The news may be full of economic woes, but inside the Baltimore Convention Center at the Mid-Atlantic Nurserymen's Trade Show a couple of weeks ago, recession seemed to be far from anyone's mind. For the first time, all five halls on the main floor were filled.
"Everything about the show was up," said Carville M. Akehurst, who has been managing the show for the past 20 years.
"Besides all kinds of buying and selling, the number of companies sending representatives was up significantly," he noted, to 1,966. Proof of how well dealers fared and the optimism they felt, Mr. Akehurst said, was the "deluge" of renewals he received, with many participants asking to expand their space for next year.
TTC As for me, the quantity, quality and assortment of the products kept me roaming the 750 booths steadily all day, without even stopping for lunch.
I had barely stepped inside the hall when I encountered, in the booth of Buds & Blooms Nursery of Brown Summit, N.C., the first of the many plants I would have loved to have taken home, had the rules not prevented it. It was Elf, one of a new breed of dwarf mountain laurel that's being bred by tissue culture, according to Doug Torn, the firm's president. Given the shrub's 4-foot height, glossy green foliage and blush-pink flowers, I thought it would be a nice change from azaleas or yew in a foundation planting.
In the display of Medford Nursery of Medford, N.J., the sales manager, Loree Stengel, nodded approvingly when I expressed interest in a dwarf, mounding Wilsoni rhododendron. "It's definitely a different plant to grow," she noted. Valued more for its beautiful laurel-like foliage than its less conspicuous flowers, the plant is "super" for shade.
Brouwers Beauty, a pieris (andromeda, or lily-of-the-valley shrub) offered by Imperial Nurseries of Ganby, Conn., was highly touted by customer service representative Trish Dorsey. Among its assets, she said, are relatively good disease and insect resistance, hardiness, compact and dense growth and appealing dark, lustrous leaves.
Even bare of its leaves, a specimen of Cotoneaster apiculata, trained as a standard, its branches spangled with fat, brilliant red berries, stopped me dead in my tracks. It was displayed by Iseli Nursery of Boring, Ore. When I marveled at the tenacity of the fruit, sales representative Phylis McIntosh explained that birds don't seem to care for it too much.
Having a weakness for variegated plants in general, I was transfixed by a figwort (Scrophularia aquatica variegata) that caught my eye in the Maryland Aquatic Nurseries booth. (The firm, at 3427 N. Furnace Road, Jarrettsville, Md. 21084, sells directly to retail consumers on Saturdays only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; or by mail order.)
Although it was not in leaf, I could understand why the folks at J. Frank Schmidt & Son, wholesale tree growers of Boring, Ore., should be so keen on Acer Pacific Sunset. A cross between a truncatum and a Norway maple, this maple would make a fine accent for a modest yard. It improves on the Norwegian version with brighter color and more spreading habit, and the leathery thick green leaves are quicker to turn red in the fall.