Arboretum Paths: Arboretum pollinator garden now planted

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

 On Saturday, participants in this year’s Pearl River County Partners in Leadership training program planted a new pollinator garden at the Arboretum. (Photo by Patricia Drackett)

On Saturday, participants in this year’s Pearl River County Partners in Leadership training program planted a new pollinator garden at the Arboretum. (Photo by Patricia Drackett)

This past Saturday was a very exciting day for the Crosby Arboretum. We had a lot of “busy bees” bustling about our Children’s Garden, planting hundreds of new butterfly and pollinator plants!
We were very fortunate to have had our garden chosen as a team project by participants in the Pearl River County Partners in Leadership training program. Each year, the class breaks into teams and they choose community projects.
Our Children’s Garden area had been in dire need of renovation. The Partners team, which included Michelle Berdux, Laurie Langlois, and Sharon Guepet, did not simply plant flowers. They also spent months organizing a team of additional volunteers who assisted with removing the existing raised beds and soil, regraded the area to correct a drainage issue, and built beautiful new sturdy bed frames. The final touch was adding new topsoil and tilling in soil amendments such as peat, pine bark, and cow manure, to make the beds ready for installing new butterfly and pollinator plants.
This past Saturday, the planting team was joined by past Partner participants, students from Pearl River Central Middle School and their family members, and several Arboretum volunteers. As the project planting day had experienced recent delays due to the rainy spring weather, it was wonderful to have additional help, as we knew rain was fast approaching. The planting went quite well, and was completed just in time for a spring shower.
Plants installed in the garden included several varieties of Lantana and Verbena. Zinnias, cat mint (Nepeta), hummingbird mint (Agastache), cigar plant (Cuphea) and firebush (Hamelia) were also planted, along with tall red Pentas, also called Eyptian star flower, were planted. This “old-fashioned” form of this tender perennial plant is a bit more cold tolerant than the compact varieties, although all Pentas are butterfly and hummingbird magnets.
Many varieties of Salvia, or sage, were planted, including ‘Black and Blue’, ‘Indigo Spires’, ‘Armistad’ and Mexican Sage. These will all become quite large in the garden.
Host plants included several species of milkweed to attract monarch butterflies. Females lay their eggs under the leaves, which provide food for emerging hungry caterpillars. Fennel, dill, and parsley were also planted. Eastern black swallowtail and giant swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on these plants.
Eastern black swallowtail caterpillars are often mistaken for monarch caterpillars because they are very similar in appearance. Both are green, black, and yellow, but have different patterns. One way to tell the difference is if a caterpillar is eating a member of the carrot family, it is a black swallowtail caterpillar. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which contains toxic cardiac glycosides. However, the caterpillars are immune to these substances, which make them unpalatable to predators.
One planting tip for pollinator gardens is to use large groupings of plants rather than installing them individually. This gives a better “target” for pollinators to zero in on. Also, provide basking sites, water, and protection from the wind to attract more butterflies. Nearby shrubs give cover for night roosting. Install flat rocks, to give allow butterflies a place to warm up on cold days. Keep water in a wide saucer with sand or pebbles.
Once you have created a garden with all the elements butterflies or pollinators require, you may wish to research websites that offer certification for your garden. Signs can be posted identifying your site as a certified habitat. The National Wildlife Federation and the North American Butterfly Association are two well-known certification programs.
The MSU Extension website (, has a great information sheet on Mississippi butterflies, with lists of common state butterflies and host and nectar plants for your garden. Select “Publications” in the top menu bar and enter “butterflies” in the search field to download Publication Number IS1661, “Butterfly Plants & Mississippi Butterflies”.
Mark your calendar for this Saturday, May 7, as our Painted Pot for Mother’s Day Children’s Workshop starts at 10:00 a.m. An exciting program on South Mississippi Snakes will be presented by herpetologist Terry Vandeventer on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 a.m.
For more information, see our spring calendar at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs. 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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