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What goes on at the Crosby Arboretum?

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

“Just what exactly is an arboretum?” This is a question we’ve heard from many of our visitors at the The Crosby Arboretum, perhaps those who had wondered when first spotting our signs along the interstate or reading about us in the newspaper.

Had we been named the Crosby Botanic Gardens, these last two words would most likely have stirred some understanding of our activities. Many public gardens include these descriptive words in their name, leaving little doubt as to what goes on behind their gates.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com) defines an arboretum as a “place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes.” We often remind visitors inquiring about the term that it contains the word “arbor”. Many people are familiar with Arbor Day and may surmise that our property has something to do with trees.

One simple definition we will give is that we are a public garden. And notably, members of The Crosby Arboretum, also have a reciprocal membership through the American Horticultural Society which allows them to visit over 300 other public gardens in the U.S. for free or reduced admission!

If you conduct an internet search with the keywords “U.S. Botanic Garden” and “Pinecote Pavilion”, you can pay a “visit” to this garden’s current exhibit called “Season’s Greenings: America’s Gardens”. The exhibit features well-known buildings found at gardens throughout the country. This includes a model of our Pinecote Pavilion! Check out their video which shows the Pavilion, as well as the train running through the exhibit, an obvious delight for children.

Pearl River County residents are fortunate to live in an area that is rich in natural beauty. A drive through this county proves that fields and forests abound. But because they are the norm, many persons don’t grasp why they should visit a garden that looks just like their backyard. But there is much to learn at The Crosby Arboretum about our native plant species, as well as many other topics.

Our garden offers a variety of educational programs and events, particularly on topics centered on home landscaping and gardening. Learn how to design a low-care landscape, visit a native plant sale, attend a craft workshop, or enjoy a botany field walk.

A walk down our pathways provides a vastly different experience from one week to the next. Three miles of dog-friendly trails traverse the property, allowing walks among native Mississippi plants in their natural habitats.

The plants featured here at the Arboretum are those which are native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin of Mississippi and Louisiana. Interpretive signage along the trails points out topics of interest, such as an interesting feature about a plant or animal, or a historical fact.

Come visit! Winter will bring many days of pleasant weather, perfect for exploring the Arboretum. Plan to walk our grounds over the holidays. We’re open Wednesday through Sunday over the holidays with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

On Thursdays and Fridays in January and February, you have an opportunity to observe prescribed burns in the Savanna exhibit, if weather is favorable. Call the Arboretum office around 9:00 a.m. to inquire about whether a burn will be proceeding that day.

Arboretum memberships make perfect gifts, especially for those who travel so they may visit other gardens. An Arboretum membership also includes a membership in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Membership Program, which provides free or reduced admission to over 250 public gardens in North America. Arboretum memberships are only $35 for an individual membership and $45 for a family membership. Senior and military discounts are available.

Start the year off right and make plans to attend the yoga class on Saturday, January 11 on the Pinecote Pavilion from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. The cost is $2 for members and $5 for non-members. A botany field walk will take place from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. that same day. Call to sign up for programs to guarantee your place. Check out our winter gallery exhibit, nature photography by Nadine Phillips, on display through February 28.

Mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s Forge Day on Saturday, January 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. You’ll enjoy our annual event featuring blacksmithing and metalworking demonstrations. An Arbor Day Plant Sale will take place on Saturday, February 15 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon (members enter at 9:00 a.m.).

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!