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Leave something behind at the Arboretum: Painted rocks and fairy doors!

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

It seems an irresistible attraction for humans to desire to leave some mark on nature, from the initials of long-ago sweethearts carved inside a heart on the smooth bark of a tree to a casual stack of sticks, leaves, or rocks. Occasionally we make such discoveries along our trails, which are often as simple as a straight branch leaning against a tree, obviously once serving as someone’s walking stick.

You will have a great chance this weekend to take something home and leave a piece of yourself behind at the Arboretum in our “Painted Rocks and Fairy Doors” family workshop on Saturday, March 14. Paint rocks to take home and to be hidden along our trails. Participants will also paint a special fairy door that will be left on a special tree. Visitors and guests will be encouraged to find, and relocate, these rocks and fairy doors for others to continue to discover. On your next visit, look for your rock or fairy door! All workshop materials, including rocks, will be provided. Look for details below.

Sometimes the results of man’s hand on the land can be quite intricate, or in one case, the hand of a woman. Our first gallery exhibit, which debuted in 2014, was the result of having discovered some awe-inspiring arrangements that had been composed of natural materials but then spirited away. These wonders had been created by Pearl River County resident Mary Murchison. But rather than discovering her creations along the pathways, we stumbled onto them via Facebook!

We had already been aware that Mary was a gifted photographer. She has the talent for capturing “that moment” in her photographs. One day, when coming across a particularly stunning photo in our Facebook feed Mary had taken of the Pinecote Pavilion, it became evident the picture was more than just typical. Looking more closely, one could see a beautiful circular arrangement of natural materials, laid out on the gravel of the overlook at the water’s edge across from the Pavilion.

After viewing this image, we soon realized this was just one of many amazing photos Mary had taken of “nature mandalas,” circular constructions of natural materials, such as blooms and leaves. Want to see some amazing stuff? Enter those keywords into your browser! After perusing what comes up, add the word “leaves” or “flowers” to see other variations on this theme that will appear.

Books are now available on designing nature mandalas, and there are many environmental artists who have been working for decades with natural design palettes such as Andy Goldworthy, but it was Mary who treated Pearl River County to the chance to discover how simple items can evoke such wonder. Her photography exhibit debuted at the Arboretum gallery in March 2014 and began our series of quarterly exhibits of art and photography, still going strong, by numerous persons who were moved to capture a moment in nature and communicate their own sense of wonder and awe to others.

Call the office at 601-799-2311 to sign up for Saturday’s “Painted Rocks and Fairy Doors” family workshop from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. Member adults and children pay a $4 materials fee per person. For non-members, the program fee is $9 for adults and $6 for children. There is no minimum age requirement, as children must be accompanied by an adult.

After this Saturday, March 14 workshop, be on the lookout for your rocks and doors while enjoying a spring botany field walk from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. Learn about the history and cultural uses of native species, and how to use them in your home landscape. Members free; $5 for non-members.

Mark your calendar for our Spring Native Plant Sale on March 20 and 21 (Friday & Saturday) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members enter at 9:00 a.m. If you wish to renew your Arboretum membership or join prior to the sale, you may do this on our website and show your receipt upon arrival.

Homeschool and K-7 school groups! Nature Discovery Day is Thursday, March 26 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Enjoy live animals, hands-on exhibits, presentations, and more. Admission is $2 per child, and free for teachers and teacher assistants. For other parents accompanying their child, cost is $5. Homeschool groups, entry is free for parent-teachers. Groups over 15 must call to schedule an arrival time.

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!