Arbo Paths: Gardening advice that can save you time and money this spring

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arboretum volunteer Joy Lorens planting black-eyed Susan in the Children’s Garden. Photo by Pat Drackett

Arboretum volunteer Joy Lorens planting black-eyed Susan in the Children’s Garden.
Photo by Pat Drackett

Last Saturday, Senior Curator Jill Mirkovich and Director Pat Drackett presented a program titled “Home Landscape Design Jambalaya”. Participants were offered a hodgepodge of gardening ideas and other information intended to spark ideas for their spring projects, with the goal to help save money and labor in the garden.

Jill described the simple method of using a garden hose to get an idea of the shape and size of a new landscape bed, creating attractive curving lines that can make a landscape look like it was professionally designed. Once you achieve the shape and curve you like, use a can of brightly colored contractor’s marking paint to draw a line in the lawn next to the hose. Pull the hose away for a bold guideline to cut along with a bed edger or shovel to form your bed. For a more formal look, add natural stone, brick, or paver stones.

Other advice included not buying plants on impulse without a plan, or having an idea of where they would fit in your landscape. Knowing your property’s environmental conditions, such as its moisture gradients, soil types, and sun and shade exposure, were discussed as being important to know, in order to select appropriate plants for your yard.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

While a very sunny or shady area may be obvious, in areas located near tree canopies the sun and shade exposure can change throughout the day, and also with the changing angle of the sun at different times of the year. Jill recommended that once you have identified the area where you want a new bed, go outside throughout the day and observe how the light in that area changes.

Don’t miss out on easy opportunities to research the plants you would like to use in your landscape. Ask a friend to drive around the neighborhood with you and point out the yards that you are drawn to. Talk about the features, styles, and plants you like in their landscapes. Start an idea notebook, and add notes about particular plants and landscape styles. Put together a “plant palette” by searching online for thumbnail photographs of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and blooming plants you prefer. Note their preferred site conditions. Do you have such areas on your own property? Group plants that prefer similar soils or moisture conditions together.

Before you dig a hole to put a plant in the ground, ask yourself what purpose that plant will provide to you. Will it be to provide shade, fruit, have beautiful blooms, or an evergreen screen? How much maintenance will it need? How big will it grow? Don’t plant anything unless you know its mature size, its purpose, where it wants to grow, and whether you have the conditions it prefers.

Another subject discussed was gardening blogs. Do you currently subscribe to a gardening blog? By signing up for a blog, you will be emailed regular installments of garden and plant topics and advice. Blogs are usually written in a chatty, informal style. Reading them can be much like having a best friend who is a talented gardener writing you a letter each week, and spilling all of their gardening secrets. The information you can learn from a well-written and well-researched garden blog can also be similar to taking a short course – for free – and increasing your gardening knowledge without ever having to leave your chair. To learn more about blogs, enter the keywords “gardening blogs” in an Internet search engine to find lists of popular blogs.

Native plants, when matched to the proper site conditions and allowed to grow informally with little pruning can save you time in maintenance, and from having to re-plant. Attend the Arboretum’s annual Arbor Day native plant sale on Saturday, February 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (members admitted at 9 a.m.). Pearl River County master gardeners and Arboretum staff will be on hand to provide planting recommendations and help you choose the best plants for your property. Free admission!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, January 31, for Forge Day. Blacksmithing and metalworking demonstrations take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Knife sharpening will be available. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children under 12. Members attend free.

Also on January 31, two children’s programs about birds will be held. Junior Scouts may earn Habitat Badges from 10 a.m. to noon with Master Naturalist Mary Cordray, learning about bird identification, habitats, and how to attract them. Cost is $10 per Scout. Call Girl Scouts of Greater MS to register at 228-864-7215 or register onlineat Mary will lead a children’s program called “For the Birds” from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., covering bird identification, habits, and ways to attract them. Free to members’ children, $2 for non-members’ children. No charge for adults.

The Arboretum is open Wednesdays through Sundays 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). For more information, call the office at(601) 799-2311 or see our website at

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Visit the MSU Extension website at to search for gardening and home landscaping publications and other useful information, such as composting and your favorite plants.

By Patricia Drackett