Spring Native Plant Sale is Friday and Saturday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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

The long-awaited spring native plant sale event is almost here! Curator Jennifer Buchanan has just picked up one of our last orders, which includes some Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), a popular but hard to find native species.

Interestingly, this small deciduous tree is the only species in its genus (Oxydendrum), and is in the Ericaceae family, to which blueberries (Vaccinum) also belong. If you keep bees, you may already know this tree as a honeybee favorite, and where I grew up in East Tennessee, sourwood honey was certainly highly regarded.

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The tree prefers well-drained slopes, such as roadcuts or streambanks. I enjoy searching for it when I drive north to Starkville on Interstate 59. As I approach Meridian, I sometimes spot its panicles of long white flowers in summer. In fall, its red color makes it a beacon in the forest understory.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted a Grancy graybeard (Chionanthus virginicus) just like your grandmother grew. The white strap-like spring blooms of this small tree are guaranteed to steal the show when it is used as a specimen or accent tree. Also called native fringetree, like its relative, the familiar fragrant sweet olive, the plant is in the Olive family.

Like the sweet olive, fringetree has deliciously scented blooms. If you have both plants, you will recognize the similarity in the fragrance.

Although it will grow in full sun, Grancy graybeard seems to appreciate a little high shade. I see its airy sprays of blooms along north-facing fence lines along Highway 26 between Poplarville and Wiggins. This plant prefers moist, well-drained sites, but will tolerate drier areas as well. It is a good thing for the home gardener when a plant can be happy in a range of site conditions.

Perhaps you have coveted your neighbor’s oakleaf hydrangeas, which have beautiful flower heads in spring, and glorious scarlet leaves in autumn. Maybe you’ve visited the Arboretum and seen the attractive blooms of honeysuckle azaleas along the pathways and cool, moist banks of our Aquatic Exhibit.

This plant has a much narrower spectrum of areas where it will flourish – although it is well worth the care taken to situate it correctly. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) naturally occurs in moist, well-drained areas in the forest understory, and it will thrive if you provide it with these same conditions in your garden.

As a young gardener, I remember clients with large specimens of oakleaf hydrangea that were stunning in their woodland settings. Carpets of wildflowers added to a picture-perfect landscape. Some of these coarse-textured shrubs towered well over my head.

Whatever you fancy, you are sure to find something this Friday that will not be a run-of-the-mill addition to your home landscape. Pearl River County Masters will be on hand to discuss your planting site and help you make your selections. Mississippi’s native plant species can certainly add flare to your garden!

A plant list has been posted on our Facebook page. We’re excited to be offering plant like Catalpa, known for the caterpillars people like to use to fish, sparkleberry, scarlet sage, swamp milkweed, starbush, white-topped pitcher plants, tulip poplar, red buckeye, mayhaw, copper iris, black cherry, pawpaw, and much, much more!

Site admission will be free on April 13 and 14 (Friday and Saturday) during the 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.

Enjoy a fun family-friendly program on “Letterboxing” on Saturday, April 28, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., an internationally popular outdoor “treasure hunt” activity using small, waterproof boxes hidden in public places. Free for Arboretum members. Non-member adults $5, non-member children $2. Space is limited. Reservations required.

Also being offered on April 28 are two writing workshops by Mary Beth Magee, “Bringing Nature to Life in Your Writing” on Saturday, April 28, from 9:00 to Noon, and “Getting Started on Your Memoirs” on Saturday, April 28, 1:00 to 3:00 PM. The workshops are $5 each for members, and cost for non-member adults is $8.  Space is limited, and reservations required.  Call 601-799-2311 to sign up to reserve your seat for Arboretum programs.

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 AM to 5 PM. For more information, see www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.