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What will you discover on a visit to the Crosby Arboretum?

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

After this past weekend and having contemplated the recent experience of several groups of first-time visitors to our public garden, I thought I’d discuss what first timers will find on their visit to the Crosby Arboretum.  Perhaps I will entice a few more people who have never explored our property to pay us a visit!

We are aware that sometimes it does take a little while for people to find us. GPS can be inaccurate, and our welcome booth in the visitor parking area is only staffed during large events.  To top it off, our 400 foot long Arrival Journey leaves some wondering if there really is anything at the end of the trail!  But if you come once to our site, you will learn your way to the center of our property, and never have to repeat the process.

The Arboretum offers the public, and our members, a continual schedule of activities giving opportunities to experience and celebrate many aspects of the natural world, and the history and culture of Mississippi’s Piney Woods region. Classes may center on birds, butterflies, or other wildlife, native plants, mushrooms, or traditional and nature-based craft workshops, which are intended to attract old as well as new visitors to the Arboretum.

At our garden, you will also find three miles of dog-friendly walking trails, traveling through three main habitat types: savanna, (grassland), woodland, and aquatic. Perched on the edge of the Piney Woods Pond sits a beautiful architectural structure, the Pinecote Pavilion, which draws visitors from around the nation to the garden to stop in to experience its beauty.

The Arboretum was not an exceptional piece of land to begin with. The property was a typical wet pine savanna, formerly used for timber production prior to Hurricane Camille, and for agricultural use during the Depression era, but it was also known to be a favorite property of L.O. Crosby, Jr., a prominent local forestry figure, civic leader, and philanthropist who had a deep compassion for nature. Upon his death in 1978, it was an appropriate site to plan a living memorial.

Today, the site has undergone thirty years of growth since its public opening in 1986, and we are now “steering the ship” of what is today an exceptional public garden, one that is dynamically growing and evolving since the Arboretum’s Master Plan first designated two-thirds of the 64-acre interpretive site in Picayune to be forest, and the remaining third to be maintained as a pine savanna, or grassland, through prescribed burning.

With the Arboretum’s forward-thinking ecological approach of matching native plant material to the environmental conditions they will thrive in, our garden provides an excellent example for home gardeners to learn how to use these principles for their own low-maintenance landscaping, as well simply being a pleasant place to take a stroll, no matter the season.

We are already excited about planning a full schedule this fall for a number of events, including Family Pawz Day, the Piney Woods Heritage Festival, BugFest, our big fall native plant sale, and several open mic music events. Upcoming programs include Landscaping with Native Plants on Saturday, July 13, from 11:00 a.m. to Noon, where participants will learn how to have a low-maintenance and attractive home landscape by incorporating Mississippi native plant species into your yard, with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. The program is $2 for members, and $5 for non-members $5.   Please call 601-799-2311 to register for programs.

A children’s program on Learning about Venomous Mississippi Snakes will be held Wednesday, July 17, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. led by Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Lifelike snake replicas will be used in this program, not live snakes! The program is a great activity for homeschool students! Children must be accompanied by an adult. Members’ children $1; non-members’ children $3; and no charge for adults.

Following the children’s program, an adult program on Gardening to Attract Birds will be held Wednesday, July 17, from 11:00 a.m. to Noon. Learn about the birds found here in the coastal Mississippi area, the plants that are useful to them, and how you can encourage them in your home garden, with Dr. Eddie Smith. Members $2, and non-members $5. Come see our current gallery exhibit! Drawings by Robin Veerkamp will be on display in the Arboretum gallery through the end of August.

For more information on programs, please see our summer calendar, available on the Arboretum website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu. To sign up for programs, please call 601-799-2311. The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30. Leashed pets are welcome.