January 2018
25 Years of Flower Power By Abby Kleckler

Lawn & Garden Retailer sat down with Ashley Molion, marketing director at McDonald Garden Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to talk about its Outdoor Show, which celebrates a quarter of a decade this year.

What Is It?

The McDonald Garden Center Annual Outdoor Show is a massive event that takes place the first weekend in March, rain (snow) or shine. It’s meant to set the tone for the year and give customers a first look at spring, with as many blooming plants as possible — often force blooming some to make sure the greenhouse is full of life. The event features new and upcoming products, booths, a food vendor, deals, and educational seminars and workshops. Last year a chef’s workshop on how to cook with herbs engaged all five senses of gardening and was a big hit.

How Do You Keep It Fresh?

Every year there’s a central theme. Last year was Flower Power, which was a throwback to the 1960s and 70s. The team starts to meet around September or October for the following year. There’s always a large display in the greenhouse area, which takes months to plan and is built out by the landscape division. Every display, even if it’s over the top, has a real application for it. Each staff member has specific roles that they play in event preparations — often different from their daily jobs — to pull off the whole thing in-house.

How Do You Tell People About The Event?

A great partnership with the local FOX TV affiliate promotes the show a couple weeks out with an appearance on The Hampton Roads Show local morning program and news programs, along with McDonald Garden Center running :15s and :30s. Print, click campaigns, social media and radio help hit every medium for the event. On Facebook, “going live” a couple times for both previews and during the event has worked really well and engagement has been high.

Who’s There?

The event can feature up to 70 vendors, which include in-house vendors such as Proven Winners and Monrovia, local businesses, and nonprofits and charities. Staff experts are on-site to answer all questions. The event is free for attendees, bringing in more than 8,000 people last year. It’s a show where most customers spend at least an hour, and you could spend 5 hours or more.

What’s In Store For Next Year?

Next year marks 25 years of the event. The theme will be Southern Living, featuring camellias, azaleas, live oaks, moss and many other plants to create that Deep South feel. The theme will include a lot of local plant material, which is always a goal, but it isn’t limited to that. As for 25th Anniversary surprises, there will be many.

Abby Kleckler

Abby is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected]


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