Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - February 22, 2009

From: Fredericksburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Low cost landscaping in Federicksburg VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello, I live in Fredericksburg Va and I rent a townhome with a small yard. My back yard is almost completely mud and my front yard has a hideous square shrub. So my question is do you have any plant suggestions for a cheap (because I rent) native, kid friendly, beautiful landscape?

ANSWER:

We can certainly point you at some plants native to your area that we think are beautiful and are safe to be around children. What we can't guarantee is cost. Prices differ in various parts of the country, and we have no access to pricing information. What we can tell you is that plants native to your area should not have excessive shipping costs attached to them, and they will be less expensive to water, fertilize and maintain because they are accustomed to the environment in which they will be grown.

Just to start you thinking-how much latitude do you have with your landlord in making changes? Would he/she have a fit if you took down the hideous shrub? Why is your back yard a sea of mud? Is there poor drainage, gutter downspots pouring into the area, or perhaps is it just clay that rain water simply wants to stand on? Do you have all shade, all sun, a mix of the two? Are there plants you must consider and keep? We don't have the skills to make a landscape plan for you because we don't know the answers to our questions. What we can do is show you how to find plants on your own in our Native Plant Database and Recommended Species. 

Perhaps with the cooperation of your landlord you can find a way to address the muddy backyard. You are going to experience a great deal of difficulty making a play space for children there if it is wet all the time. Many plants do not like growing with their feet wet, good drainage is essential. If you can't get the mud problem resolved, we would suggest planting some native grasses, and making a wide path of shredded hardwood mulch. The grasses are attractive, hold their place all year, and will make a nice frame for the mulch walk, which will at least permit you to move around in your yard. 

Since we do not know if your spaces are shady or sunny, we are going to select several each of flowering plants, shrubs and grasses without specifying Light Requirements. First, we will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Virginia on the map, NARROW YOUR SEARCH, and select "Herbs" (herbaceous flowering plants) under Habit. In successive searches, we will select "Shrubs" and then "Grasses." Since you are living in a rental, planting trees would probably be more expensive in time and money than you are interested in. Follow each plant link to the page on that individual plant to learn more about it.

HERBACEOUS FLOWERING PLANTS FOR VIRGINIA

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

SHRUBS FOR VIRGINIA

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)

Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

GRASSES AND GRASS-LIKE PLANTS FOR VIRGINIA

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)


Achillea millefolium

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Monarda fistulosa

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Morella cerifera

Rhododendron calendulaceum

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

How to deal with suckers on Flame-leaf Sumac
May 20, 2013 - Hi! It seems you can have too much of a good thing! Our flameleaf sumac is taking over our yard. There are multiple shoots appearing in our flower beds and in the lawn. How do I get rid of the unwante...
view the full question and answer

Will wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) grow in Roswell NM?
September 29, 2011 - We live in Roswell, NM. Will a wax myrtle tree live in our climate and soil?
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Tecoma stans in Austin
August 02, 2008 - We Planted a Yellow Esperanza shrub 2 years ago that was blooming when we purchased it. It bloomed very little last year and not at all this year. It looks very healthy and each year gets about 10 f...
view the full question and answer

Enough sun from San Marcos TX
February 22, 2013 - I would like to plant both Lantana urticoides and Salvia farinacea in area that only has morning to 1pm sun..Will this amount of sun be enough?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen Deck Plant for Oregon
May 29, 2011 - Need evergreen shrub to grow in shade in container 5ft tall for deck.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.