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Stars of Bravo’s “Backyard Envy” Share Gardening and Landscaping Tips

James DeSantis (left), Mel Braiser (center) and Garrett Magee (right) Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

James DeSantis, Mel Braiser and Garrett Magee, the stars of Bravo’s hit show “Backyard Envy,” share tips on gardening and landscaping, and some advice on where to start if you’re a beginner looking to get your hands dirty.

What are some landscaping projects you would suggest for beginners?

James DeSantis: Starting small with a container garden is always a great idea.  Think about life in general – when you keep something “contained” it’s easier to manage.  Get comfortable with working on the small scale first, and then work your way up. 

Mel Braiser: Some initial container Garden projects include:

  1. Cocktail Garden in a box
  2. Employing our famous “Filler / Thriller / Spiller” in a planting design in one box/container – Create height and interest with your “thriller” perennial plant, Support and accent it with a “Filler” annual, and give it a finishing touch with a trailing vine, or “spiller”
  3. Grouping containers  – mix and match several pots and containers of interest and varying heights, and plant them to your liking to create a dynamic design within your space.
  4. Contained vegetable garden  – Starting with small vegetable and herb window boxes can get you acquainted with gardening! 

What are your top three tips for someone who wants to tackle their landscaping and gardening projects?

JDS: Always start small, and stay close to the house.  We tend to utilize and gravitate to the spaces in our exterior closest to the back or front door.

Garrett Magee: Start with the obvious spaces that you will use.  When it comes to planting, find a statement plant or statement tree and use that as the basis for the design.  This is a great beginners tip to create interest.

What are the dos and don’ts of landscaping?

JDS: We don’t design by saying “don’t” or “you must do this” but there are some methods to steer clear of.  A lot of beginners plant annuals year after year in their spaces, when they could easily plant perennials instead. 

GM: It seems like a no brainer, but a “don’t” would be – don’t plant only annuals in your space.  The growth of perennials year after year maturing into a garden is what gives it character and structure. A big “Do” would be to carefully plan out your space before getting your hands dirty. 

MB: In our upcoming book “Take It Outside” due out in December (Just in time for Christmas and Spring!) we base the whole concept of exterior design on planning your space just as you would an interior.  Instead of looking at your yard as a gardening project – think of it as an extension of your home, or a complete and fully realized design, the same as you would your interior. 

What are the top three necessary landscaping tools every new gardener should have in their basket?

MB: We live and die by using Falco Pruners.  Those red handled blades poking out of Garrett’ s holster are a must for any gardener! Everyone knows I love a good push broom as well. 

JDS: Yeti has some durable, tough and chic way of holding all of your tools. They have this new to go toolbox that looks like their coolers that I love that carries everything you need for a jobsite. Also a leaf blower is probably the most convenient tool to have with you on a jobsite – they clean off anything – just starting by cleaning your space gives you a nice blank canvas 

GM: It sounds obvious but shovels, hand shovels and a wheel barrow are the starting points for most gardeners, and they are tried and true for a reason. You’ll always need to move dirt when gardening, and these three tools cover all the ground (pun intended) 

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