Gardeners, residents to celebrate Bloomin’ in the Bay

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 25, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 24, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.
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Emily Van Zandt

Doris Sexson of Fairfield Bay is one of several artists who will display their work at Saturday’s Bloomin’ in the Bay in Fairfield Bay. The event will combine the annual Van Buren County Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale with family-friendly nature-based activities, live music and vendors.

To picture the crowd at the annual Van Buren County Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale, think Macy’s the day after Thanksgiving.

Draped caution tape takes the place of doors as gardeners make final arrangements on their merchandise. Open time may be 8 a.m., but by 7:30 a.m., there is usually a line formed by shoppers ready take a peek at the thousands of plants the gardeners have raised and prepped to sell.

This year marks the 10th anniversary for the Master Gardeners’ sale, and the sale set to draw its biggest crowd yet, thanks to an all-new event called Bloomin’ in the Bay. The day-long event will kick off at 8 a.m. Saturday at Ed Leamon Park in Fairfield Bay and will include the plant sale, along with craft and food vendors, music, children’s activities, nature tours and area experts presenting gardening tips.

Organized by the Fairfield Bay Community Club, the event is open to the public and free to enter.

“We wanted to offer our residents something to come out and enjoy,” said Sheryl Paxton, recreation director for the community club. “We wanted it to be something everyone would be proud to invited their families to.”

Paxton also hopes the event will draw visitors from surrounding cities and counties who may not know much about the Fairfield Bay area.

“We’re a resort and retirement lake community, but it’s a very active small town,” Paxton said.

While in previous years the plant sale has taken place at the front of Ed Leamon Park, the plants will be set up Saturday toward the back near the park’s cabin, where gardening presentations will take place.

Eleanor Hilsenrath, president of the Van Buren County Master Gardeners, said the majority of plants for sale will be perennials, with a few bulbs and summer annuals in the mix.

“In Fairfield Bay, we all live more or less in the forest,” Hilsenrath said. “A lot of people are looking for deer-resistant plants and shade plants.”

With the majority of plants for sale for $1 to $10, Sharon Berdine said buyers will get a good deal.

“The plants are less expensive, better quality and a better variety than can be found in many markets,” said Berdine, a Master Gardener and co-chair of the plant sale. “This is also one of our only fundraisers, and the community appreciates what we do and are happy to support us.”

The gardens in Ed Leamon Park are among the 10 public garden projects tended to by the Master Gardeners in Van Buren County. The park has several small sections, including a winter garden, a rose garden, a butterfly garden and a herb garden, all taken care of by separate committees who travel to the park several times each month or week for maintenance.

During Bloomin’ in the Bay, the front half of the park will be dedicated to vendors. While last year’s plant sale included 32 vendors, organizers have 50 signed up for this weekend. In addition to breakfast and lunch, vendors will also be set up to sell honey, mushrooms, books, pottery, soaps, sculptures, bird houses and other locally made crafts.

Hilsenrath said this is the first year the plant sale will be part of an all-day event. Though the plant sale will end at 1 p.m., activities at the park will continue through 4 p.m., then progress to a concert and dinner at Indian Hills Country Club at 5 p.m.

In addition to good prices and the fundraising factor, the Master Gardeners said their plant sale also draws novice gardeners in search of answers to their gardening questions. Presentations in the afternoon will include talks on drip irrigation, garden photography and beekeeping.

Tilly resident Ruth Andre will give a presentation at 1 p.m. about butterfly gardening, a hobby she took on after retiring form teaching.

“Having butterflies in your garden is beautiful, and they also act as a biological indicator,” Andre said. “As the insects fare, so do we. They also provide energy and protein for other animals in the area.”

To attract butterflies to a garden, Andre said, the right combination of host plants, nectar plants and a water source are necessary. When Andre does presentations, she tries to bring a butterfly pupa and chrysalis to show. Though it’s too early for her to bring a chrysalis to Saturday’s event, she is sometimes able to bring a chrysalis just in time for an audience to watch the butterfly emerge.

“The kids go crazy, but we all get thrilled to see it,” Andre said. “It’s so miraculous.”

Andre plans to catch a few butterflies from her own garden to bring. The display, she said, is an instant kid magnet.

For kids less impressed with butterflies, there will also be face painting, chalk art, a scavenger hunt, a nature walk, a puppet show and flower planting. Children’s activities will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

With the addition of the Bloomin’ in the Bay activities, Hilsenrath expects this year’s plant sale to be one of the biggest. In the past, the fundraiser has netted the group around $2,000 or $3,000, which allows the Master Gardeners to keep going without collecting dues.

“It should be a new crowd and a bigger crowd this year,” Hilsenrath said. “We’re excited to get to partner with Fairfield Bay on this project.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or

Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at .

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