Nat Geo Wild’s New Series POND STARS Transforms Typical Backyards and
Community Spaces into Private Paradises
A backyard is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it has the potential to invigorate the surrounding ecosystem. But, what’s a homeowner to do? Beginning this fall, they can call the Pond Stars – a group of some of the world’s best pond builders, who can turn any barren plot into an attractive, inspirational and even, healing oasis.
From the wetlands of Northern Florida to the mountains surrounding California’s San Gabriel Valley, Nat Geo WILD’s latest series introduces viewers to a new type of behind-the-scenes adventure and a number of furry, feathered and scaled critters. Led by longtime pond expert Greg Wittstock, or “The Boss,” the team uses its unique expertise and appreciation for the outdoors to tackle these challenging assignments.
Wittstock, who has successfully developed a childhood hobby into Chicago-based Aquascape Inc. – North America’s leading supplier of water gardening supplies – is joined in Season I by co-workers and outdoor enthusiasts Ed Beaulieu (“The Scientist”), Brian Helfrich (“The Foreman”) and Chris Hanson (“The New Guy”). Together, the team presents more than 75 years of experience in the business, having spent decades both training and educating on backyard redesign. Each team member brings a distinct expertise and personality to the series’ transformations and plays a pivotal role in reconnecting clients with the nature around them.
From building backyard ponds to house his pet turtles to building ponds to make money over the summer, Greg Wittstock has been dabbling in water gardens since the age of 12. He began with a concrete creation and evolved to the naturally balanced, #1 contractor-installed ecosystem ponds that Aquascape is well known for.
After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in Interpersonal Communications, Greg founded Aquascape Inc., which experienced incredible growth during its early years. The company appeared on Inc Magazine’s coveted list of 500 Fastest-Growing, Privately-Held Companies in North America from 1999-2002. Greg later appeared on the cover of Inc Magazine, along with a feature article about his leadership and entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2004, he was nominated for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Greg also received the Best Boss’ award from Fortune’s Small Business Magazine and Winning Workplaces in 2005, and earned the University of Chicago’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame award in 2007.
At the end of 2005, Wittstock’s dream of a workplace utopia came true as the company moved to Aqualand, a 256,000 square foot office and warehouse facility that boasts the largest sloping green roof in North America. Aqualand received Silver Level recognition in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating system.
Greg has been interviewed and featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times in 2009, and has appeared on a variety of television shows over the years including Good Morning America, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and cable home improvement shows.
Ed came to Aquascape in 1993 as a construction laborer, but a little creativity and a positive outlook on life and business helped catapult Ed to the position of Director of Contractor Development and Field Research. For more than a decade, Ed has successfully built hundreds of custom-designed ponds from small backyard water gardens to large lakes and commercial water features. He holds a B.S. in Zoology, with an emphasis in Limnology, and concentrated his master’s studies in Marine Biology.
Ed’s work has been featured on the cover of Architectural Digest, in addition to having his water garden designs featured in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens special interest publications, Nature’s Garden, Irrigation and Green Industry News, and more.
For 5 years, Ed served as project manager for the installation of water features at the Flower and Garden Festival “Water Garden Wonders” highlight at Epcot Center. Ed has worked with Certified Aquascape Contractors on water feature installations for Richard Petty, Jill Rappaport, and other celebrities, and has appeared on several HGTV and DIY channel shows. He was also a contributing author for The Pond Builder’s Bible, Pond Building for Hobbyists, and Succeeding and Prospering with Water Features II.
In recent years, Ed has designed and served as project manager for RainXchange® rainwater harvesting systems in Ghana, Uganda, and Colombia. In 2013 he was the first pond designer and installer to receive the “Watershaper of the Year” award by Irrigation and Green Industry News.
Brian Helfrich has been with Aquascape, Inc. since 1995, starting out in the warehouse and working his way up to his current position as construction manager. He’s given hundreds of pond construction seminars across the country and is considered to be one of the premier waterfall builders in the nation. Brian shared his pond expertise as a contributing author for The Pond Builder’s Bible, published by Aquascape, Inc.
Brian’s creative pond designs have been featured in numerous publications, including Better Homes and Gardens special interest publications, and Nature’s Garden. In addition, Brian has generously extended his pond artistry to several impressive, public water feature designs including Epcot® International Flower and Garden Show, Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and more.
Since 2006, Brian has designed and led the project team for Aquascape’s signature water gardens at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, much to the delight of show attendees. In 2009, Brian and the Aquascape Designs construction crew received the Silver Award for Excellence in Landscape from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association.