Arboretum paths: Time to plant new trees is now

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SHINY FRUIT: Inkberry holly, also known as gallberry, is sporting shiny black fruits in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit. Photo by Pat Drackett

SHINY FRUIT: Inkberry holly, also known as gallberry, is sporting shiny black fruits in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit.
Photo by Pat Drackett

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

For many, the month of December is full with the tasks of shopping, attending holiday festivities, and traveling to visit family and friends. But since cooler weather has arrived, gardeners “in the know” are aware that these next few months will also offer the perfect time for installing new trees and shrubs into the landscape.
New plants added during winter’s “dormant” period have ample time for their roots to become established before warm weather returns. Pay attention to the native plant species you notice growing on your property at this time of year, and observe on your travels through Pearl River County.
That vibrant late fall color gracing our roadsides will provide clues for plants to install this winter that will add seasonal interest to your landscape. Currently, many shrubs are also laden with colorful berries.
What is sparkling in your home landscape? At the Arboretum, holly berries are abundant, and the changing leaves of bald cypress, sweetgum, red maple, winged sumac, and native blueberries are sporting red and gold hues that capture the eye.
Incorporating native shrubs and trees into your landscape can provide food sources for local birds and wildlife throughout the year, especially in the winter months, when critters will often need extra food for fuel and warmth.
Persimmon trees offer a great source of wildlife food. Their leaves also turn a beautiful golden color in fall. Easily identified when laden with fruit, once harvested it may be used to create tasty bread, jam, or pudding. That is, if you can beat local wildlife to it first!
Because persimmon is a species with separate male and female trees, as is also characteristic of hollies, you may not find fruit on the persimmon in your yard. If you are interested in collecting fruit, plant several trees to increase the chances of pollination.
Many birds such as wild turkey and woodpeckers will eat persimmon fruit, and also a variety of other wildlife including foxes, raccoons, deer, opossums, black bear, and skunks. Luna moth caterpillars will feast on persimmon leaves!
Red buckeye, American beautyberry, and hollies all have a high wildlife value. Persimmon, black gum, green ash, hackberry, sweetgum, black cherry, hawthorns, Grancy graybeard, southern crabapple, and sweetbay magnolia are only a few of the native trees to consider planting that both attractive, and useful to wildlife. Many of these trees are easily to transplant from the wild, when still small or shortly after their seeds have sprouted.
Would you like to learn more plant species to attract local birds and other wildlife to your yard? Download the comprehensive guide “Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat” (Extension Publication 2402) from the MSU Extension Service website at The document contains many plant lists, both native and ornamental, that will draw birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and more to your garden.
The Arboretum holds an Arbor Day Plant Sale each year, with many great choices of native Mississippi trees and shrubs for your yard. Next year, the sale is Saturday, February 18. Although nationally Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, many states observe the day on different dates based on the best times for tree planting in their region. Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated by planting a tree.
The first Arbor Day was held in April 1872 in Nebraska. This premier event organized the planting of approximately one million trees!
Have you always intended to visit the Arboretum, but just never gotten around to it? A great opportunity for this will be Saturday, December 10 during our annual Holiday Open House celebration from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. This year, we’re delighted that our open house will be combined with our winter gallery exhibit opening featuring Pearl River Paintings by local artist Jeanie Latiolais.
The event is free to the public, and light refreshments will be served. Please make plants to stop in that 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. For more information, visit the website at or call 601-799-2311.

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