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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.

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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.

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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!

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Friday - June 24, 2011

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Plants for a Vacant Lot in the Big Apple
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, We have recently gone in to restore a vacant plot in Harlem. This soil is varied, but mostly rubble, old slag, some sand in one area, old fill- pH 7-8.5. We dug a small trench in there that gets filled by roof water during a rainstorm. We couldn't bring in new soil, so we are trying to weed and treat every year.It's dry and in full sun most of the day. Can you recommend some nice looking native grasses or other hardy plants. We want it to look nice so that the residents learn to like it and appreciate it as a garden rather than a trash pit. Thank you!!!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants did a little searching in the Explore Plants area of Wildlower.org. He looked for plants are native to the New York city area according to the USDA, do well in poor soils, grow in full sun, and are less than six feet tall. In addition, he made sure that the plants are listed as being commercially available.

Here is a list you can start from:

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow). This has white flowers and blooms from July to mid-September in the New York area.

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly-everlasting). White flowers that bloom from June to October. Attracts butterflies.

Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower). Blue or purple flowers that bloom June to September.

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis). Yellow flowers blooming April to June. An easy plant to grow.

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot). White, pink, purple flowers that bloom from June to September.

Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy beardtongue). Pink or purple flowers in June and July. This one attracts hummingbirds.

Phlox subulata (Moss phlox). White, pink and purple flowers from March to June. This plant spreads rapidly in poor soils.

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan). Yellow flowers from June to October.

Vaccinium angustifolium (Late lowbush blueberry). White flowers in May and June.

Finally, here is a shrub:

Gaylussacia baccata (Black huckleberry). White flowers from May to July.

 

From the Image Gallery


Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

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