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Mums are the word as green thumbs load up on fall colors at Master Gardeners' fall expo
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Miles Havlik, left, and his brother, Whitt, examine plants during the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Since moving to Georgia from Connecticut four months ago, Jeanne and Donna Gatto have been planning out how to spruce up their yard. One of their first stops to get things going was the Hall County Master Gardeners Fall Garden Expo.

This year’s event at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville, held Friday-Saturday Sept. 28-29, was full of plants and people. Guests walked around, pulling wagons filled with flowers, shrubs, herbs and even trees behind them. The Gatto sisters were no different.

“This has been very helpful about teaching us what’s native and what grows well here because we don’t really know,” Jeanne Gatto said. “And there’s some good variety, so you get good ideas.”

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Jean Scharle of Randy's Perennials speaks with a customer during the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The Gattos bought colorful mums and some other fall flowers like pansies. Their friend, Marie Varner, decided on a tree. She said it was an unusual tree, which is the main reason she bought it. 

“I don’t like my yard to look like everybody else’s,” Varner said. “That’s why I like to come here, because you can find stuff you can’t find any place else.”

The Gattos and Varner followed the trend of the weekend. Liz Dietz, chair of the Fall Garden Expo, said mums and pansies were some of the most popular items for the 1,300 or so guests throughout the weekend. Dietz said that’s about average for a fall expo.

The spring expo is usually more crowded, but she was happy with the turnout and the weather this year.

“Everybody is buying mums,” Dietz said. “It’s all about their fall color. Everybody likes mums. And pansies, that’s our cool-weather crop. They’ll go through the winter.”

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Plants are on display during the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The fall expo offered everything from yard art to honey, toffee to wind chimes, thyme to tools. Proceeds earned from the event go back into the Master Gardeners to help fund its other programs such as Gardens on Green and Wilshire Trails. 

Putting the expo together is no easy feat, though.

“It takes a whole team,” Dietz said. “It takes a village to put this on. ... It takes about six months and 100 people to get this set up.”

For the vendors who attend, every second of the two-day event was worth it. They get to showcase some of their best or most interesting plants to potential customers they may not have seen otherwise. Randy’s Perennials & Water Gardens of Lawrenceville has been attending the event for the past seven years.

“The fun thing about this, it’s gives people an opportunity to do a one-stop shop because there’s a lot of specialty people here,” said Jean Scharle, sales consultant at Randy’s. “And it’s a really nice venue.”

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Julie Balai searches for a plant during the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

And for children, too. Just before helping a husband and wife stopping by Randy’s spot at the expo, she was asked how to take care of a plant by a child. Scharle turned around and explained exactly what to do.

“I like to get kids started with the succulents because they’re pretty easy,” Scharle said.

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Plants are on display during the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Karen Saul Smith, owner of Abbott Creek Nursery Inc. in Dawsonville, said she likes seeing children run around as they’re always curious about different flowers and usually want to buy anything colorful.

“This is great because the kids can learn from this,” Smith said. “They enjoy the flowers, and one child even bought a raspberry plant. It’s just a learning experience for kids.”

Most of all, she enjoys being around the same vendors she sees at the expo each season. They have the opportunity to talk about plants while meeting new people who stop by their spot at the event.

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Customers make their way through the Fall Garden Expo at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele
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