Discoveries at a Nursery Trade Show


Every January I spend a day at the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) in downtown Baltimore, lured by the people I’ll run into as much as by the actual products and companies on display.  I’ll let others judge whether MANTS lives up to the distinction it claims for itself – the “Masterpiece of Trade Shows” – but since I’m not really shopping and am only there to have fun and find topics to write about, it works for me.  According to Grower Magazine, attendance this year was “upwards of 11,100,” the busiest it’s been in years, and that reporter found that people there were “more positive about the spring and the business.”  I agree; vendors told me they were having a great show.  So that’s good news for us gardeners, at the consumer end of the deals being made at this show.

On to the discoveries.

The People

Allen Bush in the flesh!

It was a treat to meet in person someone I’d emailed with so many times – frequent Rant guest Allen Bush.  Even cuter than I expected, and just as nice as I’d heard.  He was there with Jelitto Perennial Seeds.

I got to see old friends Mark Highland, left, with Organic Mechanics and even Allan Armitage, another (sometime) guest ranter, who’s here showing off his latest – an app for perennials!  More of my favorite men in gardening.  (Btw, Mark’s a dad now and is quick on the draw with baby pictures to prove it.)

Another terrific garden writer I got to meet and yet forgot to take a photo of is David Culp, author of The Layered Garden, which I’m dying to see in person.  I gushed over his book sufficiently (and honestly) to score an invitation – yay! Plus, he’ll be speaking soon in Annapolis, a quick drive from me.  So, photos and the wisdom of David Culp coming soon, y’all.

More garden-world celebs at the show that I didn’t get to talk to were Michael Dirr Himself, Paul Tukey, Kurt Bluemel, and I’m sure others.

In the distaff department (though we’re heavily out-numbered at MANTS, a rarity in the garden world), I managed a meet-up and lunch with the fabulous Susan Cohan, and was sorry I missed media maven Susie McCoy.

The Products

Perhaps my favorite products at the show were the hammered-metal outdoor wall sculptures made in Haiti and imported by Le Primitif Galleries, whose website won’t let you enter without a password, and whose signage actually misspelled their name.  But the prices are great (at least here at wholesale), with the large piece shown here only $27.50.  I want!

And yes, Rant readers have seen this book cover before but I’m showing it off because I was so thrilled to see it displayed as a Timber Press best-seller!  Evelyn Hadden’s wonderful Beautiful No-Mow Yards with my former (sniff) garden on the front cover!  I still have those Adirondack chairs, though; they’re made of recycled plastic and will last forever.

Mark Highland told me about Sustane Compost Tea, which comes in little bags that you just put under the plant, and it works – he swears by it.  Gotta check into this.

Ladies from Green Heron Tools were at the show demonstrating some made-for-women tools, like this ergonomic shovel/spade hybrid shown off by Ann Adams here, who’s a former nurse and someone who knows a thing or two about gardening as a female.  The story of Green Heron’s research and the resulting products has been getting some great press.  No free “review copy” was offered, though not because it wasn’t boldly hinted at.

Naturally there were bulb wholesalers hawking their wares and when I saw this “dig drop done” signage I had to smile.  Those horrible cartoon ladies are gone (except for a page on their website) and the graphics aren’t half bad.  Everyone who showered the bulb association with negative feedback for their original, offensive campaign should know that it worked.

Above right is another product I wouldn’t mind in my own garden – the good-looking metal trellises from Artisan Trellis.

Although I didn’t catch Kurt Bluemel in person, I enjoyed his booth, one of the very few good-looking booths at the show (it being a show that’s geared to store buyers, not customers).

One booth did have this cool chess-board display using some interesting plants and I made sure I photographed it – and promptly forgot to see what the booth was FOR.  Sorry.

For more, the Grower Magazine article highlighted a few more products, including the HERS shovel.


  1. A great summary and a lot of name-drops, Susan, but the biggest shock to me was that you admitted to have plastic Adirondack chairs! I would have never known, and might lusted over them without that knowledge. Sometimes, baring ones gardening soul can go a little too far…..the difference between angelic and demure (like Taylor Swift) or brazen and raw (like Lady Gaga).

  2. About my chairs – they’re the second pair I’ve owned. The first ones were cheaper – about $100 each – but made of pine. They needed repairs every year and after a few, simply fell apart. This pair is more durable than hardwood. I’ll add that the design of Adirondacks is fabulous because they’re comfortable and come with their own built-in space for drinks. No side table needed.

  3. Wow! I wish I had gone through MANTS with you! I did my usual connecting with nurseries I’ve worked with over the years but your walk through puts a whole new spin on this show. Hort celebrities? YAY!

  4. How did I miss that chess set??? Oh right, because I got to MANTS at noon and had to be at a client site in Fauquier County VA for 3:30. Such bad decisions on my part!

    I’ve been a few times over the last seven years and one trend I’ve noticed is an upswing in the availability of natives. My first time at the show there was one single, solitary vendor, and I believe there were 4-5 this year. Not only is that pretty cool, it makes my job WAY easier when I need to source an oddball native for a job.

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