Home garden shows retain high ratings despite bad economy
By DAVE WILKINS
The popularity of "lifestyle" television shows featuring gardening tips and backyard makeovers may have waned a bit with the burst of the housing bubble.
But there's still plenty of interest, especially among new homeowners, industry officials said.
"Five years ago it really stimulated a lot of interest in gardening," said Ann Murphy, director of marketing for the Oregon Association of Nurseries. "It certainly has had a positive effect."
"Before and After" makeovers are a great way to show homeowners the possibilities for their yard and garden spaces, Murphy said.
"As a gardener, I love to see that sort of thing," she said.
But Murphy and others in the industry lament the decline in garden and landscaping programming, especially at the local level.
"It's kind of surprising," Murphy said. "Local gardening shows are struggling even though gardening continues to be very popular with people."
Several years ago, there were four local gardening shows airing in the Portland market. One by one, they were all axed.
Veteran producer Jeff Gustin's home and garden show "Good Day Lifestyles" was one of the casualties.
He left KPTV Channel 12 in 2005 after the show was canceled.
In 2006, he started producing a half-hour show on his own called "Garden Time."
He buys air time for the weekly show, working closely with a handful of core sponsors in the nursery industry. The program can be seen on KOIN-6 in Portland, KWVT-17 in Salem and KEVU-23 in Eugene.
"The show did really well right out of the gate," said Gustin, who does the planning, writing, shooting and editing.
"Garden Time" is now the only locally produced garden television show airing in the Portland area.
The show focuses exclusively on the Northwest, Gustin said. Topics may range from a how-to on drip irrigation to coverage of the local lavender festival.
"We always try to cover events that are topical and timely," Gustin said.
The nursery industry has been strongly supportive, he said. Show hosts Judy Alleruzzo and William McClenathan have close ties to the industry. McClenathan has worked for Portland Nursery, and Alleruzzo is the perennial plant buyer for Al's Garden Centers.
Gustin just wishes that there were more shows like his.
"It's really a shame that there aren't more garden shows," he said. "There's a lot of interest out there."
Backyard makeover shows can give landscape architects and designers valuable exposure.
Ann Nickerson, a landscape designer from Forest Grove, Ore., participated in a landscaper's challenge show several years ago on cable's Home and Garden Television.
Her half-acre landscape design for a "McMansion" in Vancouver, Wash. came out on top of the competition.
Nickerson used the experience as a marketing tool to bring in new business.
But she isn't sure she would participate again, if asked.
She donated far more hours (about 100 total) to the project than she had expected. It didn't help that the homeowners turned out to be "demanding and extremely self-absorbed," she said.
On the positive side, backyard makeover shows get more homeowners interested in landscape projects, Nickerson said.
But the shows can also create unrealistic expectations.
"They make people think they can get something done in a half hour," she said.