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Advice, optimism found at Expo Center Home Show

Dandelions don’t stand a chance in Mike McGrath’s orchard.

WTOP’s “Garden Guru” waits until their bright yellow blooms turn into silvery seed heads, then zaps them with his favorite tool—a yard and garden torch.

“They explode in flames,” McGrath told a rapt audience during a seminar on Sunday at the 8th annual Fredericksburg Home & Garden Show. “It’s like munchkin fireworks. You can almost hear the toads applauding in the tall grass.”

McGrath, a nationally known garden expert who also has a national show on public radio station WHYY, was one of three celebrities featured at the three-day event held at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. He specializes in organic gardening, and discussed using a torch in a talk about how to improve lawns without using chemicals.

“I’ve been listening to him for years,” said Krista Breuninger of Spotsylvania County. “Every tip of his that I’ve tried works—and he’s funny.”

HGTV host and designer Sabrina Soto did two presentations at the show on Saturday. Daniel Buck Soules, an appraiser who’s been on Antiques Roadshow, and his wife, Jayne, were on hand throughout the three-day event to do appraisals.

“We’ve seen a little bit of everything: artwork, old photographs, glassware, the whole spectrum,” Daniel Soules said.

This year’s home and garden show was a showcase for nearly 200 area contractors, landscapers and related businesses. Attendance was especially good, said spokesman David Kerper, who won’t have a final count until later this week.

On Sunday, the center was bustling as people attended McGrath’s talks, brought in items to be appraised, visited booths, talked to vendors and stuffed literature in the wide variety of bags that were being given away.

Wayne and Donna Stanton of Lake of the Woods were among the crowd. They attend every year because they own rental property and like to see what’s new on the market. This year’s show, they said, seemed much bigger than it had been in the past few years.

“It looks good for the economy,” Wayne Stanton said.

Susi Olsen of Stafford County and her husband came in because they plan to redo their kitchen and bath, and were wowed by the walk-in shower with shelves that they spotted in one display.

Greg Beland, a representative at the Window World booth, said that people seem to be less apprehensive about doing repairs and improvements than they were a month ago.

He attributed it partly to some people filing taxes later because they were waiting on changes in tax laws. Many wait until they get their refunds, he said, before they work on their homes in the spring.

Roy Dodson, who owns R&R Home Improvements of Virginia, said that he thinks people are tired of hearing about the economy and want to fix up their houses. He priced a job for a couple who were initially worried about the impact of sequestration. They decided to go ahead with the work anyway.

“They both work for the federal government,” he said. “They think the government will straighten itself out.”

Dawn Santos, who owns MDS Renovation and Fine Carpentry with her husband, said that more people expressed an interest in their business since last year, but mainly want to have repair work done or add a deck.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407