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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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Tuesday - October 08, 2013

From: Durham, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass lawn from Durham NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Durham, NC. Want to plant a small front grass lawn, full sun, dry. Willing to mow. Not good about watering. Advice?

ANSWER:

Tis the season to be lawning, tra la la la la la la la. As October takes over, suddenly everyone is interested in next year's front yard. Since we live and garden in burning Texas, you might be interested in our most recent answer to the search for a lawn grass in our very hot and dry land. It has more links in it, and the references to water (or lack of same) probably won't interest you but the discussion of lawns per se might, so follow all the links until you get tired of the whole thing.

Next, we need to remind you that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants are being grown; in your case, Durham County, NC in north central North Carolina. And we have to tell you there are not many native grasses that fulfill the requirements of a lawn grass, but we will see what we can find. We will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down on the page to Combination Search, then select on North Carolina for state, "grass or grasslike plants" for Habit and sun" for Light Requirements, and add the proviso of Height of 1" to 12". With this search, we got 4 results: Carex texensis (Texas sedge) (which really is native to North Carolina, too, honest), Cenchrus spinifex (Coastal sandbur), Cyperus lupulinus (Great plains flatsedge) (we don't even have a picture of this one in our Image Gallery) and Digitaria cognata (Carolina crabgrass). We are pretty sure you don't want crabgrass or sanburs in your lawn, so that leaves the Texas Sedge. You can follow the plant link above to our webpage on this sedge, and note the statement: "It can be mowed at a high setting." Note that it also tolerates some shade, which would be good for most of the people we hear from because they are looking for grass that will grow under trees. It does, however, also grow in sun and can take moist or dry conditions, which would fit your specifications.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Grass bur
Cenchrus spinifex

Carolina crabgrass
Digitaria cognata

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