Native species for your winter planting projects

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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

Looking for something to do on nice winter days when temperatures climb into the 50’s and 60’s? The winter months offer excellent environmental conditions for being outdoors. So consider some new additions for your home landscape!

Cooler weather provides an extended period for plant roots to become established before warm temperatures return again. Perhaps you are already aware that here in Mississippi, Arbor Day is celebrated in mid-February. This timing allows gardeners to take advantage of a longer period for root establishment than planting when spring is in full swing, and garden centers abound with tempting impulse buys.

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Pink “honeysuckle” azaleas are one of the most popular native shrubs. But keep in mind that just like the traditional ornamental azaleas that may already occur in your landscape, they do not tolerate drought conditions or the opposite – wet soils.  Instead, they prefer moist but well-drained acidic conditions. Well-drained is key here, and not standing water or poor soils, which will quickly lead to the demise of an azalea.

If you want to succeed at killing a native azalea, simply plant it in full sun and poorly drained soil. However, if you’d like to keep it around for a while to enjoy its unique blooms, locate it properly. This is very important, because native azaleas are not only hard to find, they can be quite costly.

Native honeysuckle azaleas will thrive in the shifting shade of tree canopies. A layer of mulch, such as pine straw, will also help the soil retain moisture.

Pink azaleas bloom first in the spring, followed by flame azaleas, which have lovely yellow and orange flowers.

They will do well at the sloped edges of water bodies, or along a pathway, in part sun. Locate your native azaleas in these conditions to ensure success.

It can be difficult to accept that your property does not offer the proper soil and light conditions to support the plants you hope to use in your home landscape. At the Crosby Arboretum, you will observe where native honeysuckle azaleas, and other species, are thriving.

Prescribed burns will be carried out in our Savanna Exhibit on Thursdays or Fridays in January and February, if the weather conditions are right. If you’re interested in being added to our volunteer list to be called the morning of a fire event, call grounds manager Terry Johnson at 601-799-2311. Those interested in volunteering for our fire team can learn fire management techniques, and resources for becoming certified to burn. Those who wish to observe only may call the office around 9:00 a.m. to see if arrangements are underway to apply for a burn permit and to learn which areas of our property they may observe from.

Come take a walk at the Arboretum soon! We also have many programs to offer this winter.  See our program calendar on the website or pick up a copy at the Visitor Center. Program reservations are requested. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for classes.

On Saturday, January 12, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., attend a program on Controlling Feral Hogs, a non-native, invasive species spreading at an alarming rate and presenting serious issues for property owners. Learn about the types of damage these nuisance wildlife cause and the variety of control options available with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. The program is free to all.

A Children’s Sign Language Workshop will be held on Saturday, January 19 and Saturday, February 16. Choose from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Learn basic ASL signs to communicate with the non-hearing or nonverbal person in this workshop with Kim Johnson.  Refreshments and snacks served. $2 per member child; non-member $4. Must be accompanied by parent/guardian (adults, no charge).

A Winter Botany Field Walk will be held Friday, January 25, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., with MSU Extension Forestry specialist Dr. Glenn Hughes. Cost is $3 for members and $5 for non-members.

Mark your calendar for our annual Forge Day, Saturday, January 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which will include Lyle Wynn of Brandon, Mississippi, a recent competitor on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” series.

See or visit the Crosby Arboretum Facebook page for more information on programs and activities.

Come visit us Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 4. Leashed pets are welcome. The Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.