The garden writers are coming! The garden writers are coming!


The GWA | The Association for Garden Communicators will be holding their 2017 Annual conference here in the garden tourism mecca of Buffalo, NY.

Weather Channel reporter Maria LaRosa
was a Keynote speaker.

We’re expecting between 300 and 400 garden journalists, columnists, bloggers, photographers, book authors, educators, professional speakers, historians, landscapers, nursery professionals, garden center professionals, advertising and PR pros, filmmakers, and more – from across the world! Generally it’s any folks that have experience crafting messages that support gardening and landscaping to their audiences.

They’ll be here the week after Garden Walk Buffalo, August 4-7, 2017 for educational sessions that range from round-table topics, keynote speakers, panels, professional development topics, and of course, sessions concerning current and upcoming areas of interest to the profession (and public).

There are parties too. You can’t expect a bunch
of gardeners together without a party.

I attended the conference (I’m a member! I’m a writer!) last year in Atlanta, and the sessions I attended ranged from producing live-streaming videos, usefulness of gardening apps, applying garden imagery to sell-able products, beyond the basics of social media, foodscaping, creating world-class displays, co-authoring, enticing future gardeners, and new plant introductions.

In addition to all these, the national-league keynote speakers included Maria LaRosa from the Weather Channel talking about climate change, and end-of-conference keynote speakers Michael Dirr, PhD (author of multiple books, and renowned expert on on trees and woody plants) and Coach Vince Dooley (one of the winningest coaches in the history of college football and a superhero in the south).

And awards. There’s awards.

Coach Dooley may seem like an odd choice for a garden communicator’s conference, but he was extremely knowledgeable about trees – and was very entertaining. There are tours that happen after the official days of the conference and one was to the Coach’s home and garden where he’s been collecting trees for decades. I’m told it was a highlight of the conference.

Along with all the classes, there is a Monday evening Awards & Honors Dinner, where members’ work is recognized for communications excellence and service to the green communications industry.

On the left is Visit Buffalo Niagara’s VP of Marketing,
Ed Healy. Obviously he’s learning something.

What I went for, mostly, was the tours of gardens that happen for half days on Saturday through Monday called “Story Tours.” These are intended to be inspiration and fodder for the assembled to create articles, books, blog posts, photographs, and more. We had the chance to visit the garden of the co-founder of Home Depot, Dr. Michael Dirr’s garden, Coach Dooley’s garden, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the Atlanta History Center, he Gibbs Garden, and many private residential gardens in the region.

What I wasn’t ready for, and enjoyed tremendously was the Expo Hall exhibitor and sponsor exhibition. Vendors of seeds, plants, planters, publishers, garden tools, nurseries, fertilizers, and much more are there with their new products, unique offerings, and new plants for the next year. And nearly all are giving out samples! (Worth the price of the conference cost alone!) Dozens of exhibitors want the attendees to cover their products.

On the left, Sally Cunningham.

Are you a potential exhibitor? Find out more here.

So we’re bringing all this to Buffalo. Actually, Sally Cunningham, (The Buffalo News and Buffalo Spree Magazine garden columnist, Channel 4 TV garden personality, AAA garden tour host and coordinator, and book author) Buffalo’s energizer bunny, is the chair of the local aspects of the conference. And she’s got a large team of ever-generous Buffalo volunteers (including me). A couple dozen volunteers are needed to pull of the local portion of the conference, getting people in and out of gardens, and off and on buses (there could be six-plus buses of 50 seats each!).

A Proven Winners rep promoting new
plant introductions for 2017 and beyond.

Visit Buffalo Niagara has been a great partner in making this event happen. They attended the Atlanta conference, personned a booth at the Expo, have hosted volunteer meetings, are assisting with beautification projects in the area of downtown the attendees will stay (The Hyatt Hotel and the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center). They even chipped in some funds with Gardens Buffalo Niagara to produce a garden tourism video that premiered at the Atlanta conference which we’ll broadcast broadly this spring.

Then there’s a few meals that may need serving. Most meals and receptions are covered in the attendees’ conference fees, a few snacks and meals we’d like to offer to our 300+ guests. If you’d like to be a sponsor, visit here, or give me a call (716) 884-3274.

The closest we’ve ever come to hosting this many garden writers was 2010 when GardenRant.com‘s Elizabeth Licata and I planned and hosted tours for around 75 garden bloggers here in Buffalo Niagara. It was a blast. The promotion of Buffalo as a garden tourist destination got a big shot in the arm back then.

Imagine how much a group of nearly 400 garden communicators here can changed perceptions of Buffalo. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! There is no doubt that Gardens Buffalo Niagara, Garden Walk Buffalo, Visit Buffalo Niagara, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, Olmsted Parks, the Wright sites, the great and generous tour gardens, and the ever-ready garden tourism volunteers can’t carry these conference tours off. We’ve been training for it for more than 20 years!

We’re even attempting to create a small new event that will be open to the Buffalo public, taking advantage of all these authors and photographer’s visits (tours, sessions, and awards dinner are closed to all but paid attendees). Stay tuned for that!

But the biggest part of the visit, and the reason Buffalo was chosen for the conference – is our gardening heritage and culture. We’ve got action-packed tours of creative and colorful residential Garden Walk Buffalo gardens (mine!), tours of some of our gardening heritage sites (Botanical Garden! Marina Trial Garden!Wright! Olmsted!). And some of our great south towns gardens (Shadrack’s Smug Creek! the Sully Hosta Garden!).

Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com Connie Oswald Stofko
from right here in Buffalo is a GWA member
and attended the Atlanta conference.

We’ll also be trying to get some of the members to come for Garden Walk Buffalo the week before and staying through to the conference. It would give attendees the chance to take advantage of sites we’ll not necessarily be able to get to – the Albright-Knox Art Museum,  Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff, Canalside, and that little water feature we call Niagara Falls.

The biggest deal? The conference is estimated to have an economic impact of $1.2 million. Garden tourism at it’s most fruitful!

(All photos (save two) were taken by the GWA photographer. The last two photos at the end of this post are mine.)

Michael and Becky Fox, publisher and editor-in-chief of Ontario’s Garden Making
magazine receive an award from GWA president Kirk Brown.
On the left is long-time Garden Walk Buffalo sponsor, Tracy Blevins of PlantsMap.com.
The group can fill a room. A large room.
Expo Hall and exhibitors.
Connie Oswald Stofko of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com
won an award for her online magazine.
Left is Ontario’s Ken Brown. In blue is Washington resident (and Buffalo-raised)
John Boggan of the blog, DCTropics.
Me. In deep thought.

Awards dinner master of ceremonies, author Allan Armitige.
Garden blogger, book author and freelance garden writer Kaylee Baumle of Our Little Acre.
One garden visit was to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
Another garden we visited was to the co-founder of Home Depot (and owner of the Atlanta Falcons!).

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “The garden writers are coming! The garden writers are coming!

  1. Sooo cool. Probably not possible to have that exhibition hall open to the public for a few hours at the end?


  2. I'm very excited about coming back to Buffalo!


  3. It's not been possible in the past. Th exhibitors REALLY want to cater to the writers, not the general public. And the organization, I'm sure, sees this as an exclusive opportunity for their membership.


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