Arboretum’s spring sale offers outstanding native plants for your garden

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Crosby Arboretum’s spring native plant sale will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24, and will feature many blooming shrubs and perennials. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about using native plants in your garden, here’s your chance! Join our staff and volunteers for a fun weekend, as we enjoy talking with the community and talking about your gardening plans. Make a day of it! Bring your lunch on Saturday, and enjoy a blues performance at  1 p.m. on the beautiful Pinecote Pavilion.

The sale will offer many garden favorites, such as the heat-tolerant solid yellow azalea ‘Admiral Semmes’. A hybrid between the native Florida flame azalea and the English azalea ‘Exbury’, it is the easiest to grow of the Confederate Azalea Series introduced by Dodd & Dodd Nursery of Semmes, Alabama. When planting these and other native azaleas, provide adequate water throughout their first year of establishment to get them off to a good start. If you have ever had difficulty deciding where to locate these plants, take a look at where they are growing next time you visit the Arboretum. They grow well in the forest understory along the pathways, where they receive periods of bright sunlight but still receive a shifting pattern of shade.

Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus) is a vigorous, old-fashioned native garden plant that grows up to 8 feet high, and turns an attractive gold in fall. Last year this plant flew out the door at our spring sale because it arrived from the nursery in full bloom. The flowers are an unusual red and have a delightful fruity scent. In the “old days”, it was typical to plant sweet shrub near the house, and ladies would pluck a blossom from the plant to tuck into their blouse for fragrance on their way into town. Sweet shrub forms suckers at the base, increasing in width over time to form a thicket. Because of this, it is a good plant to use in an informal setting where it can be allowed to attain its natural shape. This is a great plant for those who claim to have brown thumbs, as it is easy to grow and propagate. Sweet shrub prefers medium shade to bright sun and moist soil with good drainage, but is also drought tolerant.

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Visitors have been commenting on the stunning pink, bell-shaped blooms of our mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), seen along the first bridge on our Arrival Journey. The shrub grows up to 15 feet or more, and occurs along area stream banks, preferring cool, moist, well-drained areas. If you see this plant in full bloom, it is a show-stopper. But take care to plant this shrub in its desired environmental conditions to ensure success in your home garden. Although mountain laurel has enjoyed a long history as a favorite blooming shrub among gardeners, keep in mind that, like oleander, all parts of this plant are highly toxic and may be fatal if eaten.

Needle palm is an appropriately named, unusual and hard to find palm, also called porcupine palm because of its extremely sharp needles growing up to 10 inches long. It has been said to be the world’s hardiest palm, as it endures snow, and in protected locations grows as far north as Atlanta. This palm forms multiple stems and is fairly fast growing, to around 6 feet in height.

A native to the southeast, needle palm prefers moist, well-drained locations, and is found naturally in moist bottomlands near streams, and on shady woodland slopes. Although it will survive occasional flooding, it tolerates dryer conditions. The palm is a beautiful low maintenance addition to a shade garden. You can see this palm in several places in the woodland near our Aquatic Exhibit.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a coarse textured understory shrub that is another favorite of gardeners because it offers a beautiful feature in every season. This shrub has attractive cinnamon colored exfoliating bark and large leaves that turn various shades of red and purple in the fall. The flowers are an arranger’s dream both fresh and dried, and remain on the plant for months, slowly transforming to hues of pink and red. Loaded with huge white flower clusters, this plant can be a must-have plant for your garden. However, partial to full shade is required for it to thrive. Don’t put this plant in full sun! Homeowners in Hide-A-Way Lake report this plant grows well in the woodland areas common there.

Native to the southeastern United States, this plant is found on calcareous soils or in areas of limestone. So, for best performance, add lime to your soil if it is acidic. You can pick up a soil test kit on your next visit to the Arboretum or to the county Extension office. Finally, this shrub will appreciate a drink during dry spells.

Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis) is a tough, high-performing native perennial found in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit. Native to the southeastern coastal plain, its attractive lavender flowers are long-lasting in arrangements. Plant this easy to grow perennial in moist but well-drained soils and full sun for best flower production. Many bloom colors are available in the trade, including pink, white, and yellow. Stokes aster is easy to propagate in the late winter or early spring by dividing the root clumps.

The Arboretum’s spring plant sale will be held this weekend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday near the Arboretum greenhouse. (Members are admitted at 9 a.m. Saturday.)  Admission is free, and plant professionals will be on hand to help you select the right plant for the right place on your property.

The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call the office at (601) 799-2311. The Arboretum is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, on Ridge Road (between Wal-Mart and I-59.)  



Find ten plants outside at your home or in your school yard and identify them. Are they native plants, or were they brought here from other countries?

Name some native perennials that can be grown in Pearl River County.

List some reasons you might want to choose native plants for your home garden.