MANTS Sets the Tone for Garden Writers


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

Gasteiger helleboresnowfever.jpg
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.

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 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.

Gasteiger gwalunch.jpg
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.

Gasteiger watergarden.jpg
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.

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

Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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