A Change is as Good as a Rest

Trade shows and garden shows are not a luxury if you want to see what is happening in your chosen business. Or hobby, come to that.

e are in the throes of the winter trade show season. But, as crowded as they are, only a small percentage of the nurseries in the vicinity of the show ever seem to attend. The same is true of flower shows. No matter how crowded they feel at times (remember standing in line for the bathroom), there are too many gardeners who have not yet discovered how much they open your eyes to other people's ideas.

Both trade shows and flower shows bring the best of plant material into one place. Yes, you can read about it, and see great pictures in various magazines, but I defy any journalist to catch in words the fragrance in the flower show tent early in the morning when it first opens after being closed all night, or, with the best of camera equipment, to record the changing brilliance of a flower as it catches the light.

Gardening is not necessarily keeping up with the Joneses, but commercial horticulture is not only keeping up but spotting trends and preparing to satisfy them. If you read an account of the display at a show, you share the analysis of the writer with everyone else who gets the magazine. But go there for yourself, and you create your own impressions and sense for yourself where the leaders are heading.

Doing a show properly takes time. There are friends to greet, salespeople who turn from a voice on the telephone or signature on a letter or e-mail to flesh and blood who will remember you on your next call and be that much more willing to help.There are the hints to pick up of what is hot and what is cooling off, the rivalries and mischief that can be fed with a half truth or two, and the renewal of the sense of belonging to a society of like-minded growers.

Shows do take time, time when you could be potting or ordering, time when the summer weeding gets a little bit ahead of you. But it is time well spent, for the change from routine that it gives, for the fellowship and for the few short hours when the jobs waiting back at the ranch can be set aside with a good conscience. If you have never got into the habit of doing a show or two each season, give it a try. You will grow from the experience.

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