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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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Friday - April 13, 2012

From: Folsom, CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening, Vines
Title: Folsom CA Wall-cover
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I live in Folsom, CA and I have an ugly cinder block wall that I want to cover, I want something that is low maintenance and that is going to grow and spread into my grass. The only one i can really think of to use is ivy, but my thumb is not very green yet, I love gardening just not very knowledgeable in it :) I have tried to do some research but, really haven't found anything that has been helpful.. thank you!

ANSWER:

When Mr Smarty Plants is looking for a wall-cover, his thoughts go to a nice native vine as they are low-maintenance and very likely to grow vigorously. You might plan to plant them on top and “train” them to cascade down, or plant them below and train them to go up & over.  I checked the recommended species for Northern California, then narrowed the search to just vines and found six good possibilities.   They are:

Aristolochia californica (California dutchman's pipe)

Calystegia occidentalis (Chaparral false bindweed)

Clematis lasiantha (Pipestem clematis)

Clematis ligusticifolia (Western white clematis)

Mahonia pinnata (Wavyleaf barberry)

Vitis californica (California grape)

I personally think the clematis’ have the nicer flowers, but then having California Wild Grapes would be a nice conversation piece!   What do you think?   Of course, if you prefer a shrub or maybe a ground cover, you can find the appropriate California native species with a similar search.

Want to become more knowledgeable about natives?  There is a local chapter fo the California Native Plant Society near you!  Another good choice is to become familiar with the local California Extension Office.

 

From the Image Gallery


Chaparral false bindweed
Calystegia occidentalis

Pipestem clematis
Clematis lasiantha

Pipestem clematis
Clematis lasiantha

Western white clematis
Clematis ligusticifolia

Western white clematis
Clematis ligusticifolia

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