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In full bloom: Vendors tout drought-resistant plants at expo
Enthusiasts turn out to seek advice for garden improvement
Grace Webster of Suwanee identifies a native azalea plant Friday afternoon at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center during the 2008 Spring Garden Expo. This year, several workshops were presented to educate shoppers on drought-related solutions to gardening.

A breezy Friday didn’t deter gardening enthusiasts — or those looking for tips to become one — from the Sixth Annual Spring Garden Expo.

The event, sponsored by the Hall County Master Gardeners and the Hall County Extension Service, continues from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Chicopee Woods Agriculture Center. Admission is free and free mulch also is available.

Lori Carson, a new Master Gardener who organized the event, said it had been pulled off without too many problems, except for a few vendor signs being blown over. "The vendors were great to work with and we have great volunteers," she said.

Still, she admitted she breathed a sigh of relief when the vendors began unloading and setting up Thursday night.

Carson said though she had feared the water restrictions and current drought might scare off vendors and shoppers, that didn’t seem to be the case. She said many are stressing the conservation of water in general and use of native plants because "they grow in the woods by themselves and don’t need any watering."

Indeed, many vendors tout drought-tolerant plants or water-saving products.

Ron Brechter with the North Georgia Daylily Society, said the Hemerocallis — the scientific name for the day lily family — is a very hardy plant.

"This is considered the most drought-tolerant plant there is," he said. The society’s booth offers many varieties of day lilies, most on sale for $5 each.

Greg Bruner with Carolina Wild of Anderson, S.C., specializes in native perennials, which he said grow with less need for tending and watering.

"It’s the ultimate stuff for birds and butterflies," he said.

His family run operation features legally collected local South Carolina species, but he said "anything that’ll grow in Anderson will grow here."

Carson said there seemed to be a little larger crowd on Friday morning compared to past events. There were fewer vendors than last year, she said, but there still are about 50 from across Georgia and even South Carolina.

CeCe Hennig of Alto and friend Peggy Saum of Toccoa had quite a drive themselves to visit the expo. Though both were first-time shoppers, they smiled and nodded when asked if they planned to return.

"It’s great!" Hennig said, who was shopping for plants to landscape around some new fences that had been installed on her property.

Saum was armed with a stack of photos of plants she wanted identified so she could purchase more of them.

"I wanted to see the Master Gardeners and get some new things," she said.

In fact, the Master Gardeners have a booth set up both days to answer questions. In addition, there are workshops scheduled every 30 minutes today from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on drought and water-related topics.

The expo is the biggest fundraiser for Hall County Master Gardeners, through the booth rentals charged to vendors. The proceeds are used to help fund the community projects done by the Master Gardeners.

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