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By Patricia Dracket

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

Yes, you read that right! Now is the perfect time for planning upcoming landscape projects! Why?  Because it’s about to get downright sweltering in the weeks to come and many of us will be gardening a lot less, or perhaps not at all.

Here in the Deep South, I believe summer offers an ideal time for garden planning, a completely opposite season from those who live in northern climates and may spend the winter months flipping through seed catalogs by the fire and dreaming of spring gardens. While snowy days and frozen soil may render their gardens impossible to work in, in coastal Mississippi our winter months are a great time to install new plants, as they offer many days of pleasant outdoor conditions.

In summer, perhaps you sit in air-conditioned comfort, gazing out your window at landscape beds that are a result of your winter and spring labors.  Or, we may only have a glimpse of our garden during a quick journey from the car to our house.  This is the time you will certainly appreciate a well-located planting bed – where it can be seen and therefore enjoyed from indoors.

Hopefully our landscaping will flourish in the unavoidable ever-increasing temperatures. You can ensure this will be the case by making wise planting decisions, such as choosing plants well-suited to your property’s environmental conditions and making the commitment to monitor the water to your new plants during the summer.

On your drives, pay attention to which plants are prospering under summer’s sunny, humid conditions.  Take photos of the plants you like and make plans to install them in your garden next spring!  If you are unsure of the identity of a plant, try a plant ID app you can install on your phone.  I’ve been impressed to learn that our visitors have accurately identified obscure native plants species at the Arboretum with such apps!  You may also email a photo to the Arboretum or to the Pearl River County Extension office.

A great website for plant identification for wild plants is http://www.southeasternflora.com/. This site uses a variety of photos showing many plant characteristics to help in its identification, instead of just a pretty picture of a bloom, and was designed specifically for persons having a limited knowledge of plants.

You can also find plants growing in our pollinator garden that are doing just fine despite the hot weather, such as Lantana, Salvia, basil, Pentas, Stokes aster, Hibiscus, and milkweed.  For other top-performing species, visit Mississippi State University’s Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/. Just enter keywords in the search field such as “beat the heat”, or “summer”, and settle in for some reading. You can also find numerous home landscape publications on the MSU Extension site, to print or download to your computer.

Enter “Smart Landscapes” to access this webpage which contains numerous links to gardening topics, to guide you in creating attractive and low-maintenance landscapes that are wildlife friendly, use water wisely, and lower your energy costs. As the introduction states, “Mississippi Smart Landscapes” use tried and trusted methods with a little artistic flair to create attractive and ecologically sound gardens.

You’ll find an extensive amount of research-based information you can trust, specific to Mississippi, on the Smart Landscapes site, including MSU Extension Publication No. 2698, “Home Landscape Design”. This is a comprehensive guide to creating a landscape plan, with guidance on how to avoid making common landscaping planning mistakes. Locate this publication by searching by its title.

Another resource to help you identify local plants and wildflowers is the Crosby Arboretum plant data base, hosted by the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Select the orange rectangle in the lower left corner of our home page at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu>.

Then, scroll through our list of over 200 species to find plants you are familiar with.  You can also print a list of species for future study.

If you have never visited the Crosby Arboretum, we urge you to make plans soon to come explore this marvelous place that is revered and respected throughout the country by the public gardening world.  This public garden has the potential to enrich your life – and your gardening methods – in so many ways!

Visit our current gallery exhibit “Wild Grace: Wind, Water and Grasses”, on display through Sunday, June 6, featuring photographs taken in London and Canterbury England, and Mississippi by Carolyn McIntyre Norton.

Sign up for email notices of upcoming events at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu> under the menu title “Event Updates”. The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart, adjacent to I-59).