Topiary, sculpted plants shape up as theme for Farwest Trade Show

By CASEY MINTER

Capital Press

Artful plants are among the many topics featured at this year's nursery industry showcase.

After 42 years of highlighting the latest advancements in the nursery industry, the Farwest Trade Show is gearing up for another annual gathering.

The theme of this year’s gathering will focus on a less traditional aspect of the nursery industry: topiary and sculpted plants.

“In past years we’ve had the year of the conifer and the year of the acer … this year we are doing sculpted plants,” said Ann Murphy, Oregon Association of Nurseries director of marketing.

The theme of each year’s Farwest Trade Show allows attendees and exhibitors to focus on unique features of the extensive and multi-faceted nursery industry.

“Each year we try and look at a different aspect of the industry and where we think Oregon excels and provides a showcase for that quality,” Murphy said.

Murphy hopes this theme will allow the momentum of last year’s 15 percent increase in attendance to continue. Ornamental horticulture is one of the state’s largest industries, with annual sales of $744 million and nearly 75 percent of nursery plants grown in Oregon shipped out of state. The Farwest Trade Show gathers the industry’s leaders at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore., from Aug. 21 to 23.

The show averages nearly 6,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors. With so much of the business being conducted out of state, networking and communication are vital. Murphy believes that even with technology’s ability to bridge distance and facilitate communication, there’s a lot of benefit to be had in gathering industry members from around the country to one place.

“As some of these face-to-face opportunities become less frequent, shows like this become more important. Even if they’re once a year,” she said. “Farwest is a bit of a family reunion, we like to say.”

Todd Nelson, owner of Bountiful Farms, a nursery specializing in topiary plants, agrees that this year’s Farwest Trade Show will be beneficial and busy.

“The reason we go is to draw new business,” he said. “I have a lot of hopes that this year will be busier, we have seen an increase in tours (at Bountiful Farms) and increased interest from our customers, so I know that things are a little more lively.”

Many of the species featured at the show are common topiary plants: arborvitae, European box, holly, bay laurel, myrtle and privet to name a few. Murphy believes a focus on topiary plants will be friendly both to the eyes and the cash registers of industry members.

“I think there’s an opportunity for our retailers to up-sell some of these sculpted plants and encourage people to be creative with them.”

Creativity is inherent in plant sculpting, and the Farwest Trade Show will offer plenty of opportunities to experience that creativity.

“It’s utterly amazing what you can do with an arborvitae, breathtaking. You can have a patio umbrella from plant material, they’re using plants in restaurants as screening, there are monsters, leaping dolphins, people sitting on a bench weaving, plus your more traditional spirals and pom palms,” Murphy said.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to showcase that.”



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