Plantasia throws fest for gardening newbies and pros 

A garden of delights

What is the secret to having a lasting garden this season? According to the Charleston Horticultural Society's Susan McLeod Epstein, it's simple enough: Start with a good foundation. Epstein explains that the first step in building this foundation is to "get a soil test, make sure you have good drainage, and prepare the beds." Once you have created a foundation of healthy, well-drained soil, you can move onto the adventure of buying your plants, a step which she is excited about helping with.

As the manager of annual Plantasia event, Susan has spent the last few months amassing a variety of guest speakers, plants, and resources to share with the community. Billed as "The Premier Plant Sale of the Lowcountry," Plantasia started in 2001 as a way to educate the public about native plants and gardening resources. This year's festivities kick off Thurs. April 12 with a preview party where ticket holders can get the first chance to purchase plants while sipping on signature Plantasia Punch cocktails, listening to live music, and trading gardening tips with the professionals. Starting on Friday, the Plantasia officially begins. There will be free public workshops, native plants for sale, sculptures, garden tools, and educational materials.

Although Plantasia is the Horticultural Society's main fund-raising event, the organization has a variety of events and programs that take place throughout the year. One of their newest programs is their "Mobile Gardeners" Horticultural Therapy Program focused on providing support for Lowcountry children and young adults with special needs. The program is a partnership between the Charleston Horticultural Society and the City of Charleston's Department of Recreation with funding from the Mark Elliott Motley Foundation and support from Church Creek Nursery and Normandy Farms Bakery. Participants are able gain an understanding of how to cultivate, grow, and steward plants in a fun and hands-on learning environment and then practice their socialization and business skills by selling their plants. The first plant sale for this group will be at this year's Plantasia where they will be selling Sun Rose and Princess Molly grasses.

In addition to the Mobile Gardeners booth, there will be over 12 participating nurseries, and society members will be displaying an assortment of specialty plants, including orchids, roses, palms, herbs, and fruit trees. If you're not sure what is right for your garden, the Charleston Horticultural Society will have experts on hand to help you make sure you are purchasing what Epstein calls "the right plant for the right place."

If you are one of those individuals that did not inherit a green thumb, you will also be able to check out some of the other participating vendors such as the earthen hand-made works of Hewell's Pottery, the whimsical fairy sculptures by Berry Bate, or the incredibly realistic ribbon flowers crafted by Camela Nitschke. Demonstrations include everything from making living wreaths and rain gardens to raising backyard chickens and fairy gardens — yes, we said fairy gardens. Experts from the Charleston Area Beekeepers, Clemson University Extension Office, and the S.C. Native Plant Society will be on hand to answer any additional questions you might have. For a few extra dollars you can even get a behind the scenes guided garden tour through some of the Ansonborough neighborhood's gardens. And for those gardening on a shoestring budget there will also be a yard sale featuring gentled used tools.

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