Friday, January 10, 2014
"The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™"
I took the day off from work yesterday so I could drive to the Baltimore Convention Center for the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, MANTS, which bills itself as "The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™", trademark symbol and all. This was my second time attending MANTS, but my first time covering it as a blogger. This is a huge 3-day event, drawing nearly a thousand exhibitors in the nursery and horticulture trade from all over the country and well over 10,000 registered attendees. When I went last year, I was absolutely overwhelmed; I hoped that attending as a blogger would help me narrow my focus a bit as well as give me an excuse to talk to people!
First stop was the VIP Suite, where the Garden Writers Association had arranged a "meet & greet" for press and media. They very generously accepted my credentials as a garden blogger and issued me a "Media" badge.
The meet & greet was a nice event and I chatted with Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine; Lloyd and Candy Traven, owners of Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania; and local blogger Susan Harris of GardenRant, who gave me advice and encouragement. I met several more people whom I otherwise knew only online (or by reputation only) and felt like a "VIP" indeed! (Aside from networking and schmoozing, one of the best parts of events like this is when somebody shows a photo on their cell phone and emphasizes "but you can't tell anybody about this!") Representatives from MANTS and the convention center as well as some of the show's sponsors welcomed us and talked about MANTS, its history, its impact on Baltimore, and how happy they were to host a media event like this for the first time.
Media and press "meet & greet"
Having a "Media" badge and camera turned out to be the perfect excuse to chat up some of the exhibitors, who of course love nothing more than to talk about their businesses! And talking to the exhibitors is one of the best ways to find out what is new and what is hot in the trade, and to get a preview of the latest introductions before they hit the retail market.
Ipomoea 'Chipotle', a new variegated sweet potato from Hort Couture
All the palm growers and dealers told me that demand for hardy palms has been strong and growing in recent years, and they are shipping many plants north to fill the demand. Since one of my own interests is testing the hardiness limits of palms and various other plants, we discussed what effect our extreme cold earlier this week would have on hardiness ratings, whether particular plants were really as hardy as people were claiming, and whether they would or would not survive.
Some of the exhibitors put in a lot more effort than others to stand out in the crowd! I was especially impressed by the number of very large palm trees that had been trucked in from as far as Florida. But one of my favorite booths was Hort Couture, whose marketing is over-the-top in the very best way, and whose distinctive pots I recognized from local garden centers.
The ladies of Hort Couture
Below are photos of some of the other booths. For even more photos of event see my Flickr album MANTS 2014.
Tropic Traditions Nursery, specializing in cold-hardy palms
Coconut palm, JWD Trees, Inc.
Kurt Bluemel, Inc.
Giant windmill palms, Cooper-Payne Tree Farms