Prepare for Spring Planting with Crosby Arboretum’s Landscaping and Winter Gardening Programs

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Extension in the Extension Service at Mississippi State University.

It may be chilly outside, but the Crosby Arboretum greenhouse is much warmer than what site visitors experience on our trails! For the past few weeks, Pearl River County Master Gardeners have been busy preparing both our Arbor Day Plant Sale on Saturday, February 12, and transplanting plugs of native perennials into four-inch pots for our large sale of spring plants at the end of March.

Although the spring weather is still slow to arrive, people have been contacting us since early January with questions about the plants. They wasted no time making plans to add new species to their gardens and landscapes. From pollinator and butterfly gardens, monarch stations, wildlife and bird gardens, there is budding interest in the subjects, which surely heralds a busy spring in the garden!

Arbor Day is traditionally the perfect time to install new plants in your landscape. The weather is more comfortable to work in and allows gardeners to enjoy 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 across the country based on the best planting times 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 MSU’s Extension Service website has many informative publications to help you choose plants, such as “Selecting Landscape Shrubs” and “Selecting Landscape Trees”, available at http://extension.msstate. edu/. The publications “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” and “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes” are also available on the Extension site.

Thursday, while the master gardeners were busy in the greenhouse, I spoke with Wayne Adams who came from Richton. He is currently clearing much of his land from invasive species such as privet and preparing to plant native species such as pink honeysuckle azaleas (Rhododendron canescens) and as many species of deciduous magnolias as he can find. About 25 years ago, he said he purchased a Large-leaved Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) from the Arboretum. It had taken off and grown vigorously. What a pleasure to hear stories like this, which illustrate that someone has successfully matched the right plant to the environmental conditions of their property!

How can you know the precise conditions a plant prefers? Seek to understand your planting site and you can choose the plants that will perform best on your property. Draw a map of your property and take notes. What is the sun exposure on the whole site and how does it change during the day? Where are the deep shadows? Full sun? Observe where the floors are wet and where they are dry. The slope of your land will affect the available soil moisture. Do you see water accumulating in certain areas?

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

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

Celebrate Mississippi Arbor Day with our plant sale on 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 choose the right plant for the right place. Admission is free and the sale takes place near the Arboretum greenhouse. Please use our service entrance. Members can enter at 9 a.m. If you have not renewed your membership or wish to register, you can do so on our website ( Show your receipt at the entrance. Your membership also includes membership in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, with free or discounted admission to nearly 350 other U.S. public gardens.

Check 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!

Terri S. Tomasini