Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Garden Report #25

The Garden Report #25

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Winter is here: A lovely dusting of snow overnight but it was nothing compared to the storm on Thursday. It took me four hours to dig everything out. This is the prairies. It is to be expected. As I sit here writing on my laptop, I am grateful for our warm house, our winter garden and of course, the cast iron pan filled with warm corn bread. To be honest, the cast iron pan is now only half full and the maple syrup level has dropped in its container. Murphy is curled up in an upstairs bedroom. He sees no need to go out. Maureen is reading yesterday’s paper close by. At this moment in time, the universe is predictable. My coffee cup is by my side and the squirrels are running through the tops of the American Elms. They’re not cold. They have on their winter coats.

Readers write: Several of you took the time to write, sharing how much you enjoy The Green Spot on Hamilton Street. It was reviewed in last week’s blog. Many of you with fat souls, mentioned how lovely their cinnamon buns are. Apparently, they are only baked on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also recommended, the Breakfast Cookie noted as being highly addictive.

Readers really write: Georgia Hearn wrote “Many of us cannot write about our weakness’…as you have.” Well Georgia, I do have many in my repertoire that I can write about. Amy Salloway wrote “I am starting to suspect that you are secretly a Minnesotan. Your writing style with its focus on gentle observational humor…reminds me so much of some of the most famous literary forces here…” Marg Hryniuk wrote “good stuff about potash/culture in Sask. I do hope that someone sends your words to (Premier) Wall.” Jean Freeman wrote “I am so glad that your are still on your journey and that you have decided to take a bunch of us along with you. Bless you!” Reader Margaret Bessai sent along her thanks for publishing the photo of her son’ snowman, last week. Reader Murray Wallace forwarded the photos of Buchart Gardens. Thanks Murray.

Christmas at Buchart Gardens
Strange but true: I was handing out flyers at The Saskatoon Fringe one year. I like doing the one on one marketing, pressing the flesh and so on. You get into some wonderful conversations doing that. So, I hand my flyer to a woman. She reads it and confronts me. She says: “The flyer says that you wrote ‘The Preacher’ but I know for a fact that Rod McDonald wrote ‘The Preacher’.” I tell her “I am Rod McDonald”. She says “No you’re not. I know Rod McDonald and you’re not him.” Now, your guess is as good as mine as to what was the correct response to that assertion. There are many funny retorts that I could have offered up but I went with quite a linear and logical approach. I said “if I was going to steal an identity, why would I pose as Rod McDonald? Why wouldn’t I pretend that I am Neil Simon or David Mamet or some famous playwright? And if I was going to steal a play, why would I steal one that was seen by five hundred people at best? Shouldn’t I steal a play that was seen by thousands?” She left the argument unconvinced as to my identity, but at least she was now very confused.

Shopper’s Drugs: Stopped in at the Broad and 14th location on Friday to pick up something. They had a display of Smucker’s Jams, regular $5.99 for $3.99. Good product. Good price. Picked up two. Watched as the cashier put them through the scanner. Price comes up $5.99. Tell the cashier. She gives me the classic line: “Not what the scanner says.” Get the shelf talker sign. Show her. She does an override. I wonder how many people just pay the total without checking the scanner pricing. I wonder how often this is happening. Seems to occur more often than it used to. Let me know if it has been happening to you and at what stores.

Garden Tip: You either received an amaryllis bulb as a gift or else you purchased one yourself. How to plant it. First, amaryllis bulbs do not need to be chilled the way tulips, daffodils and crocus are. Amaryllis can be planted right away. Best to use a pot or container that is a little on the small side. Rookie mistake to plant an amaryllis in too big of a pot. I use four inch pots myself for most bulbs unless it is very large, then I move up to a five inch. If there are old roots on the bottom of the bulb, they can be trimmed away with scissors. Place potting soil into the bottom of the container until one third of the top of the bulb is sticking out of the pot. Then lightly pack some more soil around the bulb. Ensure the bulb is out of the pot and that it is sitting straight. Lightly water the soil from the top. After that, provide most of the water from the bottom as that is where it is needed. Place the planted pot into a dish of water and let stand for twenty minutes. The soil should absorb all that it needs in the twenty minutes. You do not need to add fertilizer. Amaryllis need some light. The more there is, the quicker they will bloom. Many people think that amaryllis will bloom for Christmas, guaranteed. Not true. Amaryllis will bloom anywhere between November 25th and March 15th. They are as unpredictable as my cat.

Young people today: I have been very impressed by several of the young people I have encountered in my recent travels. Over at Lakeview Fine Foods, they have two young people who are very helpful, energetic and polite. Down the street at Mark’s Mini Tune, one of neighbor kids is pumping gas. Connor served me the other day and gave some first rate service. Over at Nicky’s, they have a sixteen year old bus boy who watches the café like a hawk, waiting to pounce on dirty dishes. I told Perry, Nicky’s son, that this kid is a real keeper. There are some young people out there with real hustle and they actually understand customer service. Good for them.

Winter at Buchart Gardens

Garden Tip: Real Christmas Trees. Nothing smells better than a real Christmas Tree. Here are some of the choices you will find this year. The Douglas Fir tends to be ‘ the Charlie Brown’ tree. It is rarely full but for some people, that is their ideal tree. It’s been around since I was a kid. Scot’s Pine is another choice that has been around forever. It has longer, somewhat prickly needles. It’s fragrance is so so. It is often dyed a dark green with a harmless, vegetable dye. White Pine were very popular in the 1980’s but are no longer in vogue. They have long soft needles. They have very little fragrance. They last a long time. They are hard to decorate. Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir have dominated the market place for the last fifteen years. They are as a rule, very full trees and both are quite fragrant. Frasers usually have a slightly spicier smell to them and they usually have a bit more bluish hue than most Balsams. Fraser Fir are the most expensive of the trees.

Garden Tip: Christmas Tree prices vary from lot to lot. Often, it has to do with the grade of the tree. Most people do not know this, but Christmas Trees are usually graded into three and sometimes four grades. Number ones are supposed to have three or four good sides, be straight and full and they should be heavy for their size. I have seen mainly number three grade trees for sale at the box stores. That is why the price is often so low. They paid a lot less for the number threes than the number ones.

Garden Tip: Regardless of the tree you choose, it is imperative that you cut around two inches off the trunk just before you set it in water. Any cut older than an hour must be redone as it will have started to seal over. I usually like to sit my real tree into a bucket of water overnight to let it have a really good drink, and then set it up on the second day.

Today’s thought: When I realized how visible my faults were to others, I quit hiding them from myself.

Christmas Gift: I wrote that an excellent gift is a subscription to ‘The Gardener for the Prairies’. Another great gift or stocking stuffer is the gardening calendar being sold for fifteen dollars by The Friends of The Norman Mackenzie. The front cover is of our yard. You can purchase them from the woman I share my life with. Just email me and I will forward it to her.

Wag the Dog: I couldn’t sleep on Friday night so I wandered downstairs and turned on the television. Nothing like a faith healer at three a.m. to make me drowsy. I was pleasantly surprised that ‘Wag the Dog’ was on CBC. This film is a real gem, though it did not draw well at the box office. It is a favorite show of producers everywhere, as the central theme is that producers never get the credit they deserve. Having produced many shows, I understand the sentiment. Writing of producers, reader Michelle McCaw is a legend as a producer at CBC One. She earned her reputation by booking interviews with incredible people and arranging for intelligent shows.

Pasqua Hospital: Reader John Wolkowski’s ticker went on the fritz and that earned him a stay at the Pasqua, in the Cardiac Monitoring Unit. John is doing just fine and is much improved. As I was visiting John, I watched the nurses provide top drawer care to the elderly patients on the ward. Their compassion would have made Florence Nightingale proud. Just thought I would throw that out there, seeing as there are so many things going wrong with our health care system these days.

Who doesn’t love nurses: No secret here. I have been in love with nurses since I was eight years old. It is no coincidence that Maureen is a nurse. Many of our readers are nurses. The nurses at my dialysis clinic look after me ever so well. Of course, I bring them cabbage rolls, straight from my oven, either in appreciation or as a bribe. But in spite of my love for their profession and my gift of cabbage rolls, they still use really big needles to inject me. They assure me that six year old girls show more bravado during injections than I do. They also love to tear tape off of me. It provides them with much needed entertainment during busy shifts. They say I scream ever so well. Glad to be of service to the profession.

Snow at Buchart Gardens
• Warm thoughts and imaginary hugs for all of you…Rod McDonald in a very, chilly, but sunny Regina

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