Ways to appreciate your own backyard

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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

Perhaps you, like many others I know, are now working from a home office or spending a lot of your time at home lately. For most of us, events that have transpired over the past few weeks have certainly turned typical routines completely upside down.

I’ve heard a lot of stories recently from people who are choosing to spend more time outdoors. Being out in nature can yield so much more than just a breath of fresh air.

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Participating in the beauty of spring unfolding personally gives me peace and can offer a restful break from the hectic pace experienced in the office.

When one gets caught up in any activity that can fan the flames of anxiety, it can be hard to pry yourself out from that rut. Like any other habit, after a while a behavior will become firmly ingrained. For me, that means like a lobster in a slowly heating pot, I find that I have developed the perceived inability to push myself away from my desk to take advantage of our office being immersed in the middle of 64 acres of gorgeous woodland, aquatic, and savanna exhibits.

At the Arboretum we spend our days ensuring that visitors will have an unforgettable experience at the public garden while walking our trail. However, at busy times, I lose sight of the fact that field and forest await outside my door, capable of providing a great source of healing and mental rest to combat the feeling of being glued to an office chair.

In times like we have been experiencing, I count myself fortunate that my personal social media pages reflect friends who are posting about flowers and nature, wise sayings about perseverance, various pets and babies, and many subjects that thankfully keep my blood pressure low. But there is yet another source of peace that can give me a 360-degree view of a better world, and that is to simply go outside.

During my drives here and there lately, I’ve noticed many more persons than usual strolling on neighborhood streets. And I’d surmise many of them are also spending more time outdoors at home as well, focusing on life’s simple pleasures – emerging spring blossoms, the song of birds, and a chance to sit in the sunshine.

One friend mentioned that lately he has been enjoying spending more time outdoors. Like many Pearl River County residents, he has a large property, about a third of the size of the Arboretum, and has lots of time to walk around. He enjoys exercising outside and taking walks with their four cats that occasionally break away from naps to follow him.

My friends who live on the coast are not as fortunate, dwelling in homes with much smaller yards in typical subdivisions. I often ponder how different it is for people located such a short distance from one another. Still, there is sunshine that is waiting to be soaked up, blooms to be observed and birds to listen to in these smaller spaces, too.

Despite the size of their property, many persons have been spending their time engaged in landscape projects, and on recent journeys I’ve seen examples of the recent flurry of gardening activity. I’d venture that there may be many more vegetable gardens planted this spring than in previous years! Watching things grow can be a highly therapeutic activity.

How can you appreciate your own backyard? If you have native vegetation, this is a great opportunity to learn more about it. Why not start with your trees? Visit the MSU Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/ to download publication No. 146 “Know Your Trees.” The Extension Service provides research-based information you can trust. Visit their website to browse the subjects, or search by keyword for the topics you are interested in.

Another great resource on tree identification is the PDF version of the “Mississippi Trees” book, which is free at the Mississippi Forestry Commission’s website at https://www.mfc.ms.gov/mississippi-trees. Another outstanding resource for identifying Southeastern wildflowers, shrubs, and trees is http://www.southeasternflora.com/.

What did Terry Johnson and I discover on our tour of the Arboretum this past weekend? Plenty! The winter prescribed fire that Terry and his “burn crew” conducted in February yielded a blackened canvas that now offers sights such as delicate pitcher plant blooms, thousands of blue polka-dots of flowering blue-eyed grass and stunning pink Coreopsis.

The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. To receive updates on activities, including when we will be open to the public again, sign up for our email listserv at “Events Updates” on the main menu on our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.