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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 - July 15, 2008

From: Hemphill, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcovers for steep slope in East Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I HAVE A LAKE LOT IN EAST TEXAS ON TOLEDO BEND RESERVOIR IN HEMPHILL TEXAS. THE LAKE LOT IS BEAUTIFUL BUT VERY STEEP. IN SOME SPOTS IT IS ENTIRELY TOO STEEP TO MOW. IT WAS COMPLETELY GROWN UP WHEN WE PURCHASED AND WE HAVE WEED-EATED AND ROUND-UPED TILL WE ARE BLUE IN THE FACE. WE HAVE SEVERAL LARGE PINE TRESS THAT KEEP THE STEEP SLOPE SHADED MOST OF THE DAY. I AM ASKING MR. SMARTY-PANTS WHICH GROUND COVER SHOULD WE USE. MONDO GRASS OR ASIAN JASMINE. OR CAN YOU GIVE US ANOTHER IDEA FOR A FAST GROWING GROUND COVER?

ANSWER:

Actually, none of the above. Both mondo grass (native to Japan) and Asian jasmine (native of Asia, where else) are non-natives to North America. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are dedicated to the use, protection and promotion of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. Natives are better for the environment because they are adapted to the conditions in which they grow-soil, rain, amount of fertilizer needed, etc. And, quite frankly, almost anything "fast-growing" can quickly become invasive. Think of kudzu; non-native and fast-growing. You don't want your beautiful lake place to be known as the originator of the next kudzu, do you? As for the Round-up, we recommend neither for nor against herbicides, but you may very well have been spraying native plants that would thrive there very well. And have you considered what drift from that spray may be doing to your pine trees?

Is it altogether necessary to mow? You move to a country place to get away from the tasks of town. Unless the grasses already growing there (if you've left any alive) are obstructing your view, it's hard to see what harm they're doing. If it's that steep, you can't very well sit out there nor can children play. So, if you are not going to mow, and want to plant something on that slope, native grasses and wildflowers can be planted there just as easily as mondo grass or jasmine. We want to suggest a meadow garden, and refer you to our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening. It is not a fast process, but one that develops and matures over time. And it will certainly add to the beauty of your property.

 

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