Friday, August 20, 2010
Went to IGC, spoke on a panel, lived to tell the tale
But it won’t be an epic. Here are just a few observations.
It’s a buyers’ show
Although there are plenty of speakers, sessions, and workshops, some of the garden center reps I spoke to said they would not have too much time to attend any programming. They were there to shop (and play in Chicago). The exhibit floor is on 2 levels and has little side sections. It’s a big job to carefully assess what’s there and make astute choices. The show is not open to the public, though, so I never found it uncomfortably crowded, as some of the big flower show vendor sections can be. Fellow Ranter Amy Stewart and I had fun walking around and stopping—pretty much at random—to speak to some of the vendors.
I liked most those vendors who were manning their own booths rather than being repped by PR people. For example, the product above—a planter on wheels that I rather like—was shown to us by its creator and his signage included a picture of him and his daughter with it. Amy and I feel that this would be crack on wheels if it came in stainless steel to add to the industrial chic. No urban hipster could be without it. But the white is elegant.
Then there were the plastic molds to shape small vegetables and fruits into hearts or squares. Very, very silly, but I can’t help but think of a cute little heart-shaped tomato floating in a cocktail. It could work.
And there was so much more, including many New Age potions to enhance plant performance. These are no longer called fertilizers. Goodness, no. They simply help plants to get the most benefit possible from the compost or other natural elements already present in soil. Whatever.
As for our panel
Over the past four years, we’ve all posted plenty of what we like and don’t like about our independent garden centers and how we’d like to improve them. Amy, Susan, and Michele took reader surveys to get a sense of the shopping habits of Rant readers and what they expect from their IGC. I went first and talked about, in this order: what IGCs sell, the marketing of various products, and the current trend of replacing one spray (chemical) with another (nicer chemical). I think we and our readers are pretty much in accord—we want to be taken seriously as gardeners and not insulted by higher prices for silly packaging, myths about “organic” sprays, or garden center aisles dedicated to stuffed animals and resin décor.
That all might sound kind of like a serious panel-long rant, but it wasn’t, judging from the laughs we got. Local radio station host Mike Nowak helped things along by interrupting us to serve cocktails to our panel, as he had threatened to do on the radio show we had with him. Great fun.
Would I attend IGC again? Actually I’d love to. I’d like to have more time to walk the floor and talk to the vendors—and it’s always in Chicago. You gotta love that.