Meet William Moss.
A Chicago transplant, this educator and horticulture expert has a love affair with nature, and has shared this love affair with millions of viewers on HGTV as the host of Dig In.
William talked to us about his work, being on television, and life in the Windy City.
So, how did you get into gardening?
I was teaching 6th grade. After school I held an extra science session to prepare them for standardized tests. We used plants to help teach botany and the scientific method. At the end of the school year dozens of plants were left over. I took the Chicagoland Master Gardener course to learn how to care for them, and never looked back. After finishing the course, I went to the Department of the Environment to teach basic landscaping and horticulture. After a couple years I went to work at the Chicago Botanic Garden and then on to TV.
What are some of your favourite things to plant and tend to? Why?
Lilies because they have big, colorful flowers and are super easy. Serviceberries because this small shrub provides flowers in spring, tasty berries in summer, and multi colored foliage in fall on a tough as nails plant. Sweet potato vines because they have lush, trailing growth during the summer and yield loads of sweet potatoes in the fall with minimal tending.
We heard you completed the Chicagoland Master Gardners' program. What is that exactly, and why did you decide it would be a good fit for you?
Chicagoland Master Gardener’s program is a multi week course on horticulture and landscaping with lectures, assignments, and community projects. It provided the info I needed to get started in professional gardening.
Tell us about your foray into TV. How did you get on "Rally Round the House" and "DIG IN"?
“Rally ‘Round the House” was my first tv show. An intern, Nicole, with a production company in Denver called me at my desk at the Chicago Botanic Garden to ask me for an audition tape. It was April 1st and I thought it was my sister playing a prank on me. After several more calls, she convinced me this was real. After a few more calls, she convinced me to film the tape that night and send it to her Fed Ex. This was during my busiest time (recruitment of high schoolers for a summer apprenticeship) so I was bothered and skeptical.
After work I bought some blooming plants, picked up my twelve-year old niece, Tyra, and went to my wife mother’s backyard to film a potting demo. My sweet niece acted as my assistant. We sent the video in and by noon the next day there was a ticket for me to come to Denver for a live audition. The production company had already held auditions in LA, NY, and London. 250 people tried out. I was fortunate to be the 251st and I got the job.
That was 2003. I have been on TV every year since with shows or news segments. “Town Haul” on TLC, “Dig In” on HGTV, “The Early Show” on CBS, “Gardening Made Easy” on QVC are some of the nationwide programs I’ve done. I continue to do QVC and lots of news programs. “Dig In” is still airing on Wednesday mornings.
Did you ever see yourself on television? What was the experience like?
Maybe. I am not sure where I was headed professionally. I have always had a lot to say and I am an extrovert, so TV makes sense. It is not much different from a class or lecture. I love to teach and the camera is just another student.
What are some of your fondest memories from being on TV?
Big production moments and live broadcasts. On “Town Haul” we had decent budgets that allowed me to design massive parks with playgrounds, mini golf, trees, and landscaping. And there were a team of videographers with gibs and dolly tracks recording it.
But nothing is as fun as live TV. My dozens of appearances with Harry Smith on the CBS Early Show were exciting. Few things get your adrenaline pumping like chatting with a couple million people in the morning.
You have a book out "Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening: The No Yard, No Time, No Problem Way to Grown Your Own Food." How did you decide to write it, and what can people expect when picking up a copy?
Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening was written to help people like me. When I began gardening, I lived in an apartment with a tiny balcony and we rented a 15’ x 15’ space at a community garden. I had to learn how to grow in containers and tight spaces. There was lots of trial and error with scores or failures and plant deaths before I became an expert on growing food and flowers in small spaces. The book is filled with the tips and techniques that save time and will help others be successful in small spaces too. Although Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening was written with apartment dwellers and urbanites in mind, the book contains lots of general information for growing healthy fruits and veggies right outside your door no matter what size yard you have.
What exactly do you do as a horticultural educator for the Chicago Botanic Garden?
Basically as a horticultural educator I teach about gardening, landscaping, and greening. I am fortunate to have the opportunities to do this all across America at botanic gardens, home shows, garden clubs, regional news, and internet shows.
What's up next for you? More books? More TV shows?
More books are definitely forthcoming. We are working on a new TV show. (Hopefully with PBS. I want to be the next David Attenborough.) Currently, I am shooting a fun internet video series called the Gardenieres (gardenieres.com). There are a lot of projects in the works. Put “William Moss” in the search engine and see what’s up. Get Out & Grow!