Winter is a great month to start planning your summer garden and what better way to get inspired then by attending a local garden show. If you’ve attended a home and garden show before, you know that it can be a great opportunity to see new ideas, pick the brain of some garden experts and see new tools. But it can also be really overwhelming and exhausting. Use these tips to ensure a successful garden show trip.

1. Be physically prepared

Shows tend to be hosted in large convention centers or pavilions. They are large and may have several hundred booths. There will be a lot of walking and most likely, limited food choices. Be physically prepared by wearing comfortable shoes, bringing healthy snacks and water, and give yourself time to sit and rest after several hours of walking around. Plan a good place for lunch (scout out choices ahead of time) and make sure you have enough energy to see what you need to see. And don’t forget to bring an extra bag to hold all of the literature and swag you’ll be collecting.

2. Bring photos of your yard

Going to the garden show gives you the opportunity to speak directly to garden experts and business owners. If you have a specific issue in your yard, you might find it easier to bring images of what you’re talking about. Even a few photos can lead to a great conversation with a professional landscaper. If you have specific plant issues or questions and plan on speaking with a horticulturist, bring photos of the plants in question. If you plan on speaking with deck or spa specialists, bring photos of the landscape.

3. Decide what you need help with

When it comes to our yards, there is usually a very long list of things to do, plants to maintain, and ideas to implement.  But to make the most of your garden show visit, have your top 5 priority list of yard and garden topics you’d like to gather more information on. If you want to start an organic garden and need more info, write this down so you can be on the look out for organic garden experts. If you’re looking for fencing or deck materials, make that the focus of your visit. Trying to plan an outdoor kitchen? Give yourself time to check out designers and equipment companies. It would be a shame to leave the show without any new information to get your next garden project started.

4. Spend time previewing the schedule

Many garden shows publish their full show schedule and exhibitor list ahead of time so that attendees can plan out their trip. For shows with multiple guest speakers, presenting stages or special presentation, this guide will be invaluable for your time management. If there are specific exhibitors you’d like to see, get to know where they are located so that you don’t waste time wandering around. If you only have a short amount of time at the show, prioritize the must-see companies so you don’t miss any opportunities.

5. Schedule appointments with professionals

The main goal of the exhibitors is to book jobs  – keep this in mind when walking around. In fact, some companies aim to book out their entire summer calendar during the winter garden show so they can plan appropriately. If you find a landscaper or gardener that you like, be sure to book your consultation appointments right there at the show. Have your calendar ready and make sure you communicate what exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish during your first appointment such as determining the budget, what work needs to be done, or special property issues. This will help them prepare for your consultation appointment and make the whole process more efficient.

6. Don’t get too distracted

Garden shows are great places for inspiration and ideas, and it’s fun to see what’s new on the market and take pictures of beautiful landscape designs. But don’t get too distracted that you forget why you’re there. If you do find yourself drawn to booths that have nothing to do with your project at hand, take one of their brochures or circle their booth number and check these out once you’re back at home.

Top image credit: Phil Kean Designs