Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Garden Report #26

The Garden Report #26

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Writer’s Thoughts: We have changed up our routine and instead of cornbread from the oven, I have whipped up a batch of banana waffles with my secret ingredient, nutmeg. Nutmeg? Yes, I know I am boring but boring is safer. As an appeasement towards my health conscious Mrs., I have made the waffles using whole wheat flour and organic eggs purchased from The Farmers’ Market yesterday morning. As we dig into our brunch, we listen to ‘The Vinyl Café’. Above all else, the show is a piece of Canadiana. And I do love my Canadiana. Did you know that ‘Spell Check’ does not recognize Canadiana as a word? Parliament should pass a law, making ‘Spell Check’ smarten up. Can you spell curmudgeon? With brunch out of the way, I have retreated to my office to finish this Report and send it out into the universe. My office has soft light from windows that face onto Angus Street and Regina Avenue. It is a quiet place. My writer friends envy my writing space. It should also be noted that I have left Maureen in the kitchen to clean up my waffle mess. I am a good cook. A very good cook. But I have never bragged that I am good at cleaning up. This qualifies me as a chauvinist or as I like to think of myself, as a traditional gender assigned participant in a life partner relationship. Parliament should pass a law and make me smarten up. Maureen says she loves me but if she had it to do all over again, she would choose someone else. Somehow, I understand.

My old place, Lakeview Gardens from a balloon-Jeff Jackson photo
• Readers Write: Much feedback from #25. Here goes. Marlo at The Mysteria Gallery wrote “Your words warm my heart.” Reader Jean McKay wants us to know that she is involved with a schoolchildren’s program that you can look up at Roberta Nichol is in her new house on Rae Street and she wrote “Thanks again for The Garden Report…love it.” Greg Morley ventured forth this: “The gardening tips and stories are great, but it is the personal anecdotes and the rants that I truly appreciate. Keep it up, you are a very fine writer.” June Blau wants readers to know about Magpies, a new eating establishment where Book and Briar once was. June also wrote “Keep writing and we’ll keep reading. Go Riders!” Marcus Fernando is directing a production of ‘Wind in the Willows’ in London, England. His rather new baby Pascal, who has been pictured here within The Garden Report, attempted to eat the script during one rehearsal. That is the problem with being a writer. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the quality of your work. Pascal says “a very tasty script indeed but nothing compared to a Dickens.” Sally Orr wrote in to tell us of having snow in Victoria and then followed that up with writing “You are an amazing man!” Now, I am not certain what I did to deserve that, but if she lets me know, I will probably do it again. Nothing succeeds like excess. Lyn Goldman wrote about how wonderful her amaryllis was last year and to advise me that she now reads The Garden Report to her two cats. Lyn wrote “Thanks for this. As usual, your comments are much appreciated.” Rachelle Elle out of Toronto wrote “makes me want to read more of your blog.” For readers who have not met Rachelle, she is an actor and a clown. Her show ‘Joe the Perfect Man’ was a big hit on The Fringe circuit. I have been asking her to perform it in Regina for four years now. Maybe this year will be the charm. Neighbor and reader Laura Ross wrote “Your tip about Christmas Trees was well timed. Thank you again for another heartwarming Garden Report. Look forward to the next one.” Carlos over at The Italian Star says that he enjoys reading about the community in The Garden Report. Running his own shop makes it difficult for him to get out and about but he wants to know what is happening across town.

• Readers continue to write: I told you, this week there were more responses in the inbox than ever before. Here are some more of them. Reader Rhonda Rein, who is a sister to dedicated reader Cheryl Hutton, wrote “Thanks very much for the tips on Christmas trees. It was as if you had read my mind. Love all your reports that you send out.” Jean Freeman wrote “I have spent a delightful few minutes browsing your Report, which just puts the cherry on top of the frosting.” Jean also wanted readers to know how much she enjoyed ‘Jacque Brel’ at The Artesian. Joan Kortje particularly enjoyed the thought for the day in #25. From reader Joanne Terry “Hey Rod, good to read your edition every week…keep up the good work.” Regular reader Cheryl Hutton, is returning for her fourth year to star in Theater Calgary’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Always a best seller. Cheryl writes that she loves the photos of Buchart Gardens in the last blog. It is wonderful to read that so many of our actor/readers have found work this Christmas. I have a selfish reason for celebrating actors finding work. If they are employed, they won’t be living in my basement. Reader Jimmy Gibbs from Winnipeg has retired from a long career with The Treasury Board. Jimmy is one of those volunteers that keep The Winnipeg Fringe up and running. Reader Chris Pasterfield forwarded the interesting photos. Reader John Wolkowski has been discharged from the hospital and he is resting comfortably at home. Reader Marg Hryniuk wrote that she likes to read positive things about young people as mentioned in #25.

• The origins of a story teller: My earliest memory of being a story teller goes back to when I was six. I came home from Sunday School at our local Baptist Church. My dad asked me what the story had been that morning. I told him it was the one of ‘Jonah and The Whale.’ My dad asked how that one went. I told him. But the version I had heard in Sunday School was a little too tame for me. So I jazzed it up or as I like to think, I improved upon it. I added some electric outlets into the whales stomach, along with a television, a couch and enough lumber to construct a small house. I remember my dad was laughing so hard at my story, that tears were rolling down his face. He said “Son, is that really how the story went?” And I said “Yep.” And I kept going.

We love our snowblowers in Saskatchewan
• The story teller continues: While my dad enjoyed my stories, my mother grew increasingly annoyed with them. Being raised a good Scot’s Presbyterian, she understood that stories were either true or not true, and she considered fiction to be glamorized lies My mother also believed that Rock Hudson was secretly in love with Doris Day. When I started to sell some of my stories as an adult, my mother would read them and if they were not absolutely true, she would be perturbed. She took great exception to me having published one story in particular. I defended myself, letting her know that I had been paid two hundred dollars for that story. She responded “So great. I have raised a professional liar.” So what was the story that upset her? It was seven hundred words about how The Riders hired her to beat the rookies with her broom, wooden spoon and fly swatter. If they survived mom’s beating, they could go on to rookie camp because they were tough enough to survive in the CFL. Pretty funny story…except of course it wasn’t true…the Riders never paid mom, she did it for free. This story did not go down well with the old girl.

• Garden Tip: Reader Joanne Terry asked a question regarding potting soil. The one I use for both indoor and outdoor planting is called ‘ProMix’ and it is manufactured by Premier. I have seen if for sale at various places. I purchase mine from Larry at Sherwood Greenhouses. Give him a call and see if he has any in stock.

• Gender Wars: Why is it that you can chase your kid sister around the house with a dirty sock and she will scream her lungs out…and yet she is the same woman who will smell a baby’s rear end to see if it needs changing?

• Tulip Families: Reader Rob vanZanten was born into a family that sold tulips across Canada. Every fall, Rob and his brothers and sisters were required to package tulip bulbs and every spring, they had to package gladiola bulbs for shipment. Rob tells the story of the kids packaging the bulbs and discussing how much better it would be if their dad owned a candy business. As the kids saw it, there would be so many more perks to working for your dad in a candy business.

A happy gopher in our province
• Flower Families: Reader Piet Berkenpas was a part owner in West Coast Floral, a company that sold flowers across the prairies. How it worked was people like me would call in our orders on Monday. Piet would purchase the orders starting Tuesday morning at seven a.m. At four in the afternoon, they would start to load the trucks, ensuring the right flowers were going to the right store. This would often take them until three or four or five a.m. to complete. A very long day. Piet’s mom and dad, even though they were well into their seventies, would come in every Tuesday at four and stay the night, helping to assemble the orders, pack and load the cases onto the trucks. As Piet would say, “where do you find people who know all of the flower varieties, how to pack and when to ship…and will work weird hours once a week.” I tell this story to explain why so many Dutch families did so well in the flower business. In essence, they did what they needed to do, and without complaint. The next time you see the flowers in a shop or the grocery store, remember there is a back story as to how they got there.

• Garden Tip: When choosing your poinsettia this Christmas season, always choose one that has its flowers intact. Now, most people think the red leaves are the flower but that is incorrect. The flowers are those tiny little balls in the center of the plant. If they have fallen off, it does not bode well for the longevity of the poinsettia.

• Garden Tip: The easiest way to kill a poinsettia, as if you readers needed assistance with that task, is to overwater it. Poinsettias can actually be ‘run dry’ which means they prefer to be more dry than wet. Ironically, an overwatered poinsettia appears as if it is under watered. It’s leaves droop, leading the homeowner to apply more water, which finishes the plant off in record time. Best to water poinsettias from the bottom. If you splash water on the leaves when watering from the top, you can stain or mark them. Run two inches of water into your sink. Set the pot, without the cover, into the water for twenty minutes. The plant will wick the correct amount of water.

• Garden Tip: Always use a saucer under your poinsettia, even if you have a pot cover on the plant. If you do not have a saucer, chances are that you will mark your furniture. As an aside, a pot cover is called a ‘speedy’ in the floral business. Aren’t you glad you read that.

Much snow at Buchart Gardens in Victoria
• Garden Tip: Older customers lament the days when they could purchase a pure white poinsettia at Christmas. For the last fifteen to twenty years, a white poinsettia is usually a cream colored plant, with definite tones of yellow. It cannot be described as being white, though it is labeled as such. The reason the pure white poinsettia has disappeared from the market place is that the plants were not strong. ‘Annette Hegg’ was the name of the old fashioned white poinsettia grown for years. Sadly, only about thirty to fifty percent of the plants survived the shipping or the trip home. The branches broke quite easily, thus it was known as a weak plant. Obviously, no greenhouse grower is going to grow plants with losses that high, so other varieties that were stronger were substituted. ‘Marble Star’ is one of the more popular ‘whites’ on the market. I use it quite a bit in my house as it is the strongest poinsettia on the market and it lasts longer than the reds or the pinks.

• Moxies on Victoria East: I was there for a birthday party for three. Maureen had a linguini and meat ball dish that had a very rich tomato sauce, which is a good thing. Maxwell had a penne that they described as being Tuscan. It was somewhat creamy and very flavorful. I went with the barbecue ribs, hoping they would be something special. They weren’t. The ribs were basic and the barbecue sauce was bland, close to a ketchup. All of the meals were served hot and everything tasted fresh so no complaints there. The side dishes were of good quality. A few years back, I had a New York strip steak at Moxies and it was as good or better than any steak house meal. Overall, they are a good place for a meal with room for improvement in a few dishes.

• Garden Tip: Reader Rhonda Rein asked about maintaining the fragrance of a Christmas tree. Here is the situation. If you are baking cabbage rolls, someone coming into the house can smell them, but you can’t. Smell is something that is different or unusual. That is why I could never enjoy the bouquet of the greenhouse. I had spent too much time inside of it to notice the smells. So, you get used to the fragrance of your tree, except when you first come back into the house. If you want to enjoy the fragrance now and again, break a small piece off of a branch and rub it in your hand. Your body heat releases the oils from the needles and you will have your hit of Christmas tree. For what it is worth, when I was selling Christmas trees every day, a certain someone who lives in this house, used to cuddle up to me nightly, and smell the Balsam fragrance that permeated my hair and body. It was better than a cologne.

• Christmas: In all my years in business, I absolutely refused to use the abbreviation ‘X-Mas’ in any of my ads or signs. I could never understand the need to abbreviate a word that was already short. And if for some reason, someone did not wish to celebrate a Christian based holiday, fair enough. But there were other options available other than ‘X-Mas’.

• Christmas Parties: My lovely sister Bonnie, organized a party for the employees of the university several years ago. As she set about doing her volunteer work, she received suggestions and complaints, one after another as to when it should be, what should be served, the cost, live music versus canned and so forth. She was close to her breaking point when a letter arrived from one of the professors. The writer described herself as being an atheist, and she objected to the description, ‘Christmas Party.’ She insisted it be renamed ‘A Seasonal Celebration’. Do I need to write on or does this story tell itself?

A dwarf blue delphinium...lovely plant
• Experts in the Wings: If you ever want to find out how many of your relatives and friends are experts in running a small business, just open one. Even the ones who have worked for the government their entire lives, seem to know exactly what you should be doing.

• 13th Avenue: Last year, the snow was piled so high along 13th Avenue that traffic was reduced to one lane at times. Why the merchants did not get after The City for snow removal is beyond me. With all of the snow we have had this November, it appeared as if this safety hazard was about to occur again. My kudos to The City for having removed the snow this week, and now there are two lanes to park in and two lanes to drive in. Much, much better.

• 13th Avenue again: Cathedral Village is supposed to be the last great, walking neighborhood in the city. People come from all over to visit the wonderful independent shops along 13th and The Farmers’ Market. It is a real beehive of activity and now The Artesian Theater has given people even more reason to be there. So, if there is a high level of pedestrian traffic, why has the merchants association not hired a contractor to keep the sidewalks open and accessible. A few of the shop keepers and other property owners do a diligent job of keeping their sidewalks clear of snow and ice, but the operative phrase is ‘a few’. There are many areas of the sidewalk that approach the dangerous level, especially for seniors.

• Garden Tip: This large amount of snowfall is a very good thing for our plants, especially our perennials. The snow will keep everything well insulated, especially when we get hit by the minus thirties. Losses should be reduced next spring.

• Borrowed Thought: If we realized how seldom most people thought of us, we wouldn’t worry so much what they thought.

Volunteers: Chatting with a regular volunteer over at The Pasqua Hospital. Very friendly gentleman. I asked him how old he is and he told me 81. He works very hard at his volunteer position and goes above and beyond what is expected. Leads me to think: Where would this city be without the thousands of volunteers that donate their time, passion and skills?

• Rider Story: Coach John Gregory of the Riders many years ago, was a regular shopper at Lakeview Gardens. One day ‘Coach’ comes in to the greenhouse. He needs a gift for his Mrs. He asks me what a certain plant is. I tell him that it is a Picotee Azalea, a lovely gift for his wife. He asks how much and I tell him $24.99. ‘Coach’ is no longer interested. I asked him what the problem was. He says that he wants to spend around fifty bucks. Without missing a beat I said “did I say $24.99? I misspoke. It is $49.99 plus taxes.” Coach smiles and says “too late.”

• Real Rider Pride: I was walking along downtown Hamilton Street on Friday. Now, I never ever look at the window display of Thee Lingerie Shoppe (you may quit your laughing now) but this day I did. The mannequins were dressed in their finest of green undies. Sexy and patriotic at the same time.

• Garden Tip, sort of: If you are having difficulty finding a top grade poinsettia this season, send me an email. I might have a few extras that I could sell. Mine will be ready around December 11th.

I love to go scuba diving no matter what the temperature is outside!
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in snow covered Regina

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