Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Garden Report #22

American Elm canopy along Regina Avenue, October of 2010 - June Blau

The Garden Report #22

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Black mulch in a shrub bed #1-Mike Liske

Black mulch in shrub bed #2-Mike Liske

• Nice Photos: Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Co. sent along some photos of a front yard where he incorporated a black mulch into the shrub beds. Mike writes that the mulch has maintained its color for two years and has reduced the weed growth to a minimal amount. Black mulch became quite popular in the east a few years back but has never caught on here.

The van Zantens-Garden Report Readers!
Photo: We have a photo of faithful blog reader Rob van Zanten and his family. Rob is a part owner of one of Canada’s largest horticultural firms, Pan American Nursery Products. While Rob lives near Vancouver, he has been a frequent visitor to Regina over the years. He loves Wascana Park, our bike paths, and old Lakeview where he has stayed with our family, many times. In case you can’t tell, this is a real Dutch family, not one of those pretend ones! The picture is cropped and you cannot see their wooden shoes.
• Readers write: Lyn Goldman writes “The photographs are particularly beautiful.” Chris Dodd wrote in regarding the wearing of clean underwear to the doctor’s office. She reminds all of us of the importance of wearing clean underwear in case we get in an accident. Amazing how that little gem has been passed down through the ages by the Association of Protective Mothers. Roberta Nichol understands my willingness to engage in conversations with squirrels, as reported in #21. Roberta herself, converses with gophers. Jodi Sadowsky wrote “Love the updates. Hugs.” Just send money, Jodi. Jean McKay tells us that she planted Princess Irene Tulips with some Scilla sibirica which are purple. Georgia Hearn writes “I always learn something and have a good laugh.” Dani Mario and her boyfriend Trevor Green joined us at The Globe last Sunday. Dani says that she enjoys the blog because of the mix of topics. The boys at Hill Avenue Drugs totally agree with my take on KFC’s new sandwich. They called it a “salt sandwich.” Morag Armbruster writes “Your Garden Report is quite interesting so I don’t want to miss it.” Daryl and Lola from The Ninth Street Bed and Breakfast in Saskatoon write “We enjoy your blog…its entertaining, funny, insightful…The ‘Rod-isms’ are priceless”.

• Garden Tip: A few of you have inquired about amaryllis varieties. The number one seller is called Red Lion and it is indeed a bright red. One of my favorites is Apple Blossom which is white with pink striping. There are some really weird and strange varieties on the market now, if you know where to look. There are ones called Green Goddess, Papillio and Aphrodite. I am growing the last two.

• Readers Read: The snow storm was raging, a wonderful fire was going and Murphy and I were curled up listening to the radio. That was last Tuesday afternoon. Being broadcast was a story from actor, writer and regular blog reader Jeanie Freeman. Jeanie was telling the tale of learning how to kiss when she was a young girl and the dangers of two teenagers attempting romance when each of them have braces. It was hilarious and poignant at the same time.

Blue Oat Grass-a good choice for many gardens
• Garden Tip: Not to worry about the snow. Just about everything has hardened off as it should. The snow has melted into the ground and will act as a good reservoir for next spring. When there is a really hard frost of minus seven or lower, early in September, that is a not a good situation. It damages the plants not yet prepared for it. Plants need time to get rid of the water in their leaves and stems for winter. If they freeze with too high of a moisture content, they can rupture.

• Cookie Monster: During Tuesday’s storm, Maureen contracted a bit of ‘Betty Crocker Syndrome.’ She baked some absolutely delicious oatmeal/raisin cookies. I was ecstatic. She commented “it doesn’t take all that much to make you happy, does it?” That started me thinking, something I am prone to do. What we value and seek in a mate changes from when we are twenty to when we are sixty.

• Changing mates: Friends of ours have a wonderful marriage. They enjoy each other immensely. It is a second marriage for both of them. She told me when she was twenty, she was attracted to the party boys. Those lads who liked to drink and carry on. It was a ‘fun time.’ She married one of them. The party scene soon grew old and redundant. They divorced. She took her time before getting married again. Her second husband was the opposite of her first one. He was a quiet fellow who loved to read and write. She admits that when she was twenty, she would have not given this man a second look. She would have classified him as ‘boring’. Yet, he turned out to be great husband. He was kind, nurturing, caring, stable and he cooks for her. She grew into him, for lack of a better phrase. So, long after her ‘party boys’ have gone to seed, many of them sitting in beer parlors without regular employment for fourteen years, her bookish husband gets better and better. I love a happy ending.

• Elder love: Two old timers, sitting on a park bench. One asks of the other what is new. The second responds that he has recently taken a bride. The first asks if the new bride is a good cook, a good house keeper or sexy? The bridegroom answers no to all the questions. “Why did you get married, then?” “Because she can drive at night.” I don’t care if you heard that one before. I’m recycling these days.

• Garden Tip: Most (not all) insects on house plants can be controlled with Trounce which is a combination of soapy water and chrysanthemum juice.

• Restaurants: This is a not a review, rather a lament. In the last fifty years, restaurants have gotten better and better with their marketing. Their menus are super slick now, filled with wonderful photographs and descriptions of meals that had to be written by a gifted Irishman. But as their menus improved, the quality of the food has diminished. Here is my point. Up until the 1970’s, even the dives cut their own French fries from real potatoes, mashed potatoes did not come from flakes and hash browns did not originate from a bag. Every café made their own soup from their own chicken or beef stock, simmering on the back of the stove. No soup came from a can, a bag or from a mix. The house gravy was made from the pan drippings of the roast, not from a can. Every small town café made their hamburgers on the spot. No one bought frozen patties.

• The old Brock Hotel: When I was in Grade Eight in 1965, I worked part time at the skid row Brock Hotel Café, long since gone. We baked four different fruit pies every day, two cream pies and a killer Boston Cream Pie which I have not seen on the market for years. And the filling for our fruit pies was made in the kitchen, not scooped out of a can. Our veggies were not frozen or from a can. We bought them by the case, washed and peeled them and then they were cooked. We sliced our own bacon. It did not come precooked. Just about everything was made in the kitchen, from scratch. Keep in mind, this was a dive. A place frequented by drunks, hookers and drifters. Today, if you want something from scratch, it is normally found in upscale bistros. Most middle of the road places, especially the chain restaurants, are serving their customers food that was prepared elsewhere. All they have done is heat it up. “My compliments to the chef running your microwave and to the photographer who took your menu pictures.”

• Times change #1: While we were a scratch kitchen at the old Brock Hotel, everything we cooked, we cooked in lard. We piled on the salt and no one ever complained. We used gobs of butter on many items and we boiled the hell out of the veggies until you didn’t need to chew them. If we would have served the carrots a la dente, they would have been sent back by the customer. We were a scratch kitchen. I didn’t’ write we were a healthy place to eat.

• Times change #2: To finish off the rant from above, working at The Brock Hotel as a fourteen year old, washing dishes, I was paid eighty-five cents an hour. Some of the women working as servers had been there for twenty years. They were paid seventy cents an hour. Fifteen cents less than me, because they were female. That was the law. Even thought I was only fourteen, I knew that was wrong.

• New Dance Horizons: Many of you forward The Garden Report. Perfectly okay with me. It’s in the public domain. New Dance Horizons is now forwarding the blog to their people so we have some new readers. Welcome. For you dance enthusiasts, which is a true statement? A) I was a middle linebacker for The Regina Rams in 1969 or B)When Robin founded NDH, I was her lead dancer for the first three seasons until a knee injury forced an early retirement. No prize for guessing correctly.

• Another guessing game: Which of the following is a true statement? In high school, I was a good student. Was that because a) I was diligent and hard working or b) because I spent so much time in the detention hall that I always finished my homework assignments.

• Trivial Pursuit: In 1969, at the university, only engineering students had hand held calculators. They cost a hundred dollars which is the equivalent of five or six hundred now. The engineering students wore their calculators in a holster attached to their belts, almost as a badge of honor. “Hey! I’m an engineering student. I have a calculator. I’m smart. Eat crap you history majors!” Ask me if engineering students got along with the other students? By 1976, calculators had been miniaturized. They were now running on solar and cost six bucks. I bought one and it lasted twenty years. I never carried it in a holster.

• How long do you hold your grudges: In 2001, I had an opportunity to visit a relative in a nursing home. He was 92 years of age. While he could not remember what he had had for breakfast, his mind was absolutely clear regarding an incident from 1918. As we spoke, I realized that he had lost the social filter that allows us to lie, rationalize and minimize. He could only tell the truth as he knew it to be. I took this as an opportunity to ask him a question. I knew that he and his brother had been estranged since 1937. They had not spoken since that year. I asked why? His answer was “My brother was always too busy for my liking. He had always just come from somewhere or else he was just going somewhere.” I asked him if there was anything else that had lead to their separation? “Nope. That’s it.”

• Is that me: Now this gave me a pause to think. How often do I, how often do you, allow something that is nothing more than an irritation, to influence the rest of our lives? If we are upset with someone who is close to us, a friend, a colleague or a family member, how long do we get to carry our grudges. At what point do we say to ourselves “It was one word, one sentence, one moment in time and does that outweigh all of our other experiences.” I write this from both sides of the equation, having been both the ‘grudgee’ and the ‘grudger’. And when we hold a grudge for a day, a week or for fifty years, who exactly are we punishing? Does the universe congratulate us at some point saying “Wow! You are better at holding a grudge than anyone else.” Do we get a trophy or a ribbon for first place? Is there a premium spot reserved in heaven for those of us who held grudges compared with those people who practiced forgiveness? I know I will never qualify for sainthood. That is not my destiny. I would just like to quit carrying rocks uphill in snowstorms, because when I get to the top of the hill, it turns out, it was just a rock.

Black Mulch in shrub bed #3-Mike Liske
• Garden Tip: This one’s a week or two late. When you are cleaning up your flower pots for the winter, always inspect the quality and depth of the root ball before you throw it out or compost it. You will usually find that your best flower pots had the deepest roots. That is why it is so important in the spring, to loosen root bound plants so that the new shoots head south into the pot. The best root balls will leave very little soil behind in the pot, once removed.

• Farmers’ Market: It was packed at the market yesterday morning. I came away with fresh carrots, strawberry jam, and lemon pound cake. Its open every Saturday morning at The Cathedral Village Community Center.

• Options: I am aware that life is not always fair but so far, it beats the alternative.

• Happy gardening…and snow shoveling…Rod McDonald in Regina

Take one last look at the green, green will be a few months before you see this color in Regina

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