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Easy to be green at Garden Jubilee

Gayle Stepp shows off a hanging basket. Gayle Stepp shows off a hanging basket.

Gardeners, vendors and shop owners pronounced Garden Jubilee 2012 one of the best ever, with large crowds, good weather and a bountiful selection of flowers, herbs and garden accessories.

"This has been a very busy year. I think it's the busiest Garden Jubilee," said Gayle Stepp, who runs Stepp's Nursery along with her husband and son, Larry Sr. and Larry Jr. "We have had a lot of foot traffic, and the Sunday morning traffic started earlier than usual. Sales are good."
GJ KendallFlowersThe aptly named Kendall Flowers was happy with her family's purchase.The Stepp family's sales floor is one of the best of the festival, the brick plaza in front of First Citizens Bank. The high-rise building provides generous shade by early afternoon.
Stepp, wearing her trademark pink coveralls, floppy hat and sunglasses, ticked off the offerings: Dragon wings, vinca, black-eyed Susan, sweet potato vine, sunpatiens, impatiens, New Guinea impatiens, zonal geranium, zinnia.
Across the way, Keli Speranza was also helping out at the family business, selling rain gauges and thermometers at Speranza's Weather House.
"We've had a good couple of days," she said.
At Linda's Plants, Jennifer Caldwell said sales had been good on Saturday especially, echoing the testimony of most of the plant sellers.
Merchants and restaurant operators said they were pleased with the crowds, and the spinoff buying.
"We don't have a 'usual' yet," said Charlotte Pinkley, who just opened her shop, Sweet Blue: Unique Gifts and Home Décor, four weeks ago. "It was a good Saturday though."
The value of the festival for her business, she said, was in bringing in people for a first look.
"We're hoping they'll be repeat customers," she said. "A lot of them were carrying plants, saying 'we'll be back.' ... I do think the festival was good free advertising for people getting to know us."
Hannah FlanaganPatrons enjoyed a cool break at Hannah Flanagan's.Diners and libation-enjoyers had filled the tables and bar stools at Hannah Flanagan's Irish Pub at lunchtime on Sunday and the crowd was down from Saturday's, said Lonnie Hager. "During the day we probably did five times the business we usually do," he said.
That would confirm the reports that reached Beth Carden, interim director of the county Travel and Tourism agency. "We've been very very pleased," she said. "Some of the vendors sold everything they had." She thought the turnout was a record, close to 75,000 gardeners shelling out green for all things green. On Saturday, "there were people here at 7:30 (a.m.) shopping."
Carden praised the work of the volunteer hospitality team, which helped vendors, answered questions and babysat plants and hanging baskets that shoppers had purchased while they went to buy more.
"Many of the vendors do shows all over the country," she said, "and they tell us this is our best show" for sales.