Karel Čapek’s The Gardener’s Year

“The best thing of all is to be a living man — that is, a man who grows.”  Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year

The Gardener’s Year by Karel Čapek this book is a great gift for anybody that enjoys gardening.  Even if you have to gift it to yourself.  The crazier the gardener is about their “hobby” the more this little book will shine humor on their life.  I found this book while researching Czech literature and it is simply a lighthearted, funny and witty book whose illustrations are key to maximizing ones enjoyment of this romp through garden and those people the loiter there too long sometimes.

“I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil. He is a creature who digs himself into the earth and leaves the sight of what is on it to us gaping good-for-nothings. He lives buried in the ground. He builds his monument in a heap of compost. If he came into the Garden of Eden, he would sniff excitedly and say: “Good Lord, what humus!”  Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year

You might compare it to Beverley Nichols’ Down the Garden Path, well you might do that, but they are not the same animal, if anything this book gibes at that style of gardening book.  Then again, it has enough interesting information that one does learn a few things between the chuckles and laughter.  Karel Čapek may be dead and his literature has made him immortal and this book is written by a literary genius about a subject he just loved.  You can tell he just wants to share the bounty of the avocation of gardening.

“It is only an optical illusion that my flowers die in autumn; for in reality they are born. We say that Nature rests, yet she is working like mad. She has only shut up shop and pulled the shutters down; but behind them she is unpacking new goods, and the shelves are becoming so full that they bend under the load. This is the real spring; what is not done now will not be done in April. The future is not in front of us, for it is here already in the shape of a germ…Sometimes we seem to smell of decay, encumbered by the faded remains of the past, but if only we could see how many fat and white shoots are pushing forward in the old tilled soil, which is called the present day; how many seeds germinate in secret; how many old plants draw themselves together and concentrate into a living bud, which one day will burst into flowering life–if we could only see that secret swarming of the future within us, we should say that our melancholy and distrust is silly and absurd, and that the best thing of all is to be a living man–that is, a man who grows.” ― Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year

*One of my personal experiences as GroveGreenman has been at the community garden plot and my dear wife calls to see when he might be home.  She kindly tells “…the sun went down 2 hours ago…” and asks “Do you have a flashlight?” (She is so sweet!)  Responding to her, “Nope! Don’t need one, only planting bulbs, can feel the holes and what end the bulb’s roots are on to plant them.” I add the the worry, “I don’t have a problem really, Love!  There is nothing wrong with Night Gardening.”  And really, is there anything so wrong doing something you love in spring once the snow has melted in the community garden when all people have left the park the plot sits in?  And it is so cold the mosquitoes have left too and according to Roman Law one should have left the park when the sun went down 2 hours ago.  No, didn’t think so either.  She just laughs and is amused!

This is a grand book of any gardener, except for the person who has had no experience with the mania we call, “Gardening!”  They lack the experiences, but the rest of the Garden Folk. well they will see themselves and others in this book.   And as Capek tells we all seem to know each other by some divination, weather by our dirty nails of the rich black mud sticking to our shoes.

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