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Preparing for spring gardening projects

By Pat Drackett

Crosby Arboretum Director

How do you usually begin your spring gardening projects? Many begin by pruning back their perennials and shrubs to remove dead branches to prepare them for new growth, and perhaps cutting crisp new lines to your planting beds. It’s a great way to see where you might have room for some new plants!

Perhaps you have already been perusing the shelves in the garden centers, eyeing the colorful bounty and dreaming of spring impulse buys. But wouldn’t you like to improve the chances that the plants you take home with you this year will still be around the following spring? Take a little time to arm yourself with information so you can go into battle with a clear plan!

Before you go to the garden center (or shop our Spring Native Plant Sale in March), pay a visit to the MSU Extension website to explore the wealth of information that will guide you in spring planting and gardening. The “Lawn and Garden” section contains many topics on home gardening to choose from, and the “Smart Landscapes” webpage will help you create low-maintenance gardens (http://extension.msstate.edu/smartlandscapes).

Two recently released Extension publications are “Storm-Resistant Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” (Pub. No. P3111) and “Drought-Tolerant Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” (Pub. No. 3569). The comprehensive Extension Publication No. 2698, “Home Landscape Design” will guide you through creating a landscape plan and discusses how to avoid common landscape planning mistakes.

Are there areas in your yard calling out for a new tree or shrubs? Although fall and winter are a good time for planting woody species, spring is still a popular time of year for installing new plants in the garden. The Extension website has detailed information on Mississippi’s native trees and shrubs, as well as how to create naturalistic landscape designs. For more information on how to use native species in your landscape, take advantage of the best resource you have in your community – visit the Arboretum and stroll our exhibits!

Observe the environmental conditions where you see certain plants prospering at the Arboretum. Then, look for areas in your home landscape that replicate these conditions. By matching the “right plant” to the “right place,” you will have a much higher degree of success and survivability.

Spend some time in your yard and note the areas which may need additional plants and why. What is the soil like in those areas? What is the degree of moisture? Observe how the amount of sun or shade in certain areas changes over the course of a day. If you understand your property, then you will be able to choose plants that will be happy when planted there.
Our spring plant sale will take place on March 20 and 21 (Friday and Saturday), and we are busily planning our orders, with the goal of bring the public a well-chosen collection of hard to find, low-maintenance, and top-performing plants. During the sale, the Arboretum’s Green Team volunteers will help answer plant questions and give advice on choosing species based on your property’s environmental conditions. We also have some selected publications on native plants in the Visitor Center.

Stay tuned for the many informative programs on plants and gardening coming up at the Arboretum! A presentation on native iris will be led by Pearl River County Master Gardener Eileen Hollander Saturday, March 13, and retired MSU Extension Forestry specialist Dr. Glenn Hughes will conduct one of his popular woodland botany walks on Saturday, March 27. Details for these programs and our new spring calendar will be posted shortly on our website.

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. We are also considering extending the sale to Sunday afternoon, so stay tuned.

We will be offering a variety of hard-to-find native trees, shrubs and perennials in this sale. Plant professionals including the Pearl River County Master Gardeners will be on hand to help you with making selections.

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!