Around the beginning of February people around here, especially the gardeners, are starting to feel restless and in need of a pick-me-up. Fortunately, Wisconsin Public Television holds a big garden expo every year. I used to hate expo time when I was at my old job. What should have been something to look forward to was dampened by having to design and sometimes staff a display using the depressingly middlebrow materials our company pushed. We were lucky to have some decent plants to spruce (literally!) it up. Now that I’m free of that task I can just go and enjoy the event for what it is.
The expo consists of an exhibition hall with scores of display booths, seminars and workshops. I’ve been skipping the last two things but should probably try to attend one or two of those sometime. Instead I just go for the vendors and information booths. And, of course, there are always plenty of forced blooms to remind us spring is coming.
There are always great booths with Master Gardeners and people from Extension to talk with and answer questions. I hope this sort of service can continue but right now we’ve got a state government that is openly hostile to this part of the University’s mission.
I had a great talk with one of the reps about basil and tomato pathogens and picked up some literature. These programs are an awesome thing and if you haven’t checked into your state or county Extension already you should. You’ll be amazed how much information they share and the services they provide.
There were plenty of what I now think of as “on topic” vendors there.
Landscape design, restoration and management companies
Publishers of garden books (and other topics)
Plant vendors! I’m going to see about getting some more martagon lilies from this place. They didn’t have any with them but had oodles of Asiatic and oriental ones. The vendor I’ve gotten many of my Trillium from was also there but they didn’t have anything I didn’t already have. Too bad, because the plants I’ve gotten from them before have performed wonderfully.
Garden art. I had to keep reminding myself that this stuff does look less tacky when there are one or two pieces in a garden. Displays crowded with them were a bit much.
Power equipment! Vroom vroom!! We’re going to have to get something versatile if/when we finally move to the country.
What I was really most hoping to see in the way of vendors was greenhouse companies. There was this one represented at a hydroponic store’s booth but nobody from the actual company was there as far as I could tell. I did get some literature, though. I’d like to have a greenhouse or conservatory some day. I gather from the blogs I read that gardeners in other countries tend to have home greenhouses more than we do around here. I wonder if it’s just more part of the tradition.
I thought this little conservatory sample was kind of cute.
There were also plenty of booths that inspired me to think of the “on topic/off topic” concept…
… and paintings. Sure some of them have gardenesque themes, but I’m not a big fan of art fairs.
There were also a number of “As Seen on TV!” type products like this broom. Really? I don’t consider having seen something on television that great of a marketing point. I just walk on by but couldn’t resist pointing out that I don’t feel these contribute much to the expo except perhaps to keep the booths full.
Let’s end on a positive note. All the area botanical gardens, garden clubs, plant societies, arboretums, etc. were there. I even found one place that we’ve never been to that would make a nice day trip this spring.
In the end I walked out with one packet of leek seeds and some brochures and such. Still, I felt it was a decent way to spend a little time and get some inspiration for the upcoming season. Is there a garden show or expo or similar event in your area? I’d enjoy hearing what different ones are like.