Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Garden Report #13

August 29th, 2010

A ranch house that I am landscaping
• It is a rainy, cool Sunday in the garden. Murphy complains that it is wet and balks at going out, but eventually responds to the call of the wild. The garden is in good shape. I knew it would rain today so I spent yesterday getting everything clipped and looking good. I think it is the perfect morning to make blueberry pancakes. This time I add in three teaspoons of cornmeal to give them a bit of crunch. They are wonderful. I eat mine with maple syrup. Maureen refuses to be a Canadian cultural cliché, eh. She insists on eating hers with cherry jam from Lumsden. She is a woman of strong opinions. I know. I have been the beneficiary of those opinions. They have made me a better man. That is what she tells me. She does not think I am funny. That is why I write. To find an audience. You have my permission to start laughing. That’s enough. Save some for later.
Murphy loves Christmas
• ‘The Symphony Under the Sky’ was another resounding success. It was culture the way it should be. Families, babies, seniors, teenagers, everyone was out for this event and I suspect there were between five and seven thousand in attendance. The music was great. Neighbors chatted. People connected with old friends they had not seen in a while. People strolled, eating ice cream as the orchestra played. It was so casual and the ending. Wow! The cannons were going off and the fireworks shot skyward to finish Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture.’ I have heard it played before, indoors of course, and for the cannon shots, they fired a cap pistol into an empty oil barrel. Nothing matches a real cannon. Kaboom!

• After the symphony, we ran into friends and faithful readers of this blog, Gary and Ina Field. They were kind enough to take us for supper at Peking House on Rose Street. The food was very good, well prepared and served hot. This was only my second time at this place but I am impressed, so it gets a recommendation from me…and my tummy.

Garden Tip: Some of you wrote in regarding growths on your Shubert Cherries. What you are looking at is called prunus knot and it infects any member of the prunus family which is plums and cherries. Prunus knot can be found in the wild populations of native chokecherries as well. It must be cut out of the tree, at least six inches below the point of infection. This often means, the tree is destroyed and cannot be saved. For what it is worth, Heather Lowe and I discovered the first case of prunus knot in the city in 1982. We found it growing in a Mayday Tree on Mayfair Crescent. We didn’t know what it was and we had to take it to the provincial lab to have it analyzed.

Garden Tip: Prunus cistina has many common names and they are all the same plant. They include Cistina Cherry, Purple Leaf Plum, Purple Sandcherry and similar variations.

Rod and Georgia Hearn ensuring this rock doesn't blow away!
• Your comments: Reader Alan Bratt wrote about his fond memories of Max Bortnik as did Roberta Nichol and Lyn Goldman. Alan remembers purchasing a Bob Dylan record from Max and it was in mono. Jeannie Freeman chatted about the Shubert growing close to her balcony. Heather Lowe wrote “you are a funny, funny guy”. Heather is from that sin city of Zehner, Saskatchewan. They know good comedy there. Marcus Fernando, who lives part time in Croatia and is a faithful blog reader, writes that he is acquiring a garden plot and plans to start a garden soon. Marcus has spent his life in the theater and this is his first venture into the gardening addiction. Some of you may have seen Marcus when he performed his Pinter piece, ‘The Lover’, at The RSM a few years ago. Ingrid Thiessen wants to know more about growing shallots and raspberries. Denise Cook wrote: “Love your articles and always get a laugh.” Are there jokes here? Chris Dodd writes “I love the beginning of this (#12) report”. Margaret Hryniuk wrote that she loves to eat heirloom tomato sandwiches. Georgia Hearn says “Absolutely look forward to the Sunday report”. Paula Grolle wrote in with memories of Garret Wilson’s family from when she was a child. According to Paula, Garret’s mother was an incredible gardener. Kim Lytle wonders if weeding is really necessary for a good vegetable garden. She also thinks I am indeed a sex symbol as reported in the last blog, but then again her standards are not all that high. Ann Anderson wrote “It is my favorite read.” Joan Ziffle wrote: “You are a very good writer and educator.” Ah…you’re embarrassing me. New reader but old friend, Jean McKay is pleased that I am promoting Scottish heritage, even if I have my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Yes Jean. With each compliment you get a four ounce serving of haggis at no extra charge.

My Fringe poster
• We were in Saskatoon at The Fringe in 2001. I was putting up a poster when a friend of mine came along. My friend is gay and that information is critical to the story. My friend said: “That’s a terrible job of putting up the poster” and he took the tape away from me and fixed the poster, nice and neat. My alibi for doing a sloppy job was “what do you expect from a straight man?” He looks at me and says “Rod, the way you dress, you don’t have to tell everyone you’re straight, we all know that.” Now that wasn’t very nice. No haggis for him.

• ‘Prairie Gardens’, my television show, is still running on SCN, Friday nights at six p.m. There are twenty-six episodes shot all across the province. Nope, I don’t get royalties. Sold the show outright.

Garden Tip: If the bottom of your tomatoes have a black, soft blemish on them, they are suffering from tomato end rot or blossom end rot. It is caused by inconsistent watering. In other words, you kept them too dry and then too wet and the blight set in. I had a bit show up on my Patio tomatoes growing in pots. I harvested all the good tomatoes and I am window ripening them now. I threw away the damaged tomatoes. My plants in the garden have not been affected.

• Alex Edgington, who tours with The Fringe, stayed with us on Tuesday night. Alex was finishing up his run in Edmonton and was driving home to Toronto. Some of you may have seen Alex’s show this year in Regina. He was at The RSM with a TJ Dawe piece called ‘Tired Clichés’.

• Newspaper columnists in all of The Fringe Festival cities bemoan the loss of the edgy theater that once populated Fringe Festivals. They ask “where has the fringe part of The Fringe gone?” With Alex staying with us, he and I had a good chat about that very issue. Alex is one of those writer/performers who is highly experimental. His work requires the audience to have good listening skills as he jumps in a non linear fashion to tell his story. So here he is, one of the edgiest performers on the circuit, and the critics continually give him mediocre reviews. What occurs, especially in Winnipeg and Edmonton, is that the bulk of the audiences read The Free Press and The Journal to see which shows received four or five stars. They buy their tickets for those star rated shows, leaving excellent shows such as Alex’s, playing to small houses. The power of the press is so influential that John Huston, who is considered one of the Fringe’s more talented performers, took his show to Winnipeg, got a three star review from Kevin Prokosh of The Free Press, and he sold only forty tickets a night, in a hundred seat venue. His show in Edmonton, received a four and half star review (which it deserved, if not five) and the show sold out every night.

• Do reviewers who write that a production is a cliché or filled with clichés, not realize that they themselves have become a cliché?

• Jimmy Gibbs out of Winnipeg said it best: “Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s cliché.”

A mixed bed of perennials, annuals and shrubs
• Reader Gail Bowen is now the writer in residence at a library in Calgary.

• Kevin Newman has retired as the news anchor for Global Television. He was very good at his job. One day, we were flying out to Vancouver and Kevin was in the seat in front of us. Sitting next to Kevin was an elderly gentleman. He asked Kevin “what do you do for a living?” Kevin could have in all honesty told him “I am the anchor for a national news show.” Instead, he answered quite simply “I am a journalist.” The elderly gentleman, totally unimpressed with Kevin, responded “I suppose that is an okay profession.” I love that moment.

• Jay Hale is at the house, doing some painting for me. We were chatting about friends who are always there for us. Jay said “they are few and far between, and greatly appreciated.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a toast to friends who are there when we need them.

• Long time friend, Hielke De Jong passed away last December. Hielke was one of those people who if you were sick, would take you to the doctor or pick up some groceries for you or do something that needed doing. As his wife, June Mayhew said, “he was unfailingly kind.” Good people need to be recognized.

• I have never been to The Creek Bistro but I have heard very good things about the place. Roberta Nichol wrote in to say that she had one of the best meals of her life at The Creek Bistro on 13th Avenue, this past Friday. Roberta had the halibut with perfectly prepped veggies and a killer lemon/phyllo dessert. Roberta also wanted people to know that Rod, her waiter was fantastic. She is right on about Rod. If there was a contest for Regina’s best waiter, he would get my vote. Many of us remember when he was a mainstay at Mieka’s on Smith.

• I had more wonderful meals at Mieka’s than at any other restaurant. Her cooking was divine.

• So, I was listening to Garth Materie hosting ‘Blue Sky’ on CBC One this week. His show has a phone in component. Is it just me or do you notice that a lot of dumb people call in to voice their opinion? Now I know I could have found a nicer word than ‘dumb’ as in I could have said “four cents short on the nickel” or “the ladder doesn’t reach the top floor”…but it would still amount to the same thing. And yes, I know that if I had used the word dumb in the classical sense, then dumb people can’t call in as they are mute, but I didn’t…so don’t go calling the grammar police.

• The grammar police should be called on everyone who overuses ‘LOL’ to indicate that they are being funny. Is the context not the indication of the humor? When I write about the importance of my people’s national dish, the beloved haggis, and how it should be served regularly in all public cafeterias and schools…do I really need to add in an “LOL”…because if you don’t’ get it, just keep calling Garth at CBC…he will be happy to hear from you.

• Writing about phone in shows….a few years ago, Maureen and I were at a Rider game. After the game, we were stuck in traffic. I turned on CKRM and their fan phone in show. I told her “you have to listen to this”. Maureen listened to a few callers and she thought it was a parody, a comedy show similar to SCTV or Saturday Night Live. When I told her that it was a real show and these were fans phoning in to voice their opinion, she was stunned.

Garden Tip: If you have to plant a tree in an area that is usually quite wet, there is a simple thing you can do to increase its chance of survival. Dig the hole six to twelve inches deeper than you normally would to plant the tree. Fill the space with crushed rock or pea gravel. This will provide a bit of extra drainage for the tree so that it does not sit in water. A tree sitting in water is often described by gardeners as having “wet feet.”

Plant your tulips in September
Garden Tip: No more lawn fertilizer. Do not buy the fall fertilizers you see for sale in the chain stores. Not worth the money. What you should be doing is thinking about where you will be planting your fall bulbs in the next month. Tick, tock.

Garden Tip: More of a complaint than a tip. My Dolgo Crabapple is a perennial producer of lovely, one inch crabs that are perfect for canning. This year, the vicious hail we received in July, damaged the new fruit as it formed. Most of the fruit is bruised, but only on the top side where the hail struck. Apple sauce anyone?

A raised  garden box at the ranch
Garden Tip: Chatting with Margo Soriano and Georgia Hearn. Between the three of us, we have lots of green tomatoes but very, very few are turning red just yet. It has been a later year with not very much of the intense summer heat we normally experience. All of us have very large crops in spite of the wet and the cool. Margo tells me that her Romas have twenty-five tomatoes on each plant.

• I love lemon tarts made from scratch. There are two places to get great ones. Government House and Sharon Wallace at The Farmers’ Market.

• And happy gardening for another week…Rod in rainy Regina

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Garden Report #12

August 22nd, 2010

Dwarf Delphinium
• I have my morning coffee by my side, though it is already past lunch. Stuart MacLean has just finished and today’s story was the one about Dave’s mother getting married to Smith, at the age of 84. Maureen filled her cast iron pan with corn bread and along with some fresh fruit yogurt, that was Sunday’s brunch. The music from ‘The Symphony Under the Sky’ filters across the lake into my garden. It is a blues band that plays. And my bird bath is well used as I write. A mother robin enjoys a vigorous splash about for several minutes, almost a day at the spa for her. After she vacates the bath, a young squirrel strolled upside down from the Dolgo crabapple tree and took a drink. Murphy was nowhere to be found, otherwise a game of chase would have erupted. Cornbread, coffee, live blues, robins, squirrels, tomatoes ripening on the vine and the sun is just emerging from behind the clouds. Just another Sunday in my garden.

• As I sit here in the garden this Sunday, I am struck by how my neat and organized refuge has become more or less, a jungle. It happens around this time every year. As vigilant as I am, the vegetation starts to overlap, to interact with the neighbors. The ferns have leaned up against the dogwoods and the dogwoods have dropped into the lamium and the crabapple is getting lower to the ground, laden with this year’s abundant crop of fruit. Just a month ago, everyone had their place and they were proud of it. I could point out each specimen to my visitors as they inspected the troops. Now, it is much more a stew or a soup than anything structured. Even the tomatoes have gone crazy, sprawling over their allotted piece of ground. Had I not pruned them back, some would be in excess of six feet today. My next documentary will be ‘When Tomatoes Grow Wild’. It will be for mature audiences only.

Silver Leaf Dogwood
• The photos in the attachment are some of my favorite plants. All were planted this year on a project that I have been working on. The photos were taken by my friend Ingrid Thiessen, who just happens to be a wonderful landscape architect.

Garden Tip: Ran into reader Margo Mack and her husband at the grocery store. He had a question regarding purple leafed trees. There are two that grow in Regina. ‘Shubert’ Cherry emerges in the spring with long, white flowers, then green leaves which turn purple around the middle of June. It produces chokecherries for fruit. It tends to sucker which means it has shoots emerging from the bottom of the tree. The tree finishes out around 20 feet tall. ‘Thunderchild’ Flowering Crabapple has pink blooms in the spring and the leaves are purple from the get go. It has small, ornamental fruit that is a quarter of an inch in diameter. It does not sucker. It grows fifteen to twenty feet tall. It was developed in Saskatoon by the late Percy Wright. Of the two trees, I would recommend the ‘Thunderchild’ in just about every situation. There was a few years ago a ‘Purple Rain’ birch tree introduced but I have not seen a specimen for many years.

Garden Tip: And now for the color purple…a good purple leafed shrub is the ‘Diabolo’ Ninebark. It grows five to seven feet tall though it can be pruned back into a more compact form if you desire. It is hardy and a good recommendation. Purple Leaf Plum is also available for planting in the Regina area. While it is not as hardy as I would like it to be, it will come back from the bottom even in years of severe winter kill. Its leaves are shinier and it grows around four feet tall.

Garden Tip: ‘Purple Palace’ Heuchera is a purple leafed perennial that needs a bit of winter protection. It is very lovely in the landscape. I find that it will survive for a winter or two or three then peter out. Nonetheless, it is worthy of planting a few, just don’t bet the farm.

Bud's Yellow Twig Dogwood
• Marg Hryniuk is a strong supporter of Lakeview Fine Foods, which was plugged in the last blog. She likes the fresh tomatoes, the local muffins and the roasted coffee that is sold there. John Huston inquired about historical places to visit in Regina. I told him we didn’t have any. (That should get a few letters.) Murray Wallace says he loves the humor and he does not feel the need to have most of the jokes explained to him. Cary Rubenfeld read last week’s blog while in Chicago. Lyn Goldman weighed in on the liver and onions story, recommending The Cottage on south Albert as a good place to have that meal. Casey Van Vloten enjoyed the last blog for the memories of his father’s teaching skills and wants to know if he can liver and onions with us this fall…so I guess we can try The Cottage…especially if Casey is paying. Susan Rollins says the daylilies that I gave her this summer are starting to bloom, good karma, and Joanne Crawford thinks the blog would make a good newspaper column. Joan Kortje agrees that I am indeed a sex symbol amongst dialysis patients and that is why The Kidney Foundation asked me to be their honorary chairperson. Apparently, seven of our readers have wet themselves over this assertion. Roberta Nichol says the report is good every week and Jodi Sadowsky likes to pass hers along to other gardeners. Marcus Fernando says he agrees with me way too often and he would prefer to have an argument rather than agree. How to start an argument with Marcus? Tony Blair was the best thing that ever happened to Great Britain, second only to the brilliant Margaret Thatcher. There. That will get Marcus going for a round or two. Cheryl Hutton, out of Calgary, writes that her cat attacks her lobelia, but leaves the cat nip alone. Cheryl wants to know if anyone else has experienced this situation? My Murphy loves to attack my ornamental grasses, especially when they wave in the wind. Gail White, a faithful reader out of Winnipeg was in town and dropped by for supper and a garden visit.

Garden Tip: If you have Autumn Joy Sedum growing in your garden, it should be starting to turn either this week or next. If you don’t have it growing in your garden, you should get a plant or two. Absolutely lovely perennial for the fall. Also this fall, there are more and more garden shops carrying fall mums which add another dimension to the garden for September and October.

Garden Tip: One thing that I have been very pleased with this year is my outdoor Boston Ferns. I bought five of the cheapest ones I could find and I potted them up in some traditional Roma clays pots. They looked lovely and I used them as accent plants in shady areas. They held up very well and they are something I will repeat again next year. Very much recommended.

• Is there anything more wonderful in this world than getting into a freshly made bed with flannel sheets?

Garden Tip: I planted several twelve inch hanging baskets into fourteen inch clay pots. They looked lovely. Audrey Drummond planted the same baskets, but into sixteen inch clay pots and they were even nicer. The plants grew to fill in the extra space.

Garden Tip: This is your last opportunity to fertilize your lawn for the season. Do not wait any longer.

Sad news. Max Bortnik has died at the age of ninety. Max was one of those larger than life characters who pass through our lives every now and again. He owned Harmony Audio on Hamilton Street for many years. One day he was listening to some jazz which he adored. I wanted to buy some speakers. He told me that he didn’t feel like being commercial that day, and if I wanted them, take them. I could pay him next week. Definitely a man who did business on his own terms. He was alternately the nicest, kindest man I have ever met, and the rudest, surliest man I have ever encountered, depending on which side of the coffee cup he was facing.

• My mother tells me that during the thirties, they would gather around the old, battery run radio and listen to Don Messer’s Jubilee. My grandfather did not allow anyone to speak during the program. You had to listen to every word and every note. I think I have inherited some of the man’s genes. When Drive Ins, Dives and Diners is on (affectionately known as Triple D amongst true believers) no one is allowed to speak in our household. It’s on The Food Channel (Access 25) at ten most nights and there is a double header on Fridays at eight p.m. I told you, no talking.

Galardia or Blanket Flower
• Only you can prevent forest fires…and some other stuff, too. Does anyone know where they sell low salt hams? I love ham but have to restrict my salt intake. Some of the hams have sodium as high as 52% RDA listed for a four ounce serving. Anyone keeping kosher does not have to respond to this question.

• I have an uncle in Nova Scotia who is Orthodox and alleges he keeps kosher. I am sitting in his kitchen, watching him fry bacon and eggs, in butter, which breaks more kosher rules than I can count. I challenge him. He explains ever so patiently, why this should be considered a kosher meal. It is an elaborate rationalization. The bottom line is he likes to eat bacon and eggs fried in butter. So, I tell him that we disagree and that we should call the local rabbi to offer up his opinion. The room goes very silent.

  Ian and Rod
• Reader and friend Ian Cook loves to garden. Has for years. Wants to know where his food is coming from. Ian dropped by for a visit this week with fresh beets, carrots and some killer yellow beans in hand. Anyone arriving with fresh, garden veggies is always welcome. After his initial visit, he popped back in with the largest cabbage I have ever seen. It was so big…how big was it Rod…that I had to share it with the neighbor.

• One of my irks is that I grow my tomatoes for four months every year and just when I am ready to harvest, the price of tomatoes in the stores drops to a buck a pound or lower. I would feel much better if the tomatoes were selling for $2.99 a pound. I could feel really smug then. Oh well, they are organic.

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'
• Some men have their priorities. Around 1976, I was working in a bush camp with a fellow nicknamed Bouncer. He was a petite man who stayed to himself, rarely speaking to the young men. Bouncer was probably close to sixty and best described as a street person. One day, one of the guys was teasing Bouncer, asking if he ever had girlfriend. Bouncer told us no. “Have you ever had a girlfriend for one night?” someone else asked and Bouncer responded “almost” which got our attention. We asked him for the details. Well, it turned out that Bouncer’s brother had come to town and seeing as Bouncer was broke, his brother had given him $400. Bouncer went to his favorite bar at the old Kitchener Hotel on Rose Street (long since torn down). He was getting drunk when a woman came up to him and said “Bouncer…I heard you have four hundred dollars. Do you want to go upstairs with me and party?” Bouncer walked away, the story unfinished. We chased after him, wanting the last installment to this tale. “What did you tell her, Bouncer?” we all chimed in. “I told her ‘piss off lady, I’m drinking beer’.” What a role model.

• Has anyone tried Google Chrome (an internet search engine). I tried it briefly. It was supposed to be quicker, it was not. But what made me uninstall it was the print was so blurry. Now Patrick, my techie genius son, says he has not had that problem.

Champlain Rose - Explorer Series
• Speaking of techie, genius son…Patrick and Lisa celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Saturday. They went canoeing which is as good a way to celebrate as any. Now Maureen thinks we should go canoeing, but she never paddles. She sits back as if she is Cleopatra cruising down The Nile, while I do all of the work.

• Writing of computers. I have a fairly high wall and I don’t get spammed too often, but every now and again, one gets through. The funniest one I have ever been spammed with was a sex chat line that invited me to call because “sexy women in Zehner are waiting to talk to you!” Zehner is slightly north and east of town and it is a post office. No one lives there.

• Maureen gets spammed frequently with penis enlargement offers. I have never received one. She wondered why? I told her that they only target men who need the product. She laughed. She thought I was joking. That hurt. You can stop laughing, too.

• All this talk about sex. Stop it. What about love. One day at the garden center, I was working around back and one of the young employees said to me “a lady says ‘hi’ to you up at the front.” I asked him who ‘she’ was and he responded “I don’t know, some old lady with grey hair.” I found out later that the ‘old lady’ was one of my school mates. Not only were we the same age, but when I was fifteen, I had an incredible crush on her. She was so beautiful, and she still is. The years have been very kind to her. I should have sent that punk to the optometrist down the street. Obviously, he needed an eye exam if he couldn’t see how incredibly hot she still is today.

• Middle Age: Meeting a lovely twenty something and saying to yourself, “her mother must be really good looking.” Note for Jean Freeman: Yes, I could have written grandmother as well.

• Canadian Content: In order for a movie or a television program to be certified ‘Canadian’ it must meet certain criteria as established by Ottawa. No problem. I produced ‘Breakfast at Nicky’s Café’ and I had to get certification, prove that I was Canadian, Nicky, the camera operator, the editor, the musicians and anyone else who walked through the café. The forms were long and complicated and I needed assistance. I called their help desk. Got voice mail. Called again and got voice mail. Called for several days and got voice mail. So I sent them a letter, asking how it was humanly possible for them not to be at their desks some of the time. I understand breaks and I understand meetings, but to never answer your phone, ever? They called me back. Said they are in meetings all of the time. So I asked “why are you in meetings all of the time? Do they need to teach you how not to answer a phone? Look, you guys are bureaucrats. You push paper. You need to be at your desk to push paper.” They were very pleased that I shared my observations. I also challenged them on such a complicated process for such a simple, local film. This was an eight thousand dollar film, yet the forms were the same ones as a five million dollar theatrical release. “What is this” I asked, “ a make work project?” They got defensive. I asked the bureaucrat if he wanted to process my application or did we need to go to The Minister about this? He stream lined my request and I got approval right away. See how easy I am to get along with?

• Now we know. Maureen has a friend who is the granddaughter of the man who owned The Loyal Tea Room on Albert Street. When we were kids, the story was told and retold, that it was supposed to have been named The Royal Tea Room, but due to the owner’s Chinese accent, the sign painter heard the word ‘loyal’. The granddaughter says this is not true. It was always her grandfather’s intention to call it The Loyal.

• Ran into lawyer, historian and author Garret Wilson last Saturday. Garret has produced some fine books including one on Colin Thatcher, which Colin is not thrilled about. In fact, Colin no longer sends Garret a Christmas card, he is that hurt. Garret and I were chatting about turncoats in history. Two names came up, both of whom had switched their allegiance from The CCF to The Liberal Party. One was our former Premier Ross Thatcher, Colin’s father, and the other was Hazen Argue. Hazen left the CCF/NDP around 1961 when he lost the bid to be the leader and he joined the ranks of the Liberals. History has somewhat forgotten Hazen, but I remember him clearly. Whenever he would make an appearance on television, my old line CCF father would jump out of his chair and start cursing at the television with words not normally heard in our household.

• When I watch The Real Estate Channel or read the ads, I am always amazed at how the real estate agents describe a home as being in Lakeview or Cathedral. I have lived in Lakeview for thirty-seven years, and I have never seen some of those homes, at least not in my neighborhood. Turns out that Lakeview is a whole lot bigger than the we ever thought it was.

• We took in another film night at The Regina Public Library on Friday. If you haven’t been, go. For six bucks, you get to see some incredible films that never see the light of day at a commercial theater. The RPL Film Program has been running for many years and it is one of our favorite things to do.

Little Princess Spirea
• The film we saw on Friday was about the love affair between Coco Chanel, the fashion designer and Igor Stravinsky, the composer. One should be careful to research this film properly and not to confuse Stravinsky the composer with Stravinsky the plumber, who while having had many affairs in Paris, has been more or less lost to history.

• Checked out The Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. It was packed with people and it was apparently the largest one of the season. Lots of veggies in the stalls now. For me, our farmers’ market is a social outing as much as it is a shopping errand. If you get a chance, check out the farmers’ markets in Edmonton and Calgary. They are huge and highly interesting.

Magic Carpet Spirea
• Best line from a Scottish comic: (When he noticed a sign in a L.A. cocktail bar that read ‘Two Drink Minimum’)-“That won’t be a problem, I’m from Glasgow.” That’s my people!

• We are on line at

• Happy Gardening for another week…Rod in sunny Regina

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Garden Report #11

August 15th, 2010

• Last Sunday, as I wrote The Garden Report, I sought the coolness of the shade as I sipped on my French roast coffee. The temperature was rising to over 30. Today, I have found the sunniest spot in the garden as the temperature is beneath the twenty mark…and there is no coffee. There has been no coffee for three days. No, I have not forfeited caffeine. I ran out. I used up the last of my beans and I have been too lazy to get to the store and buy more. Coffee is a staple of the writing community. As important to the process as is the thesaurus. Yet here I sit on the swing, searching for the perfect words to describe the scenario while ‘mother logic’ cries out… “go…go south young man and buy your beans.” Having engaged in that piece of hyperbole, I can also inform you that Murphy, my big fat, orange cat has climbed up onto the swing, lies beside me, and completes his hourly grooming session. Oh, and there is a large bowl of very plump, fresh blueberries on my other side which I am enjoying immensely.

Garden Tip: I don’t allow people to smoke in my house but I let them smoke in my garden. Had some guests over who smoked quite a bit, cigarettes of course, and the smell lingered for days. Every time I walked by my tomatoes and roses, I could smell the cigarette stench. I am really thinking hard and fast about banning smokers from my garden, if I can still smell them three days later. Calvin Vanderveen in Carman, Manitoba, has banned all smoking on his property and he has acres of greenhouses and yards. I know why. Was that a tip or a rant?

• Faithful reader, Casey Van Vloten from Vancouver, grew up in the nursery business. His father owned Van Vloten Nurseries. When Casey was twenty, his father was forty-five. His dad gave him the names of five people within the trade who Casey could always trust and five names of people who would take advantage of him every chance they got. Being twenty and knowing everything, Casey ignored his father’s advice. Years went by and Casey was now forty-five and the five people his dad said he could trust, had always stood by him. And those other five, the ones he was warned about, well, they did take advantage of him, every time they could. I asked Casey what he wanted to say to his dad and the answer was simple… “thanks Dad.”

• When it comes to the world of business, kids should listen closely to what their dads tell them. Dads tend to know things that friends do not, and yet kids are influenced greatly by their peers. Am I being too subtle here?

• When I was a young man, or at least younger than I am now, I had no dad to watch out for me as he had died when I was sixteen. Fortunately for me, I filled my life with older men who acted as mentors and guides. For reasons unknown to me, I listened to the advice of those older men. That advice always assisted me in finding my way and achieving my goals. I never regretted the experience of having them in my life.

• At the top of my list of elders who influenced me are three men, Anatol Murad, Dieter Martin, and John Wolkowski. Dieter and John are still alive and I speak with them regularly. Anatol died a few years ago but his influence remains. As a form of respect for what they provided to me, I pass along their lessons to those who are prepared to listen.

• Willing to listen? I got a call from Kevin Hynd, a former employee who worked for me when he was in high school. Kevin was a sharp kid and one of my favorite lads. He is married with a child now, and he is also a proud house owner. He wanted my advice on a tree to plant in his yard. I suggested a Little Leaf Linden. He wanted to know what it looked like. I chided him saying “Kevin, you planted many of them when you worked for me.” His response was believable: “Yeah, but I wasn’t always paying attention. Now, I want to learn.”

• When I was younger, I thought humility was similar to being humiliated. I was surprised to find out that humility means nothing more than being teachable. May all of us remain teachable.

• Last week, we had Maureen’s sister and her husband in town, as our guests. We went to The Exhibition on Saturday and The Folk Festival on Sunday. The two events could not be more different. The Exhibition is this event that sucks the culture and life force from the city. It presents people at their worst and the lowest common denominator prevails. Strong words but true. The Folk Festival was also an event, but one filled with a sense of decency and collective appreciation of the arts. It was life sustaining and fed the soul with joy.

Garden Tip: Now is the time for all good gardeners to be filling out their garden journals. Most important is the notation of what grew well and not so well. If you journal properly, you will save yourself from planting the wrong things next season. The key word to the preceding sentence was ‘if’.

Garden Tip: My notes to myself include: Plant more Mexican Heather, find something to replace impatiens in the deepest of shade as they do not power through the season (they need some light), do not plant basil in the ground where the slugs can attack them, plant geraniums in my front pots in spite of them being on the north side-there was enough early morning light to keep them looking just fine, stake my Mandeville’s earlier in the season, and promise to never, ever buy lobelia ever again (we don’t get along).

• Tried some Chinese takeout from SR Kitchen on Rochdale. Very bland and boring. Not recommended.

• One of our favorites for Chinese is in Winnipeg, called The King’s Palace. It looks like a dive, it feels like a dive, but the food is first rate. We would have never gone into the restaurant if a friend had not recommended it. It is located near The Fringe Theater District, north on King. Highly recommended.

Garden Tip: Planted a few Prairie Joy Rose which is a Morden introduction. It is a lovely shade of pink and it is a repeat bloomer. This is a great rose to plant if you have a sunny spot.

• The Winnipeg Free Press had an article on how the Federal Government has shut down the Morden Rose Breeding Program. It was the program that gave us prairie gardeners such great performers as Winnipeg Parks, Morden Fireglow, Cuthbert Grant, Prairie Joy, Centennial, Morden Sunrise, Adelaide Hoodless and others. Apparently, there is much more money in breeding wheat.

• Rod Pederson and John Lynch have the best football program on television. It’s called ‘In the Huddle’ and it is on Tuesday nights from seven until eight, Access Channel Seven. They know what they are talking about and they get some great guests to interview. Worst football show on television are the four talking heads who front TSN Football. They are superficial and trite. I hit the mute button as soon as they start. Didn’t think I was a Rider fan? I grew up on Dewdney Avenue.

• I have been spending quite a bit of this summer in the country, south of town. The wheat, peas, flax and canola are looking spectacular. I have never seen crops this thick. Where they could seed this spring, they are getting a good one with all of the ground moisture.

Garden Tip: If you are looking for a rototiller or lawn mower, take a look at Honda equipment. I have used their products for years. What I enjoy best about them is they start when the engine is hot and they start when the engine is cold. Not all small engines are equal. Geez, you would think I would get a discount for a plug like that.

• I can’t make this stuff up. A few years ago, I was listening to CKRM’s ‘The Swap Shop’ with Willie Cole. People would phone in to sell or buy stuff, but the show was more about the conversation than the sale. A farmer calls up and he wants to sell his tractor for ten thousand dollars. Willie asks him why he wants to sell it and the farmer explains that the bank has seized his land. Fair enough. So Willie asks “what are you going to do with the money if you sell it today?” The farmer responded that he would probably rent some land with the money, to farm. Willie asks the obvious: “How are you going to farm it if you don’t have a tractor?” And the farmer says that he hopes his brother will lend him his tractor. Some days, I just don’t’ understand how farming works.

Garden Tip: You should be applying your last application of lawn fertilizer this week and no later than this week. For the most part, those fall fertilizers that you see in the box stores, are not a good thing to apply in the Regina area. Best not to purchase them.

• Marcus Fernando wrote in to say in Birmingham, England, the local McDonald’s wanted to improve their image. So, they put lots of apples in their windows to show people that they were a health conscious establishment. One day Marcus stuck his body into their store to inspect the apples and yep, they were plastic. Marcus said that in an ironic fashion, McDonald’s was indeed promoting their corporate culture, without intending to do so.

• Liver Lovers Club? Yep. It is not a joke. There has been a club in Regina for several years and we are members. It is loosely organized and we meet when a member arranges with a restaurant to serve us our pride and joy, with bacon and onions. We haven’t met for awhile so one of our members sent out an impromptu invitation to join her at City Hall this past Thursday. We took in the lunch and it was excellent, if you like liver and onions. Now, I am the first to admit that our three sons think we are really weird, eccentric or bordering on lunacy, because we spend out hard earned money on liver when we could as easily order a pizza. It is one of those dishes that you are either a strong supporter of or an intense hater, there is no middle ground.

• Great to see that our friend Nicky Makris has his diner back open. Nicky serves up a decent meal of liver and onions along with a hundred other entrees. Great place for breakfast.

• Sad to see that The Novia Café is struggling for business, what with the traffic restrictions on 12th Avenue right now. The Leader Post ran a good article on this 92 year old café and the troubles they are facing. Hopefully, those of us who work downtown just might wander over through the maze and drop a dollar or two at this landmark.

• So the RCMP will not release their spy files on Tommy Douglas. They cite national security reasons. Really? National security? More like the files would be a national embarrassment as informants who finked would be named and the stupidity of our intelligence gathering agency would be documented. They also don’t want to answer the question, why were you following him anyways?

• I drove by the flower beds in front of The Legislature this week and they are looking lovely. Long time friend, Ron McEwen, is the man responsible for the planning and the installation of the beds. Did you know that the flower beds replicate themselves so that you can fold the plan end to end or side to side and the quadrants match? I don’t understand why I am not over there more often as we only live one block from the flower beds. But hey, it’s a long block.

• Garden Tip: You can seed your lawn or the bare patches in your lawn, up until the end of this month.

• My favorite lab tech, who draws my monthly blood tests told me that she has given her fiancé two choices: “You can either be right or you can be happy.” Now, if he is a smart man he will answer that question very carefully.

• I don’t like to brag….okay, so I do…but guess who is now The Honorary Chairperson of The Kidney Foundation’s ‘Gift of Life Walk’. The walk will be happening September 26th which is a Sunday, in front of The Legislative Buildings which are in front of Ron’s flower beds which are a block from my house. The walk starts at one p.m., with registration beginning at 11:30 a.m. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds for kidney disease and to raise awareness for organ donation. Did you know that if you donate your organs and tissue at the time of your death, that your gift of life will benefit up to five people? Did you know that there are one hundred and four of us waiting in Saskatchewan, not so patiently, for a matching kidney so we can get a transplant. Did you know that in Canada, we have a fairly low rate of donors and that is why many people die while waiting for a transplant.

• Personally, after all the hype has settled, I am convinced the reason they asked me to be their spokesperson is simple. Sex sells. Yep. I am a sex symbol amongst dialysis patients. Okay, so I am the first to admit that as a group, dialysis patients are not all that good looking, but still…in the land of the blind, the one eyed is king. It took me over fifty years but people have finally realized I am hot. Get out of the way, Paris Hilton! Join us on September 26th and you can inspect my rather bodacious booty. You have my permission to stop laughing now.

• I know that many of you can relate to the following. I enjoy my friends and keep them for a really, long time. Jack Lyster, Bill Warriner and I started out in Miss Patterson’s Grade One Class at Albert School in 1957, and we still see each other pretty well every week. I am not really into a “yeah…like he is my newest BFF” mode. Old friends are like old shoes, they feel really, really comfortable and they fit so well. I knew you would understand.

• Lakeview Fine Foods, which has been open since 1959, is the cleanest grocery store in town. Murray Shiplack, the meat manager, has done a wonderful job in offering us locals some interesting choices for supper. The last place you will ever find me shopping for groceries is Super Store. Way too messy and dirty for my tastes and the staff could care less.

• For some decent borscht, try some of Diana’s at Fellinger’s on 13th.

Garden Tip: If you have Virginia Creeper Vine in your yard, chances are you have aphids or white flies in the leaves. Best way to control the insects is to spray Trounce which is an organic insecticide. The proper method to spray is to lift the leaves with a bamboo stick and spray on the underside of the leaves, as that is where most of the insects hide. Trounce is not very kind to ferns or impatiens so be careful if you have those plants in your garden.

Garden Tip: A good place to purchase your sod is from Bill Owens who sells Shellview Sod which is grown near Prince Albert. I have used it over the years, including this summer, and I have been very pleased with it. Bill is also a decent man to do business with and I have done so since 1977.

• We took in ‘Hawg-a-rama’ at The Drummond Farm on Saturday night. It was a wonderful evening of great barbecue and homemade pies, entertainment with BJ Thomas and Rory Allan and it raised a lot of money for breast cancer research and for The Cougar sports teams at The University. Gary and Audrey Drummond work very hard to present this event every summer and should be thanked…which is kind of what I am doing here.

• At last night’s ‘Hawg-a-rama’, I took Maureen up on the dance floor and we danced and we danced. Twenty seven dances, but who’s counting? On the way home I pointed out to her what a great husband I am for having danced her across the floor and back again. I explained to her that in return consideration, I should get exemptions to three dumb things in the next month. Kind of a ‘get of jail free card’ for married men. She asked: “How stupid is the stuff you are planning to do?” Obviously, this has to be a rhetorical question.

• I had a lovely visit from Joan Kortje of The Kidney Foundation, on Thursday afternoon. Joan wanted to inspect my garden to ensure that I am not making this whole thing up, about how nice mine looks. We sat in my garden swing and chatted for an hour, drinking sun tea with peppermint leaves from the herb garden. A few of you have commented on how nice my garden photograph was in last week’s blog. It is not my garden. It is the lovely Sharon Wallace’s garden and I credited her, but a few of you missed the credit.

• Cheryl Hutton writes in from Calgary that she really enjoys The Garden Report. Jeanie Freeman writes that it is “addictive”. Patrick, my youngest, writes “you are not near as funny as you think you are”, which made me laugh. Sherry Tutt’s ants have returned. Brenda R. is becoming a Master Gardener. Jan Pederson from Winnipeg threatens to visit this fall. Roberta Nichol writes in to say that fresh Swiss Chard is great in a bowl of linguini with other ingredients as well. You can read all of the blogs on

Happy Gardening for another week…Rod in cool but sunny Regina

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Garden Report #10

• What started as a ‘one off’ has its own blog site.  I still don’t know exactly where this venture is supposed to go, but I will tell you that I am enjoying the ride. My long time Dutch friend, Bill Janzen, used to say “if you don’t care where you are going, then you are never really lost.” Welcome to number ten.  The photo is of Sharon Wallace's garden, a regular reader of The Garden Report.

• Today is a beautiful Sunday morning in the garden. There is a cup of French roast coffee sitting on the garden bench, the tomato plants have turned into bushes filled with fruit, the temperature is climbing rapidly to a plus thirty and the neighbor to my east has a blues album playing. There is a bee circling around my Little Princess Spirea seeking nectar, and a white butterfly floats by searching for a Muhammad Ali metaphor. Maureen is in the kitchen talking nonstop with her kid sister, who is visiting from Toronto. When the two of them get together, they inhale as they speak. Life is fine. Life is good.

• Fashion Tip: Women! If you care about cultural pollution, please do not allow the man in your life to leave the house wearing knee length shorts and knee high socks. I saw one of these fashion catastrophes on south Albert Street, early this morning, with the only skin exposed being that of his knobby knees. For God’s sake, make him wear sandals! And tell him his t-shirt is too small. He’s not been twenty-two for thirty-five years and a medium is no longer his size.

• Some people just never get it and I guess, that is the way it is supposed to be. When I started landscaping in 1977, I was in the same boat as many young men starting out. Limited money (a polite way of writing that I was broke) and a beat up, old half ton. I worked hard and saved my cash. In my third year, I had enough for a down payment on a new half ton truck. Now, at the time, many landscapers in the city were hanging out at Buddy’s Coffee Shop, located by the McDonald Street exit, off The Ring Road. Every time I would use The Ring Road, I would glance down at Buddy’s and see the same trucks in the parking lot. The lads would be there for early coffee, lunch, afternoon coffee and supper. On rare occasion, I would stop in to chat to one of them about a project we would be working on, but I was never in there for long.

One day, Roy Currie from C and C Sod Company told me that the other landscapers didn’t think I was too friendly of a person because I always got my coffee to go, and never sat down to gab with them. So I asked Roy, what else they were saying about me. He informed me that the gossip was the reason I purchased new trucks and equipment was because I didn’t know how to fix the old stuff. Now at this point, I need to explain to my female readers that amongst men, saying that you don’t know how to repair equipment is a put down. It is the male equivalent of when a woman says about another woman, “she has no fashion sense”.

In reality, I was okay with repairing my equipment, but I preferred to spend my time earning money rather than fixing engines that would not start, so I bought the new stuff in the hopes that it would not break down. I could afford to buy the new stuff because I didn’t spend half my day in Buddy’s, telling everyone how busy I was or how far behind I was in my projects.

Whenever and wherever I have told this story, I am always informed that there is a Buddy’s in every town, filled with guys talking about all the things they have to get done…and not doing them. They are a lot like Moses, in that they will wander in the dessert for forty years and, while they can see the promised land, they will never get to enter it. Sad.

• Roberta Nichol has weighed in on the wildflower/weed debate. Roberta lives on an acreage at White City and there are fields filled with ox eyed daisy and scentless chamomile. People comment on the beauty of the flowers, but they have not experienced how difficult it is to keep the plant out of the garden. Once they enter your garden, you have a problem. They are very invasive.

• Reader Jean Freeman wrote in regarding my story last week, about my mom at the wedding. Jean is now inspired to start a business called ‘Rent A Baba’. She will sit at any family function with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders and her walker or a cane resting against the chair. People will be required to bring her drinks and food while she makes rude comments on how skanky the young women are dressed and other inappropriate remarks. Jean feels this will add that certain cache missing from many festivities. As an actor (Granny on Corner Gas), Jean does not feel this role is a stretch.

• My mom, at the age eighty-eight, asks Jean “you can get paid for that?”

• My next book is: ‘You don’t have to be Jewish to have a Jewish mother.”

• On to political correctness and historical stupidity. One of the great things about Canada is our multiculturalism. Everyone agrees. And we are supposed to leave the old garbage behind and if we must have resentments, they should be new ones, right? Like those people from Moose Jaw who think they know everything. But one of our profs at the university in Saskatoon forgot this part of Canadian culture and his old country biases reared their ugly heads. Here is the story. A few years ago, my dear friend Ed Heidt, who teaches at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, asked me to perform my play ‘The Preacher’, at his college. Ed is a lovely man and he is a priest in his spare time. No problem. I performed my play which is about Jimmy Swaggart, the television evangelist. After the play, a professor came back stage and complimented me on my performance. He had an Irish accent. So, I told him that my father was Irish and he asked for my father’s name which was Cecil Elial Pyke. He immediately, turns on me and says “he’s not Irish, he’s a f…ing Orangeman!” Now, I am a history buff and I understand the wars and the battles that have raged for hundreds of years and there were atrocities and horrible carnage. But somehow, I thought it was supposed to be different once we were in Canada. That when we, or our grandfathers, packed up the suitcases and left wherever it was we came from, that we did not bring that garbage with us. So, I let him be. He stormed out and I said nothing. We have enough issues to resolve without charging at windmills, Don Quixote.

• So last week, I wrote a tongue in cheek bit about the discrimination the Scots experience due to their uncanny ability to stretch a nickel into a dime. Several of you came out of the woodwork to self identify as one of my people, proclaiming your mother to have been a Mac Duff, a Campbell, a Duncan or some other clanswoman. Personally, I think you are just jumping on the bandwagon, in an attempt to get my haggis recipe.

• Writing of the Scots, my grandparents were James Kerr and Agnes Truesdale and they emigrated around 1912. They farmed at Maclean. They had a plethora of children (fancy word, look it up in your thesaurus). So when people ask me if I am related to Bob Kerr, I tell them “yes, I am related to three Bob Kerr’s, which one are you talking about.”

• Can someone please explain to me the lure of Tim Horton’s? I have only been there twice but I was not impressed with their coffee or their food. And the service was incredibly slow even though when we were there, it was not that busy. So if the coffee is not great and the food is bland and it takes a long time to get your stuff, then why are they lined up at the South Albert location? Bah, bah, black sheep, have you any wool?

• On other fast food issues: There is a direct correlation between the rise of fast food restaurants and the increase in obesity. I have struggled with my weight all of my life and we made a conscience decision to stop patronizing fast food establishments about seven years ago. No McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s and so on. We have only broken our rule a few times as in an odd root beer at A and W, a fact fining mission to Tim’s and twice a year, a Blizzard at The Dairy Queen. We are dedicated but not zealots.

• Can’t help but notice that McDonald’s has been spending big bucks advertising their hamburgers, something they have not done for awhile. I suspect that they are ensuring their core product is kept in the forefront of the consumer’s mind. The ads have been geared to a theme of ‘we have always been there for you, like an old friend’. They’re slick. Comfort food for another generation filled with fat, sugar and salt. But hey, I’m preaching again.

Garden Tip: If your plants are not as healthy green today as they were a month ago, ask yourself if you have been fertilizing. Plants need four things to survive. Water, sun, oxygen and food. Plants growing in good garden soil usually benefit (but it is not mandatory) from some fertilizer during the growing season. Plants in pots are similar to babies. They are totally dependent upon the gardener for their food and water. Fertilize regularly, especially pots and containers.

Garden Tip: Because I have so much shade in my back garden, my grass can be a little on the thin side. A smaller bladed grass often fills in those bare spots and it looks just fine, nice and green. The lawn looked the best it ever has this spring, due to our cool and wet conditions. Then last week’s heat wave knocked this petit grass out of the park and now I have yellow/brown patches galore. So, it is time to reseed. In a shady area, I use a grass seed blend that is heavy to the creeping red fescue side of things, and not so dependent on the Kentucky Blue Grass. I find it beneficial to cover the grass seed with a thin layer of peat moss. This prevents the seeds from drying out and hides them from the birds so they can germinate. I find that you can successfully reseed a lawn up until the end of August.

Garden Tip: If you have broad leaf weeds or chickweed growing in a newly seeded lawn, you should not apply Killex or any similar product until after your third mowing. This will give the grass time to harden. Chickweed continues to be a problem in shadier areas this year and I suffer along with you.

Weird: One day at the garden center, a woman comes up to me and says “I want to die in Israel.” So I bite and I ask her why? “Are you Jewish or part of a fundamentalist church or have any other connection?” She responds: “No, but I think that would be a nice place to die.” To this day, I have no idea who she was and why she shared that with me. ‘Shared’. Another one of those overused words along with ‘bonding experience’. Shoot me if I use it again.

• Misuse and overuse of good words: The next time some bureaucrat announces that there will be a meeting of ‘stakeholders’, is it alright to bring back the death penalty or should we just cut out his tongue?

• Politically Correct…and here we go again. As everyone knows, we live in a death denying culture so we have many words and euphemisms to mask death itself. My favorite is The Salvation Army’s referring to a death of one of their members, as having been ‘promoted to glory’. We also have difficulty with the word fired so we say terminated, down sized, going in a different direction, let go and so on. But The Academy Award for misuse of the English language in this regard, has to go to former Premier Grant Devine, who when he fired a whole bunch of civil servants referenced the act as “returned them to the private sector”. Wow. Fiction writers can never match the imaginations of politicians.

• We checked out The Queen City Ex at Evraz Place which used to be Buffalo Days at The Exhibition Grounds. I had not been there for several years, just not one of my summer highlights, as it was when I was a kid. I wandered through the exhibits, the midway and the concessions. One thing I must admit is that at The Exhibition (I am staying old school on this one), you can see things that you never get to see the rest of the year. Things like the guy who weighs four hundred pounds, wearing a white Speedo (I can’t make this stuff up); or the dude with forty-seven nose rings. After dark, the circus really does come to town as the night crawlers emerge. Toss in the snake oil salespeople pitching the newest high tech mops, pots and pans and car wax and the adage flashes in the sky, ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’. Don’t be a wise guy and asked how much I spent? My total purchases were two cabbage rolls from the Romanian booth and they were very tasty. You can always trust the food prepared at the church booths versus the travelling concessions. Perhaps it was just me, but I did not see any of the local food booths that used to dominate The Exhibition many years ago.

• As an aside, when I was at the Romanian booth, I insisted that I be served by a “real Romanian. I don’t want one of those pretend Romanians looking after me.” One gent stepped forward to take my order and spoke exclusively in Romanian, which meant for once, I didn’t have a lot to say.

• Now call me a Scotsman if you must, but I will take the high road even if you take the low road (Gaelic humor), but does anyone else find the food prices at The Exhibition approaching the gouging level? Try this one on for size: A bottle of water, four dollars; a simple hotdog, five dollars; a hamburger, six dollars and with cheese, seven dollars.

• For fun and value, we took in The Victorian Tea at Government House prior to checking out The Ex. Nine bucks each got us a great pot of tea, sandwiches, a scone with Devon cream and Saskatoon jam, and a dessert. My choice was one of their homemade, lemon tarts. It was easily the finest lemon tart I have ever had. The whole thing is staffed by wonderful volunteers. I was so excited about going to the event I even put on my best underwear and if you know me, that meant I was planning on behaving myself. After all, why would you risk your best gotch in a brawl at a Victorian Tea.

• Did you know that when we entered Government House, no one inspected our i.d., no one patted us down or asked us to remove our shoes, no one asked the ladies if they had packed their own purses and they do not have a single, body scanner. Someone should call The Regina Airport and tell them to send over a security consultant. Because that is what we need, more high tech security to ensure we are all safer.

• While we had our out of town family at Government House, we toured the building and the grounds. They have put a lot of time and effort into restoring the gardens and they are worth checking out. In the center garden, there are two matching Silver Leaf Dogwoods that are the finest specimens I have seen in Regina. Silver Leaf Dogwoods usually grow in the four to five feet range but at Government House, they are in all day sun and well watered, so they have reached the six to seven foot level and their width is even greater. Sadly, the conservatory which is a heritage greenhouse of a construct rarely seen, has some very poor tropical plants as flora. The conservatory itself is well maintained, but not the plants.

Garden Tip: Your last application of lawn fertilizer should be happening within the next two weeks. In Regina, you don’t want to fertilize too late into the fall because your plants need time to harden off for the winter. If a plant or a lawn is too lush when the temperature drops, it can be damaged.

Garden Tip: As strange as this may read, considering how hot it is today, it is time to plan your fall bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, frittalaria and other bulbs need to be planted in September and October. I plant lots, as in one to two thousand, heavy to the tulips, that way I have wonderful spring color from April 15th until it is time to plant my annuals. Fall bulbs equal spring flowers…spring bulbs for summer color…that is the ditty.

• Weird, yet again: One day about ten years ago, I got a call from a woman who wanted to know if my tulip bulbs were in stock. Only one problem, she was calling in early May. I told her that tulips are always planted in September, never in May. She chided me, saying that she had just got off the phone with Canadian Tire and they were expecting their tulips bulbs any day now. Don’t you just love it when someone quotes the authority of Canadian Tire to prove their point?

• I actually stopped into Canadian Tire this spring, looking for some Strawberry or Raspberry Dianthus. None was to be found at the regular greenhouses. I looked around. There was actually a staff member in their garden center and he asked me what I was looking for. I told him. He informed me that the dianthus was in the greenhouse (there was none there and he really didn’t know what it looked like anyways) and then it got comical when he tried to sell me some strawberry plants. I told him that the ‘Strawberry’ I was looking for was an adjective, a color of a dianthus and it was at this point, his eyes glazed over. “You’re the manager of the garden center, aren’t you?” I asked. “How did you know?” he responded. Just a lucky guess.

• Our reader Marcus Fernando lives part of his life in Birmingham, England. It rains there often, or am I being patronizing? One day, while Marcus was catching a train, a fellow passenger engaged Marcus in a conversation by saying “the rain is very wet today.” Marcus often wondered what was the correct response… “as opposed to the dry rain we had yesterday?”

• Readers who took the time to write and to call this week include the one and only Jeanie Freeman, her sidekick Lyn Goldman, Neil Vandendort from City Parks, Murray Wallace who is married to Regina’s best pie maker Sharon(send one over anytime Sharon), Roberta Nichol, Lola from Ninth Street B and B in Saskatoon which is the finest B and B we have stayed at, hospitality wise, Casey Van Vloten from Vancouver, Robin Poitras’, Heather Lowe and Marg Hryniuk. Also, some lovely lady working at Government House introduced herself as a reader who is receiving the blog from a friend. Always nice to meet new people.

Warning: Dirty Joke-not suitable for sensitive readers: Four years ago, we took a comedy on tour titled ‘The Art and the Science of the Married Man’. It was well received by the audiences, but not by one critic for The Free Press in Winnipeg. He complained that I was not edgy enough, almost boring, and no one has ever called me boring before. The show was family rated, not at all raunchy and that was an artistic choice that I had made. So the next day, I wrote the following joke and told it to my Winnipeg audience. First, I set it up by reading the review to the audience so they had the reference point, especially the part about me not being ‘edgy’. The joke: “All of my life I have been opposed to anal sex and now that I have been reviewed by Randall King of The Free Press, I know why.” Big laugh from the audience. Good joke, eh! When the audience settled down, a woman three rows up and to my right said out loud “I don’t get it…” and the wave of laughter began again. When it stopped I told the woman if I had to explain my jokes to her, I would have to charge another ten dollars. Please forward your ten dollars if you are one of those people who need it explained.

• With the garden growing fine and this edition of The Garden Report finished, we are heading off to The Regina Folk Festival, a cultural event that we are so proud of and really enjoy.

Happy Gardening this week…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Garden Report #9

August 1st, 2010

• Number Three Son has been home all week (the computer genius, so says his dad) and he has been turning this blog upside down with all sorts of formats. First, we are now on line at You can read all of the previous blogs at this site and you can now see the photos I have been trying to send. Many of you never got to see the photos because your server would not allow the email through. Apparently, the file was too large. Now that problem has been solved. Patrick also registered the domain name of so you can find ‘The Garden Report’ under that name as well.

• Garden Tip: When laying new sod, always water the sod bed three or four days before installing your new lawn. Get the water down into the sub soil, let it dry out so the surface is not muddy and then install the sod. If you do this, you will be able to get the new sod rooted much quicker than if you laid it on a dry bed. I recently installed some sod, and it is fully rooted after only being down for eleven days.

• Garden Tip: Rob Reiger and I were planting five apple trees this week. Four of the trees were well rooted in their containers and slid out of the pots intact. One tree was not fully rooted and we were in danger of losing all of the surrounding soil, which would not be a good thing. Rob had a stroke of genius. The pot was black plastic. He cut the bottom of the pot off with an old steak knife. We dropped the tree, pot and all into the planting hole. We then back filled with a good quality, organic planting soil. Then Rob slid the pot up out of the hole and made one vertical cut down the side of the pot and removed it. We had no transplant shock as the root ball was not disturbed. Seeing as this is my 34th year in the trade, I can safely report that old dogs do learn new tricks.

• I was in the country, showing Number One Daughter In Law (Lisa) a project that I have been working on for almost a year. We had some time to bond (don’t' you just love that overused word). I tutored her on how to bawl Patrick out, properly. You see, she was being much too gentle with her opening. A firm enunciation of his Christian name is paramount to success, I explained. "Patrick!" must be pronounced with enough vigor that he knows he is in deep trouble. His mind will begin racing through all of the things that could have gotten him to this point. I told her she would know that she had done her job properly if by simply saying his name, a bead of sweat breaks out across his forehead. Having written, the above, please do not ask how it is that I know this stuff.

• Political correctness totally annoys me. Words are changed around in a futile attempt to somehow obscure what it is we are talking about. Today we say sociologically and economically deprived instead of poor. And take the phrase mentally challenged. The phrase used to be mentally retarded. Nothing wrong with that description and we all knew what we were trying to say. A few people would use the word as a derogatory comment as in "what are you, a retard?" This was meant to be an insult. So now, we no longer use retard, we use the aforementioned mentally challenged. Does anyone not realize that there are those among us who will simply adapt and the insult will be "what are you, mentally challenged?"

• Being a history buff, I read that the words idiot, imbecile and moron once had a medical and legal definition. People were assigned those names to describe their level of reasoning and comprehension. Of course, they were used as insults and the words fell out of favor and they were replaced with, drum roll please, retarded. It's nothing more than a shell game.

• My all time favorite award for political correctness in the use of language had to go to a school teacher. I volunteered to help out with one of my kid's Grade Eight Graduation. I was working with a mom on the program and the teacher made us change the title from Lakeview School's Graduation to A Farewell to Lakeview. You see dear reader, according to this politically correct commandant of the English language, one of the students could read the word graduation and assume they were finished with their education. So, the word farewell has to be used to encourage them to enter high school in September. Now, I am the first to admit that I thought this was really stupid. Something only a moron could have imagined. But I found out that over half of the Grade eight students were indeed planning on not attending high school. That they truly believed their education was now complete and their plan was to hang out at the Seven Eleven, smoking cigarettes and drinking Slurpee's. But after we changed the word graduation to farewell, they enrolled in high school. Many of them went onto become famous doctors and found cures for fatal diseases. I really want to thank that teacher for her sense of language and how that one word saved humanity.

• Garden Tip: Pruning red stemmed dogwoods is incredibly easy. Just remember this ditty: If it's not red, it's dead. With apologies to Joseph McCarthy.

• Long time Lakeview Gardens’ alumni, Joan Anderson says she is really enjoying the blog. Joan reports that she has been growing a wisteria that is supposedly hardy for our area. We will keep you posted on that one. John Huston is hanging out in Saskatoon these days and says there are tomatoes turning red, growing in patio pots. I assume John is referring to the color and not to the politics of the tomato. Peg St. Godard loves the blog and reports that she is really enjoying her pansies this season. Peg would like to see me do a feature about day light savings time. She said she really misses Bob Hughes’ many columns on the issue. Susan Freedman (Vancouver) says that it has been a great summer in her city but she is out of the gardening game. She does read the blog, but more for the jokes. Now I’ll have to write one. My old friend Jan Pederson, who owned Shelmerdine Nursery in Winnipeg, is now the sales rep for Byland' Nursery out of Kelowna. Amazing how one quality company associates with another? Beth Maclean writes that her friends are enjoying the blog as does Cheryl Ann Smith who is on her pilgrimage through Italy. Cheryl Ann is a very modest person and devoutly religious. She is less than thrilled with the see through body scanners that were derided in the last blog. I wonder if the new age/high tech body scanners will be able to detect that I am wearing underwear, purchased when I was a student in Saskatoon, in 1975? What? They’re clean. Jan Dockham likes the blog because it has ‘personality’ which sounds an awful lot like the Lloyd Price song from the fifties...'she's got...personality'. Okay, so I can't sing, even in cyber space.

• Back to my politically correct rant. Why is it that if you made a reference to someone being cheap because they are a Greek, an East Indian, a Jew, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Arab, Italian, French, Chinese, Korean or any other ethnic group, you would be up on charges. Yet, each and every one of you take great delight in pointing out the frugality of my people, the Scots. Have we eaters of oatmeal not suffered enough? We get tired of hearing the "you know you are flying into Scotland when you see the toilet paper hanging on the clothes line" joke. Don't you realize that it was my people who invented recycling? Our old friend Dieter Martin, who immigrated from Germany, got in on the act. His dog peed on my truck tires and Dieter cracks to the dog: "Don't wash his tires for him. He's a Scotsman. He'll never pay you." Ha! Ha! And every television commercial that wants to extol the value of their product, uses some actor with a fake Scottish accent to communicate cheapness. The next person who vilifies my ancestors will be forced to eat haggis while humming 'Scotland the Brave'. Thank you.

• Haggis. Scots never eat the stuff. Some English tourist said “I want to try something ethnically Scots, an original dish.” Some smart ass (unrelated to me) said “hey, let’s put a bunch of ground up organ meat and oatmeal into a sheep’s stomach and tell them it’s our national dish.” Who knew it would catch on?

• Garden Tip: Some people labor under the illusion that to improve the tilth of clay soil, you should add some sand. Think about this for a moment. Take some sand, some clay and some water and all you need for concrete is a little bit of Portland cement. The best thing to improve clay soil is peat moss and compost material...which I would like to point out is a recycling material, invented by the Scots.

• Garden Tip: Talking to the neighbor next door. Her property borders the back lane and every type of seed has blown into this small strip of land. Lots and I mean lots of seedling trees. Ash, maple and elm. I told her to get them out now while they are small or else one day she will have to pay an arborist several hundred dollars to take down just one. Small seedlings grow into big trees with enough time. So the tip is to remove seedlings when they are small and easy to do so.

• Yesterday was the wedding of my nephew Daniel and his bride Tania. Daniel spent a lot of time staying at Uncle Rod’s house when we were on tour with The Fringe. I assured him that when he has his first big one with Tania, that he can always come stay with me. “Your room will always be available for you,” I said. “No, no, Uncle Rod,” he insisted, “we have decided we’ll never fight.” I am glad to hear that the next generation has that one sorted out. Maybe I could stay at their place when I lose a three rounder.

• For those who know my kid sister Bonnie, who doubles up as Daniel’s mother, yes, she was super bossy at the wedding, just as she always is. Whenever Bonnie organizes anything, and I mean anything, the first thing she does is to ensure that everyone has a job to do. No one gets away without having an assignment. My job was to look after Mom. Yep. That is a job. Look after Mom. Make sure she gets everywhere on time. Now Mom decided that the job description was much too complicated so she shortened it to “do everything I tell you to do”…which means that yes, I was carrying Mom’s purse for her, and it was a big purse. I asked her “Mom, why do you need all of this stuff?” She said “just in case.” There was Kleenex and toilet paper and hand gel and a small umbrella in case it rained, a pair of beige pantyhose in case someone got a run in their stocking, a dictionary in case someone wasn’t sure how to spell a word (you never know) and there was half a sandwich left over from a lunch she was at last week. I decided to be a smart ass (surprise) and I asked Mom why she didn’t have my dad’s cremation urn in her giant purse. She looks at me as if I am dumber than a bag of nails and she says “you know that your father has never liked weddings.” And people want to know how writers get their ideas.

• Purse Story Number Two: Billy Hicke and his wife Leanne used to shop at Lakeview Gardens. Billy had been a hockey player in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950’s. One night they arrived at the garden center and Leanne takes a cart and hands Billy her purse. A big purse. So I ask Billy “when you were playing in the big leagues with Montreal, if Jean Beliveau would have said to you ‘hey Hicke, you carry a purse’…would you have taken him outside and laid a licking on him?” Billy responded “nope, I would have thumped him right there in the dressing room for all to see.” “So Billy, what happened?” I asked. And Billy thought about it for a moment and said “Time.” Leanne looked back from the greenhouse and yelled, “Billy, don’t spend all night yakking with Rod!”

• Garden Tip: To protect new and young trees from whipper snippers, sun scald and other damage, install a plastic, tree guard on the trunk. These are available at many garden centers and if need be, a piece of weeping tile, eighteen to twenty-four inches long, cut down the middle, will work just as well.

• Garden Tip: With the warm weather we have been experiencing, it is best to water in the early morning hours before it is too warm. Water deeply and thoroughly so the water reaches the bottom of the roots.

• Happy Gardening for another week…Rod McDonald in Regina