It’s the season for spring garden projects

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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

This past weekend at the home show at the Biloxi Coliseum I had a chance to share information with homeowners about the MSU Extension Smart Landscapes program, focused on creating attractive, low-maintenance, and sustainable ways to design and maintain home landscapes, and gardening for specific purposes such as attracting birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators and wildlife to the garden.

You’ll find a huge amount of research-based information specific to Mississippi on the Smart Landscapes site ( I highly recommend two outstanding publications you may view or download from the Extension site to help guide you with your spring landscape projects. The first is MSU Extension Publication No. 2698, “Home Landscape Design”, which will take you through the process of creating a landscape plan as well as how to avoid common landscape planning mistakes.

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Extension Publication No. 2402 on “Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat” is an informative handbook that outlines the basic needs of wildlife, and how to provide them. For example, if you will plant a diversity of “layers” in your yard – plants of all heights and forms – this will offer wildlife a wide selection of habitats to live and breed within. It is also wise to provide a selection of plants that will provide flowers and food in every season of the year. You may search for these publication by their titles in the search field on the Extension home page, or from the Publications webpage.

One question that often comes up is how to amend the planting pit for trees or shrubs if a site does not offer the preferred conditions. But it is best to not to struggle with trying to artificially give a plant the conditions it prefers, and to accept that it is much less costly and time-consuming to simply use the plants that are happy growing in your specific existing conditions.

Do you have problem soils? At the Arboretum, you’ll find many examples of native trees and shrubs that will do well in wet or compacted soils, such as hollies, Virginia willow (Itea), red maple, wax myrtle, black gum, and bald and pond cypress trees. Moisture-loving perennials such as American Crinum lily, Texas star hibiscus, cardinal flower, and southern blue flag iris will provide attractive blooms in low-lying areas where typical ornamental species would not prosper.

Prepare for spring gardening by learning how to design low-care “Smart Landscapes” with native plants on Saturday, March 30, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Cost for members is $2, and $5 for non-members. That afternoon, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. a program will be held on “Monarchs, Milkweed and Nectar Plants for the Gulf Coast”. Members $3, and non-members $5. Space is limited and reservations are requested for these programs.

Mark your calendar for our Strawberries & Cream Festival on Sunday, April 7, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. you are invited to bring your friends and family out for the afternoon and take a stroll through the Arboretum grounds. Site admission is free! Celebrate the history of the site’s former use as a Depression-era strawberry farm. Listen to music and enjoy ice cream, fresh strawberries, and Picayune Frog Lemonade on the Pinecote Pavilion.

Teachers! Your students can celebrate Earth Day a little early this year by participating in The Crosby Arboretum’s annual Nature Discovery Day on Thursday, April 11, 2019 from 9 AM till 1 PM. This outdoor event uses environmentally-themed hands-on exhibits designed to educate area PreK-12 students and home school families about native plant and wildlife species, their conservation, and the habitats in which they live. The event features two great presentations this year. See the Arboretum’s Facebook page for a full description of the event, which includes a Raptors of the Region presentation by Sally Farrell of the Wind in My Feathers rehabilitation organization featuring live birds of prey native to our region, and the The Environmental and Education Outreach Mobile Classroom, the 2018 Gulf Guardian Award Winner for Youth Education, presented by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and Bayou Town Productions, a theatrical presentation about water quality and watersheds. Pre-registration is required. Entry fee is $2 per child, but teachers, parents and chaperones are free.

The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 4. Leashed pets are welcome. For more information or to sign up or classes, please call 601-799-2311.