Decking the halls, and the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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


As we move closer to winter, it’s been a joy to arrive at the Arboretum because things are looking more and more festive with each passing day.

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Last week, volunteer coordinator Mary Donahue and curator Jennifer Buchanan spent the day building wreaths and garlands from collected greenery and decorating the Arboretum Visitor Center and Pinecote Pavilion. If you enter the keywords “Crosby Arboretum webcam” on your favorite Internet search engine, you can see one of these wreaths on the Pavilion!

Now is a great time to do a bit of judicious pruning on your own conifers and broadleaf evergreens, to generate material for your holiday decorating projects. For example, using some floral wire and an old-fashioned wire coat hanger bent into a circle (squeeze the hook into an oval for easy hanging), you can quickly fashion wreaths from the “throw away” branches that are trimmed from the base of your Christmas tree.

For garlands, take lengths of heavy jute twine and use floral wire to attach boughs and pine cones. Slash pine, found at the Arboretum, yields particularly attractive cones for decorating.  We have seen some gorgeous wreaths made entirely of pine cones. Sweetgum balls (remember spray painting these gold and silver as a child?) and nuts or acorns can be added for additional interest.
The recent rains have left behind a few puddles that have been slow to disappear, and this moisture has created ideal conditions for a late fall “blossoming” of mushrooms. It’s interesting to observe that the cool weather has little effect in slowing their robust growth. New species are appearing along the pathways every day!

Mushrooms and fungi at the Arboretum come in so many shapes and sizes. A short walk down the pathways may reveal a dozen different species.

From time to time, our visitors report encounters with strange brain-shaped objects sprouting up along the edges of the pathways. These unusual structures are called “cauliflower mushrooms” (Sparassis) and occur in beautiful cream, yellow, and peach tones. They grow near the roots of mature or declining pine trees, and often emerge in the same locations. Should you encounter a cauliflower mushroom, you won’t soon forget it. The fungi bear a close resemblance to an undersea coral or a convoluted flower with its many graceful folds.
Bright red or yellow fly agaric (Amanita) mushrooms, covered with characteristic raised white warts, are common to our coastal area. They have been coming up in groups along our Service Drive, allowing one to see examples of the mushrooms during its many distinctive stages. Amanita mushrooms begin their emergence as small knobs, and unfurl into tall parasols in only a day or two. Their coloring and dramatic form makes them a frequently-depicted mushroom in fairy tale landscapes.  Fly agaric mushrooms, although strikingly beautiful, are quite poisonous.

Come see our mushrooms, and check out our winter gallery exhibit, featuring bald cypress sculpture and photographs by Claude Gipson, who works with carefully selected wood, to reveal the beauty that lies beneath the surface. This exhibit will be on display until the end of February.

Don’t fight the holiday crowds – plan a Christmas shopping excursion to the Arboretum Gift Shop! Free gift wrapping is available and admission is also free to those who would like to come browse the shop.

A family holiday crafts workshop will take place Saturday, December 15 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Great for making gifts for giving! All materials are provided, just bring your creativity and imagination. Includes snacks and refreshments. On the same day, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., a children’s Christmas Stocking Workshop will be held, where they will design and decorate a stocking for themselves, or a pet, family member, or friend. All materials will be provided. Includes snacks and refreshments. Cost for each program, members $4 per child; non-member child $6. Children must be accompanied by parent or guardian (no charge for adults). Reservations requested. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up.

Consider giving a gift of an Arboretum membership, which includes a membership in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Membership Program, providing free or reduced admission to over 300 public gardens in North America. Arboretum memberships are $35 for an individual membership ($30 for senior/military) and $45 for a family membership (and only $20 for students!).

See or visit the Crosby Arboretum Facebook page for more information on programs and activities. We are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 5. Leashed pets welcome. The Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.