A lawn for radio: Kathy Hart’s Lincolnshire home gets TV makeover
BY RONNIE WACHTER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ronniewachter September 12, 2013 8:44PM
Lincolnshire Thursday, 9/12/13 Lincolnshire homeowners, Kathy Hart and her husband, Billy Baruth talk with landscape designer, Dan Kendrick in their front yard Thursday. DIY Network's "Desperate Landscapes" was taping a one-day landscape makeover at the home. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2013 3:30PM
After using her bare hands to eradicate one beauty problem, Kathy Hart found herself with another.
“I need a manicure again,” the Lincolnshire resident said as her landscapers neared the end of their workday Thursday, Sept. 12. “My girl is going to look at me and say, ‘What the hell did you do?’”
Hart, the latter half of the “Eric and Kathy Show” on 101.9 FM, was the subject of the TV show “Desperate Landscapes” on the DIY Network.
A full crew of professional landscapers joined Hart and 10 volunteering neighbors for nearly every daylight hour Sept. 12 digging up the wreckage of her yard and replacing much of it with new plants, trees, stones and man-made features.
“Look at my awesome yard!” Hart exclaimed as the work concluded shortly before 5 p.m.
Starting at 7:15 a.m., the group replaced a diseased tree and several weeds with dwarf burning bushes, a dogwood, blue beech, diabolo nine, a common bald cypress, rudbeckia and more, aiming to keep the species native and the look natural. They also added a gravel trail near the repainted front door, a bench beside the train and a waterfall by the garage.
“It’s just been fun,” Hart said of the labor, during which she got dirt under her blue nails and paint on her arms, jeans and shoes.
“I’m a DJ — DJs don’t work,” she said after landscaping through a cold. “The adrenaline and the excitement are taking the cold symptoms out of mind.”
The “Desperate Landscapes” show portrays groups of volunteers completely overhauling ramshackle yards. Hart said she jumped at the chance after learning in April that the show was coming to the Chicago area at the end of the summer.
The application process required dozens of photos. Because her family’s property is near the Des Plaines River, she was able to send the show some graphic shots of the damage left in the wake of this spring’s floods.
Every episode requires a critic, typically a neighbor who will speak on camera about the ills of the featured home. Lorrie Walsh, who walks past Hart’s house every day, was picked to offer the criticism.
“She asked for my honest feedback, I gave her my honest feedback,” Walsh said. “There was a lot of fungus and moss, a lot of overgrown trees. It was weedy.”
Hart’s landscaping was admittedly in poor shape, even though she had hired a landscaper after moving into the home in 2010.
“Let me just say... it didn’t work,” Hart recalled.
Hart’s back yard didn’t need an intense overhaul, but the front yard was beyond what she could handle herself.
“This thumb is not green, whatsoever,” Hart said.
Despite learning shortly before Independence Day that “Desperate Landscapes” wanted to help, she was forbidden from touching her front yard until they showed up two months later. That meant Hart and her front yard were forced to stomach the embarrassment of hundreds of visitors passing by her living, growing problem during Lincolnshire’s annual Red White & Boom festival on the Fourth of July.
“Almost every single person in Lincolnshire goes past our house for that event,” she said.
But once host Jason Cameron and his crew showed up, everything changed.
Cameron designed the new look, but always keeps his plans a secret from his subjects. During the day, workers sometimes walked past Hart carrying fauna she had never seen before.
“Oh, that’s pretty, where’s that going?” she asked, to no answer.
“They’re doing something to the front door... I don’t know what,” said Hart, who didn’t know crews were also going to repaint her front door.
By the end of the day, Hart found that most of her old look’s problems were maintenance-related. With the new look full of annuals that she will need to replant, she pledged that she would keep everything sharp.
Walsh also expressed confidence that her neighbor would follow through.
“I’m not worried at all,” she said. “It absolutely has transformed the front of her home to a ‘wow.’ It makes me want to go home and redo my landscaping.”
“I wonder if I’ll ever forget how horrible it was,” Hart added.
Her 12-year-old daughter, Annika, came home from Woodlawn Middle School at about 3:30, and quickly marveled and the change in her surroundings — and her mom.
“You got a little... dirt,” Annika observed.
“Yeah, I’m a mess,” Kathy answered.