SPRING HILL — What do computer geeks, artists and mad hatters have in common? A day in the garden, of all things.
People of the three pursuits are coming together to present Artists in the Gardens 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens, 1489 Parker Ave.
Staged for the public, the event will feature some 20 area artists plying their specialties at painter easels, potter wheels and woodworking benches throughout the leafy and blooming site.
Members of the Hernando Computer Club will celebrate and show off recent embellishments at their adopted fantasy-themed garden. And just any mad-about-hats creator of headwear, from the effusive to the whimsical, will parade their original fabrications. They'll stand up for judging in the fancy hat contest with selection of the most elegant, funniest and most creative.
Camera-carrying visitors can take an active role in the festivities via a photo contest. Photos taken on Saturday at the gardens can be submitted on the themes, "Artist at Work" and "Lady with Hat." Entries are limited to two per person and must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information must accompany each entry. Prize for each winner is $25.
Entries will be posted for viewing at naturecoastgardens.com. The public will be invited to choose a favorite image.
Clay artist Mia Auger, event chairwoman for the sponsoring Spring Hill Garden Club, said, "The whole idea is to introduce the public to the gardens ... to walk around and see the artists." And a garden party just calls for fanciful hats, she added.
Many are acquainted with the botanical establishment, launched in 2001 with a single installation, but only visitors in recent years have seen its growth to the current 23 themed gardens. Plots are devoted to such specialties as roses, cacti, scratch-and-sniff herbs, a water plant pond, an Oriental design, a statuary enclave and a fantastical hidden garden.
When Auger moved to Spring Hill two years ago from Maine "for the weather," she embraced the community's tapping the climate by constructing the botanical attraction.
Although she has professionally created clay artworks for 22 years, she says, "My first passion is nature, gardening for sure. My prime interest is wildflowers, which started as a little girl in Sweden." Then, working in nature's clay, "It all seemed to come together," she declared.
In coastal Maine, and earlier on the Pacific shores of California, she specialized in pit-fired pottery. The technique involves digging pits in the sand, packing formed clay pieces in seaweed and other naturals to instill magical colors via heat, then burying them and building a fire atop.
Now among the North Suncoast evergreens, Auger is dallying in the application of pine needles on a clay base. Once again, her art is endorsing nature. At the botanical gardens, Auger noted, "The paths are covered with pine needles. It's so appropriate."
The botanical gardens are open to the public from dusk to dawn daily. Admission is free. A donation box is available at the entrance. A core of garden club members and community volunteers, numbering about 25, plant and maintain the attraction.
Beth Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.