Connect with nature at the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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

Why do we go on vacations? Planning a trip is often fueled by a desire for a change of scenery, and yeaning to experience the natural beauty of a region. Whether our chosen destination finds us hiking up scenic mountain slopes or basking in the sun at a beachside paradise, we often have the goal of immersing ourselves in nature’s beauty, as we know this allows us to return refreshed and invigorated.

Gazing out an office window into a garden or other greenery can have a calming effect that can counter a hectic work environment. Many new hospitals are incorporating therapeutic gardens in their designs, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, as administrators realize the positive effects green spaces may have on patients while on the mend. There seem to be no end lately to the articles focused on the benefits of spending time in nature, and how this may even improve your health by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels.

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Some places we encounter in nature seem to have a timeless beauty. However, even landscapes that may be “young” in age, are equally capable of compelling a visitor to derive pleasure by engaging with their unique blend of sights, sounds, and scents.

Although The Crosby Arboretum’s Woodland Exhibit has been developing for only 30 years and is considered a “young” forest, many areas with the exhibit are already capable of creating strong impressions due to their distinctive character. A walk through the Arboretum will reveal numerous areas within the 64 acre property to stimulate one’s sense of enchantment.

Even the short walk from my car to the office brings new visual and aural delights each day, and sometimes a fragrant accompaniment of sweet olive blooms emanating from the (non-native) shrub located on our Visitor Center ramp, reminding me of my college years.

One person’s sense of wonder might be moved by gazing upon wide open spaces. Stand on the edge of the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit, and delight in the newly unfurling autumn grasses undulating in a breeze. Listen to the wind in the tall longleaf pine trees. On a clear day, open yourself to being stirred by observing the crisp reflection of pine trees in the mirror-like water of the Piney Woods Pond. What mood might you experience if you take a slow, deep breath while standing on the hidden landing across from the Pinecote Pavilion called Cypress Head, nestled among native iris and towering cypress trees?

Although it is only eight years old, our Gum Pond already possesses an arresting, magical presence. Many visitors, having stood on the landing here and gazing across the shallow water, have described it as a “secret garden” most definitely worth the 1,000 foot walk. Here, you might be treated to the antics of dragonflies zooming above the pond’s surface, or water striders skimming over the water.

Celebrate nature at the Arboretum this Saturday, November 3! A Forest Bathing Workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. to Noon. Discover how to increase your health and well-being by connecting with nature at a deeper level. Join Nature Mindfulness Facilitator Nadine Phillips to learn about forest bathing (no, we won’t be jumping in the pond!) and other techniques to help you relate to the natural world more consciously. The forest therapy of Shinrin-yoku was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. If you wish more information, simply research this term on your favorite Internet search engine. The workshop is $20 for members and $25 for non-members.

That Saturday afternoon, join certified yoga instructor James Sones from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the beautiful natural setting of the Pinecote Pavilion for his gentle yoga class and short meditation sitting. Yoga mats will be provided, or you are welcome to bring your own. Arrive 10 minutes early. Members free, $5 for non-members. Space in both programs is limited and reservations are required. Call 601-799-2311 to register.

The sixteenth annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival will be held November 9 and 10. On Friday, November 9 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., enjoy a living history presentation on Pinecote Pavilion. Meet Fannye Cooke, Mississippi’s pioneering conservationist and scientist. Celebrate the early days of the Piney Woods region with Saturday’s exhibitors, music, and demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts such as blacksmithing, quilting, spinning, basket-making, and more. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Free for Arboretum members.

See our or visit the Arboretum’s Facebook page for more information. Visiting hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 5. Our public garden is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.