Some people have reservations about appearing on camera.
Frank Colella and Joseph Stuppino are not those kinds of people, instead showing the whole world their true selves in a series of online gardening videos fit to appear on Comedy Central, Food Network or HGTV.
Even their name — the Garden Goombas — connotes characters who could have been on “The Sopranos.”
While Colella and Stuppino have the advice, the material and the personalities, they are lacking in big-budget production value, which is OK by them.
“We shoot from the hip with everything we do. We’re not really ‘big time,’ so part of the beauty is the rawness. We’re raw,” Colella said. “He’s an insurance guy, I’m a chiropractor. I’m 20 years older than him. We’re hanging out, taking videos. Yeah, the quality isn’t the greatest … but that kind of makes it funny sometimes.”
The Garden Goombas’ secret to viral success — averaging well over 1,500 views per video — is no secret at all: Their enthusiasm and passion for gardening is both charming and infectious.
Take Colella’s Super Bowl week video recorded in Miami, where he was more concerned about getting permission to film someone’s South Beach victory garden loaded with eggplants, herbs and tomatoes than he was about the football game.
For as silly as their videos could be, the Garden Goombas’ inspiration is more serious.
“We want to stop world hunger. I know that sounds stupid, right?” Stuppino said. “But our thing is: One garden at a time. If everybody grew one plant in their backyard and donated it, could we help with world hunger?”
The Garden Goombas — whose online presence includes Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts — met years ago at Cuz’s Bar & Grill on Susquehanna Avenue in Exeter, which was owned by Stuppino’s father, Francesco Stuppino.
Colella and Stuppino reconnected years later, at which point Stuppino had already been recording videos he started making in 2015 with the late Larry Frable and Anthony Bruno. Stuppino knew Colella had a nice garden in Harding and Stuppino got permission to film it.
“When I left and got home to my wife, I said, ‘I think I just met the 50-year-old version of myself,'” Stuppino recalled.
Peek at the past
Nostalgia and self-sustainability are driving forces in Colella and Stuppino’s love for gardening.
While Stuppino longs for the days when he walked from his grandparents’ home in Plains Twp. to small-town staples like candy and grocery stores, Colella fondly remembers his elders’ gardens.
“Our grandparents, our great grandparents – they gardened out of necessity,” Colella said. “They had to grow their own food. And then our parents, they were too busy working. They were working to raise their kids; they didn’t have gardens, they didn’t have time.”
Colella, a chiropractor for 30 years whose office is in Pittston, and Stuppino, a financial adviser for New York Life and assistant coach for Dallas High School football, lead busy lives, too, but they make time for gardening.
“I think it is a way for us to get off our own treadmills of life, and we have something we’re passionate about,” Stuppino said.
Passion breeds creativity for Colella and Stuppino, whose videos this year include a report from inside the White House Diner’s kitchen in Forty Fort after President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, as well as a coronavirus quarantine special in which the Garden Goombas enlisted the help of correspondents from Arizona and California to lend advice on planting onions and preparing dirt for a patio garden.
The most recent video saw Stuppino inspecting a garden at Harveys Lake. Colella was running late until he rowed a boat in from off-camera to deliver some basil.
“These are the directions I got!” Colella told Stuppino.
The videos are educational for green-thumbs, as well.
“Sometimes when you look at a nice tomato on the vine, it’s round, it’s red, it’s beautiful,” Colella said. “You pick it and you look at the bottom, where there’s a big, black circle, which is rot.”
The Garden Goombas posted a solution earlier this month in which Colella tossed some Tums into a blender and sprinkled the powder in the dirt to add calcium and eliminate the rot, something he learned from Larry O’Malia.
Colella (aka “Doc”) and Stuppino (aka “Cuz”) sign off their videos – which are posted at least once a week, averaging about 4 to 5 minutes per upload – by saying they are looking for gardens.
So far, using enthusiasm as their compass, they haven’t had any trouble finding those gardens.
“When I’m in the dirt and I’m really focused in, I’m actually talking to the plants,” Stuppino said. “I’m visualizing my hands in the ground and something does take over me. I’m present, but I’m also in the dirt. I can’t describe that, but gardeners will understand that. Once you’re in the dirt, it’s very passionate for somebody because now that isn’t just a plant – it’s a living thing you’re taking care of.”
Matt Bufano is a sports writer for The Citizens’ Voice, primarily covering high school athletics in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Born and raised in Luzerne County, Bufano is a 2013 graduate of Penn State. He joined The Citizens’ Voice full-time in September 2013. He’s covered just about all sports in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a primary focus on field hockey, basketball and softball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2060; or @CVBufano on Twitter