Saturday, January 24, 2015

MANTS, part 2

Plantworks Nursery

[Second of two parts.  For part one see: Beating the winter blahs at MANTS.]

After the morning media reception, I braced myself to go out on the show floor.  Have I used the word "overwhelming" too many times already?  "Intense" might be more accurate: it's a lot to take in all at once but how often do I find myself surrounded by an entire convention center full of plants, plant-related stuff, and best of all, people who can (and will) talk about plants all day long?  But I was only in Baltimore for the day, so I had to see everything.  Everything.  Where to start?

I hadn't walked more than a few steps before I ran into one of my favorite Smithsonian gardeners, Janet Draper, at the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) booth.  And before I knew it I was wearing an orange beehive wig, part of the PPA's promotion of their 2015 national Perennial Plant Symposium, being held in Baltimore this summer.  Janet has been promoting this event relentless, but it's shaping up to be a great event, and being so close to home, it didn't take much to talk me into it.  Then again Janet could sweet-talk almost anybody into just about anything!  (For more photos of Janet's all-too-willing victims, see the PPA's Facebook page.)

Hons at Perennials Plant Association
Visiting the PPA booth (with Erin Clark, Smithsonian Gardens).  Only for Janet!

I started out with several booths already marked on the exhibitor map, based primarily on my interest in palms and tropical plants, many of which I had visited last year.  I caught up with Jim Fleming, owner of Tropic Traditions, a wholesale nursery in Gainesville, Florida that specializes in hardy palms.  We commiserated about how brutal last winter was, and Jim was sorry to hear of my losses, but assured me that business has been strong and he has been shipping more and more hardy palms north.

Tropic Traditions
Tropic Traditions

I made a point to visit the Garden Writers Association (GWA) booth, where I ran into Kirk Ryan Brown, president of the GWA, a "non-profit association that provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communications."  When I retire (which is not as far off as it used to be!) I'm considering a second career in garden writing so I asked him to sell me on the GWA, which he did, and then some!  Kirk turned out to be a very persuasive advocate of the group.

Garden Writers Association
Kirk Ryan Brown and Louise Clarke, Garden Writers Association (Interview: Nursery Management magazine)

I also caught up with two of the guys who had given presentations at the media reception that morning.  David Marciniak's Describeit is "a sales and proposal-building software for the landscape industry that helps contractors communicate and connect with their customers to sell more quickly, make more money, and have happy customers who got what they expected."  He later told me, "MANTS was essentially our big launch party, an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the landscape industry and show off what we have.  The goal was to raise awareness and, naturally, generate leads. We got a lot of very positive feedback, some interesting thoughts on where we could go from here, and even met some folks with whom we might form strategic partnerships. We were all thrilled with the show and would call it a success."  He added, "MANTS has a great culture. It's a show with some years under its belt and you see a lot of the same vendors every year. This also makes MANTS a terrific networking event... it's a hike to get to MANTS but I'm always glad I did, and this year was certainly no exception."

Describe It
David Marciniak, Describeit (Interview: Nursery Management magazine)

I spent some time talking to Jonathan Bardzik over lunch, and later saw him in action doing cooking demonstrations at the Overdevest Nurseries booth.  Jonathan calls himself a "culinary entertainer" and later told me, "I’m working with Footprints Edibles plants, a line of naturally grown and sustainably packaged herbs and vegetables, to get people excited about edible plants and the fun they can have bringing home grown herbs and veggies into their kitchens.  I’m working closely with Footprints, growing their plants and developing recipes I know will taste good when you gather family and friends to your table. It’s a unique advantage for garden centers selling the plants, and for folks at home who want to be successful growing them and create simple, delicious, fresh and healthy food in the kitchen."

Jonathan Bardzik
Jonathan Bardzik, Overdevest Nurseries and Footprints Edibles

Jonathan Bardzik demo
Some of Jonathan's culinary creations, going fast!

Like David, Jonathan's experience with MANTS was overwhelmingly positive. "MANTS is always a great place for landscape and garden retail businesses to connect with great growers from around the US, meet new suppliers and learn about new products.  Most importantly, everyone seemed excited, re-energized and ready for a great spring 2015."  

Jonathan's enthusiasm was infectious, and I came away from MANTS energized and ready for a new growing season.  And isn't that what events like MANTS are about?  It isn't just a marketplace, connecting businesses with customers or clients.  It's not just about seeing new plants, or new tools, or new ways of doing things.  It's an event, it's about connecting people with each other, in that old-fashioned way that we did in the olden days before the Internet, it's a great big party where people who haven't seen each other in years come from all over the country to meet up... except now we tweet from the show floor and post photos on Facebook!  In fact, people were talking about MANTS on Facebook for months before it happened.  It was this buzz that made me check it out for the first time 3 years ago, and later brought me back as a garden blogger.

Overwhelming... intense... addictive.  I've come down from my high but I'm pretty sure I'll go back again next year.  Heck, I might even spend the night in Baltimore and make a couple of days of it, because one day simply isn't enough to take everything in.  (Note: MANTS is a bit earlier next year, 6-8 January 2016.)  Below are some of the photos I took, of whatever caught me eye as I was wandering around in a blissed-out daze, in no particular order.  That usually meant displays with living plants, preferably tropical or otherwise colorful.  There were many more great displays, and I've left out several otherwise interesting ones because the photos just came out too blurry.  For my full set of photos (including some of the blurry ones), see MANTS 2015.

Palms and tropicals at Amplex

Quality Greenhouses & Perennial Farm
Colorful succulents: Quality Greenhouses & Perennial Farm

Terra Nova
Colorful foliage from Terra Nova Nurseries

Perfect african violets: Optimara

Plantworks Nursery
Wall of foliage: Plantworks Nursery

Willow Run Greenhouse
A well-made (garden) bed: Willow Run Greenhouse Corp.

J & R
J & R Exotic Foliage

Coconut palm
Rising above the rest: coconut palm, JWD Trees (Interview: Nursery Management magazine)


Peperomia, Foliera
Peperomias, Foliera

Kurt Bluemel
Kurt Bluemel, Inc.

Begonia 'Pegasus' (a.k.a. 'Gryphon')
Begonia 'Pegasus' (also marketed as 'Gryphon'), Proven Winners

"The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™" will be held a little earlier next year, Jan. 6-8 2016.  Visit the MANTS website for more information.

1 comment :

  1. In my former retail life, I traveled to MANTS on a regular basis. By early January I usually had most of my orders in for the coming spring, and used MANTS to fill any gaps in the inventory. It was also a great place to see new things, find some deals and network, but mostly it was just fun, especially on a cold winter day.