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Arboretum Paths: Is your garden fully “alive”?

: Sneezeweed (Helenium vernale) is currently blooming in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit.  Photo by Pat Drackett

: Sneezeweed (Helenium vernale) is currently blooming in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit.
Photo by Pat Drackett


I’ve wandered through many gardens in my life, but I can still count on just one hand those which have made lasting impressions, places vibrant and humming and swaying with life. Last week, the owner of one of these special gardens happened to visit the Arboretum on a garden club tour, and since that time I’ve found myself musing about the reasons these particular gardens have become such memorable ones.

Many of us have childhood memories of treasured garden spaces, which contain not only our favorite blooms, scents, and textures, but also the family and friends who were influential in forming the gardeners we may be today. Fortunate is the child who has someone to accompany them outdoors as they explore the wonders of dirt and worms, flowers and ant antics, sometimes even gathering vegetables for dinner. In such gardens, lifelong connections with nature can be forged.

Four gardens so far have made my list, beginning with my grandmother’s garden, once brimming with both perennials and vegetables. Here I learned the difference between a flower and a weed, collected marigold seeds, delighted in early spring bulbs, smelled roses and fresh musky earth, and picked colorful bouquets. Her garden yielded a bounty of tomatoes, and filled clear glass jars with bread and butter pickles, green beans, and chow chow relish. The variety of plants attracted an equal variety of insects. Because of our interaction and relationship with this garden, it certainly seemed alive to me.

I’ve walked in many exquisite gardens since my childhood, but only a few have truly inspired my awe and marvel at their liveliness, from the bees and butterflies working the flowers to a riot of color and texture, the sounds of splashing water and calling birds. Such a garden is still kept by my friend who visited from the coast. Although it was long ago I first became acquainted with it, she assured me it still hums. From her dining room table, the view of her incredible collection of plants and activity was always difficult to look away from.

Another similar garden was located nearby by my old house in Bay St. Louis, a backyard situated at the top of a rise overlooking a water body that provided a constant backdrop of swooping water birds. The owner had involved her children in the building and planting of her garden beds, and they had installed a variety of herbs, perennials, and plants attractive to wildlife. Feeders and low bowls of water drew many birds, and even toads were welcomed with upturned butter containers to claim for their very own. Something here was always moving, or creating a delightful fragrance.

Today, the Crosby Arboretum has become my fourth special garden, offering a new delight around every corner. I believe the Savanna Exhibit is the pulsing heart of all. From the appearance of delicate white bog violets and seas of yellow pitcher plant blooms in the spring, intertwined with crawfish and butterflies and the chirps of insect and bird life, the wind in the pines, and an ever changing kaleidoscope of blooms through the seasons. Each year, new patterns of the grasses and plants emerge. Populations of wildflowers ebb and flow. The bright blooms of scarlet pine lilies and milkweed catch the eye, huckleberries offer an impromptu and delicious snack, and the dramatic blooms of honeysuckle azaleas, mountain laurel, and southern blue flag iris punctuate the green canvas.

Want a garden that sings to you? Add a variety of native plants that will attract wildlife and for a blooms throughout the season. Locate a water feature, perhaps one that makes a pleasant noise. Add chimes for music moved by the wind, and fragrant plants. Plant things you can bring inside, herbs for cooking or blooms to grace your dinner table. Locate your garden near a window where you will enjoy the view. Above all, make a point to form a relationship with your garden.

Join us this Sunday, April 12 for ice cream, strawberries, and spring blooms at the Arboretum’s Strawberries and Cream Festival, from 1 to 3 p.m. Admission is free! This year, the Crosby Arboretum Foundation is sponsoring a community Art Show. Art will be on display this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Admission is free to browse the exhibition. Winners will be announced at Strawberries & Cream Sunday at2:00 p.m. The art show includes a youth division for grades 7 through 12. For information on submitting an entry, pick up a form from the Arboretum office or download from our website’s program calendar page. The last days to submit entries are this Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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 about our programs and events, see the website atwww.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call 601-799-2311.

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Visit the Extension website at www.MSUcares.com and search by keyword for a wide variety of home gardening and landscape topics.

By Patricia Drackett