Gardening festival moves to Old Towne Creek Park

Ann Calhoun and Mike McGinty of the Charleston Horticulture Society tally up a sale at the Plantasia event in 2011. This is the 15th annual “green market.”

The Charleston Horticultural Society’s largest event, Plantasia, has found a new, more spacious home in West Ashley.

The 15th annual Plantasia, which is free to attend, will be 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Old Towne Creek County Park, 1400 Old Towne Road (next to Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site).

The Plantasia Eve Party, which is $35 and includes music, cocktails and the Iron Trowel Competition, will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at the same location.

Society Executive Director Kyle Barnette says the move to a “vast, open green space under majestic oak trees and pecan trees” in West Ashley is giving the society more room to offer plants and products that are harder to find, and for live garden and cooking demonstrations and food trucks, not to mention ample parking.

Barnette says up to 3,000 people typically attend the event.

Friday’s preview party, which tends to draw about 300 people, offers a different experience, with an array of locally sourced “bites” from Salthouse, a special Plantasia cocktail from Firefly and the Iron Trowel competition.

The latter, similar to the Iron Chef contest, involves six local garden design experts competing to create a window box in a mere 20 minutes, with plants and flowers on sale at Plantasia. While judges will pick an Iron Trowel champion, others will be able to vote online via Twitter and Facebook for the Audience Award.

Also at the party, longtime society and Plantasia supporter George Hyams of Hyams Garden Center will be honored for being “one of Charleston’s most cherished and influential garden champions.”

For the second year in a row, the society has partnered with a local artist to be featured as the poster artist for the Plantasia festival.

This year, local painter Julia Deckman, who is represented by West Ashley gallery Fabulon, caught the eye of society staff this winter and they approached her to be the festival artist. Her original painting of a poppy was selected for the poster.

In addition to coming weekend’s party and event, the society will be hosting a lecture by Mac Houfek, author of “Reflections on a Coastal Garden,” at 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at The Charleston Museum.

The book tells the story of Houfek’s efforts, as an amateur, to transform a commonplace Virginia Beach, Va., yard into a welcoming garden.

“The self-taught gardener eschews chemicals because she’s learned that compost is all her plants need to thrive,” according to the society on its Facebook event page. “Because she’s an animal lover through and through, she’s now on the hunt for garden-worthy natives to shelter and feed wildlife. “

The fee for the lecture is $10 for nonmembers. Her book will be on sale starting at 6 p.m. Monday.