By Peggy Riccio
Photos by Michele Fletcher
The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) is the one of the largest horticultural trade shows in the country. Held at the Baltimore Convention Center, MANTS draws an average attendance of 10,866 people and 974 exhibiting companies for three days in January.
GWA members can attend MANTS free so when I arrived Wednesday morning, all I had to do was scan a barcode to obtain my press badge. I entered the trade show floor at 9:00am, armed with business cards and my iPhone. I immediately met a long time GWA member who was helping a friend staff a booth and from there I continued to meet GWA members throughout the day. As I walked from booth to booth, I learned of new products, plants, and companies. By 5:00 pm, I was ready to sit down – my bag was full of brochures, product samples, and business cards. Fortunately, Kellen staff were on the scene and had arranged a Connect meeting at a local hotel for 30 GWA members to enjoy appetizers and mingle. I was able to have long talks (finally!) with old friends, meet new people that I had always “known” because I subscribe to their marketing e-mails, and meet “Facebook friends” in person.
On Thursday morning, I attended the MANTS Media Reception in the press room. When I sat down at my table, I was immediately asked to write this blog post, listened to people discuss the logistics of putting on a Connect meeting, talked with a woman in charge of a native plant conference, discussed the GWA president’s vision for GWA, and learned about producing webinars. Around me, people were helping each other out, locating plants for jobs, setting up future Connect meetings, introducing new nursery representatives, and sharing new apps. After a brief introduction to MANTS, we heard representatives from three companies talk about their products. I could have stayed in that room all day. It was THE opportunity to meet about 30 luminaries in the field but it was back to the floor.
Lunch was at a café across the street and a dozen of us grabbed a table, introduced ourselves, and exchanged business cards. I had conversations about squash arches made out of cattle panels, heirloom seeds, and community gardens. Afterwards, I volunteered to staff the GWA booth. Many attendees came by to learn about GWA and fellow members stopped by — people I had admired from afar for years — and I was able to introduce myself to them. I had conversations about sustainability, garden tours, and the power circles. Through talking with our past and current GWA presidents, I learned more about GWA as an organization, its future, and its capacity to help me as a garden communicator. By Thursday evening my feet told me it was time to go home. MANTS provided plenty of material and an iPhone full of photos to write articles but GWA provided new friends and contacts that I hope to meet again and again.
Meet the Author
Peggy Riccio is a horticulturist and garden communicator in Northern Virginia. Her website, pegplant.com, features local gardening news, resources, and plants in the Washington DC metro area.