An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

January 7, 2010

To MANTS For Plants

Yesterday, several of us from work drove up to Charm City for the day to attend the annual Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS). This event is sponsored by the nursery and landscape associations of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia and is one of largest regional shows under one roof. Here the nursery industry gathers to show its wares to garden centers, landscapers and each other. Although there were people selling pottery, garden accessories, power equipment, software and such; it is mainly a very plant centered show with close to 900 different vendors. It seemed that each of the spaces on the floor of the massive Baltimore Convention Center was full, but unfortunately there was more than plenty of room in the aisles and the people looking were outnumbered by the people selling. All the national heavy hitters were there like Monrovia, Jackson and Perkins, Proven Winners, Ball Horticulture and others, as well as many more regional players, and in addition to many small family owned businesses. I got to see a few new plant introductions, caught up with old acquaintances and picked up several hundred pounds of catalogs.

Inner Harbor 8

Inner Harbor 9

Usually shows like this are a good way to take the pulse of the industry and to see what may be any up and coming trends. The good news is that there will be no overall shortage of plants this year. Wholesale growers are sitting on mountains of inventory, and the of deals, special offers and price reductions were flying around the cavernous hall. Hopefully these savings will also show up in the garden centers. Many of the growers are taking excess inventory right from the pots to the compost piles and are starting fresh with new crops. There were also several booths advertising "going out of business" sales. Like many sectors of the economy, nurseries have been cutting costs and limiting spending wherever they can with the hopes that things are slowly getting better, but I think it will be a while before the happy dances can begin again.

Display Rack 2

Kurt Bluemel Display 1

Green Wall

Although there were many plant vendors at MANTS, I did not see too many new trees or shrubs. Some were showing a new Redbud with orange new growth maturing to chartreuse (I am glad the flowers will be gone when this one leafs out). The number of new hydrangeas is about to multiply again, particularly the re-bloomers. Abelia cultivars are also expanding, but to the point I can't tell the difference. Most of the new stuff seemed to be in the world of perennials, annuals and tropicals. The proliferation of Heucheras continues unabated and the breeding of Hellebores is producing more results. One trend I saw a lot of is the increased number of tender succulents and other exotics that are now being offered. Another big trend that I think is more ground-up, customer driven - is the new emphasis on edibles, and many formally strictly ornamental nurseries are now offering fruits and vegetables.

Calthea crocata

Calathea crocata

Coleus remain hot.

Coleus Collection

Assorted Heucheras

Huechera Assortment 1

This nursery always displays their plants like pieces of art and always includes an enormous arrangement of cut branches from the plants they grow.

Mixed Planter

This company sells "vintage" plant material, some of which might come with a pedigree. The boxwoods on the back wall were easily 12' tall.

Big Boxwoods

Candy Store Series Phlox

Phlox Candy Store Series

Succulent Assortment_edited-1

Kalanchoe 'Magic Bells'

Kalanchoe 'Magic Bells'

Agave x humilis 'Hedgehog'

Aloe x humilis 'Hedgehog'

Aloe variegata

Aloe variegata

Back at work today, I spent the better part of the day sorting through all my catalogs to learn more about new discoveries, looking for deals, seeing what I think I can sell this spring and generally avoiding the bitter weather outside.

(If you would like to see more of what I saw at MANTS, you can visit a slideshow on my Flickr page. And as always, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have received no compensation for anything mentioned in this post, but I am always open for negotiation.)


  1. Good morning Les. Oh how I'd love to be on the cutting edge of choosing what to buy and sell. I think in general the nurseries do not do a good job of choosing good plants. You know this as I've posted about how certain plants are unavailable before. My newest one I'd like to see more of are plum yews. (cephalotaxus). They are coming more and more though.

    I think it sad some nurseries are closing down. I personally have found that there is not the abundance of plant material available that there had been 6-10 years ago. Everyone, even Walmart is paring down its stock of live plants, and probably rightly so. It makes it difficult for a plant collector like me to get good deals though. Thanks for the info on the trends. I'm not sure the bid deal on tender succulents. I think because of scarcity of rain but it is a trend that will pass quickly when gardeners get tired of protecting these succulents-in other words, it is not a trend I'm jumping at. I can totally understand heucheras and hellebores. Bring em on!

  2. P.S. and a Happy New Year to you. Great pictures.

  3. It is becoming more obvious that I will be needing a small greenhouse for propagation and winter mental health. I have never really had to spend much money on aquiring plants being in the profession and it would be hard to start now.

  4. Hi Les! I wandered over your way via Pam at the Microbial Laboratory, and what good timing! Thanks for the preview... I never seem to have the $ to attend big shows any more, but LOVE seeing your nice pics of the previews... is that a chartreuse mondo I see? I am still enthralled with anything chartreuse... not over it yet! And I continue to become a bigger and bigger fan of the succulents, even though this freeze has damaged mine.

  5. I always love going to shows like this. Especially seeing the new plant introductions. I love the succulents in your photos.

  6. Wow and I thought our shows in February were early, a January garden show no less! I guess it is the perfect way to escape from the harsh realities of winter. Thank you for the tour and the great photos!

  7. Tina,
    I am surprised that you can not find the Plum Yew, they are fairly common around here. There is no shortage of plants from the wholesale growers, but I can tell you garden centers are going to be very conservative with what they bring in this spring. Happy New Year to you as well.

    Sounds like a good idea, will it be temperate or tropical? I'd love to have one too and think I'd move a sofa into along with the plants.

    Thanks for coming over. I think if what you are looking at is in the second picture it is an Acorus. There are several chartreuse varieties. You may also want to look for Liriope 'Pee Dee Gold Ingot'.

    Thanks for coming over. I love those succulents as well, perhaps that is why I took so many pictures of them. Around here, they are used more for containers and houseplants. It is too cold for most, and this summer they would have rotted with the incredible rain we got.

    This is a great time to have a show for the nursery and landscape trade with not a whole lot else going on.


  8. Hi Les, what a nice outing. You know I would go crazy with my notebook! so you don't think you would like to see the Redbud in bloom with the Chartreuse leaves? ha!! I do like a combination planting of various Heuchera and Heucherellas.
    Per your comment to TNT- we have Pee Dee Ingot in the LG.... really slow grower.

  9. More sellers than buyers? That is not good news for the Lawn and Garden Industry. It does seem to be the trend.

  10. First off, what a fun thing to do during this cold weather. And then second - how do not just wanna STEAL everything, throw it in the trunk of your car, and race home with it? For those of us who don't work in the nursery/plant industry - this kind of thing would result in prison time!

    I've noticed around here that some nurseries have less in stock - fewer choices, less of the (perhaps) riskier stuff - and I don't think it's just the time of year.

    (That redbud sounds fascinating though, as long as - like you said - the flowers are long gone before those early orange leaves start leafing out.)

  11. How nice to see the Baltimore harbor. I visited last summer with Balto relatives and loved the acquarium. Lovely pics and predictions about the coming season for gardeners. I have seen many of the small plant wholesalers in San Diego County go out of business in the last few years as drought water restrictions made it impossible for them to survive.
    I worry that the mega nurseries like Monrovia and Proven Winners are making my plant choices for me, according to their own tastes, and I no longer have as many options to buy plants that might be more appropriate for my climate.

  12. Hi Les, that is a good way to be immersed in plants while the weather outside is frightful. I know the nurseries need to be up on the latest trends, but I shudder at the word.

    I wanted to let you know that after reading your review of Avatar, I insisted we go see it. We don't go out to the movies hardly at all, but this one was different. My husband and I enjoyed it so much, I wasn't sure if he would like it as much as me, but he did, if for different reasons. It was your words that sent me there. Thank you. :-)

  13. Janet,
    One of our landscapers at work was re-doing some winter interest pots last spring and brought a clump of Pee Dee back for the vultchures to divide and of course I got a piece.

    I think that phrase translate to most sectors these days.

    We went on Wednesday, but Friday would be the day to go if you wanted to get plants. In order to not have to take so much back with them, many of the growers let the plants go pretty cheap, and that is pretty cheap for wholesale too.

    Weeping Sore,
    I love Baltimore too, with fun memories of boozey weekends there. In Monrovia's favor, they are working with Dan Hinkley to introduce some of the plants he has discovered or is promoting. But it is a shame that the wholesalers are dwindling in numbers, this can't be good for diversity.

    I am glad you liked the movie and really glad your date did. There is enough of the traditional movie fare in the story to hold most people's interest beyond the forest scenes. How about those dragons?


  14. It was fun to hear your review of the MANTS show; I'll be attending something similar here in Denver next month called ProGreen Expo. Many of the same big national suppliers attend as well as smaller, regional companies, all trying to sell their wares. ProGreen also features a week of classes and seminars, so even if we have to cut back on purchases we can still learn something new!! In an industry that's always changing and evolving it's great to have that opportunity.

    BTW the photos on your blog are outstanding---especially loved the tour of Colorado ;-)

  15. I would love to go to one of these shows. Thank you for the sneak peak. Here's hoping that nurseries (including yours) do well this year.

  16. Joycelyn,
    Thank you for stopping by. MANTS did not offer any classes, but I will be attending a different event next week that will be all classes. Perhaps a post will follow.

    Thanks for the good wishes. We have all of our fingers crossed as well as our toes that this spring will be a good season.