Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank You

Allan Armitage At TradeshowWe continue to hear about new marketing schemes, social media and, again and again, new plants. If you have read one of my columns, you know I have always believed that new crops are the lifeblood of this industry. New crops, new cultivars, new hybrids, new names — they are forever changing. Who had heard of digiplexis or echibeckia a few years ago? And social media and marketing are certainly front and center, no matter what company you talk with. Sometimes I get worn out listening to everything going on, but I would not have it any other way.

I am fortunate to be invited to visit with different groups in many different states. I get to go to all the warm and balmy places in the warm and balmy months. Who would not envy my travels this winter? January — Minneapolis and Baltimore; February — Boston and Rochester; March — Newark and Montreal. I must not charge enough!

Regardless of weather, there was not one of these meetings/shows/lectures that I did not come away from with positive feelings. The Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association meeting in Minneapolis was packed and buzzing. The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show in Baltimore just keeps getting better and better. Boston was a white frozen mess, but people who made it to New England Grows were excited about the upcoming season because they know the harder the winter, the better the spring. Upstate New York is always a favorite venue of mine, and the Genesee Finger Lakes group in Rochester was bubbling over with excitement. In Newark, New Jersey Plants was hopping. I confess that in Montreal, all I did was shovel snow off my sister-in-law’s deck, yet her friends were already excited to buy and plant.

Every one of these meetings boasted excellent attendance. Ask anyone who struggles through ice and snow to go to these things and the first thing they will tell you is, “It’s about the people!” Not the plants, not the marketing spiel and not the social media — it’s all about the people. While that may sound like a patriotic rallying cry, it is true. We are alive and well, thank you.

Our products, our displays and our enthusiasm are obvious at shows like these, but these shows are only some of the big ones. I just returned home from the Augusta Garden Festival in Augusta, Ga., a tiny event in comparison. It was a three-day occasion, with speakers, garden tours, vendors and displays. Garden centers and growers came from a 150-mile radius to display and sell product, and people from the area supported it. It poured rain on Saturday, and still more than 100 people filled the tent in which I was speaking. Small festivals and shows like this are still part of the fabric of this thing we call horticulture.

All of the shows I mentioned, regardless of the size, are designed to attract regional attendees. Whether they are from the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic, the Southeast or West, vendors may come from all over, but attendees are regional. Not so for the California Spring Trials. Brokers, independents, breeders and media from around the country converge upon coastal California sites to stay abreast of all those things mentioned in the first sentence of this article. And as lavish a show as everyone puts on, and as many a picture made on what is new and what might be a hit, it is still “all about the people.”

I am now getting ready to go to Asheville, then Columbus, Baltimore and Buffalo in the next few months to learn and to teach. Some of us will be flush with success, others disappointed with the season, but I can guarantee you that most will be optimistic about the future.

I am able to stand back and look over the American horticulture terrain. It is spotted with potholes, and obstacles abound, yet it is the landscape we choose. Horticulture may not be as popular as the latest hit movie or the latest bestseller, but they come and go. We are here to stay. Yes, we are alive and well, thank you.

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