GWA at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

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By Pat Munts

The winter this year in Eastern Washington has been long and hard. The snow started early in December. As we approached the end of February, it was still here and still coming down. Beyond the semicircle of bare pavement in front of my garage is a foot of snow and slippery ice, burying everything. I am trapped in my little circle of bare concrete, desperately needing to get out in the garden and see green plants and warm dirt!

Desperation leads to desperate acts. And so it is this and every year since 2003. It’s time to pack up and head to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. It is a 300-mile journey from my home in Spokane along I-90, across the wide open Columbia Basin, and then over Snoqualmie Pass. At an elevation of 3,500 feet the Pass, as locals call it, is not forgiving this time of year. But such is the pull of green plants, the smell of flowers, and the sound of birds.

The past few years my friend Linda has joined me on this trek to the unfrozen side of the state. There are so many cool things happening at the show that it needs to be shared with a like-minded friend. We plan our escape so we arrive at the Snoqualmie Pass in the early Munts NW Flower Show04afternoon when the snow and ice on the road are likely to have melted. Then it’s into Seattle before the rush hour starts. We stocked up on water and snacks and made sure there is $50 in the tire chain box in case we had to pay the chain guy at the pass to put them on. We arrived in Seattle in time to enjoy the view of Elliot Bay and the sunset over the Olympic Mountains from my friend’s family’s house. Our long day ended with a fresh seafood dinner, wine and good conversation on the waterfront.

The next morning Linda and I were up early heading to the Washington State Convention Center. If you want a space in the parking garages, you have to be there before 10:00 AM. We found our way to the show entrance and there it was – the sweet smell of flowers and the sound of birds chirping as we walked into the exhibit hall. This is what we came for
even if the flowers are forced and the bird song is from a recording. There is hope that spring will return!

This year’s show featured twenty three display gardens designed and built by some the region’s best designers and landscape professionals. This year’s theme was “Taste of Spring.” The Garden Creators did an amazing job of blending together flowers, shrubs, trees, hardscape materials and artwork into little niches of spring glory. The Founder’s Cup for the best-in-show garden went to Jefferson Sustainable Landscape Management and Avid Landscape Design and Development for their Mochiwa Mochiya Garden. It was a marriage of “Asian and American cultures, with the ethos of the American barbecue
infused with a new level of opulence.” Beyond the beautiful display gardens, the show always features a full slate of educational and DIY seminars on a broad range of topics. This year the list included seminars that wove together lively visuals, illustrating cutting-edge advice and Munts NW Flower Show03experiences from garden designers, horticulturists, and authors from around the country. On the DIY Stage, experts presented practical demonstrations of container gardening, pruning, and home décor.

This year’s show saw the return of “Garden Wars: Season Three” hosted by Joe Lamp’l, producer and host of PBS’s Growing a Greener World. The competition pitted garden celebrities in a friendly but seriously dirty competition to create 10 by 10-foot gardens in a short span of time. This year the organizers expanded this with the new “Container Wars,” pitting garden celebrities against each other to see who could create the three best container gardens in an hour. Needless to say, the dirt and plants were flying in the Garden Wars Arena. The winners of each day’s competition were awarded $1,000 to donate to their favorite charity.

Last but not least was the shopping! After taking in the seminars and the gardens it was time to wander through the hundreds of booths looking for that perfect garden ornament, tool, plant, piece of jewelry or gourmet food you couldn’t live without. Our shopping list this year included ‘Grosso’ lavender, heathers, and mason bee nesting supplies. Never mind that after we got home the plants would have to live on the deck until the ground thaws. We seriously considered buying some funky clothing and art works but managed to keep the credit cards in our wallets. However I couldn’t pass up a painting of a breaching killer whale for my daughter who is stuck living in Texas far from her Northwest roots.

I capped the day off with our annual GWA Connect gathering. About 75 of us gathered in the media room for drinks and a lot of visiting. We had folks from as far away as Vermont and California which made the conversation that much more lively. Many thanks to Jeff Munts NW Flower Show02
Swenson and Barry Bartlett of the show management team for arranging for the bar and comfortable meeting space.

During our get-together the dean of our Northwest garden writers, Ed Hume asked for a round of introductions to put names and faces together and find out what people were
doing. We also celebrated two lives lost in the past few months from our Northwest gardening family: Dr. Sarah Reichard of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty. They will be missed.

Then it was time me to rejoin Linda and return to the snowy side of the state. We left behind the blooming camellias and green lawns and headed back over Snoqualmie Pass to my little patch of shoveled concrete.

As I write this nearly two weeks after the adventure, the snow is coming down once again only this time it’s not sticking to the ground! There is hope.

Meet the Author

Pat Munts
From her base in Spokane, Washington, Pat Munts writes about gardening and natural history east of the Cascade Mountains. Pat shares her gardening adventures in a weekly
column for the Spokesman-Review. She also writes for The Inlander and has served as Eastern Washington editor for Master Gardener Magazine. On the national level Pat has written for GreenPrints and The American Gardener. In 2015, she wrote the Northwest Gardeners Handbook (Cool Springs). In between writing Pat also serves as the small farm and urban agriculture coordinator for WSU Spokane County Extension. She served as GWA Region VI Regional Director from 2007 to 2016.

GWA at NYBG’s Orchid Show

By Kirk Brown

Reasons to join GWA are spread like a blanket of snow across the United States in January and February! Connect meetings are happening all over the country at a variety of venues and international events.

On Thursday February 16, 2017 the sun wasn’t out but the temperature was pushing into the middle 50’s as Sara and I drove across the George Washington Bridge to

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Moss-covered pachyderms were posed in tropical vignettes blazing with colorful orchids.

attend the press preview of “The Orchid Show: Thailand” at the New York Botanical Garden. This year’s theme was dedicated to the kaleidoscopic array of species native to and cultivated in Thailand.
Members of GWA were invited to attend under the banner of a Region I Connect Meeting. Welcoming us to the show was Karen Daubmann, Associate Vice President of Exhibitions and Public Engagement. She introduced the show’s designer, Christian Primeau, who oversees the tropical and subtropical plant collections in the conservatory’s eleven cultural environments. Next we heard from GWA member Marc Hachadourian, manager and curator for the orchid collection and the living plants from around the world housed in the Nolen Greenhouses. Marc explained that Thailand was selected as this year’s theme because of the combination of “iconic cultural images” from the area and the spectacular dendrobium and vanda orchid hybrids developed there in recent years.

Then we roamed through the four display areas. It was jungle-hot and humid in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Spirit houses were propped with food and small gifts. Elephants, dripping with moss and colorful arrangements of orchids, were trumpeting in crafted

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The steeply-pitched gable end of a classic Thai garden pavilion was the centerpiece in the grandest of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s many glass enclosed rooms.

landscapes. Authentic Thai lanterns hung from overhead branches, adding soft illumination to the floor displays. A steeply pitched Thai pavilion covered with hundreds of orchids created a centerpiece in the large conservatory.

Alexa Haller, GWA Membership Director, wason hand to provide staffing and member-benefit resources. New GWA member Matt McMillan made his first meeting appearance under the mentoring of Jan Johnson. Also seen in the crowd of more than thirty representatives from the credentialed press were author Judy Glattstein and photographer Carlo Balistrieri.

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Riotous color and tropical textures wowed the crowds touring the press preview at NYBG’s 15th annual orchid extravaganza.

GWA Connect meetings are designed to increase networking between members and sponsors as well as to provide awareness of the association and its goals. At a lunch included with the day’s program, all attendees gathered in the Pine Tree Cafe to update each other on industry events and personal news.

This fifteenth edition of “The Orchid Show: Thailand” at the New York Botanical Garden runs from February 18 to April 9, 2017. For more information and press access please contact Nick Leshi, Director of Public Relations (718.817.8658, or Garrett Barziloski Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator (718.817.8634,

Meet the Author

Kirk Brown

Kirk R. Brown, GWA President is a lecturer, author, designer, and garden tourist along with his wife Sara.

Drums for the Doldrums


By Steven Biggs

As I walked my youngest son, Keaton, to the local drum shop to sign up for lessons I thought, “The noise will drive me bonkers.” He was already whacking a big bongo drum and shaking maracas as I filled out a form and paid.

Sitting outside the studio for the first couple of drum lessons, I thought, “Wow, that’s loud.” But I also caught my feet and hands moving to the beat. Not long after that I took my kids, Keaton, Quinn, and Emma, to a drum workshop to fuel Keaton’s excitement. I also came home with drums on the brain. All that talk of texture, layers, and colour really intrigued me.

I asked Keaton’s instructor, Altaf, if he has adult students. “Lots,” he said, explaining they typically have desk jobs and want to blow off a little steam. Then he started talking about rhythm and life. He made it sound so obvious as he described the importance of rhythm in life.

That talk of rhythm got me thinking about writing. I was coming out of a writing drought and sensed that rhythm was key to regrowing my writing habit. A good routine makes me a far more productive writer.drum-set

I started drum lessons the very next week. One week after that, I backed the van into my driveway and unloaded an old drum set to the amusement (and horror) of my wife,

The Early-Morning Writing Beat

Quality writing time doesn’t just happen. I have to make it happen. And making it happen depends on having a good rhythm in my life.

My best writing time is before the rest of the household awakens. I love the early morning. When my mind is sometimes still foggy I can imagine things that I can’t at other times of day. I can connect dots that don’t appear at other times. Stray thoughts aren’t chipping away at my focus.

Over the years, I’ve tried different early-morning routines including meditating and jogging. I now know that for me, early mornings are best reserved for writing. I don’t waste them on anything else.

To wring the best results out of my early-morning writing window, I minimize distractions. For starters, I prepare the coffee percolator the night before so that all I have to do in the morning is plug it in. As the coffee perks, I turn on the light at my desk, fire up the computer, and grab a red pen.

E-mail is the easiest way to contaminate this time, so I leave it for later. The same goes for the social media vortex. Seed catalogues are a definite no-no.

Different Times of Day, Different Tempo

As I walk home from the schoolyard after the get-the-kids-ready-for-school hustle, my mind races in a dozen different directions. This time of day is a good time for phone calls, e-mails, and less creative work. Mid-morning, when I shift gears and get back to writing, I turn off the telephone ringer.

By early afternoon, when I’m bleary-eyed from writing and my neck and shoulders are stiff, the drum set beckons. It’s an afternoon espresso, a workout, an adrenaline rush, and a stretch all rolled into one. It’s a new anchor to my routine.

Rhythm, Writing, and Lifedrum-players

A good rhythm makes me much more productive. The beat that anchors my writing habit is regular early-morning writing. Drums jazz up the afternoon. And the Thursday
afternoon drum lesson punctuates the week.

Sometimes I lose my writing beat. It’s normal. Life is full of unexpected opportunities and challenges. There is also the predictable rhythm of the seasons, bringing gardening weather and the temptation to write less. But I can get back in the writing groove when I make time in my life for good rhythm.


Meet the Author

Horticulturist Steven Biggs writes and speaks about farming, food, and gardening. He is the author of the Canadian bestseller No Guff Vegetable Gardening (No Nonsense Vegetable Gardening by St. Lynn’s Press in the USA), the award-winning Grow Figs Where You Think You Can’t, and Grow Gardeners: Kid-Tested Gardening with Children, which he wrote with his nine-year old daughter, Emma. Find Steven at

GWA Visits Botanical Treasures in Fort Worth


By Shelley Cramm

Oklahoma and North Texas area GWA members and their guests recently enjoyed an engaging and informative afternoon January 27 at the Botanic Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) in Fort Worth. The program was overflowing with inspiration, from the landscape artistry of local painter Rebecca Zook to presentations by speakers from the North Texas area. Touring the marvelous herbarium and libraries at BRIT was the heart of the afternoon. This was followed with connections and conversations among area GWA members, artists, horticulturists, scientists, editors, landscape designers, and writers. And in true GWA tradition, attendees were sent home with foliage and floral display for their gardens, courtesy of Plant Development Services.

What is BRIT?

The Botanic Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) is located next to the Fort Worth Botanic McCormick BRIT plant donations.jpgGardens in Fort Worth’s cultural district. Its library collections and herbarium began when holdings from Southern Methodist University (SMU) libraries grew too large and sprawling for the university to contain. It was time for “propagating by division,” so to speak. In the early 1980’s, the books and specimens were separated from SMU as the first two gifts toward creating BRIT as an institution in its own right.

To make this happen Barney L. Lipscomb, current Director of BRIT Press and Leonhardt Chair of Texas Botany, and a handful of like-minded colleagues and supporters, worked in a visionary manner to draw in donors and found the new entity. The organization sprang to life in converted warehouses near the downtown Fort Worth railroad depot. In 2011 BRIT was replanted to its current, sustainable campus, complete with a Living Roof.

The mission of BRIT is “to conserve our natural heritage, to deepen our knowledge of the plant world, and to achieve public awareness of the value plants bring life.” This should strike a chord with GWA garden communicators. Both local and national garden writers are encouraged to explore the botanical treasures in assembling articles, blog research, books bibliographies, etc. To search the online catalog, visit For in person library appointments, contact Laura Venhaus, our gracious host for the afternoon, at

GWA Connect at BRIT

Ann McCormick was the first one to introduce me to BRIT’s impressive facilities. She arranged for us to meet with BRIT’s Director of Libraries, Laura Venhaus. Inspiration abounded that day. Deciding to capitalize on this tremendous venue, we made plans to organize a GWA Connect meeting, and create an opportunity for local members to get together in between GWA Annual Conferences. An afternoon of tours through BRIT’s treasures, complimented by guest speakers, would make for a complete program offering and hopefully contagious creativity.

The afternoon at BRIT kicked-off with a viewing of over 25 paintings in an exhibit entitled, “Native to this Place: Earth and Sky Featuring the Clouds and Grasses of Texas.” Rebecca Zook, local landscape artist, was on hand to speak with attendees about her work. Each piece of her artwork was accompanied by her written comments on the painting and its mood, motivation, and beauty observed.

Then the formal meeting began with an introduction to BRIT—the archives, specimens, and research materials in botany, horticulture, and natural history. GWA members and guests were shepherded by one of the lead volunteer ambassadors on a tour of these areas. He began by providing insight into the U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified design of the building. He is one of 418 volunteers who give over 7800 hours annually to help steward the collections. His knowledge and enthusiasm were well-communicated!

The BRIT Herbarium contains over one million plant specimens, which makes the facility the largest independent collection in the United States. Our tour guide ushered us into the inner workings of the institution, where gathered samples are pressed, frozen, mounted, and recorded. We continued our journey back through the climate-controlled area containing rows and rows of floor-to-nearly-ceiling movable storage cabinets housing the specimens. They are organized taxonomically by plant family and continent. The setting gave us an appreciation for the wealth of plant variety, as well as the commitment to keep botanic records intact for researchers and enthusiasts alike for generations. The collection inventory was recently updated. Anyone interested in accessing the BRIT Digital Herbarium can click here.

Next we went upstairs to the libraries. Several libraries compose the bibliographic holdings. We lingered mostly in The Oliver G. Burk Memorial Library rare book room. The McCormick BRIT specimen detail.jpgsmell of old books drew us in, a cherished scent for most writers! We looked over beautiful volumes of botanical illustrations on display and browsed the spines of books from the last 150+ years of botany and natural history. In addition to these rare books, BRIT houses over 100,000 volumes in their research library, a secure, climate-controlled room of institutional book stacks which we skipped over to enjoy the more vibrant, user-friendly Burk Children’s Library. BRIT’s extensive, joyful children’s collection of titles hopes to inspire young people with garden stories and gardening basics, complete with colorful carpeting, furniture, and weekly “Bella’s Storytime.” Bella is a pink begonia, a persona created to promote the connection between science and literacy (and fun!).

After the tour we regrouped in the meeting room for snacks and coffee. Then Dottie Woodson, of Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension, horticultural sage to area gardeners, horticulturists, and home owners alike, spoke to us on extension education, from its historical roots and structure to observations on today’s changes in landscaping methods. In her frank, friendly style, she emphasized the approachability and availability of extension agents like herself, an asset to Texas garden writers.

McCormick BRIT library.jpgWhile Woodson addressed the garden-end of things, Erin Booke, editor of the LIFE section of The Dallas Morning News (TDMN), spoke to the writing-end of our profession. She discussed the changing state of newspaper publishing, the importance of social media, and the key role of visuals in developing an article idea. We were particularly interested to hear that she was looking for story ideas that integrate with social media as well as print. She told us that TDMN, like other newspapers, was experiencing an increasing shift in focus toward the digital world, particularly video.

Finally, attendees browsed and admired shrubs donated by Plant Development Services, an old friend to GWA. These included:

  • ‘Soft Caress’ mahonias for shaded areas from the Southern Living Plant Collection, with feathery, soft leaves and yellow spray of pom-pom flowers.
  • ‘Lemon Lime’ nandinas, a low growing, border shrub, also from the Southern Living Plant Collection, that brightens the landscape with chartreuse-colored new growth.
  • Three new varieties from the Encore Azalea line, with blooms in the pinkish tones and winter foliage interest with leaves turning to deep bronze as temperatures drop.

Like all other GWA Connect meetings, this event was a success on many levels. Longtime members enjoyed the chance to catch up and visit with each other in the New Year. Guests and prospective members were given the opportunity to learn more about GWA and enjoy first-hand the benefits of membership.

The meeting ended as we gathered around a laptop, campfire-style, and viewed the video “Welcome to GWA2017!” The Buffalo arrangements committee has prepared a warm and exciting invitation to this city. We all are eager to see the adorable, creative gardens of Buffalo for ourselves this summer!


Meet the Author

Shelley CrammShelley S. Cramm, is the General Editor of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible. She writes a bi-weekly blog called Garden In Delight. Shelley joined GWA six years ago with little experience and a big commission to explore the Bible from a gardener’s point of view. From her GWA membership she gained the needed education and encouragement to write, market, photograph, and speak on her work.


A Day at NCNLA Green and Growin’ 17!

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By: Anelle Ammons

Thursdays are busy days for me. I get up, get my kids to their respective schools, and try to get a little sanity before picking them both up again later. However, I also like to spice things up when I see an opportunity. So this January, after a small snafu with my babysitter, I was able to slip away by 12:30 and head to North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association’s Green and Growin’ 17 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Arthur CD57AA58-BB1D-4466-B657-16C8D3524480.JPGThe trip was a little over an hour’s drive from my home. Soon I was signing in for my complimentary badge. A big thank you to NCNLA for letting GWA members attend for free.

I had attended this trade show last year, but I was still overwhelmed when I walked in the front door. There were booths and people in every direction. I found some amazing plant displays, as well as ones for tools and heavy equipment. I talked to several representatives of local nurseries that I had met before and met several more that I hadn’t realized were working in my area. I even found a local plant wholesaler whose business owner’s mother walks through my neighborhood and chats with me and my boys often. Small world!

Walking the trade show floor was an adventure. Along with meeting up with some of the GWA members on the floor, I found several friends from North Carolina State University that I don’t get to chat with often. There was also some sort of putt-putt tournament at a lounge that was drawing in quite a crowd. I didn’t stay for the final scores.

Networking is one of the most important parts of NCNLA. I was able to meet several of theAmmons riding mower.jpg NC State professors I’ve worked with online but never seen in person. I had a long, impromptu conversation with my horticulture major advisor about my upcoming research. We also spoke with some of the nurseries we will be working with this coming summer.

Even though I only spent about four hours at the show before closing, my feet were tired. I felt like I’d “seen” everything even though I hadn’t had enough time to spend visiting every booth. You really need more than four hours to get the full experience.

Arthur IMG_1823.JPGAs fun as the trade show was, and as fun as it was seeing some of my friends from the university, perhaps the best part was the GWA Connect meeting afterward . We retired to the bar at the hotel where the bulk of the conference was being held. We were a small crowd, but that lent itself to more personal conversations and connections. We even had some of the nursery representatives stop by to introduce themselves.

I left that evening for the drive home wondering if I could manage my schedule to drive back down for the day Friday, as well. Although Green and Growin’ isn’t one of the biggest shows in the country, it sure has a lot to offer. I left excited to find some more shows to attend and ready to return again next year.


Meet the Author

anelle-ammonsAnelle Ammons is a plant geek, garden writer, and graduate student in horticulture at North Carolina State University. When she isn’t playing with her husband and two sons, she can be found in the garden, on a hiking trail, or sharing horticulture on Twitter at .



TPIE 2017: Insights Into the Tropical Plant Industry

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By Louise Clarke

For the second year, garden communicators were invited to the Tropical Plant Industry Expo (TPIE) held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, January 18 – 20. This mid-winter event is produced by FNGLA, the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

This year Association members Sylvia Gordon and Jennifer Nelis rolled out the red carpet for GWA. Glowing reports from first year attendees and the alluring promotional materials we received enticed 40 garden communicators to attend this year, up from 2016’s 18 attendees. Timed immediately after the GWA Board meeting, TPIE provided opportunities for two days of GWA-exclusive tours before and after the trade show.

clarke-patch-of-heavenOn Tuesday, prior to the opening of TPIE, Sylvia and Jennifer hosted a special morning-into-night tour for GWA. We stopped first at The Kampong, winter home of the famed plant explorer David Fairchild and now part of The National Tropical Botanical Garden. Situated on beautiful Biscayne Bay, it is home to many of the plants Fairchild introduced to U.S. soil.

Passing under the enormous Baobab tree at the Kampong gates with its dark tangle of aerial roots, we entered an earthly paradise of lush greenery and birdsong. There we enjoyed swaying palms, prehistoric cycads, flowering trees, and exotic fruits, including over 50 varieties of mangos. The early morning light was perfect for the photographers among us.

Next we boarded our bus for the secluded Patch of Heaven Gardens in Miami-Dade County. We toured the property with Owner Bruce Chesney and horticulturist Fred Hubbard. Upon entering Bruce’s house, we crossed a wooden bridge over a meandering piscine stream, with trickling waterfall walls on either side. Orchids, ferns, and bromeliads perched on the native rock. Asian furnishings accented the tropical ambience. The indoor pool had views out to the endangered tropical hammock forest.

We next visited Costa Farms for a tour of the trial gardens and a delicious buffet lunch. Clarke Costa Farms Trial Gdn.jpgJustin Hancock, Costa’s Consumer Marketing and Digital Specialist, gave us an overview of Costa and highlighted the trial garden features. There were many photo opportunities as we viewed row after row of annuals, perennials, and succulents, and garden vignettes. Armed with our swag bags and a Costa-grown houseplant, we departed for another nursery visit.

Robert Fuchs, owner of R.F. Orchids, greeted us at his Homestead property. Amazing blooming orchids festooned the trees, among them the rare Florida native ghost orchid. In the retail nursery hung hundreds of Vanda orchids in a rainbow of hues. Our schedule prohibited us from lingering, so we did not get to sample Bob’s scorpion-infused liquor.

Clarke Mont Bot Ctr Gwa 2017.jpgLate afternoon found us visiting Montgomery Botanical Center in Coral Gables. Executive Director Dr. Patrick Griffith led us on a tour of the grounds. Palms and cycads from around the world, some critically endangered, are grown and studied here. Then we were treated to a buffet dinner inside the Montgomery’s former residence. As evening descended we said our goodbyes amid the cacophony of crying peacocks.

Our final stop was South Beach’s Lincoln Road, an historic shopping and dining promenade. Dating from the 1950’s and featuring “Miami Modern” architecture, it was one of the first pedestrian malls. In 2010 landscape architect Raymond Jungles filled the center of the mall with plantings of Florida Everglades plants and other tropicals. Several towering cypress trees in watery planters anchored the space. Uplighting added a warm ambiance to the nighttime milieu. Under balmy, moonlit skies, we strolled to Juvia, an ultramodern restaurant perched atop a designer parking garage, featuring uplighted green walls. It was a lovely finale to a thoroughly fascinating, but exhausting day.

Wednesday was dedicated to TPIE. We enjoyed complimentary access to all events, VIP Clarke Hucker property.JPGseating at the keynote presentation, and unlimited access to the show floor. FNGLA had designated Wednesday as “Garden Communicators Day.” Keynote speaker and trend spotter Jane Lockhart opened the show talking about changing demographics, Pantone’s Color of the Year “greenery,” and how plants connect people to the places where they live and work.

Lloyd Singleton, TPIE committee chair and University of Florida extension agent, hosted our GWA-exclusive tour, ushering members around the show, introducing us to key exhibitors and highlighting cool new products. After that we were turned loose to roam five acres of aisles and over 400 exhibitors. I came away with free samples, numerous tropical nursery contacts, and a plethora of ideas for lectures, workshops, articles, and blog posts.

On Thursday after TPIE Sylvia Gordon gave us a tour that took us to more green walls, a commercial bromeliad nursery, and private gardens including Block Botanical Gardens. Our first stop took us to Hyde Beach Residence and Resorts. As we watched, the parking garage’s western façade, facing busy Hallandale Beach Boulevard, was covered with a living wall manufactured by GSky Plant Systems, one of the TPIE exhibitors. GSky’s service manager Patrick Ballay explained the installation process, and site challenges. With necks craned, we watched a team of installers lift pre-planted modules into place.

Clarke Green Wall Tour.JPGOur next stop on Collins Avenue was Acqualina Condominiums, home to more GSky green walls. Patrick showed us exterior green walls and the sales office’s interior green wall. When the sales manager heard that media was visiting, he graciously invited our group to view the model condominium, priced at a mere $7M, and enjoy the balcony views of beach and surf. Winding our way past the Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Ferraris in the resident parking area, we boarded our transport for the next stop.

Situated in a gated community on Biscayne Bay, the Hucker property was a compound of two contemporary residences surrounded by tropical gardens designed by Brian Rogers of Avalon Gardens.  Entering through the wooden gate, Brian introduced us to a lush area of swaying palms, bromeliads, heliconias, and fragrant gardenias.  These plantings softened the imposing white angular mid-century modern architecture. Strolling past the blue Balinese-styled swimming pool and pavilion, we had stunning views of the canal, Biscayne Bay, and the remnants of Stiltsville, a historic fishing camp.

Clarke Peaches Dr Block.JPGWith little time to linger and enjoy the expansive views, Sylvia urged us to board our bus for a visit to family owned Bullis Bromeliads. Dazzling bromeliads including aechmeas, alcantareas, billbergias, and neoregelias, with colorful stripes, splotches, and other-worldy blooms charmed us. In addition to the nursery, the property boasted a large landscape display with a lake and waterfalls, designed to highlight bromeliads in garden settings.

The day’s final stop was Block Botanical Gardens in residential Miami, situated on a former mango grove. Owner Dr. Jeffrey Block greeted us and proudly showed us the National Champion mango tree, a vestige of the area’s past. Live oaks, palms and cycads from around the world, orchids, bromeliads, and the country’s largest outdoor planting of lipstick palm (Cyrtostachys renda) were displayed to horticultural perfection. Peaches, Dr, Block’s salmon-crested cockatoo, was a big hit as she talked, sang, and danced on Block’s shoulder during our tour of the enclosed plant collection.

Clarke TPIE Show 2017.jpgAll in all, the TPIE experience combined with two days of tours gave attendees valuable insights into the tropical plant industry of southern Florida. It was a triumph of cooperation and communication between GWA and FNGLA. Hats off to Sylvia Gordon and Jennifer Nelis, who invested countless hours making this a special event for GWA members.

About the Author:

Louise Clarke with coco natural, Cuba, 6/18/16

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.

MANTS Sets the Tone for Garden Writers

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By Daniel Gasteiger

My vernalization begins in January. That’s when cold temperatures numb my synapses and I become desperate to shake it off and start to produce fruit in defiance. I’m cautious, however, and mulch my synapses to protect them from the miserably deep freeze likely to settle in before a spring thaw. One of my favorite mulches for this purpose is the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS). I’ve assembled some thoughts for you about this year’s show.

My Need for Frugality

MANTS is fantastic, providing access to about 1,000 industry businesses in a single convention hall. The show runs in Baltimore for two-and-a-half days each January. It’s more than a day trip for me. Even when I stay through the whole conference, I fail to visit every booth that interests me, so staying over is essential.

MANTS of 2017 had 1,536 booth spaces occupied by 952 companies. You’re seeing about half in this photo. 

I always cringe when I check out hotels offering special rates for conference attendees. It’s hard to trade the cost of two weeks of groceries for a night’s sleep and a shower. So I search for inexpensive alternatives within a reasonable drive of the show.

This year I selected a Red Roof Inn near the airport. They charged about one third what I’d pay to stay in town. Two nights there plus daily parking fees cost less than a night’s stay near the conference center.

MANTS Treats Press Well

For GWA and other members of the press, MANTS provided a room that featured seating and work tables, a dedicated bathroom, refreshments, wi-fi, and an entrance directly onto the show floor. On the second morning of the show, there was also a breakfast in the press

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GWA members tend to gravitate to the association’s booth where they swap insights about the show-where to find the most sensational hellebore, for example. 

room where organizers talked about the show’s history and attendance statistics. Several vendors presented plants or other products they were introducing.

Throughout the conference, handouts about the show were available in the press room. One packet listed new products as reported by vendors. You could start the show by perusing that list and identifying vendors whose stories would most interest your audience.


On the first day of MANTS a GWA Connect meeting provided an opportunity for members to relax and become better acquainted. When the show floor closed, GWA members trickle into the lobby of the nearby Lord Baltimore Hotel and shared stories about their travels, people they met at the show, new products, upcoming events, and more. Each year’s GWA Connect meeting feels like a happy family gathering.

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Lunch for interested GWA members on the second day of MANTS was informal gathering a restaurant across from the convention center. 

Around one o’clock on the second day of MANTS, GWA members and acquaintances gathered in the lobby of the conference center and crossed the street to a cafeteria-style restaurant for lunch. There were brief introductions and lively conversations – and at least some craziness ensued.

There was an Emergent party that involved GWA members. Emergent is a collective of young horticulture professionals who represent the future of the industry.  Emergent and the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) invited GWA to a reception where we learned that Steve Black of Raemelton Farm received the Nursery Management Grower of the Year award. Such events provide GWA members opportunities to learn about horticultural industry influencers and to meet people whose activities may inspire articles.

One of my favorite opportunities for GWA members at MANTS is our booth on the show

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In the week after MANTS, I filed an article about water gardens and sold a few photos along with it. This one ran with the article, though sadly in black-and-white. 

floor. If you have a chance to work the booth at any trade show, do it! We greet passers-by and offer encouragement to join up. Often vendors, hoping to get attention for their products, visit the booth. You may end up with something new to try in your own garden—or at least an interesting story to tell.

Aside from enjoying the camaraderie, picking up some samples, discovering new products, and learning more about industry organizations, I benefited financially from MANTS. So far, the newspaper I write for has published a feature I scooped there and has accepted a second one for publication soon. I’ll submit a third article shortly. Photos, interviews, and collateral I collected at MANTS may play a part in half a dozen articles before spring.


Meet the Author

Daniel Gasteiger.jpgDaniel Gasteiger writes about gardening and food for The Daily Item in Sunbury, PA. He blogs at though health problems have distracted him from it quite a bit in the past year.