Native Son: TNLA 2022

Went down to San Antonio last week for the annual Texas Nursery and Landscape Association -TNLA- EXPO. This industry-only event (not open to the public) brings growers, retailers, landscapers, and equipment suppliers together to see and share what’s new in the green world.

With the sprawling roof of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in the foreground, my hotel room view was great day or night. Click images for larger view.
Large specimen palms provide a fun, tropical touch to the EXPO floor. Click images for larger view.

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Lush landscape plants for every Texas garden can be sourced at the EXPO. Click images for larger view.
The recent explosion of Echinacea cultivars makes me smile; they’re Texas tough! Click images for larger view.
Just two of the new varieties of plants that will be at retail nurseries next spring. Click images for larger view.
Haworthias and succulent combos in lightweight, trendy-chic hypertufa pots. Click images for larger view.
Succulents are hot in the trade these days … even the tiny ones! Click images for larger view.

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Some of the new toys include a $35,000 remote-controlled brush-hog that doesn’t mind poison ivy and fire ants, as well as a heapin’ helpin’ of battery-powered tools. Click images for larger view.
Mow like a boss with this bad boy! Warm fuzzies at the Big John booth … I got my start in horticulture transplanting trees with my dad and his Big John 78 … back in ’78. Click images for larger view.
From the traditional Aggie planters to the groovilicious new palm-fiber pots, there’s something for everybody. Click images for larger view.
TNLA is a great place to commune with the plants … or talk turkey about equipment. Click images for larger view.
New turfgrass varieties bring the promise of better lawns. Disease-resistant varieties of boxwood have been developed to fight boxwood blight, a fungus that has recently reached Texas. Click images for larger view.
Native American Seed is the place to go for high quality wildflower seed, straight talk, and one of the best teaching catalogs in the industry. This sample display of mulches and amendments lets you see and feel the good stuff … while staying in the AC. Click images for larger view.
Sampling the various screened particle sizes at the expanded shale booth …
Lots of enthusiastic young people worked the EXPO. They hold the future of horticulture in their hands, just as I did back before my body started making Rice Crispy noises when I get out of bed. Click images for larger view.
Dog park accoutrements created with a 3D printer make a fun tabletop display. Click image for larger view.

But of all the lovely plants, powerful equipment, and artistic ornaments I saw at the EXPO, my favorite part was running into old friends. (I say “old friends” because they’re old.) It’s like we’re part of an exclusive club with one simple dress code: white hair or no hair. It’s a club where I can tell my Joe DiMaggio joke and people get it. It’s a club where the laughs come easily and the most unbelievable stories are true … mostly. It’s a club where everyone is grateful that cell phones didn’t exist back when we were young, so there’s no solid proof of our spectacular blunders. It’s a club where I can vent my problems out like a madman and still get a hug. (Thank you, Heather and Morgan.)

At the EXPO, I may have discovered a new perk of the white hair/no hair club … pitifulness. I was standing by myself at a restaurant, when some nice young folks from Dogwood Nursery in Athens invited me to join them for dinner … even bought my dinner. They talked of the challenges and insanity of trying to get an old nursery up and running again. Sagging benches, busted pipes, rusted hinges, electrical conundrums … and the list goes on and on and on. I listened patiently as they told their stories, full of laughter, lamentations, lunacy, and yes, even love. I smiled a bit at how much their stories sound like mine. And I didn’t know then what they don’t know now … they are living their glory days. Soon enough, they will go to sleep one day and wake up to a head of white hair … or no hair.

Welcome to the club.

Some upstanding members of the WH/NH Club; Bram Franklin, me, and my sixth cousin, thrice removed, Mark Chamblee. And apparently, I have not learned to remove the lollipop stick from my mouth for a photo.

Time to party at the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center! Our fall concert series kicks off Sept. 8, with 3 more great outdoor concerts the following Thursday nights, 6pm to 8pm. Gates open at 5pm; tickets are just $10; AND you can bring a cooler to make a great evening of it however you want!

And while you’re at it, make plans to attend our annual Garden Party fund-raiser on Saturday, October 22. The Royal Dukes will be layin’ down the jams, so prepare to boogie! Live auction, great food, open bar, and a few surprises, too.

Go to for details!

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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