Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Garden Report #4

• A thank you to all of the readers of this blog and for all of the positive comments from last week’s report. Twenty-two of you took the time to respond, offer up opinions, share tips and ask questions. There was a response from Marcus Fernando who lives in Croatia, Jimmy Gibbs shared his block party approach to tree banding in the Woolsey area of Winnipeg and Lyn Goldman is concerned there could be a cat hater lose in the neighborhood. Candace Holmstrom wrote in to say that the blog makes her feel connected to the community, which is one of the nicest compliments she could write.

• On Thursday evening, I experienced the worst hail of my gardening career. Hail is an isolated event and I know that some of my friends as little as six blocks away, were not affected. Ron Labatt who lives a few kilometers south of the city, said he watched the storm as it dropped its pellets of ice over the city, but he barely got any moisture at all. The hail sliced up many of my wider leafed plants and it flattened baskets, pots and groundcovers alike. One of Maureen’s favorite plants is the ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ pink peony. The blooms took a real beating. As it was hailing, all I could think about was how many times this spring I took my plants into the garage to protect them from the cold. In retrospect, I should have fed them to the ‘Gods of Frost’ rather than saving them for the wrath of hail.

• Having written the above, who was out in his garden, replacing damaged plants and cutting back salvageable ones today? Gardeners are true optimists as pessimists would give up. It will take at least two to three weeks to get my garden back to ‘show garden’ quality.

• Blooming this week: I saw some lovely Abbotswood White Potentilla which are about two to three feet high and will bloom well into October. Also, spireas are now in their glory and looking good. The peonies that were not hit by hail are looking very lovely. Saw some very unusual ones on Edinburgh Drive . I had my first two strawberries of the season this afternoon and I am anticipating more. I share them with the robins.

• I wrote last week that I absolutely adore food with intense flavors. Twenty years ago, there was almost a cult following of the Hot and Sour Soup that was being served at Tan Hoa on Dewdney Avenue. The soup was so popular that my friend Han deJong, who lives in Vancouver, would get off the plane and ask to be driven right away to the restaurant for ‘his fix’. Tan Hoa faded away after some problems with The RCMP’s Drug Squad. Recently, I have been getting my Hot and Sour high at Dong Khahn near Albert and 12th. It tastes the same as the Tan Hoa recipe and has all of the intense flavors. To those who have never ordered this product before, be forewarned: when it arrives at your table, it will appear as if it is the byproduct of the garburator. Close your eyes and enjoy the soup.

• Garden Tip: This is a repeat one. With all of this rain, there is an increase of iron chlorosis in many plants. The main symptom is premature yellowing and the veins on the leaves being accentuated. The treatment is to reduce the water and add in Iron Chelate which is a product of Plant Prod.

• Another Garden Tip: I have had three inquiries from Lakeview residents about the noxious weed with the purple flowers on it that has dominated the gardens this year. First of all, let me assure you that I used to know the name of the weed but I have forgotten it. Secondly, I phoned my friend at The Department of Agriculture to ask him what the name is, but he wasn’t’ in. I forgot to call him back. Here is what I do know. This weed is very difficult to control, so it is best to get a quick start on dealing with it. It is Round Up susceptible so if you are going that route, exercise caution. The best way to apply the Round Up is to put on a rubber glove and dip your thumb and forefinger into the solution and then stroke the broadest part of the leaf. Do not get Round Up on any plant you wish to keep.

• Do you want a link with history? My long time friend, Michel Touchette of Jeffries’ Nurseries in Portage, sent in this offer for the blog readers. There are several new roses being released in 2013 from The Canadian Artist Series. Emily Carr is one that has already been released. If you want to suggest a name for a new rose, and the name must be of a known Canadian artist, then forward your suggestion to No money, no fame. Just bragging rights.

• True story on bragging rights: Dr. Henry Marshall, the famous rose breeder told me this one. He was in the backwoods of Manitoba and his radiator overheated. He pulled into a farm yard and asked the farm wife for some water. She directed him to the hose bib around the corner of the house. While getting the water, Henry noticed a ‘Cuthbert Grant’ rose growing. He asked the farm wife how she enjoyed the plant. She said it was her favorite. He told her with great pride, “you know, I am the man who developed that rose?” She looked at Henry who was up in years by this time, and responded “sure you did ‘dearie’, sure you did.”

• I have often written in my trade journal columns that the word free is the most powerful word in the English language. That one word makes people stop and read. So does the word sex, so just imagine the readership one would get by using the heading free sex. Regardless, I have some free plants to give away to my readers. I have four pots of day neutral strawberries. There are five plants in each pot. I have four pots of day lilies and there are a few plants in each pot. I dug them up to make room for more tomatoes. They are very healthy plants. I will leave them on my front steps and I ask that you take only one pot and leave the rest for other gardeners. That is good karma. Please do not ring the bell, as I never know when I will be asleep. The plants are all in used hanging baskets. This offer is not open to our readers in Croatia.

• True story about free plants: My friend Pete Barry, who has long ago passed away, told me this one. Pete loved to garden and he started many of his plants in his little greenhouse on Garnet Street. One year, Pete had plants leftover so being a good neighbor, he gave people on the block a few plants. One woman got marigolds, one got tomatoes and so on. The next spring, Pete’s phone starts ringing and it is the neighbors calling. “Last year you gave me yellow marigolds and I really could have used orange.” Another called and told him that she wanted ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes not ‘Tiny Tim’s’. And so on. They were placing orders with him! Pete never gave them plants again. Almost a ‘Henny Penny’ story.

• Strange but true, free plants again: The PFRA had an open house. They asked me to donate a door prize. Something Saskatchewan. So I donated a ‘Thunderchild’ Flowering Crabapple, developed in Saskatoon. It was worth fifty bucks. They had a draw. They told the winner to pick up his tree from Lakeview. The codger shows up and demands a cherry tree. He doesn’t need nor does he want a crab. I told him this was the free prize and he told me that I had to give him a cherry tree or “I don’t want anything at all.” Well, I have always believe in accommodating special requests, so I told him he could have nothing at all and I showed him the gate. His wife came back that afternoon for the tree, and apologized for her husband’s behavior.

• Okay, one Murphy story, but only because he is so cute. I had three lovely pots filled with pansies on my back steps. The hail flattened them. They are now residing in an obscure part of the garden, hopefully recovering. I moved into their place, three lovely pots that had been sitting on top of our outdoor fireplace. The three new pots have ornamental grasses in them. Murphy has been eating them this afternoon as I write the blog. Now he is gagging and throwing up as only a cat can do. I tell him “don’t eat the grass plants, they will make you sick”, but does he listen?

• Number three son tells me to buy a birthday present for his mother. I ask why do I have to pay for the gift as he is now thirty and makes good money. His response is that he is saving his money so that we can have grandchildren. I had no idea money was involved. I always thought having children was a result of fooling around with your wife. He’s right. I don’t know anything.

• Lots of photos this week. The two shots of the Little Leaf Lilac are courtesy of Heather Lowe and the shot of Ross and I at the ranch was taken by Ingrid Thiessen. The others were taken by Maureen and are of flowers in our yard.

• Happy Gardening…Rod

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Garden Report #3

• Thank you to all 23 of you who responded to last Sunday’s blog (up from 12 the week before). Bernie and Jennifer Cohen asked me to mention that good rye bread is available at Oscar’s/Maple Leaf on 11th Avenue. We also enjoy their pumpernickel and ‘Saskatchewan Fields’ bread. Lynn Goldman asked for more stories on Murphy the cat and Shelley Kelln wanted to know when to take her tree bands off. Murphy the cat says that you should take your tree bands off now. If you leave them on much longer, they will soften the tissue of the bark and that is not a good thing.

• If you didn’t hear the big bang the other night around 1:30 a.m., you must be the world’s soundest sleeper. Everyone I spoke with thought it was either a bomb or a plane crash. Everyone was convinced it was right over top of their house, no matter what part of Regina they live in. I was up at the time and our windows rocked and our dishes vibrated. I can only recall one or two other times in all my years, that I have heard a thunder clap such as that one.

• Rain, rain, go away…Okay. I am a prairie boy and I am not supposed to complain about moisture, but I have had my fill, no pun intended. With all of this moisture, I am predicting that this season will be the worst one ever for powdery mildew. I predict that you will find it on caragana hedges throughout the province as well as dogwoods and some other plants. The treatment for powdery mildew is a fungicide but do not expect wonderful results. Slugs will also be a huge problem. Maureen says that her beer cups are full with the creatures and she is even considering a chemical alternative, so desperate is she.

• Chickweed is sprouting all over Lakeview and other areas. Perfect year for it. Did you know that you can actually eat chickweed? It has a sprout like taste to it and it is a breath freshener. I have a young man working with me this summer and I shared this information with him. Strangely, he would not try to eat any until I had ingested a large handful.

• My mixed bed along Angus Street has much lamium as groundcover. In early April, I had a different young man assisting me with spring cleanup. I asked him to rake the leaves from the bed. He did, but gingerly and carefully. I told him to give the lamium hell, that it enjoyed a good scrap. “Really clean up the leaves”, I instructed. He did. He really did. He beat the living you know what out of my lamium and I thought, “wow, this will never come back”. It came back stronger and more vigorous than ever before. There is a moral to this story, but I am not certain what it is, just yet.

• This was supposed to be our transition week in our own garden. That time when we pull out our tulips (we treat them as annuals and plant them every September) and replace them with impatiens. It was a gallant attempt, but we only got five of our twenty flats planted, again due to rain.

• My strawberries are showing signs of chlorosis which has been induced by too much water. If you have a plant, any plant, that has premature yellowing of the leaves, chances are that the plant has chlorosis. Susceptible plants include roses, apples, plums and pears, mountain ash and saskatoons, but any plant can be affected. The treatment includes reducing the water (good luck) and treating with iron chelate. I used to sell a lot of iron chelate but for whatever reason, it has become increasingly difficult to find. Email me if you need to know where it can be found.

• One of our readers, Marion Volpel, asked about bleeding hearts and where best to plant them. If you plant them in full sun, they are usually gone quite quickly as they will turn crispy brown, as do native ferns. If you plant bleeding hearts in a cooler, shadier area, they last much longer.

• Blooming profusely this week are Little Leaf Lilacs also known as Dwarf Korean Lilac. Growing between four and six feet tall, they have lavender, fragrant flowers. Other lilacs starting their blooming period include villosa lilacs, sometimes called ‘late lilacs’. The earlier blooming lilacs in May, are usually French Lilacs and common lilacs.

• Love to eat…love to talk about food. Due to my dialysis, I am not allowed to eat in restaurants very often (salt, potassium and phosphorus restrictions). But when I do, I love big, big flavor. Two of my favorite places are Siam on Hamilton Street and 13th Avenue Coffee House at Garnet and 13th. Both places pack a lot of flavor into their dishes. I did try The Afghan place on north Albert this week and I was a tad disappointed. I was hoping for much more. The samosas were really good but the other dishes were not memorable. They did not make me go ‘wow’. I will give it one more try to see if I can find a dish that puts me over the top. When we want a diner, we always turn to Nicky’s on Winnipeg Street. All of the staff including Nicky and Perry treat us so well. Nicky told me that his customers are not customers to him, “they are my friends”. And he is not just mouthing some slogan he heard on Oprah.

• Did I make a snarky about Oprah? That should get me at least another twenty email responses. I was sitting in the eye surgeons office. Nice man that he is, he has a plasma television for his patients to watch while they wait. What was on? Oprah. What was her topic? Why do men cheat? I was the only male in the room with six females and they all turned to me at once and started demanding answers. Why do men cheat? They were shouting. What could I do but go “shush…let’s watch and we’ll all learn something.” I was lucky to get out of there with my one good eye intact.

• Did you know that pansies make a wonderful bouquet for your kitchen. The secret is to cut them really short and place them in a low bowl with water, almost letting them float. We have done that for years and it brightens our kitchen.

• The five photos in the attachment you may have already seen. Patrick (number three son) took them last year and entered them in the computer. We hope to have some of the new ones in the weeks to come.

• In last week’s blog, I mentioned that Heather Lowe, Donna Burton, Mike Liske and Brad Crassweller were all excellent choices if you were needing design or landscape work. I omitted one other excellent designer, landscape architect, Ingrid Thiessen. As an architect, Ingrid really knows her plant material and she has a Master’s degree. Also, we shared the same mentor, Dieter Martin, and we have worked together on a few projects.

• Farmers’ Market Tip: The finest honey I have ever eaten is available from Wink Howland, the fellow who wears the pith helmet. Wink says that his honey bees feed off of clover and that is the taste I love. As an aside, when I was a Leader Post paper boy in 1965, Wink was my District Manager.

• This one is for Lynn Goldman. Murphy the cat disappears every night for a few hours. I found out that he hangs out at O’Hanlon’s on Scarth Street, downing a few Guinness. His excuse is he is part Irish. Get this: Maureen leaves the porch light on so he can find his way home!

Happy Gardening…Rod McDonald

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Garden Report #3

• Well, this is the second one and I really have no idea where I am going with this blog. I sent it out to about a hundred of you and I had very positive responses from a dozen of you who enjoyed it. Apparently that is a good rate of response. Thanks for your comments. Many of you told me that you forwarded it to your friends and that is okay with me.

• My tulips are into the home stretch and will be finished this week. My Maureen has actually taken several photographs of them and once she figures out how to download them to her computer and send them to me, I will include them as an attachment. Yes, it is true. We are Luddites at this household. This is what happens when your techie children grow up and move out.

• Canker worms are out in full force and it appears as if it will be rough year. I was out in the garden tonight and I killed several hundred of the critters with little effort. Buddhist, I am not.

• Several of you have inquired what is the larger bush blooming all over the city this week. It is none other than the very common Arnold’s Red Honeysuckle and it has never bloomed as strongly as it has this year. Each year has a different set of conditions that favor one plant and punish another. Also in full glory right now is Three Lobed Spirea which about two to three feet tall and filled with white blooms. It has a slight weeping habit.

• With all of the rain and cool this season, expect to see a lot of slugs and mildew issues. Not surprisingly, there are a few mushrooms growing in my front lawn.

• Maureen asked me to mention that an excellent approach to slug control, especially if you have hostas (and we have close to a hundred) is good old beer. She takes a Styrofoam coffee cup and plants the cup close to the hostas and then pours a few ounces of beer into the cup. For those detail freaks, she uses Molson’s Canadian but I don’t know why. I suspect the slugs do not get every ounce. Well, apparently, slugs have keen abilities to detect smells and they are attracted to the beer. They fall into the cup to have a drink and they drown which is also what happened to one of my uncles at the brewery. And he swam around for an hour or two, totally ignoring the ladder his buddies dropped in for him. Be forewarned that if your slugs have joined AA, this will not work.

• Little Princess Spriea is a great shrub that I have been in love with for fifteen years. It is such an anchor in my garden and the only care it requires is a light haircut every spring. Worth planting in many gardens.

• Michel Touchette over at Jeffries’s Nurseries in Portage la Prairie tells me that there is a new introduction from Rick Durand, who is a renowned plant breeder. It is called Gladiator Flowering Crab and it is an improvement from Thunderchild, which is one of my all time favorites. I am ordering a few from him and planting them at a project I am working on.

• A few of you have been asking if I am back in the trade and if I am available. Yes and no. I have one customer and he treats me well but I really don’t want any more than that one. If that changes, I will let you know. If you want some landscaping advice or work done, there are four firms that I can recommend. All four of the owners worked with me at Lakeview Gardens and I can vouch for their abilities. They include Heather Lowe of Heather Lowe: Landscape Design, Brad Crassweller at Outdoor Expressions, Michael Liske at The Classic Landscape Company and Donna Burton at The Urban Gardener. Each has their specialty so if you let me know what you are looking for, I will point you in the right direction.

• Found some basil at Sherwood Greenhouses, which is a very clean, well run greenhouse that I recommend. Larry, who runs it does a very fine job. It is on the east side of CKCK T.V.

• Also found some lovely basil and other herbs at The Farmers’ Market on Saturday. The good plants are available from the small booth on the south west side. There are a few other plant booths but their quality is not up to par, sorry.

• A few other greenhouses that meet my standards (and God knows I am fussy) include U and K out at Indian Head, Cory Park in Saskatoon and my beloved mentor’s place is at Langham, outside of Saskatoon and it is called Dieter Martin’s Greenhouse. Each of these have their specialties so again, tell me what you are looking for and I will tell you what your best choice would be.

• Bazart is coming up this week and The Mackenzie will be selling a 2011calander as fundraiser. The front cover is of my garden (proud parent that I am) and the photo for either April or May is of my tulip beds from last year. Our friend Jan Dockham, from The Leader Post gave permission for the gallery to use the cover photo as it belonged to the paper.

• Last but not least, for my fellow carb junkies out there, Carlos over at The Italian Star is selling loaves of the finest sourdough, rye I have eaten. It is baked by The Willow. I also had some to die for bread sticks from Koko patisserie. They were labeled olive, herb and parmesan sticks.

• Thanks for reading and enjoy your garden…Rod McDonald