The Georgia Master Gardeners Association State Conference will be April 20 and 21 at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center, 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton.
All proceeds will go to the Georgia Master Gardeners Association, a nonprofit group of volunteers that works cooperatively with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension and awards a minimum of $15,000 annually to educational and community gardening projects throughout the state.
Local club members met Thursday to plan the two-day event, which is themed “Gardener’s Circle of Life” and will feature seminars, workshops, vendors and tours.
Gerald Phillips, conference chairman, said a contest among members helped decide the event’s theme.
“Gardeners are always focused on the circle of life for their plants,” Phillips said.
Dot Martin, Georgia Master Gardeners Association membership chairwoman, said about 130 people have already signed up and more than 32 vendors will be selling gardening-related items, some of which are very new to the market.
“All of the new plants and flowers will be a sneak peek of what’s coming out for spring,” Martin said.
District Director Russell Brannon said some of the main highlights of the event will be tours of the Funk Heritage Center and the Burgess Arboretum on the Reinhardt University campus in Waleska and Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, both on Friday.
Saturday will feature five speakers: Ila Hatter, an acclaimed naturalist, who will discuss the cultural heritage of native plants to Georgia; Robert “Buddy” Lee, inventor of the Encore azalea, will share information about the newest releases from Southern Living Plant Collection; Rita Mercer, a “shade gardening” consultant, will talk about her new gardening design discoveries; Rebeeca Bull Reed, associate gardens editor for Southern Living, will discuss the motivations of gardeners; and Dr. Rick Schoelhorn, director of new products for Proven Winners, will explain how new plants get to market.
Martin said the local chapter was asked to host the annual event by a former president of the association for the past year, it’s been a “labor of love.”
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase our county,” she said.
Phillips said the event is open to everyone interested gardening, as several area sponsors have provided items for various door prizes and a silent auction.
Admission for GMGA members is $65 and tickets for nonmembers are $75. All of the workshops Friday are free with the price of admission. The tour of the Funk Heritage Center and Burgess arboretum are $5.50 and the tour or Gibbs Gardens is $19. Friday events do not include a lunch, but a boxed lunch is included on Saturday.
Also, anyone looking to work his or her green thumb early can visit the Master Gardeners on Saturday at Buck Jones and Ladyslipper nurseries, both in Woodstock. The group will have plant clinics from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the locations to celebrate Georgia Master Gardeners Day.
Sue Allen, a GMGA club member, said the clinics are free and open to the public and will cover any and all questions relating to planting and gardening.
For more information on the Georgia Master Gardeners Association State Conference, visit www.georgiamgaconference.com.