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Have you caught a case of spring planting fever yet?

By Pat Drackett

Crosby Arboretum Director

Perhaps you were one of the many avid gardeners who braved the cold, gloomy, weather last Saturday and came to shop for hard-to-find native trees and shrubs at the Crosby Arboretum’s annual Arbor Day Plant Sale.

Thanks to the Arboretum’s Green Team volunteers and the dedicated staff who prepared our greenhouse area for the annual sale, shoppers stocked up for their upcoming planting projects.

If you found yourself spending a lot more time puttering in your yard in 2020 tending to your home landscape or garden, you were part of a growing national trend during the year of COVID, when many persons who were enduring the quarantines and lockdowns found a respite in gardening projects. Consequently, it wasn’t unusual to find bare shelves at the garden center or nursery as people searched for plants to satisfy their planting fever.

This spring promises to be a repeat performance, according to what we have already heard from gardeners and suppliers. We urge you to consider including some high-performing Mississippi native plant species in your landscape this year. You will find many dependable native trees, shrubs and perennials at our spring sale in March, as well as out on our Visitor Center deck during the growing season.

We also urge you to make a New Year’s resolution to learn more about plant propagation – in other words – how to grow free plants from seed, cuttings or air-layering. Sharing “passalong” plants with others, and transplanting plants from other sites (with the landowner’s permission, of course) are two other great sources of new plants.

It can takes a keen eye to spot them, but with the appearance of spring weather, you can find some dependable native species such as baby red maple trees, huckleberries, mayhaws, wild crabapples, persimmon, wild yellow jessamine or coral honeysuckle vines that grow in the leaf litter under “parent” trees. Most of these young plants, the result of falling fruit or seeds, don’t live very long, due to competition with the canopy of nearby plants.

Before you go to the garden center or shop our Spring Native Plant in March, visit the MSU Extension website http://extension.msstate.edu/ to explore the wealth of available information that will guide you in your spring planting and gardening. If you have never visited this site, you are in for a treat! In the search field, enter the keywords “native trees,” “native shrubs” or specific plants or gardening practices to download or read publications and articles on gardening and horticultural practices, learn how to design pollinator or wildlife gardens, and more.

On the Extension website, you can also access archived gardening columns and articles, such as the Southern Gardening features by Dr. Gary Bachman, Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.

Plan for successful planting projects by getting to know all you can about your property’s environmental conditions, and its positive strengths as well as its limitations. Do you have existing plants with high maintenance needs, or old and hazardous trees that should be replaced? Do you have invasive plant species? Become familiar with your yard’s soil, moisture, sun and shade, and drainage patterns. If you understand your property, you will be able to choose plants that will be happy there.

The Arboretum’s Spring Native Plant Sale will be held on March 19 and 20 (Friday and Saturday), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Are there particular plants you have been searching for? Give the office a quick call and ask that your suggestions be added to our shopping list, through the month of February.

We will be offering a wide variety of hard-to-find native trees, shrubs and perennials in this sale where you will find many plant professionals such as Pearl River County Master Gardeners who will be on hand to help you with making selections based on your property’s unique environmental conditions.

Through the remainder of February, on Thursdays and Fridays you may have the 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 is planned for that day.

If your membership has lapsed, you may renew or join online at our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu. Visit the Crosby Arboretum Facebook page for more information on the site, and our activities. We’re 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.