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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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Wednesday - August 10, 2011

From: long beach, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need suggestions for plants for a privacy screen in Long Beach, NY.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I have recently added 1500sq.ft. to my backyard. My backyard faces a busy road. I would like to place native trees and bushes along the fence for added privacy, shade and to protect my house from the wind. Do you know which native plants are hardy, grow quickly and are good for this? Thank you


Mr. Smarty Plants receives numerous inquiries concerning appropriate plants for privacy screens. He doesn’t have a “list for all occasions”, so he is going to introduce you to our Native Plant Database,  that you can use to help you select the plants for your landscaping project. The Database contains the names of 7,188 species of native plants from which to choose. There are several ways to use the Database, and we are going to start by using the Recommended Species list.

 After clicking on Native Plant Database, scroll down to the Recommended Species List box and click on the View Recommended Species page. Next, click on New York on the map, and you will get a list 112 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in New York. This is more information than you need, so let’s eliminate some of the names for now. You mentioned perhaps planting bushes, so lets see what’s available. Go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the window and make the following selections: select New York under State, Shrub under habit, and Perennial under duration. Check Sun under Light Requirement and Moist under Soil Moisture (or use the conditions that apply to your site). Click on the Narrow Your Search button and the list is reduced to five. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that has a description of the plant, its growth requirements, and photos. These can help you select plants suitable for your location. Pay attention to the moisture and soil requirements of the plants so you can match the plants to your growing situation.

Repeat the process, and this time select Tree under habit, leaving the other choices the same. This will give you a list of 27 trees to choose from.

For some help closer to home, you could contact the folks at the Nassau County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Growth rates vary from plant to plant depending on the growing conditions. For perrenials, a growth rate of 2-3 ft./year is considered fast growth.


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