Professional Show & Tell: Steal This Idea!
Updated: Mar 16
Written by Kate Galer, WinH Program Director
Photographs by Kate Galer and Julie Bare
On Friday evening, September 20th, a group gathered at the Penn State Center at 675 Sansom Street to share ideas, practices, and knowledge used in the horticulture world. After finding the small door on a small block of Sansom Street near Jeweler’s Row, we were met by Penn State’s Tommy McCann and Dori Cross. Tommy is the Horticulture Extension Educator for Philadelphia and throughout the state. Dori is the Urban Ag Coordinator with Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network. They were both great hosts, had a room set up for us, and we got to find out more about what they do, including Dori’s role with the PA Women’s Agricultural Network and their upcoming symposium on December 18th.
We mingled for about thirty minutes over snacks. It was a time to catch up, meet new people, and share updates - both personal and professional - then we settled to listen to the Show and Tell speakers. The six speakers - Julie Bare, Liba Judd, Nora Sirbaugh, Amanda DeLeo, Melissa Nase, and Katie Bohri - gave about ten minute presentations each on a wide range of topics.
Julie Bare presented “Secrets to Success at the Philadelphia Flower Show”. Julie is the Senior Estate Gardener at PHS Meadowbrook Farm in Jenkintown and the co-director of Women in Horticulture. Julie received her first blue ribbon at the Flower Show three years ago. Julie is passionate about Flower Show history and started her presentation with a brief history of the Philadelphia Flower Show which started in 1829 right around the corner from Penn State Center at the Masonic Hall at 7th and Chestnut. The Flower Show experienced an almost fatal low in the 1950s until Ernesta Ballard became president of PHS, as the first female president. “ For 18 years, from 1963 to 1981, she was the executive director of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Early in that period, the society's annual flower show, which began in 1829 and eventually grew into the largest indoor flower show in the United States was faltering, and a two-year suspension was discussed. Mrs. Ballard argued that a suspension might be fatal and instead changed the content of the show, bringing it to international prominence.” (New York Times, Sept., 1 2005). Jane Pepper followed as PHS president and took the Flower Show to the international level that it maintains today. Julie informed us that it is the largest indoor flower show in the world and gets about 250,000 visitors a year.
Julie has exhibited individual entries of specimen plants at the Flower Show since 2015. She grows her plants under lights at home. Julie enjoys exhibiting at the show because she meets a range of people who enter, from high schoolers to older folks - there is no fee to enter, which removes a barrier for those on a budget (everyone!). Julie told a story about how for the 2016 Flower Show she lovingly grew a Cissus discolor. The morning that she was to take it to the show to set up, she found that her cat had made a small meal out of it! Nevertheless, she salvaged it and entered it and won a Blue Ribbon that year!
Besides protecting your plants from pets, here are Julie’s tips on becoming an exhibitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show:
-Volunteer with someone who is already an exhibitor. If you know someone who already exhibits, go with them, volunteer with them. Julie got started this way and is happy to help interested people find someone to volunteer with.
-Volunteer in other roles at the Flower Show to get a sense of the process . The Flower Show needs volunteers to be Passers, Runners, and Staggers.
-Get a “Challenge Plant” from PHS. These are plants that participants all receive at the same time and are all the same plant, so everyone starts on a level playing field. Challenge plants for 2020 are gloxinia, rosemary, and lavender.
-Get on the mailing list to get the exhibitor guide and information about the Flower Show. It will include important dates and deadlines and rules and guidelines.
Julie laid out the timeline for entering and prepping for the show, as well as what to expect the week of the show. You can preregister online by following this link. An exhibitor is allowed to preregister as many plants as you like and across classes, both foliage and flower. Julie encouraged people to do that, as there is no penalty if you end up not exhibiting all that you registered. You will also get an exhibitor’s pass to the Flower Show! The dates of the Show for 2020 are February 29th - March 8th and the theme is “Riviera Holiday.”
Julie shared her experience of what to expect as an exhibitor the week of the show. There are 3 different judging days and three different judges. Exhibitors enter their plants in the show from 7:30-9:30 in the morning and judging happens right after that. The judges are typically looking for plants that are well-prepped and possibly unusual. Julie suggested succulents and plants with variegated foliage.
Julie said to get her plants prepped for presentation, she starts two weeks before the show. She gets her pots ready by cleaning them thoroughly and buffing with sandpaper. She is sure to mark the pot to show the back of the pot, as you want to put the best plant face forward. Mark the bottom of the pots with your name. Julie emphasized top dressing with either black gravel or black sand and to be sure there are no dead leaves. Be sure to bring a small tool bag along with long handled tweezers, spoons for the gravel or sand, and any other tools you use. Do what you can, take a deep breath, and have fun!
Next up to share was Liba Judd on “ Plant Labeling”. Liba works at Greensgrow Farm with past experience as a sales manager and youth program developer at a rare and unusual plant nursery. She has experience in rare plant surveys and herbarium documentation and collections.
Liba started with a quote from a fellow horticulturist to emphasize the importance of plant labeling, “ If you can remember all of your plant names, you don’t have enough plants!”
But how do we label these plants? What names do we give them? Liba laid out a brief history of the evolution of plant nomenclature and classification which started with the classification system designed by Carl Linneaus in Systema Naturae. Published in 1735, it organized what is now known as binomial nomenclature, where 6,000 plants and about 4,000 animals were given Latin names to develop a universally used classification system. In 1753, Linneaus’ Species Plantarum was first published in Stockholm, which presented the use of just two names to describe any given species. It contained all plants known at the time, which was roughly 6,000, compared with the modern listing of approximately 400,00 plants. Species Plantarum made botany accessible to the masses through its simple classification system. It became the common denominator in plant classification and labeling.
Liba discussed the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), the existing organization for plant nomenclature and trademarks. ISHS distributes an annual pamphlet with updates on cultivars. Their International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, 8th Edition ( 2009) states, “ A cultivar is an assemblage of plants that (a) has been selected for a particular character or combination of characters, (b) is distinct, uniform, and stable in these characters, and (c) when propagated by appropriate means, retains those characters.”
Lastly, Liba emphasized the importance of labeling plants in your landscapes, be it a public or private garden or arboretum, to track what is in a region, both historically and currently. It is an important aspect of horticultural documentation over time.
Nora Sirbaugh followed Liba with “ How Much? Negotiating Speaker Fees”. Nora is a Rutgers Master Gardener, serves on the board of the Hardy Plant Society/Mid-Atlantic Group, and has co-developed a day-long gardening symposium in Princeton that launched in 2008. The symposium has been committed to gender equity for speakers since its inception. Nora has an extensive background in music and the arts and has become aware of the parallels between horticulturalists and artists when negotiating speaker fees.
Nora approached the topic from both the perspective of the speaker and of one who would be hiring a speaker. She detailed the history of “A Garden Symposium” that she organizes annually in New Jersey and her experience with negotiating with speakers for that event. When she started the symposium, the lack of equity in the number of women speakers and their fees at horticulture conferences was apparent and Nora cited conferences that had 3 out of 14, or similar numbers of women presenters. She also gave some numbers comparing fees that “A Garden Symposium” has paid male presenters versus female presenters over the years. On average men are paid $1566.00 compared to women being paid $1200.00. This, Nora said, even as the symposium is focused on gender equity. As Nora stated, the disparity, “ would be worse if we paid what some of them asked for.”
Nora’s rallying cry echoed a book she recommended, Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, by Mika Brezezinski. Here are tips that Nora gave for both speakers and those hiring speakers:
-Keep fees to yourself, as they can vary because you also need to...
-Know your audience - is the speaker for a garden club? A conference? A local nonprofit?
-Don’t name a number over the phone - either as a speaker or a host. Don’t get locked into a fee. Be sure to know the details, such as distance/travel, audience, size, expenses. Get it in writing.
-Read emails or correspondence closely, know what you are agreeing to. Be precise.
-As a host, pay it forward, treat your speakers well, know what should be paid for and have proper “ host etiquette”. Here Nora mentioned Tony Avent’s advice.
-Hosts should know where the speaker fee is going. Does it go to the institution the speaker is affiliated with? To the speaker directly? Who gets the payment and how should it be paid?
-As a speaker, be open to negotiation, but know your value. Make sure your presentation has the quality expected by the fee.
The 2020 “ A Garden Symposium - Here We Grow Again” and more information about the Master Gardeners of Mercer County is on their website.
Just in time, after all that sitting, was Amanda DeLeo with “ To Stretch or Not to Stretch?” Amanda is a self-described “business-minded free spirit”. She manages and analyzes IT solutions for Morris Arboretum. She is also a yoga instructor and bicyclist. Amanda has brought her mindfulness and stretching to her horticultural colleagues at Morris.
Amanda provided a refreshing and relaxing guided stretch session. She advised us to pay attention to all the parts of our body. Taking the time to stretch provides needed breaks from physical and mental labor, protects against injury, encourages mindfulness and attention to the body and senses, and activates parts of the brain related to impulse control.
Amanda started us off by having us rub our hands together to generate heat. We then moved into a hand and wrist stretch that focused on each individual finger. Lady, that felt good. People who use tools or computers everyday need these stretches. Amanda moved us into her “getting big” positions. Hands on head, legs out. Amanda explained that “making yourself big affects how you feel on the inside” in a positive, affirming way.
Amanda led us in a torso twist to stretch our back and shoulders. We finished up with a deep breath, arms to the sky! In addition to Morris, Amanda teaches at Studio 34 Yoga. You can find out more about her classes here.
Melissa Nase was our next sharer with “ Native Plant Sourcing and Propagation”. Melissa is the Greenhouse Manager and Landscape Designer at Refugia Design. She has a wide range of skills that include perennial growing and sourcing, project management, permaculture design, land stewardship, and land restoration.
Melissa advised to start the process with the low-tech approach to sourcing plants by getting the landscape design and spec sheet. Know the plants, their size, quantity, cost, and the budget.
Melissa discussed the places to find growers and suppliers of native plants required for landscape projects, hints for the process, and what to do if you can’t find the plant you want.
Growers and Suppliers
-Do an online search - use a search engine or targeted species search through Plantant or other clearing houses. It will show you the growers but the availability isn’t always accurate.
-Trade events - MANTIS (Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show)
-Workshops, Classes, and Conferences - the Native Plant Conference, look at the sponsors for sources
-Word of mouth
Hints for the Process
-Become familiar with what suppliers are growing
-Review availability lists that you can get regularly via email
-Keep list of suppliers for reference
-Weigh options for delivery versus pick up
Can’t Find the Plant You Want?
-Try a broker - Perennial Market, Michell’s
-Growing plants yourself
Melissa also shared a few experiences of getting an incorrectly labelled cultivar and not always knowing until it grew to three feet taller than expected!
To wrap up, Melissa emphasized that people in the horticulture industry are willing to share knowledge and experiences. A fact we found out at the Show and Tell! Find out more about Refugia Design here.
As the program coordinator for Women in Horticulture, this writer was very interested in the last speaker of the evening, Katie Bohri, as she presented , “Word of Mouth Marketing - On the Cheap!”. Katie is Mt. Cuba Center’s Marketing and Communications Manager where she oversees press relations, advertising, web management, and social media. Katie has worked at mom-and-pop garden centers, the PHS Flower Show and PHS Meadowbrook Farm before joining Mt. Cuba in 2015.
Katie started by noting the importance of word-of-mouth marketing for organizations. She cited a study that stated that people trust their friends’ and families’ opinions 88% of the time. 66% of the time, people trust online reviews. People who have enjoyable experiences will tell their friends and family, possibly write favorable reviews online, or post pictures to their social networks.
Therefore, it is hugely important for the horticulture world to utilize social media wisely and widely and to prioritize the “digital visitor experience” - what happens when you go on an organization’s website or social media platform. It is the first impression many get of an organization or place. Katie emphasized to be sure it is up-to-date, make sure that varied social media profiles are consistent, view it as an outsider or seek the perspectives of people outside of the organization, and be sure to show off your photo assets! The world of beautiful gardens particularly lends itself to beautiful photographs.
Katie had some useful guidance about social media, press relations, free digital tools, and website management.
-Inventory which social media profiles you have - it may be more than you think
-Pick which profiles you want to keep active - where is your audience?
-Remember Facebook is an inbox too
-Take stock of local news outlets
-Make a press kit
-Have press-ready photos
-Get to know the people behind the bylines
Free Digital Tools
-Social media management: Hootsuite, Later
-Think like an outsider
-Consistent, clear information
-Find your most popular pages
-Prioritize need-to-know information
-Use SEO where possible
Katie offered her experience over the past few years at Mt. Cuba to suggest other useful ideas for word of mouth marketing. On your digital and design platforms - experiment! Try new slogans, colors, outlets, fonts. In the end, prioritizing and having fun with word of mouth marketing will increase your presence in #Americasgardencapital and make you a resource for horticulture in the region. Check out Mt. Cuba’s awesome website.
Thank you to all our speakers and sharers! A huge thank you to Kathy Salisbury and Lucy Dinsmore for organizing the speakers and to Penn State Center’s Tommy McCann and Dori Cross for being great hosts.