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Annual Eco Garden Expo at Los Rios Park returns May 6-7

Visitors participate in a workshop at the 2015 Eco Garden Expo in Los Rios Park. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Visitors participate in a workshop at the 2015 Eco Garden Expo in Los Rios Park. Photo: Allison Jarrell

By Marianne Taylor

Gather your friends and family and be part of the fourth annual Eco Garden Expo on Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Los Rios Park in historic San Juan Capistrano.

Created by local nonprofit Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, the Eco Garden Expo uses nature as a teacher and offers the latest environmental-based research from the University of California through the Orange County Master Gardeners speaker series. This year master gardener Brian Hale will once again wow the crowds with his humor and easy approach to growing successful tomatoes. Kris Bronner will lead the way on creating and constructing a raised bed for vegetables—be sure to watch the live demonstration.

Visitors can also take a walk with master gardener Vivian Martin around the certified butterfly gardens by the Montanez Adobe. Listen to her call to action to help save the endangered Monarch butterfly and provide a healthy habitat for all butterflies. Learn how to make your own hypertufa pot from master gardener Chris Dress using various aggregates mixtures to create a rustic textured container. Interested in learning about fresh eggs and raising your own backyard chickens? Master gardener Terry Vargas will show you just how wonderful it is to raise your own food.

At this year’s event, we’re using the power of creativity to inspire greater wellbeing for the earth and for ourselves. With more than 50 exhibitors showcasing products, plants, resources and services, exhibitors will offer hands-on workshops and live demonstrations. We’ve also created a wellness center with Pacific Coast Kinesiology—stop by for a chair massage, light facial and aromatherapy oils, along with holistic lifestyle talks with wellness center owner Dr. Paul Garcia.

In need of plants? Check out Tree of Life Nursery for California natives, The Fat Plant Man for unusual and unique succulents and cactus, or Goin Native for perennials, natives, cactus, color and ground covers. Visitors can even sign up for a make-n-take log centerpiece workshop, taught by yours truly.

You’ll learn so much from expert guest speakers who will be discussing a wide variety of garden, landscape and environmental ideas at the arboretum stage. Listen to the professional advice from presenters Wendy Proud of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery; Nicholas Staddon, formerly with Monrovia Nursery; Erik Cutter, urban farmer with Alegría Fresh; Susie Vanderlip, Monarch Butterfly Citizen scientist; and Manny Kiesser of Inside the Outdoors Foundation.

With the drought behind us, we’ve created four different landscaped demonstration gardens designed by Jodie Cook of My Avant Garden and Wendy Proud to help navigate the new normal for California. You’ll take away awesome ideas and healthy tips while learning how to integrate environmental resources into your lifestyle and your home garden.

The Los Rios Street shops and merchants will also be participating in this year’s expo, with offerings like Día de los Muertos-style face painting at Las Catrinas, DIY fairy gardens at Cottage Home and Garden and food-to-go from Hummingbird House Café.

Visitors can enjoy live music, refreshments and art at Cottage Gallery, get cozy while shopping at Nest or grab a scone and tea-to-go from The Tea House on Los Rios. Remember to savor your time while on Los Rios Street and explore the beauty of the oldest residential street in California.

Admission to the expo is free, and a free shuttle will be available from the City Hall parking lot to Los Rios Park from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Be green—help reduce traffic in our downtown. Come by foot, bike, Uber, Lyft, train or carpool. Every little bit helps. See you at the expo!

For more info, visit, email, or call 949.606.6704.

Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.

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