But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any value in them. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, earn some continuing education cred, learn about new products and technologies, and discover new vendors. So I usually try to hit up one or two each off-season.
Every tradeshow is a bit different. The Mid Atlantic Hardscaping Trade Show (or MAHTS – we like to sound like we’re too important or busy to say the whole name) is light on the vendors but heavy on the classroom seminars. On the other end of the spectrum is the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (you guessed it – MANTS), which I attended last week at the Baltimore Convention Center.
While MANTS offered no classroom seminars, the sheer magnitude of the numbers of vendors was amazing – nearly 3000! The above picture does no justice to the incredible expanse of the show floor. It just kept going and going and going. Impressive it was.
And for this week’s blog post, I’d like to offer a number of random musings regarding the show.
First, the name is somewhat of a misnomer. Let’s start with Mid-Atlantic. While its true there were a number of vendors from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, there were also vendors from as far away as Florida, Texas, a surprising number from Tennessee, and Oregon. Last time I checked there was nothing “Mid” nor “Atlantic” about Oregon.
And the term “Nursery”? One would think that the show was limited to growers or distributors of plant material. And yes, there were a large number of horticulture-based vendors present. But there were also vendors who specialize in stone, equipment, tools, yard ornaments, ceramics, irrigation, soils, fertilizers, landscape lighting, pond supplies – you get the drift, it wasn’t just limited to nursery stock.
I also learned that the name Baltimore must be derived from the gaelic term for “you’re supposed to know where you’re going.” Sure I got to the convention center no problem, but once I arrived there was very little signage as to where to park. I had to drive around the surrounding blocks at least five or six times before finally finding a lot about a half-mile from the convention center. A little signage would have been nice. Especially since my morning coffee was REALLY catching up with me by this point.
Another thing to know about these tradeshows is that the vendors like to have plenty of give-aways to attract visitors to their booths at the show. By far the most popular giveaway is pens. I collected about 50-some odd pens last week alone, I stopped picking them up after a while because I was quite confident our junk drawer at home would be adequately stocked for the next year or two.
The best give-away last week? By far the wooden pocket knives distributed by the ColorBlends Nursery. I would’ve actually paid a few bucks for that one. Other giveaways included those re-useable “enviro” bags that seem to be all the rage these days, hats, rubber bracelets, coasters, and keychains. The strangest give-away? – the plastic combs distributed by some nursery from outside of Lancaster. Combs? I’m not even sure what to say about that one.
Vendors also like to hand out edibles, mostly hard candies and mints. Apparently they must be concerned about our breath (Between the combs and the breathmints, maybe they're trying to tell us landscaper-types something about our personal hygiene). The mini Snickers distributed by some vendors were a nice touch too. But I owe a special thanks to Hopewell Nursery in Bridgeton, NJ. I’ve never bought anything from you, but your prosciutto/olive/cheese/artichoke spread saved me from having to spend 10 bucks on a bad lunch from the food court. Congrats, you win best of show, at least in my book.
The display booths the vendors occupy range from simple fold-up displays designed to travel easily with the traveling sales reps to elaborate sets that rival Broadway show sets. The most impressive display items last week included the 35’ Red Maple tree (among a wide assortment of other plants) as the center piece of the Moon Nurseries display, and the Dakota Industries tree transplanter spade. If you’ve never seen one of these they’re amazing – basically a huge four-pronged shovel designed to dig and transplant mature established trees with rootballs as big as 12’ in diameter and 11,000 pounds. How the vendors got these large items set up as part of their displays must have been fun to watch.
The coolest new product I saw? That would have to be the natural bluestone pavers from Diaz Stone and Pallet. These are basically your typical paver stone used in a dryset application, but made from real natural bluestone as opposed to the typical high density concrete. All cut to exact specifications in 6x6 and 6x9 sizes, 2” thick. And the price was surprisingly competitive compared to typical paver stone products. I would love a chance to lay a patio or walkway using these pavers, if you’re interested just let me know.
And the most unnecessary display at the show? That would be the Jimmy Buffett cover band as part of the Belgard Paver display, or “Belgard-ita-ville”, as they dubbed themselves. Somebody in their marketing department thought they were being really clever with that one. It would’ve been nice if they had actually transported me to Key West and fed me with an endless source of boat drinks, but they didn’t, and the band was just annoying. And that’s coming from me, who typically enjoys any opportunity to hear some live music.
So that was my day at MANTS. $15 for admission, $23 for parking, $21 for tolls, and 198 miles driven (including the multiple laps around the block looking for parking). Now it’s time to start prepping for the ’12 season.