As our plane flew into Tucson, AZ, the startling landscape opened up like parchment unfurled, its tawny hues of dappled sand and green-grey plants revealing a soothing palette of desert colors that bid us welcome.
Team GMG (Suzi, Stacey, Katie and I) had arrived for the 2012 Garden Writers (GWA) Symposium, to participate in the most highly anticipated event of the year for professional communicators in the lawn and garden industry.This year's 64th symposium was attended by some 600 print and broadcast garden communicators and bloggers from around the world and top growers and vendors showing off new plants and products.
Our car meandered and climbed up the winding drive that crested in front of a stunning pink-toned adobe and stucco hotel and conference center, with towering cactus, swollen succulents and scarlet desert flowers dotting the landscape like silent sentinels against a cobalt blue western sky.
Between the hectic pace of greeting old friends and new, we prepared for our dinner party at Maynard's Market and Kitchen, an historic converted train station turned upscale restaurant. Cool jazz and smooth voices entertained as we mingled with our media guests and clients: Fall Creek® Farm & Nursery, Hines Growers, RESCUE!® all natural pest control, Premier Tech Horticulture and American Beauties Native Plants/North Creek Nursery.
Friday and Saturday saw the exhibitors hall packed with colorful booths brimming with new plants and products, like an open-air market filled with heady earthy scents wafting throughout the aisles.
"That couldn't be a crinum," exclaims a writer peering intensely at the new Bloomtastic! Crinum Purple Dream. The leaves look almost purply black!"
"You mean we can now grow thornless raspberries in containers right in our backyards?" gasps another as she points to the new thornless dwarf raspberry shrub, Raspberry Shortcake™, part of the BrazelBerries collection.
People studied and handled the new fly tape and eco-friendly stink bug traps at the RESCUE! booth and enjoyed a festive atmosphere at the Premier booth.
Workshops like "Let's Talk Plants" romanced the attendees with alluring plant images and meaty phrases in a lightning speed dating style. Joe Gray , senior vice president of Hines Growers casually chatted about their new plant introductions with the attentive audience and moderators, charming the crowd with asides.
Along with the exhibits, there were scores of workshops and garden tours that included a special visit to a unique seed listing organization that I'll dig into deeper next time.