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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 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 - February 10, 2012

From: Dale , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Plants for north side from Dale TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What native trees and bushes can I plant on the north side of house? Can I use corn meal( I NEED FIGHT A GRASS) in flowerbed and then plant native wildlife seeds(FLOWERS)?

ANSWER:

To begin with, it's not as important to know which direction your garden faces as how much sun it gets. Frequently, the north side is the shady side. You can help yourself decide what kind of plants fit in a certain area by mapping your property on paper, and then checking several times of day to see what sun is in what areas. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours of sun or more a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours, and "shade" 2 hours or less of sun. Then, you can go to our Recommended Species section, and select Central Texas on the map. This will give you a list of 156 plants that should be suitable for Caldwell County. Using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH function. select on "Habit" or General Appearance, for herbs (herbaceous blooming flowers), trees, shrubs, whatever you are interested in researching. Select a light requirement, and the moisture of your soil under ordinarily circumstances. You can also select on "Duration" (annual or perennial), height, bloom time or bloom color. Of course, each specification will narrow the number of selections you get.

For example, we'll look first for trees. Using the above method and selecting on "trees," "part shade," and "dry soil" you will get a list of 21 trees that fit those specifications. Follow the plant links to any of them to find out their growing conditions, etc. We chose to look  Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud),and learned that it grows 10-20 ft. tall, blooms pink or purple from March to April and tolerates dry and alkaline soils. You repeat this method to select the other types of plants you are interested in. We do want to mention that you should be sure any tree you pick will fit into the space when it is mature, including the roots! You can plant a small tree and find yourself with it growing into and under your house, not good for the house or the tree.

On to the use of corn gluten. We don't know what grasses you are trying to get rid of, but if it non-native bermudagrass, you should know it is one of the most invasive weeds in the South, and not easy to get rid of. We have no personal experience of corn gluten as a herbicide, but here is an article from the University of Minnesota on Corn Gluten Meal: A Natural Pre-Emergence Herbicide that could give you some leads.

Finally, on the wildflowers-there are no seed mixes that can be sprinkled on and expect to have a wildflower garden. We suggest you read our How-To Article on Getting Started with Wildflower Gardening to help you get going. You can select the flowers as we did in the instructions above, and then check them out on their webpages. In our Special Collections, we have a list of 31 Wildflowers of Central Texas.

 

 

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