Last week, I had the opportunity to check out IGC East, the first east coast foray for the IGC Show, "the world’s largest trade show and conference for independent garden center owners, managers and buyers." IGC has been held in Chicago for the last 8 years, and has apparently been successful enough to split in two, IGC Chicago and IGC East. Like most trade shows IGC East was not open to the public but through the efforts of Washington Gardener magazine editor Kathy Jentz and IGC Media Relations and Conference Manager Clint Albin, several local garden bloggers and writers were able to attend as press, and were also provided with meeting space for a "garden communicators" gathering. Many thanks to Kathy and Clint for organizing this!
IGC East show directory and buyers guide
I'm still getting used to the idea of my blogging making me "press", but as with MANTS earlier this year (see "The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™"), if it gets me into the show, I'll take it! So I took the day off from work to put on my blogging hat (having taken everybody's advice not to quit my day job!), grabbed my camera, and headed to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, just south of Washington, DC on the Potomac River.
I have to admit I've been a bit sore at National Harbor ever since the developer snatched The Awakening--one of my favorite sculptures in all of DC--away from Hains Point, where it had delighted visitors for 28 years. I also have to admit that, once there, I found the venue rather impressive. Not only is the hotel/convention complex enormous, but it was designed to have spectacular views of the river from numerous interior locations. I also appreciated the use of palms and other large tropical plants in the interior landscaping! I hate to admit it, but this was a great location for the trade show.
Hotel/convention center interior (yes, interior!)
As a garden blogger rather than a buyer, I probably saw a slightly different show than most other attendees. I recognized many names: Monrovia, Optimara, Ball, Proven Winners, Terra Nova Nurseries, and several more, but there were also several hundred smaller growers, suppliers, and wholesalers from all around the country, especially the east coast. Exhibitors had brought a multitude of garden-related items but for me, it was all about the plants! I could easily have spent all day walking through the show but I only had a couple of hours to see the show, take photos, and chat with exhibitors about their plants and their markets. So I walked past the garden tools and other hardware, the ornamental containers, the garden decor, etc. and took photos of whatever plants caught my eye, as well as some of the exhibits that had lots of plants. My apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos; the lighting was not conducive to good photography and using a flash simply does not do justice to many plants. To see all of my photos from IGC East, click here.
Sinningia 'Lil Georgie', exhibited by Gary's Specialty Plants
Variegated Fatsia japonica, Monrovia
Mukdenia rossii 'Crimson Fans', Monrovia
Charlie Cook Associates
Selaginella erythropus 'Sanguinea', Central Florida Ferns
Unusual forms of birds-nest fern, Central Florida Ferns
Orange coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Centerton Nursery
Red coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Centerton Nursery. Yes, they really were this red.
Creative succulents, Foliera
Treasure chest of rex begonias, Foliera
Lemon Lace™ elderberry (Sambucus racemosa); but see this informative article by Dennis Carey and Tony Avent about cultivar vs. trademark names!)
Lots to look at besides plants
IGC East will inevitable be compared to MANTS, a well-established nursery trade show held annually in Baltimore for several decades. There are many similarities, at least to my untrained eye, with many of the same exhibitors; the primary difference was one of scale. I've been two MANTS twice now, and both times found it so enormous as to be overwhelming. IGC East was smaller and easier to take in, and that was a good thing. I saw some creative displays, but none as over-the-top as some I saw at MANTS. I saw lots of tropical plants but not as many palms, but that could simply be because it was a smaller show. I do have one tip for exhibitors: get off those cell phones! Far too many people were text messaging--or whatever it is they do with their phones up in front of their faces (not having a cell phone myself I wouldn't know)--and never even glanced up as I walked by. You need to make eye contact with, and ideally greet, every person who walks past your booth because those are your potential customers. Or, like me, members of the press looking for a story!