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

Sunday - April 03, 2011

From: Franklin, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Re-landscaping neglected garden in Franklin CT
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am starting from scratch in a yard that has no planting beds or, for that matter, plants at all. House was vacant for quite some time, grass was three feet tall when we moved in. I would like to plant water wise, Xeriscape landscaping, using mostly flowering perennials, also non flower bushes and plants for accent and some native grasses that would work well in our area. Front yard is shaded, back yard, partial shade. Small areas of mostly sunny where the major lawn area is. We would also like a water wise "lawn" that doesn't brown out in late summer if there is such a possibility. Thank you

ANSWER:

The first thing we want to suggest is that you spend some time with a landscaping consultant. If you go to our National Supplier's Directory and type your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscaping and environmental consultants that deal with native plants. Remember that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center only recommends plants that are native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow natively. The reason for that policy is that plants native to an area are already accustomed to the rainfall, temperatures and soils on an area by centuries of experience growing there. If you just go to a nursery and buy, willy nilly, whatever plant catches your eye, you are liable to spend a lot of money, hard work, and valuable resources such as water and fertilizer, on a plant that is not destined to do well there and may die. New London County, in the southeast corner of Connecticut, is in USDA Hardiness Zone with average annual minimum temperatures of -10 to -5 deg.

We recommend that you consult with a professional, because they will know, first of all, what has to be done to remove the undesirable growing plants that are already there, what the soil is and whether it needs enriching, as well as what size root systems will develop from some of your larger plants and trees. We are going to introduce you to our Native Plant Database so you can express the kind of things you want to the consultant (if you get one) or the nursery. You may think we are dodging our responsibility by not giving you a specific lists of plants, but we don't know if you want a shrub over there, and how much shade it is going to have to tolerate in that corner. We don't even know if you have that corner. You will make informed decisions with the backup of the Wildflower Center research and study. The next obstacle you will have is finding the native plants that you want in nurseries. Back to the National Supplliers Directory for the names of nurseries specializing in native plants. All have contact information and/or websites so you find out if they have what you want.

We are going to walk you through selecting a tree, a shrub, a herbaceous blooming plant and a grass from our database, to help you understand how to search for what you want and what you can find out from our webpages. First, go to Recommended Species, and click on Connecticut on the map. This will accustom you to search on your own for just the right plant, and finding the information you need to make it just the right plant. First, on the Recommended Species for Connecticut page, click on "tree" for the General Appearance. If you know it will be in part shade or full sun or whatever, indicate that under Light Requirements. On each of the types of plants we are going to use as examples, follow the plant link to the page on that plant.

42 trees native to Connecticut: we chose Ilex opaca (American holly) - evergreen, to 60 ft. tall

26 shrubs: Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern), 3 to 6 ft., part shade

131 herbaceous blooming plants: Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) - 2 ft. perennial, blooms orange, sun or part shade

3 grasses: Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) - 2 ft. tall, perennial, sun, part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Ilex opaca


Comptonia peregrina


Asclepias tuberosa


Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Why will my blazing stars not bloom in Syracuse New York?
July 02, 2009 - I have two purple blazing star plants on the west side of my house, about 4 feet apart. They have bloomed the past two summers. This year, one is ready to bloom, but the other has no stalks that wil...
view the full question and answer

Chile pequin from Spring Plant Sale in Austin
June 08, 2011 - Re: chile pequin purchased at your Spring 2011 sale: it grows, seems to thrive, but sets no flowers and so bears no fruit. It's in terracotta in Ladybug potting soil, on a shady apartment patio. How ...
view the full question and answer

Native alternative for liriope
September 20, 2011 - I am looking for native alternatives to liriope for use in sun to part shade, moderate moisture planting beds. Would prefer evergreen options.
view the full question and answer

Are there edible nettles native to the Austin, TX area?
September 13, 2011 - Are there any nettles native to this area? I would like to cook with them (if there is a good substitute, please advise). Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Short or mowable plant for walkway
June 03, 2008 - I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers ...
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