PLNA pitches in for Extreme Makeover

When members of the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association were asked a few weeks ago to help ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition create a safe home for a young widow and her baby, the resounding response was, “What can we do?”
The family chosen by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is Trisha Urban and her 1-year-old daughter Cora. Trisha’s husband Andy died from a massive heart attack on Feb. 4, 2009, the day Cora was born. Andy had been born with a congenital heart defect and was denied health insurance because of the pre-existing condition. Trisha made headlines earlier this year when she held a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. Since his death, she has been pushing for health care reform.
Ed Anewalt, CLP, of Anewalt’s Landscape Contracting in Bernville, Pa., signed on as the trade lead for landscape and was tasked with assembling a team of volunteers to provide labor and materials. Within a couple of days, he had a group of about 40 volunteers from local green industry companies, in addition to his own, ready to roll up their sleeves, representing Diebolt Landscape Co. Inc., Mohnton; Golden Oaks Landscaping, Mohnton; Jim Walck Lawn & Shrub, Drums; Nature’s Accents Landscape Services Inc., Hamburg; Waterfall Gardens, Shillington; and Wheatfield Nursery, Centre Hall.
All of the PLNA member companies involved in the installation have been actively involved in the association. Several have staff who are or have been members of the board of directors, including current board members Anewalt; Travis Breininger, PCH, Nature’s Accents; Jim Walck, PCH, CLT, Jim Walck Lawn & Shrub; and Tom Wambaugh, PCH, CLP, CLT, Waterfall Gardens, a past chairman.
Anewalt said, “It’s through PLNA and networking with other business owners that I was able to put a team together so quickly. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among PLNA members to help each other and the community.”
Breininger commented that the common goal of helping a family in need brought competing companies together.
Matt Davenport, RLA, of Watkins Architect in Fleetwood was the landscape architect for the project. He focused on the installation of perennials for seasonal color with large trees and some large shrubs forming the structure of the design. “I also chose a lot of plant material for its fragrance to add to the sensory experience along the walks and to allow early spring scents to permeate the house through open windows and doors,” Davenport said. An additional level of beauty is that the design will bring butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other species of songbirds into the yard to enhance the experience.
PLNA members donated much of the plant material used in the design. Among them were: Anewalt’s Landscape Contracting; Eaton Farms, Leesport; Erb Brothers Landscaping Inc., Lancaster; Hopewell Nursery Inc., Bridgeton, N.J.; Mountain Spring Nursery, Reinholds; Quality Greenhouses & Perennials Farm Inc., Dillsburg; Riverview Tree & Landscaping Inc., Temple; Spayds Greenhouses, Nursery & Floral Inc., Fleetwood; Sporting Valley Turf Farm Inc., Manheim; Still Pond Nursery, Earlville, Md.; and Wheatfield Nursery, Centre Hall.
Anyone who has seen Extreme Makeover knows that the goal is to design and build a home, complete with landscaping and possibly other accessory elements such as a pool or outdoor living area, in less than a week. That’s no small order. On top of that, this was one of the most extensive landscape projects in the show’s history. With 23 trees, 150 shrubs, and 515 perennials, just the plantings totaled 220 man-hours. Anewalt estimated a job this size would normally take three to four weeks to complete. The installation team did it in two days. To finish on time, crews worked around the clock. Landscape installation began the evening of Aug. 2 and continued nonstop through the afternoon of Aug. 4.
“It was like no other job site I’ve ever been on,” said Breininger. “As fast as I could lay out plant material and read the plans, there were other volunteers ready to put it in the ground.”
Wambaugh agreed with Breininger: “It was a true test of your abilities and your will to keep on going.”
To accomplish such a major feat in so little time, the volunteers had to work well together under tremendous pressure. Anewalt compared the teamwork involved to a world-class orchestra. “We needed respect, flexibility and skillful orchestration, and we had all of that. We couldn’t have pulled this off without everyone who pitched in.”
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Breininger. “I don’t know the family personally, but I’ve followed this story in the news, and it means a lot that we got to be a part of it in a positive way.”