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A rainy afternoon tour of the Crosby Arboretum

By Pat Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and  assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Over the past weeks we’ve been enjoying the roller coaster ride of continuous color with the many plants in bloom at the Arboretum. We hope some of you have had the opportunity to come out to experience this, too! Although we’ve had some cool weather and rainy days, the native species in our exhibits don’t seem to mind one bit.

One recent afternoon I had the chance to take a cart tour around the site with grounds manager Terry Johnson, allowing us to cover a great distance in a short time. The cloudy day that had followed the day of intermittent showers created the perfect conditions for taking photographs.

I thoroughly enjoyed making mental notes of the plants along the pathways blooming so effortlessly, and taking a bounty of pictures – fat mayhaw fruit heralding a bountiful harvest, a full branch of Virginia willow bloom sprays (Latin name, Itea virginica) that is also a high-performer in a fall garden with its deep burgundy foliage, and the awesome visual delight of Kalmia latifolia – mountain laurel – gracing our first bridge on the Arrival Journey.

Some native beauties that deserve consideration for your garden include two species of Lyonia, an evergreen shrub known as fetterbush or doghobble. Both swamp fetterbush (L. racemosa) and shiny Lyonia (L. lucida) occur at the Arboretum.  As a child in East Tennessee, I was told the plant got its name because large animals being pursued by hunters would run through patches of this plant (the variety grew much smaller in the mountains) to trip up the dogs.

An attractive perennial called Georgia tickseed or pink coreopsis (Coreopsis nudata) is blooming in the pitcher plant bog. Its thin, thread-like leaves give it the appearance of a grass. Pink coreopsis is found in consistently wet soils of coastal savannas, prairies, and flatwoods, and it is most abundant in Georgia, hence the name. C. nudata is also found in roadside ditches in St. Tammany Parish.  I’ve heard this plant was once more common in Pearl River County and in the wet roadside ditches near the Arboretum. As road drainage systems have been modified, the species has dwindled. You can appreciate it here!

The Arboretum is currently featuring a photography show “Wild Grace: Wind, Water and Grasses.” The images were taken in London and Canterbury England by Carolyn McIntyre Norton. She has captured the wind sculpting almost 50 species of grasses, rushes, and sedges in Richmond Park and grasses merging above and below the crystal-clear surface of a chalk river on the River Stour. The show is on display until Sunday, June 6.  The exhibition is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Carolyn is a fine art printmaker, photographer, book artist, and university visual arts instructor. See more of her work at carolynnortonart.com or @carolynnortonart. Join her on Saturday, May 1 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. for a printmaking workshop. A cyanotype or sun print is a camera-less way of making images. Participants will create them from natural materials foraged from the arboretum. Cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Registration is required.

Attend a “Perennials for Pollinators” plant sale from 10:00 AM to Noon Saturday, May 1. This “flash sale” will feature native pollinator plants, including milkweed and other useful species for your garden. Enjoy conversations with plant professionals including Pearl River County Master Gardeners, who will help you choose appropriate plants based on your property’s unique environmental conditions. Free admission. Sale is in the greenhouse area (use our service entrance).

For more information on Arboretum events visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu> or call (601) 799-2311. To receive event announcements via our listserv, fill out the form on the Arboretum website under “Event Updates”. We are located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).