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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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USF Botanical Gardens plant festival thrives

TAMPA - Donna Gretton smiled as customers lined up to pay for the reaping of what she and her husband, Dennis, have sowed: a verdant mixture of plants best suited for the pantry or medicine cabinet. On 2.5 acres in Lithia, the Grettons run D&D Growers, which produces thousands and thousands of culinary goodies, such as basil and rosemary and fennel, as well as herbs with medicinal powers, like yarrow, which acts like a bandage, and horehound, which is good for getting rid of coughs. D&D Growers was among dozens of venders who set up shop Saturday at the 24th Annual University of South Florida Spring Plant Festival. The festival was expected to draw some 5,000 visitors, said event coordinator Kim Hutton.
By 10:30 a.m., the parking lot near the Botanical Gardens was full, the occasional spot opening up after someone pulling a cart full of plants loaded up their vehicle and left. It was good business for D&D, Gretton said: “We will sell 1,000 to 2,000 plants.” While most people came to stock their spice racks, Gretton said others came looking for plants that would sooth their ills. “One woman came looking for feverfew,” said Gretton. “The woman gets migraines and she said the feverfew works for migraines.” A few stalls away, at the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International, Ken and Maria Williams marveled at loquats, displayed among an array of pummelos, Ponderosa lemons, miracle fruit and strawberry onions. “Holy mother,” said Maria Williams, holding up a bunch of the orange, tear-shaped loquats. “We have some in our backyard, but they never get this big. The squirrels get to them first.”

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