Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Garden Report #147
Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stunning white peonies at Audrey's farm
       Writers write: Nothing. Not a thing.  There should be something but there is nothing.  Are you sitting down?  I have nothing to say, well, at least not here.  Maybe next week.
        Photos:  Heather Lowe took the picture of the Japanese Lilac at the old Regina Inn.  It looks great!  Maureen Hawley took the photo of the Morden ‘Sunrise’ rose, which appeared to be dead, all the way through the month of May.  The rose is in our garden.  I can’t remember who took the shot of the sedum.  It blooms later in the year, end of August and September and it is wonderful.  The stunning white peony was shot by Audrey Drummond.  Her peonies are incredible this year.  Our tulips are now officially finished for the season and have been replaced with annuals.  We replant every October (sometimes in September) after the frost has wiped out the annuals.  The next shot is of some calliper trees that Michel Touchette is growing in Portage La Prairie.  And last but not least, Penny from Calgary loves to share her  house with animals looking for a friend.  I get that.

·      Readers write:  Keith Carpenter is my tulip bulb rep, though his Dutch heritage is in dispute.  Keith writes to us from the Vancouver area. “I have been enjoying your pictures of the tulips in the last few Garden Reports.  It sure took them a lot longer, this spring, to get going with the cool weather that you were having.  With those delays it seems like you have to look at what you want for next spring, right after this spring’s blooming is finished.”

·      There were many emails regarding The Vietnam War.  Here are a few of the responses.  From Jim Tomkins. “Your recent reminiscences in The Garden Report about the Vietnam War brought back a lot of memories; they immediately brought to mind a Pulitzer-Prize-winning book about that conflict and what happened behind the scenes: ‘A Bright Shining Lie’ by Neil Sheehan. I read it about twenty years ago and it made a profound impression on me.  Joanne Terry’s email reads “Hi Rod – Thoroughly enjoyed your Garden Report this morning.  Your piece on ‘I have no dog in this fight’ really hit home to me.  You are so right that the Vietnam War was a senseless farce and killed too many young men and women and children.  You are a great writer and so interesting that it makes me want to read.” Rod’s note:  I did write a play about a Canadian soldier,  from Saskatchewan,  who served in Vietnam.  It was titled ‘Paradise’.  I wrote it in 2007.  It got rave reviews from CBC and my audiences, but The Winnipeg Free Press and The Winnipeg Sun flunked it. I really do prefer the compliments.  Robert Barbour writes: “Thank you for the new newsletter. I really enjoy it. Your editorial on the Vietnam war was right on and can translate to the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts especially in light of the events of this week. I am at a loss as to how our illustrious leaders think they can resolve a conflict that  is thousands of years old. What a waste of our soldiers lives and I can’t imagine what their families feel about it.”  Rob Gee resides in Leicester, England and his view is this: “I was wanting to compliment your thoughts about Vietnam, which I thought were absolutely on the nail. I think I might adopt the 'I have no dog in this fight' philosophy. Interestingly, one thing I've noticed about the North American dialogue on the subject, is that commentators almost always put the number of fatalities in the tens of thousands. It's actually closer to three million, but no one seems to count the Vietnamese.” 
Siberian Iris are stunning planted in the sun
·      Neil Slater continues our common struggle.  That struggle being waged by us so called ‘oatmeal savages’ throughout Canada.  Neil writes: “But bagpipes are forever, as is ‘Scotland the Brave’, alas. Make music, not war!”
·      Sherrie Tutt is filled with nice things to say.  I wrote last week that I am all in favour of people who write nice things about me.  “Thanks so much Rod. You are the gold standard in gardening information. Happy summer.”
·    I have not seen Morag Armbruster for several years, wherever she is hiding, but Morag is still a regular reader.  She writes: “Just a thanks for The Garden Report, I really enjoy reading it.  And also I shared your thought for the day on our white board at the drop in centre here at APSS and it seems  like everyone who reads it chuckles.  (We did give you credit for it.) ”
·      Our local ‘matriarch of the arts’ and my spell checker, Jean Freeman, writes “I love your mind, your passions, your plant-smarts and genial curmudgeonliess (you should see what my spell-checker has tried to turn THAT word into!!)  Thank you for all of it!”
A Japanese Tree Lilac planted by the old Regina Inn
Lyn Goldman references me as an inspiration.  Other references have been left out as this is a family magazine.  “How beautiful the photos are, Rod!  They tell me that I must get back out in the garden, despite the plague of mosquitoes.  I’ll try your suggestion of Trounce.  And the fertilizer.  You inspire me.”
      Kathleen Livingstone was the first to respond to #145 and this is what she wrote: “Thanks for another great issue of The Garden Report.  It seems somehow fitting that it should come out with the sunshine!”
        Boy oh boy:  Some of my best observations (I write, tongue firmly placed inside cheek) are of people in their normal habitat.  You know. People shopping at Safeway, eating supper at Siam, registering at the hospital.  These people give me such unlimited fodder for my writing.  One of my friends saw me as she exited a lingerie shop at The Golden Mile.  I cracked “so what do you have in your shopping bag”.  She hissed at me “so help me God, if this shows up in one of your columns or blogs, I will kill you!”  Nice talk for a well educated woman.  That is why I am not mentioning it.
·        Listening to other conversations: I am standing in line at The Italian Star, home of Carlo Giambattista, who is truly Romanian, masquerading as Italian, ‘cause the girls love Italians and not so much, the Romanians.  I have my sheep’s’ milk feta cheese and bucatinni in hand and I am number three from the front of the till.  A woman, around twenty years of age, is standing behind me.  She is bored.  She retrieves her phone, actually it was in her hand all of the time, calls someone and subjects me to the following:  “Yeah.  I am standing in line at The Italian Star.  God…I am so bored.  Really?  How much shame does she want to bring on herself?  Yeah…the grandparents are out of control doing their thing.  I know, I know, what can you do?”  I looked over my shoulder.  She had two chocolate bars in her other hand.  The home of some great Italian sandwiches, and she had not one, but two, chocolate bars for her lunch.  I have struggled my entire life with weight issues (and so does she) and all I can say in my defence is that I do not eat chocolate bars for lunch.  I cook bucattini and serve it with fresh lemon and feta cheese and perhaps, lots of  garlic.  The word ‘perhaps’ was not really needed.

      There was a part of me, the non Canadian part, that wanted to pull my phone out of my pocket, call anyone and begin conversing in a loud, conversational voice, “Yeah.  I am standing in line at The Italian Star.  I am so bored.  There’s like this chick who is yapping on her phone behind me, talking about stuff we really don’t care about and get this, she is eating chocolate bars for lunch.  As if!”  Of course, I didn’t.  As you do also, I endured, but one day I am going to snap and shake off my Canadian facade.   
·        It takes a drunk to bring order to chaos:  We take the bus or walk in Vancouver.  Very few people drive  because of the insane traffic and the parking fees.  It is much easier to get around on foot and bus.  It was just before supper and the bus was packed.  We all stood, hanging onto the top rail.  A drunk man gets on the  bus.  He might have been homeless.  He was not well dressed.  He spots an uptight dude in his thirties.  The man he spots is a lawyer or an accountant, probably from down town, as he is dressed impeccably. He hates the bus.  He has laid his brief case across the seat next to him  He radiates “leave me alone”.  And we do.  The drunk has no such social constraint.  He picks up the man’s brief case, hands it to him and sits down in the now empty seat.  The dude is vibing that his space has been invaded.  The drunk says to him in a voice that all of us can hear “you can’t claim two seats, it is not right!”  Yep.  All of us agreed with the drunk but we let this ass get away with lying his briefcase across the seat so no one else would sit beside him.  Three stars for the drunk.
Reader Penny P. shares her home with those who
need one
·        The Fringe is worth every cent:  This year is the 10th time there has been a Regina Fringe Festival.  I am perfectly aware that we are the smallest of the festivals in Canada.  Edmonton and Winnipeg have done an incredible job of bringing down the crowds.  My hat is off to them.  But, even though we are small, rest assured, we still attract the ‘A listers’.  Those shows that sell out at other festivals are easily accessible here and they are worth checking out.  For ten bucks a ticket, a price that I think is too low for the performers, it is a bargain for audiences.   The Festival is on this year from July 9th to the 13th and for those without a calendar, that is this Wednesday to Sunday. 
·        The Secret Garden Tour:  This year, the tour  runs this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  For the price of the passport, you have an opportunity to see some of the finest gardens in Regina.  It is worth the time and your support goes to our only pro dance company, New Dance Horizons.  Congrats to Robin Poitras for her efforts.
       Garden Tip:  With all the rain we have had here in Saskatchewan, plants are starting to show stress.  Usually, rain is good for our gardens and our crops but as with everything, too much of a good thing…and you already know how the rest of that goes.  Plant stress is showing up in a few formats.  If a plant is drooping, from too much water, there is not too much a gardener can do unless you are willing to lift it out and relocate it to dryer ground.  What I have been noticing around town are many plants suffering from iron chlorosis.  When leaves turn a premature yellow and the veins of the leaf become readily apparent, chances are there is iron chlorosis present.  The best way to treat that problem is with iron chelate, sold sometimes as ‘Tru Green’. Plants that appear to be affected include roses, geraniums and peonies.  Mountain Ash, apple trees, cherries and plums are also very susceptible to iron chlorosis so keep an eye on those species.  
       Garden Tip:  Several people have told me that trollius cannot be grown in Regina.  “Just not hardy enough.”  I planted a dozen trollius in Sandra Rayson’s garden three years ago.  Each June, they grow like ‘The Dickens’ and bloom profusely.  Sandra and I chuckle when I retell the same advice, again and again. “These are not really hardy for Regina.”
'Autumn Joy' sedum blooms late August
or early September
The old monk and the young monk:  In 1995, my mentor and I were touring The Lieutenant Governor’s Residence in Victoria. There was an elderly gardener who was planting.  My mentor wrote the book on perennials.  He asked the gentleman “so old-timer, what are planting.”  The gardener stopped his work and gave the two of us a ten minute lecture on the attributes of sedum, which he was planting.  He took ten minutes to tell us why and when you should plant sedum.  We left that part of the garden.  I burst at the seams.  I asked, no, I demanded from my mentor, an answer. “Why did you not tell him who you are?  You are known as a perennial expert, across North America, including sedum?”  My mentor said to me “all I did was let him tell me a story.  Why?  What did you hear?”  We kept walking along, one of us a little more chastened.

·      Garden Tip:  There is a ‘horticultural fact’ that is a myth, not reality.  The myth says that none of us should do any pruning or trimming of our trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals during July. It is too late according to the myth.  The reality is that I prune, nip and tuck plants all of the time, in July.  It is not too late and if it is supposed to hurt the plant, I have not seen any evidence of that being the case.  Of course, I could be wrong with this being only my thirty-eighth year.  I know, I know, I am getting a little snarly as I age.  Do keep in mind that it is illegal and unethical to prune your elm trees until September 1st.  This law is to prevent Dutch Elm Disease and has nothing to do with the benefits of pruning.
Michel and his calliper trees
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba

·      Perhaps it’s an age thing:  I did volunteer work at Access for seven years.  A woman, who worked at Access, was twenty-eight.  One day she told me that she did not understand why anyone watched my television show on gardening. “It’s a dumb show”.  I asked her how old she was and she told me.  All  I could mutter was “uh huh”.  Two years later, the same woman spots me and asks me a dozen questions on gardening.  I got right up in her grill:  “Aren't you the same person who thought my show was a waste of time?  So why the change of attitude on your part?”  Her answer: “We bought a house.”   I had a friend who owned a nursery in Saskatoon.  His name was Pat and his favourite saying was “it depends whose ox is being gored.”  In other words, the woman who now asked questions was no longer going dancing and staying out all night.  She was a home-owner and she was wanting to make her place look nice.  She was now ready for me, or at least ready for my information.  I, also, do not go out dancing, late at night.  I am in bed early, up early, and out in the garden, early.  Not bragging.  Just saying I am making much better choices these days. 
'Negrita' and 'Maureen' tulips planted together
Now, they are finished for the season
Parking lot shaming:  There is a site on Facebook that posts photos of bad parking.  I get it.  On a very bright note, public shaming, something I am not opposed to, does work.  Since the page came out a month ago and was on television, I have been extra careful to ensure I park properly.  I certainly don’t want a photo, of my vehicle in an asinine parking position, posted.  Of course, the decent people out there will pull up their socks and ensure they park responsibly but the idiots do carry on.  Saturday night, at The Dairy Queen, a driver did not want to drive to the back parking lot so what did she do?  She parked in the driving lane, right by the front door, and went in.  There is, deep inside of me, a tow truck driver, waiting to emerge.  As an aside, Maureen goes off her nut, at the grocery stores, with people who use up four spaces to angle park and to protect their ‘special car’.  One of our readers writes that he likes to take a piece of chalk and draw an outline around the car with the words, ‘Reserved for Assholes’.  That made me laugh.
·      Mea culpa:  Last week, I identified my Mandevilla hanging basket, the one hanging by the back door, as a hibiscus in the attachments.  I know it is a Mandevilla and I don’t know why I labelled it as a hibiscus as we rarely grow hibiscus outdoors.  At least in Regina, we don’t grow them outdoors.  If you read this in Maui, don’t argue with me.  I know, I know what you grow outdoors there.
·      Thought for the day: I just keep forgetting what I already know.  Have you ever looked for your glasses only to find out you had them on?
This Morden 'Sunrise' appeared dead until
the end of May.  Now, it blooms!
·      Thanks for reading this week…Rod McDonald in sunny and humid Regina

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Garden Report #146
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

A bowl of pansies planted for Mothers' Day
Writers write: Sometimes I describe a situation, explaining what I have witnessed.  When I do that, I often use the phrase “I have no dog in this fight” to explain that I don’t have a side to the argument.  Not this time.  I do have a dog in this fight.  I had one forty years ago and I still do today.  In the 1960s, myself, as did many others throughout the world, protested the war in Vietnam.  We said that Kennedy, Johnson and Westmoreland were lying.  We said that they knew they could not win the war in Vietnam, yet they were throwing thousands of young men into a south-east jungle, to die.  Final death toll was over 58,000.  Most were young men around nineteen or twenty, the same age as I was at the time.  Add into the death toll, the wounded, the injured, and the families of those young men and you can now understand why this time frame was the birthplace of the divisions within America and Canada.  This period saw the rise of the generation gap.  It was a time when men who had served their country, bravely and with honour in World War Two, could not fathom that their government, those they had elected, would lie to them and to everyone else.  This was a time of The Great Divide. Families and neighbours would not speak to each other, it was that contentious.
A mandevilla hanging basket by the back door
     Canada saw an influx of one hundred thousand of the draft dodgers and deserters.  All were young men.  One who settled in Regina, told me that his father who had served with distinction in WWII, could not go down to the VFW Hall (the American Legion) because his son was in Canada. The war severed old ties within communities and families.
     There were marches in every city of North America, including Regina. I was there.  I have a dog in this fight.  The RCMP would send out  members in plain clothes to infiltrate the marches and other policemen were assigned to take photographs of the marchers.  They were actively attempting to scare the protesters, nothing less.  It did not work. The marches grew in size.  Newspaper articles, dismissing the protestors, were published.  Stories were promoted, showing the construction workers of New York City attacking the protesters.  The hard hats as they were known, were shouting “my country, right or wrong.”  Their country was wrong, there is no doubt about it.  
    Now, with the reflection of forty and fifty years, we know more to this story.  CNN has been running a documentary for two weeks titled ‘The Sixties’.  I watched it.  Kennedy knew he could not win in Vietnam, but he didn’t know how to get out. He said so, on tape.  So he kept it going.  Johnson also knew that it was not a possibility to win this ungodly war.  He also said so, on tape. He too, did not know how to get out of Vietnam.  So he kept it going. Westmoreland ran the war as a conventional war and he requested and was granted, again and again, more young men for cannon fodder.  He thought that if only he was given more men and more bombs, he could win this war.  He could not.  We were shocked when Johnson reinstated the draft because Westmoreland wanted to increase his contingent from 75,000 to 125,00 young men.  The shock did not end there.  He kept adding men until in the late sixties, there were close to five hundred thousand men, in country and two million stateside to service the chaos of Vietnam.  They lied, each one of those three men.  Then Nixon came along, also a liar. They were captured on tape, lying to the public.  All four knew and shared their knowledge with others, that the war was not winnable.  Not one of these men had the courage to do the right thing.  I had a dog in this fight and I still do. 
     The capture of the voices of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Westmoreland, lying on tape, only proves that what they said forty and fifty years ago was wrong.  We were right. Yet, there is no glory in being right.  The dead are still dead.  There were 5,000 Canadian boys, enamoured by John Wayne movies, who served with the Americans.  Some of them are dead.  A young man from my neighborhood volunteered.  He came back shot to pieces and for what?
     Today, in any major store, you can purchase garden pots made in Vietnam or eat a bowl of  soup in a Vietnamese restaurant.  Is that why it was invaded?  Is that why a generation was traumatized?  Is that why Vietnam continues to be a contentious issue that divides a generation?  There are those who still hang onto the idea that our leaders would never lie to us or that perhaps they did, but they have learned their lesson and will  never repeat those lies.  I wish that were true. 
Trollius are just about finished blooming
   Readers write: This note came from Rob Van Zanten out of Vancouver.  In the attachment, you can see the program he references. “ Hey Rod: Just doing some house cleaning here in my office and came across this ad on the back of the 1991 Regina Folk Festival program.  You haven't changed a bit...take care.”

·           Reader Jean McNeil from Ottawa is challenging my haggis story.  Jean writes “Just reading your June 8th Garden Report this morning. Always a shock to see one's name in some publication.  Belated Happy Birthday, Maureen. With Rod's description of your meal, we could celebrate the 'heat' (we were at Siam) right along with you. Haggis just for tourists? Are you serious Rod? I haven't had the opportunity to try it so can't really pass judgement, though I'm dying to try it.  Could you enlarge on why you hold your opinion?”
·           Sherry Tutt lives in my neighbourhood and she has a strong opinion about people who text while driving.  She writes: “Just weighing in on the cell phone debacle. Look out for the intersection of Regina Avenue and Albert Street at the south end of the Albert Street Bridge. Last winter, both my daughter and I were almost killed by drivers going blithely onto the bridge through a red light. On each occasion we were in the passenger seat of a cab and we were saved only by  the alertness of the driver who saw the texter and did not proceed.”
·           Bob Roy sent along a nice compliment.  I am never opposed to nice compliments.  “Joan and I are delighted to find your blog back in our e-mail box, even if on an irregular basis, as your hopefully improving health allows. Recovery from such operations is not always of the speedy type ... hence we wish you slow and steady gains.”
·              Doug Gummeson is from Moose Jaw and he has an alternative view point regarding cell phone users.  This is quite funny and I only reprinted the first part.  If a reader wants the entire description, I will forward it to you.  “The saddest thing to see, I think is when a  couple, usually older but not always, sits down in a restaurant and the husband either brings or buys a paper and she sits there and looks at it opened, in front of her, as this kind of guy will not sit beside her, always across.  It is usually too far away to read and the angle is wrong anyway.  She fidgets, asks him a question.  Rarely two.  He ceremonially semi crumples the paper and lowers it just enough to see her, gazes over it, gives a one or two word answer and uncrumples the paper back to the local news.  She fidgets , looks around the room and perhaps catches a waiter or two to ask a question she already knew the answer to. Finally, she succumbs and gingerly picks up one of the remaining sections and begins to look through it. They sit there, both with their paper towers separating them into personal self gratification.”
·         Gail Bowen is very kind as she writes “Thank you for the rants,  the restaurant reviews, the gardening advice and the beautiful photos of flowers, Rod.  To paraphrase that old chestnut from Hello Dolly. "It's good to have you back where you belong."
·           Neil Slater took in the pavilion of my people at Mosaic (written somewhat tongue in cheek by a guy who grew up on Dewdney Avenue).  Neil shares “I was also at the Scottish pavilion, for the Society for Creative Anachronism. I tried the Shepherd's pie, too, but I thought it a bit bland. It was good; it just didn't come with much spice built into it. The scone I had was very good, though, as was the fly cemetery. I've only been to Siam for the lunch buffet. Give an excuse, any excuse to go back and I'll be there instantly.  We're looking forward to the Fringe Festival; we already have a date with John Huston for a barbecue.”
Blue Onion (allium) flowered these past two weeks
·      Garden Tip:  The old timers, who lived through the 1930s, tell us never to complain about moisture, of any kind.  So, I am not complaining, but have we ever had the rain.  My plants, as no doubt yours are as well, are getting washed out. The next time you water,  stop your giggling, ensure that you add some 10 30 20 or 15 30 15 to your watering can and some iron chelate.  Many plants are starting to turn a bit yellow which means the available iron has been washed away with this much rain.  You should notice an improvement within seven to ten days.
·      Yes! The Fringe is coming:  From around the world and from across the street, The Regina International Fringe Festival will be here, soon.  This year, it is happening July 9th to the 13th.  I know there are some outstanding performers who are booked and without the audience, actors will be speaking to an empty room.  That means, get out there and see as many shows as you can.  It is a great price at only ten bucks a show.  If you take in a few shows, I guarantee that you will be a witness to some of the finest theater in the world.  Our collective hats off to Jodi Sadowsky who runs The Fringe for our benefit.
·      The Caraway Grill:  Maureen glared.  “I am not cooking tonight!”  I got the hint, after all of these years of marriage. I am catching on.  She had never been to The Caraway Grill, which has been reviewed here in another edition, and she loved it.  It was a culinary adventure because what we thought we had ordered and what arrived at our table was a pleasant surprise.  The tastes were wonderful and she is now, as are many of you, a true convert.
'Bridal Wreath' spirea
Garden Tip: The white blooming plant, about three feet high and cascading over, is probably a ‘Three Lobe’ spirea.  Lots of blooms this year.  If it is a bit bigger, chances are it is a ‘Bridal Wreath’ spirea.  Both are great plants and both enjoy more sun than shade.  Another great choice for gardeners is the ‘Little Princess’ spirea.  I have one of those in my own garden and I love it.  In the attachments, I have included photos. 
'Little Princess' spirea
·      New Dance Horizons Secret Garden Tour:  This year will feature several of Regina’s finest gardens.  Have you ever been a snoop?  Come on.  Admit it.  Now you can pay a fee of $40 to NDH, get a passport, and check out how other people garden.  Make sure you look in their tool shed to check if they have been sweeping.  What?  Isn’t that what snoops do? This year, the dates are June 11th to the 13th
This garden will be on the NDH tour
·      Steak Nights:  There are many of these nights available to us, as fundraisers and all for worthy causes.  I always buy at least two or more tickets for these things.  Usually, I give the tickets to folks who don’t get much of an opportunity to go out to eat.  They appreciate the tickets, as do the fund raisers.  A few weeks ago, we took in one of those steak nights at The Tap.  We don’t get too many occasions when we are in their neighbourhood and when we arrived, it felt as if we were in another city.  In the north west part of the city, they have everything from all the banks, the grocery stores, the chains and the independents.  After being there, I feel that my world is too shallow.  Comfortable, but shallow. 
     This review contains two distinct elements.  One that reads “everything was perfect” and the other part that reads “no it wasn't.” Maureen had one of their ales, the garden salad, the steak and a baked potato.  All was “excellent” she declared to no one but me.  I don’t drink (I am the neighbourhood designated driver) so I ordered a ginger ale.  It was 5% ginger ale and 95% carbonated water.  Only the slightest hint of ginger ale was ascertained.  Maureen tasted it, suggested that I send it back and my reply was “this is God protecting me from too much sugar” and I let it ride.  I asked that my baked potato be French fries instead.  Our server said she would check.  It couldn't be done.  I said, again, “this is God protecting me from cholesterol.”  I wondered why God let the guy across from me have French fries? Perhaps his cholesterol  was better than mine?  They do check when you enter the restaurant, but you already knew that.  I found out it was because he was not a  part of the steak night. My food arrived.  I didn't eat the baked potato, just not my thing.  I didn't order the garden salad.  I had ordered the Caesar, which was available to me in spite of it being steak night.  It was flat and wilted, prepared at least one hour prior to my serving.  Here is the kicker, the steak was amongst the best I have ever had.  It put a few other establishments to shame, especially The Diplomat.  We have not eaten at The Diplomat for four or five years, because their idea of a rib eye was so disappointing.  The Tap’s  steak was charred on the outside and succulent on the inside.  Absolute perfection.  Now, the other three components of my meal left me wanting but I have to give it to them for grilling a steak properly.  I would visit it again and who knows, this time, they might let me order fries with my steak, instead of the baked potato.  One can only hope.
Tulips at Night-photo by Maureen Hawley
·      Garden Tip:  Even though June has been a difficult month to garden and it is normally one of the favourites, you can and should keep gardening.  My own bedding plants were mostly in the ground and it started to rain.  This was early June.  No problem.  Let it rain for a night and the next day, carry on.  The plants still sit, waiting for a dry day to get out there.  I don’t like that I have not finished planting, but I also don’t give up.·
This 'Morden Sunrise' rose appeared dead, this spring
  Garden Tip:  Speaking of not giving up, many of you have shared about not giving up.  This winter was hard on our plants, no argument there.  Many plants appeared to be dead this spring.  Many people dug out their supposed dead plants but most still had life in them.  I had in the gardens I care for, thirty two rose plants.  Most appeared dead.  All but two are doing fine today.  This story is repeating itself over the city.  I am getting emails and conversations from many people that what appeared to be finished is now a ‘Lazarus’ plant.  It has come back to life.  Faith and patience has been rewarded, numerous times this season.
'Morden Belle' rose- a good one for Regina

·      Hats off to Jean:  I proof read and I proof read, and still something sneaks by.  Everyone who edits knows this to be true.
In the last edition, I wrote that Justin Trudeau was “stocking me”.  The word seemed so right. Jean Freeman was kind enough to point out that the word ‘stalking’ was a much better choice.  Mea culpa.
·      A tale of two genders:  I distinctly heard Maureen say to me this morning, “have a piece of my home made chocolate cake for breakfast.”  She claims that she said “touch the chocolate cake and you’re dead!”  I really wish you guys would make yourself more clear in what it is you really want from us men.
·      Garden Tip:  With the outbreak, again, of forest tent caterpillar, a great choice and still within the organic family, is any product with pyrethrums.  I have found them in Ambush and I have mixed that with a bit of Trounce in my sprayer and it was effective.  
·      Garden Tip: With the pooled water, we can expect one of the worst years of mosquitoes.  Either 1991 or 1992, the mosquitoes were so severe that when bike riding, I quit stopping at Stop signs and red lights.  That is a pretty big admission for a guy who doesn't jay walk.  In my defence, the moment you stopped, they swarmed and ate you alive.  As long as you kept the bike moving, you were okay.  To settle the mosquitoes down for the better part of a day, I spray my garden with Trounce.  The soap makes them sleepy and they become rare for the rest of the gardening day.
·      Great movie:  I am not a big movie buff but I do enjoy them.  Saturday, we took in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Jersey Boys’.  After his history with spaghetti westerns and winning an Oscar for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ this movie appeared to be an odd choice, for him.  He had such a soft touch with this movie, not milking a scene and yet pulling back when needed, that if he doesn’t win an Oscar, his editor should.  It’s a great movie.   Tell Clint I sent you.
·      The Farmers’ Market:  I haven’t been getting there as often as I should or at least, not as often as I used to do so.  I did make it out on Saturday and I had a good time.  I have written before that going to the market is as much about being social as it is about commerce.  Two readers, Gwen Barschel and Debbie Cameron visited with me, thus the social part.  I bought a great jar of bread and butter pickles as well.  Brad grew some strawberries in his greenhouse that were amongst the finest I have ever eaten.  Go early.  He has been selling  out within an hour.  My life is so simple and not complicated, just the way I like it.
Brad Crasweller built this gazebo
Nice: Outdoor Expressions finished off a pergola, with brick work, that they stared for a customer last year.  It looks lovely and thought it should be shared with the readers. 
·      Some have it harder:  My heart goes out to all the readers who have had their basements damaged either by the rain water or by sewer back up.  Each night on the news, there is another person who has been hit hard.  In some communities, people have even had to leave their homes and move in with relatives or the community safe spots.   This has not been easy on them. 
·      Credit is due: The photos of the tulips, New Guineas, hibiscus and pansies were all taken by Maureen Hawley who has turned into the official photographer of this blog.  It was a very sought after job because while it pays nothing, the glory is immense.
'Thunderchild' in bloom
·      Thought for the day:  Even if you have pains, you are not allowed to be one.
·      The last word:  This week, it goes to Alan Bratt and his opinion of drivers who use handicap spaces and don’t need them.  “I think you are looking at the fellow who parked in the handicap spot in the wrong way. He, too, is handicapped but in a more profound way. He is both stupid and arrogant. Imagine what it is like to be him. In his mind the whole world revolves around him and his needs of the moment. It is his belief that no truly handicapped person is going to appear and need that space because if they needed it they would already be there. That lack of reasoning indicates his stupidity and the careless use of the spot his arrogance.” 
A 'Baby Blue' grafted spruce
Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the heart of the rain forest of Regina, Canada.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Garden Report #145
Sunday, June 8th, 2014
Rayanna is writing her life's history
·      Writers write: Nothing incites opinions faster than a discussion of cell phone etiquette.  We went to Siam on Tuesday night for Maureen’s birthday.  Siam is a great bistro.  We were in the midst of our supper and a gentleman arrives.  He was in his late sixties, well dressed and appeared to be a polite sort of a gent.  He was also talking on his cell phone, as he is seated and while he peruses the menu. There is that part of me that wanted to rip the phone from his ear.  Instead, I grumble.  Then, as if this were the icing on the proverbial cake, he somehow turns his phone into a radio and begins to listen to the news.  He not only listens, all of us listen.  We have no choice.  I am not a techie but I have heard the word ‘streaming’ used so I assume that is what he was doing. He remained oblivious to all around him and the reaction he was generating.
     Last fall, we were at The Broadway Diner in Saskatoon.  Outside of the front window, there are two tables.  Two young men arrive, sit down, order and then begin texting and emailing on their separate devices.  Having supper are we?  Their supper arrives and they disconnect from their appliances and it appears as if it is to be a regular supper, then one of the phones ring. The fellow answers and the conversation begins.  His partner is busy eating.  My question is: If two people agree to meet for a meal, a drink or a coffee, is it really a meal, a drink or a coffee, if one or both of the parties is absent from the conversation for extended periods of time?
·      Readers write:  This one came from Donna Banks who used to live next door to us.  Donna now resides in Saskatoon.  “Thanks for keeping me in the loop.  Miss the old neighbourhood and still count you and Maureen as the best neighbours ever!”
     Jean McNeil gardens near Ottawa.  Jean writes “So happy to see the appearance of your Garden Report again. Your forewarning us that it will be an irregular production is good. That will take some of the heat off you on a weekly basis.  Always interested to hear that spring has arrived in other areas. It’s been slow here too.”
      Terena Murphy Bannerman has just returned from a vacation, abroad.  She writes “Just catching up on my emails after being 'unplugged' for a month.  I went to visit my French family and my Irish family, and to walk for a few weeks along the Camino de Santiego de Compestela in northern Spain.  A lovely, life-affirming month.  And what a wonderful surprise to find your newsletter; welcome back, whenever you can manage it.  You're well worth the wait!”
     My cousin, Patsy Simon, gardens near Halifax.  She has been experiencing our cool spring.  “Lots of great gardening tips. Thanks for the pics, also. Your garden looks amazing! Is that this year? We are way behind here with the awful weather we've had, our buds are just coming out now on the trees. We even had a frost warning last night. This morning it was 4 deg.”
Rajka tulips in our garden-2014
     This one came from north of Saskatoon from, a first time responder, Brenda Janzen.  “Hi Rod. I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time.  I’m not one to usually respond to blogs, but I just wanted to say I missed your advice, humor and writing this past winter.  I would check from time to time to see if your were back on.  You had mentioned earlier you had medical issues that you were dealing with, and I’ve been praying for you and your family.  Glad you’re back! Your granddaughter looks like she’d steal anyone’s heart!  Our daughter is expecting our first grandchild – and she told us they’re having a girl.  We are very excited! We live 1/2 hour north of Saskatoon in the country.  I love to grow flowers and a large vegetable garden.  So the advice you give has often been helpful.  Most of my roses made it through the winter, but there are 5 or 6 bushes that show no sign of life yet.  I will be patient and wait.  Good to know I can just cut them off and they will regroup from the bottom.”
     June Blau lives across the street from me, so if she disagrees with something I have written, it doesn’t take her too long to air her grievance, personally.  Fortunately, today is not one of those days.  June writes “Oh my dear Rod, it is soooo good to have you back!”
     Wendy Richardson was a  Regina girl, now she is a London woman...and she gardens there, as well.  “I, too, was very glad to see the Garden Report up and running again, because it means that you must be feeling up to doing it and that makes me happy. Of course I love all the content, especially your excellent humour. So glad that you are feeling up to doing this and will keep praying that you are growing stronger every day. You can't keep a good man down.”
     Noelle Chorney is the most excellent editor of The Gardener out of Saskatoon.  She and her staff at The Gardener, follow the sage Garden Report.  The Garden Report reminds them that gardening is supposed to be fun.  Noelle writes  “I was traveling last week, so had limited time at my computer, but I was delighted to see a new Garden Report in my inbox even though I didn't write to say so, and equally delighted to see one again this week! Welcome back. So glad you're feeling better. Thanks also for fighting the good fight against box store plant sales.”
·      Siam, yes I am: It rhymes but it does not make sense.  It is frivolity.  We enjoyed our supper at Siam last Tuesday, immensely.  We started with one of their soups and it was just this side of heaven, that good.  We order medium hot these days, having proudly outgrown our reliance upon mild dishes, and it was hot, for our first bowl, then we settled into a great feast and the heat became bearable.  Next was a pork satay which arrived on skewers, a Thai salad that is both hot and cold and a main curry dish.  Everything except the curry dish was excellent with the curry dish not one of those dishes we will order again.  Siam remains one of our favourite places in Regina, though the service can be a bit bizarre.  The language barrier quickly asserts itself with what is being said and what is being heard, but so what?  It is part of the charm. You might get a surprise or two.  We never seem to mind.  Dinner for two, tax and tip included, was fifty-eight dollars with two lemon teas a part of that $58.
Negrita and Maureen tulips - 2014
·      Garden Tip:  Do not, I repeat, do not give up too soon this season.  There is an adage that says that success belongs not to the talented but to those who persevere.  True words.  I cut back the roses, all the way to the ground, at my place and two other gardens, at the beginning of May.  In total, there were thirty roses.  Each of them appeared dead, as in lifeless, without bud.  All but two have now emerged with growth and several are setting their blooms as I write.  By the end of June, colour will abound and patience will be rewarded. I love success stories. I spent many years in the nursery business and I grew weary of people rushing in at the end of April or early May with one plant or another,  complaining that it was dead, demanding a replacement.  Had they given the plant time, it would have not only leafed out, it would have been a winner, with an established root system that no new plant could compete with. 
·      Garden Tip:  I was picking up some Divine Impatiens at Sherwood Greenhouse this week.  While I was there, the phone rang.  Larry, the owner, answered.  The fellow on the other end demanded to know why regular impatiens are not for sale at most places in the city.  Larry is one of the nicest men that you could meet and he excels at his knowledge in all things horticultural.  He is a real keener for the plant world.  Larry explained to the fellow about Downy Mildew and how it is destroying impatiens crops across North America.  The man on the other end argued.  He had no problems last year, with impatiens, so Larry must be imagining things.  Larry told him “there is a fellow right here who has grown impatiens for forty-one years and lost his entire crop last August.”  That fellow was me, of course.  Still no convincing the caller and Larry hung up in frustration.  How many times have I been on the end of one of those calls, where you provide the caller with the best information you have available, and they still want to argue with you?  I had one lady who, when told that forced bulbs usually do not flower the second year, insulted me.  Yep.  She called me names.  Words I can’t print here.  The late Bud Boughen would say to a caller who argued with his advice, “then why did you phone me if you didn’t want to listen to my answer?”  That comment would make the good ones sit up and take notice but for the ignorant ones, they just kept on arguing what they knew, in their hearts, to be the right answer.
Tulips tucked between a peony and a spirea
·      Nicky’s CafĂ©:  Nicky’s is as much of an old reliable as one can expect.  Each visit, I usually order the liver and onions, with soup, fries and rice pudding.  I am never disappointed.  It is always good.  We went there for supper and I had the basic, the predictable, ‘The ususual’.  Maureen often orders the salmon, which she loves, but this time she went upscale to the Chicken Cordon Bleu.  It arrived, two separate pieces of chicken with a slice of ham and a bit of cheese in the middle.  There was a sauce/gravy covering the meal.  The sauce/gravy was brown and salty.  Other than those two words, it is hard to express another description.   We arrived home, opened the internet to see what Chicken Cordon Bleu looked like at other places.  Yep.  Just what we had imagined.  Maureen thought she was ordering a piece of chicken breast that had been pounded thin, layered with a thin slice of ham and cheese, rolled tightly, breaded and either pan fried or baked with a coating over the chicken.  No comparison with what she had expected and what she had received.  And the sauce/gravy was nowhere close to what it was supposed to have been.  This meal was not their shining moment.  Even the great ones fall short when they exceed their comfort zone.  Next time, we order ‘The usual’ and leave the fancy stuff to Mieka Weins.
·      Garden Tip:  This is a continuation of never giving up or at least hanging on for a  bit longer.  In 1979 or ’80, my memory fades, I planted two apple trees for Margaret Pettick on Garnet Street.  One leafed and bloomed right away.  The second one sat there with nothing to show.  I was prepared to replace it.  Mrs. Pettick, wiser than my youthful years, told me to give it another week.  The week passed and I was about to take it out.  Mrs. Pettick came out of the house and told me that she had had her magnifying glass out and had seen young buds, ready to emerge.  “You should leave that tree where it is.  It will grow.”  I laughed, but she was the boss so I left it.  Thirty years later, the tree blooms every spring and when I drive by, I hear the tree laugh at me saying “there’s that guy who thought I was finished.  Look at who’s limping now?”
·      Pinch me if you really love me:
If you want good looking geraniums, and only if you want the nice ones, learn to pinch.  Pinching is a fancy way of saying that I take off my spent blooms, stem and all, and this allows the new blooms to emerge.  Geraniums benefit from proper pinching and if you still don’t know how it is done, send me an email and I will set up a time for you to come over.  I can show you in under sixty seconds how to do it and soon, your geraniums will be winning blue ribbons.
Geraniums need pinching to look good

·      Garden Tip:  I have been working on a garden for three years, that belongs to someone else.  We receive many visitors as the garden is that good.  This year, it will be on The Secret Garden Tour.  It is ready for that level of inspection.  One of the joys  of working on this garden is the quality of the soil.  When I was building it, I incorporated over sixty bales of peat moss into the garden area, to improve the soil.  This has paid multiple dividends.  The plants have grown exceptionally well and it is easy to look after, as in the cultivation of the weeds.  The texture is so lovely and what you need to read is that it is very important for you to do the same thing.  Add in lots and lots of peat moss.  The late Sandra Whittick, who was truly an outstanding gardener, told me when I was a young man, “you can never add too much peat moss into Regina soil.”  Sandra was so right.  End of conversation.
This garden will be part of the tour this July
·      Mosaic on Friday:  Friday night, we tried three pavilions, all new to us.  First up was The Filipino Pavilion.  Truth in writing: I quite enjoy the company of Filipino people.  I think they are a kind people, very friendly, and hard working.  I believe they are an asset to our country.  They should send a few of our Canadians to train with the Filipinos and learn how to be hard working.  So, there we were.  I enjoyed myself, had some food, watched the dancing, even saw Justin Trudeau make a grand entrance.  He had Ralph with him which is as good as a Mosaic Passport  because everyone loves Ralph.  I was sitting in the front row and looked around.  We were the only Caucasians in the group, the rest being Filipinos.  I didn’t feel out of place.  Note to the Filipinos:  I am available for adoption.  The Scots will let me go for very little money.
      A stop at The Ukrainian Pavilion was right next door.  I kept asking “who here is the real Ukrainian and who here is a poser?” 
The posers laughed.  The real ones, well, each had a story to tell.  Maureen had the borscht.  She said it needed vinegar.  I said it needed sour cream.  We were both right.  Justin Trudeau showed up, again.  I think he is stocking me.
      Next on our list was The Greek Pavilion and it was good as well.  The souvlaki pita I had was short of the requisite amounts of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, feta and taziki sauce.  Did you know that Spell Check does not recognize taziki as a word, in any form?  I asked the server for extra taziki as I am part Greek.  She asked which part and I told her “the garlic part”.  I told her not to laugh at my jokes but she wouldn’t stop.  Maureen had the mousaka and pronounced it good.  The dancing at all three pavilions was excellent.  Sadly, that is not true for every pavilion and all three were well organized. Being well organized is important to me and probably to most Mosaic goers.
·      The Fringe is coming: The web site is up and running.  There are eighteen shows coming, from next door to across the ocean.  This is the tenth year for The Regina Fringe as a registered festival, after a seven year incubation period of producing shows on weekends.  Go to for the details.  July 9th to the 13th are this year’s dates.  This festival is the highlight of my summer. 
My Mrs. thinks my flower passion might qualify
as an addiction
Garden Tip:  If you have plants in a lower spot and they are getting too much water, how do you tell?  If the leaves turn yellow and the veins of the leaf emerge clearly, the plant is suffering overwatering which has lead to a condition known as iron chlorosis.  There are two things that a gardener can do: First, reduce the water, easier said than done most days.  Second, add in Iron Chelate.  You can buy tubs of this product under the label of TruGreen.  It is usually in the thirteen dollar range.  If you can’t find it, and apparently there are a few who cannot, send me an email and I will direct you to a store that I saw this product sold at just last week. 
·      A dad’s day is never done:  I was sitting at a Mosaic Pavilion.  A father and daughter were seated across from me.  The daughter was an adult who has a good job.  She probably makes in the range of fifty thousand a year.  She wanted coffee so she asked her dad for twenty bucks.  Coffee is expensive at Mosaic, but not twenty bucks worth.  Her dad opened his wallet, as I muttered the classic “The Royal Bank of Dad-open twenty-four hours a day”, and she tootled off.  She returned with one coffee, for herself, and no change.  Funny how that works.  It was a bonding moment, at least for the two dads it was.
·      Mosaic Saturday:  Off to the Scots Pavilion we went, to hang with my people.  Great time.  One small problem.  My relatives and friends did not show up.  Not a Kerr, a Trusedale, a Struthers, a Gardiner, a Black or a Fisher to be seen, other than yours truly.  Had a wonderful time with many new friends, ones you would have called strangers, had you not met them.  Sadly, the Scots have seen falling numbers and perhaps a bit better of entertainment would bring the crowds back.  I remember the grand old days, all say “yes dad” in unison now, when the Scots Pavilion was packing them in.  Maureen had the Shepherd’s Pie and pronounced it very good with a lovely taste of spice.  I had nothing.  I was raised in a Scots’ home and I know better than to eat the food or drink the water.  The haggis is for tourists.  Thank you. 
     After we visited a wee bit with the fatherland, we headed over to The Irish Pavilion to party and what a party it was.  The place was packed and really jumping.  Great music and dancing on the stage.  I must be getting a bit on the old side because when the band played, all of the young people knew all of the words to the different songs.  I, on the other hand, didn’t even know there were words to the songs.  I think I quit drinking too soon.  I had a corned beef with cheese on a bun.  Add in a bit of some Irish mustard, which was surprisingly mild yet flavourful, and I had a good time.  I kept my love of the Scots to myself and just clapped in time as the band played on.  Or at least, I think, I clapped in time.  Everyone else appeared to be a bit slow with their clapping.  Must have been the Guinness they were drinking.
·      The telecommunications business hits the big time:  Did you know that as of the last year or two, you are more likely to die from being hit by a driver who is texting or on their cell phone than you are at the hands of a drunk driver?  So, the telecommunication companies have replaced the liquor companies as the largest harbingers of death in this province, on our highways. I am dumbfounded by this news.  Still in a bit of shock.  I am not certain if there is even an award for this situation. Wow!  There will come a day when your mobile devices will somehow not be activated, inside a moving  vehicle, but that day is not today nor is it tomorrow.  Fines are increasing for violators yet there are some diehards who are on their fourth and fifth offence.  If you see me walking down back lanes this summer, you will understand. 
·      Regina is not a big city:  My crew and I were working on a garden.  There was painter at the site, repainting the house.  He and I chatted away, amicably.  A staff member said “you are very friendly with the painter.  Have you worked together before?”  I informed her that the painter is Rayanna’s other grandfather (Lisa’s dad).  “Regina is really a small town at heart, isn’t it?”  And your point is?
·      Today’s thought:  Gee, I wish I were incredibly witty, right now.
'Angelique' tulips this year
Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the heart of gardening season in Regina, Canada.