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Arboretum’s spring native plant sale to be held this Friday and Saturday

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

While we don’t yet have a date for when the Crosby Arboretum grounds will be open again, we are pleased that our Spring Native Plant Sale will be held this Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day. Guidelines for the conduct of our sale are given at the end of this column, to ensure the safety and well-being of guests.

Make a point of assessing the areas you are considering for future planting projects and become acquainted with their particular environmental conditions. What are the sun/shade, soil moisture, and drainage conditions found here? If you do this, you will be able to choose the plants that will perform best on your property.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted a Grancy graybeard (Chionanthus virginicus), like your grandmother grew. The white strap-like spring blooms of this small tree are guaranteed to steal the show when used as a specimen or accent tree. Also known as native fringetree, like its relative, the familiar fragrant sweet olive, this plant is in the Olive family, and like the sweet olive, fringetree has deliciously scented blooms.

Another high-performing shrub we will have is Elliott’s blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii). The small berries are ripening now on this delicately branched shrub, from the tiny bell-shaped flowers that were welcomed by bees in January and February. In fall, its leaves will turn a gorgeous scarlet red, making this shrub easy to spot from your car window on a county ride.
We usually don’t see the pink mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) on our suppliers’ inventory lists, but this year we were fortunate enough to find some. They are particularly well-formed and big in the containers. Usually associated with the high elevations of the Appalachian Mountains, this evergreen shrub was “pushed” southward as a result of the last glacial period in human experience, which peaked about 20,000 years ago.

We’ll have several species of native Iris, including the stunning Copper Iris (Iris fulva) one of the species used in the hybridization of “Louisiana Iris”. Iris are great for naturalizing in the areas of your landscape that stay consistently moist, but they also will tolerate drying out as summer progresses.

This year, we will be offering more native shrubs and trees than usual in smaller containers, so you will be able to sample more plants at a lower cost than plants in the typical three gallon container size. We are very excited to have been able to obtain some American holly (Ilex opaca). This is a great tree for the wildlife garden or to use as a specimen tree, with flowers that are particularly attractive to bees, and fruit consumed by many wildlife species.
Other unusual native species in our sale in small containers include Dwarf Pawpaw (Asimina parviflora), a deciduous native shrub with edible fruit that grows to about eight feet and is a larval food plant for zebra swallowtail butterfly.

You will also find Ashe’s Magnolia (Magnolia ashei), a rare deciduous bigleaf magnolia, Flatwoods Plum (Prunus umbellata), a non-suckering native plum with small tart fruit that can used for jelly, or a good choice for your wildlife garden, Hop Wafer tree (Ptelea trifoliata), a butterfly host plant for species like the Giant Swallowtail, and American Basswood (Tilia americana), highly prized for honey produced from the nectar of these flowers.

A plant list for the spring sale has been posted on our Facebook page and website, and will also be distributed upon your arrival on Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Crosby Arboretum members are allowed to enter at 9:00 a.m. each day. If you need to renew your membership or to join, you may join online, or fill out a membership card upon arrival at 9:00 a.m. and pay at the register.

Use our service entrance to access the sale. Upon approaching the sale area, please remain in your vehicle until notified space is available in the sales area. Only ten guests will be permitted in the sales area at one time. Cash and check sales will be taken near the greenhouse and credit card sales at the visitors’ center ramp. Please maintain a 6’ distance between yourself and others. Masks are encouraged but not required.

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, you may sign up for our email listserv at “Events Updates” on the main menu on our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.