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Sunday February 14th, 2016 9:49AM

Master Gardeners Expo returns with spring

By Kelsey Williamson
GAINESVILLE - The popular Hall County Master Gardeners' expo returns to town on April 5 and 6 at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville, bringing over 60 vendors ranging from native plants to whimsical garden art.

The event, which is in its 11th year, started as a small gardening show and has been growing every year, according to the expo's co-chair, Vicky Ginn.

"As time went on, it became more and more popular with the public with the spring expo, of course, being more popular because people are really unaware of the value of getting their shrubs and their plants in the fall to get them in the ground in the dormant season," Ginn said.

The Master Gardeners host two expos each year, one in spring and one in fall, but the spring event still remains the most popular, and over 3,000 people visit the agricultural center each spring to marvel at the plants, art and other garden novelties.

Ginn emphasized the variety of vendors the expo brings and notes that there is something for everyone to enjoy.

"We have a huge variety, not just nurseries," Ginn said. "We have garden decor, garden tools, yard art, water barrels, whimsical art, floral photography, perennials, annuals, natives, almost anything you can think of and probably more than that."

Most people come for the plants, primarily perennials, according to Ginn, but people are purchasing other garden-related items more and more frequently.

"More and more wonderful things are gaining popularity, such as bird houses and glass work, and yard art," Ginn said. "That's so much fun because the gardener can really express themselves further through the yard art."

At the spring expo, attendees can also take part in a number of different workshops, demonstrations and presentations, all of which are free with admission. The most popular of these seminars, according to Ginn, are ones that involve people at all levels of gardening from master to beginner.

"Some of the seminars on composting and on vegetable gardening are the most popular," she said. "Or family-oriented gardening sessions that incorporate children, teaching children how they can plant the seen and then watch it grow as they nurture it, water it and give it the right amount of soil and light."

The expo is one of the largest events of the year for the Hall County Master Gardeners, but the organization partakes in numerous other events around the region to promote gardening through their motto, "Beautification Through Education."

"We get involved in just a lot of different avenues like children's groups," Ginn said. "We go to libraries, and all of our seminars are free to the public."

In addition to teaching about gardening, the group also actively cultivates a number of local gardens in the Gainesville area.

"We work through different types of non-profit organizations, such as the victory garden at the Northeast Georgia History Center," Ginn said. "That's a garden where we plant produce and then donate it to different organizations that can use it."

The Master Gardeners also operate "Gardens on Green," which aims at beautifying the area around Green Street. They also use the gardens to educate people about techniques for getting the most out of their gardens at home or elsewhere.

To further the organization and gardening in general, the Hall County Master Gardeners work with a group of younger kids who are interested in the craft as well.

"We work with the junior master gardeners, and we're trying to establish more of a foothold with the schools to raise awareness about gardening with the youth," Ginn said.
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