The 23rd annual Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is Feb. 21-23 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, and Faulkner County has a strong representation.

Arkansas Master Gardener Mary Wells of Vilonia has served on the board for the show for the last two years. Last year, the show expanded to focus more on children and gardening. That emphasis continues this year, with Sunday designated as Family Day.

As a retired fourth-grade teacher and school principal for Vilonia Elementary, Mary is well equipped to offer guidance on children’s programming. She even recruited the two teachers from Faulkner County to lead the 30-minute gardening workshops, which are free to kids accompanied by one or more adults. Last year’s program featured worm composting and terrarium planting. This year it features butterflies and seeds. Faulkner County Master Gardener and retired teacher Betty Baxter will direct "Sensational Seeds," and Faulkner County Master Gardener and retired teacher Sheryl Whited will teach "Bring on the Butterflies."

Mary gardened with her own children and grandchildren, who all love to garden today. And although technically retired, one of her former students who is now principal of Vilonia Middle School reached out to Mary and asked if she would volunteer in the gardens there. Mary enjoys working with these fifth- and sixth-grade students, who she says love the garden.

"You really have to pass the love of gardening along to the students and children coming up," she says. "That’s what we’re trying to do at Arkansas Flower and Garden Show."

The show, which benefits educational scholarships to Arkansas horticulture students and beautification programs across the state, features 80 vendors, a display garden competition, demonstrations, how-to sessions and silent auction.

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is more than just the annual show in February. It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance gardening and beautification in Arkansas, promote local horticultural businesses and educate the public about gardening, landscaping and floral design.

Keynote speakers include Don Greenland, a retired federal fishery biologist. He has grown vegetables in Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Arkansas. He has participated in farmers’ markets in North Carolina and in Arkansas. Don has experimented with hydroponics and aquaponics and has been a beekeeper for many years. He, his bees and supervisor, wife Annette, currently reside on Downhill Farm near Vilonia. Don is an active member of Faulkner County Master Gardeners. His current gardening activities include producing vegetables for the family table and growing vegetable seeds for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Speaking Saturday is Don Bingham, a conference speaker, entertainer, and celebrity chef, who is an Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator, and a member of the American Academy of Chefs with the American Culinary Federation. As long-time television host and cooking show guest, in 2002 Chef Bingham was voted as an Arkansas Chef of the Year, a title awarded by his professional peers, and was named to the Arkansas Hall of Fame in 2003. As Governor’s Mansion Administrator for 10 years with the Huckabee Administration, Chef Bingham served as host, entertainer and decorator for a myriad of events, using many food and floral offerings from our natural State, and has continued this emphasis in his present role as Director of Special Events at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Since the show began, more than 30 scholarships have been awarded and more than $40,000 has been given in the last eight years to communities.

Show times are Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors 60 and older. Children 16 and under receive free admission. A three-day pass may be purchased for $12. Participants may park for free at Dickey-Stephens Park and take the shuttle provided by Arkansas Destinations for $1 round trip per adult.

For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit http://www.argardenshow.org/.