In addition to celebrating the Black Diamond Garden Center’s 70-year anniversary in business, the hosts of the company-sponsored Your Midwest Garden Podcasts are adding ink to their resumes. They are bringing their garden knowledge and banter to Sylvania AdVantage readers. The Midwest Gardener, Mike O’Rourke, and his gardener wanna-be, Scott Sandstrom, will offer advice on a wide range of seasonal topics. “People have forgotten the art of gardening for substance. We have learned from our listeners that they want to learn. Helping people to grow their own food teaching them about native plants and learning about medicinal herbs like grandma used to use is most rewarding,” O’Rourke pointed out.
He started working as a carryout at Black Diamond during high school and while at The University of Toledo. During his pursuit of a marketing degree, he was an intern at a local advertising agency where he first met Sandstrom. By chance that ad agency was shooting a commercial for Black Diamond and O’Rourke happened to introduce his new friend to one of the owner’s daughter, Jayne Sullivan, who Sandstrom later married.
After graduation O’Rourke, with his BA in broadcast communications/marketing, continued at Black Diamond where he eventually was named a store manager of the Toledo and then Perrysburg locations until his retirement. During his career, O’Rourke was educated in Horticulture, Agriculture, Turf Management, Integrated Pest Management, and more through Black Diamond Incorporated at Michigan State and Ohio State universities. This accumulated knowledge was shared on the airways as Mike O’Rourke became The Garden Guy and appeared on WTOL Channel 11 on Saturday mornings from 1993-1999; WB TV5 from 1999-2003; and Fox Toledo 36, from 2003 – 2010.
Sandstrom has been in the TV production business for 37 years, mostly as a video editor and cameraman. “For the past seven years, I have been a full-time freelancer specializing in sports audio. I had been a weekend warrior for sports audio since the start, working for many major networks and some really exciting sports events. ‘Live’ events are just more exciting to work than editing. It was great until COVID happened, and all these events went away when the sports world stopped. During that 18-month downtime, I started working at Black Diamond helping out as needed due to the pandemic. However, I wanted to keep my audio skills sharp, so I asked Mike if he would host a podcast that I wanted to produce for the garden center. We had done TV, radio, and even Facebook Live productions together, so why not try podcasting? I had most of the gear and obviously, I had a lot of time on my hands. It was a win/win for Black Diamond and for me, and on March 9, 2020, our first episode hit the internet!” Sandstrom related.
According to the two, the podcast is a casual conversation about gardening in the Midwest with the Garden Guy, Mike O’Rourke, and Rookie Gardener, Scott Sandstrom. “Mike has been in the gardening and lawn service business forever and is the expert for the area. We shy away from the big horticulture words for plants and flowers, keeping the stories easy to follow, very much like neighbors talking across the fence. Basically, the listener is learning along with Rookie Gardener me, because I am not afraid to ask basic questions on-air,” Sandstrom pointed out.
This past month started the fourth season of Your Midwest Garden Podcast. Sandstrom was not “on air” with O’Rourke at first, but joined on the seventh show to introduce questions from listeners. The part-time show has a niche and has managed to have over 26,000 downloads since the start. The hosts often interview experts, who lend their advice to the audience. “The gardening community is very friendly and our interviews always go long, because once a gardener starts talking only sundown can stop them,” Sandstrom offered. “Mike and I are excited about sharing our educational banter in print, a first for us!”
About Black Diamond
What is known as Black Diamond Garden Center originally was a coal company that B.W. Sullivan owned. The train tracks that, until recently, crossed Tremainsville Road brought trains that stopped at Black Diamond to drop off coal. Post-war, as gas replaced coal for heating and cooking, second-generation Sullivans, Dan and Jerry, started slowly transforming the business into a garden center.
By 1953 this had become a very popular business in the area and brought in customers from around the area. After a number of years, Black Diamond also added a florist and landscape division.
The florist division was sold off in 1965 to one of the Black Diamond part-time florists, Ken Cappelletty, who created Ken’s flowers. At about that time, Dan Sullivan developed the lawn service, including lawn and tree fertilization programs.
In November of 2005, Black Diamond started construction of their second garden center in Perrysburg, off Eckel Junction Road. The family tree has grown and the fourth generation of the Sullivan family is running and or working at the stores located at 1964 Tremainsville Rd. and 12320 Eckel Junction Rd. in Perrysburg.