WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Jacki Hept came to the 16th annual Gardening Show on Saturday to get landscaping ideas and to think spring.
"I came to get a taste of spring and I'd like to see how real gardeners handle landscaping," said Hept, a Lakes of the Four Seasons resident.
Friends Sheree Japchinski, Pat Earnest and Elaine Hough, all members of the Lake County Master Gardeners Association, said they travel every year from Lakes of the Four Seasons to the Porter County event held at the Expo Center.
"Even if there is a ton of snow; we plow through it," Earnest said.
Japchinski added: "We get a little spring fever by coming here."
The event, which wasn't held last year because the Expo Center was undergoing remodeling, began as a seed and bulb exchange in 2004, said Maureen Phillips, a master gardener and member of the Porter County Master Gardeners Association.
A few years later the group broadened its scope and moved the event from February to late January.
"It has grown over the years," Phillips said.
The event, sponsored by the Porter County Master Gardeners Association, includes nationally known speakers; garden book authors and book signings; demonstrations of good gardening techniques, a seed and bulb exchange, more than 100 vendors and exhibitors, a garden photography contest, a children's activity area; book and magazine exchange and door prizes.
Avid gardeners come from a 200-mile radius of Valparaiso including those in the Chicago suburbs, Michigan and southern Indiana with attendance at 2,600 in 2018, Phillips said.
The event is held in cooperation with and under the auspices of Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in Porter County.
"How to be a better gardener, which is what you can do in January, ties in with the Purdue extension's disseminating good gardening information around Indiana," Phillips said.
Sharon Kerner, who serves as secretary of the Duneland Photography Club, said she came to help judge the photography contest and to look around at the various displays.
"We live on the Kankakee River and I have containers that I fill with flowers. I lean toward perennials, the more colorful the better," Kerner said.
Scott Miller, of Porter, who serves as vice president of the Duneland Photography Club, said he enjoys coming to the event because it helps him look forward to spring.
Miller said has lived in California and Texas and enjoys the varied weather found in Northwest Indiana.
"I love it and I love that there are four seasons," Miller said.
Kathy Perrin, of Highland, came to the event looking for native plants to grow at church, school and home to attract butterflies.
Perrin was busily going through the seed and bulb exchange looking for the right plants to grow this spring.
"It's well worth it," Perrin said of her first time coming to the event.
Valparaiso resident Debbie Kelley was picking up, from the free seed and bulb exchange, packets of lettuce seeds she plans to grow this spring in a 10 foot by 10 foot community garden plot.
Her friend, Judy Kepshire, who was also picking out lettuce seed packets to be grown later, will plant hers in a bowl.
"I had good luck last year," Kepshire said.
Maureen Guger, of Homewood, said she likes attending the classes offered at the annual event as well looking at the various arts and crafts.
Guger, a member of the University of Illiniois Master Gardeners Association, said she always gets a lightbulb moment when attending the classes which included speakers Janet Macunovich, Damien Appel and Barbara Balgoyen.
"It re-energizes me," Guger said.
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