Capitalize on Cannabis is one of the themes at garden trade show
Walking the long aisles lined with exhibitors at the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show in Baltimore can take days. It’s a place for nursery and garden professionals to explore and search for something new and different to carry this year.
It’s a great way to get a pulse on what’s trending with gardeners, too.
In the first 15 minutes, I did a double take when passing a sign reading “Capitalize on Cannabis” at the Coast of Maine Organic Products booth. I’ve known director of marketing Cameron Bonsey for more than 15 years and was intrigued by the signage. Their products are some of the best organic growing tools on the market.
“We saw online that medical marijuana growers were using some of our stuff,” he said. It started the company thinking about moving into this new market.
“We’re an old school company dealing with independent garden centers,” he says. “We got to the point, especially with the last election, our feeling is that as a garden center you need to make some decisions. You may have a clientele that you don’t even know about.”
Seven states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and there are a total of 27 that allow medical marijuana. Bonsey sent out 1,500 emails looking for feedback about their new program and only received two negative responses. His research also showed that the growers themselves were very sophisticated in their knowledge of soil biology and found that most were only interested in natural products.
“There’s been a big push for organics,” Bonsey says. “People don’t want any residuals that might be in a chemical fertilizer going into their lungs or bodies.”
Coast of Maine (coastofmaine.com) developed a special grow mix specifically for marijuana plants. “It’s a high-end soil, costs a lot, but you can actually take a plant from seed to fruition using 15 gallons of soil for one plant,” he says.
It’s called Stonington Blend, which turns heads, but actually is named for a body of water in Maine, like most of the company’s other products.
“Stonington is a major fishing port in Maine,” Bonsey says with a smile. It was company founder Carlos Quijano who came up with the appropriate name. “He had the sense of humor to name it,” Bonsey says.
Bonsey lead a presentation to nursery professionals who were interested in moving into this untapped market. “The world is changing, we know it’s changing extremely rapidly,” he says. “I just think it’s an opportunity for the right garden center to open up another piece of business.”
‘Maid of Honor’ stunner
Sometimes there’s something so different and beautiful on display it stops you in your tracks and that’s what happened at the Walters Gardens booth (waltersgardens.com) where a hellebore named ‘Maid of Honor’ was in full bloom. The plant has 3-inch double pinkish-purple flowers with dark purple veins.
The plant is part of the Wedding Party series, with other varieties sporting flowers in shades of white, dark purples, yellow and more. Walters Gardens breeds many of their own plants, but also trials other growers introductions to be branded by companies like Proven Winners and others.
Helping out pollinators
Beverly Yates, marketing manager at Lake Valley Seeds (lakevalleyseed.com), was surrounded by racks of seed packets at her exhibit.
“Pollinator gardens continue to take off,” she says regarding gardening trends. “People have had a lot of education about monarch butterflies.”
Lake Valley is offering seeds of four different varieties of milkweed, the sole host plant for monarchs. Milkweed is also a great plant for other pollinators too.
Another often overlooked flower for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and others is tithonia or Mexican sunflower. The company is offering ‘Torch,’ which can grow anywhere from 4 to 16 feet tall depending on the lighting and soil conditions. It was an All America Selection in 1951, showing that many plants come and go just like fashion trends. Tithonia doesn’t need much from the gardener, just toss some seed into a bed improved with compost and by July the 3-inch orange blossoms will be filled with pollinators.
The other trend Yates sees are first time gardeners. “It’s vegetables primarily,” she says, “especially millennials. It’s people that have never grown anything and want to grow their own food.”
She always advises these brand new gardeners to contact their local extension service with basic questions as they are well versed on the local climate.
Heirlooms also are still a very popular part of the seed business and the company is deepening the line of heritage seeds, especially in their organic line. Their ‘Patty Pan’ summer squash is over 200 years old and a native.
Plants and sports
Even though Pete Gilmore is a Ravens fan, he’s begrudgingly holding a showy yellow mum in a pot adorned with a Steelers logo. He’s director or business development for Sporticulture (sporticulture.com), a company that combines gardening with NFL and NCAA collegiate teams.
“You could bring this as a gift,” he says of the mum. “It would be great for tailgating.”
There’s also other garden products. A light shone a team logo (in this case the Ravens), a garden hose, and huge leaf bag displaying your favorite team’s logo in the front yard. He has fun talking to the fans about their team, it’s the lighthearted banter and jabs from fans he enjoys.
“We see it in our trade shows, people say, ‘Where’s my team, why do you have that one there?’ ” he said.
The plants are available at local nurseries and other stores too. “
The Steelers are way up there,” he says of the team’s sales. “I hate to admit that. The biggest thing is, it’s all about fun, having fun with plants.”
Doug Oster is the Tribune-Review home and garden editor. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodygardens.com.