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 9, 2011


Last week was a rough one here at A Tidewater Gardener, so distractions as well as a bit of normalcy were called for. So I and two fellow retailers headed to MANTS (Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) in Baltimore. On the floor of the vast convention center were close to 1000 exhibitors proffering their wares to garden centers and landscapers for the upcoming gardening season. Like I mentioned in last year's post, this is a plant-centric event, and I am always amazed at what's available to be seen on a bleak January day.

Foxborough Farms of Maryland always has one of the best displays, where they show off their plant material in huge arrangements.

Foxborough Arrangement

I fell into plant lust with a few things, including Thuja plicata 'Zebrina Extra Gold'...

Thuja plicata 'Zebrina Extra Gold'

... these Vriesea Hybrid Bromeliads ...

Bromeliad Vriesea Hybrids (3)

Bromeliad Vriesea Hybrids (2)

Bromeliad Vriesea Hybrids

... and especially this Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' (Golden Spanish Fir). I am encouraged that it is only hardy to zone 7 and grows in Spain and Morocco, hoping these facts may translate into southern heat tolerance.

Picea pinsapo 'Aurea'

This collection of Coleus had me lusting for summer.

Coleus Collection

Proven Winners had a major presence, and their plants were seen in several booths.

Lobby Display

Truly black Petunias seem to be the new it color, but we are still debating whether we like last year's darling, Pretty Much Picasso.

Petunia Pretty Much Picasso

Like I mentioned in last year's post, MANTS is a fairly good place to take the pulse of the horticulture business (and yes, it is a business). This year there were several faces missing from the convention floor, never to return. Also missing are the deep discounts and give-away prices of last year, as surviving nurseries have shed excess inventory. Several plant trends I saw last year seem to be continuing such as the proliferation of Heucheras, as well as the use of exotic succulents and tropicals as annuals and as container plants. There were several companies introducing new Hydrangea paniculata cultivars, and the U.S. National Arboretum was tauting two new dwarf H. quercifolia. It also looks as if the interest in home vegetable and fruit gardening may be slowing, just as bit, as well as the frantic breeding of new Hellebore varieties.

Succulent Bowls


Blue Face

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora 'Fantastic'

Although there was a surprising amount of color to see on a cold day, not all of it was pretty. Are you ready for blue mulch, or green?

Colored Mulch


  1. Thanks for the is never too early to start thinking of spring. As for the mulch, no thank you.

    Hope the outing had it's desired effect on you and that things are looking up in the weeks ahead.

  2. Not keen on the colored mulch. I bought a Thuja plicata 'Goldy' this fall, think the Zebrina would be fun. I htink I may try a bunch of coleus this year...some that are sun tolerant.
    Love seeing all the different plant material from the show.

  3. How fun! I would like to attend MANTS one day. Thanks being my eyes.

  4. Good that you were able to get away. The bromeiliads are gorgeous.

  5. I was sick with a bad virus that has yet to disappear, and I missed MANTS. Thanks for the highlights.

  6. Not sure about the coloured mulch but I was only thinking yesterday about puting some coleus seeds in trays for the summer. A very interesting post.

  7. Hi Les, That PMP petunia swept me off my feetlast summer, but it didn't perform in the way I expect from a petunia - the abies is definitely covetable. That mulch reminds me of the colored glass mulches seen in modernist gardens of the last several years: meh. This amateur thanks you for the behind the scenes look!

  8. Every year, I think that I'm going to make the trek to MANTS ... and every year I blow it off and do something else. Thanks to you, I'm officially sorry that I missed it. Maybe next year ... :)

  9. These industry shows are such a great relief when they come in the midst of the dead season (both literally and financially. The succulents are just beautiful, as is that amazing thuja! I think I'll pass on the rainbow mulch!

  10. I guess you could use the colored mulch like a highlighter for garden editing (red=this area needs work). Nice overview of the gardening trends and good to know that I am just getting into veggies as the rest of the world gets over it. If I recall, that happened with cowel neck sweaters too.

  11. i love those bromeliads, but then i tend to like anything with a tropical feel. and the coleus picture! wow, there are so many varieties of coleus now, it's really exciting. especially since they grow pretty well inside, too. as far as colored mulch goes, i can envision some creative uses for it, but not likely at my house. enjoyed the post, thanks.

  12. Love the plants...hate the mulch...ugh!

  13. Looks like a great show - I can't wait for our big regional show, ProGreen Expo, here in Denver next month. I find the winter trade shows to be fun, inspiring, and the best place to scout new products that are (usually!) regionally appropriate. BTW, are the bromeliads hardy in your area, used as annuals, or just for interiors? Happy New Year, Les!

  14. Loree,
    Things are looking a little up, and I have nearly finished my spring orders.

    I couldn't garden without my coleus.

    You must go one year. I was glad to see you were speaking at G&G.

    Getting away is almost always good.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    I am sure about the mulch, sure it is hideous.

    I don't think I liked the PMP, but we sold out quickly, so somebody out there liked it.

    It would be an easy day trip for you, and there are some great places to eat.

    I once attended the SNA show in Aug. in Atlanta, it was incredibly hot, even for this southerner. It was a good show though and very productive for me.

    I don't think edibles as a trend are over, but maybe just leveling off. As to the sweaters, I can't speak to this.

    I still convulse a little when I see red mulch. God knows what will happen when the blue shows up.

    I am with you on both counts.

    Have fun at your Denver show. The bromeliads are not hardy for us, except for Spanish Moss. However, there are a few varieties being used with bedding plants. One in particular is huge like an agave, turns amber in full sun and is mixed with purples and oranges. Me likey!


  15. Hiya Les,
    You didn't need my digital reminder:-) as you saw it all in the flesh, so to speak.
    That coloured grit is gross.Hope they are not going to push it down our throats over here.
    Lots of decisions for you to make as regards stocking.
    Best wishes to you too for the year.
    (According to the verif. I am now officially 'relost'. That figures.)

  16. Love those bromeliads! The show sounds (looks) like a great event. Almost makes me wish I was a horticulturist...

  17. I want that planter.

    I want your job.

    I have a music recommendation for you - on the heels of your love for Sufjan - Grizzly Bear. Start with 'Yellow House'.

  18. I enjoyed seeing what was new and exciting at MANTS. That mulch though! It should be banned from gardens everywhere!

  19. It’s nice to see green and bright color after all the white out my window. For once you southerners can relate to that feeling. I hope things get brighter for you personally too.

  20. It's nice to see the promise of spring. Makes me itchy to get going again in the garden.

  21. What a great way to beat the winter blahs. I think it fantastic the greater use of succulents. The dish gardens are so splendid.

  22. Ah, what a nice way to spend a cold day. Sitting at the computer with my coffee enjoying all this eye candy. Thanks for the warmth! Not sure on that colored mulch. Even the reds seem to fade way too quickly in my gardens. But I can see where it might make a statement for a garden… as long as it does not take away from the plant’s beauty....

  23. I love your "plant lust" reference. I used to call my affliction "plant envy" but lust sound like so much more fun. Nothing like a plant show in winter to awaken the gardner from seasonal hybirnation.

  24. Jo,
    I certainly hope that you are now unrelost.

    The show was fun, and fortunately it is open to anyone with $15, horticulturist or not.

    I really appreciate the music recommendation.

    I agree with you on that mulch.

    Things are a little better here. Sometimes it takes resolution of an issue, even if the outcome was not good.

    I am very itchy here.

    I know if I could have swung it, those succulent bowls would be mine.

    I am glad you enjoyed the eye candy. Thanks for dropping by.

    Weeping Sore,
    At least with plant lust the consequences to the rest of your life are less ... consequential.


  25. Amazing plants, I especially adore the Vriesea Hybrid Bromeliad, I had one as a child but since then I never had one again. You inspire me to search for one again! Have a great Sunday!

  26. That is a shot of color, and I hope it was the right distraction for a while at least. I'm sorry to know you're having a hard time, having to know such a loss as your good friend. May time, memory, family, love, and more color do their work on your hearts.