Grit Blogs > A Lakeside View

Garden Wit and Wisdom from Days of Old

By Cindy Murphy


Tags: gardening, garden books, Alfred Carl Hottes, 1001 Gardening Questions Answered, cold frames, Karel Capek, Cindy Murphy,

Who can be satisfied until every home has a garden, every community a garden club and every city a community garden? ~ Alfred Carl Hottes 

 1001 Gardening Questions Answered

The question appears in the preface of “1001 Garden Questions Answered”, and is still as relevant today as when Hottes first asked it.  In fact, much of the information contained in the book is still relevant – it’s still in print, the latest edition issued in 2007, eighty years after the first edition of the book was published.  I recently found my Dad’s 1947 copy of the “heavily revised” fourth printing of the book; hopefully newer editions have been “heavily revised” also, because the non-pronounceable chemicals listed in the “How to Control Insects and Diseases” chapter are just downright scary.    

Despite that, this is a little gem of a book, with a ton of wisdom, useful information, and interesting tidbits.  Judging from the tattered cover, dog-eared pages, and that Dad wrote his name on the inside cover, I’m guessing this book was passed around a lot among friends, family, and co-workers who shared his interest.   

The legacy Dad left me was his life-long love of nature and of gardening.  Some of my earliest memories are of him teaching me about plants and birds we encountered on our walks through the forests and fields.  At home, I’d work alongside him, helping in his big vegetable garden….although at that young of an age, I don’t know how much help I did versus how much additional work I created.   

Mom didn’t share Dad’s passion for gardening, (or, I’m sure, for my love of playing in the dirt as a kid – a love that I never outgrew, and I’ve got ground-in stains on the knees of all my jeans to prove it).  She was more of a behind-the-scenes gardener – an advisor on what she wanted planted, then cooking, canning, pickling, or putting fresh on the table the fruits of Dad’s labor.  Keith is much the same – he waters, he weeds, he harvests, and generally likes to be out in the garden, but he doesn’t have the same passion for gardening that I do.  He does, however, have the title of Official Garden Construction Engineer.      

“If you haven’t anything else to do Winter nights, busy yourself putting a coldframe together for early gardening operations.  Every garden needs a coldframe….” writes Hottes.  

 Cold frame

I returned home from a weekend trip to my childhood home where I found the book, to find Keith had built me one. Though he doesn’t have a passion for gardening, he does have a passion for using power tools.  The cold-frame is darned spiffy, I think, made from two old windows someone had set out for the trash, which I threw into the back of my truck last fall with a cold-frame in mind.     

Older than “1001 Garden Questions Answered”, passed around more often than Dad’s copy of it…and every bit as flavorful as the peppery leaves of the mustard greens I planted in the cold-frame, is a little tidbit of wit and wisdom on the book’s last page.

The Gardener’s Prayer 

O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm, so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on Campion, Alyssum, Helianthemum, Lavender, and the others which You in Your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants- I will write their names on a bit of paper if You like- and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on Spirea, or on Gentian, Plantain-lily, and Rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven.  Amen. ~ Karel Capek (1890-1938)

cindy murphy
3/31/2012 2:16:23 AM

Thanks for stopping in, Shannon. I know what you mean about having technical problems. My problems aren't so much with posting comments, but a lot of times I can't get the main blog page to load to read the other blogs here; it takes so long, my internet connection times out. I wonder if there's an Internet Users Prayer out there somewhere - and surely (hopefully) it doesn't include anything about liquid manure raining down upon my computer, because sometimes it seems as if that's exactly what's happening!


cindy murphy
3/31/2012 2:10:25 AM

You'll be the envy of all your neighbors, Michelle...and me too! Be sure to send pictures if (when) you get one. Hugs, and have a great weekend.


michelle house
3/29/2012 2:43:46 AM

lol, I think I am going to. Been looking on line, at various sites. :D


s.m.r. saia
3/27/2012 10:32:54 AM

Cindy, I've been enjoying catching up on reading your posts, but I haven't been able to pop in and say hello since I've been having technical problems posting comments. I love the gardener's prayer. It makes you wonder how anything ever manages to grow without us gardeners!


cindy murphy
3/25/2012 12:51:44 PM

Michelle, I'd say it sounds like a sign you most definitely can't ignore! Get the greenhouse, Frosty!


michelle house
3/24/2012 10:36:15 PM

Cindy, while out shopping for seeds today, I saw seeds for 3 differrent types of ferns, and for Trilliums, I think it is a sign, I need a greenhouse :D


michelle house
3/21/2012 12:21:28 AM

I love ferns as well, I'm not sure, they to have a low dosage of latex toxins, which can sometimes make cats and dog ill. It would be just my luck that one of the dogs, would eat them. Oh, I laughed too.


cindy murphy
3/19/2012 10:19:30 PM

I'd most definitely have flowers in the greenhouse too, Michelle...and ferns; I love ferns. Just wondering, if you had a greenhouse and grew flowers, would you have poinsettias....Frosty? Too funny that image of you peering in from the outside like Frosty. It made me laugh.


michelle house
3/18/2012 3:15:37 AM

Hi Cindy, I actually looked online, to to price the small ones. I also checked the DIY sites, and they don't seem that hard. My neighbor down the street, just had their windows replaces,, I will go talk to them tomorrow. Thank you, I would have never thought of hay bales, instead of wood. lol, I wasn't thinking veggies, for the greenhouse, though that is a good idea. I was thinking, plants I can't grow here, ferns, silver dollar tree, or money plant, Lady slipper flowers I grew up with, but will not function well here. LOL, I miss those plants, even if I cannot remember the names. I did joke with my sister, that I would have to stand on the outside of the greenhouse, peering in, looking at the plants because humidity, kills my knees. She compared me to Frosty. lol.


cindy murphy
3/17/2012 12:55:58 PM

Hiya, Dave. I like nonviolent thunderstorms too. We usually go out on the front porch to watch; it's the best seat in the house! HA! I've always suspected projects are invented so guys can run to the home improvement store just to buy tools - it always seems like every new project requires a new tool. Can't complain though, because while Keith is off buying tools, I'm looking at every blank space in the yard, thinking it needs a plant, and planning which ones I can buy to put there. Enjoy your weekend, and hope your fence goes up with ease within the next few months.


cindy murphy
3/17/2012 12:16:32 PM

Hi, Michelle! I've always wanted a greenhouse too - nothing elaborate or huge, mind you, but I think it'd be so cool to grow stuff in winter (and I bet Keith would have fun building it!). My friend, (with a little help from her friends), starting building one last fall completely out of discarded materials. With our mild winter, she was able to get it done in January, and has been growing vegetables in it since. I'll be on the lookout this spring for more windows set out for the trash (spring seems like the season for window replacement); I'd like to have another cold-frame or two by fall so I can extend the gardening season through November. They're easy to make - you should try one; you don't even need power tools - just a couple of windows and straw bales works just as well as one constructed out of wood. Hugs back at ya!


nebraska dave
3/17/2012 12:15:13 PM

Cindy, the gardener prayer is the best. We're supposed to get rain all next week so I guess we are now into the April weather. I like a good thunder storm to enjoy. Nothing with bad weather mind you but just one that has thunder a little lightening and gentle rain. I don't even mind a little wind if don't get too frisky. Yeah, power tools rule. That's why us guys have projects. It's to buy tools. I don't have a cold frame but if I was to have one, I'd build it to fit over one of my backyard raised beds and it would be made to life off when the plants didn't need it any more. Hmmmmmm, something to think about. Lord knows I have enough stuff to do this spring so that will have to go on the someday list or maybe even the some year list. As soon as the rain stops and the ground dries, my new property, Terra Nova Gardens, fence building can commence. Yeah, it will most likely take a couple months to build the fences for this year. Not because I'm so slow but because I can't afford it all at once. I do have the garden gate up but no gate in the opening. So life is good and it's a great day to be alive. Don't you think? Have a great cold frame planting day.


michelle house
3/17/2012 12:47:54 AM

Hi Cindy, love the book, not the chemical part, but the rest sounds good. I did chuckle, when I read about Keith and tools. I like the poem as well. I am jealous of your cold frame, my sister and I were talking about me getting a small green house, so I can grow plants that need more humidity. Now I want both. :D ((hugs for you))