It’s fall planting season

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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

Despite the appearance of rainy weather, we consider last weekend’s fall native plant sale to be an outstanding success. We were pleased to learn that many of those who came to our sale had traveled great distances, searching for new plants to take home and add to their landscapes.

It was very encouraging to see that gardeners of all ages, and with a wide range of experience, are learning about the benefits of native plant species and are seeking them out. This year, we were pleased to be able to offer such a wide variety of Mississippi native trees, shrubs, and perennials, plants that are well-adapted to our local climate.

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Cooler temperatures in fall and winter offer ideal conditions for installing new plants to your home landscape. The long period of time that will pass before warm temperatures return will provide ample time for roots to become established and endure the stresses of summer heat and potential drought.

One of the perennials available at the sale was native milkweed. In recent years, we have learned a great deal about which milkweeds are best suited to our coastal areas, and to support the monarch butterfly populations during their spring migrations.

Sometimes, we have the task of explaining to a potential customer that they don’t seem to have the proper soil and light conditions to support the species they would like to grow in their landscape. But our goal is that our customers will install their plants only once, rather than to discard them and start anew. At our sales, volunteers include plant experts and native gardening enthusiasts, and they steer shoppers in the direction of appropriate substitutes and select the correct plants for each property’s unique site conditions.

This year, we were pleased to offer Grancy greybeard. This plant is an old-time garden favorite, also known as “fringe tree”. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil, but it will tolerate drier conditions. Fringe tree has unusual, airy, white fringed flowers that will light up the spring garden, which have a sweet but not overpowering fragrance. Use this plant in the wildlife garden or as a specimen tree.

Many of the plants offered were also excellent choices for the wildlife garden – for example, beautyberry, now gracing local roadsides, will turns heads with its brilliant magenta fruits clustered in balls around the stems. The undemanding shrub is easy to grow in sun or shade. Arrow-wood viburnum, winterberry holly, and dahoon holly are also attractive shrubs and dependable berry producers.

When locating new plants, be sure to have researched the site conditions they prefer. The Crosby Arboretum also has a Native Plant Data Base on the home page, hosted by the Ladybird Johnson Native Plant Center in Austin, Texas. Visit and scroll down to the orange rectangle on the right hand side of the page. Or you can find more information on native species at The Center hosts the Crosby Arboretum’s plant profile.

For an informative article to help you with incorporating native species into your landscape, visit the Mississippi State University Extension website at and enter “Designing with Native Plants and Naturalistic Landscapes” into the search engine.

It is vital to locate your new plants properly.  Be ready to provide new plants with supplemental water during their critical first year of growth, to ensure that they get off to a good start. We still have some plants left from this weekend’s sale, so come check them out!

Sign up for our wire-wrapped jewelry workshop to be held Saturday, November 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with jewelry maker Connie Boyd of Unique Stones. Program cost of $70 includes chain, tools for use, silver wire, semi-previous stone and lesson, paid directly to the instructor on the day of the workshop by cash or check. Limit of 10 persons. Reservations are required.

A yoga class will take place on the Pinecote Pavilion Saturday, November 2, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. with certified yoga instructor James Sones. Reservations are requested. Members $2, non-members $5. Join us for the 17th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival on Saturday, November 16, from 10:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Stop in to see the Arboretum’s fall gallery exhibit, photography by Jenny Bibb Ryals. To sign up for programs, call 601-799-2311. For more information, please see our Facebook page or the calendar on our website at The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30. Leashed pets are always welcome.