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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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Tuesday - September 10, 2013

From: East Hampton, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Planting, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Starting shade-tolerant ground covers in New York
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hi, I have seen some of the posts for shade-tolerant ground cover on the east end of Long Island and my question is process related. Now that I've identified the grasses/plants I need to keep my front yard out of my back yard every time it rains, how to? I can't afford a landscaper. Do I just buy the seed over the Internet or do I buy live plants and hope for the best? How much do I buy to cover 1000 square feet? So it doesn't look crazy, is there a method to the placement? As you can see, I am out of my element to say the least.

ANSWER:

If you haven't already checked this category in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database, click on Mr. Smarty Plants on the upper right side of the screen and type into the Search by Keywords space "Ground covers for shade in NY".  This will bring up a number of questions and answers to topics like yours.  You can get useful tips from some of these.   With respect to your need to know how to proceed with the plants you finally choose, I suggest that you click on How To articles on the Plant Database page and consult "Caring for your new native plants" and "Gardening timeline". 

Not knowing which species you have picked out, I cannot offer specific advice.  Some species can be planted in the fall while others would be better started in the spring.  I suggest that you consult experts in one of your local plant nurseries. They can give you the information you need for your particular site.  And they can inform you as to whether rooted plant or seeds are your best option for getting started.  If seeds are appropriate the supplier often indicates the optimal number of seeds to sow per square foot.

Before talking with suppliers it would be well to type the common or botanical name of each plant you have chosen into the Plant Database and read the description that appears.  You will often find good advice there regarding the planting and care of the species.

You are setting out on a very exciting experience with native plants.  I feel certain that you will find it rewarding.

 

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