Arboretum paths: Upcoming free days to visit the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Two great opportunities to visit our public garden for free are coming up in early April. Maybe you’re one of those persons who says, “I’ve always meant to visit the Crosby Arboretum”. If so, please take advantage of one of these events to stop in and see what we are all about!

We can promise you will find many blooms to appreciate if you visit on Sunday, April 8, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. for our Strawberries and Cream Festival.

During this annual event, flowering plants such as the orange native flame azalea and the yellow pitcher plants will be at their peak. Enjoy bluegrass music, ice cream, and fresh strawberries in the beautiful outdoor setting of the Pinecote Pavilion.

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The following week, site admission is also free on April 13 and 14 (Friday and Saturday) during our Spring Native Plant Sale, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day. Many of the trees, shrubs, and perennials we will offer will be great choices for attracting bees and other pollinators.

At Arboretum plant sales, you will find experts that include Pearl River County Master Gardeners, who can help you pick the native species suited to your landscape once your describe your property’s environmental conditions. Also, check out the new MSU Extension Smart Landscapes website at for some great tips and ideas for designing and managing sustainable, low-care landscapes.

Why should you consider incorporating native plants into your home landscape? One simple answer is that if you choose the plants that prefer to grow in your property’s unique set of site conditions, you’ll end up spending less money and labor to care for your landscape.

Keep in mind that native plants have developed close relationships with, and provide support for, your local wildlife. Insects have specific associations with particular plant species. Native plants will attract a greater variety of insect species to feed on them than ornamental species, and this is actually a good thing. Do you enjoy bird-watching? Most of a baby bird’s diet consists of caterpillars which feed on the nearby native plants.

But, you don’t have to run out and replace of all of your ornamentals with natives. Simply understanding the usefulness and function of native species in the “web of life” is the starting point for creating an ecologically sound property, no matter the size of your yard. Native plants can function as a low-care backdrop for those other eye-catching plants that will continue to call your name when you visit the garden center.

One popular garden plant we’ll have at the sale is the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). While this species has a much narrower spectrum of conditions under which it will flourish, it’s well worth the care taken to situate it properly. The shrub naturally occurs in moist, well-drained areas in the forest understory, and thrives when given these same conditions in your garden. As a young gardener, I remember being awed by large specimens, so stunning in woodland settings. The coarse-textured shrubs towered well over my head, some twice as tall as me, a hint that they can grow to ten feet.

Oakleaf hydrangea has leaves that resemble oak leaves, as you might imagine. But in the spring, the plant has a somewhat comical appearance, because it is deciduous. Like the popular French hydrangeas, they will have a bare and skeletal appearance, with tufts of buds here and there that are just beginning to expand and erupt into young, downy leaves.

If you are not familiar with oakleaf hydrangea, you’re in for a treat. This shrub offers you four seasons of interest in the garden. In the winter, its sculptural branches provide “drama” in your landscape, and the peeling bark on the trunks adds to its beauty.

Situate oakleaf hydrangea in the back of a bed and locate other shorter species in front to capture interest in the winter months, such as a mass of evergreen ferns. As unfurling leaves mature, the shrub develops spectacular white blooms that persist well into the summer. The flower clusters are popular for preserving in glycerin for long-lasting floral arrangements. Finally, the plant provides a spectacular show of burgundy and maroon fall color.

For more information on visiting, call 601-799-2311 or see The Crosby 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.