Going Green: Crowds and Spirits Blossom at GardenFest – 32963

Thousands of gardeners with green thumbs, and those with less than perfect horticultural skills, descended on Riverside Park this past weekend for the 20th anniversary of GardenFest: Nature’s Finest Marketplace hosted by the Garden Club of Indian County. River.

Much like when GardenFest premiered in February 2002, providing a calming effect on a country devastated by the horrific attacks of 9/11, this year’s huge crowds were eager to immerse themselves in nature and put the pandemic behind them. .

And the two-day show helped do it in spades, giving attendees a massive flora fix with the sale of a wide variety of plants, palms, shrubs and orchids, colorful and unique containers. to put them, and various ways to improve their surroundings. Its educational component featured an Ask the Experts tent that provided informative gardening advice.

“I always say that if you haven’t killed some plants, you’re not a real gardener, and if you haven’t killed half of your orchids, you’re not a real orchid lover” , laughed Karen Vatland, co-chair of GardenFest. with Barbara Russell.

Among the more than 80 sellers, there were about 20 new faces, replacing others who had given up.
“Some vendors have gone online in the past two years and have developed a good online business, so they are no longer doing festivals. Festivals are expensive and it’s hard work,” Russell said.

Among the new suppliers was ProEdge, a knife and garden mower sharpener.

“We had seen it at a huge show in St. Petersburg called Green Thumb and we thought it was a great idea. It’s something we’ve never done before,” Russell said.

“We have a bonsai vendor here that we haven’t had for several years. For the second year, we have a guy who has planters in the shape of heads. We caught up with him on another show and said, “You’re with us,” Vatland added.

Vinnie Parentela, owner of Gold Coast Landscape Lighting, is one of six vendors who have attended the show since its inception.

“We beautify your landscape in the evening so that you can enjoy it 24 hours a day and not just during the day. Security is a big plus, but the aesthetic value of lighting up these beautiful properties at night is amazing and so much fun. I love what I do,” Parentela said.

“Our best source of suppliers is always other suppliers,” Russell said. “Our existing vendors tell people how good the show is.”

The two also travel to other fairs such as St. Petersburg and Winter Garden, to cultivate new vendors and greet existing ones.

Commenting on the longevity of GardenFest, Russell said it was the only one of its kind in the region.
“It’s an invitational show. We try to keep it green. We don’t have artisans, jewelry, t-shirts, things like that,” Vatland said.

“We have a new lady who has driftwood with tillandsia and another lady from Sebastian who paints bamboo that she collects and makes them into bamboo pots. We justify some of this with the idea that some of these people live in condos and they want stuff for their porch.

Funds from GardenFest and the sale of the club’s annual Christmas ornament are used to provide scholarships, donations and beautification projects to numerous non-profit organizations, as well as landscaping projects around the county level that have improved the whole community.

Vatland said there are currently 220 Garden Club members meeting in nine circles, each offering a different day, time and program. Their annual Spring Flower Show will be held March 26-27 at the Garden Club.

For more information, visit gardenclubofirc.org.

Pictures of Kaila Jones

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