Flower show at HCC a rite of spring

March 15, 2008|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- In the waning days of winter, one of the early rites of spring for thousands of area residents is the Hagerstown Community College Alumni Association's Flower & Garden Show.

From landscapers and artists to master gardeners and soap makers, the 14th annual show brought 98 vendors to the college's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.

"The last two years, we've averaged over 5,000 visitors," said John Benchoff, chairman of the show.

About 50 of those visitors were sitting in the seminar and demonstration area to hear Jeff Semler of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service speak on "Low Input Lawn Care," one of a dozen presentations scheduled for the show, which continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Idea shopping and a little spring fever," Susan Kassman of Hagerstown said when asked why she attended the show. "I just wanted to get out and look at some pretty things."


"A lot of people here are great gardeners, but they want to notch it up, do it better," said Annette Ipsan of the Washington County Master Gardeners. "One of those missions is to give people alternatives to pesticides."

Certain plants, for example, can keep some pests out of the garden. Garlic, dill, some types of peppers and other plants are natural insect repellents, Ipsan said.

Another alternative is insect-eating plants, such as the Venus flytraps, tropical pitcher plants and other varieties displayed by the Carnivorous Plant Nursery of Derwood, Md. Cheyenne Gray and Addison Harris of Waynesboro, Pa., got to see one of the flytraps in action, the trap triggered by a ballpoint pen.

Another way to go organic was being offered by the Smithsburg High School Environmental Club -- excrement.

"This has zero environmental impact. It actually takes materials out of landfills," student Atlee Baker said. Millions of red worms are fed eggshells and other food scraps, the excrement is dried and then it is mixed with water for an ecofriendly plant food, he said.

The TerraCycle products even come packaged in recycled materials -- plastic soda bottles with surplus spray bottle heads, Baker said.

A few years ago, Butch Upole of Oakland, Md., was recovering from heart surgery, but after four months of taking it easy, "I was going crazy." He took a walk in the woods, collected some twigs and leaves, and fashioned himself a picture.

"It's very unusual. I don't think I've seen anything like this before," Hilda Langley of Braddock Heights, Md., said as she looked over Upole's woodland and country scenes.

Tree bark, corn silk, hornet nests, leaves, mosses and other materials gathered from nature are his materials, Upole said.

Joan Taylor of Keedysville was a registered nurse, but she is making people feel better, or at least more relaxed, with her line of handmade Cedar Ridge Soaps.

"I couldn't find a good peppermint soap and decided to make it," Taylor said. It caught on with family and friends, and she now offers dozens of fragrant soap and shampoo bars, lotions, air fresheners and other products.

For children, the show offers a children's planting garden, where they could plant seeds and take them home, or make a birdseed pine cone with peanut butter and seeds.

If you go

What: 14th annual Flower & Garden Show, sponsored by the Hagerstown Community College Alumni Association

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: HCC's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown

For information, go to

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