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Fall flower and garden show offers fun, education for all (2014)
More than 30 years ago, an idea was sown that the gardening public in Mississippi needed a fall field day. What started then as a small demonstration garden has blossomed into the annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest at Mississippi State University’s Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station.
This year’s event will be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18. In my opinion, it is one of the best free horticultural field days in the entire Southeast. More than 5,000 people attend the two-day event each year. There is always a lot to see and learn, whether you are a garden novice or Master Gardener.
The Fall Flower and Garden Fest is sponsored by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. This year, the festival is in its 36th year of celebrating everything garden.
There is fun for the entire family starting with the Let’s Go Walking Mississippi 1-mile fun run that kicks off the weekend on Oct. 17.
Areas like the gorgeous banana plots are crowd favorites and always draw a lot of interest with the variety of plant sizes and foliage colors available. One of my favorite bananas is the Siam Ruby, with its rich burgundy stems and the irregularly variegated foliage that seems to shimmer.
There are always plenty of new flowers and colorful foliage to see. Some of the best are the coleus, which can grow in full sun, and the ornamental sweet potato, which creates vibrant carpets of color. Mississippi Medallion winners and plants from the All-America Selections program will also be featured. One of the highlights every year is the 3-acre garden site that has all the varieties of fall vegetables and herbs.
The festival always offers numerous educational activities as well. Nonstop seminars and exhibits will run simultaneously in multiple venues. Many of the seminars will address the increased interest in home vegetable gardening. Topics include cooking with herbs, floral design ideas, how to harvest more vegetables and fun garden projects to do at home with the family. Other seminars will explore ways to make gardens more accessible.
Walking tours are among the best ways to learn at the festival. Visitors can investigate the research projects at the experiment station; find great ideas for making gardening more accessible for those with bad backs, knees and other limitations; identify flowers, bugs and diseases; learn about fall vegetables and herbs; and see how to grow the best lawns.
MSU experts will be there to answer tough garden- and landscape-related questions. Look for the people in the blue vests. Don’t be shy; come on up and introduce yourself.
More than 60 vendors will be set up across the lake with garden art, tools to make your gardening chores easier, and beautiful fall bedding plants and vegetable transplants. While you can bring a picnic lunch, there will be lots of food vendors to make it easy to spend all day at the festival.
To help you plan your visit and keep on schedule, download the smart phone app at http://guidebook.com/g/ffgfest to find the complete schedule of events.
Hours are 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. both days. Parking and admission are free. All of the gardens and grounds, seminar areas and a tour wagon are handicapped accessible.
The Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station is located in Crystal Springs about 25 miles south of Jackson on Highway 51. Call 601-892-3731 or contact your local MSU Extension office for more information.