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Youth gardening conference set for Sept. 9-10 at Gardens on Green in Gainesville
Purpose is to plant seeds on knowledge about outdoor hobby in children
Kathy Lovett along with her husband, Lee, is organizing the Nurturing the Natural/Growing Gardeners conference Sept. 9-10 at Gardens on Green in Gainesville.

Nurturing the Natural/Growing Gardeners

What: Gardening conference for anyone who influences children, including parents, grandparents and teachers

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 10

Where: First Baptist Church banquet hall, 751 Green St., Gainesville; and Gardens on Green, 711 Green St., Gainesville

Cost: $50 Friday, Saturday $25 and $75 both days; $25 late-registration fee after Sept. 2

More info: or

Master Gardener Kathy Lovett feels it’s “imperative to teach our children to love the natural world that we share.”

“Though we have, as a world, as a country, made such advances industrially, technologically, it’s the natural world that sustains us,” said Lovett, conference chairwoman and co-chair of Gardens on Green’s Steering Committee. “So we must love it, we must take care of it.”

And in two weeks, gardening enthusiasts can learn how to share their love and knowledge about the outdoor hobby and interesting children in it as well.

Nurturing the Natural/Growing Gardeners is a gardening conference for anyone who influences children, including parents, grandparents and teachers.

Sponsored by the Hall County Master Gardeners and Hall County Schools, the event will be Sept. 9-10. Its session will take place in two locations: the First Baptist Church banquet hall at 751 Green St. in Gainesville and Gardens on Green at 711 Green St. in Gainesville.

Tickets to the session from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday that include lunch sponsored by Chick-fil-A are $50. Saturday’s session from 8:30 a.m. to noon costs $25. The price for both days is $75. A $25 late registration fee will be applied after Sept. 2.

The event will feature three internationally renowned speakers and various breakout sessions over the day-and-a-half conference: Robin Moore, Jane L. Taylor and Betsy Williams.

Moore, the director of the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University, is the keynote speaker and will address conference-goers Sept. 9. His research is focused on “community-based, evidence-driven, built environmental design and the behavioral needs of children and families.”

Taylor is also scheduled to speak Friday. She is the founding curator of the 4-H Children’s Garden at Michigan State University, one of the first children’s gardens in the country. Taylor is also a former adjunct faculty member in the Department of Horticulture at MSU.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know her because she has such a passion for teaching children to love and know the common ground we share,” Lovett said.

Additionally, Lovett said, studies show the effects of children spending time outdoors improves classroom performance — especially children with special needs.

Taylor’s presentation topic will be on creating magical spaces. She will also do a breakout session called “Gardening by the Book — Plants Kids Love.”

Williams’ presentation will be called “Fairies in your Garden” and is set for Saturday morning.

“Betsy orchestrated the first fairy festival in the country,” Lovett said. “She owned a flower shop at the time and she decided one year that she wanted to do something really big to welcome spring so ... she decided to plan this fairy festival.”

Now Williams travels the country speaking about the benefits of fairy festivals.

According to Lovett, the folklore of fairies is used to interest children in learning about gardens and flowers.

Williams will also conduct two of the breakout sessions being offered at the conference: “Fairy Dust” and “Let’s Make Fairy Houses.”

The “Fairy Dust” session will teach attendees how to make fairy dust and educate them on various flowers. Participants will build fairy houses during “Let’s Make Fairy Houses.”

Lovett explained the Hall County Master Gardeners have been collecting natural materials such as moss, sticks, driftwood, pinecones and seed pods for almost a year for use in the session. The items will be in an enclosed area, and participants will then choose what to use for their fairy house, Lovett said.

About 20 different breakout sessions, ranging from walks in the woods to classes on foods, will be offered.

Lovett said the essence of what conference organizers are trying to do can be summed up by a Rachael Carson quote:

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

This is the first time the conference has been offered in Gainesville. Lovett decided to plan it after her cancer treatment prevented her and her husband, Lee, from attending the national conference sponsored by the American Horticulture Society last year.

“For six years, my husband Lee and I have attended a national conference sponsored by the American Horticulture Society. It’s a children and youth gardening symposium,” Lovett said. “Last year I had cancer and we could not attend.”

Unable to do very much physically, Lovett said she had lots of time to think.

“So I thought why can’t we have a smaller conference right here in Gainesville?” she said. “So I’ve put together plans and presented them to our presenting committee for Gardens on Green.”

The retired teacher, mother of three and grandmother of seven calls herself a “light” gardener. Growing up, Lovett said she had very limited experiences in gardening.

“I spent my first life growing children, our own and those in the classroom ...” she said. “After retirement, I began digging in the dirt and realized how much I liked it.”

Lovett then took Master Gardener training through the Hall County Extension office and “became obsessive.”

That was in 2004, and the Lovetts now have a children’s garden at their home they use to teach their grandchildren about gardening.

For more information about the conference, visit or contact Lovett at or Mindy Wade at