Landscaping expert Ahmed Hassan, host of HGTV and DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers,” is bringing his palpable, positive energy to Oklahoma City this month at the 31st Annual Home and Garden Show.
He describes his upcoming presentation as a mixture of “stand-up comedy, storytelling and a horticulture class” designed to inspire attendees to feel less intimidated by landscaping and leave with ideas on increasing their homes’ value.
Hassan, a licensed landscape contractor and horticulturalist, has enjoyed immense popularity since the series began in 2008. In each episode he finds unsuspecting homeowners in home improvement stores and surprises them with a free landscaping makeover – a complete redesign of their yard by a team of professionals and specialists over just two days.
In the hour we spent with Hassan, we learned that his landscaping career began in California, long before his hosting gig on “Yard Crashers.” Specifically, it began in the sandbox of the park across the street from his childhood home. Today, Hassan still finds it hard to come in from the outdoors.
How did a landscaping guy land the hosting job with “Yard Crashers”? When I started my landscaping business, I was always out hustling for work, and that’s what I was doing when the show found me. They liked the part about hustling homeowners to get work, so they incorporated that into the show’s opener.
Who are these people who turn you down when you walk up to them? Men. The women are all willing to take me home with them. The men don’t like for some other guy to tell them they can do something better than they can do themselves. Now that people recognize me from the show, more men are willing to say yes the first time, but it was really hard to convince them in the early days.
I would imagine that most people now just want to know how they can run into you at a home improvement store. I get it all the time. “Hey, man, where are you going to be?” Even when we get on location, in whatever city we happen to be in, there’s always someone trying to get me to pick their buddy for a makeover… the old “homey hookup.” But when I pick someone, it’s not planned. It’s important to me to keep that real.
How is the show like your real-life business? Well, I can tell you how it’s unlike my real business – nothing is getting done in two days. That only happens on TV with a huge crew working nonstop for two days. But, I’ve modified my business to model “Yard Crashers” in some ways. I start by interviewing my clients. I get a feel for their energy and what they’re about and then I find the right professionals who specialize in providing the things they want to have done.
Do you see your clients leaning in a particular direction, as far as what they want for an outdoor makeover? Sure. They want to take all the comforts of the indoors outside, so we see more electronics coming outside. Outdoor kitchens are still all the rage. That means the focus has to be on things like shelter, reprieve from harsh elements, utilities, electrical accessibility and things like that. Now, I don’t do all of that myself. I’m just the landscape guy.
Was it always your plan to be the landscape guy? Yes – since I was a little kid. My mother could never get me to come back inside. I was always outside, playing for hours on end in the sandbox at the park across from the house where I grew up, making elaborate designs in the sand with tunnels, hills and all that. Basically, all the things I do today. Of course, I’ve had a lot of professional training since the sandbox era.
A lot of people turn to gardening to de-stress and unwind. Do you find your work to be therapeutic? It might be therapeutic if you were just in your own garden doing it, but it’s not therapeutic when you’re doing it for hire. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I love it. It’s gratifying to stand in an incredible yard that didn’t look that way before and think, “We created that.”
What advice do you give clients when you conduct the initial consultation? I tell them to think about a space they’ll actually use and enjoy. Don’t create a meditation garden if you’ve never meditated.
Are clients often surprised when their vision and your vision are completely different? Probably, but part of the process is breaking down how the space will be enjoyed. I had a consultation with a single woman who wanted an outdoor fireplace with seating all around it. She wasn’t someone who entertained. Was she really going to sit out there by the fire by herself? When she told me she was into yoga and exercise, I suggested a hot tub feature that she could enjoy alone after she worked out, or with guests if she decides one day to entertain.
If a homeowner wants to do something nice on a restricted budget, where do you think it’s OK to cut corners? If budget is a concern, I always tell homeowners to do more planting and less construction. Construction always runs up the cost of any project. You can accomplish a great effect with more plants.
You’re going to have your work cut out for you when you get to Oklahoma. This is an extreme climate and a lot of plants get snippy about growing in clay soil. How does a homeowner overcome that? Move to California. That’s what everyone else is doing. No, seriously, they’ll just have to come to the Home and Garden Show to find out!