February 2024: Garden Expo Afterglow

Afterglow IconThe 2024 PBS Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo (February 9 – 11) has come and gone.  While I spent last week physically recuperating from Garden Expo (standing on a concrete floor gets rougher each year), my mind and spirit came away from the event rejuvenated and invigorated.  The weather was perfect with four warm, snow-free days (including set up day) that attracted almost 15,000 people to the event. 

As I do each year, I coordinated and staffed the UW-Madison Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) booth at Garden Expo.  Organizers Amanda Balistreri and Heather Robbins again generously provided me with a double booth for my display at no charge.   This year I had an endcap booth in a prime location near the entrance to the exhibit hall.  The configuration of the booth (i.e., with visibility from three sides) provided me even more space than normal to display and highlight the full range of services and educational materials that I provide.   The booth allowed visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with plant disease specimens and photos; to peruse and walk away with free UW Plant Disease Facts fact sheets (116 titles again this year); and to check out my plant disease-themed limerick book, building block plant diseases, and UW Plant Disease Facts medallions.  I also provided fliers on the monthly PDDC Plant Disease Talks that I organize, as well as the Ask-the-Experts Q&A sessions I participate in with colleagues from the UW-Madison Division of Extension Horticulture Program.  Finally, I played a looped video of segments that I filmed over the years with Shelley Ryan on Wisconsin Public Television’s The Wisconsin Gardener.  It’s been 10 years since Shelley’s passing, and it’s comforting to know that the outreach event that she and her show inspired is still going strong. 

As always, I was at Garden Expo all three days (noon until 7 pm on Friday, 9 am until 6 pm on Saturday, and 10 am until 4 pm on Sunday).  A special shout out goes to Chad Teubert of the UW Russell Labs Hub for helping transport and unload my booth materials on Thursday at the Alliant Energy Center, and for helping unload things back at Russell Labs the Monday after Expo.  Also, thanks go to Lisa Johnson of Extension Dane County who helped staff my booth when I was off giving talks. 

During the course of Garden Expo, I gave three talks:  Vegetable Diseases, Growing Healthy Plants:  Basics in Plant Disease Management, and Ten Diseases of Native Plants (and Non-Natives, Too).  I also helped answer questions with Lisa Johnson at Larry Meiller’s in-person Garden Talk session on Saturday morning.  I had a constant stream of visitors through the PDDC booth all three days (Friday was unusually busy this year) and pretty much talked with and answered questions for folks the entire time.  I distributed 4,805 fact sheets, 924 brochures/informational handouts of various kinds, and 228 handouts for my talks.  For the first time, I had to reprint some fact sheets early Sunday morning, because I had run out of certain titles (e.g., Blossom End Rot) by the end of the day on Saturday.  All of these materials were not only educational in nature but were branded with the UW-Madison Division of Extension logo and/or the UW-Madison CALS logo, thus providing advertising for the UW-Madison. 

I had a exhilarating, productive weekend and provided a valuable service to the public.  I heard numerous positive comments about, and thanks for, the services that I provide.  This positive feedback is what keeps me motivated to do the work that I do.  The 2024 PBS Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo continues to be, by far, the most important in-person outreach event that I do every year and, quite frankly, my absolute favorite work activity. 

If you’d like to learn more about the PDDC and the services it provides, feel free to check out the clinic website at https://pddc.wisc.edu.  Also, feel free to follow the clinic on Facebook or Twitter (@UWPDDC), or subscribe to the clinic’s listserv (UWPDDCLearn) by emailing me at pddc@wisc.edu or (608) 262-2863. 

Here’s to looking forward to Garden Expo 2025!