By Louise Clarke
GWA started the New Year with our first booth at the 45th annual Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS). We descended on the Baltimore Convention Center on January 6, 7, and 8, 2016 for this mid-winter event. Thursday morning began with a media reception hosted by Vanessa and Kelly Finney of Quercus Management who organizes MANTS, where several of the 1,000 exhibitors spoke about their products, while hungry garden writers enjoyed a complimentary breakfast. We were delighted to discover that the media room was also available for us all day as a quiet workplace and an area to store personal belongings. The GWA group photo (above) at the reception included 26, but many more of us were seen later on the enormous 300,000 square foot trade show floor.
Unveiled this year at MANTS was our brand new booth, displaying a crisp, fresh look for GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators. With our new name, new tag line, new graphics, and a renewed feeling of purpose and energy we greeted attendees. This was the first opportunity for many GWA members who volunteered at the booth to meet our dynamic new executive team of Executive Director Maria Ungaro, and Deputy Executive Director Ashley Hodak Sullivan of Kellen Management. We were all kept busy making our organization known to show goers, explaining what GWA can do for their businesses, and prospecting for new members.
Once out of the booth, I roamed the show floor looking for new products and ideas. Growers from across the country were at MANTS displaying their plants, from plugs, to perennials, to palms. I saw stunning winterberry hollies, bewitching witch hazels, other-worldly bromeliads, carnivorous plants, floriferous bougainvilleas, and green roof plants among the endless varieties on display. Many associated green industry products – plastic pots, pottery, labels, soil mixes, publishers, greenhouse equipment, tools and machines from shovels to skid steers – were also on display. I collected many story ideas while on the show floor and had many great photo opportunities.
One vendor that caught my eye was Fabrique Innovations and their Sporticulture line. Their concept was to marry horticulture with professional sports by merchandizing flowering plants in NFL team logo pots. Aimed at avid football fans for teamgating, homegating, and teamscaping, Sporticulture was pitched as a way for growers and retailers to create sales to a new consumer market segment.
Wednesday and Thursday evenings after the show closed, GWA sponsored connect meetings in the lobby of the nearby Lord Baltimore Hotel. Lively conversation and networking continued into the evening, with some members making dinner plans after enjoying drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
MANTS bills itself as “The Masterpiece of Trade Shows.” By all accounts garden communicators who attended would agree with this assessment. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour de force of the green industry and will look forward to attending it again next year.
Meet the Author
Region II Director Louise Clarke is employed by The Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. Besides tending a sustainable landscape which includes rain gardens and green roofs, she leads workshops, lectures, creates social media content, and writes for Seasons, the Arboretum’s periodical, and Washington Gardener Magazine. After hours she tends Halcyon, her personal garden, home to a tiki hut surrounded by lush plantings reminiscent of a Rousseau painting.