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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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Thursday - July 16, 2015

From: Flagstaff , AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Drought Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Drought-Tolerant Plants for Arizona
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Slowly turning south-facing lawn to drought-tolerant plantings with gravel paths. Mature Ponderosa and several blue spruce and junipers surround area. Grass area I'm converting with a few larger trees at a time then will fill in with shrubs etc. later. Area is fescue mixed grasses sloping gently and area is approximately 75 feet by 75 feet. Need privacy from 2 story houses behind and below. At 7,000 feet in Flagstaff, AZ.

ANSWER:

Barbara Medford answered a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question about drought tolerant privacy plants for Flagstaff, AZ that has some great suggestions that you might consider. Here's the question and her answer....

We need a fast growing drought tolerant tree that will grow in Flagstaff AZ/Parks AZ. Neighbors are hoarders and we want privacy fence to cover the mess. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Actually, what we think you need is privacy shrubs. If you think about it, once a tree begins to grow, what is at eye-level? The trunk of the tree, of course, which doesn't do much for privacy. There are a number of shrubs native to Arizona and evergreen, which will "bush out" and make the area both more attractive and more opaque. By the by, "fast growing" trees is something of a misnomer. It still takes several years for any tree to grow very much, and many fast growing trees tend to be short-lived.

The American poet, Robert Frost, wrote in his poem Mending Walls: "Good fences make good neighbors." So, maybe your neighbors will notice your lovely new living privacy wall and decide to clean up their side so they can enjoy the plants, too. Or, maybe not.

We will go to our Native Plant Database and, using the Combination Search, select on Arizona on State, "shrub" under Habit, "sun" under Light Requirements and "evergreen" for Duration. We are going to assume this privacy wall will be in full sun, which we consider to be six hours or more of sunlight  a day. We will choose, as we always do, only plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are to be grown, in your case, Coconino County. Follow each link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, sunlight requirements, preferred soils, etc. To determine if a shrub is native to your area, scroll down to the bottom of that webpage and click on the link to the USDA Plant Profile on that plant. We have done that on all of our suggested list.

Shrubs for privacy in Flagstaff AZ:

Arctostaphylos patula (Greenleaf manzanita)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Buddleja scordioides (Escobilla butterflybush)

Cercocarpus montanus (Alderleaf mountain mahogany)

Encelia farinosa (Brittlebush)

Fremontodendron californicum (California flannelbush)

Garrya wrightii (Wright's silktassel)

Juniperus monosperma (Oneseed juniper)

Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush)

Mahonia haematocarpa (Red barberry)

Rhamnus crocea (Holly-leaf buckthorn)

If you have difficulty locating native plants of your choice, go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state or just your zipcode in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and consultants in your general area. All will have contact information so you can find out if they have your choice in stock before you start shopping.

Another good resource is the book "Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes" by Judy Miekle.

 

From the Image Gallery


Greenleaf manzanita
Arctostaphylos patula

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Escobilla butterflybush
Buddleja scordioides

Alderleaf mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus

Brittlebush
Encelia farinosa

Carolina silverbell
Halesia carolina

Wright's silktassel
Garrya wrightii

Oneseed juniper
Juniperus monosperma

Creosote bush
Larrea tridentata

Red barberry
Mahonia haematocarpa

Holly-leaf buckthorn
Rhamnus crocea

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