“The Bay Area can stand in for almost any climate zone — desert, prairie, Northeastern seaboard or even Japan,” says Bay Area-born-and-raised horticulturist, landscape designer and now television host Gary Gragg when discussing Superscapes, which premiered on HGTV in 2009. Read on to find out how Gragg, owner of Golden Gate Palms & Exotics nursery, translated his lifelong passion for landscaping and everything horticultural into a television show that he hopes will hook younger viewers into seeing garden design as cool.
Q: Tell me about your early inspiration. Where did your passion for plants come from?
A: As a kid, I’d go to the nursery with my dad who was landscaping around the house. I loved the jungle plants and also the cactus, but he didn’t want to plant them. Finally, my dad allowed me to create my own cactus garden. Even though it was small, I’d sit in the middle and pretend I was in the desert. By high school, I had become a plant junkie and spent any money I had on them. Buying plants is still my weakness.
Q: What is unique about your nursery, Golden Gate Palms?
A: I search high and low for rare and hard-to-find species to sell at the nursery. For instance, I found the prized ponytail palm (Beaucarnea stricta) in a backyard nursery and bought all that they had.
Q: How did you make the jump from passionate plantsman and landscape designer to television host?
A: I never thought there was enough or the right kind of garden content on TV. I wanted gardening to look cool. It was through Golden Gate Palms that I was contacted to do a few HGTV shows. After working on them, I bought a camera and decided to make my own demo. The subject of my film was my exhibit “Livin’ Cheap in Baja” that won Best of Show at the 2006 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. The exhibit featured a busted-down VW van, a protagonist named Joe and an imagined narrative of life in Baja. I filmed the entire process from installation to tear-down, and it was this footage that sold HGTV on bringing me on.
Q: How is your show, Superscapes, different?
A: We show the relationship between the designer and the homeowner, who is working with a real budget. The projects include hardscaping, plant material and furnishings, and are installed for permanence. They are shown from inception to completion — no pretend overnight makeovers. We’re trying to promote diversity of gardens and styles, and I feel like I’m getting a message out.