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


  1. Great Blog Dad! Thanks for mentioning our first anniversary. You are doing a great job adding in all of these photos as well!

    If anyone wants to post comments on my dad's blog. All you need to do is hit the "follow" button just below his "About Me" section on the right hand side of this page. Once you are signed in you will have the ability to post comments on any of his weekly blogs. I think you can sign in with any kind of online email you might have or you can just create a new blog account.


    #3 son

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