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Now's the time to plant, prune and learn

This is a perfect time of year to work in the garden, but it is also a great time to attend many of the garden events throughout the Tampa Bay area.

One event definitely worth your time is the Educational Gardening Expo hosted by the Town 'N Country Garden Circle. It takes place Sunday.

Garden clubs usually reserve the spring for tours of members' gardens, but the cold weather left many of them less than show worthy. The expo is the replacement activity, said club member Rob Gamester.

The $5 admission, which includes lunch, gives visitors the opportunity to attend a number of educational seminars including Florida Friendly Landscaping, Top 40 Favorite Plants, Growing Hibiscus, Container Gardening and about four other seminars. There are also demonstration booths open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with subjects ranging from Butterfly Gardening to Orchids to Waterwise Gardening. Ten demonstration booths will help expand your gardening expertise.

Registration opens at 10 a.m. The seminars begin at 11. The plant sale, which features plants grown by Garden Circle members, is from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Prices range from 50 cents to $5. Some of the more unusual or more difficult-to-grow plants may cost more. And don't forget to look at the yard art. Perhaps you'll find something that would be at home in your garden.

Garden tool sharpening will be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for reasonable prices. Take this opportunity to get your tools in shape for the summer months.

The expo is being held at the Town 'N Country Recreation Center at 6039 Hanley Road. To view a complete list of the seminars and demonstration booths, go online to tampagardenclub. com/tnc%20flyer.pdf.

Many of us are still working through the damage left by our cold winter. If you are one of these gardeners and have decided that the cold-sensitive plants such as ixora, croton, plumbago or jatropha no longer have a place in your garden, what will you replace them with?

There are plenty of choices. After a cold winter, gardeners often turn toward hardy plants. Then after a few warmer winters, they move back to tropical plants until another hard freeze hits.

When looking for replacements, you might try knockout roses (more on these later), African iris, loropetalum, crape myrtles or camellias. These will all add color and be around even after a hard Florida winter.

The knockout roses were popular about six or eight years ago. Unfortunately they were presented as a low-maintenance or no-maintenance rose. Well, there is no such thing, and many people were very disappointed in the rose's performance and removed it from their landscapes.

You might want to give it another try, but this time with the mind-set that it needs to be treated like any other rose. This means pruning, watching and treating for insects and diseases, fertilizing and removing spent flowers. It sounds complicated but really only takes a few minutes every month or so. They may need supplemental water as roses are not really drought tolerate. So keep a rain barrel handy to satisfy this beautiful landscape addition.

If you want a really dramatic addition to your yard, get a knockout rose trained as a standard. This plant will also look gorgeous in a container. It will require the same treatment as your bush knockout roses, but perhaps a little more pruning to keep it in shape. Both the standard and bush types are happy in containers also.

Mary Collister can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Now's the time to plant, prune and learn 04/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 5:30am]

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