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

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