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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — An estimated 6,000 industry professionals attended the 40th annual edition of the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition Jan. 22-25 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Sponsored by the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association, the show had 400 companies exhibiting in 800 booths.

The mood was upbeat at the show. Ken Chatham, retail sales manager of Optimara in Nashville, TN, expressed satisfaction with the number of buyers attending, “especially the big companies. We do a dozen shows a year,” he added, “and I’ve been coming to TPIE for seven years. It’s an important show.”

Charlotte Smit, an MPS representative from Fillmore, CA, noticed optimism among attendees. “They feel the economy is getting better. Buyers are booking more orders.”

TPIE-ROUNDUP213-WES-PARRISHWes Parrish, president of the FNGLA board with TPIE keynote speaker Dan Waldschmidt, who addressed the ‘Edgy Perspective.’Ben Van Wingerden, head of Color Orchids in Stevensburg, VA, a first-timer, also noted that buyers were serious. “We made two sales to supermarket chains already,” he said Jan. 23. Joep Paternostre, co-owner of Bloomaker in Waynesboro, VA, said he was concerned TPIE conflicted with the IPM Essen show in Germany, but learned dates for the next few years did not overlap. His Sweet Shop booth drew good foot traffic. “They came in waves,” he said.

The program offered short courses for managers and technicians, dozens of hands-on demonstrations, a new plants and products exhibit, a TPIE Cool Products competition, a jobs and internships booth, a career fair, and a Happy Hour event with calypso dancers, along with myriad networking opportunities.

A blogger promoting “edgy conversations,” Dan Waldschmidt, suggested “re-framing” or pitching products in new ways. “Wellness is big right now, so why not point out that your plants clean indoor air, or add beauty to the workplace that enhances wellness and productivity.”

Also, he urged, do less but do it better; focus on your business strengths; use social media on your own terms; and try new venues. “Escape from your 10-square-mile box: Try the Internet, pop-up shops in the mall, farmers markets.”

At a Short Course session, Thomas Colquhoun of the University of Florida guided attendees through a research technique that tells breeders and growers what various types of consumers want in their flowers and plants. Dr. Colquhoun pointed out that men buy most flowers for Valentine’s Day, 80 percent of rose breeders are men, and most men like red roses.

So the men buy red roses and give them to the women in their lives, but, alas, most women prefer pink or purple flowers. Older people have a reduced sense of smell, he noted, so older customers are more interested in the color of a flower, while younger ones go for fragrance.

Among the hot trends were cacti that glow in the dark, mini-flower boxes that stick to mirrors or windows, compact potting soil that expands to twice its size when opened, vertical gardens, candy and flowers in the booths and miniature plants and gardens.

Next year’s TPIE will be held Jan. 22-24, again in Fort Lauderdale.