By Claire Jones
The Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) rolled out the red carpet for GWA members January 19-22 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. The Convention Center was bursting with color and energy with over 200,000 square feet of exhibits showcasing the latest trends in foliage, floral and tropicals. I was one of fifteen GWA members welcomed by the Florida Nursery Growers & Landscape Association (FNGLA), leader of Florida’s green industry. This was my opportunity to connect with growers and experience their products. Of course, I was also happy to be in Florida in January!
Our immersion into South Florida horticulture began when we loaded on a bus with other green industry professionals and embarked on a Botanic Garden & Landscape Design Tour. The trip was a great opportunity to bond with my seat mate, a third generation nursery owner in the Midwest. I also discovered a nursery owner on the bus who owns and operates a nursery only a few miles from where I live in Maryland. It took going to Florida to make this connection.
Highlights of the bus tour included Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, exploring the historic Coconut Grove Hammock private residences, and The Kampong, a mecca for tropical plant enthusiasts and a living classroom used by universities for botany and horticulture education. After enjoying a great outdoor Spanish paella dinner we were treated to a presentation by Dr. Jeff Block on irrigation methods and made more connections with bus companions. Two more visits to private “night-scaped” gardens ended our day with picture perfect weather. During the tours I got some great photos and gathered interesting material that I will use in my garden blog in the upcoming year.
The following morning we attended the opening session of TPIE and were honored to hear the day declared to be “Garden Writer Day.” We were treated to front row media seats for the hotly anticipated keynote presented by Christine Boland, an international trend analyst. In her address entitled “Shifting Perspectives” Boland identified fashion, retail, and consumer trends that are altering future buying decisions which applies to the green industry as well as other consumer products. She told the audience that we are rediscovering our senses. With media over-stimulation, we are trying to reconnect with nature and take inspiration from the forest. Translated to the gardening world, look for pots imprinted with leaves and other natural elements, touchable plants like succulents and cacti, fragrant plants, and horticultural spa experiences. And yellow! Look for lots of yellow in plants.
Following the keynote session, workshops were provided throughout the day by the American Institute of Floral Designers such as “Wine and Dine: Make Your Own Plant-Styled Hair Accessories” and “Sleek and Modern Plant Designs.” I discovered terrariums with a contemporary slant using repetition and streamlined looks and materials. Other eye catching displays in the workshop area were Vanda orchids suspended from the ceiling and back to nature displays of bromeliads, moss, and air plants.
A champagne toast broke up the afternoon, giving our group of Garden Writers further opportunities to connect and compare notes and pick up some swag. I made useful connections with growers of tropical that I will be using in future designs. I was thrilled that a hibiscus grower promised to send me some plants to trial.
The concluding day of TPIE was a totally different experience. Sylvia Gordon, an incredibly gracious GWA member who lives in Miami, gave me and four other garden writers a personal tour of three Homestead area nurseries. Pine Island Nursery (fruit trees), Bullis Bromeliads, and Botanics Wholesale (palm nursery). The tours gave us fascinating glimpses into their production greenhouses with a behind the scenes view of their operations. I especially enjoyed witnessing grafting of avocado trees at Pine Island and getting to taste a delicious sapodilla fruit fresh from the tree. Personal tours, great conversation, and a late afternoon visit to Block Botanical Garden, a residential garden gem located in Miami, made this a perfect end to my trip.
I am still going over all the information and contacts that I made during this incredible three day trip. I hope FNGLA repeats this event next year. A champagne toast to FNGLA and their Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition!
Meet the Author
Owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC, Claire Jones‘ designed gardens have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Chesapeake Home, Style Magazine, Garden Design, and national garden tours. A blogger at The Garden Diaries, Claire was chosen to decorate the White House for Christmas in 2011 and 2015. A presenter at national flower shows, she has participated in floral design competitions around the country.