Arboretum Paths Celebrate Earth Day at the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Arboretum volunteer Amy Nichols enjoyed last year’s Earth Day festivities, discussing information on butterflies and other pollinators.  Photo by Pat Drackett

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Arboretum volunteer Amy Nichols enjoyed last year’s Earth Day festivities, discussing information on butterflies and other pollinators.
Photo by Pat Drackett

The Arboretum will offer activities to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Earth Day this Saturday, April 26. What a wonderful time of the year to stroll the pathways! Yellow pitcher plants and native iris are in bloom, and other native species such as the orange and yellow flame azaleas, pink mountain laurel, and red starbush will catch your eye. This weekend, come pick up some helpful information and gardening tips as well.

Bring your plant questions with you – or perhaps samples for identification– to the Arboretum from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pearl River County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions, and Mississippi Master Naturalist Mary Cordray will be coordinating the children’s craft offering “Kids Go Green” projects. Other exhibits will focus on sustainable gardening practices and plant information such as square foot gardening, pollinators for the garden, and vermicomposting (composting with worms).

How much “energy” does it take to operate your garden? When you look at your yard, does its beauty serve to relax and refresh you, or are you only reminded of the tasks that you are behind on? Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of new gardening practices you can adopt that will require the least amount of your labor, but give you the greatest return on your “investment” of time. Examples of this are identifying plants in your yard that require constant maintenance and replacing them with species that need little or no maintenance, reducing areas of lawn (and therefore, mowing!) and creating more informal, natural areas in your yard, and learning about highly productive gardening methods such as “lasagna gardening”, or “square foot gardening”.

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How does the interior of your home relate to your garden? Are your windows arranged so that you can easily see outside and appreciate its beauty, or watch the hummingbirds and butterflies that visit your garden? The MSU Extension website,, has numerous publications containing lists of plants to attract birds and butterflies. Consider how you can locate the plants in your yard so that they can be best viewed from inside. Finally, find ways to bring your garden inside – such as creating floral arrangements, or simply placing one bloom in a vase.

This past March, the featured speaker for the Crosby Arboretum’s Annual Lecture was entomologist and author Dr. Doug Tallamy, who spoke on the important value native plants have for improving local biodiversity. When he was asked to suggest the most important but simple action someone could undertake that would have the biggest positive impact on the biodiversity of their yard, he said, “Plant an oak tree”. This is because oaks attract over 500 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). Caterpillars eat the oak leaves, and that is a good thing. But why would you want to attract insects? The answer is – because they are consumed by, and therefore support, our local wildlife species. Other native plant species in the “top ten”, supporting high numbers of insect species, are cherry, willow, birch, crabapple (such as our Southern crabapple, Malus angusifolia), maple, and blueberries. Dr. Tallamy recommended that whenever possible, homeowners should strive to include native tree species in their plantings – for example, along their property lines.

Learn more about native plant species you can use in your home landscape at the Arboretum at the Earth Day celebration Saturday, April 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 for adults and $2 for children (free entry for members).

Come to a special night insect collecting event on the evening of Friday, May 2, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., led by Hancock County Extension Agent Christian Stephenson. This will be a small night collecting event, not like our large September BugFest event. Collect and identify the emerging spring insects that will be gathering on lighted sheets. Please call to sign up for this program to help with our planning. We’ll provide all necessary collecting equipment, just bring your flashlight! Admission is free for members, non-members, $5 for adults and $2 for children.

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


FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Visit the MSU Extension website at to search for gardening topics such as composting, pruning, growing annuals, perennials, and wildflowers, gardening for birds and backyard wildlife, creating a landscape design, and much more.