Our Road to “Fixer to Fabulous”

The story of how Varden Vertical Gardens ended up being a featured product on last week’s Episode 15 of “Fixer to Fabulous” is both interesting and unusual. It’s worth explaining here on our blog post for reference, as we go forward in growing our business. Many of the opportunities that we receive in business are from good luck generated from hard work, delivering as planned and treating people well. We have had many appearances on television programs in the last 12 months and none were something we had listed as a goal or marketing strategy. Our story passes through many talented and generous people and I will tell the tale here below.

You can read Jenny’s blog with her thoughts and behind the scenes pics by clicking this link.

Vertical Garden on Jenny Marrs apartment patio

Varden on Fixer to Fab

Side view of the vertical herb garden on Jenny's balcony

Vertical Herb Garden

How We Started:

Our publicist works to get us articles and favorable press whenever able, and she happened to come up with an opportunity for us to participate in a new Netflix show that ultimately was called “Instant Dream Home”. She got us set up for two episodes and each episode was the massive rehab of two  different family homes. Even though we saw what was planned for our product as part of those home renovations, we had no idea what we were in for.

Our First Look:

When we arrived in Atlanta to shoot the first episode of “Instant Dream Home” we were awestruck with the massive number of people it takes to pull off such an endeavor. Cameras were everywhere trying to capture the work of many talented hosts and contractors as they hurried to get their work items completed on a demanding schedule. We were surprised to meet our friend Farmer Nick on the set of this show. I knew Nick from social media and from his stops in Saint Louis to visit the rooftop farm at Urban Harvest STL a few months earlier (we have long-standing vertical gardens up there). Life is filled with great coincidences and the vertical gardening world is a small community. Farmer Nick is a rising star and was great to work with on both episodes. We were able to complete some beautiful vertical gardens and living walls with our Varden system in the time allotted, on schedule and it was very gratifying. Wild and stressful, but gratifying! I posted a previous blog on this so click the link to check it out.

Netflix Instant Dream Home

Instant Dream Home Promo Thumbnail

Filming on Instant Dream Home Set

Prepping Farmer Nick

Meeting Great People:

The production team was really noteworthy because they were so professional and as it turns out, they work on many different home remodeling shows year round. When we were wrapping production of our second episode, Stephanie the build manager for “Instant Dream Home”, asked if we would be interested in participating in another show she was travelling to shoot in South Carolina which was to be called “Rock The Block Season 3”. I said “sure” without realizing what I was getting myself into?

Cast and crew for Rock the block season 3 with Lindsay and Leslie

Cast and Crew of the Twins Home on RTB 3

The Twins building a Varden vertical garden

The Twins in Action

Within a few months I did receive a call from Stephanie. She was arranging for innovative building materials that would create a unique home remodeling experience for two of the contestants, Lindsey and Leslie Lamb, “The Twins”. The twins were one of four teams competing to create the highest appraised value of four identical homes in a new neighborhood in Charleston, SC. My collaboration with Lindsey and Leslie was one of the funniest things I’ve ever done. We covered all of the details by phone and email, then I packed everything up, shipped it to their set in Charleston and flew out to help with the installation. They were talented, excellent to work with and so much fun! The backyard vertical garden we installed and planted in just 4 hours was a big hit and it turned out beautifully. They referred to it as their “Yard to Table” feature. We have stayed in touch, and I definitely look forward to more collaborations with the twins!

Connecting with the Marrs:

The next great coincidence was that Dave and Jenny Marrs were one of the other teams competing against The Twins on “Rock the Block Season 3”. Although I never met them while I was on the set, they certainly got a chance to take a look at the awesome vertical garden we built for the Twins once the show was complete. As it turns out, the Twins gave Dave and Jenny my contact information and within a few months I received  a call from Jenny to ask if I was interested in participating in an episode of their show shooting in Bentonville, AR. called “Fixer to Fabulous”.

HGTV - Rock the Block competitors

HGTV – Rock the Block Teams

I knew that Dave and Jenny had a very successful show and I was more than happy to agree, work out the details and travel down there to build a very unusual vertical garden as part of their historic Bank Building rehab. Our Varden location turned out to be an apartment above the mercantile store down below. The upstairs apartment had a huge balcony terrace. Since it was isolated from the ground and the street, Jenny thought it would be fun to have a garden up there bringing a bit of nature into the space. Our favorite garden installations are where we can transform an unused area, taking up zero space, to create living beauty with one of our wall planter vertical gardens.

Vertical Garden on Fixer to Fabulous

Patio Vertical Garden

Designing for Fixer to Fab:

It was challenging to figure out how we were going to put a living wall, planted with hardy perennials facing out towards the street and then on the inside of the deck railing put a vertical garden with herbs and greens appropriate for a lower light situation. After several collaboration phone calls and lots of design sketches passed back and forth, we settled on cladding both sides of the deck railing with our Varden 36 modular units.  Maybe the best feature of our modular vertical gardens is that they can be tiled together, side to side or up and down, to create larger vertical gardens that end up looking like custom projects. We did the same thing for The Twins in Charleston by putting together 6 of our Varden 36 units on the back of the garage, tying the irrigation all together and planting them up with leafy greens and herbs.

Fixer to Fab outward facing vertical garden

Sedum side of Balcony

Installing varden 36 vertical gardens side by side

Side by Side Vertical Gardens

In Bentonville at Jenny’s apartment, we decided to plant Sedum Kamchaticum on the outside railing. We’ve had great experience with it, it’s tough and can take heat, sun or shade. That would give them a nice outward face that would not have to be replanted and would be there year-round. On the inside railing, which would be very easy to access from the deck, we planted a variety of leafy greens and herbs that did not need all day full sun. This would give Jenny, their family and friends that use the apartment, the opportunity to enjoy the greenery but also to harvest from it and add tasty herbs to their cooking or greens to their salads. This is an application that we have supplied many times for many customers. In the case of Jenny’s apartment, we used 8 of our Varden 36 vertical gardens on the inside and another 8 on the outside. Then tied all the irrigation together with one controller. The rest is history.

Solving Transport Problems:

We were not sure how we were going to transport everything from Saint Louis to Bentonville AR without damaging the plant material. For television shows we like to plant our soil-filled Vardensoks 4 to 6 weeks ahead of time so that the vegetation is well rooted and once moved, plants really never know they left the nursery. This methodology also gives us great looking foliage top growth so that the minute we drop the Vardensok into our Varden trays, we have instant beautiful vertical garden. For this project we used an enclosed trailer and fortunately for us, our system is so easy to install that we just attached it to  the inside of the trailer and installed the planted Vardensok into the trays that were built on the inside walls of the trailer. All materials made the trip successfully, so once we started our installation, we just had to disassemble what was built inside the trailer and then reassemble it up on Jenny’s deck. We got a big kick out of that! We had so much fun spending the day working directly with Dave, Jenny and all of their talented crew members. It’s the most comprehensive television project we’ve done to date and if you’ve watched the episode, you can see for yourself that the outcome was worth the effort.

Matt in vertical garden transport trailer

Matt in the Garden Trailer

Building Vertical Gardens with Dave and Jenny Marrs

Vertical Garden team picture with Dave and Jenny Marrs

Great Connections:

Jenny’s deck is such an unusual amenity for this small rehab apartment. While up there, we took note that it was furnished with beautiful patio furniture and outdoor dining tables. Later we found out it is the new signature collection from Dave, Jenny and Better Homes and Gardens that was to be sold through Walmart stores nationwide. It was our good fortune to meet some of the Walmart people during the filming, which gave us an opportunity to explore business opportunities with Walmart as well. The new business relationship has come together nicely and you can find some of our products on walmart.com today. We feel that it’s a great relationship for us and for Walmart and one that we can use to create more access for vertical gardening.

We could not be more thankful for the cascade of opportunities that came out of our first TV experience on the Netflix show and it’s so gratifying to see how everything has blossomed so far. I am very thankful for the relationships we’ve made through these shows and especially for the hospitality shown by Dave, Jenny and their associates on this most recent television appearance. We wish them all the very best and look forward to working with every single one of them again in the near future.

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About the Author: Mark Woolbright

Mark Woolbright is an inventor and innovator of living walls with over 30 years in design, manufacture, marketing, and installation of plantable, living wall systems. Mark graduated from Eastern Illinois University and is currently Managing Member of Greenwall Ventures, LLC, and most recently, CEO/Founder of Verdtech, Inc. Throughout his career, he has been awarded twelve patents, with more applications pending. Mark has served on the Board of the St. Louis USGBC, as a member of the Green Wall Committee of GRHC which develops course curriculum for its Green Walls 101 course and is a certified Biophilic Design trainer through GPGB. He is passionate about educating the building community on the environmental benefits of Living Walls and best practices for their use. If you have questions on living walls, contact Mark at (314) 279-8905 or markw@verdtech.com. View his creations and services at www.verticalgardensupply.com