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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members 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 is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - October 13, 2009

From: Memphis, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Landscaping for a wedding in Memphis MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am pretty new at this landscaping flower thing, but I love it. We just moved out to the country in NE Missouri from Colorado (Huge difference, but love it). We have decided to have our wedding at our new country home and are looking at a June date. I really want my yard to look spectacular because most of my family and friends think I'm nuts for my extreme move so this is my chance to impress! I was fortunately here during the spring of '09 so I was able to see the beautiful flowers that the previous owners had planted..iris, crocus, & peonies, but really not too many other vibrant flowers. I want to have plenty for both my yard to stand out and to be able to make fresh cut centerpieces along with many potted plants so I can move them to wherever needed. I want to put together three larger pots that will be mounted on top of my outdoor clothes line poles. I really want these to stick out! I am also constructing an arch for the ceremony but don't know what will be beautiful on the arch that time of the year. Please please please, am I too late for bulbs? I just don't know when and where to get started, could you please help a very crafty, nervous and excited bride-to-be! Oh and by the way, I have chickens should I just keep them in from the time I see my spring flowers blooming until after the wedding?

ANSWER:

Whoa! You didn't ask Mr. Smarty Plants a question, you requested enrollment in two semesters of landscaping. We can make some suggestions to help you get started, and teach you how to use our Native Plant Database, but beyond that, we can't possibly give you specific information for property we have never seen.

First, you should know that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. To help orient you to those conditions, read these How-To Articles: Gardening Timeline, A Guide to Native Plant Gardening and Container Gardening with Native Plants. We will guide you to plants lists for use in Missouri; it's not a given that you use all native plants, that's just what we know about and we know they will do better because they are accustomed by eons of experience to the climate, soils and rainfall in your area. 

Our second piece of advice is to slow down. What you are describing is way more than can be accomplished in a year, not because you won't be working hard but because Nature moves at her own pace. If there are already flowering plants and trees there, then certainly work around them. The mature gardens that you see in magazines are usually many years old and have probably had professional gardeners doing the hard work. Take advantage of the natural beauty of the surroundings, out in the country, in June, in a state known for having many beautiful native plants.  Spend time during the cool weather cleaning up, taking out dead branches, pruning overgrown shrubs, and eliminating weeds or plants that don't work for you where they are. 

Now to the specifics of plant selection. Begin by going to our Recommended Species section, click on Missouri on the map, which takes you to a list of all plants native to Missouri that we consider good for the area and that are commercially available. For a wider choice, you can go to our Native Plant Database, using the Combination Search and entering Missouri. Either way, you will have choices to make to give you a list narrowed down to your purposes. The first is General Appearance (habit), in which you can choose "herb," (herbaceous blooming plant), "shrub," "tree," "grass" and so forth. In that same selection list, you can choose Duration (perennial or annual), Light Requirements (full sun 6 hours or more of sun daily), part shade 2 to 6 hours of sun, and shade less than 2 hours), and Soil Moisture. You will get a list of plants that fit all the specifications you have checked; follow each plant link to the page on that individual plant to find out more about it, including Propagation and Growing Conditions. You can refine this search even more by selecting desired months of bloom and color of bloom. To give this a process a test drive, let's look for something for the arbor you are constructing. First, go to the  Native Plant Database section again, select Missouri on the on the drop-down menu, then "vine" under General Appearance, and click on Narrow Your Search. This will give you 77 possibilities, and you can follow the links looking for the right vine, blooming at the right time, in the right color. Okay, we cheated. We had already selected Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) and knew it would show up in that search. But you get the picture, and the more you narrow down the specifications, the fewer plants will show up on the list. Sometimes, you will get no selections at all. There is no classification for "bulbs" in our database search engine, many bulbs are non-native. You can do an Internet search for bulbs, or even specific bulbs, and find websites that will give you better information than we can. 

Oh, and before we forget, about the chickens. Sorry, haven't a clue. We are plant people, and don't have personal experience with chickens beyond our morning scrambled eggs. We would suggest you talk to neighbors who raise chickens and find out if the birds interfere with their gardens.

 

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