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 plant to cover parents' graves in Louisiana
June 30, 2013 - We want to plant ground cover on our parents graves in Plain Dealing Cemetery in north Bossier Parish LA. Soil is red clay/dirt. Want native plant, slow growing, short not tall plant, that might sta...
view the full question and answer

Lack of Fruit on Forestiera
March 17, 2013 - I have not been able to get berry production on my elbow bush. I have male and female plants. Is it possible to help with the pollination process? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Native replacement for bamboo from Houston
May 21, 2013 - I've read one reply where you do not advise using Bamboo as a privacy fence plant. What do you suggest in its place? The suggestions on the one I read will not work for me. Your suggestions were My...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs with berries for birds and growing small red oak tree
September 16, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Recently, I saw a short article about attracting birds to one's yard. The article said to plant "berry-bearing" shrubs, but didn't name any specific shrubs. Could you tell...
view the full question and answer

Hiding a chicken house from Glen Rose TX
February 06, 2013 - To hide a chicken house, which do you recommend, crape myrtles or chinese photinias?
view the full question and answer

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