Distinct, Dynamic & Interactive

By Roger Sears

Published on November 30, 2018

This was the view for people lined up and waiting to get into our nighttime display under the covering. They had access to our literature and some candy while they were waiting.

One of the best lead generators for our little company is the local garden show. We get three days to set it up, three days for the show and one day to tear it down. Over the years, our display has become a big draw for attendees who look forward to seeing what vision we bring to life every year. One year we built a nighttime display complete with owl hoots and a full moon. Another year we lounged on a deck partially overtop a large pond with a glass display window in the floor and remote-controlled speedboats to play with! Whatever we build, we always have fun, and the show attendees love it!

A great display needs to be three things: distinct, dynamic and interactive. Separating your booth from all the other displays can be a challenge, but it is imperative and rewarding. All other landscape exhibitors use patios, walls, plantings, pergolas, fire pits and so forth. The displays are all very static; nothing moves. One landscaper’s booth can seem to seamlessly flow into the next booth. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins. Not to mention the patented curtains around the perimeters to hide the edges — ugh!

Songbird ponds nighttime booth
This was the view looking into our nighttime booth. The sounds of the waterfall, crickets and owls were heard from this point on. This booth was the introduction of the public to Songbird Ponds.

Find a way to draw all eyes toward your display. To create distinction, we put a 6-foot fence around our display so visitors feel like they re walking through a gate and entering our backyard. Even as they walk around other displays, they find themselves wondering what they might see behind our fence. This curiosity drives people to line up to get in to see what’s inside. Often we construct a fountain display or pondless waterfall outside the fence to entertain people waiting in line. The fence has proven so effective that we have adopted it as our signature, and we use it every year. Everything inside the fence changes, but it defines us and lets people know they are at the Songbird Ponds booth!

Being dynamic means your display is active and ever changing. This is best accomplished with movement that is captivating and holds interest, such as a waterfall, fish or something else with moving parts that catch the eye. Some people just like to stand and look, so we give them lots to look at! We try to have at least two different types of water features, and on one wall we hang a large TV monitor that constantly scrolls pictures of our work. We do our best to engage all five senses.

Using a Bluetooth speaker and an app on an iPad, we bring outside noises in with birds singing, toads croaking, owls hooting and crickets chirping. We melt scented wax and fill the perimeter with flower plantings for wonderful aromas. Baskets filled with candy are on the tables with our literature. In our nighttime display, a full moon glows serenely from our inky sky, and from our deck, gecko and dragonfly fence decorations glitter happily!

raised deck pond booth
Here’s a lull in the action at another show. Behind the fence were a pond and a raised deck with a viewing window to see the fish. Footage from the underwater camera was streamed through the TV on the table.

Lastly, take your display to the next level by including some interactive elements. Invite visitors to cross over a bridge spanning water and glide on a swing. This allows them to see your display from a different perspective. Provide picturesque photo venues for mementos. Our remote-controlled boats were a big hit with both kids and their dads! Always have more than one boat with several extra battery packs. Incorporate an elevated fish globe, and let attendees feed the fish. Our globe contained a couple of fish that volunteered to be trapped in the koi globe for an additional topic of conversation. One of the most interesting questions from a visitor was, “Is there water in there for the fish to swim in?” The mental gymnastics I went through to not come up with a sarcastic reply almost made me pull a muscle! If you can think it, it can probably be done.

We specialize in water features, but we also do hardscaping, lighting and planting. We realize that water features are in a class by themselves due to their ever-changing qualities that allow them to be stimulating and exciting, as well as calming and soothing. Take advantage of that! These shows allow you to introduce others to new ideas and whimsical thinking and get them to think beyond the confines of the everyday.

As another season of garden shows approaches, we are finalizing our plans for this year’s booth — an island luau with a beach! The fence will be there, but what is behind the fence will be spectacular! We will concentrate on the three requirements (distinct, dynamic and interactive) and plan our display around these foundational principles.

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Designer: Roger & Melody Spears

Installers:  Roger Sears, Songbird Ponds

Location: PA Garden Show of York

Contact Info: songbirdponds@yahoo.com

Size: Booth Size was 30 x 30′ 


  • Mostly Pond Builder products

Time to Complete: 3 days 

Crew Size: Six

Project Price: $2,500.00 (estimated booth cost)



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