Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

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Ginny Stibolt with a pile of mulch.  Typical!

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First published on September 16, 2010.

Ginny at The St. Augustine Garden Fest.  Photo by StiboltPhoto Album from Florida's 2009/2010 Garden Fests 
By Ginny Stibolt (Listen to a podcast GardenFests.)

As part of my self-designed and self-funded book tour of Florida this year, I attended 11 garden fests.  These events afforded a great opportunity to sell my book, because the attendees were gardeners.  This album is an adjunct to my guest rant over on

This is a pictorial trek of these fests in chronological order.  The ones where I was a vendor with my table and green umbrella, I did not take as many photos as the ones where I was just a speaker.  But with a few exceptions I did take at least some photos of each event.

Here I am at the St. Augustine Garden Fest, which was held at the Agriculture Extension Service property.  Quite a picturesque location, don't you think??  >>

1)  Ethnobotanical Day at Heathcote Botanical Gardens on October 17, 2009. in Ft. Pierce was a collaboration between the local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Gardens and was the first such event.  There were 20 or so vendors and 19 speakers, but the weather was not that cooperative and when it started raining harder in the afternoon, the event was cancelled.  Almost 200 people paid the standard admission for the gardens.

There were a number of good educational booths including the local state park and a bird demo by the local wildlife center.


I met up with Terri Pietroburgo, the pawpaw lady, at most of the festivals around the state.  She brings her pawpaws in wagons specially outfitted for the tall narrow pots she uses.  There are various green businesses that exist on festival selling alone in Florida. 

2) The Sustainable Fall Harvest and Scarecrow Festival at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables was started in 2008, but it has become quite popular with the locals--already.  This year it was held on October 24 & 25, 2009.

<< I spoke on both days of the festival and the bookstore sold my books.  The second day my topic was rain gardens--my most often presented topic as part of my sustainability presentation.

The vendors were oriented around the harvest and a large percentage of  the plants to buy were the edible varieties.  The tastings of tropical fruits and the sale of produce almost made this event feel like a farmers market in a way.   The attendees paid the normal garden entrance fee and over two days--there were nearly 6,000.

They also had a book-ended event in April on the other side of the winter growing season on the same weekend at the St. Petersburg Green Thumb Festival.


A wide variety of plant and food vendors created a "party" atmosphere.

The "Ask the Expert" booth was a free-form Q & A. 

The demo tent (shown to the right and below) was the site of numerous hands-on activities.  People crowded around for each one.  Since this was a harvest festival, most of the topics covered in the tent were related to growing edibles.



 And then there were the scarecrows.  A fundraising effort to purchase more fish for the ponds to attract more birds.


To the far left is Dr. Fairchild himself with his coconut head.  Below is my favorite, an entry from the parks department, a Spanish moss covered gnome with birdfeeders hanging from the arms.  As I said, fun and my favorite won the competition.

3) The Jacksonville Arboretum is just getting started, but they attracted a pretty good sized crowd for their first anniversary celebration on November 14, 2010.  This is a free event and I'd estimate the crowd at 600+.  


Above: guided walks were popular with all ages.

 <<The kids activities tents were always hopping...

This gopher tortoise made a appearance right behind my booth.   These endangered animals dig deep tunnels and unfortunately sometimes get buried alive when developers don't have them removed before starting their grading.  The Arboretum is one of the approved relocation areas.

There were plenty of native plants from which to choose.

The arboretum may be new, but they have lots of signs and good walking trails.


4) The Vero Beach Gardenfest took place in a city park on February 6 & 7th was an excellent event, but somehow I didn't take any photos.  There are plenty of photos on their website.  I was working in the Vero Beach Magazine booth--I've been their garden writer for several years.  The magazine is one of the major sponsors of the event.  I was also one of the speakers in the "Ask the experts" tent.  This set up was a presentation type of schedule where the expert gave a short talk and then the attendees asked questions. This was the ninth year and is an event that includes lots of groups that help organize various aspects.  They had 78 vendors and estimated the attendance at over 20,000.

5) The first annual Amelia Island Gardenfest took place in a city park and modeled itself after the Vero Beach event--there's no overlap in markets since it's a 5-hour drive between the cities.  They had an invitation-only arrangement for their vendors and had approximately 50.  I worked with Reflections of Nature, a local native plant nursery. The entrance fee was $2 and the crowds were probably more than 3,000. 

6) The 16th Annual Marion County Master Gardener Spring Festival held on March 13 & 14, 2010 was a partnership between the master gardeners and the agricultural extension service.  It was held at the fairgrounds where 99 commercial vendors bought booth space and another 12 or so informational booths were manned in a separate tent.  They charged $1 for adults and they counted 9,046 paid attendees.  I worked in the Nature Nook Books booth and I'm surprised I did not take photos, but we were pretty busy.

7) 4th Annual Wildflower and Garden Festival in DeLand March 27, 2010 is mainly organized by the downtown merchants and is held on several blocks of the city's main street.  Florida's Wildflower Foundation and the local agricultural extension service were co-organizers. 

The Wildflower Foundation is supported in part by sales of special Florida license plates.  They also sell native wildflower seeds and and other products with the help of a lot of volunteers.  >>


<< One of the beautiful posters provided by the Florida Wildflower Association. 

The butterfly release in the afternoon added to the festivities. 

Don't you just love that gardeners are not shy about showing their affection for plants?  I met Walter Kingsley Taylor, author of A Guide to Florida's Grasses--I bought his book.  The local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society manned a booth.


Speakers made their presentations in the historic Athens Theater at the end of the street. >>

<< Vendors arranged themselves along the generous brick sidewalks and sold plants of all sizes, garden art, and other related stuff.  The downtown merchants supplied the food.

8)  The 10th annual Spring Fever in the Garden in Winter Garden April 10 & 11, 2010.  This was a great garden fest, which took over ten blocks in downtown Winter Garden.  Again I don't know why I did not take more photos, but I was pretty busy in my booth and during my stint in the "Ask the Expert" booth.  

Spring Fever is cosponsored by the Bloom 'n Grow Society and the City of Winter Garden.  It was inspired by the Mt. Dora Garden Fest, which is one I did not attend.  The 200+ vendors, plein-air artists recorded the festival the way they saw it, chalking it up art contest in front of City Hall, and The KidZone attracted more than 20,000 attendees.  

These ladies dressed up as seed packets were giving away seeds to promote more flower growing and gardening in general.  >>

9) The 15th annual EPIC St. Augustine Flower & Garden Expo April 17 & 18, 2010.

This takes place on the county agriculture grounds and building.  EPIC Community Services sponsors this and few other events in St. Augustine as fundraising activities.  The flower show and speakers were inside the building; the vendors and food were outside located along a path and lakeshore.  Co-sponsors include the local garden clubs that organize the traditional flower show, the St. Augustine Piece-Makers, who put on a wonderful quilt show in another building, and the county's master gardeners, who provide the majority of the food and they sell plants as well.  There is also a good-sized community garden on this property and the master gardeners provided tours.


The entry fee was $5 for both days and included a shuttle service to a large parking lot nearby.  From native water plants to African violets and planters, the twenty or so vendors provided a pretty nice selection.  Over the weekend more than 2,000 people attended. 

<< I bought this white scarlet hibiscus there and here it is blooming by my own pond a month or two later.  One of the reasons for buying this plant to adorn my table is that lots of folks stopped to ask if it was legal.  The leaves look suspiciously like some other plant.  I had my copy of Gil Nelson's "Best Native Plants for Florida" book-marked to show them what the flower would look like.  It's always good to have a conversation starter.

The walk through the gardens was populated by a string of vendors and the quilt show was at the building at the end of the walkway.  Most of these photos were taken early in the morning before the crowds arrived.  A very nice local show...


10) The 24th Annual St. Petersburg Green Thumb Festival April 24 & 25, 2010.  Coordinated by the city's parks department with several partner organizations, including the regional garden clubs, the county extension service, the newspaper, chamber of commerce, the model railroad society, and more.  

It took place in a large city park where there were 144 vendors, a flower show in the community building, a speakers' tent, and services such as free butterfly plants, inexpensive native trees, free mulch, garden tool sharpening, plant diagnostics, and more.  More than 20,00 people attended over the two days.


People have been coming to this fair for a long time and were prepared with their own garden wagons.  Not only could you purchase milkweed plants to attract monarch butterflies, you could bring home a monarch caterpillar!

Most of the vendors took great care to make their displays of plants and garden art as attractive as possible.  Wouldn't you buy some of those sunflowers? >>

Of all the garden fests that I attended, this was one of the most impressive on many fronts.  After 24 years, they have built up a local following and people spend all day at the various talks and activities.  Fun and I sold a pile of books.

And for those interested in replacing all lawns, here is a good example where a massive "mixed-turf" lawn is put to good use--onsite parking for the hordes of St. Pete.


11) Party for the Planet!! at Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford on May 15, 2010.  This was the first such celebration--it attracted 1800 attendees and almost 50 vendors.  This was not a garden fest per se, but I've included it because there were some good ideas.  Some of the vendors were outside the zoo gates, so there was no admission to see them.  Many of the entertainment and activities were inside the zoo grounds, so people had to pay the regular zoo admission price to attend.  Nike provided a $5 deduction in admission to all who brought in old sneakers to recycle--662 pairs were collected.

There were many activities for people including zip lines in the trees, teenage American Idol-type singing contestants, sign-ups for an adventure camp, 
and oh yes, you could learn about native plants, state parks, greener living, and saving water.  In short--a party for the planet!

Thanks to everyone who organized these events. I was honored to be a speaker at many of them, 
plus I enjoyed myself, learned useful information and sold a lot of books! 

~ ~ ~

Ginny Stibolt would like to hear from readers who have suggestions and questions. After all, there are more than a few transplanted gardeners Florida trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in planting zone 8/9. She's wrote, "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," published by University Press of Florida that was released in 2009. Now she's written "Organic Methods for Growing Vegetables in Florida" with Melissa Contreras who gardens in Miami. The new book was released in Feb 2013. You may contact her or read extra details on her articles and other information posted on her website:

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