Lessons learned from natural landscapes

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

By Pat Drackett

Director, The Crosby Arboretum, MSU Extension Service

Lately, I’ve been pondering the many lessons that the Crosby Arboretum offers to its visitors. Here, you can learn about the plants native to Mississippi and the habitats they prefer, as well as other plant species they associate with in “communities”.

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The Arboretum is also an excellent example of a public garden that works in harmony with ecological processes, and therefore the exhibits require very little maintenance. Wouldn’t you like to be able to say this about your own landscape?

Think back to vacations you have taken in the past, and the experience of walking in a natural landscape, perhaps a pathway through a field or forest. On your journey, one tends to not focus any one particular feature, but to simply soak in the experience of being in nature and enjoying the surrounding scenery. Perhaps your own landscape can take a few pointers from nature, and provide you with a similar peaceful, aesthetic experience.

Many of us spend a good deal of time working in our yards, arranging our outdoor spaces according to how we are told they need to appear. We glean our ideas from magazines, books, and websites that present particular styles and methods for choosing, arranging, and planting our landscape.

Garden centers offer a continual assortment of new and exciting plant species that we are enticed to incorporate into our gardens. The majority of these plants often hail from far away countries, rather than consisting of our own native species.

I like to imagine that one day garden centers will also carry numerous native species, in response to public demand. Certainly, many books and magazines over the last decade are increasingly focused on the value of low-care native species, particularly in supporting local wildlife.

A native nursery supplier once told me a story of picking up a Japanese landscape designer from the airport. As he observed the examples of landscaping passing by his car window, the designer commented, “Americans are not yet comfortable with using their own native plants in the garden.”

We spend a lot of time and energy to design and install our landscape, according to what is presented in gardening magazines or books. But today, we can choose to have any style we wish. Why not choose a naturalistic, low-maintenance style that allows you to spend your time doing other things?

At the Crosby Arboretum, we hope to introduce you to some great native species to incorporate into your landscape. The added benefit is that, once established and properly located, these plants can be tough, durable, low-maintenance, and highly attractive!

Do you like to write? We’ve received many positive comments on our workshop this past summer, with author Mary Beth Magee, “Bringing Nature to Life in Your Writing”. Mary Beth will give another workshop this Saturday, November. 11, from 1 to 4 PM. The workshop includes a “plus” – an extra hour of free writing time, with feedback and guidance available. The cost is only $7 for non-members. Space is limited, and reservations are required. Call 601-799-2311 today to reserve your seat!

The public is invited to attend two outstanding presentations, for free! The talks will open our 15th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival, and will take place at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County on Friday, November 17 from 6:30 to 8:30. Support and funding is provided by the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area.

The talks are: “16 Native Plants and their Historical and Contemporary Uses among Southeastern American Indians” by Dr. Tammy Greer, a member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana and director of the Center for American Indian Research and Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi, and Mitchell Robinson, Conservation Education Manager at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, Mississippi, will present “A Towering Ghost: The Cultural Legacy of Longleaf Pine in the Deep South”.

On Saturday, November 18, come enjoy musical performances, exhibitors, demonstrations, and children’s activities at the Crosby Arboretum’s Piney Woods Heritage Festival. Displays of traditional skills and crafts such as blacksmithing, quilting, spinning, basket-making, beekeeping, woodcarving, canning, treadle sewing, butter churning, clogging, leather crafts, storytelling, and more, will take place from 10 AM to 3 PM. Attendees pay the regular site admission, $5 for adults, and $2 for children.

The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.