This blog post is also over at Dragonfly's blog where I guest blogged for them! Pretty exciting all around!
Interview with David Walrod from Urban Dirt!
So most of you have seen a few of the Urban Dirt videos that we have shared on our Facebook page over the last couple of months (and if you haven’t seen their videos, click over here to go to the Urban Dirt You Tube Channel.) We thought it would be fun to do a little behind the scenes interview with David Walrod, the host of Urban Dirt! David’s passion for garden design, his innovative approach coupled with his humorous personality has captivated us and we are so excited that he said yes to our interview request!
Without further ado, here is my interview with David!
What made you want to start the Urban Dirt channel on You Tube after so many years as a landscape designer?
Well, I started out as an actor and came to LA to pursue my acting career. So I went to school for acting and after being in LA for so long I had a few bit parts here and there but nothing to substantially make a difference in my life economically. I felt like maybe I wasn’t the best actor, but I felt like I could entertain. I met with an agent who saw me host a live event and he encouraged me to go into hosting. So my gears changed about 5-6 years ago. I took classes on hosting and I really had fun because I could take dialogue and add my own‘ism’s’ – my personality could be added to the dialogue and it felt natural for me. I found that if I could add my personality to a script, then my strength lay in that method. The only hold back was that I needed to have a brand.
I was doing all of these classes but I wasn’t really feeling the entertainment reporting or sports reporting was for me, so I thought about what I really love and I love gardening. I have always been a gardener. My mom grew vegetables to reduce our grocery bill and we had ducks, chickens and geese on our property. As part of a class exercise, I mocked up (6 years ago) Urban Dirt as a gardening show. I would pretend like I was hosting the show for my class assignment. I made a pilot 5 years ago (don’t try to find it because it’s long gone) but I had a ton of my personality injected into the pilot and very little garden information. When I started to shop the pilot around they didn’t know if it was a gardening show or sketch comedy. I decided if I was going to do this I needed to have an education behind this-I didn’t want to set people up for gardening with misinformation.
I wholeheartedly jumped back into school with the sole purpose of getting my landscape certification so I could move forward with the show. School the second time around is really enjoyable, I enjoyed my relationships with the professors, and other students. I graduated from Mt. SAC in December of 2011 and launched right into Urban Dirt.
I had so much content, so many show ideas that I developed over the last 6 years and I’ve combined them into Urban Dirt. At the heart of it all, it was a class exercise that developed into the Urban Dirt brand. I love Urban Dirt because I combine it with my love of entertaining and hosting with my love of green growing things.
So let’s talk about plants! If you could only plant three different types of plants, what would you choose and why?
Okay, well, first of all, the plants I will tell you about all have different watering needs, but here goes!
My absolute #1 plant would be the Red Abyssinian Banana Plant. Once it is established it can be fairly drought tolerant. I love this plant because of the coloring when the large banana leaf unfurls. It is a deep red and extends into a beautiful green. You can’t beat it for color when the light hits it.
For my second choice, I would say tall Verbena. I love tall Verbena! I actually cried once when my first Verbena got knocked over by our lovely Santa Ana winds. This particular Verbena was a plant that my friend had passed on to me. I put it in a pot and it gave me so much gorgeous color…and right as it was coming into the peak bloom, we had Santa Ana winds and it the verbena was trashed. I knew better than to let it sit out, I should have tied it up. I love using this plant because it is tall, vertical, and has a very soothing look when there is a gentle breeze.
My number three would be Blue Chalk Sticks, it looks like little fingers and it is spreading plant that is in the succulent family. When the sun shines on it, the sticks turn a bluish green that is very nice.
And since I couldn’t just come up with three, my #4 would be (I know I’m not following the rules) Purple Aeonium Zwartkop which is another striking plant. I tend to like plants that have leaf color or texture that is outstanding. I believe so much in foliage over flower because it lasts longer in the garden design. Purple Aeonium Zwartkop is just incredible and it is always close to my heart.
If you could share some trends and tips about landscape design with our readers, what would it be?
I believe we will see a resurgence of turf (lawns/grass) in the homeowners landscape, in the form of eco-smart “lawnlettes”! We miss being able to lay a blanket down, lay on our back and enjoy the open sky and our surrounding garden! Many of us transformed our yards into drought tolerant landscapes and responsibly so! However, now that water management, organic pest control and innovations in turf applications are answering our demands to be ecologically smart, lawns (featuring hybridized low water need fescue) will be enjoyed once again. Long runs of Turf in housing developments and roadside parkways will continue to become a thing of the past. Additionally, it will become commonplace that up to a 1/3 of the residential landscape will be dedicated to grow food for our tables.
Another trend in urban living is that you will landscape according to your neighbor. If you think about the line of landscaping, say your neighbor has a curving bed with certain plants, the trend is for the neighbor to continue the curve and repeat some of the plants so there is some continuity within the neighborhood. You will see plants repeating, more of a natural effect, working with the environment but continuing the lines.
Gardening is at an all-time high with many people growing edible landscape, vegetable gardens and more. Do you see that trend continuing to grow?
Oh absolutely, gardening for food production used to be thought of as a fad in Southern California. After all, Southern California is where people pick up new hobbies and then quickly forget about them and move on to the next best thing. A few weeks ago on Urban Dirt I mentioned that you can reduce your grocery bill by $700-800 annually just by growing a 10’x10’ garden! On another interesting note, I am interviewing a pharmaceutical specialist for an upcoming episode and he is such an advocate of raw food and growing your own where possible. We tend to supplement our diets with powder and potions but he has pinpointed exact foods that can replace the powders and potions. One of the examples he gives is the kale applesauce he concocts for his infant. The importance of growing edible items is tremendous and is a trend that is still growing.
What is your objective for Urban Dirt? What are you creating?
Seeing the work the folks at the Dragonfly Shops and Gardens are doing reinforces what I am trying to create. You can see with the gardening that they are doing that anyone can have green space in their lives whether that is a miniature garden,container garden or edible food growing. There are many shows on television that emphasize the importance of increasing the value of our property and while that is of interest, that is not my focus for Urban Dirt. I want Urban Dirt to be impactful and not just a makeover show. There are enrichment learning opportunities that I see from a creative television standpoint. There’s a social element in it as well, but there is so much more. It is a combination of science and spirit. My show is similar to a show in the UK called Love Your Garden. I found it recently and Love Your Garden has a similar heartbeat to Urban Dirt. England is known for their beautiful mature gardens, but this is California We’re the #1 ornamental horticulture state in the county so we need to represent that, we’ve got everything growing right here.
So many makeovers are fun to watch but people can’t replicate it in their homes. I’m trying to give the audience baby-steps on a much more practical level. I really break it down into what people can do realistically in a weekend. Some garden design shows I’ve seen will plant horsetail and it looks great for filming the episode, but it is an incredibly invasive plant, which is so unfair to the homeowners. In a couple of years, that plant will have invaded everywhere. I always think those poor homeowners will not know what to do with it. Maybe the designer explained behind the scenes about the invasiveness of the particular plant, but the point is that you didn’t go to the viewing audience (which is a much larger scale) and explain it to them. I want to give honest information and deliver it with levity and in small doses. I find a visual way to deliver the information which helps people to creatively remember the information.
Urban Dirt is also not just one person, it’s not just me. It’s all about pooling resources. It is about asking, “Who do you know in your network and community? Who are the artists in your life that can paint a mural and you can buy them pizza in exchange?” I also promote a barter system in my network of friends. I love finding all of these experts and breaking it down for the public so they can get excited. The fact that Dragonfly reached out to me for this interview is great! It is all about the community and people knowing where to find the information.
What exciting things are in the works?
Filming with Paul Isley is coming up. He is the largest grower of tillandsia airplants in the country, probably the world and he granted me an interview. He is a neat guy and he is one of ‘us’ in the garden community. He has a showcase nursery but his growing grounds are in San Diego County and I’ll be interviewing him there. Our viewers will enjoy the growing grounds environment. I will be demonstrating how to plant a vented tillandsia hanging terrarium.
Thank you David for the interview! We’ll see you in the mud!
We’re cooking up a film segment for the Dragonfly with David in the coming months so stay tuned for this exciting development.
If you want to read more about David, he was recently featured on one of our favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy! You can check that out here.