Arbo paths: Slow down, and plan for your spring planting

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In the fall and winter months, we find ourselves winding down, with many of us planning toward the holidays. This is a time we don’t want to spend a lot of time laboring in our yards, but we will usually add a few mums, hay bales, or other fall embellishments to prepare our homes for family and friends who will soon be visiting.
Consider planting some native grasses to your landscape to provide some autumn sparkle year after year, relieving you of some of the time you spend in the fall maintenance of your yard. During the Picayune Fall Street Fair this weekend, I noticed that a bank near City Hall had wisely included some pink Gulf Coast muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in their planting beds. Most of the year, this native grass simply gives a welcome contrast of texture to the landscape. But in the fall, its pink bloom spikes offer an ethereal touch, glistening in the sun.
As you drive through your neighborhood, take note of the plants that are looking nice right now in others’ yards. Plan to include some of these in your own yard, for a lower maintenance landscape next year.
Chrysanthemums are a common plant to add to the fall landscape, but many do not know that these plants, if given a good home in a garden bed, can become a permanent perennial in our garden. They will often grow quite larger than the potted plants you purchase, which have which has been heavily pruned to shape.
Find a source on the Internet or in your local library that will guide you through the planting and care of mums in the garden, and save money on buying them each year. Better yet, keep an eye open for neighbors or businesses that discard mums at the end of the holidays. With a little attention, these plants can develop into stunners next fall in your landscape. And remember, our native grasses make a beautiful backdrop for your fall-blooming mums.

On our Arboretum field walk this past Saturday, the pitcher plant bog was stuffed full of native grasses. They have such dramatic shapes and structures, from the huge but delicate panicles of panic grass (Panicum virgatum) to the plumes of sugarcane plume grass (Saccharum giganteum) currently transforming into cotton candy puffs.
During the Fall Street Fair this past weekend, we heard several people talking about looking forward to taking a break from gardening. Here at the Arboretum, we’re happy to provide guidance on how to use Mississippi native plants to create more sustainable, low-maintenance landscapes. The MSU Extension website,, provides practical information you can trust, including a wealth of gardening topics about Mississippi native plants, to help you “garden wisely”.

One reoccurring comment we heard at the Arboretum’s Street Fair booth was just how adamant Pearl River County residents are about this county being the absolute best place to live and raise a family. We were pleased to hear visitors voice their appreciation for the tough, low-maintenance, and aesthetically pleasing qualities of Mississippi’s native plants. If you have a wet area, compacted soil, or other problem soils, we guarantee you that there is a native plant that will be glad to call this site their home!
Are there youth in your family who enjoy fishing? Bring them to Will Sullivan’s flytying workshop this Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m., designed for youth ages 9 to 14. He will teach how to use simple, inexpensive materials such as flipflop foam, thread, rubber bands and more to create flies to catch fish. All materials and equipment will be provided. The program is limited to five participants and a parent or guardian is required. Cost for members is $2, and $4 for non-members, $4. Spend the winter months tying flies!
Make plans to attend our 12th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival, Saturday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See demonstrations of traditional skills such as blacksmithing, quilting, treadle sewing machines, woodcarving, basket-making, and more. Members enter free, and admission for general public is $5 for adults and $2 for children.
Gourdcrafter Janet Schlauderaff, whose work is currently featured in our Gallery, will hold a workshop on gourdcrafting Christmas ornaments Saturday, November 22, from 10 a.m. to Noon for adults and children 10 and up. Janet will teach a variety of practices and techniques to guide you in crafting your own unique gourd ornament. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Cost is $4 for members and $6 for non-members. All materials provided. Register soon, as this class is filling rapidly.
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: Visit the Arboretum’s Plant Data Base on our home to learn to identify muhly grass, sugar cane plume grass, and panic grass. By learning these three native grasses, you will be able to point them out to others on your travels through Pearl River County, and spread the knowledge!

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By Patricia Drackett