The Gardener's Year

Did you ever meet someone for the first time, and within a few minutes found out they were also a gardener, and then soon you were engaged in conversation, comparing notes on what you grow, suggesting plants to try, nurseries to shop at, and techniques for pruning? And the other people with you were soon looking from you to the other person, not believing that until that conversation, you really didn’t know each other.

Reading The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek, the March selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, was somewhat like that for me. I found myself nodding my head and laughing at some of his observations about the gardener and the gardener’s state of mind. And I’m a bit amazed that he wrote this book nearly eighty years ago.

Some of the quotes that I really enjoyed…

“…until it has been tamed a hose is an extraordinarily evasive and dangerous beast…”

Who among us has not been attacked by our "beastly garden hoses" at some time or another? Doesn’t it seem odd that after 80 years, we still have not figured out how to make a garden hose that doesn’t at some point give us, the gardeners, a good soaking instead of the plants?

“The gardener’s autumn begins in March, with the first faded snowdrop.”

How can that be? But it is true. We always think of the gardening year as beginning in March, or if we are lucky February. And as each bloom has its season, we are one day closer to the end of the season. But we do love those days when we see the first snowdrop, the first crocus, then daffodils, tulips, lilacs, peonies, and on until the last of the toad lilies succumbs to the killing frost.

“Well, then, in April, the gardener is a man who, with fading plant in his hand, runs around his little garden twenty times looking for an inch of soil where nothing is growing.”

Some gardeners are addicted to plants, and the lack of a cleared spot of ground does not stop us from buying a plant we really want or accepting a passalong plant we’ve coveted and finally get. We’ll eventually figure out someplace to put the plant, or start a new flower bed in its honor, but in the meantime, we may have to set up little nursery holding areas to keep the plants alive until their permanent homes, their one inch of soil, can be found.

And finally,

“The right, the best is in front of us. Each successive year will add growth and beauty. Thank God again we shall be one year further on!”

One year further on, my trees are a little taller, my shrubs a little wider, and I imagine that I’ll have fewer weeds, better harvests, brighter flowers, and no trouble with rabbits. This book reminded me how optimistic gardeners are.

It also reminded me that in spite of all the changes in how we live and what we do and what we have, gardening is still gardening. It’s still about the plants and the soil, and trying to tame a bit of ground. And gardeners, and a gardener’s state of mind, really haven’t changed all that much in nearly 80 years.

If you are also participating in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club this month, leave me a comment when you have posted your thoughts on the book so I can include you in the official club post, which will come out on March 31st. All are welcome!


  1. How true that is - the villainous garden hose!

    You did a wonderful job in portraying this book...

  2. You caught the immediacy of this book, Carol! Everyone else in the world may be crazy, but gardeners still know what's important.

    Since it's pouring rain here in Austin, my book club post finally got out of draft and is up, too.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. Here's the review of The Gardener's Year at Zanthan Gardens.

    Now, I'll have to go read Annie's review and then revise mine.

  4. My review is posted here. I'm curious to see what others think of my favorite gardening book.

  5. Carol: Very nice review! You definitely captured the spirit of the book. I've made it just under the wire - my review is posted as of tonight.

  6. Carol, I have posted my review on my blog. Thanks!


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