Prepare for spring planting with Crosby Arboretum’s winter landscaping and gardening programs

Published 9:35 am Sunday, January 30, 2022

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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It may be cold outside, but the Crosby Arboretum greenhouse is much warmer than what visitors to the site experience on our trails! Over the last few weeks, Pearl River County Master Gardeners have been busy preparing for both our Arbor Day plant sale Saturday, February 12, and transplanting native perennial plugs into four-inch pots for our big Spring plant sale in late March.

Although spring weather will still take some time arrive, people have been contacting us since early January with plant questions. They have lost no time to make plans for adding new species to their gardens and landscapes. From pollinator and butterfly gardens, monarch waystations, wildlife and bird gardens, there is a burgeoning interest in the topics, which surely heralds a very busy spring in the garden!

Arbor Day is traditionally a perfect time to install new plants in your landscape. The weather is more comfortable to labor in and allows gardeners to take advantage of a longer period for roots to become established before warm temperatures return. Here in Mississippi, Arbor Day is celebrated in mid-February. Although National Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April, the day is observed at different times throughout the country based on the planting times best for each state. Arbor day was first observed in Nebraska City, Nebraska on April 10, 1872. On that day, approximately one million trees were planted in Nebraska!

The Pearl River County Extension office offers soil testing, and the MSU Extension Service website contains many informative publications to help you choose plants, such as “Selecting Landscape Shrubs” and “Selecting Landscape Trees”, available at The publications “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” and “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes” are also available on the Extension website.

On Thursday, as Master Gardeners bustled in the greenhouse, I talked with Wayne Adams who was visiting from Richton.  He is currently clearing a large section of his land of the invasive species such as privet and is preparing to plant native species such as pink honeysuckle azaleas (Rhododendron canescens) and as many species of deciduous magnolias that he can find. About 25 years ago, he said he’d purchased a bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) at the Arboretum. It had taken off and grown robustly. What a delight to hear stories like this, which illustrates that someone has successfully matched the right plant to their property’s environmental conditions!

How can you learn the precise conditions a plant prefers? Seek to understand your planting site, 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? Observe where soils are moist, and where they are dry. The slope of your land will affect the available soil moisture. Do you see water collecting in certain areas?

Prepare for spring planting in our Smart Landscapes Home Landscape Design program, “Planning New Landscape Projects and Renovations” on Saturday, February 5, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Learn tips to consider when creating a landscape plan with director Pat Drackett, who will cover information helpful to know before you begin. Members $3, non-members $6.

On Friday, February 18 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., attend the program “Creating an Edible Legacy: Making Your Own Food Forest Garden” with Dr. Eddie Smith, MSU Pearl River County Extension Agent. Dr. Smith will introduce a variety of trees, shrubs and other edible plants, mostly native species, and discuss permaculture and food forest principles. The “Smart Landscapes” program is free to Arboretum members and $6 for non-members. Reservations are required. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up. The Arboretum is a Mississippi State University facility and requires that in the face of the major Covid-19 “Omicron” variant outbreak, masks are to be worn inside all Arboretum buildings.

Celebrate Mississippi Arbor Day with our plant sale Saturday, February 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. Choose from a variety of trees and shrubs for your planting projects. Experts will help you select the right plant for the right place. Admission is free, and sale is held near the Arboretum greenhouse. Please use our service entrance. Members may enter at 9 a.m. If you haven’t renewed your membership or wish to join, you may do so on our website (<>). Show your receipt upon entry. Your membership also includes a membership in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, with free or reduced entry to nearly 350 other U.S. public gardens.

See our Facebook page for more information on programs and activities. The Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. Leashed pets are always welcome!