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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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Friday - October 14, 2005

From: Hastings on Hudson, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Native plants for condo apartments in New York
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hello, and thank you for this wonderful source of help! We live in Hastings on Hudson, NY in a brick building of 7 condo apartments. Our corner unit has one narrow flower bed out front on the street facing east and the corner is a south east exposure with the other end of the bed getting less sun. The bed is about a foot wide and about 13 feet long, with an approximate depth of 6-8 inches or more. (it has supported several evergreen shrubs and hydrangeas which are temporarily being housed elsewhere to save them from scaffolding.) Can you advise me on what and how to choose plants to achieve a perennial garden for this one flower bed, with some evergreens and flowering all spring, summer and fall? I definitely want to help butterflies and other critters. I need help with as much info as possible including how to cultivate the soil for this stand alone bed. If this comes out well, hopefully it will be a showcase for all to see and hopefully it will spread the word about going Native. Thank you.

ANSWER:

There are several routes to go in selecting plants for your flower bed. First, you can find an extensive "Recommended Native Plant Species List" for the Northeast on the Regional Fastpacks page on the Wildflower Center web page. The list is divided by plant type (Ferns, Grass-like, Grasses, Shrubs, Trees, Vines, and Herbaceous) with information about size, bloom time, and growing conditions for each plant. You can find more information and photos of most of the plants on the list in the Native Plants Database.

You can also search the Native Plants Database using specific criteria for your plants by using the Combination Search feature. The criteria you can choose are: Plant Characteristics (Bloom Color, Bloom Time, Habit, Duration), Growing Conditions (Light Needs, Water Use, Soil Moisture) and Distribution.

Additionally, "Gardening with Native Plants" on the Connecticut Botanical Society web page has an excellent short list of suggestions for native perennials for your area that would work very well in your flower bed.

To prepare the bed for your new plants, it would be desirable to make the bed deeper if at all possible. If not, you might replace or augment some of the existing soil with humus, leaf mold or some other rich, loose soil with lots of organic matter.
 

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