By Heidi Smith
The April 25 Spring Fling event will serve as a combined educational opportunity, celebration and customer appreciation day, with a little something for everyone. “I want people to take away that it’s okay to get your fingers dirty,” says O’Neill. “Gardening is fun and we’ll have vendors that know a lot about it. It’s going to be a real educational experience. We want people to go away feeling that they have been inspired and even if they don’t have a green thumb, gardening can actually work for them.”
Gardening maven Marianne Binetti is the featured speaker, and will play a key role in inspiring that level of confidence, says O’Neill. “We’re all thrilled that she’s coming. She’s a fabulous speaker and she’s just a hoot. She can convince everyone that they can do this.”
Binetti is an acknowledged gardening expert whose syndicated column runs in local newspapers. She has also written or co-written ten books on the subject and hosts a weekly show called Dig in Seattle. Along with her husband Joe, she leads international gardening tours to places like France and Portugal.
Her talk will focus on Pocket Gardening, the art of breaking gardening into small spaces and doing one little space at a time. “If you’ve got a big yard, just do an entry garden,” says Binetti. “You can have more fine with the design aspects and not think gardening is hard.”
Binetti looks forward to the visit for several reasons. “I really like The Barn Nursery, Dan and Carla and all the staff,” she says. “I get to leave my area and see all the new things they have. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people in Olympia so it’s like a big reunion. We get pretty excited when we all see each other, so when people who are new to gardening see us, they catch the gardening bug.
Aside from Binetti, the event will include representatives from the Bonsai Society, the Rhododendron Society and other experts in their fields, along with multiple vendors. “We’ve got entertainment and door prizes, specials and music, plus food and beverages,” says O’Neill.
It will also include activities for children. “We want it to be fun for the kids,” says O’Neill. “We’re going to have face painting and a rock painting/gardening class for them. We want to start these children out with gardening.”
Now in its 25th year, the celebration is a chance for local gardeners from experienced old hands to beginners to get inspired and ask questions of professionals. The community response has been strong, says O’Neill. “We get great feedback,” she says. “People are really attuned to gardening at this time of year.”
Many customers have been coming for years. A key reason for that, says O’Neill, is the knowledge and experience of the staff. “We have a combination of many years of experience here,” she continues. “Our staff is awesome. They’re very knowledgeable and are such gardeners themselves. That really helps. It’s a passion that they have and they want to share it.”
One of their core values is carrying local products as much as possible, particularly in The Barn’s gift shop. “We really believe in our local vendors,” she says. “We have incredible artists in our community. We probably have 15 consignments here. We always want to support local business.” As an example, aside from hand-made jewelry, the store carries a variety of Seahawks memorabilia, all made in the Pacific Northwest.
Carla started the business with her husband Dan back in 1986, while they were already running Great Western Supply, a landscape and garden products store. “Customers were coming in to get manure or bark and they would ask, don’t you have a rose or a rhody?” she explains. “This barn was sitting in a field of grass and we decided to convert it into a nursery.”
Now, she says, the barn is their icon. “There’s an incredible history with the people and animals that lived here. It’s been really wonderful having the people that live in this area who know about the heritage come and share it with us.”
As for the Spring Fling, O’Neill’s goal is simple. “What we really want to do is sell success. We want it to be a great experience for the public, both those who are perhaps just getting into gardening and those who have been in it for a long time. Whoever it is, we want them to experience being successful.”
Binetti is more ambitious. “People think gardening is like when you were a kid and were forced to mow the lawn and pull weeds,” she says. “They don’t realized it’s very creative, good for your health, good exercise, and uses all of your five senses. It’s the answer to our obesity epidemic, it’s the answer to our health epidemic. Gardeners are going to save the world.”
April 25 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Marianne Binetti will speak at 1:00 p.m.
The Barn Nursery is located at 9510 Old Hwy 99 SE in Olympia. Call 360-943-2826 for more information.