To learn what the nursery industry is all about, it’s hard to beat the four-day “crash course” we attend every year at the Columbus Convention Center. Sponsored by Ohio State University and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA), this extravaganza is called CENTS, for Central Environmental Nursery Trade Show, and it’s an annual ritual for us.
Ohio State University is America’s premier “green industry” school. OSU’s contribution to the CENTS show is the “Nursery Short Course”, a grueling schedule of college-level classes jammed into the four-day CENTS schedule along with numerous special events, presentations, and the trade show itself. Aimed at nurserymen, arborists, garden centers and landscapers, the OSU Short Course offers a wide variety of classes by OSU and guest professors, industry leaders, consultants and other experts.
Between classes we try to cover the entire trade show floor, aisle after aisle of manufacturers, growers and distributors, all focused on some aspect of the nursery trade. It’s a chance to meet directly with suppliers from all over the country, see new plants and equipment, find new resources, and place orders for spring. There are over 800 booths.
It’s hard to choose which classes to attend; at any given moment there are seven or eight sessions in progress. We attend three classes each morning and two more in the afternoon, plus evening events. Marjorie attended classes on perennials, grasses, Quickbooks, garden center management and more. I learned about new plant introductions, merchandising, landscape design, pesticide safety, plant diseases, website management, and on and on.
We were privileged to attend three wonderful sessions with Dr. Michael Dirr, a legendary woody plant expert and plant breeder, horticultural writer, and professor at the University of Georgia. Meeting Dr. Dirr personally, after years of depending on his books about woody plants, was inspiring and fun. He gave a talk on “Noble Trees”, a wonderful photographic tour of great trees he’s seen in his travels. In another slide show, he compared the merits of new shrub introductions, like “Twist n’ Shout” Hydrangea and “Bloomerang” Lilac.
Another high point for me was designer Tracey Williams, who specializes in restoring landscapes on historic properties. Balancing authenticity with the practical challenges of maintenance, Williams works to bring modern improvements to wonderful old estate landscapes. She shared her photos of some of the world’s most beautiful gardens.
One of the best presentations we attended was a talk about pesticide toxicity by OSU horticulture professor Dave Gardner. How safe are the chemicals we sell for use in your landscape? Look for a summary of his talk in this column during February.
We left the CENTS show thoroughly exhausted, but charged up with new ideas to improve our garden center and inspire our customers. Keeping up with what’s happening in the industry is an important part of our service; something that sets GoodSeed Farm apart and keeps us constantly improving. God bless “the” Ohio State University!
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.