A Landscape to DIY For

A Landscape to DIY For

Today’s television certainly has its variety. From the over the top “reality” shows to educational programs, there is something for everyone! And while we may feel frustrated at times, scanning endlessly to find something on TV, for most, we get at least some of our news, entertainment and education from this form of media. One such network which has become very popular is DIY Network. A channel devoted to home improvement projects, it offers step by step instruction that can teach a novice everything he or she needs to know, but also has quick tips, tricks and ideas for the expert. One of the fastest growing digital networks and currently in 50 million U.S. homes, DIY Network’s programming covers a broad range of categories, including home improvement and landscaping. DIY Network can also be seen internationally in 27 countries. This is BIG T.V.

One topic that has exploded in popularity over the years, on television, is landscaping. DIY Network has a new program called “King of Dirt”. Its host Gino Panaro has a passion for landscape design and prides himself on putting shovel to dirt before pen to paper. His ability to read terrain and vast experiences always deliver favorable results. The “King of Dirt” is showcased nationally and Gino’s Crew “views every property as special with its own potential areas for enhancement”.

This past June, the “King of Dirt” himself, Gino Panaro, swung by Hall’s Garden Center and Florist in Berkeley Heights and reached out to us for support on a local project. With over 30 years of experience, Gino and his crew have tackled everything from commercial projects for the New York Aquarium and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to landscaping and maintaining thousands of homes. To those familiar with the show, Gino proved to be the over-the-top, gregarious, animated and infectiously approachable person you see on T.V. This Brooklyn-born, self made guy comes at you head on with creative, out of the box thinking. In short, we all liked him from the start. His challenge, for this project, was to create a beautiful, residential landscape in deer country with an 11 foot grading issue. Creating a walkway, with steps, on that kind of a grade is tough enough. However, couple that with the fact that Gino doesn’t use computers and seldom draws out complicated designs, he doesn’t have to, and you can begin to understand this arduous task. Our portion of the project was to supply top notch plant material appropriate for the landscape.

The day of filming, Gina Panaro, Gino’s wife was introduced to all of us at Hall’s. Gina, another star of “King of Dirt’ walked around Hall’s Garden Center and shopped plants for the show. Again, they were planting in deer country, so the selections had to reflect that. Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus), Boxwoods (Buxus), Himalayan Sweetbox (Sarcococca) and variegated false holly (Osmanthus h. ‘Goshiki) were just a few of the foundation shrubs we choose. Vertical specimens selected to help punctuate the fore mentioned plants included Horstmann Blue Atlas Cedar for its more fastigiate habit and Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’) as its outline seems to reach effortlessly into the sky, yet takes up a very small footprint. Cognizant of color, texture and size, we tried to select plants that would grow into a mature landscape using fewer types of plants, but more of them. Hence, big sweeps for a big impact. One plant that may not be as deer resistant as we would have liked was Orange Dream Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’). The yellow-orange marking this plant can offer seemed to leap out of the landscape and help frame the greens and blues of the other plants. Gina absolutely loved it and we do too. Gina was very gracious helping me acclimate to television. The stop and starts that are behind the scenes were something that took some getting used to. Jeremy Fertel, the series producer, was also patient and courteous with his direction.

Having never seen the project until after it was completed, I arrived as Gino’s Crew was cleaning up. The walkway more than satisfied the grading issues and the plants helped frame a beautiful home. All their efforts were performed meticulously. Ralph Panaro, Gino’s brother, completes the trio of stars for the show. His responsibilities include maintaining residential and commercial properties. He was the guy dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s, making sure everything was as it should be. Ralph attended Rutgers Cook College for two years and majored in Turf Care Management.
While Gino’s Crew was power washing the driveway, leaving no evidence that such a huge project was performed, Gino and I had a chance to talk shop. His philosophies and outlook on our green industry ran congruently with my own. He showed me a picture of the family we had all just worked for. In it was his skid steer, his crew and the homeowners. As he said, “this is what it’s all about”. Working together in our local community, doing honest work for good people helps create lasting impressions. In our field those impressions can be felt emotionally and can also be seen through our landscapes. Ours is a feel good industry, a hobby not a necessity. This is something we both never take for granted.
What punctuated the project, for me at least, were the kind words from the series producer, Jeremy Fertel and the homeowners. Expressing their “sincere gratitude for plant material of the highest quality” and being “blown away by the transformation” made it all worthwhile.

This was a unique project to be involved with from beginning to end. The homeowners wrote to the show asking for a makeover. They needed professionals in their corner and were willing for them to make most of the calls. With those kinds of privileges extended, the project was able to move swiftly and the results speak for themselves. Hall’s Garden Center and Florist would like to thank DIY Network and its entire team, Gina Panaro, Ralph Panaro, their entire crew as well as the “King of Dirt’ himself, Gino Panaro, for a wonderful opportunity. An opportunity that, very simply, helped build something positive hand in hand within our local community. Not sure when the actual air date is for this project, we are told it may be on T.V. as early as late summer or early fall. For those interested in learning more about the “King of Dirt’ or Gino’s Crew, you can log on to www.diynetwork.com/kingofdirt or go to www.ginoscrew.com.