Author speaks to packed house at library

First Posted: 3/10/2009

The timing for Author and Master Gardener Joe Lampls talk to a packed house at the Mount Airy Public Library Tuesday couldnt have been any better, with the warm weather and the trees budding. Members of the audience at the Lunch with the Author agreed that after his talk, they could go home and work out in the yard.
The author, who has resided in Mount Airy for the last three years, said he was bitten by the gardening bug after he broke a limb off one of his parents favorite shrubs as a boy living in Miami. In his panic, he said, he stuck the broken limb in the ground.
I was really worried about it, so I went back to check on it and about two weeks later, I noticed that when I pulled on it, it was in there pretty good. It had started to root. I was really hooked from that moment, Lampl said. I was definitely a hands-in-the-dirt kind of kid.
He explained that his mother insisted that he get his degree in business. So he followed her advice and got a degree in business and finance, bought a house and got a job as a financial planner. But while he was wearing the suit and tie to work, he longed for the days when he had his hands in the dirt. Thats when he got his Master Gardener certification.
While living and working in Atlanta, Ga., Lampl got an e-mail from a television producer about a gardening show that was in need of an actual gardener to do the show rather than having an actor do the show pretending to be a gardener. He said he finally convinced the producer to have lunch with him.
I swear they go to producers school. The guy had a poker face on the whole time. I had no idea whether he liked me or not, Lampl explained.
But it wasnt long before they called him and said they would send him a script.
They told me they were going to fax me a script today and to be ready for a screen test by tomorrow. I practiced with my wife, Becky, but that was really weird, so I decided to go in and do it cold. When I got there, all of the television trucks were there ready to go. After 45 minutes of doing take after take, I still had no idea whether or not they liked me or not, he said.
It wasnt long before the gardener found out that he was bound to be a TV star. He said the show was a little bit ahead of its time because it demonstrated how to grow a home garden.
But its now that people are really going back to that 21 million people are expected to grow a garden this year because of the economy.
He said the show was only supposed to run for one year, but the producers ended up shooting 52 episodes over the course of three years. The series was featured on the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Network. The show will begin re-airing on March 30 at 4 a.m.
I noticed that it wasnt airing anymore so I e-mailed the DIY network to see why it wasnt on. Finally, the vice president of programming e-mailed me back and said it was not in their current program strategy. Which means that gardening shows basically arent sexy enough for advertisers, Lampl said.
He said he would like to redo the show organically.
Lampl then went on to do a show on PBS called GardenSMART.
One of the most ground breaking moments for the gardener came when he ran into the star of the show called Groundbreakers, Joe Washington, at a party. He said he was walking down the driveway when Washington yelled out, Hey Joe Gardener. And I thought, hey, thats pretty catchy. So I went home and registered the domain name right away.
Speaking about his first book, Over the Fence with Joe Gardener, he said it was the hardest thing he has ever done.
My spin on this book was that it not only told you what to do, but why you need to do these things. The one thing I have learned when it comes to gardening is that no matter how much you know, you cant know it all, Lampl said.
He said after six months of all out writing, he finally finished the book at 3:30 in the morning on Dec. 23 after a 15-hour conference call with the publisher and his company.
After that I said Id never do another book, Lampl said as he compared writing a book to running a marathon. While you are running the race, the pain is so bad that you swear youll never do it again. But after the race is over and the pain subsides, and you forget how bad it was. Then you start planning on running your next race.
He said he had an idea about a book that centered around environmental stewardship. It wasnt long before another publisher called to ask him to write a book along those same lines.
He had the same idea that I had, Lampl said.
After three months of writing, The GREEN Gardeners Guide Lampl and his book were featured on Good Morning America.
This one was a lot easier to write. This book was such a passion of mine, Lampl said. I think a lot of people dont understand is that it is hard to make money writing books.
In addition to a busy travel schedule, Lampl pens a weekly nationally syndicated newspaper column, articles for Web sites and blogs, and a variety of magazines. Lampl moved to Mount Airy from Atlanta, with his wife Becky and their daughters Rachel, 11, and Amy, 9, in order to be closer to her family.
More information about Joe Lampl is available at
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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