Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - March 27, 2011

From: Troy, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Short edging evergreen for IL
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am planning on planting a short (height at maturity less than 1 foot) evergreen (and if possible flowering) shrub to border the walkway to my house. Can you give me some suggestions? The soil is mostly just clay.

ANSWER:

I am afraid that we cannot be of much help because of the specificity of your request. 

According to our Native Plant Database there is only one woody plant native to Illinois that, at maturity is less than 1 foot in height: Rubus pubescens (Dwarf red blackberry).  Although it has nice white flowers, it is not evergreen and it is probably not a good choice along a walk as it is a member of the bramble family! Most shrubs grow to be taller than 1 foot and most evergreen plants don't have showy flowers.  So you are going to have to make some compromises.

Because this particular Green Guru has some experience with shovelling snowy front walks I would propose you consider something a little different.  Instead of a narrow band of green along the walk (much like baseboard trim in a room), think about a more irregularly shaped border where you can edge the walk with shorter, herbaceous ground covers, perennials and spring flowering bulbs and set groups of slightly larger (evergreen and/or deciduous) shrubs back a bit.  Then you would have an attractive, welcoming path to your front door which won't look completely dead in the wintertime but won't be damaged when you do have to pile snow on it.

Many of the evergreen herbaceous  (and woody) plants that gardeners use in that sort of planting are not North American native plants, so we cannot recommend them.  If you would like a list of plants native to Illinois, a Combination Search of our database selecting: Illinois, the plant type (herbaceous/shrub/sub-shrub etc.) and your light and soil conditions will generate lists of plants with links to detailed information pages.

You might also find some interesting ideas in books and magazines; check out Front Yard Gardens: Growing More than Grass by Liz Primeau.

 

More Shrubs Questions

Evergreen perennials for a pond bank in Texas
June 18, 2015 - We want evergreen perennial plants for the banks of our small pond. The banks are eroding and we need to help keep them strong. We have ducks in the pond and lots of turtles. We would love something ...
view the full question and answer

Are American Hazelnuts Self-Fertile?
November 06, 2014 - I planted an American Hazelnut a couple of years ago that I ordered from a catalog. Is this plant self-fertile or do I need to plant another one? I have seen conflicting information on this subject.
view the full question and answer

Squirrels eating seed pods of Rock Rose in Austin
June 24, 2011 - Squirrel(s) have been ripping the branches off my rock rose bushes in order to eat the seed pods. Previously we had problems with squirrel(s) gnawing on our garden ornaments. I sprayed the ornaments ...
view the full question and answer

Moving a volunteer holly from Springfield IL
October 11, 2010 - When would be the very best time to move a volunteer holly? I would say it is 3 years old, it stands about 5 feet tall, shaped like a very nice tree and it keeps its leaves. Thank you. Karen
view the full question and answer

Non-native Pride of Barbados from San Antonio
August 26, 2011 - I have some very successful wildly blooming "Dwarf Pride of Barbados" plants growing in my xeriscape garden. Each year I cut them back to the ground. I have just purchased a new variety called "...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.