Thalassa Cruso—an appreciation





I never got the chance to see Thalassa Cruso (1909-1997) on television. Known as the "Julia Child of Horticulture", she starred on her own weekly public television show "Making Things Grow" from 1966 to 1969. I would have been only four when her show went off the air, so I'm not surprised that she couldn't divert my attention from Captain Kangaroo. However my mother, a bit of a houseplant doyenne herself, kept Making Things Grow: A Practical Guide for the Indoor Gardener close at hand as her favorite. When I started gardening in earnest decades later, it was this very same book filled with mom's underlining and notations in the margins that I purloined on a trip home. Over the years, I've continually turned to it for advice on how to succeed with houseplants in my New York City  apartment. I get the benefit of expert tips from two houseplant experts, Thalassa and my mom, that are as fresh and pertinent as the day they were written.

Like Julia Child, Thalassa's books were published by Knopf but unlike those by her more famous colleague, are now unfortunately out-of-print. Her most popular titles are inexpensive and easy to find on abebooks or alibris. Support your small bookseller and buy a whole set. You won't be disappointed.

Click here to read my New York Times Q&A quoting Thalassa on houseplants.


7 comments:

Heather Beth Taylor said...

Very interesting NY Times piece (i just started collecting indoors about 4 months ago and am obsessed with reading about them). Will look for Cruso's books too.

Anonymous said...

I watched her on TV as a child, and would love to have old episodes on tape or dvd, but alas, when I contacted WGBH about archival video, I was told that none remains. Thank goodness I have her books, which I have reread since a child. Always comforting that she continues to give pleasure to readers.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the programs remain. I worked at WGBH, and WGBH has the entire archive. But shows are all on antique reel format, and the cost of transference is huge, so there are no plans to update the recordings.

Stephen said...

I wish they would put them out on dvd like they did with the old Julia Child shows. But I guess that Thalassa isn't as big of a draw so that probably won't happen.

Anonymous said...

Considering the HUGE upswing in home horticulture over the past 30 or so years, WGBH would be well advised to make Thalassa's shows available on DVD.

I learned as much from her about plants as I did about cooking from Julia. Meanwhile being HUGELY entertained as with Ms. Childs.

TWO amazing women. Thalassa should be far better known.

Michael Weishan said...

Given your appreciation of Thalassa, I thought you'd be interested in this: www.michaelweishan.com/gardenblog/?=1189. Thalassa returns to the airwaves!

Ann said...

I have loved Thalassa Cruso since I first saw her on TV. My mother then gave me Making Things Grow in 1971 for my birthday, and every new book thereafter. I still buy used copies every year for family and friends for Christmas presents. I have Making Things Grow, Making Things Grow Ooutdoors, and Making Vegetables Grow in my guest room, and I have a set in my own bedroom. You'd be surprised how often I refer to them.

I thought I was the only one!