Twenty Years of Plantasia was the intended theme for the landscape and garden show that Western New York landscapers and green businesses put on every March. The participants registered last fall and planned their displays, choosing favorites from past themes. Thousands of hours went into acquiring plants and materials, and designing and building scenes to create the indoor illusions of home gardens and outdoor living spaces. A CNLP team was designing a historic retrospective about the industry, and speakers were booked. And then—bam—you know what happened: No Plantasia, no speakers, no vendors, no landscapes. Oh, what might have been…
PlantWNY President Phil Tripi saw a bright side, "Hey, we’re all saving our work, whatever we built, so next year will be amazing. Just think: two years of prep time!" If many hours were lost, certainly the creativity wasn’t wasted.
What you might have gleaned—tips, trends, and products
Several landscapers embraced the idea of recreating or reinterpreting themes from past seasons. More than one didn’t want to reveal the plan, holding out for the "wow" next year, so we’ll just have to wait. Peter Burke of Regan Landscape was an exception:
"We went with ‘Going to the Movies’ because it worked well with the growing interest in outdoor living spaces that include large screens," he shares. "We built—and envision for homeowners—a whole outdoor entertainment space that’s multipurposed. It’s a gathering space in which people could comfortably sit and relax while watching a movie or enjoying conversation while roasting marshmallows by the fire." The 2021 booth will show a movie screen that can be raised and lowered and is hidden behind an arbor.
Mike Frank, owner of Chevalier Outdoor Living and past president of PlantWNY, observes trends he sees reflected in the industry: "I see customers leaning toward more creative, out-of-the-box elements, in hardscapes, furnishings, and art. As a result, some unexpected pieces are showing up—or will be—in the displays, much more than in the past." While people still want neat landscapes, more are open to making theirs personal.
One such design, prepared by Phil Colaruso of Luminated Landscapes, included some Chihuly-esque-style blown glass Garden Spires. The three-to-six-foot glass spires come in several colors, are intended for year-round display, and, as Colaruso puts it, "shimmer with a kiss of sunshine." Colaruso’s specialty is outdoor lighting, so you can imagine how lighting complements the glass.
Sound systems built into landscapes or outdoor living spaces were going to be part of Plantasia as well. Colaruso’s set-up showcased a system using Immersive High-Fidelity Planar technology, now available on a residential scale. He explains that the system produces wavelengths using a Planar Magnetic Ribbon so that the music sounds the same whether the listener is ten or forty feet from the speaker. It’s another way that technology contributes to comfortable outdoor living.
The association purchased plants for the show and forced them into premature bloom, which caused many headaches when the show was canceled. Garden centers and nurseries scrambled to house and absorb the perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees that had broken dormancy. They could not go outside and shops weren’t open to sell them—so now what? PlantWNY members hope you will see and enjoy some of the plants in June, once they—and we—are reacclimated.
Opportunities at vendor booths would have been diverse. Owners and staff shopped at gift and plant shows, perused catalogs, and listened to product reps to choose treasures that included tools, gardening apparel, art and décor, plant supports, deer repellants, soil amendments, pottery, and plants. Garden center and nursery personnel look forward to seeing all the customers they missed at the show that wasn’t. Shop locally is all they ask.
Hort instructor Tom Mitchell of Mitchell Landscaping booked dozens of speakers for the four-day show. He wrote: "The topics this year were as diverse as our gardeners in the Buffalo area. They included Gardening for Butterflies, Designing Your City Garden, Perennials Basics, and Native Plants. Tom Draves (Draves Tree Service, Draves Arboretum) planned to tell us to Invest in the Future; Plant a Tree. Draves added his guarantee that the speakers and learning will be back another year with timely, relevant content. He then speaks for all members of PlantWNY in saying, "Enjoy your yards, maintain your distances where it’s needed and, above all, stay safe."