Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Spring Flower Festival
Bushnell, FL - Events of Saturday, March 22, 2014
Margery was talking to one of our neighbors at Blueberry Hill who told her about the Spring Flower Festival held on the grounds of Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville on March 22 and 23. The Spring Flower Festival is an annual event with about 175 vendors selling plants, garden accessories, garden-related crafts and, of course, food.
Paul has a keen interest in gardening, and it's one of the things he misses most now that we are full-timers. We have visited a lot of botanical gardens in our travels, but it's not the same as getting your hands dirty. Since we will probably settle down in Florida for at least part of the year when the time comes, Paul has been trying to learn about semi-tropical horticulture for the past couple of years. We figured a plant sale might be a good place to gain additional knowledge by being able to talk directly to growers and other gardeners, so we planned go to the festival on Saturday.
Our experience from when we attended plant sales like this back when we had a stick house is you need to go the first day and you need to be there when they first open because the best plants will be gone within an hour or two. It's not that we were planning to buy anything, but if we wanted to see the full selection of what was available, we knew had to go early. The festival opened at 9:00 a.m., and since Gainesville is about 2 hours north of Bushnell, we were on the road around 7:40.
Admission to the festival is $8. There is limited parking at the botanical garden, but there is remote parking with shuttle service at a nearby school and at a nearby park. We were early enough to get a spot at the botanical garden so we didn't have to wait for the shuttle.
The variety of the plants offered for sale was excellent, as was the quality. The prices were also very reasonable. The good selection and low prices really brought out the serious buyers because we saw many people with wagons and all sorts of carts in which to haul their many purchases back to their cars.
One flower we like very much that we saw at the festival and that we have also seen at several Walmart and Home Depot garden centers is the gerbera daisy, which is a member of the sunflower family. Grown as annuals in the north, these flowers are perennials (meaning they come back every year) in Florida. The showy flowers are also popular for cutting.
Bromiliads are also very showy with red, pink, yellow, variegated and spotted flowers. Pineapples are members of the bromiliad family.
Anthuriums are native to Central and South America and are only hardy farther south in Florida. However, many gardeners here in central Florida are able to grow tender plants like anthuriums by planting them in pots and taking them into their enclosed lanai on cold nights.
One very striking flower we saw at the festival was a variety of hibiscus called 'Fiesta.' Fiesta is a tropical hibiscus. It might survive a frost, but it would have to be taken into a heated space to prevent it from being killed by a freeze.
Another interesting plant was the aptly-named 'bad hair day plant.'
We also came across a vendor who was selling back issues of Florida Gardening Magazine for only $1 each. Paul picked up a few issues.
Vendors selling garden accessories were also plentiful. Shown below are flamingos, egrets and sandhill cranes made from PVC pipe. The birds bob and rotate with the wind.
One vendor had his plants displayed inside a screened enclosure with butterflies flitting about.
Patrons of the Spring Flower Festival were also free to walk the grounds of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, so we explored some of the paths after we had finished checking out the festival vendors.
The name "Kanapaha" (pronounced kah-NAP-ah-hah) is derived from the Timuqua Indian words for "palm leaf" and "house." It refers to the palm-thatched roofs of the dwellings of the early inhabitants of the area.
There weren't many flowers blooming in the gardens this early in spring, but we enjoyed the foliage as the paths curved gracefully through the peaceful woods. It was nice to get away from the hubbub of the festival for a time.
When we finished walking the paths of the botanical gardens, we returned to the festival to find it a lot more crowded than when we first arrived. There were lots of wagons full of purchased plants being wheeled around, so it looks like sales were brisk.
As we headed to the exit, we wanted to stop and take another look at the Fiesta hibiscus we liked so much, but both vendors where we saw the the plants when we first arrived were completely sold out of that particular plant. That illustrates what we meant when we said we needed to go to the festival the first day and we needed to go early if we wanted to see the full range of what was being offered.
From the festival, we made our way back to Blueberry Hill. We don't have any major sightseeing plans for the near future, but something is bound to spark our interest.