Mid-winter Blooms – NE Grows 2015

Design Conference: New England Grows 2015

Ronny:  Last week, we visited Boston to attend New England Grows, the annual design conference. The anticipation of the event was heightened two-fold. Not only had I not been to Boston in over a year, but I was also a first time New England Grows attendee.

As I reached the city, I was welcomed by the usual I-93 traffic. In comparison to larger cities (Boston’s population is a tad over ½ a million) the traffic moved steadily and within 30 minutes I was within sight of our accommodations at the Seaport Hotel.

Seaport District, Boston, MA
Seaport District, Boston, MA

It didn’t take long before I noticed the massive transformation that is taking place in the Seaport District. In 2012 the state legislature, in an attempt to attract more events for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, approved the building of 7 new hotels in the area. Prior to this action, the Seaport District offered an astonishingly low 1,700 hotel rooms. Seemingly, I could not look in any direction without seeing some form of construction. I’m interested to see how this region of the city develops in the coming years.

Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

After a quick rendezvous with Zachary in the hotel lobby, we were off to the design conference. Identifying the convention center from a distance, I remember thinking, “are there enough industry professionals in the region to fill that space?” The convention center is enormous – 2.1 million square feet to be exact. As we approached the convention exhibition floor it quickly became apparent as to the logistical planning involved and overall vastness of the event.

The exposition floor at NE Grows

As far as one could see, the expo floor was filled with industry professionals interacting with clients and promoting their brands.

This was my opportunity as a “fresh out of college” individual to get some quality face time with businesses we work with and owners who don’t always have time for chit-chat. In doing so we visited the Van Berkum Nursery booth where co-owner Leslie Van Berkum greeted us with open arms and a warm smile. Leslie is a perfect example of what Van Berkum is all about. Simply put, Van Berkum gives the customer what they want.

HT_landscapeconst_10_16_13On to the next event before our 2 o’clock lecture, we visited the Thompson School live patio build, led by instructor and hardscape specialist Bill Gardocki. Bill is a pro when it comes to working effectively and efficiently. It was amazing to witness what two collegial craftsmen could accomplish with the proper instruction and tools.

The 2 o’clock lecture “Plant Extroverts: Wonderful Woodies and Praiseworthy Perennials” was led by Jared Barnes, Ph. D, an assistant professor at Stephen F. Austin University. Jared’s high energy turned what some might consider nothing more than a review of a Plant ID class into an interesting, well-organized presentation. In actuality, it is a practical time of year for review and doing so gets one enthused for the upcoming growing season.

From "Bringing Nature Home" by Doug Tallamy
From “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy

In the spirit of saving the Grows experience for others to imagine and experience for themselves, I’ll skip the specifics of the Friday lectures but quickly note their value and extending that notion to the overarching theme of New England Grows.

This design conference attracts a wide variety of professionals within the industry. From the high school landscape laborer, university professor, to 30-year design pro, we all meet with the intention of furthering/sharing our knowledge and networks within the industry. From the lecture lineup, I couldn’t help but notice the variety of talent appearing at this event.

It’s clear that the New England Grows convention and the horticultural industry are at a turning point and are in strong favor of environmental stewardship. New England Grows provides all of us with a chance to connect with each other and reminds us of this place we share.

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