En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - September 23, 2010

From: Berkeley Heights, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Planting for wildlife in Union County, New Jersey.
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse, Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would like to get rid of my front lawn, which is small, and replace with wildflowers or something that bees, birds, butterflies would like. Live in Union County, New Jersey, which is central-north. Is there a seed mix that would be good? Thanks

ANSWER:

There are four basics you will need to attract wildlife: food, water, shelter and places to raise young. A good planting design for your space along with plants and water can transform any yard into a much needed retreat for wildlife.

Take a look at our How to Article titled Wildlife Gardening.

The toughest part of the job ahead of you is digging out the lawn. If you don't know already, find out what type of grass the lawn is made of. You might want to consider leaving some of it in place. Grasses are a good addition to wildflower and meadow gardens. They provide foraging and hiding places for birds and other wildlife. Bunch grasses are best. They have good color in the winter when wildflowers are typically done. They allow other plants to grow between them and are good support for delicate wildflowers. Thatch grasses are less attractive to frogs and most birds, they don't allow flowers to share their soil, leaving flowers to border rather than blend. Most lawns are made of a thatch type of grass.

Check in with your Rutgers University County Extension Office  for Union County, Lawn and Garden, to make sure that there are no neighborhood restrictions on lawn removal or mowing heights. For good wildlife planning you want to create a safe and stable habitat. Mowing bunch grasses would be disruptive to the habitat you have worked hard to create.

Wildflower mixes are not generally a bad idea but too often people will purchase mixes without reading what is in the package. It is important to make sure that the flower seeds in the pack are native to your area and do well in the soil and conditions that you have. Generally the best way to find seeds to fit your needs is to talk to the local nurseries in your area that specialize in natives. Utilize the suppliers list, that we provide in the Native Plant Information Network to find a good local nursery. Type your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of suppliers in your general area. Our suppliers list has a map and easy instruction on how to find what you are looking for, with contact information for those businesses.

A combination of attractive grasses, wildflowers, native perennials that provide nectar and larva food for butterflies, bees and birds mixed with berry producing shrubs, should provide you with good habitat for your new guests. As well as add color and visual interest to your yard all year round. Here is another How to Article titled Meadow Gardening.

Our Native Plant Database has grasses,wildflowers, perennials and shrubs recommended for your area. Play around with the searches for recommended species. When you find a plant you like, read the full description to find the bloom information, telling you when the flower would be in bloom and any benefits the plant offers to birds, butterflies and critters.

Once you have completed your transformation, start documenting the activity you encourage. Consider applying for Wildlife Garden Habitat certification. This is a fun program designed by the National Wildlife Organization to help raise awareness through communities to showcase viable landscape habitat solutions. It has useful tools and tips and ways to document on line the wild visitors you encounter. If you qualify you will have a neat sign to hang in your yard drawing your neighbors into a conversation about conservation.

 


Asclepias amplexicaulis

Ceanothus americanus

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

 

 

 

 


 

 

More Wildflowers Questions

Native plants for restoring a North Carolina pond site
April 12, 2011 - I reconstructed the dam to a 50 year old cattle pond at our high-end residential development in Charlotte, NC. There are many large mature trees around the pond but also some good sun exposure at two ...
view the full question and answer

Green thread-Thelesperman filifolium
May 13, 2007 - Looking for information on a wild flower called green thread. Can you tell us the actual name or any information about this flower.
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep clay bank in Summerfield OH
April 07, 2012 - Hello, We have a steep 15-20 foot high bank behind our house here in southern Ohio. Probably 50 ft.long. What could we plant for beauty and erosion control. It is nasty clay soil with lots of shale an...
view the full question and answer

Planting for steep slope in Alabama
July 30, 2008 - I am looking for a plant for a steep slope down to a creek in our backyard in Birmingham Alabama It will get some morning sun but will be in the shade in the afternoon. I was thinking of wildflowers...
view the full question and answer

Viewing of Texas native wildflowers
February 04, 2008 - Can you provide a general listing of when various Texas native wildflowers are in bloom? Also helpful would be a list of areas where these wildflowers could be photographed in their native growing ar...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center