Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Garden Report #6

July 11, 2010

• Gardening above all else, should be fun. I have had two separate conversations this week with people who have taken on more than they can handle, and their gardens now own them. I have found in my garden, that there should be enough work for me to break into a good sweat, and enough time for me to sit on the swing, enjoying a cold glass of sun tea. There is a reason why I employ so much groundcover. Because it is very little work and it covers a lot of territory. If I were to replace all of the groundcover with annuals, I would have to add a few more hours to the day, just to weed and to deadhead. You should always own the garden. The garden should never own you. Philosophy 101.

• SCN is still on the air and ‘Prairie Gardens with Rod McDonald’ is still being broadcast every Friday at six p.m. There were twenty-six episodes shot and they rotate them. Viewers are still watching the show as they stop me in the street to ask about plants showcased on the series.

• I never know how my writing will influence someone. Some of you might remember my column that appeared every week in The Regina Free Press back in 1997 and 1998. One of those columns was about The MS 150 Bike Tour, a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis. I told the readers how much fun it was to be on the ride. A reader told me this week that her girlfriend, while never having met me, read the column and has been biking on the tour ever since.

• Boys are easier to raise than girls. I really thought that line last week would generate a strong debate. Not a chance. Got three emails, all agreeing with me. Gail Aubin, a reader from Carman in southern Manitoba, writes that she has three sons and that her twin boys graduated high school this June. She said for a hundred bucks each, Moore’s outfitted them with the tux, the shoes and the socks and the tie. Her friends who had daughters, spent around $1500 for their girls. Which proves, boys are cheaper to raise than girls.

• Transplanting? Always a great argument over spring versus fall. For the most part, all books and seminars will tell you that spring transplanting of existing material is the best. Having written that, one day several years ago, I was really ticked with my underperforming day lilies. I decided that I would transplant them. One problem. It was the middle of August and it was 32 in the shade. It was the middle of the afternoon and there was not a cloud in site. I dug up around thirty of them and they found a new home in a much brighter, sunny area. I gave them a good soaking and never lost one of them. In fact, those day lilies have been the mother plants for at least a hundred roots that I have since given away to friends and neighbors. What is the secret to good transplanting? Take as big of a root ball as you can handle. Simple as that.

• The following people took the time to write this week: Gail Bowen, Dave Calam’, Chris Pasterfield’, Cheryl Ann Smith (England), Casey Van Vloten (Vancouver), Cheryl Hutton (Calgary), Audrey Drummond, Ella McIntyre, Murray Wallace, Gail Aubin (Carman, Man.), Jack Tunnicliffe, Joan Kortje, June Mayhew, Ken McCaw, Kathleen Irwin, Marg Hryniuk, Marcus Fernando (Croatia), Marsha Kennedy, Carlo Giambatista, Paula Grolle, Peg St. Godard, Roberta Nichol, Susan Rollins, Laura Ross and Roberta Cox. Thank you for taking the time.

• Our old friend Gursh Madhur, who used to rule the roost from her command post at Access Seven was back in town for a few days and she telephoned. She is now Gursh Barnard, after her marriage to David, who is The President of The University of Manitoba. Two years ago, Gursh and David’s home in Winnipeg was being renovated so they moved into an apartment for the summer. One week, she kept saying to David, “I hear Rod McDonald’s voice, over and over again.” David assured Gursh that she was losing her grip with reality. At week’s end, David discovered that Maureen and I were renting the apartment across from theirs and that every day for an hour, I read the script from my play out loud and then for another hour, I recited my lines. Doing those two things helped to keep me sharp for that evening’s performance as we were on tour. My line reads were bleeding through the walls ever so slightly, just enough for Gursh to imagine she could hear me. We had a coffee and a good laugh before heading out on the road.

Garden Tip: For lawns in shady areas, I have been using 17-20-0-15 fertilizer (which has now been relabeled as 17-19-0-14), available from CPS Distributors on McDonald Street North. I apply five pounds per thousand square feet in early May, mid June and again in mid August. I find the sulphur (the fourth number) seems to help in greening everything up without making the grass grow an inch every day.

• Blooming this week: My very exotic Martagon Lily. This is one the few lilies to thrive in the shade. It finishes out in the three to four feet range and while it is not the prettiest girl of the lily family, it is an unusual one. Mine is a hard to describe shade of red with downward facing blooms. It has not yet multiplied as it is in only its third year but I am told it will. Japanese Tree Lilac is starting to show off all over the city. It is a medium sized tree with white blooms. There are some planted around Earl’s and near The Science Center. Lindens will be blooming soon as I see their buds forming. If you have never taken the time to smell the blooms of a linden tree, then do so this year. It will be a real treat. Some soap producers even use the oil from this bloom to scent their soaps. Absolutely lovely. Where to find some nice ones? In front of The Royal Saskatchewan Museum and there is also a gorgeous specimen located slightly west of the church at Elphinstone and Regina Avenue. Large leafed linden trees are also known as Basswood or American Basswood.

• In this week’s Garden Report, there are five photographs. Maureen took them but it was our friend Jodi Sadowsky who came over on Saturday and showed us how to save them. In the land of the blind, the one eyed is truly king, or queen in this case. Thank you, Jodi.

• With no sense of irony, The Garden Report this week is being written from my laptop computer in the garden. While I drink my coffee, the robins are busy sharing the strawberry patch and there is one random white butterfly floating around the ‘Morden Sunrise’ Rose. The sun is shining in its full glory and there is no wind. Maureen is reading the paper from her spot on the swing. Murphy, the orange cat, stretches out on the back steps, waiting for some innocent soul to scratch his tummy…and then he will launch his attack!

• Because of my appearance, I am often mistaken as being German or Dutch. When I walk past the Lufthansa or the KLM Desk at The Toronto Airport, people often address me in one of those two languages. It rarely happens here but yesterday I was in Maple Leaf Bakery and this grandmother starts a conversation with me, in German. I stood there with a stupid grin on my face, nodding appropriately. Finally, I picked up a loaf of bread and said one word “pumpernickel”. I thought that my lack of a German accent would indicate to this woman that we should carry on our conversation in English. Nope. With that one word of “pumpernickel” she launched into quite an animated diatribe as to why I should be buying rye bread and not pumpernickel. I actually seemed to understand what she was saying, but I still had to defend my choice in English. She didn’t miss a beat in the argument and went on to explain, in German, how wrong I was.

• There are many yellow potentilla blooming right now. The two most dominant are ‘Goldfinger’ which has the larger blooms, the size of a loony; and ‘Coronation Triumph’ which has blooms the size of a dime. Interesting to note that ‘Coronation Triumph’ which is grown all over the world was developed in Indian Head, by the late Mr. Walker.

• With our very late spring, some of you did not plant your annuals or if you did, you lost many of them to the wet, the cold and the hail. Do not be discouraged. Even though it is getting towards the middle of July, there is still time left to plant some of your yard. There are lots of nice plants available at the greenhouses and the garden centers and yes, I am following my own advice. I found a lovely pot of Thai basil labeled as ‘Siam Basil’ at The Farmers’ Market yesterday. It was planted within the hour.

• Writing of herbs, we grilled some lovely, thick pork chops the other night. For a finish to the grilling, I combined basil, lemon thyme and oregano from my garden with lemon juice and olive oil. I brushed the concoction onto the meat and it was so tasty. As you know, I love my big flavors.

• Is there anything that hot peppers do not improve? Okay, maybe porridge, I’ll give you that one.

• Tough one to mention but desperate times call for desperate actions. As most of you know, I was diagnosed with renal failure in 2001. I have been on dialysis, nine hours every night for the last three years, which replaces around fifteen per cent of my kidney function. Bottom line is that I am sick. I am on the list, a very long list, waiting for a cadaveric transplant. I have had six people volunteer to donate one of their kidneys as living donors, but no one was a suitable candidate. For some people, donating a kidney is not a difficult decision but for most of us, it is one filled with intense anxiety. I don’t know if I would have ever been willing to donate one of mine, except perhaps to my kids. Having written that, I know how difficult it is to read this request, let alone consider it. If you would be willing to entertain the idea and you wish to explore it further, you can contact The Saskatchewan Transplant Clinic. Possible candidates have to be in good health, under seventy years of age, blood type of A or O, be related to me or have an ‘emotional attachment’ to me. There can never be any money exchanged for the ‘gift of life’ and there can never be any coercion. Tough one to read, tough one to write but you get to a point where you are sick enough that you lower your false sense of pride and reach out to a wider community.

• Coercion, to save you time from looking it up, is me reminding you that I caught you smoking in the boys’ washroom in Grade Nine and that I am quite willing to tell your mom about it now.

• We went for a lovely bicycle ride to Grandma’s house today and we had one of Sharon Wallace’s Saskatoon pies in tow. As we rode along the bike path, we stopped to chat with a gardener whose yard backs onto The Royal Regina Golf Course. She told us that this year, her radishes are growing leaves as never before but the roots or edible bulb is not developing. When we got to Grandma’s house (my mom) we had a nice little visit. Mom is 88 and going strong. Her memory is still intact, both long term and short term. I am waiting for it to slip a little and then I plan to tell her stories of how well behaved I was as a teenager. As of this afternoon, Mom insists that I was an excellent child until the age of two…and then things started to go wrong. Funny, that is not how I remember it at all.

• Question of the week: Why is it that 98% of the people who wear spandex to ride their bicycles, shouldn’t? Cotton for me until I lose thirty pounds!

• Found a white leafed dieffenbachia this week and I planted it in a pot. It sure makes everything around it seem brighter. White is a great color for making things pop. Purple tulips never look so purple as when you plant a few white tulips in amongst them. We use white impatiens to separate our stronger colors.

• Here is one for the ‘people are strange column’. My friend Jan Pederson owned Shelmerdine Garden Center in Winnipeg. He was being interviewed on the radio about Christmas plants, specifically poinsettias. He mispronounced the name as point-settia instead of poin-settia which is correct. The next day, a woman called to bawl him out over his mispronunciation. Jan agreed that he had made a mistake and then he asked her if she did this sort of thing often. Phoned up people who had mispronounced words on the radio. She told him yes, yes she did. Speaking of the grammar police, reader June Mayhew points out that I referred to Fibber Magee as Fiber Magee last week. Fibber, at his age, does need more fiber. True enough.

Thanks for reading this week and happy gardening…Rod McDonald

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