Planting the airways

Garden Girls bring expertise, radio show to Pope’s Garden Center

The Garden Girls, Beth Babbitt and Dr. Sue Hamilton, entertain the customers at Pope’s Garden Center and the listeners of  NewTalk during a previous visit to the garden center. With them is Sher Kelly, Pope’s assistant nursery manager. The Garden Girls will be at Pope’s on Saturday, April 19, at 12:30 and then will broadcast their show live from the center.

The Garden Girls, Beth Babbitt and Dr. Sue Hamilton, entertain the customers at Pope’s Garden Center and the listeners of NewTalk during a previous visit to the garden center. With them is Sher Kelly, Pope’s assistant nursery manager. The Garden Girls will be at Pope’s on Saturday, April 19, at 12:30 and then will broadcast their show live from the center.

Some special guests will greet customers at Pope’s Garden Center in Rockford Saturday afternoon.

The Garden Girls, the Citadel radio duo of Dr. Sue Hamilton and Beth Babbitt, are bringing their gardening expertise and broadcasting their radio show from Pope’s on Saturday. The pair will be at the store at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday with the broadcast beginning at 2 p.m.

Babbitt and Hamilton started the radio show four years ago. The idea was born out of an interest in gardening. A Citadel Communication sales representative with WNOX Radio took his own passion for gardening and thought a radio show with local gardeners would work. She contacted Hamilton through another friend, and Hamilton called Beth Babbitt with the idea.

“It’s really nice to have someone to do it with,” Hamilton said of co-hosting the show with Babbitt. “Beth is best at fruits and vegetables. We have families so, if one travels, it’s not that big a deal.”

Hamilton got her bachelor’s and masters degrees in horticulture and earned a doctorate in adult education. She is an associate professor at the University of Tennessee where she teaches classes in public horticulture and is director of the University gardens.

Babbitt has a master’s degree in horticulture and is a state extension specialist for urban horticulture and the master gardener program.

Hamilton said that the radio show has been a good training ground for students in the public horticulture program. “That area prepares students for public gardening, television, radio, teaching. Once we got going, it was easy to see where you could plug in students to do various things on the show,” she said. “We started that pretty quickly and have several students come on and do a ‘plant of the week’ or just participate in the show and answer questions.”

Babbitt said the students working with callers learn to work on the fly. “They’re getting great experience with the public.”

Other opportunities such as television shows have come from their radio exposure. “It has led to being on the WBIR Style show,” Hamilton said. “Beth and I are on there once a month taking phone calls in studio.”

Babbitt said they were surprised by the popularity of the Garden Girls.

“I didn’t think we’d last this long, but I knew we’d have a lot of questions. Sometimes the callers will really have technical questions and other times, in the same show, we’ll have easy questions,” Babbitt said. “You see how broad the audience is.”

Hamilton said often they get serious callers who ask detailed questions about gardening. “When we have a guest, depending on what’s happening seasonally, we’ll get the majority of calls right on that theme,” she said. “People are really listening to what we’re talking about.”

Hamilton said when they do remotes like the one Saturday at Popes, it is interesting to see people who come out because they want to meet them and ask a question. “Last week I was flying in from Miami, and we were talking the whole way about gardening,” she said. “Then a head pops up from a seat in front, and a woman asked if one of us was one of the Garden Girls. She said her husband was a listener.”

Hamilton and Babbitt said it is gratifying that listeners enjoy their show. “It’s rewarding,” Hamilton said. “It’s fun to put experiences to good use. It’s fun having a niche area and feeling like you’re helping people. We’re going to do this as long as we’re having fun. Every single week I leave feeling energized and pumped up.”

Babbitt said often they get caught up in meeting listeners and lose track of time at the remotes. “When we’re on remotes, time will fly, and you won’t even know two hours have passed.”

The show airs every Saturday on 100.3 WNOX at 2 p.m. The website is http://gardengirls.tennessee.edu. It is hosted by Andrew Pulte.

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