As all true gardeners know, especially southern gardeners, this is a really busy time of year. Seedlings are being planted indoors that require nurturing. Garden plans must be imagined and drawn up. Beds must be weeded and embellished with organic matter. Winter and early spring crops are coming on strong right now, and snow peas, collards, broccoli and root veggies need harvesting. There is a feeling of hope and promise and anticipation that spring is truly right around the corner.
But every now and then, the farmer-grower-gardener must take a break! After providing detailed instructions to my web guru and chief digger (don‘t starve the chickens, and water the seedlings, but not too much!) I left our little farm, packed up my city clothes, and headed for Atlanta. I had special plans for the weekend!
I love Atlanta. It is such a wonderful southern city, especially for a gardener. There are gorgeous gardens everywhere, and early spring is an exceptional time to visit. Pansies, camellias, redbuds, dogwoods, tulips and Bradford pears celebrate the arrival of spring with bursts of vibrant blooms that welcome visitors.
My primary reason for my weekend escape was to attend a special gardening retreat put on by Proven Winners, the number one plant brand in the country! This is a really special event that takes place in several cities around the country, and the Proven Winners team does a great job of putting on a first class event. The setting for the retreat was the absolutely gorgeous Atlanta History Center, in the heart of the elegant Buckhead area. Next time you go to Atlanta, take some time to stroll through the beautiful grounds and then walk across the street for a great lunch on the deck at the laidback and extremely cool Coast Seafood and Raw Bar.
The Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza was an all-day event with some outstanding speakers, including Rick Schoellhorn, PW’s Director of New Product Development, who gave a great introduction to Proven Winners’ newest offerings. I want his job when I grow up! He shared the incredible efforts that his company goes through to provide the absolute best in flowers for our gardens. It’s a worldwide effort, involving plant breeders, growers, testers, and trials. For example, out of 3,000 potential plants grown and tested in a year, only 18 will be selected to be Proven Winners. Isn’t that amazing? Those are some seriously elite plants! Rick also gave the southern gardening audience an honest education about what plants will really thrive in our harsh climate (hints: Coleus Alligator Tears, Agastache and Hyssop, Angelonia, Juncus Blue Mohawk grass, Heliotrope Simply Sensational, Daisy May Leucanthus, and Gold Dust Mecardonia). If you live in the south and find any of these varieties at your nursery, buy them and plant them! Just look for the PW tag.
Our next speaker was Ms. Rebecca Bull Reed, Associate Garden Editor for Southern Living magazine. I loved her presentation, because it focused on the hottest trend in gardening today….growing your own food and doing it with style! She’s a lady after my own heart. Rebecca did a wonderful job of showing us how to combine herbs and vegetables with flowers and other ornamentals in the garden and in containers. Exciting! Rebecca also gave us some great little Southern Living tips, like using chicken grit for garden paths, and my personal favorite tip, not planting a garden so big that it takes more than two cocktails to deal with. Southerners are so darned practical.
For those gardening with little children, you must connect with Ms. Carmen Johnston of Nectar and Company. Carmen is one of those people that makes you smile the minute you are in her presence. Her creative ideas on how to get kids involved with gardening were adorable. And we ALL wanted her chic red boots! Carmen, will you please invite me to your next garden party?
The next presenter was a sleuth. A Sherlock Holmes of gardening. Mr. Walter Reeves, the gardening guru of Atlanta, gave us a very entertaining and education presentation on how to identify different problems in the garden. Do your garden a favor, and check his site for tips on everthing from pruning crepe myrtles to what to plant when. Is there a fungus among us? Perhaps a drainage problem? Walter looks at gardening problems in a unique way and provides simple techniques to solve them.
I loved the Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza! In addition to an entertaining day of listening to passionate gardeners, I met some great gardening friends over a delightful catered lunch. And Proven Winners is generous. There were tons of giveaways to the audience, and everyone went home with lots of informative gardening handouts AND a beautiful Proven Winners plant AND a goodie bag full of treats from gardening greats like Corona, Gardener’s Supply, Milogranite, Proven Winners, and more! I cannot wait to play with my new toys. All in all, it’s an event that was well worth a day away from the garden (and I don’t say that lightly). If you have the chance to go, do it! Check the Proven Winners website for details on the Outdoor Living Extravaganzas in Seattle (March 18), Milwaukee (April 8) and Toronto (April 15). Thanks to the great, friendly, and knowledgeable PW team for a wonderful retreat!
PS: Check back for reviews of my other weekend adventures in Atlanta, including my visit to the very hip Salon Skanda and my portrait of a young chef at the award-winning Restaurant Livingston at the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel.