Gotta Garden

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Garden Reading: Garden Bloggers Book Club March Selection

Our title for March was The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek. This book is part of a wonderful series of garden books edited by Michael Pollan (author of Second Nature, among others) called Modern Library Gardening. As Pollan says, these books are classics and not necessarily reference or how-to books but rather "how-to-think-about-it-than-how-to-do-it."

Diverse as we gardeners may be, there are also universal truths and experiences that bond us. The best of garden writers remind us, amuse us, and yes, at times, challenge us as we journey on our personal garden paths. Karel Capek's vocation was writing (at which he clearly excelled) but he, too, had that universal passion that gardeners recognize in one another. It's more than just a hobby as Mr. Capek's wit and humor remind us.

The format of the book is month by month, which happens to be my favorite. It also causes me to fight with myself as I have to make myself read past March while in March. I can convince myself to go a month or so ahead, but beyond that the messages in my brain compete with the text. "Why are you reading about July, for pity's sake, when it is March....March, you know" and other similar conversations distract me and convince me I won't remember what I've read. As you might guess, my nightstand has more than a few such books there that I like to read and re-read as the days go by. They never get old and I turn to them again and again. Certainly, A Gardener's Year has joined the pile.

Speaking of March, the chapter in Mr. Capek's book is entitled Buds and begins with the universal truth of gardeners waiting, waiting, waiting for the first bud. and for the "imperative 'Now!'" that happens when things burst forth all at once as if on cue. It was a personal Yes moment for me when he talked of (if he were a musician) composing a "march of buds" to describe the process. I, too (that universal thing), have thought that events in the garden remind of me a well orchestrated musical piece, although in my case, I had thought of a symphony rather than a march. He description hit such a chord with me that I marked the page to return to and savor.

Because I felt compelled to move on (although not wanting to), I did read on into April where I discovered another laugh out loud moment. The description of the gardener scurrying around the garden looking for a spare inch in which to plant something, finding it at last, only to discover later that he has indeed planted the new plant on top of something else. Who hasn't done that?! (Ahem, and who now has label mania??) And, speaking of labels, who could not be amused (and say, "true, so true") as we read of the gardener's obsession with labels and plants that lack thereof. The gentle pokes of fun at those of us consumed with our Latin names and our intolerance of those who don't know same. I love this particular passage:

"It is almost the same, but a name is a name; and we gardeners are particular about good names. For that reason we hate children and blackbirds, because they pull out and mix the labels, and it sometimes happens that we say with astonishment: "Look here, this broom flower is exactly like edelweiss--it is perhaps a local variety; and it certainly is a broom, because it has my label."

May was also a month of great amusement (as I would expect all are) with tales of the gardener obsessed with the rare and different only to discover the plant is most certainly not rare or different. There is the trouble with ordering plants. First, it is too early, then the supplier is too busy and finally, the supplier is sold out, but will send you something entirely different than what you want. Universal experiences and "the more things change, the more things stay the same" that we all relate to.

It is hard to imagine a garden library without this delightful little book. It will be with pleasure that I turn to it in the coming months to share experiences with Karel Capek. And, isn't that just the grandest thing? That time almost stands still among gardeners and we can have conversations with others before us and know exactly what they mean.

My apologies for being late to this party. I'll try to do better from here forward. Although, I do note with the next book that it, too, is not one I'd sit down and read straight through. I like it and have owned it for some time, but find I turn to a particular plant at a particular time...more about that next time, though!

Please see The Garden Bloggers Book Club.


Carol said...

That's the wonderful thing about an online virtual book club. Can you really be too late? I don't think so.

Thanks for the review and thoughts on the book!

Gotta Garden said...

Thank you, Carol! Although, I do think a March selection should probably be in!

Annie in Austin said...

You had me laughing here in Texas, Gotta Garden! No reading past March! I like to break the rule and read about the opposite season, and also like books arranged by month. You sure wrote a fun-to-read post, so who cares if it was on time.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Kate said...

How did I miss so many of your posts? Here's another one - and it is a warm and delightful review of a special book. You made me smile and laugh thinking back on some of Capek's choice lines - and there were many!

Funny too, how both Capek and Vita S-W appreciated the 'cram, cram, cram' philosophy. (I just read your post about the illustrated garden of S-W and want to return because I am about to be late for a dr. appointment... it's all because your blog is a lovely read!)

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