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Friends of Plant Park organize 17th annual GreenFest

South Tampa News
Published: March 18, 2014
Novice and expert gardeners can get advice at GreenFest, which will take place March 29 and 30 at Plant Park at the University of Tampa. LAURA CONE/STAFF

If a person has a thumb colored anything other than green, they can get advice from master gardeners and horticultural experts during the Friends of Plant Park’s 2014 GreenFest.

The Friends of Plant Park’s signature event – featuring 80 vendors as well as master gardener talks – takes place March 29 and 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Tampa’s Henry B. Plant Park, at the corner of the Hillsborough River and Kennedy Boulevard.

Participants will be able to shop for Florida-grown orchids, bromeliads, amaryllis, caladiums and daylilies as well as chicken coops, organic honey and hats made from natural fibers. Food vendors will sell coffee, muffins, hot dogs, burgers, lemonade, iced tea and homemade ice cream.

Heather Diaz of Riverview, a master gardener, will talk about how to attract hummingbirds as part of a comprehensive lineup of master gardeners from the Hillsborough County and University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

“Spring has sprung and whether you are a passionate gardener or not, GreenFest gives people a chance to get out and dream about improving their garden,” Diaz said.

She said people may visit the master gardener’s answer tent as well as the speaker’s tent.

Diaz said people may bring in plants they wish to have identified or find solutions to curing diseased plants.

The lineup of educational programs on March 29 includes: Jim Hawk, “Dooryard Fruit,” at 10 a.m.; Lynn Barber, “Vermicomposting,” at 11 a.m.; Harriett Gord-Noghani, “A Cat Lover’s Garden,” at noon; Maryhelen Zopfi, “Terrariums,” at 1 p.m.; Nicole Pinson, “Butterfly Gardening,” at 2 p.m.; and Heather Diaz, “Get Those Hummers,” at 3 p.m.

On March 30, the speakers will include Cynthia Glover, “Caladiums,” at noon; Virginia Overstreet, “Beneficial Insects in the Landscape,” at 1 p.m.; Pat O’Shea, “Hassle-free House Plants,” at 2 p.m.; and Lynn Barber, “Rain Barrels,” at 3 p.m.

Diaz said she will discuss the migratory patterns of the ruby-throated hummingbird, which is the most common one in the Tampa area.

“Hummingbirds are most attracted to red and the top native plant is the scarlet salvia,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It’s one of their favorites that will get them zooming into your hard.”

Al Van Voris of South Tampa, the president of Friends of Plant Park, said this is the 17th year for the GreenFest, which focuses on gardening and environmental conservation efforts.

“A highlight for future gardeners attending GreenFest is the Children’s Activity Tent made possible by the Davis Islands Garden Club and staffed by knowledgeable volunteers,” Van Voris said. “Here children will learn fun facts, including planting a flower in a pot they can take home.”

She said Friends of Plant Park is a not-for-profit volunteer organization formed in 1993. It’s a group of about 200 volunteers committed to the restoration and preservation of Tampa’s oldest park.

Every year in March the group hosts GreenFest, a two-day garden festival in the park highlighting speakers who provide educational informations as well as vendors, who sell plant and garden accessories.

“Proceeds from the event fund the implementation of a comprehensive master plan adopted in 2003,” Van Voris said. “Completed phases of the master plan include: the restoration of two Civil War cannons; the installation of the 1891 flagpole, which flies the American flag with 45 stars, the number of states in the union at the time; and a Victorian Star Bed replicating a similar bed planted in the early years of the park.”

Lynn Barber, a Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent with the UF/Hillsborough extension service, said she is looking forward to participating in the event.

“GreenFest is a wonderful event for people to learn about becoming more green,” she said. “I’ve been attending and participating in educational functions at this fest for more than 10 years and look forward to it every year. Great vendors, plants and friends. Get outside; then get your hands dirty.”

Barber will discuss how to collect rainwater using rain barrels.

She said GreenFest attendees will receive one certificate per household to pick up a rain barrel at the extension service office.

“Rain barrels and cisterns are devices that collect rainwater used mainly for landscape irrigation,” she said. “These devices reduce stormwater runoff and erosion because they catch and contain it. Rain barrels and cisterns decrease the amount of potable water used for landscape irrigation because you use the water you capture to irrigate your plants, wash your car and clean your gardening tools. If you add fertilizer to your rain barrel, you can feed and water your plants at the same time.”

Barber said rainwater harvesting is important because one inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof yields 623 gallons of water.

“We receive 50 to 52 inches of rain per year,” Barber said. “Each of us could harvest more than 31,000 gallons. That’s why we teach participants how to make their own rain barrel because one is definitely not enough.”

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