Fest lets you feast eyes on all things gardening

More exhibits, more vendors, nationally renowned speakers, and marvelous gardens await you during Augusta's premier garden event, the annual Sacred Heart Garden Festival, which begins Friday.

The theme this year centers on home-grown vegetables. With the foodie movement toward locally grown produce, it seemed the perfect choice with Ima Gardener as the festival's mascot.

Festival organizers wanted to increase the scope of the annual event and reach out to a wider audience this year, said festival chairwoman Linda McIntosh. There will be more vendors with wares are varied as antique lace and plants to garden tools. Visitors to the historic Sacred Heart Cultural Center will find more extraordinary garden displays this year, including an African keyhole garden by the folks at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.

This year McIntosh approached the area's garden clubs about taking part in a scarecrow contest. About 25 clubs entered the contest, and she said the results are fabulous.

They're all different and very creative, she said. The scarecrows will be used to hold markers pointing the way to the gardens on tour this year, and at the center, too.

The scarecrows will be for sale, $25 each.

Today, a preview party will be held at Sacred Heart. The silent auction will be a live auction this year, McIntosh said. Participants can bid on a garden shed, half of a cow, a truckload of soil from Bricko Farms, and two vacation homes.

Six homes will be on the tour this year. You won't have to buy a separate ticket -- the tour is included in the price of the festival ticket.

You can visit the exhibits and vendors at Sacred Heart as many times as you want during the festival Friday through Sunday and visit each garden once.

This year all but one of the gardens are in Columbia County. Free transportation is available to those visiting two of the homes. A bus will make regular pickups at the homes and the base site at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Proceeds for the event help support Sacred Heart Cultural Center.

Sacred Heart Garden Festival

PREVIEW PARTY: 7 p.m. today, Sacred Heart Cultural Center, $65

FESTIVAL: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, $25; children under 12 free

GARDEN TOUR: Included with festival ticket, homes visited on tour belong to:

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Ball

Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood Belangia

Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Blanchard

Mr. and Mrs. R. Daniel Blanton

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Byrd

Mr. and Mrs. Mahi Majanovic

River Island Community Garden

LEARN MORE: www.sacredheartgardenfestival.com

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