VALPARAISO — Saturday's cold temperatures didn't stop gardeners from thinking warm thoughts at the Porter County Master Gardeners Association's 14th annual gardening show at the Porter County Expo Center.

Scott Beuerlein, director of horticulture at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, quipped that he hopes the Porter County group invites him during the summer next time. Beuerlein is involved in the zoo's plant trials and educational and community outreach.

His keynote speech was just the beginning of the one-day event that draws gardeners and plant aficionados from Indiana, Michigan and Illinois.

“(The show) has become very popular,” said Jeff Snellgrove, a spokesman for the association. “Every year we get more and more people.”

One particularly popular component is the Seed and Bulb Exchange, held this year in the third room of the show. “Every year we gather up our seeds and bulbs” and donate them to the exchange, Snellgrove said. Seed companies also kick in excess product, which results in a wide range of vegetable, perennial and annual seeds and bulbs.

The show had a fairly modest beginning, but in its 14th year has grown to fill three buildings at the Porter County fairgrounds, Snellgrove said. Vendors included everyone from farm equipment purveyors to honey-sellers to crafts people.

Given its Midwest orientation, the show organized its day-long slate of seminars accordingly. Visitors also got to view a number of demonstrations, including one-square-foot gardening and another on herbs.

Beuerlein, who blogs for Garden Rant and is a columnist for Ohio Gardener Magazine, spoke before a packed house in the morning and presented a colorful mix of words and images as he discussed “How to Be a Better Gardener Faster.”

“Don’t be stupid,” he said, before giving tips on how to garden smartly. Gardeners should do their homework, network with other gardeners, learn the basics and strive for the simple. “Gardening becomes a passion rather than a hobby” for those who truly love it, he said. “Your garden is an ecosystem” and also part of the community.

Humans evolved to bond with nature, he said; “it’s in our DNA.” And gardening brings nature to homes, neighborhoods, businesses and entire communities.

The annual gardening show was also sponsored by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service Porter County.

The Porter County Master Gardeners Association will hold a Garden Walk later in the spring. This year’s Garden Walk is planned for June 24. For more information visit www.pcgarden.info.

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