Published on 12/14/05

Floriculture experts ready for gardening classes

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Color often goes missing in January. Trees are bare, the grass is brown and most annuals are housed somewhere warmer. But that doesn’t stop floriculture experts from talking about the beauty of tropical plants, container gardens and annuals.

On Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006, the Georgia Green Industry Association will present “A Gardener’s Palette: Saturday with the Pros” in Athens. The conference will feature University of Georgia Cooperative Extension floriculture specialist Bodie Pennisi, garden writer and nursery owner Rita Randolph, and Color Burst owner and landscape artist Joe Burns.

Geared toward homeowners, registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends with an opportunity to browse booths from noon to 1 p.m.

Pennisi, from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences campus in Griffin, Ga., will speak on tropicals for landscape accents.

She says that over the past two years the Research and Education Garden in Griffin has been “wonderful, just taking your breath away. The plants are so beautiful. Those tropical plants, they look good from the moment you put them in the ground until the end.”

Tropical plants are typically annuals, although in warmer parts of Georgia, some may be perennials.

“There is an untapped potential for this material that we thought of previously only as houseplants,” she said of tropicals.

Many Georgians, she said, don’t realize they live in a state with a long growing season.

“Depending where you live, it starts at the end of March or early April,” she said. “We can enjoy these plants until the first frost, which may be way into December. These plants have great potential for use both in the ground and in containers.”

Container gardening is growing in popularity, Randolph said. She will be teaching conference attendees how to contain the unusual as she discusses foliage and flower combinations.

“With shortened time and shortened schedules, container gardening is a real quick, easy way for people to get their gardening in,” she said.

Randolph runs a greenhouse operation with her husband Hamp McCall. She said the most common question they get in regard to flowers is “does it come back?”

“Perennials have a huge growth potential in container gardening,” she said, “especially when it looks good all year round.”

And when it comes to mixing plants in containers, “I always think of some kind of texture,” she said.

Burns will show gardeners how to brighten their landscapes with annuals. He emphasized using these plants creatively.

“We’ll look at the top 10 annuals, the ones that are tried and true,” he said. “What I want them to do is to use the plants that perform best, especially in drought and heat. These flowers are easier to grow, and I want to teach them to use them creatively.”

For more information, go to or call the Georgia Green Industry Association at (706) 632-0100 or (888) 438-4442 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Registration is $25 before and $35 after Jan. 14.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.