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Extension Service prepares for Geranium Festival

By Valerie Baldowski

Local officials are busily preparing for one of the most renowned festivals held in the "Geranium City."

Friday, a shipment of 1,000 geraniums, ordered from Oglevee Nursery Ltd., in McDonough, arrived at the Henry County Extension Service's office in Heritage Park.

More than 20 Master Gardeners were on hand to help unload the truck and move the flowers into the shade house, where they will be on sale until the Geranium Festival, which is scheduled to be held on The McDonough Square May 16.

The festival, organized by the McDonough Lions Club, is a 30-year tradition, says Susan Howington, the Extension Service's Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, and sales of the flowers are usually brisk.

"We've already got people calling us, asking when they can pick up their geraniums," says Howington.

The festival is a fund-raiser for the Henry County 4H Club, Howington says, and the geraniums sell for $8 per eight-inch pot. "We sell them in April and part of May. Then, we'll get a new shipment in for the Geranium Festival."

Howington anticipates the second shipment to arrive the day before the event, and the flowers will be delivered directly to the festival site.

The geraniums will be unloaded from the delivery truck the morning of the event, she says, and they will be sold from two booths set up on The Square, during the event. "It's going to be real pretty out there," she says..

Diane Oetting, Henry County Extension Service secretary, says she expects good attendance at the festival. "We [usually] have tremendous turnout," says Oetting. "This is one of our major fund-raisers of the year."

Local 4H students will be out of school April 6-10, for spring break, she adds, so they will be available to help the Master Gardeners clean and maintain the geraniums.

Oetting says, each year the Master Gardeners help prepare the geraniums to sell, but this is the first time the volunteers have assembled in the Extension Service's new shade house, which was built in February.

Oetting says the screened-in facility will help keep the geraniums from drying out. The flowers are expected to bloom in two to three weeks.

"These will bloom until December," Oetting says. "If you put them in the ground and fertilize them, they triple in size."

Sally Davis was one of the Master Gardeners who helped unload the flowers, move them into the shade house, and clean them. She says the annual fund-raiser always gets strong support. "The community is very responsive, and I think they look forward to it."

The best way to keep the geraniums fresh until they are bought, explains Davis, is to water them and pinch off any dead leaves, to encourage new growth. The Master Gardener acknowledges that the flower's main attractions are its beauty, and the fact that geraniums require minimal care.

"They are really easy to plant," says Davis. "They are not difficult plants. You get a big bang from geraniums, because they're so colorful."