Arboretum Paths: The Crosby Arboretum: A truly “sustainable” garden

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bob Brzuszek, former site director of the Crosby Arboretum, discussed the site's Master Plan design during a national ASLA conference tour last Friday.  Photo by Pat Drackett

Bob Brzuszek, former site director of the Crosby Arboretum, discussed the site’s Master Plan design during a national ASLA conference tour last Friday.
Photo by Pat Drackett

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

In conjunction with the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting held this past weekend in New Orleans, the Crosby Arboretum hosted a field session on Friday for fifty conference attendees.
The event began with a presentation by Bob Brzuszek, former Arboretum site director and professor of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, along with landscape architect Robert Poore. They both spoke about their involvement in the planning and design of the Arboretum.
After the presentations, groups embarked on journeys through the exhibits, which reflect the ecosystems found in the coastal region.
One group headed to the Savanna Exhibit and south Pitcher Plant Bog. Here, a Quaking Bog Educational Exhibit is currently under construction. Sections of a “floating” bridge have been designed and assembled by Mississippi State University students who are earning a degree in Landscape Contracting and Management.
Another group traveled along the Pond Journey to explore the various aquatic plants and habitats, and a third group headed north to explore the Swamp Forest and Gum Pond exhibits.
These habitats were part of the master plan created in the 1980’s by the Arboretum’s first director and landscape architect Ed Blake, Jr. Over the past eight years, Professor Brzuszek has guided his landscape architecture students in the planning and design for three new educational exhibits, funded through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star Restoration Program, and by Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company and a contributor to the program.
Through the design of this public garden’s educational exhibits, MSU students learn how to become better landscape architects or landscape contractors. They study landscape patterns and learn how to fit native plants to their desired environmental conditions, or design and build construction projects.
Because the Arboretum’s exhibits have a natural appearance, visitors don’t always grasp the amount of construction that has occurred here. For example, our half-mile service road has four feet of fill and our 2.5 ac pond, the setting for the Pinecote Pavilion, is also man-made.
Although some may think that the Arboretum is simply a beautiful site with trails that have been built through it, the property has an aesthetically appealing appearance because of a very meticulously designed and award-winning Master Plan.
The site was designed to operate with minimal human intervention. Instead of formal landscaping, at the Crosby Arboretum, the land and how it changes is what is “on exhibit”. The history of how humans have interacted with this property throughout time is also part of the story, and is represented in various interpretive signs along the pathways.
At the national ASLA conference in New Orleans this weekend, I spoke with numerous individuals who were acquainted with the Arboretum. For example, professors of landscape architecture at other universities throughout this nation teach their students about how the Crosby Arboretum was a true pioneer in risking to design of a large-scale project – a public garden – working hand-in-hand with ecological processes.
Today, there are many new books, articles, and publications focused on the concept of designing with nature, creating sustainable and low-maintenance gardens. Many visionary writers are exploring the topic, and introducing the public to these “new” methods to manage their home landscapes.
This Saturday, October 29 at 10:00 a.m., enjoy a fall field walk of the Arboretum grounds and learn about Mississippi’s native shrubs and trees, tips to identify them, their role in history and culture, and how to use them in your home landscape, with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith and Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. $5 for non-members.
A children’s Painted Pumpkins workshop will take place October 29 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. One pumpkin will be provided per person. Members’ children, $5, non-members’ children, $6. No charge for adults. Register by noon on October 28.
To sign up for programs, call 601-799-2311. The 14th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival will be held Friday (school groups) and Saturday (general public). See our website at for more details. 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.

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