Arboretum Paths: You’re invited to Sunday’s Strawberries & Cream Festival

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on at the Arboretum, the perfect time to find out is approaching. The public is invited to celebrate the Crosby Arboretum’s early history of once being a Depression-Era strawberry farm this Sunday, April 8 at the annual Strawberries and Cream Festival, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

The Crosby Arboretum’s 64 acre site is one-tenth of a square mile of strawberry fields that once stretched to the west and across what is now Interstate 59. Bring your family out for the afternoon and take a stroll through spring blooms in the Arboretum’s native plant exhibits.

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Strawberries and Cream will be held in the beautiful outdoor setting of the Pinecote Pavilion. Listen to music, enjoy ice cream, fresh strawberries, and Picayune Frog Lemonade. Admission is free for this long-running community event. Enjoy flowering plants such as orange native flame azalea, blue flag iris, mountain laurel, and yellow pitcher plant blooms, called “buttercups” by local residents.

The Arboretum was established as a living memorial to local timber pioneer L.O. Crosby, Jr., who passed away in December 1978, by his family. Mr. Crosby was the president and general manager of Crosby Forest Products Company of Picayune.

Shortly after Mr. Crosby passed away, his daughter Lynn Gammill remembers driving by the property that is today the Crosby Arboretum with her mother, Dorothy Crosby, and her brother, Osmond Crosby, and remarking on how much their father had loved this particular piece of land. On that day, the family members decided to build a memorial on this 64 acre parcel that had once been part of a 640 acre Depression-era strawberry farm.

Creating the Arboretum was also intended to provide a cultural, educational, and economic benefit to the local community. The public garden’s mission is to protect, preserve, and display plants that are native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin.

In the early years of the planning and development of the Arboretum, the property was called “the Strawberry farm”, although the crop was only grown for a few short years. Ed Blake, Jr., the Arboretum’s first director and developer of the site’s master plan, at times commented on how difficult it must have been to grow strawberries in the wet pine savanna landscape.

Following the use of the site for the agricultural crop, the land was later planted in slash pine in the 1940’s, which never made it to harvest as the trees were damaged in Hurricane Camille in 1969. On a walk through the Arboretum grounds, you will see these seventy-plus year old trees still standing, towering over the savannas and young forest.

In 1997, the public garden became part of Mississippi State University, and is operated by the MSU Extension Service. Gardeners will find the site of particular interest because of the variety of plants found here. Over 15,000 native plants have been installed in our exhibits. Extension publications and other information on native plants is available at the Visitor Center.

What are native plants, you may wonder? A simple definition is that they are the plants which were found here prior to European settlement. Mississippi native plants are well-adapted to our particular region, soils, and climate.

Each plant added to our site has been located within the specific site conditions that it prefers. Groups of these similar plants – trees, shrubs, and perennials – are called “plant communities”. By observing the conditions that plants at the Arboretum prefer, you can learn from the living laboratory, and learn which species would be suited to your own property.

So, come join the many visitors who at one time told us, “I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never been out to the Arboretum. Now that I visited today, I wish I’d started coming out here – five – ten – twenty years ago.” It is never too late to discover us!

Site admission will be 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. Plant experts, including the Pearl River County Master Gardeners, will be on hand to help you choose the right plants for your property.

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