SUPER SATURDAY: Plant, flower sale helps dress up yard for summer

nophillips@thestate.comApril 12, 2014 

— The two women stood amid a sea of pink, purple, red and yellow flowers.

Tracy Sandle had driven her West Columbia neighbor Pearl Riley, who is visually impaired, to the Midlands Plant and Flower Festival on Saturday at the S.C. State Farmers Market.

“We’re looking for flowers for Mrs. Riley’s yard to dress it up for the summer,” Sandle said. “It’s about neighbors helping neighbors.”

After listening to advice from Lauren Fox of Fox Farm and Nursery, the women chose a flat of purple salvia, red begonias and pink vinca. They planned to plant the flowers in pots and around Riley’s mailbox as soon as they got home Saturday afternoon.

Thousands of people poured into the State Farmer’s Market around mid-day Saturday for the annual flower festival. The show, sponsored by the S.C. Department of Agriculture, attracted more than 54,000 visitors over its four days in 2013, said Laura Lester, a department marketing specialist. Already, more than 16,000 people attended Thursday and Friday.

The festival continues through 6 p.m. Saturday and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

For many in the Midlands, the flower festival is an annual rite of spring.

“Spring kicks off the season of looking for different plants,” Fox said. “They definitely come out here to get started.”

Thousands of plants – from the most delicate flowers to the hardiest trees and shrubs – were available. Dozens of vendors also sold all of the accoutrement needed for yards and gardens. There were bird houses, Adirondack chairs, wind chimes, flower pots and even soap to scrub away dirt when the yard work is finished.

Wagons were essential for hauling plants to back to cars and trucks.

Two-year-old Hudson Long helped his grandmother, Susan Johnston, pull their wagon.

“We’ll see how long he lasts,” said Hudson’s mother, Kristina Long. “He’ll be riding in it before long.”

Amy Singletary traveled to Columbia from Prospect to take her boyfriend to the airport. She decided to stop by the flower festival while in town.

She searched for herbs to add to her growing herb garden.

“The older I get, the more I want to go back to nature,” Singletary said.

Growing up, she couldn’t wait to get away from the tobacco fields and large garden her family tended. Now, she misses the hands-on, outdoors work.

She recently started an herb garden with basil, sage and oregano.

“Those three, I’ve conquered,” she said. “I’m ready to try three more.”

She was considering stevia, pineapple sage and St. John’s wort.

“I just love herbs,” she said.

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