TAMPA — Summer has officially arrived, and the staff and volunteers at the USF Botanical Gardens can’t wait to usher in the season with their annual Summer Plant Festival.
The event on the 16-acre site on the campus of the University of South Florida at 12210 USF Pine Drive, will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
A host of vendors plan to be on hand to show and sell myriad popular and rare kinds of plants. They will also offer suggestions on how to properly care for them.
Fruits trees, blooming butterfly plants, native plants and tropical and exotic plants such as orchids, gingers, Plumeria and bromeliads are sure to paint an awesome picture in the eyes of nature lovers and gardeners.
At 11 a.m. on Saturday Troy Springer, of Dover, owner of Springer Environmental Services — a landscape design business — will give a seminar about native plants.
“I’ll be talking about why native plants are far better than other plants in that they require less chemicals and water than other plants,” said Springer, a member of the Suncoast Native Plant Society.
“They also are far better for attracting wildlife and the biggest thing is that they preserve the character of our community,” he added.
A butterfly plant talk and tour will take place at noon, as will sessions about beekeeping basics and reptile basics.
At 1 p.m. Donna Gretton of D & D Growers in Lithia will speak about Florida’s best herbs and how to grown them.
She will be followed at 1:30 p.m. by her husband, Dennis Gretton, co-owner of the nursery, who will show guests how to bake cookies using oils infused with herbs. His specialties include cinnamon, basil and pistachio nut cookies; rosemary-cranberry cookies; lemon-thyme cookies; and mint chocolate chip, one he likens to a Girl Scout cookie of the same name.
“We’ll have three or four kinds of cookies at the event for people to taste,” said Dennis, who travels throughout the state speaking about the use of herbs in cooking.
Sunday’s agenda includes an 11 a.m. workshop by Mark Govan, a Plumeria expert and host of “Florida Gardening” on News Radio 970 WFLA — AM. In addition, there will be a beekeeping talk and tour at noon.
Also on Sunday will be what organizers have dubbed a “tasteful” Pepper Beauty Contest. Attendees who bring a decorated pepper to enter in the competition will be admitted free. The first-and second-place winners will receive a one-year free USF Botanical Gardens membership.
General admission to the festival is $5. Garden members and children under 12 — for whom there will be an activity area — are welcome free of charge.
Parking is also free.
Visit www.gardens.usf .edu or call (813) 974-2329 for more information.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]