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Arbo Paths: Bring nature inside over the holidays!

In December 2004, Arboretum grounds manager Terry Johnson fashioned a wreath for the Pavilion from native greens – yaupon and American holly, greenbriar vine, turkey pine, and Southern magnolia. Crosby Arboretum Archive Photo

In December 2004, Arboretum grounds manager Terry Johnson fashioned a wreath for the Pavilion from native greens – yaupon and American holly, greenbriar vine, turkey pine, and Southern magnolia.
Crosby Arboretum Archive Photo


Every season has its plants that will steal the show, and I’ve noticed that the recent cold weather has triggered some beautiful blooms on local sasanqua camellias. You may have noticed a red berries shining here and there, such as those of our common yaupon holly. Here at the Arboretum, we are treated daily with such sightings of fall color, signals that fall has officially arrived and the winter months are right around the corner. A field walk last week revealed a wonderful surprise, one which we are never prepared for. As we rounded a corner, we found our witch hazel tree in full bloom on the bank of our Slough Exhibit. This happened during a garden club tour, so the tree certainly had a perfect crowd to appreciate its beauty, as they recognized the tree as being related to the popular purple-leaved Chinese witch hazel, whose Latin name you may recognize – Loropetalum.

Once, on a field trip to our Hillside Bog natural area on Bienville Road, we came across some tiny witch hazel trees, which were recognizable due to having leaves that are “inequalateral”, meaning, they are not a perfect mirror if you were to fold them along the middle. Look up the term on the Internet, and search for a photo of the leaf, and you will see exactly what this means. Learning characteristics like these are very helpful in plant identification.

The feathery bald cypress trees lining the Piney Woods pond have turned a rusty hue, and the scarlet sumac leaves, jewel-toned black gum, and ruby-red Elliot’s blueberry catch your eye in the landscape. Black berries can be spotted on the appropriately named inkberry holly growing among the grasses in our Savanna Exhibit. Star-shaped sweetgum leaves, and red maple leaves are falling to the deck of our Visitor Center.

On a walk through our grounds, late season perennials can still be discovered, happily blooming in the grasslands – tiny asters, coreopsis, delicate purple lobelia, and a spurt here and there of an unusual blossom that is uncharacteristically tardy and will provoke a few ooohs and aaahs.

What a perfect time this is for picking a bouquet of fall flowers and grasses to bring inside for your table or bedside table during the Thanksgiving holidays. And with a home full of family and friends, why not take advantage of a crowd – make some oatmeal cookies and pour some cider and ask them to join you in fashioning natural wreaths and garlands.

If your family has a holiday tradition of putting up a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, look for the tree greens cut from the base of the trunk – these are trash for the tree salesman but treasure to a wreath-maker. Wrap short lengths of branches around an old-fashioned wire coat hanger, or a bought metal wreath form, and secure with green florist wire. Add pine cones and a bow, and you’re done!

Another natural material that can be used for holiday decorating is Southern magnolia leaves. Incorporate into garlands, or use the leaves, dried or green, or spray-painted silver or gold, to decorate inexpensive picture frames. Remember those pokey sweetgum balls you may have encountered in a lawn while barefoot? I’ve seen some stunning wreaths made from sweetgum balls, fashioned on metal frames, sometimes mixed with pinecones and acorns, great projects for those handy with a hot glue gun.

Although it can be difficult to remember what someone gave you for Christmas last year, handmade gifts may be treasured for decades after their receipt. Many gifts can be made from nothing. For example, GPAC (Greater Picayune Arts Council) members Teresa Hickey and Harriet Greulich have recently been making some intriguing ornaments from tree “cookies” – rounds cut from small tree trunks. On Saturday, January 10, Judy Breland will lead a workshop on pine needle basketmaking.

Gourdcrafter Janet Schlauderaff, whose work is currently featured in the Crosby Arboretum Gallery, will lead a workshop on gourdcrafting Christmas ornaments Saturday, November 22, from 10 a.m. to Noon, open to adults and children 10 and up. The cost is $4 for members and $6 for non-members.

To sign up for a program, or f or more information, please call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, Mississippi, off I-59 Exit 4, on Ridge Road (between Wal-Mart and I-59). Follow signs to the Arboretum.

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Do an Internet search for “how to make a garland from pine boughs” and plan a fun time with your family and friends after a turkey dinner. Create long garlands to decorate your doorway or staircase railing by wrapping pine and fir boughs around lengths of green colored rope (available at craft stores). Incorporate lengths of ribbon or pine cones for a finishing touch. Need a mantelpiece decoration? Fashion a short garland and ask a child to help by writing letters on cards to spell out a “Merry Christmas” greeting.

By Patricia Drackett