Botanical Bounty

A lot has changed at the USF Botanical Gardens this year, but there are still events that remain the same.

The nonprofit facility is hosting its 21st annual Spring Plant Festival on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 a.m., which serves as a big fundraiser for the self-supported facility, said Laurie Walker, director of the Botanical Gardens.

The festival will have many displays and features, including the unveiling of the carnivorous plant areas at the Gardens. Attendees can purchase various carnivorous plants – like the Venus Flytrap – and can attend a Carnivorous Plant Care seminar Saturday at noon.

“The plant festival is really a unique opportunity to bring plants and plant experts to the growing public,” Walker said. “We bring in local plant clubs and societies (and) wholesale growers from around the state. We’ll have close to 70 vendors here who will offer plants that won’t be readily found elsewhere.”

Members of the Bonsai Society, another nonprofit organization, will also offer a basic bonsai care seminar at 11 a.m. to complement their festival display of the Asia-originated tree.

“We have a really wonderful partnership with the Hukyu Bonsai Society. They have a permanent exhibit here on the grounds,” Walker said. “They also have workshops available. They will have a big show set up for this event, which is new.”

Cold weather earlier in the year had an adverse effect on the Gardens, leaving dead leaves and wilted flowers. The Gardens used its living plants to try and revive the facility. The festival is being marketed as the perfect opportunity for visitors to buy plants and refresh their gardens.

“We lost some things here on the grounds – (winter) was kind of rough on us,” Walker said. “But our plants that are for sale we had protected in our greenhouses, so those are ready for people to purchase.

“A lot of the small growers have been hurt, too. So some of the things that we usually have won’t be available (until) a little later in the year.”

Kevin Slaughter, senior groundskeeper at the Botanical Gardens, is in charge of maintaining the massive collection of plants. He said the weather damage wasn’t as bad as feared.

“We didn’t lose a lot, most of it is starting to come back now,” he said. “A few of our more sensitive plants – the more tropical plants – we did lose. But, (it was) not quite as much as I was thinking we would.”

Slaughter said that with all the freezes, people’s personal yards and gardens probably suffered as well.

“This festival is going to be a really good time to come and get some new stuff to spruce up your area,” he said. “If you are looking to start your garden again, this is definitely the event to come to.”

Slaughter said the event helps the garden make a good impression on visitors.

“Hopefully, it will make them want to come back and see the garden without all the vendors,” he said. “We have a very nice bromeliads collection, succulent cactus area that is growing all the time and the butterfly garden, which is a big draw.”

There is a $5 admission for the general public to the festival, but it is free for members and children under 12.