Idea File: Our Wishlist for Canada Blooms 2014

Show’s to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. We miss the grand entry gardens like this one from 2011

Helen: First, right out, we support Canada Blooms, and want it to succeed. We know how much goes into it, especially volunteer time (800+ volunteers in 2013). Plus, money (lack of) and logistics (complex) are huge issues. But truthfully the show has declined from its glory days (reminders here) and we want to do more than complain. So here is our 2014 Wishlist, meant to be constructive. Please join in and contribute your fresh thinking to the discussion, which is this Friday’s Idea File. Ready?

Sarah: Well, my first thing is easy: more little cafés. It’s become harder to find a place to sit and recharge. To talk about what we’ve seen or plan what to do next. When we sat in the two comfy chairs in the Reif wine garden (at around about 2:25 in that video), the attendant said: Oh, those are the hot seats; everyone wants to sit there. Two people were waiting to nab them as soon as we got up.

H: They had lots of seating in the 2011 Landscape Ontario exhibit. (For a small idea of what goes into the making of the show, watch volunteers build it in the timelapse video here. It took six days.) But it might not be a priority. People only stay at Canada Blooms an average of two hours, they say.

You’d hardly know Canada Blooms is so close to downtown

S: Even if they were encouraged to stay a bit longer; three or four hours. Rested people are likely to shop in the marketplace or head over to the other side. Think of the great foodies who could open pop-up cafés.

H: Yeah, but they’d likely have to pay big for the privilege. The prices at the food stalls were horrendous, which gives you some idea of the cost. People were crammed together on benches, clutching their pizza slices.

S: Couldn’t there be a kind of partnership?

H: Promote Canada Blooms at your resto and we’ll give you space? I don’t know.

But that’s another point. It would be great to create a link between the city and the show. Right now, there’s a disconnect. The City didn’t even have a garden this year, which is too bad.

On the Philadelphia Flower Show website, a map links to city bars promoting a flower show theme. Can we partner with hotels, for example? Most have a floral display in the lobby. Can we invite them to reflect the Canada Blooms theme? Perhaps give hotel guests special access to the early-morning docent tours?

S: Another thing: Speakers, one of the perks of the show. In olden days, speaker rooms were easy to find, set in a different area. Now, other than the main stage, it’s as if they have a cloak of invisibility.

H: It’s partly the building layout, partly the lack of wayfinding. Better signage for the speaker rooms on the side would be an easy fix.

Reford Gardens dresses up a tulip bed with drama at Canada Blooms 2010

Speaking of wayfinding, near the top of my wishlist would be a stronger Canada Blooms presence at the entrances. More floral displays in the corridors (like the one we showed in this post). A big, splashy entry garden. This year’s entry booth was pretty, but so tightly packed, it was hard to do anything but walk around it.

I’d also like a better gateway to and from the Home Show. The tulip beds were nice. But remember how Reford Gardens elevated a bed of tulips with one design element a few years ago? This is garden show after all. Garden design principles should be everywhere.

S: Yes, have a portal. Over there are the fridges and flooring, now you’ve entered the garden.

H: Perhaps even consolidate the garden and outdoor living stuff at the Home Show to create a relevant segué to and from Canada Blooms.

The Canada Blooms Marketplace in 2011 (From Canada Blooms website)

S: Is there any way to keep Canada Blooms to only five days? Some of the marketplace people can’t afford to be away from their business for a whole ten days. The marketplace is sadly diminished.

H: Probably not. I can’t see them allowing Hall A to be vacant. But we might as well ask.

Maybe the concept of short-term retail pop-up shops would work for the marketplace, and keep things fresh.

S: I missed seeing small-scale innovators like last year’s VegeQuarium and that file cabinet with a grow light in the drawer.

H: Also missing were the schools. Cutbacks in education was part of the problem, unfortunately. But it’s important to have young people represented at the show. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Remember the competition in 2008 where they made bird feeders out of junk? That was fun and cheap.

An entry from the 2008 bird feeder design competition.

The biggest question is how can we get more designers to participate? More of the best and brightest? The floral designers are stealing the show.

Right now, it’s a trade show – which, of course, it always was. But if Canada Blooms is to bring in more of the adoring crowds it must be more than a trade show, it must be an experience. But it’s costly for them to exhibit.

Teaming up with industries such as tourism was a smart idea – last year’s Taipei and this year’s Ireland. Which industries have dollars to spend that can be expressed through gardens and flowers? The small Re/Max gardens worked well, if somewhat lost in the 2013 show. I’d like to see them come back. Others? That’s a brainstorming exercise in itself.

S: While you’re thinking, I want more hyacinths!

H: A key ingredient in Eau de Canada Blooms. Hmmm. Let’s contact Demeter with a fragrance idea.

They did go a little mad with hellebores this year – like with those odd pink flowers that were everywhere last year. I can understand the hellebores, in a way. They last forever, and for a ten-day flower show, that has to be a big saver. But, as Barry Parker said, why only one variety?

Okay, we’ll shut up and let you have your say. We hope you’ll add your creativity.


  1. Dear Helen and Sarah…Great post! As I haven't been to Canada Blooms since it changed it's location, I feel I cannot comment about the now aspect of it too deeply. But I can comment about what it was like when the venue was near the Royal York where I stayed, through Union Station and just ten minutes covered walk and you were there. It was a gardener's dream.

    The display gardens were each individual and awesome; product displays tasteful and exciting.. all very thrilling in fact. The 'market place' was fantastic and I still have a number of pieces I bought way back then.

    As for speakers..they were really accessible, the location easy to find all in one area, and many arrived early sitting with the audience while waiting their turn. Many didn't want to miss the speaker ahead of them in fact. That's where I met Donna Baltzer..she sat beside my friend and I. Understandably it is very different now influenced by security. Have we lost something there…yes, I think so.

    Supporting small scale innovators is an excellent idea and in fact that was a focus years ago. The idea of food stalls is wonderful and we could enhance that with well known Canadian Chefs who support home grown and organic growing for instance or who could introduce us to the tastes of many of the greens Canadian gardeners are learning thrive in our cooler spring and fall climate.

    Sorry to hear our future gardeners were not represented. Schools I am sure, would be on board if given the opportunity. Even a volunteer program for kids supervised by parents who are gardeners.

    Thought provoking post…

    1. Thanks for contributing, Bren. I also preferred the Convention Centre location – mostly for the sense of theatre it provided. The escalator levels were terrific spots for vendors, and there was always a sense of raising the curtain as the show began. I could imagine this happening (in theory) at the new location. In practice, there may be limitations I don't know about. There were multiple reasons why the hort schools/colleges weren't at the 2013 show, general cuts to education funding being one. Still, they were missed.

  2. I posted about this on my blog: Canada Blooms needs a major makeover if it is to attract repeat visitors who are gardeners + people interested in garden design + innovative approaches to contemporary gardens. The volunteer commitment is fabulous and needs to be recognized and honoured. Initially I believe people saw this as a national garden show, Canada's best. If now feels like a metro Toronto only show. Where are the speakers and designers from other parts of the country? So much to say, so many ideas to suggest…

    1. Pat, Your post on Glen Villa adds to the conversation. A major makeover might be in order, but where should we begin, and how? I'd love you to return and flesh out your last line.

      A disadvantage of having such a physically immense country is, of course, the prohibitive cost of doing a truly national show. I'm not sure I'd hold that against Canada Blooms, though. I mean, the Philly flower show isn't the same as the ones in San Francisco or the Pacific NW. But I suppose putting "Canada"in the name raises those expectations. Among the few exhibitors from other parts of the country has been Reford Gardens, and they manage it by being conceptual more than floral. This year's was the quietest Reford display in memory.

      I know that CB does love its volunteers. Like most cultural events these days, it couldn't exist without them.

  3. Great post, ladies!

    I've been on the "complaining" side when it comes to CB and feel a little sheepish for not being more constructive. I can speak, first hand, of the effort involved in executing a show garden from plan to reality as my landscaping class at Humber College spent 3 full days constructing our garden for 2006's CB. A lot of effort goes into the displays!

    Maybe I'm getting the same feeling when I visit zoos: plants are literally forced into artificial displays that are mainly built to sell a product (a potential build and install). Nothing surprising with that because the feeling throughout the building is mainly **to move product**

    I didn't see many younger visitors. Many in this generation view gardens as part of an overall goal of environmental sustainability. Did I miss something? Were there gardens speaking about ecological awareness, permaculture, food security?

    I became dizzy after entering one "outdoor room" after another. This trend really has to die. It's sad to see the focal point or the genius loci of a garden embodied by a BBQ or cooking island.

    Well, enough complaining. You made some excellent recommendations for the CB executive to consider.

    When I visited Barry Parker just as CB was starting last week, I mentioned that CB wasn't like Chelsea and Philadelphia and he replied "well, why not?"

    Why not indeed.

    1. Why not, indeed? Except, with Chelsea, we started about 83 years too late. One memory I have of my single visit to Chelsea (besides the outdoor show gardens) is of a vast display of lupins, just lupins. Well, we don't have anything to compare with that. But maybe if we'd started 100 years ago…

      I've been wondering if we need to start our own Canada Blooms version of the Chelsea Fringe – an alternative Canada Blooms. I've also wondered if Toronto needs an outdoor garden event, perhaps at the TBG or even in Nathan Phillips Square maybe in May. But, for gardeners and designers, that's right in the middle of business season. So where does that leave us? Chime in if you have ideas.

  4. I think it is great that you have taken a positive approach rather than simply complaining about the show. I certainly agree that CB post-recession has never been up to its pre-recession glory.
    I also miss the more grand entrance of years past. It set the tone right off the top. I like to see more innovative work by smaller landscape design firms. Great ideas that you can take away from the show and use in your own space seemed to be missing from this year's show.

    1. I agree, Jennifer, and if we were to limit our wishlist to only two, yours would be the two I'd pick. Entry garden and innovative, small-scale designs.

  5. Ladies – you've presented some great ideas. One thing that I remember from the old CBs were the speakers. What happened to the big name internationally known speakers? I remember going to hear Freeman Patterson speak and the room was full. With all due respect to the Master Gardeners who spoke and the other speakers there really haven't been any speakers who we can't hear and/or see on local radio or television. Even societies like the Rock Garden and Hearty Plant Society or the Toronto Rose Society bring in internationally know speakers.

    1. You make an excellent point. I don't know what the Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society pays speakers, however, but the $100 honorarium at CB isn't much – which is why the Master Gardeners (including me) had more talks than ever at the show this year. In the past, there were also more talks and demos by Toronto Garden Club members, which were always enjoyable – or, at least, enjoyed by me.

      Putting more money into the speaker program might be money well-spent. But again, CB already operates on petal-thin margins. I'm curious. Would you pay a bit extra to see better quality speakers? Perhaps getting a "speaker pass"?

  6. Being here, I'm not familiar with the show but this seems a very sensible and constructive post. Inexpensive cafes are an essential in any setting if people are to say a while. And they make a place accessible for older or less well people on short visits – or for while waiting for more active friends and relatives. They make visits bearable for children and parents too. Grand entrances can build one up for a great time – something of the circus. And as for length of show – that makes sense too. I imagine an enormous amount of effort goes into keeping plants looking good over ten days. And maybe schools would be more prepared to take part if those involved didn't have to miss too many lessons. Hope lots of show organisers read your blog!

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Lucy. The schools I'm referring to are horticultural colleges. Last year, they built a couple of the show gardens, and they competed in a landscape construction project. But it costs money to send them to Toronto and put them up, and with the show being ten days, rather than roughly a weekend, it's just too much missed time. Not sure what the solution is, but I think we need to find one. Young people must be represented. Must be.

  7. Hi Helen and Sarah,
    Thanks for doing this. I wish I had shown more restraint in my criticism of CB. As it was, I just went around ranting at everything I found wanting. "Blind mediocrity' was my mantra as I walked around.
    But on reflection I think the major problem is that the show has become too focused on Landscaping and has been deserted by gardeners. Why? It is now too expensive and too long a duration for the participation of specialty nurseries and Hort. Societies.
    In January I visited the Barbados Garden Show ( yes I know, they have the sunshine) and it was wonderful to see what passion was shown by ordinary gardeners over the three days of the show. The Peterborough Garden Show is another example of a great little local show that is focussed on gardening and gardeners. The common theme here is smaller, shorter more humane. And to that I should also add imagination!
    I'll end by muttering "Bloody H. "Pink Frost'"!

    1. Focussed on gardening and gardeners. Smaller, shorter, more humane. And imaginative. I do sense a nascent "Chelsea Fringe" type event in the air.

  8. I remember the inaugural 1996 Canada Blooms out at the Congress Centre, when the traffic was backed up on Highway 401 at the Rexdale (Martingrove?) exit because of all the cars trying to jam into the parking lot. Sort of like Yorkdale on Boxing Day now.  It felt like the beginning of a wonderful thing, yet there were already grumblings from the Garden Club people that this lovely little spring flower show they used to put on themselves biennially had been co-opted, with Landscape Ontario’s partnership, into a very big, very volunteer-hungry trade show,. Still, that first year, it seemed like creativity abounded. Tom Sparling’s wondrous entrance arcade with its birch trees spangled with orchids comes to mind, but there were many stunning, plant-rich designs by numerous innovative designers. Nevertheless, their names started dropping from the roster – some that first year, others in the years that followed. The reasons were many, but principally financial. In contrast to the subsidy given by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to the Pennsylvania Flower Show participants ($14/sq foot of both space at the time is my recollection), designers, landscape architects, nurseries and civic institutions were expected to foot the bill themselves. So the ‘concrete block-and-cedar hedge’ people and Loblsaws came in and the Bill Hewicks (Acme Environmental) and Royal Botanical Gardens (I remember the year they brought a suspended lighting system to make their wonderful, plant-rich garden more intimate) either left completely or scaled back severely. (Some opted to display at the smaller, more design-centric Winter Gardens show at November’s Royal Winter Fair.) Canada Blooms was simply too expensive for the return on investment. And whereas the Pennsylvania Flower Show draws on a huge population grid from PA and NY, Canada Blooms was dependent on people from the GTA, first in its Rexdale incarnation (car-dependent), later the Convention Centre (long walk from transit) and now in the hybridized home show add-on. I attended every gala opening for 12 years, but have taken a pass completely in the past few years. Partly that’s a function of my age and stage and not needing more gardening stuff, but it’s also because I am not inspired to go see more…concrete blocks and cedar hedges. And my non-garden-industry friends who are nevertheless passionate about gardening stopped going even to the gala a few years in, because they thought the designs had become boring. I don’t really see a future for a vibrant, innovative Canada Blooms in its current incarnation – do this year’s numbers warrant the space rental for the vendors and display gardens? Is there profit for the charitable projects CB has supported generously in the past? I don’t know. But the phrase “pop-up” makes me think how much fun it would be to have mini-incarnations of a garden or two here, there and everywhere in the city in mid-March: at City Hall, Union Station, the Eaton Centre…? Back to the original idea, in other words.

    1. Janet, I remember that show, too – and being stuck in the traffic jam trying to get in!

      Canada Blooms does provide a subsidy to exhibitors. Last year, it was $16/sq.ft. This year, they had to drop it to $9. The profits for the show don't come from ticket sales, but from the early morning tours, sponsorship (eg. Twinings, Lexus, Re/Max, Reif, Unilock, and others, but also the TBG) and ice cream sales. Buy the ice cream!

      Philly has a geographic advantage for attracting crowds, for sure.

      And your wish for a pop-up show pretty much describes the Green Streets summer outdoor garden event proposed by Allan Kling. He was hoping to kick it off this year. I'll check with Allan and provide an update.

  9. I should mention that The Gladstone is having a landscape/ horticulture/ gardening themed show called Gro-Op in April 25 – 28. David Leeman, Jonas Spring and I are forming a collective and doing an installation.
    I will post more info soon.

    1. Please keep me posted. I got a message from the organizer, and am hoping to attend the opening, so Gro-Op is definitely on my radar.

    2. Happily an alternative has been put forward.

      Here os the link:

      I have done 2 installations and here are my impressions:
      Regarding being plantcentric and focusing on the environment in early march installers rely on forced material that is limited in variety and often disposed of after the show. Also others have mentioned the desire of exhibitors to move product and get leads. It takes courage do an installation without those ulterior motives in mind. Our installation concrete blooms burst last year won awards but did not generate business. Other exhibitors thought we were crazy.

    3. Thanks, Jonas, for giving us another point of view. Personally, I loved Concrete Blooms Burst. But isn't it sometimes hard to see a direct linear relationship between an exhibit like that and business generated? It must have increased awareness, as awards often do.

      Here's a clickable link to your Gro-Op event.

      On a small point, while some of the plant material is disposed of, they try to find new life for as much as they can after the show.

    4. agreed. I rescued 5 trees headed for the chipper, so if anyone is interested… clump birch, linden and japanese tree lilac. They are all wire basket (large caliper trees).

  10. I, too, was at the first Canada Blooms. I was there as an exhibitor in the Marketplace.

    The event was a thrill, but as a potter selling garden-themed tableware and garden pots, I simply couldn't afford to come again. My main reason was that they made the Marketplace space impossibly expensive, but I also had the second reason that their rules strongly favoured the mega-businesses. It just wasn't possible to compete, and I thought then that that was a shame. Lots of people enjoyed the Marketplace, and shopped for unusual items, but who wants to buy a Loblaws product at Canada Blooms? And schlepp it home on the bus/subway?

    Things become 'Toronto-centric' because once you add the cost of travel, nobody outside TO can afford to take part.

    And I maintain that it is an enormous mistake to locate huge shows like CB where people are forced to take public transit to get there. Sorry, but if people can't drive there, especially if they expect to shop, they ain't gonna go there. So all you get are tourists… who won't buy, or commission local designers…. or stay more than an hour or two.

    Maybe I better not put my name on this!

    1. Thanks for the Marketplace perspective. I used to love the marketplace, and still have some neat pieces purchased there. There were far fewer serious garden stalls this year, and I hope the ones who did attend were well compensated for their investment and efforts.

      That's one thing you can say about the CNE location. There's lots of parking, and this year it was free after 4 pm. I don't know how many people knew to take advantage of it.

  11. It's always interesting to see the different perspectives on this show. And I've been on several different sides of the issue.

    To begin with:

    Size of Metropolitan Area – all data 2011

    Philadelphia 1,536,471 Greater Philly 6.1 million
    Toronto 2,615,060 Greater Toronto 5.5 million


    I used to work for a large nursery and was the point man for examining participation at Philly. It was beyond our marketing budget. And at the same time, the nursery withdrew significantly from CB as well, again because of the costs and returns. Having said that, I haven't been to the show in several years now so have no idea about the changes.

    I will say that producing plants is inordinately expensive for the CB show and getting the timing right on various perennials and flowering shrubs is both costly and time-consuming. Remember this is all greenhouse-forcing material and if you want to see those delphiniums and roses in bloom, back up your own garden from spring until bloom time. So if your roses bloom in July – then you're looking at 3 months of summer heat (and three months of greenhouse costs to mimic it) Multiply the number of plants in your display garden by the number of weeks of greenhouse space they take up and you have some pretty impressive numbers for each plant-cost. And when those months are the most costly months to heat a greenhouse well….

    That's pretty much why you have the same plant every year. It used to be only flowering bulbs. This year it was hellebore I'm told. OK – easy and quick to bloom (tulips only take 21 days of heat to come into bloom) and neither requires a high heat greenhouse.


    Speakers. I spoke once when the nursery sponsored me. Got a full house and felt pretty good about that. Sold a ton of books and they ran out at the book booth. 🙂

    Haven't spoken since. Not asked and haven't refused (but likely would now as I tend to roll South for the winter) but it takes a goodly amount of money for me to hit the road for a day – add a Toronto hotel bill and train fare not to mention my daily fee and it's well beyond a few hundred dollars a talk.

    Don't know about their cost-structure so can't comment on other speakers and haven't been there to listen. If their market is a beginning gardener – then the speaker level is one thing. If their market is the more committed gardener, then the speaker level has to be something else. Always assuming the speakers are a draw and not the flower displays. I don't know enough about their target audience to make any kind of input there.


    I wish them luck but its a tough thing to produce enough floral displays in March. Summer shows might be more floriferous but then you have the issues of labour etc for the shows (given how busy most landscapers and nurseries are)

    Landscape Ontario already has the basics for a show running now – with their display test beds that run all summer and their pro-trade days around those plants.


    So have no concrete suggestions for improving the show – understand the plant-costs and plant-issues all too well so thought I'd pass those along.

    1. Thanks, Doug. You make excellent points. I heard Charlie Dobbin talk about the logistics of forcing plants for the show, and it takes significant effort.

    2. I should also add that, while Philly and Toronto themselves roughly compare in local population, Philadelphia is only about a 1.5-hr drive from New York City or Baltimore in one of the most densely populated areas in North America, so has a much larger potential market. But, as I mentioned in another comment, it isn't the only flower show in the U.S.

  12. Hi Everyone,
    My name is Tony DiGiovanni. I am the Executive Director of Landscape Ontario (LO). Landscape Ontario was one of the founding members together with our wonderful partners, the Garden Club of Toronto (GCT). When Kathy Dembroski (from GCT) came into the LO office almost 20 years ago with the idea of starting a world class flower and garden show, the vision for the event was to showcase our passion for horticulture, gardens, floriculture and design at the very highest levels. Kathy and I went down to the Philadelphia Flower and Garden Show and spent a day with the show manager who generously revealed their entire process including budgets. Philadelphia was the model.

    Both LO and GCT agreed on the following principles and goals. Canada Blooms was to be owned by the entire horticultural community. It had to remain a non-profit event. It had to be a celebration of our passion for plants and gardens in order to inspire, educate and stimulate the public. It had to stretch the imagination. It had to provide a welcome respite from our long winters. It had to provide positive emotional experiences that would be remembered for a lifetime. It had to be volunteer driven. Proceeds from the show had to be used for community related horticultural projects that would magnify and enhance the principles and goals. Canada Blooms had to raise awareness for the societal benefits of plants, gardens and green space. I still remember Kathy saying that Canada Blooms must be a gift to Toronto and Canada.

    Fast forward 20 years…… Canada Blooms has touched millions of people. It has contributed over $600,000 to community-related horticultural projects across Ontario. It has stimulated ideas that have been replicated in gardens and communities across Canada and North America. It has educated thousands about the benefits of plants and green spaces. The Canada Blooms experience has had a small part in enhancing many lives.

    I am always amazed and inspired by the strong opinions about Canada Blooms. Garden enthusiasts care about their Canada Blooms. The community ownership feeling is very strong. I am also touched by how many new visitors to Canada Blooms still experience the “wow” that we jaded enthusiasts used to feel. I just spent 10 days observing many smiles as visitors walked the festival. Canada Blooms makes many people happy.

    What is the Future?
    The main challenge faced by Canada Blooms is financial in nature. It takes a great deal of money and energy to keep the show at the level we all want. The business model does not make sense and if we focus on the business model the festival is compromised. Many of the comments in this blog tell me that the future of Canada Blooms must be guided by the principles and purpose laid out in the beginning. Canada Blooms must raise awareness for the economic, environmental, lifestyle, therapeutic, recreational, spiritual, tourism, health, wellness and community benefits of plants, gardens and green space. Canada Blooms must mobilize people across Canada to green their communities and leave a positive legacy for the future. Canada Blooms must remain volunteer-driven. It must infect all visitors with a desire to contribute to their community and environment.

    Money comes in different ways. I am convinced that we must clearly articulate the original purpose and vision of Canada Blooms in order to attract the sponsorship support (all of us included) required to keep the festival at an inspirational level. Canada Blooms must be fueled by a passionate, contribution-oriented horticultural community focused on enhancing lives and leaving a positive legacy.

    1. Tony, Thanks so much for adding your perspective. I look forward to seeing what the future brings for Canada Blooms.

  13. about a week after visiting canada blooms, me and my gardening 'bestie' went to the spring one of a kind show… same location, HUGE difference in SO many ways! the energy was wonderful! also the creativity was absolutely inspiring… the place was buzzing with excited people looking to buy – buy – buy. maybe a partnership with a different show? the one of a kind show is only a few days long (four, i think?), and i'll bet the target market is pretty much the same. to me, the home show is just about hardware, or hardscaping, if you will… and personally, i'm not excited by rocks, paving, arbours, etc. if canada blooms combined with the one of a kind people, imagine all the opportunities for creative partnerships? just an idea, but a creative one…

    also, one last little tid bit… i remember seeing something written about one of our major canadian banks sponsoring an award winning garden at chelsea. has canada blooms approached any of our large corporate citizens for similar sponsorships?


  14. Just found this blog after searching for costs on exhibiting at Canada Blooms. As co-owner of Garden Gate Ltd with my husband Les, we were original exhibitors for many years. We started out exhibiting with the National Home Show, but were looking for a gardening show. We found it in the precursor to Blooms, which was held at the International Centre (name slips my mind, Gardening something that was owned by the same people who put on the wedding show).

    We watched the cost of participating jump in leaps and bounds and the returns drop in leaps and bounds. As business people we examined this with an eagle eye and questioned whether we were doing something wrong ourselves. Other exhibitors were complaining amongst themselves until it became a common theme. Our complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears when taken to management and as a group of exhibitors, we felt we were looked at as a gift that keeps giving, but were never appreciated for what we were contributing to the show as a whole.


    Our first year exhibiting in the gardening show whose name I cannot remember, we made our expenses back in the first 4 hrs. Our final year at Canada Blooms, we made zero. We had kept thinking that each next year would be better. We had watched as the calibre of exhibitors decreased until quality and uniqueness disappeared. We watched as exhibitors who did not sell garden related items were allowed into the show (requirements in early years had been rigid).


    We in early years, drove home every night and back again every morning fighting traffic, arriving exhausted. This was from necessity as we had to restock our products each day. Storing on site was out of the question for us. My husband had to carry items (some weighing 100 lbs) by hand as we were not allowed a dolly on the floor to restock ( complaints on deaf ears remember). He then would have to carry them to a customers car for them when a purchase was made. Parking was distant from the show. We kept on as we were making money, but we were wearing down.


    Costs kept jumping and sales kept dropping. We were told that the attendance numbers were good. Then eureka! Bus tours. Numbers were being inflated by bus tours. Bus tours crowded the booths while keeping out real customers who were there to shop. Drivers told passengers they couldn't take anything on the bus that they couldn't put on their laps. Passengers to us were tire kickers out for a Sunday drive. For Market Place exhibitors that was deadly. Those who attended the show from out of town were frustrated by the crowds created by sudden surges. Helen, you said that profit from the show didn't come from ticket sales, but from early morning tours. Well not for exhibitors. We count on foot traffic from people looking for new and unusual items to buy and take home. We count on the excitement on the faces coming into our booths. For the most part, tours bring in people who already have everything and are trying to divest themselves. Condo and apartment dwellers don't cut it in the world of "gardening business".


    We heard from landscape companies who had become friends over the years exhibiting together. They were dropping out of the show because of the costs putting together such incredible showpieces with little or no return (demographics of bus tours again?). Without them as well as a mix of good quality marketplace exhibitors, the show simply fell apart in my opinion. The recession has not helped either.


    I hope this can be turned around, we need the smell of spring in winter, we need to feel that excitement of believing warm weather is on it's way. We need what Canada Blooms was in it's first years, what every garden show should be, profitable for those in business, but ethereal for the senses.

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