The season for planting trees and shrubs is – Now!
By Pat Drackett
Crosby Arboretum Director
The Crosby Arboretum Green Team volunteers have been hard at work making plant selections for our upcoming Arbor Day Plant Sale to be held on Saturday, February 13. The sale will offer Mississippi native trees and shrubs for late winter planting and is a bit of a prelude to the larger spring sale that will be take place on March 19 and 20.
Although National Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April, it is observed at different times throughout the country, based on the planting times best for each state. Arbor Day became an official day of observance in Mississippi in 1926, and later the second Friday in February was adopted as the day on which the state would annually observe the event. This year, Mississippi Arbor Day Friday, February 12. In addition, Gov. Reeves recently proclaimed February 13-20 as Tree Planting Week in Mississippi!
Weather has certainly been up and down lately, from sunny, warm weather to some days that have been rather chilly. But this brings me to the point that now is the best time to install new woody shrubs and trees in your landscape, while they are dormant, and have not yet burst into leaves or blooms.
The winter months in coastal Mississippi offer us a good number of good planting days. Unlike those folks up north who battle snow and frozen ground, we can dig holes in the wintertime! Even though this is our “cooler” season, we still have a long period of time for plant roots to become established before hot summer days return.
The Arboretum’s Arbor Day sale will feature a variety of hard-to-find native azaleas, known as “honeysuckle” azaleas, as well as some old fashioned garden favorites such as Grancy graybeard, southern crabapple, mountain laurel, and sweetshrub, also known as strawberry bush because of its fragrant dark maroon flowers. Arboretum staff and volunteers, and Pearl River County Master Gardeners will be on hand to help you select plants appropriate to your site conditions.
So how can you learn the precise conditions a plant prefers? Analyze your property and do all you can to understand what you site offers, and you will be able to choose the plants that will perform best on your property. Sketch a map of your property and make notes. What is the sun exposure throughout the site, and how does it change throughout the day? Where are the areas of deep shade? Full sun? Study your yard’s various habitats – observe where soils are moist, and where they are dry. The slope of the land will affect the available soil moisture.
For giving your landscape and gardening projects a great foundation, contact the Pearl River County Extension office for submitting a soil sample. Also, the MSU Extension Service website contains informative publications to help you make wise plant choices, such as “Selecting Landscape Shrubs” and “Selecting Landscape Trees”, at http://extension.msstate.edu/. The publications include extensive tables of trees and shrubs and include the pH range for each species. Check this against your soil test results to see if your site provides the necessary conditions.
To help with your planting projects, you may download the publications “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” and “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes” from the Extension website. Other helpful information for your gardening projects can be found on the Smart Landscapes webpage (see http://extension.msstate.edu/smartlandscapes) or simply enter any topic that interests you in the main search field.
Through the remainder of February, on Thursdays and Fridays you will have an opportunity to observe a prescribed fire event in the Arboretum’s Savanna exhibit, call the office at 601-799-2311 around 9:00 a.m. to inquire whether a burn will be proceeding on that day. For more information on prescribed fire, visit the Mississippi State University Extension Service webpage at http://extension.msstate.edu/ and enter those keywords in the search field to read more about the topic.
The Arbor Day plant sale will be held Saturday, February 13, and will begin at 9:00 a.m. for Arboretum members, and open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Entry will be limited in the sales area, and masks and social distancing are required.
If your membership has lapsed, you may renew (or join) online at our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.
Visit our Facebook page for more information on programs and activities. Our public garden 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 on our three miles of trails.