Learn some landscape design tips from our Pearl River County roadsides

Published 7:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2022

By Patricia Drakett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

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

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On my journeys throughout Pearl River County in recent weeks, it’s been a delight to observe the developing perennials and grasses. Although I enjoy the emerging spring wildflowers, these more delicate blooms can “melt” with warmer weather, so I admit I sometimes look forward to hot summer days and the correspondingly more robust roadside displays that show up later in the growing season.

Don’t get me wrong, those delicate spring flowers will bring an awesome sparkle of color to your landscape, make an attractive if short-lived bouquet on your bedside table, and their fragile nature makes them especially nice for pressed flower projects. But as I write this, I’m looking up from my laptop at an arrangement of swamp sunflowers, sugarcane plume grass, panic grass, and ladies’ hatpins from the south pitcher plant bog that have been sitting in a vase on my kitchen table for several years.

When I say “robust”, I mean “durable” – summer blooms tend to have larger and thicker petals, and I suppose they need to be since they have the hot, blazing sun to contend with.  They will still dry nicely in pressed flower arrangements, even though they are a wee bit lumpier.  But even after a few years in a vase, the yellow petals on my dried swamp sunflowers still qualify as gorgeous.  Their low-care nature certainly fits my lifestyle, and it’s hard to improve on imperfection, as they say.

Drinking in a crazy quilt of color and texture so expertly woven together by Mother Nature on my drives is an enchanting experience, and it inevitably reminds me of my earlier years spent in college studying landscape architecture. During the intensive classes where we learned to produce aesthetically pleasing planting designs, we’d be sequestered at our studio drawing tables for weeks on end.

Eventually, we’d feel the need to emerge for some fresh air and decide to take a drive down the nearby country roads. Through eyes and minds that had only recently been constructing designs according to established design principles and rhythms, we would always be dumbstruck by the perfection we saw unfolding along the roadsides. How could our own attempts possibly improve on the beauty of these glorious natural patterns? The plants we observed were occurring in specific locations based on their habitat preferences, and the patterns resulted from such environmental factors as soil moisture or type, available sunlight, or the slope of the land.

Surely at some point in your own travels, you’ve remarked, “Oh, isn’t that pretty,” in response to certain roadside sights, blooms or landscape patterns. By learning to identify the plants you consistently see, you can learn about the habitats they prefer, and maybe even discover a few low-maintenance additions to consider for your home landscape!

If you’ve never visited the Crosby Arboretum, we urge you to make plans to come explore a marvelous place that is revered and respected throughout the country by the public gardening world. It has the potential to enrich your life – and your gardening methods – in so many ways!

Join us for “Designing a Pollinator Garden” program on Saturday, July 9 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. to learn how to create gardens that attract and sustain pollinators. These low-care landscapes can come alive with movement, save you time and money, work with ecological processes, and contribute to local biodiversity. Spend more time appreciating your garden, and not laboring in it with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. Members free, and $5 for non-members.

Sign up for the “Introduction to Birding” walk with birding enthusiast Jessica Martin on Saturday, July 16 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.  Learn tips and resources and equipment available for beginners and others, in addition to common species of birds found in the area. Cost is $2 for Arboretum members and $7 for non-members.

Attend the Wire-Wrapped Jewelry Workshop on Making a Pendant with jewelry maker Connie Boyd of Unique Stones on Saturday, July 16, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Learn how to make a beautiful handmade pendant wrapped in Sterling Silver. The program cost of $70 and includes a chain, tools for use, silver wire, and your choice of a semi-precious stone paid directly to the instructor on the day of the workshop by cash or check. More precious stones such as turquoise will be available for a little more if desired.

Please call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs and reserve your spot (pay upon arrival). Form more information see our website calendar at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/ or visit our Facebook page. The Arboretum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. Leashed pets are always welcome.