By Patricia Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum/MSU Extension Service
The Picayune Item
When digging a hole to put a plant in the ground, with each shovel full of soil tossed aside, most laborers are most likely pondering a vision of the plant growing robustly many years in the future. In reality, it will be fortunate indeed if it still alive after the first few years – otherwise known as its “establishment period.”
Finding the appropriate place on your property to provide the perfect home for that new plant you bring home can be a challenge. Garden magazines may inspire us to start a quest for featured plants. Some of us don’t even need a magazine to get started, having become very skilled at making repeat impulse purchases, only to arrive home once again wondering where the new acquisition will be located.
Perhaps you have created a “polka-dot” lawn, full of plants that you had no idea where to locate, so they were abandoned as single specimens in your yard with no “rhyme or reason.” Now, you weave in and out of this area when you mow. One landscape solution is to create a new island bed around single unrelated specimens, and add shrubs or groundcovers to unify the arrangement.
Once you have a good understanding of your property’s site conditions — for example, the sun exposure in various areas, soils, drainage (and lack of!), and so forth — you will be able to appropriately locate the plants you bring home. If your soil is in question, soil test kits may be picked up from your local Extension office with instructions on how to send in your sample for analysis.
On Saturday, September 14, from 10 to 11 a.m., the Crosby Arboretum is offering an informative program on Home Landscape Design and Renovation to help you prepare for browsing our upcoming Fall Plant Sale. Learn the steps for analyzing your property, and creating low-maintenance and attractive landscapes. Mississippi native plants for your home landscape will also be discussed.
One of the hardest things to accept is that you may not have the correct soil and light conditions to support the plants you’d like to grow in your home landscape. The Arboretum’s plant sales feature plant experts and native gardening enthusiasts who will be able to steer you in the direction, making appropriate substitutes and assisting you to select the right plants for your own unique site conditions.
Many tree selections will be available at the upcoming plant sale, such as the always popular bigleaf and Ashe’s magnolia.Examples of both of these deciduous magnolias can be seen when you cross over the first bridge on our Arrival Journey and approach the Visitor Center. Mature bigleaf magnolias can have leaves that measure up to three feet in length, and both trees have simply awesome spring blooms.
Ashe’s magnolia has a very similar appearance to the bigleaf magnolia, but has shorter leaves, up to two feet in length. It produces blooms on much younger plants than bigleaf magnolia, which can take 10 to 15 years to produce a flower. An Ashe’s magnolia, however, may bloom in only four years. Both trees prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil and are at home in the forest understory, although full sun will produce a straighter plant with more abundant blooms.
Oakleaf hydrangea and Grancy greybeard are popular garden shrubs that will be offered this year. Oakleaf hydrangea is favored for the coarse texture of its leaves, gorgeous white lasting bloom spikes, and scarlet hues that rev up the temperature of your fall garden. This shrub, like deciduous magnolias, favor rich, well-drained and moist soil.
Grancy greybeard is an old-time favorite, also known as our native fringe tree. It has unusual airy white fringed flowers that light up the spring garden, and a sweet but not overpowering fragrance. It is great in the wildlife garden or as a specimen tree. Although it too prefers a moist, well-drained soil, it will tolerate drier conditions.
Many native shrubs are excellent choices for your wildlife garden — for example, beautyberry will turn heads with its brilliant magenta fruits that are clustered in balls around the stems. These are appreciated by birds. It’s an undemanding shrub, and easy to grow in sun or shade.
Muscadines, mayhaws, and southern crabapples will be available at the sale. Trees will include the southern sugar maple (yes, there really is such a thing), swamp red maple, redbud, river birch, and longleaf pine.
Gardens will stand out above the rest if they have constant activity from birds and butterflies. Create a design that will be remembered many years later — think about how to add multiple layers of experience that will engage all of the senses. Fragrant blooms, the sound of trickling water or a wind chime, or the movement of birds and butterflies will all increase the ability of a garden to establish a lasting memory.
Are you planning on attending the Crosby Arboretum’s Bugfest on Sept. 27 and 28? More information on this event is available at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.ed
Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s Fall Native Plant Sale on Friday/Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (site admission is free this day).
For further exploration:
Visit the MSU Extension website at www.MSUcares.com for a variety of articles and publications on home landscaping and gardening topics. Search for information on sustainable gardening and native plants.