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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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Wednesday - July 24, 2013

From: New Egypt, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Meadow Gardens, Grasses or Grass-like, Wildflowers
Title: Developing fields with native plants from New Egypt NJ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have several acres of fields that I want to develop with native grasses and flowers. I would like to know the best time to mow the fields so that bushes and volunteer trees don't take over and that the bird/animal population won't be adversely affected.

ANSWER:

Welcome to class. We believe that what you are talking about is either what we call Meadow Gardening or Recreating a Prairie. Each of those links will take you to one of our How-To Articles on that subject. These are a little Texas-centric because that is where we are, but the principles will still apply. Further, we have some other articles that deal with why we advocate only plants native to North America as well as to the area in which they are being grown; in your case, Ocean County, NJ. Along those lines, here are some more How-To Articles we think would hellp you:

A Guide to Native Plant Gardening

Butterfly Gardening

Wildlife Gardening

We believe your concerns with when to mow and keeping woody plants from taking over will be addressed in these articles, probably more than once.

Now, let's move on to plant selection. We will go to our Native Plant Database and  scroll down the page to Combination Search. On the right-hand side of that page, begin by designating New Jersey in the State box, then "grass/grass-like" in the Habit box. Since we don't know your Soil Moisture or Light Requirements, you will need to run your own search that fits the area you are planting. When we ran this, we got 399 results which we thought were enough for you to choose from, so we picked four that were listed in the article on Recreating a Prairie that are native to New Jersey for our suggested list. Next, wildflowers for your site. Going back to the same database, substitute Herbs (herbaceous blooming plants) in Habit. We got 1,139 results and didn't want to crawl through that any more than you probably do. So, we went to this Wildflowers of New Jersey site. This has pictures and under each one is a link to more information and (Native) or (Introduced). Naturally, we recommend you choose only the native plants.  So, we will scan that New Jersey Wildflowers site and choose four that are attractive and in our Native Plant Database to be examples. Using the same technique you can find plants that suit your purposes. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant for more information on growing conditions, sunlight requirements and preferred soils.

Grasses for a New Jersey Meadow Garden or Prairie:

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Wildflowers for a New Jersey Meadow Garden or Prairie:

Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)

Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange coneflower)

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)

Oenothera biennis (Common evening-primrose)

 

From the Image Gallery


Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Orange coneflower
Rudbeckia fulgida

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

Common evening-primrose
Oenothera biennis

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