Master gardeners celebrate 15th annual Garden Fest

MIDDLETOWN –  The Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association’s annual Garden Fest will be held on Saturday at Belle Grove Plantation.

This free, family friendly event celebrates the arrival of the planting season with garden and specialty vendors, hands-on workshops, garden tool sharpening, food and raffles. Gates open 8 a.m.

Lynn Hoffmann, master gardener and event organizer, said Garden Fest guests have the opportunity to learn gardening tips and receive expert advice from local master gardeners while shopping for their favorite plants at affordable prices.

“Last year we had over 900 attendees and it just keeps growing,” Hoffmann said. “Each year they come for the plants and vendors but they also come to learn. We like to provide something new and educational for the public as often as possible.”

With a focus on pollinator-friendly and Virginia native plants, attendees will find a wide range of sun and drought-tolerant plants, shade plants, and trees and shrubs, as well as houseplants, water-lovers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Kristen Laise, Belle Grove executive director, said the event draws large numbers not only for its educational workshops and plant sales but there are activities available for all ages. There will be activities for children that will include a petting zoo, face painting and trail walk.

“It doesn’t seem crowded because the space is so big, but intimate enough to enjoy those around you,” Laise said.

Garden Fest will also offer opportunities to learn about the master gardener association’s new Habitat Garden Recognition Project and how they can meet the certain qualifications for recognition. Belle Grove’s historic garden will be the first local garden recognized as a habitat garden.

“This program will encourage and recognize individuals in our area that meet certain criteria based on studies from extension and conservation type organizations,” Hoffman said.  

Criteria include space, cover, food, water and sustainability.

Based on several organizations such as National Wildlife Foundation, Monarch Waystations and research papers from Virginia Tech and other land grant universities, Saturday’s roundtable discussion will provide information on how gardeners can create an earth-friendly, critter tolerant, pollinator- and native plant-friendly garden to become a garden habitat spot. Roundtable discussions are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Vendors at Saturday’s Garden Fest include Ayrshire Farm, Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards, Hill House Farm & Nursery, Iris Hill Farm, Mary Rose Lavender, Valley Wildlife Care, Virginia Master Naturalists Shenandoah and Young Essential Oils.

“What started 15 years ago with a small group of gardeners has turned into something larger than we ever expected it would be,” Hoffmann said. “Our goal was and still is public education.”

Proceeds from Garden Fest go toward public awareness, scholarships and events.

The event is rain or shine.

If You Go

When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road in Middletown.

Admission: Free.