, IN
Grave plants in Indiana in 1914
I'm doing research on the landscape surrounding an elaborate family cemetery constructed in NW Indiana in 1914. Previous research noted that "grave plants" were planted along the short retaining w...
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Berrien Springs, MI
Plant identification
I found a plant on a small island about the size of a hand. It is spring so plant is just coming out of the ground. It is wrapped around a bulb/flower light color with little knobs on it. The outsi...
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Berrien Springs, MI
Plants for Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies in Michigan
I am wanting to raise Painted Lady butterflies and release them into my garden. I know that they like to eat Mallow plants, but I was wondering what kind of Mallow plant would be best for my garden?
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Niles, MI
Covering dead arborvitae with non-native ivy from Niles MI
I have a severely thinning arborvitae hedge. It is probably too shady, but I want the privacy. I'm thinking of planting something like ivy to fill the gaps. I know it will probably kill the hedge, bu...
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Walkerton, IN
Plants for exotic pets
I need to know what are some good native non-toxic plants for these species: Porcelain roach (Gyna lurida) from Kenya, Africa. Giant cave roach (Blaberus giganteus) from Central and South Americ...
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South Bend, IN
Care of Ecuadorian penco century plant
I was recently given a Penco, Century plant from Ecuador. It doesn't seem to be doing well. Two of the leaves have turned dark, then yellow, and died completely. Five remain, one seems to be dying as...
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South Bend, IN
What's causing holes in trunk of white oak tree in SouthBend IN?
We have a huge White Oak in our backyard that is approx. 130 years old. This evening I became aware that there are several small holes around the trunk that appear to be oozing a dark sappy liquid. ...
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Portage, IN
Plant ID and pruning in Portage IN
I'm looking for information on trimming a bush about 6 feet in diameter with orange horns in bloom and its name.
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Benton Harbor, MI
Ground cover to withstand dog traffic in Michigan
I need a soft ground cover that will grow in sand, and be able to take four big dogs that love to run in the yard. Grass just doesn't make it. Someone suggested that groundcover might work. Thanks...
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Valparaiso, IN
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Deer resistant, fast growing, native plants (trees) as a visual block.
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Mishawaka, IN
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I have been searching unsuccessfully I might add for a vine species called Matelea. These vines benefit the Monarch butterflies but no butterfly places online carry them. Where would a good place be...
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Hobart, IN
Erosion Control for Shady Ditches
What plants can you recommend for erosion control along shady ditches in Northwest Indiana?
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Edwardsburg, MI
Smarty Plants on wisteria
A friend has a wisteria bush in his yard that was planted around 1950 by his mother. It has yellow blossoms. He has been told many times by people passing by (they stop to look at the plant) that the...
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Edwardsburg, MI
Plant identification
My brother in law just bought a parcel of land that is bespeckled with shrubs we cannot identify. The land is located in south west Michigan. It is zoned agricultural. Due to the fact that it is ea...
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