Arboretum Paths: Arbor Day plant sale this Saturday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A winter walk this past Saturday inspired us to consider trees and shrubs for planting this late winter and early spring. This is the time to install plants in the landscape and get a jump on hot weather, which can sometimes be stressful for plants becoming established following spring planting.
We have certainly enjoyed the recent warm, sunny and blue days that offered perfect conditions for a stroll, and a field walk last Saturday drew almost twenty brave persons for a guided tour through the Arboretum’s Woodland and Savanna exhibits. Even at this time of year, some plants have already begun to bloom and signal the coming spring.
On our journey, various trees and shrubs and plants were discussed. We contemplated their cultural history, possible function in our home landscapes, and the places where they prefer to grow.
One of the most stunning shrubs we encountered is a shrub called Elliott’s blueberry, often commonly called a “huckleberry”, as are other native blueberry species. This delicate plant reminds me of Nandina, a common ornamental plant in the landscape, and is one that could be substituted for Nandina, which in some areas of the country has become invasive.
This Elliott’s blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) had delicate green branches covered in hundreds of tiny, bell shaped, shell-pink blooms. You can be sure that foraging bees appreciate finding this shrub in bloom!
Many of these blueberries are found along our pathways. In sunny spots, the blooms are more abundant. Most have a few remaining leaves that still sport beautiful burgundy and scarlet hues, giving a hint of how attractive these shrubs can be when they put on their display of fall color.
Blueberry flowers are followed by small and tasty fruit in the spring, perfect for incorporating into pancakes and muffins. I believe this feature alone puts it high above Nandina!
In our “bog garden” on the Visitor Center deck, tiny white bog violets are blooming. Located so close to the ground’s surface, these diminutive perennial plants benefit from the stored heat in the soil.
On our walk around the edge of the Piney Woods Pond, an eagle-eyed participant noticed that blooms were appearing in the high branches of a buckwheat tree. This large evergreen shrub grows in both the shady understory of the Arboretum’s young forest, and in full sun at our Hillside Bog natural area. The sweet-scented white bloom spikes are very attractive in spring, and the shrub can appear almost solid white in full sun due to heavy bloom, but even in shady areas it still sports sporadic blooms.
When we reached the south Savanna Exhibit, one of the first plants we saw was a wooly sunbonnet (Chaptalia tomentosa). A curious feature of these white daisy-like flowers is that they always seem to face the sun. On cloudy days, and at the end of the day, the blooms will close up.
Standing at the edge of the pitcher plant bog, we observed the clusters of pitcher plants with withered leaves, and discussed how in March their delicate pale yellow flowers will be carpeting the area.
If you would like to learn more about using native species in your landscape, the Arboretum is one of the best places to learn how to be successful. Walk through our exhibits and take note of the site conditions where certain plants are thriving!
The Crosby Arboretum Arbor Day Plant Sale will feature many hard to find native plants such as Grancy graybeard, mayhaw, southern crabapple, parsley hawthorne, bigleaf magnolia, and native honeysuckle azaleas. Master gardeners will help you select plants appropriate for your site conditions. We will also have limited numbers of the popular Extension publications, “Selecting Landscape Shrubs” and “Selecting Landscape Trees”, which include native species.
Area teachers may attend the free Flying Wild workshop with Mississippi Museum of Science outreach educator Sabrina Cummings on Saturday, February 20. See our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edufor details. Attend a program on residential soil testing on Saturday, Febuary 27 at 1:00 p.m. with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Members free; non-members $5. Call the Arboretum office at(601) 799-2311 to sign up for either program.
The Arbor Day Native Plant Sale will be Saturday, February 13, from 1:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free this day! The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

Patricia R. Drackett, Director, and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

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