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  Pictures  From Past meetings

All Pictures courtesy of Jenniffer Stephenson









 Crystal Springs Fall Flower & Garden Fest

Every year the SFF gathers at the Crystal Spring Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Crystal Springs is about 25 miles south of Jackson. Hours are from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. both days and food vendors will have food and drinks available.

This is the largest home gardening show in the Southeast. Average attendance is 6,000 people over the two-day event. Admission and parking are free. The garden, grounds, seminars, and one of the tour wagons are handicapped accessible.

 Click here for the 2016 Event.



Report on the Crystal Springs  Fall Flower and Garden Fest

Larry Stephenson

12907 MS HWY 35

Carrollton , Mississippi 38917



On October 5th,  my wife and I attended the 34th Annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest at the Truck Crops Branch Experimental Station in Crystal Springs , Mississippi .  In case you donít know, this is about the largest garden show in the Southeast, this year welcoming almost 4,000 people. There are dozens of exhibits to see, plant and nursery vendors, sample plots of vegetables and ornamentals, and short seminars on all facets of gardening. Thereís something for pretty much everyone on display.  Those not attending missed a really good show.  Need another reason to go?  Southern Fruit Fellowship ( SFF ) always has a booth there Ė itís become sort of a second Annual Meeting for many of us.  We sign on new members, put on grafting demonstrations, display some of our fruit, sell a few plants, arrange some scion trading, and generally have a good time doing what we like best Ė talking about fruit trees.  Got a new fruit to brag on?  Need something identified?  This is the place to bring it.


Last year was the first time I attended Ė really the first time Iíd met any fellow SFF members.  I had been in SFF several years and was eager to meet some of those folks who wrote such fascinating articles in the newsletter.  I was welcomed and had a grand time discussing fruit cultivation. Donít forget the important part of our name Ė we are a FELLOWSHIP, like-minded individuals united by our common interest.  Itís FUN to talk about fruit trees, and rare to find a large group of people who will not only tolerate our interest, but share it.  I was even inspired to begin writing myself.

This year I wore a nametag and got to work along with other SFF members.  My assigned duty was to entertain visitors while Carol Smith and Bonnie Thompson did the real work, setting up our displays and our membership sign-up table.  This suited me to a tee Ė I really donít need much encouragement to talk about my hobby, so I had a blast.  Now, Iím hardly a novice at fruit growing, but neither can I claim to be any kind of expert (not if I am cruelly judged by the amount of fruit produced).  Though I may not know the answer to every question, I am usually not shy about giving my opinion.  Here are some of the questions I was asked:

What is this weird fruit that look like a big green brain? Can I eat it? Osage orange (Bois d'Arc) . Nope.

Can I grow blueberries here?  You betcha ! Everyone should have some in their yard.

How can I keep deer away from my trees? Fence them, or shoot those rascals.

What kind of persimmon is this? (Point to Mr. Jesse Thompson.)

How can pomegranates be propagated? (Point to Dr. Chris Inhulsen.)

Whatís a good pear for this area? (Point to Ron Hill.)

Is it hard to graft? (Point to the table where Billy Smith, Larry Force, Ron Hill, Norm Herrin, and a couple other members are giving demonstrations.)

(I did a lot of pointing.)

I have a really old pear tree in my yard that makes a big crop of soft eating pears every year. Can you tell me what kind it is? Nope, but get that ladyís e-mail and address; Iím always interested in an unusual pear.  Make sure she gets our flyer; sheís the kind of member we need.

And so it went, all day.  Pretty cool, huh? I believe I could be well employed as a salesman at a large nursery.  I was surprised at how many folks stopped at our tables; there was a constant stream of people interested in our exhibits.  Mrs. Bonnie and Mrs. Carol signed up a good many new members.  This show is one of our most lucrative recruiting spots.

Any time thereís a group of people discussing fruit, well, thatís where Iím going to be, so I really didnít see as much of the other exhibits as I would have liked.  My wife, Jenniffer, and I did make a quick tour of the grounds.  Donít pack a lunch for this show; there are plenty of food vendors and you can eat very well.  There were people selling all kinds of stuff for gardening and horticulture Ė irrigation equipment, greenhouses, pruning supplies, you name it, and also many craftsmen and small nurseries.  I did notice one trend that I approve Ė many nurseries offered native ornamental plants and seeds, in a huge and pleasing variety.  I suppose with all the floods and droughts we have nowadays, gardeners have had to turn to our tough and durable native specimens.

There were lots of experts on hand, giving tours of the station, classes, and seminars.  Of course, the Truck Branch Experimental Station is pretty much a Mecca for those interested in ornamental plants or vegetable gardening.  If you care to see all the different varieties of tomatoes or string beans that exist, well, there they are, all laid out and labeled in immaculately tended rows.  Itís quite a display.  These are more than sample plots; MSU does serious research here.

Could the Fallfest be improved?  Sure, next year YOU could join us at the Southern Fruit Fellowship booth; youíll find it worth the trip, I promise. Bring fruit!  The bigger and more exotic, the better.  We like to open peopleís eyes as to what can be grown, and this is a good place to do some bragging to an appreciative audience.  Many heartfelt thanks to Dr. Rick Snyder and all the hard-working staff at the research station who make this show possible each year. See you next year!

A Note from Jenniffer:

Although Iím not as nutty about fruit trees as my husband, Larry, I do enjoy watching him enjoy his hobby.  I have watched his interest and participation grow with the Southern Fruit Fellowship ( SFF )as well, and heís right Ė it has been a great fellowship.  I attended last yearís Fall Flower and Garden Fest with my husband, met some of the other SFF members, and perused the grounds of the MSU Truck Branch Experimental Station.  We strolled through the vendor booths and viewed some of the vegetation that MSU was cultivating and enjoyed some great food.  This year was no different in that regard, but we also got to enjoy spending some more time with our fellowship of fruit tree fanatics that we had become closer with.  They have become like an extended family, many of them older than us and giving sage advice from their years of failures and successes growing fruit trees.  This year, we arrived a bit earlier with Larry being eager to see his fruit tree buddies and be part of the learning experience for those passing by the exhibit tables.  I stood and watched him congregate with fellow SFF members and visitors as they talked about their hobbies and interests like some discuss their love of hunting, fishing, or football.  But I also looked at the dayís program of events, and decided that I would attend the Garden Mamaís Organic Strategies program.  I have been listening to Nellie Neal, better known as Garden Mama, on the radio for years.  I listen to her give gardening advise to other listeners, and I have even called in and asked my own questions or given advice to some of her other listeners.  I was glad to finally meet her in person and hear her presentation.

Well, to wrap up my impressions of this yearís Fall Flower and Garden Fest, Iíll just tell you what I have told some of the other SFF members.  My philosophy after 20 years of marriage is this:  A man with a hobby is a happy man, and I support my husbandís hobby.  I may not be as interested or as involved in being outdoors or growing fruit trees, but I can appreciate my husbandís hard work and the pleasure he gets from his hobby.  I can also enjoy the fellowship of the other fruit tree enthusiasts he has become friends with and count myself among their ranks.  They are a great group of people willing and ready to share their experiences and even the fruits of their labor.  Happy growing!





Mississippi State personnel conducted guided tours of the flower and vegetable gardens which are planted to be at their peak for the Garden Fest.











 The large round bale of aged hay demonstrates another way to garden.  It shows how to raise the level of gardening for people who have trouble bending.  It was placed in the AgrAbility Demonstration-Gardening Accessibility area.



  There were 68 vendors at the Garden Fest.  Approximately half of them were plant vendors who packed the area with beautiful colorful plants of all varieties for sale.



One creative vendor entertained visitors with his Gourd Banjo which he makes and sells.  

To learn more of the history of the Banza (Gourd Banjo) visit his website at www.jaybirdbanjo.com.



This vendor hand makes spoons, salad sets and bowls from different hardwoods found across the South.  He also uses different types of maple for his products.


The slip covers for pots make displaying plants easier and more colorful.


There were several vendors selling bird houses and yard art to decorate the yard.




One vendor demonstrated the grinding of corn into cornmeal and sold fresh ground cornmeal.

There are always many food and drink vendors with wonderful things to eat including homemade snacks.



Southern Fruit Fellowship has had a booth at the Garden Fest for many years where members demonstrate grafting, exhibit fruit, plants and vegetables, answer questions, sell plants and sign up new members.  A visitor views the posters showing fruit that members have grown and pictures showing the Annual Meetings at various locations across the South.





Photos Courtesy of Dr. Rick Snyder









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