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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

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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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!

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Thursday - June 16, 2011

From: Birmingham, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Shrubs
Title: Plants for curb appeal from Birmingham AL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My front yard is on a down hill slope. Can you recommend some plants that would be good for creating curb appeal that will be planted up against the house? We need some that are short around 2 feet tall and some that are taller and skinny around 5 feet tall, due to the slope and wanting to keep some symmetry when you look at the front.

ANSWER:

Due to the fact that we have two questions from you on your downhill sloping front yard, we are going to give you help in using our Native Plant Database that you can apply to both questions, and give you some sample suggestions for each.

The only thing you didn't tell us was whether it was sunny or shady. Before you select plants (and you certainly shouldn't be planting woody plants this time of year) spend some time mapping out how much sunlight there is in different portions of your yard. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours or more of sun a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours, and "shade" 2 hours of sun.

You can use our database by going to our Recommended Species,  select Alabama on the map, which will give you a list of 118 plants that are native to Alabama, considered good plants and commercially available. On that page, under General Appearance, choose which type of plant (tree, shrub, herbaceous blooming plant, etc.) you think would be most appropriate. From there, deal with one area at a time. For this purpose, we think shrubs or perennial herbs (herbaceous blooming plants) would be most appropriate, so select "shrub" and the Light Requirement that fits your observations. You could do two rounds because of the requested heights, although there is no guarantee you will get many or even any plants listed with all your specifications. Then, you have to decide how to compromise what you want with what you can find. We are going to search for a shrub that is around 5 ft tall and a perennial herbaceous blooming plant ("herb" under General Appearance) that is around 2 ft tall and you follow each plant link to learn if the plant is evergreen or deciduous, what color and when it blooms, what its water needs and light requirements are, expected height and so forth. Then, take it from there, finding the right plant for your spots.

Shrub - Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - 3-6 ft., deciduous, blooms white, pink May to July, part shade, likes moist, rich soil, spectacular magenta purple berries in Fall and Winter.

Herb - Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow) - to 3 ft. tall, perennial, blooms white, pink April to September, sun or part shade, medium water use.

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Common yarrow
Achillea millefolium

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