Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Garden Report #8

July 25th, 2010

• So The Regina Airport has a new, full body scanner. One of those $250,000 machines that can see right through your clothes. I for one, long for the days when flying was fun, exciting, and a grand adventure. Now it is a series of lines, first at Air Canada and then the different levels of security. At every twist and turn, you are being monitored, investigated, inspected and now there is a glorified, high tech ‘peeping tom’ machine in place. All in the name of protecting us. What was a concern, a liability if you like with the occasional high jacking and of course 9/11, is now a billion dollar industry. Rest assured dear reader, this entire security concern is intensive because there are people making money and lots of it. First you create a threat, then you sell the solution at $250,000 a pop. I don’t feel any the safer, just poorer.

• Slugs, ugh! Hate the slimy, little critters. All of God’s creatures have a purpose and I suppose the slug’s purpose is to teach me patience and humility. I refuse to provide them with any more coleus. I planted all of mine in raised pots this year. So what did they chew on? My basil. Yes, the same basil that I have planted for the third time due to the cold and the wet. The basil in my raised herb garden is just fine, out of their reach, but the garden level basil is now ‘holy basil’, pun intended.

• Jeannie Freeman writes in that she enjoys the blog even though she has been reduced to one flower pot on her balcony for a garden. Roberta Nichol responded to my attack on sugar saying that as a teacher, she saw the affect that the sweet addiction had on her students. Alan Bratt responded to my assertion that we must watch out for the Lithuanian plan to take over the universe. Alan ledges that it is the Welsh in need of watching. He points out that they have been monopolizing all of the consonants, just for their town names. Our constant commentator, Marcus Fernando is a new father to a baby boy named Pascal. Marcus has discovered that the perfect way to meet beautiful, young women is to take Pascal for a walk. According to Marcus, they flock to him and Pascal in numbers that he could only dream of when he was single. Kim Lytle wanted to know about red leafed rhubarb and Lyn Goldman wanted to know where were the photos of Murphy? I explained to Lyn that Murphy has now joined ACTRA and is demanding union rates for his likeness. Marg Hryniuk said she had nothing to say but then complained about the blue bells and scentless chamomile, which is a concern to many of us. I saw some ox eye daisy dominating the area by the old Fleet Street Bridge, south of town. Many people look at them as if they are a wild flower, which they are in England, but good luck getting them out of your garden once they have entered. My sister Bonnie wrote in to lodge a complaint about how invasive the daisies have been at her cottage garden. Jodi Sadowsky wrote that she enjoys the blog and Gail White out of Winnipeg has been kept busy chasing a deer out of her back garden. Gail reports that while deer are an enjoyable creature to watch from the kitchen window, they produce a lot of poop that needs cleaning up.

• Took a stroll through Home Depot’s Garden Center. They have many apple trees in stock, none of which are hardy for this area. They don’t do new gardeners a favor by carrying these non hardy varieties. New gardeners, not realizing they are purchasing a tender plant, lose the tree the first year. Then the novice gardener assumes that they do not have the perquisite ‘green thumb’ and give up on this life sustaining adventure. Sad.

• Garden Tip: The best time to prune your evergreens including, spruce, mugho pine, cedars and junipers is between June 25th and July 10th, after the new growth has emerged. Having written that, it is a later year and you still have time to do a little shaping. Best to prune one half of the new growth back, thus removing the terminal bud. The plant now will produce buds from underneath the pruning point, filling out the structure. Pinch back half of the new growth of the candles on your mugho pine in order to keep its growth in check. Writing about mugho or mugo pines, either is correct, we used to have people wander into the garden center asking to inspect our ‘bugle’ pines. We tried not to laugh.

• Tomatoes…oh boy, fresh tomatoes. I have seen a few of the ones growing in pots, turning red. I harvested my first two this afternoon. The garden varieties are still quite some time away, but there is fruit on them there plants. My favorite way of serving up fresh garden tomatoes is to slice and arrange on a nice plate, chop up a good quantity of fresh basil and place over top, then drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I find that you don’t even notice the absence of salt.

• Salt: It is right in there with sugar, heroin, cocaine and few other things that are addictive and not so good for us. I was reading the label of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney. It said a serving size was half a tablespoon. Who here has ever used only half a tablespoon of chutney on their chicken? More like two or three tablespoons. Regardless, half a tablespoon had twenty per cent of your daily salt intake. Wow! Why?

• Reducing salt intake has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure.

• When I had the garden center, my blood pressure on a good day was 140/90 and on a bad day it would rise to 165/130, which is a one way ticket to ‘stroke city’. Three weeks after I sold Lakeview, my doctor panicked, thinking I was in congestive heart failure because my blood pressure dropped to a reasonable 110/70, where it has stayed for five years. Does anyone want to suggest that stress increases blood pressure?

• Garden Tip: Summer pruning of most shade trees is okay with the exception of elms, because of Dutch Elm Disease; and birch do not enjoy a summer prune. Other species are just fine with it.

• Blooming this week: Incredible, colorful, exotic, magical lilies. Everywhere. Saw some (inject superlative here) lilac lilies on the 2300 block of Montague.

• Number Three Son (Patrick) and his lovely, new bride flew home from Edmonton on Friday for a ten day visit with Mom and Dad. Needless to write but I will anyways, Maureen is ecstatic, having them in the guest room. I have already delivered my infamous speech, you know the one that starts “this is not a hotel nor is it a restaurant and your mom is not your maid and I am not your cook”. The only problem was that as I was delivering said monologue, Maureen was changing the towels and I was cooking them supper. I asked Patrick point blank, “are you being a good husband?” His response was “I have you for a role model, don’t I?” Good answer…very, good answer!

• Garden Tip: If you are looking for a lower growing, deciduous shrub, ‘Magic Carpet’ Spirea is an excellent choice. It finishes out around fifteen inches tall, spreads twenty-four inches and it has pink blooms over golden foliage.

• Exciting and upcoming news! My incredibly handsome nephew, Daniel Jackson (brother to the legendary Michelle of television fame) is getting married this coming Saturday. Daniel rose to the ‘most favored’ relative spot by taking his Uncle Rod to Nicky’s Café for my birthday, and Daniel paid for the meal. This had never happened before. My entire adult life, I have been stuck with the tab for each and every meal outside of the home. Now I know why people always say you never forget your first time. I assume they are talking about a free meal? Had I known that Daniel was paying, I would not have ordered the senior’s special. There would have been shrimp appetizers for everyone!

• Garden Tip: Georgia Hearn and I are doing some landscaping. We have hundreds of trees and shrubs planted and most are doing fine, except for four cranberries. No matter how much water we applied, they were often flagging (leaves drooping). So, we dug them up and sure enough, the bottom of the root ball was dry. For some reason, the water was not penetrating to the bottom of the planting hole. Georgia filled the holes with water and reinstalled the shrubs and all was fine. The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to examine the bottom of the issue to understand the top…or something profoundly more clever than that.

• Somehow the above relates to what our reader from Grand Forks, B.C., Garfield Marshall often says: “Just when we think we are the most brilliant of people, Mother Nature makes fools of us all.”

• My longtime family doctor, Proctor Girard, had a sign posted in his office that read: “I am sorry if my diagnosis does not agree with the one you downloaded from the internet.” I loved that sign as it reflected many of my experiences. People would ask my advice only to inform me that it did not match that of some website. Gardening is a set of local experiences. Everyday occurrences in Ohio are not so common here and growth habits in Toronto are usually greater than in Regina. Truth in horticulture is not one solid set of facts even though some people would prefer them to be so.

• Tied into the above: I grow some plants really well and others not so good. I admit that I am not all things to all species. My lobelia is often a disaster. But I grow some of the finest amaryllis and I have done so a thousand times. Maureen allows me to grow twenty-five of these lovely bulbs every October and November in our kitchen and family room, as I no longer have a greenhouse. I say I am going to sell them but I invariably give them away. So, one Christmas, I give my amaryllis away, in full bloom, to my neighbors, friends and relatives. Of course, I give everyone proper care instructions. We attended a Christmas party and one of the recipients was sitting beside me and informed me that her cousin, you know the cousin who knows everything about plants, told her how to care for the amaryllis and it did not match my instructions. I just stared at her. She waited for my rebuttal. I simply told her it was her plant and she could do what she wanted. And the next day, I got a phone call from yet another gift recipient. She informed me that her housekeeper has inspected the amaryllis and had decided that I planted the bulb in much too small of a pot, and did I not know any better? I didn’t speak my mind because I am of course Canadian through and through, but the next year the cousin who knows everything about plants and the housekeeper were instructed to grow their own amaryllis and show me how it should be done. I am still waiting to inspect their horticultural skills.

• A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing: In 1982 and 1983, Heather Lowe and I looked after Molson House and their surrounding landscaping. It was a nice, smaller project that took the two of us two hours every Tuesday and Friday. In other words, eight hours a week. The manager called us in at the end of the second year and thanked us for the good work we had done but he had to advise us we would not be back for year three. The union had decided it should be a full time job. This stuff happens. So they hire a young man to look after the grounds. He falls behind on his weeding program. Someone tells him, you know Rod and Heather used to spray Roundup on the weeds? He bought some chemical and applied it. This story almost writes itself, doesn’t it? A few weeks later, the manager calls us in as many of the shrubs are sick and dying. We talk to the new gardener. Yep. He had sprayed Roundup on those weeds. Except, some of the weeds were suckers from the lovely lilac and honeysuckle bushes. Suckers are always connected to the root of the mother plant, so the toxicity was easily transmitted. He didn’t know the difference. It was not a pretty site.

• Political correctness takes all the fun out life. I just mentioned that to my significant other as we debated the ethnic origins of her frugality. I don’t know exactly what she said but there was some mumbling about “Scottish assholes…” She will be hearing from The Robbie Burns Defamation League lawyer.

• Garden Tip: A partial list of the vines that you can grow in the Regina area include Virginia Creeper, Dropmore Scarlet Trumpet Honeysuckle, Grape Vines including native, Valiant and Beta, Clematis which can be tender and hops. Roses are not usually a success though Bernie Zaharic has grown a climber for over twenty years, but it requires continual winter protection. The late Sandra Whittick, who was one of my favorite gardeners, used to grow cotoneasters and train them to behave as if they were a vine.

• Sandra’s favorite advice to new gardeners was “you can never add too much peat moss into Regina soil.” It is great advice.

• Last week I sent ten photos as attachments. Some of your servers would not let those files through. Sorry about that. Patrick is home for the week and he has promised to teach me how to reduce files and photos so they will transmit easier and faster. This is why I fed him for twenty years. So that he could be my free IT guy as I enter my golden years.

• Happy Gardening…enjoy the heat and the plant growth…Rod McDonald

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