This is my very favorite gardening book of all time. I am hopelessly prejudiced.
This is not a how-to book. If that's what you want, put it down right now. If instead, you like books about the human element in gardening, prepare to be delighted at recognizing yourself in Čapek's garden musings.
The Longer Version
It's all here - winter restlessness, fretting about the weather, the joy of spring, buying too many plants, the folly of the lawn, leaving your garden (gasp) to the care of others, the lure of garden catalogs. And all written in a slightly quaint (translated from Czech) early 20th century manner, when so many writers expressed themselves with grace and style.
I've had this book for years and reread many times the parts I particularly admired, but I read it through again before writing this. The bits I remembered were the ones that made me feel as if the author had been watching me, but I had forgotten about some of the more humorous parts: plant communities of railway stations, sectarian violence among cactus fanciers, revisionist history of dahlias.
The writing conjures up so many visions, it needs no illustrations, but Josef Čapek's Thurber-esque line drawings are perfectly in tune. I especially like the redesigned gardener, and the flowery aroma of manure.
Karel Čapek was best known as a science fiction writer - maybe he got his best ideas for fiction while puttering in the garden. He certainly seems to have spent a great deal of observant time there. What a pity he didn't get the eleven hundred years of life he calculated every gardener needs in order to really know gardening.
I mentioned that I've had this book for many years. It came to me via Garden Design magazine, when they used to publish excerpts from garden books they thought should be more well-known. I read from The Gardener's Year - I think the part about the blessed rain - and had to track down the book. I used to pester my non-gardening husband, reading aloud to him from this book, but then I discovered blogging. It's only for fear of becoming monotonous that I haven't quoted more from it.
Thanks, Carol, once again, for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.