Spring is here, and many folks are working on their backyard gardens and front yard landscapes. This weekend is the perfect chance to enhance and expand those projects with a visit to downtown Winter Garden when the Bloom & Grow Garden Society hosts its 20th Spring Fever in the Garden festival.
After a two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19, the much-anticipated annual spring festival is back, and the garden club is ready to celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary with nearly 180 garden- and plant-related booths.
Joyce Carcara, Bloom & Grow publicity chair, said the event has a new footprint this year and will extend even farther along Plant Street.
“We had to adjust because of the outdoor dining areas in that two-block area that was really solid with booths (in years past),” she said. “We were able to move it down toward Park Avenue. In that respect, we hope that alleviates some of the crowding further down.”
The space isn’t the only change this year.
“We’re going to have more plant booths this year, and we have a wide variety,” Carcara said. “We have orchids and bromeliads, plumerias, air plants, fruit and citrus trees, desert roses … a nice mix, palms, house plants — and everything garden related.”
To commemorate the festival, Bloom & Grow is selling several items at its booth, including hats; garden gloves; a sterling silver pendant featuring Flora, the butterfly sculpture placed last year near the interactive splash pad; and prints of the Tucker Ranch Oak. Two Spring Fever T-shirt designs, created by Andy Crabtree, are available — a 2022 print and a 20-year anniversary version.
The popular Chalkin’ it Up sidewalk chalk art contest takes place in front of Winter Garden City Hall. More than 50 artists will have a 6-by-6-foot square in which to create something nature or garden related. Prizes are being given in numerous categories, including a $400 People’s Choice award.
Free entertainment will be located near the chalk contest at City Hall. A tent and chairs will be provided for guests to enjoy local musicians and singers.
The Kid Zone will feature performers and about 20 booths with activities geared toward children with fun ways to learn about nature and the environment. This year, it will be located in the grassy area near Park Avenue.
Butafrog Inc. returns with its butterfly habitat, and guests are invited inside the net to enjoy an experience with dozens of butterflies.
The Avian Reconditioning Center will bring its educational display with live owls and other birds of prey and will present important information about Florida’s native and migratory raptors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.
A free shuttle will run from the parking lot at the corner of Plant and Ninth streets. There will be no plant pick-up area this year.
Carcara said club members are excited for the festival’s return.
“Everyone’s elated,” she said. “We had a lunch last month and we talked strictly Spring Fever. Everyone was hopeful and happy and relieved that finally it’s back.”
All performances take place in front of Winter Garden City Hall, 300 W. Plant St.
SATURDAY, APRIL 2
• 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. – The Sandy Back Porch Band. The band performs traditional bluegrass the way it’s supposed to be played. Prepare to chuckle at their humorous gardening tunes.
• Noon to 12:45 p.m. – The Citrus Singers Girl Scout Choir. Scouts from different troops and different counties come together to perform pop parodies, patriotic favorites and holiday classics.
• 1 to 4 p.m. – Astronomics. 1950s/60s band led by Les Soltesz performs classic rock’n’roll from Elvis to the Beatles and more.
SUNDAY, APRIL 3
• 11 to 11:45 a.m. – 3mpowered. This female vocal trio sings covers of mainly pop songs.
• Noon to 12:45 a.m. – Riley Resa. The singer/songwriter wrote her first song at 15 years old, and she writes and records her own music.
• 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Orlando Gentlemen of Jazz & Dixieland. They perform jazz, patriotic, spiritual and classic American pop songs everyone knows. These musicians have played for decades at Walt Disney World, on paddle-wheeled cruise ships on the Mississippi, in clubs in New Orleans, and as members of Rosy O’Grady’s Good Time Jazz Band at Church Street Station in Orlando.
ASK THE EXPERT
Have a question regarding plants, bugs, gardens or trees? These experts are there to provide the answers.
• 9 to 11 a.m. – Right Flower, Right Season. Planting annuals and perennials. Cindy Christmas is a creative designer who loves to use color in the garden. Melissa Shepherd is a bedding plant expert at Disney.
• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Landscaping with Natives. Don Kendzior, of Noah’s Notes and Mark Russell, leader of Sustainability Initiatives at Cherrylake and former director of horticulture at SeaWorld.
• 1 to 3 p.m. - Growing Food in Your Garden. Robert Bowden is executive director at Leu Gardens and author of “Florida Fruit and Vegetable Gardening.” Tom McCubbin is author of “Vegetables you can Grow,” an Orlando Sentinel columnist, radio and TV garden commentator, passionate vegetable gardener, and expert in everything gardening.
• 3 to 5 p.m. – Stump the Experts – Ask Anything Garden Related. Florida Nursey, Grower & Landscape Association members who are professional horticulturists and growers from Central Florida. You get a free plant for stumping them!
• 10 to 11 a.m. – Trees for Winter Garden, What to Plant & How to Take Care. Katy Moss Warner, former director of Disney’s horticulture, co-leader of the Winter Garden Heritage Tree Project and Bloom & Grow member. Wes Parrish, tree consultant for Winter Garden Heritage Tree Project, passionate about Florida landscape and loves trees and palms.
• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Planting a Pollinator Garden for Birds, Butterflies & Bees. Dr. Becki deNeui-Lynch, Bloom & Grow member, provides knowledge and experience on growing and maintaining a healthy habitat for pollinators in the backyard or landscape. Topics include nectar plants, host plants, habitat requirements and fun pollinator facts. Erin Matherne is a Bloom & Grow member who has lived in Florida for 15 years. Passionate about increasing the monarch butterfly population, she raised and released hundreds of Monarchs over the last few years. Now she’s learning gardening techniques that can attract other pollinators.
• 1 to 3 p.m. – Caring for your House Plants. Van Donnan, professional plant geek and avid collector of house plants, especially philodendron, elephant ears and anthurium. Kathrein Markle, president of Wekiwa Gardens, specialist in new and unusual houseplants.
• 3 to 4 p.m. – Best Landscaping Practices. Billy Butterfield, owner of Ameriscapes Landscape Management, lifelong dirt gardener who knows all about irrigation, pest management, lawn care, plant care and proper pruning. John Madison, owner of John Madison Landscapes, enthusiastic landscape professional, great designer, installer and maintainer of Florida landscapes.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.