Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza
Carmen Johnston, Rick Schoellhorn, Walter Reeves, me
When I first heard of Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, it was, appropriately enough, on twitter. I was actually trying to win $100 of Proven Winners plants from Helen Yoest, of Gardening with Confidence, and one of the entries was to tweet the contest. When I did that, Proven Winners sent me a link to the event, and the second I saw it, I knew I wanted to go, even more than I wanted to win the plant giveaway. You can imagine how thrilled I was when they invited me to attend.
The event was held at McElreath Hall at the Atlanta History Center on a cool, gray day in early March, the perfect time to start daydreaming about gardening. My attention was immediately caught by the stunning ColorBlaze Alligator Tears, a new coleus hybrid from Proven Winners, that turned out to not only be decoration for the check-in table, but also was one of many prizes given away during the day. As I was a little early, it was nice to be able to have a cup of coffee and peruse the "gift store", where I quickly found a few more plants that I had to add to my collection, including the new Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso.
Before I spent all my money, they called us in to begin the program. First up was the charming Dr. Rick Schoellhorn, Director of New Products for Proven Winners. There wasn't a person in that room that wouldn't have given their eyeteeth to have his job. He first told us what it means to be a Proven Winners plant, to qualify a plant must be unsurpassed in terms of flowering, growth habit, disease resistance & garden performance. He then walked us through the process of trialing plants. Proven Winners is so committed to providing plants that meet their stringent criteria that while they trial 3,000 plants a year, less than 20 actually survive the intensive 2 or 3 year process, to be released as Proven Winners. Then he introduced us to the 2010-2011 new releases, including Angelface Blue Improved, which smells like grape soda, and Goldilocks Rocks, among others. By the time he finished up, I have to admit I was feeling sorry for the next speaker because Rick was as funny as he was knowledgeable, the consummate speaker.
Luckily, Rebecca Bull Reed, Associate Garden Editor for Southern Living Magazine, was more than up for the task. I think we were all hooked when she said "Herbs are the gateway drug to vegetable gardening, and container gardening is the gateway drug to happiness" She shared lots of great tips about gardening in general (insider joke, no rainbow watering y'all) and about integrating edible plants into container gardening. She also shared with us a quote from the late, great Dan Franklin "You should have no more garden than you can take care of in two cocktails" I know that I am exceeding that right now, but it's certainly something to strive for. Then we moved onto the liquid refreshments section of her presentation. Naturally, when she called for volunteers, my hand was first in the air. Her Basil Julep was as delicious as it was easy to make. Just pour 1 tbs. basil simple syrup over ice, top with a shot of Woodford Reserve, muddle with a few basil leaves, drink and enjoy.
Thank goodness lunch was up next as I needed some food to soak up the bourbon. We had a fun blogger table where I finally got to meet twitter friends @IndigoGardens, @tinkhanson, @rainforestgardn, and @CowlickCottage.
Lynn Felici-Gallant, Walter Reeves, Christa Hanson, Steve Asbell, Carolyn Binder
After lunch, we headed back in for a fun session on getting kids involved in the garden, presented by Carmen Johnston of Nectar and Company. She kept us in stitches with her videos of kids answering questions about gardening. One of my favorites was the little girl who said "Water is a chemical that grown-ups put on plants to make them grow". Her garden parties for kids were so clever, I have already recommended them to several friends with little ones. Another of her fun ideas is to take your child to the "sad sad plant cart" at your local garden center, you know the one, where they put the plants that need some TLC, and have your child "adopt" one and keep a journal about how the plant does.
Our last, but certainly not least, speaker of the day was our hometown gardening guru, Walter Reeves. He spoke about how to be Sherlock Holmes in your garden, although, this was such an expert crowd full of Master Gardeners from as far away as Minnesota, he was only able to stump us with his plant pathology one or two times. He advised us to be CSI in the garden and look for Critters, Spots and Insects. In the two slides below, the left shows what happens when you spray Roundup on your Bermuda grass (fyi, Bermuda grass is never dormant) and the right shows frost damage to Bermuda grass. My gardening IQ must have gone up 20 points with all this new information.
Then to top off an already amazing day, no one went home empty handed. We all got fantastic goodie bags filled with all the things gardeners love, including a trowel from Corona tools, seeds, fertilizers, soaps and more. We also got one of the new Superbells Coralberry Punch. I was even more fortunate to score a container garden and a tee shirt for having a smart mouth, I mean having the correct answers to some of the trivia questions asked by the presenters.
Even if you missed this event, lucky readers near Seattle or Toronto can still buy tickets for the events being held on March 18 and April 15 respectively. There will also be one in Milwaukee, but it has already sold out, so don't wait, get your tickets for Seattle and Toronto today.
Disclaimer: Proven Winners invited me to attend, but all opinions expressed are my own. Also, the headshots above are courtesy of their respective websites.