Arboretum Paths: Think pink this winter

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Photo from Arboretum archives THINK PINK: Pink “honeysuckle” azalea is a popular native shrub that is found growing along the Coast’s streams and waterways.

Photo from Arboretum archives
THINK PINK: Pink “honeysuckle” azalea is a popular native shrub that is found growing along the Coast’s streams and waterways.


By Pat Drackett

Director, Crosby Arboretum/ MSU Extention

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Yes, you read that right! These winter months offer excellent environmental conditions for planting lovely new additions into your home landscape. The cooler weather provides an extended period for roots to become established before the warm temperatures return again.

The pink “honeysuckle” azaleas (Rhododendron canescens) are a popular native shrub. However, like ornamental azaleas, they do not tolerate drought well, preferring moist, well-drained acidic conditions. A layer of mulch, such as pine straw, will help the plant by retaining soil moisture. If you want to kill a native azalea, just plant it in full sun and poorly drained soil. But should you prefer to keep it around for an extended period of time, locate it in a moist, well-drained location. Honeysuckle azaleas also perform well in the shifting shade of tree canopies.

Visit the Arboretum this spring and observe where our native azaleas thrive. They do well at the sloped edges of our water bodies, and bordering our pathways. Locate your own native azaleas in similar conditions to ensure success.

One of the hardest things to accept is when your property does not have the proper soil and light conditions to support the plants you would like to include in your home landscape. But at Crosby Arboretum plant sales, you’ll find many plant experts and native gardening enthusiasts to steer you in the direction of appropriate substitutes and help you select the right plants for your own unique site conditions.

We are planning our plant order for our Arbor Day Native Plant Sale, to be held on Saturday, February 15 in celebration of Mississippi Arbor Day. We’re excited to be assembling an outstanding list of native trees, shrubs, and perennials this year, and do our best to include old-fashioned favorites such as mayhaw, bigleaf magnolia, and grancy graybeard.

Prescribed burns have recently been carried out in our south Pitcher Plant Bog, and the Arboretum’s northern savanna. We have one area left to burn this year, and this event will take place on a Thursday or Friday in January or February, if weather conditions are right. Once a permit is obtained, burn manager Terry Johnson usually begins the burn around mid-morning.

If you are interested in being added to our list to be called the morning of an event to be a volunteer on Terry’s burn crew, contact him at 601-799-2311 Ext. 105. Those interested in volunteering for our fire team can learn fire management techniques, and more about resources for becoming certified to burn. Team members may be notified as early as a day ahead of time if the approaching weather conditions appear favorable for conducting a burn, or the morning of the event. Those who wish to observe only should call the office around 9:00 a.m. to see if arrangements are underway to apply for a burn permit.

Do you enjoy watching blacksmiths and metalworkers? Then mark your calendar for the Crosby Arboretum’s sixth annual Forge Day event on Saturday, January 25, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We have learned that the Gulf Coast Blacksmith Association ( will be holding their regular meeting at the Arboretum the day of the event, and this means that we will be hosting even more metalworkers, and forges, than usual. Some of the metalworkers will allow you to try their hand at the forge (they will supply safety equipment, and a waiver must be signed prior to participation). The event is free for members, $5 for non-members, and $2 for non-members’ children.

For more information, call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311 or visit our website at The garden is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).




See the Crosby Arboretum’s Native Plant Data Base, which is linked on our website’s home page, to search for information on the local plants you are interested in knowing more about. Read profiles on the plants that are found on the site, and found in Pearl River County. For helpful resources on trees and shrubs that are native to Mississippi, visit the Mississippi State University Extension Service website at and enter these keywords in the search bar at the top of the page. Then, curl up with a cup of hot chocolate for some good reading!