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Gardening experts share their knowledge
State Master Gardeners winter conference is today and Saturday
Pamela Crawford will speak at the Master Gardeners winter conference about easy container gardening. Crawford has written books on the subject and is a landscape designer.

Georgia Master Gardeners annual winter conference

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. today, reception and juried art show and sale; work sessions run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: First Baptist Church Conference Center, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville
How much: $75 for conference, $10 for reception on Friday (admission to conference includes Friday reception)
More info: 770-535-8293 or register at the door on Saturday morning

Hall County Master Gardeners

fIt's an annual tradition for Master Gardeners from around the state to convene and delve into some specific gardening topics.

This year, the annual winter conference hosted by the Georgia Master Gardeners is in Gainesville, opening tonight at First Baptist Church on Green Street and continuing throughout Saturday with gardening experts talking about ferns, container gardens and gardening in the South.

And the best thing about the event? Not only is it a Master Gardener-caliber event, but it's also open to the public. For $75, you too can learn alongside Master Gardeners.

And if you've ever considered going through the training to be a Master Gardener, Brenda Beckham, president of the state Master Gardeners, said it's a good way to get to know others who have already been through the process.

"All Master Gardeners from across the state are encouraged to come; you get to meet other Master Gardeners and we learn from each other," she said. "(The seminars) do not get you into the program, but it gets you so you want to be in the program."

Master Gardeners classes are offered through the local Extension office.

Speakers on Saturday are:

  • Carol Reese, a specialist in ornamental horticulture at the University of Tennessee who will speak about gardens as an art form.
  • Pamela Crawford, author of eight books and landscape designer whose gardens have been featured on HGTV and in numerous magazines, will speak about easy container gardening.
  • George Sanko, who started the College Herbarium at Georgia Perimeter College along with other plant collections housing thousands of native plants and ferns. He will be speaking on ferns for shade and sun gardens.
  • Walter Reeves, a "garden guru" for the Southeast and regular contributor to radio, TV and newspapers across the region, who will be speaking about "The Georgia Gardener."

We spoke with Crawford by phone earlier this week to talk about her experience with container gardens and the thousands of plants she's tested for her eight books, which tell in plain terms what grows and what doesn't in containers.

Question: With so much material that you have on container gardening, how are you going to cover it all in one session?

Answer: It covers a lot. We're going to be going at lightning speed, but those people, when they're done, are going to know a lot of information and they're going to know where to go for references, too. The point is to teach people how to do things. ... That's why I write books, is to teach people how to do things.

Q: Is there a specific part of container gardening you're going to focus on?

A: I'm talking about easy gardening, and I have three books out on easy gardening and the facets of it. ... Take "Easy Container Gardens," which is a lot of basics about container gardens. ... And yes, I'm talking about things that are easy, but I also try so many different products. For the book that I just finished, we planted 1,700 vegetables in my yard.

Q: So, a lot of your experience centers around trying out plants and writing about how they do?

A: I plant a container and watch it all season. I also write about the ones that don't do well, and it's also design. I'm showing you a way to put things together that look good. I'm using things that they're going to be able to go in (to a garden store) and buy. You can take the books to the garden center and look up the plants.

Q: Were you ever surprised by a plant that died in a container?

A: The first 10 years of plant trials I tried 2,500 plants and 2,300 died. I look for the ones the worst person out there couldn't kill.

Q: Do you see container gardens becoming more popular?

A: The really big issue in Georgia is houses, an awful lot of them have the woods in the back and the yard in the front. And homeowners' associations are saying you can't plant vegetables in the front. At my house, they took thousands of photos and (from the street) you're not able to tell the plants are there.