A number of plant vendors will fill Phillips Garden Park at the end of the month during the 12th Annual Pine Island Garden Gala.
When the gala first began, D&D Growers attended for six years before taking a break. Dennis Gretton, owner of D&D Growers, said he tried to enter the gala a couple of times, but it did not fit into his show schedule.
Gretton does about 50 shows during February, March and April within a three hour radius of Lithia where he lives. He grows 140 different herbs that he cooks and bakes with.
His interest in herbs began 20 years ago when his wife wanted a herb garden. He began spending more time with the herbs and decided to stay with them because of the economy. Gretton said he developed a whole little niche with his herbs and speaking at garden clubs.
"You can cook anything and add all kinds of flavors to it," he said.
Gretton said his herbs are totally pesticide free and are grown outdoors, making them very hearty plants that are ready for individuals to grow.
If You Go
What: 12th Annual Pine Island Garden Gala
When: Saturday, Feb 23, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Phillips Garden Park, Pine Island Center
Although Gretton had about 130 herbs Friday, he is not sure how many he will bring with him to the gala.
"It depends on the weather between now and then and the shows," he said of what will be left over.
One of his herbs is lemon thyme, which Gretton said tastes good on chicken and fish because the lemon bleeds into the food. In addition, he said he has a lot of fun with rosemary.
Gretton said his latest invention is using rosemary and cranberry in his cookies.
"That has become a favorite," he said. "I take them to garden clubs when I speak."
Gretton will have some of his cooking recipes with him at the Garden Gala. He said individuals can also take his business card and he can email them recipes as well.
A local vendor, Jerry Meola, owner of Pelican Coast Farms, said he has participated in the Garden Gala for the past four years.
"The people are so nice," he said, which is why he enjoys the event.
Meola will have variety of orchids and Louisiana irises in different colors for sale. He also hopes to have bat plants for sale at the gala.
The Fort Myers business of five years purchases orchids when they are young and raises them for others to purchase. Ninety-nine percent of what he grows is organic.
Meola said the Louisiana iris is also native to Florida. He said they grow well here due to being hearty from zone five to 10.
They are water irises, Meola said, and can go as deep as four inches during the rainy season.
"They are swamp plants in Louisiana," he said. "When it goes down it can actually go all the way dry."
The All Native Garden Center & Plant Nursery is another vendor at this year's Garden Gala. Cathy Loyola, with the nursery, said this is their third or fourth year at the Garden Gala, with this being the third consecutive year.
Last year they brought such trees and shrubs as cocoplum, silver buttonwood, firebush, gumbo limbo, fiddlewood, wild coffee and wax myrtle. They also brought such wildflowers and ground covers as tropical sage, blanket flowers, sunshine mimosa, dune sunflower and scorpion tail. In addition muhly grass, fakahatchee grass and dwarf fakahatchee grass was also among the selection for those who attended the Gala.
Loyola said they like to showcase butterfly larval plants and nectar plants for individuals to purchase.
"All bird and butterfly attracting," she said of the plants. "People are always adding to their butterfly diversity. All the shrubs produce berries at different times, so they are great bird plants."
In addition, Loyola said the firebush is also a great hummingbird attractor, as well as coral honeysuckle.
The Fort Myers business recently added a little store at Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center on Burnt Store Road on Tuesday and Friday.
She said they provide about 85-100 species of plants at the Charlotte County store, compared to about 200 varieties at the Fort Myers store.
"We have a lot of Pine Island customers," Loyola said.
She said they maintain the landscaping for the Pine Island Library and mow for the Museum of the Island.
These three vendors will be among almost 55 other vendors who will grace the park during the Garden Gala on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Garden Club Honorary Member Marjorie Vanderkruik said they have vendors coming from all over the state.
"They are wholesalers," she said. "You can get some of the best of the best."
For a complete list of the vendors for this year's Garden Gala visit www.PineIsland-GardenClub.org.