Arboretum Paths: Bob Brzuszek to speak on Saturday

Published 4:18 pm Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ORCHIDS ARE ABUNDANT: Bob Brzuszek pauses during a field walk to the Arboretum’s Hillside Bog Natural Area, which most likely included a discussion of how prescribed fire is used to control understory vegetation in the longleaf pine stand.  Photo

ORCHIDS ARE ABUNDANT: Bob Brzuszek pauses during a field walk to the Arboretum’s Hillside Bog Natural Area, which most likely included a discussion of how prescribed fire is used to control understory vegetation in the longleaf pine stand.

Patricia Drackett

Director, Crosby Arboretum/ MSU Extension

This year is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the Crosby Arboretum, and so it is timely that former site director Bob Brzuszek has released his new book in April, disclosing the major principles behind the Arboretum’s design and how they still apply today.

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In The Crosby Arboretum: A Sustainable Regional Landscape, published through LSU Press, Bob points out that although at its beginning the Arboretum’s founders simply wanted to create a memorial garden to L.O. Crosby, Jr., instead they “embarked upon a more ambitious journey. Little did they know that they would create one of the nation’s premier native plant conservatories that would win prestigious awards in architecture and landscape architecture,” a testimony to the vision and quest for excellence of its early board.

At his program, which begins at 2 p.m. this Saturday, June 7, Bob will discuss how the Arboretum’s founding board engaged the ecologically-based firm Andropogon Associates, Ltd. from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the recommended consultant for the development of Pinecote’s master plan. The firm’s landscape architects Carol Franklin and Leslie Sauer created some revolutionary guiding principles specifically for Crosby Arboretum.

For example, the Arboretum is designed to change over time. Bob explains that this simple concept was a radical idea in the world of arboreta, since arboretums and botanic gardens are characterized by fixed exhibits that are managed and cared for exactly in the same way throughout time.  Such fixed systems fall apart and need to be restored, he points out, but Andropogon “realized that the plant communities at Pinecote, just as we see in all wild places, go through many natural and cultural changes. Although not easily seen, the living exhibits at Pinecote are changing constantly.”

In 1991, Andropogon and the Arboretum’s first director Ed Blake, Jr. received anHonor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects for their design of the site’s master plan, which is the highest national award given in its field and the only one ever to be received in Mississippi.

On Saturday, you will hear about the Arboretum’s history, the people involved, and the design process used that resulted in the landscape patterns seen at the site known as Pinecote – the Native Plant Center of the Crosby Arboretum . Bob will tell about the lessons he learned from first director Ed Blake, botanist and first employee Chris Wells, and from the many others he met along the way. Today, as a professor of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, Bob is passing this knowledge on to his students.

Pearl River County Extension Agent Eddie Smith mentioned to me last week that he had attended a conference recently where he heard a speaker voice his high praise for the Crosby Arboretum. Last month, while arranging for the speaker for our 2015 Annual Lecture Series, this nationally known author reported he had visited the Arboretum in the 1990’s, and called it one of his favorite places on Earth.

In a final example, I remember a day not too long after having started with the Arboretum, when a group of landscape architecture students and professors from Iowa State University stopped by on their journey homeward after visiting LSU. Leaning against a post on the Pinecote Pavilion, I listened, mesmerized, to their hour-long lecture on the history and development of our site, solid proof that our site has a far-reaching reputation in the design world.

Although each week can bring a new example of how the Arboretum is “locally obscure and nationally famous”, I believe one of the sweetest sounds is overhearing a local visitor remark that they “have always meant to visit the Arboretum, and I am so glad I finally did!”

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to make your first visit, please join us on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a peek inside the development of the Crosby Arboretum and to learn why you should make us a regular part of your routine. Bob’s program is free for members and $5 non-members. If possible, please call office at (601) 799-2311 to sign up for this program and guarantee a seat. Bob will be signing copies of his new book at the event, available in the Gift Shop.

For more information on our programs and events, or our public garden, The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located in Picayune, off I-59, Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).




Enter the keywords “Brzuszek” and “new book” into your favorite internet search engine to read more about the process of the book’s development.