The last weekend of February and the first week of March used to be a lot different for people in Wichita’s garden industry.
Mark Moore, creator of stony mountainsides and towering waterfalls in Scenic Landscapes’ great garden at the Wichita Garden Show, would be working around the clock on his garden, breathing in so much mulch and mildew that it would give him a respiratory infection for weeks.
Il Sik Hong, owner of Hong’s Landscape, would feel like a woman about to give birth. He’d suffer misery in preparing a pristine garden for the show, getting nervous a couple of weeks before it was unveiled to tens of thousands of expectant people.
This pre-spring, the nursery owners, along with others who used to prepare for the garden show that was closed down last May, are enjoying a relative ease.
On the other hand, Brad Horning of Entercom radio, ringleader of a new Outdoor Living & Landscape Show, has taken the weight of the world onto his shoulders.
Entercom stepped into the breach when the garden show was ended, announcing that a new show would take place in the same place and on the same weekend as the garden show did, but smaller in scope.
The new show will debut next weekend, lasting three days instead of five, and in one hall of Century II rather than stretching across three.
“This has been nothing but complete excitement,” Horning said this week, having just finished a sponsorship of the Women’s Fair and while juggling his normal job duties at Entercom. “I’ve been to the last 10 garden shows in a row working a booth, and we had a big sponsorship last year. … We’re trying to fill shoes that were pretty big in the city and the state.”
Horning said Entercom looked into the reasons the old garden show closed, and “we’re learning that those great gardens were just unsustainable. They had just gotten too big.”
LaLana Moore, who owns Scenic Landscapes with her husband, Mark, said that definitely was the case for their business. They had announced that last year’s great garden would be the last for Scenic before the garden show was shut down.
“We can’t afford to do it like this anymore,” LaLana Moore said of the great-garden concept. Each year the creation would put Scenic $30,000 to $130,000 in debt, she said.
“So we go into spring in great debt, and with the way the economy has been the last six or seven years, we didn’t see any way of doing that.”
Scenic Landscapes will be part of the new outdoor living show, with a booth and a water feature that will be built amid four display gardens. They will be smaller than the old show’s great gardens — closer to the size of the former “mid gardens” — but “we’re still going to have that wow factor,” Horning said.
Part of the “wow” will be a garden by Suburban Landscape Management that will wrap around the glass wall near the entrance to Expo Hall, Horning said. That’s the hall where the great gardens used to be. It will now house the entire outdoor living show, holding more than 100 vendors.
The show, which starts Friday and goes through March 4, won’t offer a multi-day pass, because people will be able to see it all in one day.
“I think that too becomes a positive,” Horning said. “The garden show was so big it took a couple days to take it all in.”
Ticket prices will be $9 for adults, compared to the $11.50 at the 2011 garden show.
While visitors loved to see the great gardens of the old show, Horning said, some would complain that the gardens were too lofty to translate into their backyards.
At the new show, “they’ll see some impressive display gardens and meet with landscapers that could build these. People should be able to get educated and learn about things that make sense.”
One element of continuity from the old show will be garden seminars organized by the Extension Service. The Extension master gardeners will have a booth featuring a display of evergreens that will grow in Kansas that are not problematic pines or spruces, extension agent Bob Neier said. Master gardeners will be on hand to answer gardening questions and hand out gardening information and a list of Extension garden events for the year.
“It’s been less work” this year, Neier said of the new show. “I’ve been able to breathe.”
The Extension master gardeners took advantage of the freed-up time to take part in the Home Show earlier in February, and they will put more effort into their demonstration garden and garden tour this year, Neier said.
Missing from the new show will be many of the garden clubs and other nonprofit exhibitors. There are a couple of reasons for that, Horning said. One is that there was no discount offered for such groups, making a booth too expensive for some of them, he said. The other is that Horning simply has not had time to respond to all the people who have been contacting him about being in the show.
Ken Lockwood, director of the Eagle Valley Raptor Center, is one of them. He used to do wild-bird demonstrations at the old garden show, but he couldn’t connect with Horning in time to get in the outdoor living show. He said he will be doing more programming at Botanica this year and will be at Cabela’s for its opening weekend March 17 and 18.
Horning said his first priority has been to get as many outdoor living and landscaping businesses in the show as possible. Family garden centers such as Arnold’s Greenhouse in LeRoy have said that such a show is vital to their connecting with customers just before the spring growing season.
Hong’s Landscape will have one of the display gardens at the new outdoor living show, but Il Sik Hong said he’d passed the task of creating it to his son Dail.
“This is a new show, so he’s learning with them,” the elder Hong said. While his nursery has remodeled and enlarged a greenhouse and a shade structure this winter, Hong said he is missing the joy of giving birth to a great garden.
“All the work we put in to set up the garden, and then I stepped back and said, ‘It’s beautiful.’ That I made. That kind of feeling that I had … I miss that.”
The Moores, too, will miss their great garden.
“We loved the opportunity to display what we wanted and to witness” with Scripture verses in the garden, LaLana Moore said. (That’s something the Moores will do in new ways at their nursery.) “But the financial burden is not something I’m going to miss.”