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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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Wednesday - April 12, 2006

From: Stanfordville, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground covers for sandy hill in New York
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

We have just built a new home and a sandy fill was needed around the house. It sits on a hill and the fill is very sandy. We would like to plant something to stabilize the bank that is native to the area and easy to maintain. It is a southern exposure and is very well drained. Can you suggest some type of ground covers?

ANSWER:

If your sand completely lacks organic matter, you might want to consider adding compost to it before planting. Our Regional Factpack for the Northeast lists several plants as groundcovers but says little about their tolerance for sand. A brief perusal of field guides suggests that the following groundcovering plants native to New York might tolerate sand, though again adding organic matter will help insure success:

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Northern Bayberry (Morella pennsylvanica)

Most of the information I'm finding about native northeastern plants adapted to sand focuses on beach plants that colonize moving sand dunes, probably not your situation. Your local native plant society or Wild Ones chapter might contain people who have experience with residential sand landscaping in New York. Also check our National Suppliers Directory to find local sources for purchasing natives.
 

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