McDonald Garden Center in Virginia Beach was one of the hosting IGCs on the 2017 GCA Summer Tour.

Garden Centers of America 2018 Summer Tour

Each year, the GCA Summer Tour travels to a different U.S. city, giving attendees the opportunity to visit garden centers across the country and allowing for professional enrichment, a sharing of strategies and personal networking. The 2018 GCA Summer tour will take participants around the greater Seattle region, making stops at 15 hosting garden centers, listed below.

The basics

Dates: June 24-27

Location: Seattle, Wash.

Expected attendance: Between 150-200

For more info:

Participating businesses:

West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center, Seattle, Wash.

Watson’s Greenhouse & Nursery, Puyallup, Wash.

Windmill Gardens, Sumner, Wash.

Rainier View Winery & Nursery, Graham, Wash.

Branches Garden Center, Auburn, Wash.

Wells Medina Nursery, Medina, Wash.

Ravenna Gardens, Seattle, Wash.

Magnolia Garden Center, Seattle, Wash.

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wash.

Swansons Nursery, Seattle, Wash.

Molbak’s Garden + Home, Woodinville, Wash.

Sunnyside Nursery, Marysville, Wash.

McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery, Snohomish, Wash.

Flower World, Inc., Snohomish, Wash.

Li’l Sprout Nursery & Garden Center, Mill Creek, Wash.

Sky Nursery, Shoreline, Wash.

Other highlights

As in previous years, the 2018 GCA Summer Tour will kick off with an opening reception on the evening of Sun., June 24. Special guest Ernest Wertheim will be joining the 2018 event, lending his years of experience and insights to the opening reception and three days of bus tours.

“The perspective he has is just really unique,” says GCA Executive Director Jeff Morey. “To a very large degree, he really created what we now call the garden center.”

National Hardware Show 2018

The basics

Dates: May 8-10

Location: North and Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

Expected attendance: More than 2,800 exhibitors and more than 20,000 attendees

For more info:

Keynote speakers

Two keynotes are on the schedule for NHS 2018; “How TreeHouse Grew Its Roots and Where It’s Headed” by Jason Ballard, co-founder and president of TreeHouse; and “How to Discover The Next Big Thing” by Jules Pieri, CEO of The Grommet.

Education Sessions

Nearly 20 education sessions are slated for this year’s event, covering topics like small business management techniques, appealing to different generations of consumers, retailer-supplier relations, addressing cybersecurity as a small business and many more.

Other highlights

NHS 2018 is introducing new attendee “experiences” — interactive, trend-based exhibits on the show floor. New experiences include the Smart Home Virtual Reality Experience, the Ultimate Backyard Experience and the Operation: Tiny House Experience.



Retailers, greenhouse growers and nursery professionals alike can all find something to learn or discover at AmericanHort’s annual industry-wide trade show. Cultivate takes over the Greater Columbus Convention Center every summer with rows of vendor booths, an extensive array of educational workshops and invigorating morning keynote sessions. Mary Beth Cowardin, vice president of marketing for AmericanHort, says attendees can expect a show layout similar to the 2017 event.

“Like last year, we’re taking up the entire convention center,” Cowardin says. “There will continue to be the new varieties area, which is quite sizeable, and of course there’s the Knowledge Center stage and the Cultivate Live stage. Both have been in place for several years.”

The basics

Dates: July 14-17

Location: Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio

For more info:


Sat., July 14: Education sessions open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., trade show closed.

Sun., July 15: Education sessions open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., trade show floor open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mon., July 16: Education sessions open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., trade show floor open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tue., July 17: Education sessions open 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., trade show floor open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Expected attendance: Show floor space is sold out — more than 650 exhibitors expected. General registration is still open, but tracking ahead of last year.

Keynote speakers

According to Cowardin, keynote speakers for Cultivate 2018 are still being finalized, but the Morning Jolt! Keynote address has been scheduled for the morning of Sunday, July 15. The yearly Cultivate State of The Industry Keynote is scheduled for Monday, July 16. In previous years, keynote addresses have been given by AmericanHort Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge, author Jon Gordon, business strategist Scott Steinberg and horticulture industry expert Dr. Charlie Hall, to name a few.

Education Sessions

Cultivate continues to expand its signature offering of educational sessions year after year, with the 2018 event showing growth in number of informational events from 2017.

“I believe we are up almost 20 percent in number of educational sessions,” Cowardin says. “We’re up to about 140 plus. I think last year, we were at 120, so we’ve seen some growth in the number of educational sessions, which is fabulous.” Education sessions at the 2018 event will cover a broad range of topics of interest to retailers, with workshop titles such as “How to Turn Customers Into Brand Ambassadors,” “Pick Me! Pick Me! Getting Product Seen to be Sold,” “Connecting the Dots: Marketing Pollinator Plants and Edibles” and “Ordering Online to Pick Up in Store: Are You Ready to Implement in Your Garden Center?”

Other highlights

Signature attractions at Cultivate include the New Product Zone and the New Varieties Zone, where attendees can browse the latest plant and hard good offerings coming to the market.

The event also kicks off with first-day tours, including a retail-centric tour for independent garden center representatives, as well as separate tours focusing on greenhouse growing and the nursery/landscape side of the industry. This year, a new tour is being added to the lineup, with a focus on hydroponics. The 2018 Cultivate retail tour will take attendees to Northeast Ohio to visit Bremec Garden Centers locations in Chesterland, Cleveland Heights and Concord.

The New Varieties Zone moved onto the trade show floor in 2017.

IGC Show 2018

Independent garden center retailers gather every year at the Navy Pier in Chicago to share ideas, be inspired, browse new products in the market and learn to better their businesses. Now in its 12th year, the trade show created specifically for independent retailers continues to introduce new opportunities for attendees to learn and network.

The basics

Dates: Aug. 14-16; (Store tour on Aug. 13)

Location: Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, Ill.

Times: Tues. Aug. 14: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wed. Aug. 15: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thurs. Aug. 16: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more info:

Expected attendance: According to organizers, the show typically draws around 7,000 attendees, representing more than 3,000 businesses. More than 650 exhibitors and vendors are expected to attend.

Keynote speakers

Bob Negen

IGC Show hosts up to three special guests who deliver morning keynote addresses on each day of the show. These speakers represent a broad range of professional backgrounds, including specialty retail, marketing, entrepreneurship, personal leadership and more.

This year, Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair in International Floriculture with Texas A&M University’s Department of Horticultural Sciences, will deliver a soon-to-be-announced keynote, including a special analysis of the garden center industry’s economic outlook.

Television personality Daymond John, known for NBC’s "Shark Tank," will give a keynote address at 9 a.m. Aug. 15. IGC Show founder Jeff Morey expects audiences to connect with John’s “inspiring” and “rags-to-riches” story.

“I’ve seen his talk, and it really is quite inspiring. I think our attendees will get a lot out of it,” Morey says. “There already seems to be quite a bit of interest.”

Retail expert Bob Negen will give the Aug. 16 keynote address at 9 a.m., sharing his experience in independent, specialty retail and his tips for establishing customer loyalty.

Education Sessions

Learning opportunities and educational gatherings are longtime core offerings of the IGC Show, and this year the track of informational workshops and sessions has been rebranded as “Continuing Education @ IGC.” Garden center design and renovation specialist Judy Sharpton, who makes regular appearances at the show, will return to share her store makeover tips with the audience. Morey says that industry expert Steve Bailey, another show regular, will not be attending this year.

Informal “Shop Talk Sessions” — which were introduced at last year’s show — will return, giving attendees a designated space to have collaborative, facilitator-led discussions on topics including staffing, customer service, legal/healthcare issues, marketing to Millennials, social media presence, POS technology and more.

Other entries in the Continuing Education @ IGC track include a presentation by Sharon Hadden of Allisonville Nursery, Garden & Home in Fishers, Ind., who will discuss strategies for operating a profitable container department. Continue to check back with the IGC Show website for complete education session listings.

Other highlights

To make sure attendees don’t work too hard, IGC Show traditionally offers an evening concert each year in the Navy Pier ballroom, giving retailers and vendors a chance to unwind after a day on the show floor. Previous acts have included the Gin Blossoms, Gloria Gaynor, The Blue Oyster Cult and more. This year, The Marshall Tucker Band will bring its blend of classic rock and country music to the IGC Show, playing a 6:45 p.m. concert on Tuesday, Aug. 14

Another traditional component of the IGC Show is the bus tour of garden retail businesses in the greater Chicago area on the day before the show begins. This year’s tour is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13, with Henri Studio in Wauconda, Ill. confirmed as one of the stops. Morey says the rest of the tour stops are still being determined as of press time.

The IGC Show, hosted annually in Chicago, is entering its 12th year of operation.
IGC Show attendees can meet for informal "Shop Talk Sessions" on the show floor.

International Shows

International Garden Centre Association Congress 2018

The basics

Dates: Sept. 16-21

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

For more information:

Spoga + Gafa 2018

The basics

Dates: Sept. 2-4

Location: Cologne, Germany

Expected attendance: More than 2,000 exhibitors, about 40,000 visitors each year

For more information:

Glee 2018

The basics

Dates: Sept. 10-12

Location: Birmingham, U.K.

Expected attendance: More than 500 vendors, more than 7,000 attendees/buyers

For more information:

Farwest / Distributor Shows

Farwest 2018

The basics

Dates: Aug. 22-24

Location: Portland, Ore.

Expected attendance: More than 400 exhibitors, more than 6,000 industry attendees

For more information:

Arett Sales Open House

Dates: Sept. 16-18

Location: Atlantic City, N.J. 

For more information:

BFG Supply Co. 2018 Events

The basics

2018 BFG Expo

Dates: July 31-Aug. 1

Location: Minneapolis, Minn.

2018 BFG Expo

Dates: Sept. 19-20

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

For more information:

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that the Arett Sales Open House was in Atlanta, Ga. It is actually in Atlantic City, N.J.