Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Garden Report #45

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Gladiator Flowering Crab in bloom
• Writers write: The snow recedes, a few inches each day. Two signs of an ever approaching spring appear. The birds have returned from their winter nesting grounds to Wascana Lake which is three hundred feet from my front door. As I stand on the front steps at night, the noise is phenomenal. The birds chatter back and forth. “Florida you say? Well this year, our flock tried south Texas and let me assure you, the weather was wonderful.” Or so goes my translation. The second sign of spring, and it is only a promise of things to come, my tulips in the sun trap part of the garden are emerging from their winter’ rest. Many are up two and three inches above the soil and while the blooms are several weeks away, there is that hope offered by my sleeping beauties. It has been a long winter.

• Readers write: Georgia Hearn writes “Another joyful read.” Reader Jim Gibbs from Winnipeg let us know that The Beach Boys did not record ‘Barbara Ann’ originally. According to Jim, it was recorded by The Regents in 1961. Now you know. Gail Aubin writes “Your Garden Report continues to be a spark in a week of ho hum emails.” Gail also adds that steaming with Vicks or Friar’s Balsam alleviates head colds. Yes, mom. Paula Grolle wants it made clear that the stories of the winter of 1947 were relayed to her, as she was not born until sometime much later. Noelle Chorney from Saskatoon reminds us of the story teller’s motto: ‘Never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.’ Roberta Nichol asked a staff member at Home Depot “Why don’t the commercials on TV emulate what happens when you really get here?” Joanne Terry prefers if people do not bother her with work related details while she enjoys her Monday morning read of The Garden Report.

• Cleared up: For years, there has been some confusion about the origins of Evan’s Cherry. Rick Sawatsky from The University of Saskatchewan is the authority on cherries and here is his answer: “Hello Rod: Dr Ieuan Evans found (or was shown) a cherry tree with suckers (a clone) growing in an old abandoned farmstead NE of Edmonton AB. He recognized the tree’s outstanding characteristics and promoted it enthusiastically. Government of Alberta provincial horticulturalists and at least one micro-propagation company joined him in promoting it and they named it ‘Evans Cherry’. Evans Cherry is genetically unique and different than the University of Saskatchewan cherries in that it has a more tree-like growth habit.”

In the old days, the snowbanks were even higher!
• Bullies: When I was a little boy, there was a bully in the neighborhood. All of us lived in fear of him. Every day at school, you wondered if this was the day he would chase you home and beat you up. Now I know that there are many people with many degrees who would comment that he was an unfortunate boy, who did not have love in his life and that he acted out in a negative manner in order to obtain attention. That’s an interesting theory unless you were the one beaten up that day. All of us were terrified of him. We elected him the captain of our flag football team even though he was not a good player and the same with our baseball team. Thank God he did not play hockey so at least we had some winter respite from him. Many years passed and one day, he was working on a house across the street from mine, as a day laborer. Alcohol was now his drug of choice and his life was a hard one. His assets consisted of the package of cigarettes he had in his jacket pocket along with a bit of change. He asked me if I had a job for him at my garden center. I wondered, how many wrong choices did this person make until he found himself in this situation. How many times did teachers, counselors, pastors, friends and family reach out to him, asking him to turn his life in another direction. I also wondered why no adult stepped in to stop him from his reign of terror when we were eight years old.

• Garden Tip: This is the answer to a commonly asked question at this time of year. What do you think about power raking? Power raking is a good thing to do if the layer of thatch at the base of your lawn is more than three quarters of an inch thick. If it is less than that, leave it alone. What is a good thing to do every spring and fall is to have your lawn aerated. Aeration is when plugs of soil are pulled out of your lawn. The plugs should be approximately two inches long. This will open up the lawn so that oxygen, water and fertilizer can penetrate into the root zone.

'Slacker'...the greenhouse gurad puppy
• Garden Tip: Related to the above tip is proper sterilization of lawn equipment. I insist that whoever brings a machine onto my lawn, to aerate or to power rake, first brush the bottom parts with a bleach solution. If a machine has been in contact with fairy ring or other lawn diseases, it can spread them to the next lawn and the next lawn. Good sanitation is important for lawn equipment and for pruning tools.

• A living directive: We rarely think of what we want to happen, if we are in a coma at the end of our life. It is important and here is what I have observed. At the dialysis clinic at The General Hospital, they bring in elderly patients who are comatose. An ambulance brings them over and returns them to their care homes. They hook them up for four hours, three times a week to clear out the accumulated toxins. If they did not have dialysis, these patients would die. The question needs to be asked, why are they hooked up and who made that decision. I have been told that it is often the adult children who are in their sixties who will not make the decision to let go of their mom or dad. They keep them going long after all hope of life has disappeared. My mother made it clear as she grew older, that when she passed away, the children were not to bring her back. Her exact words were “If God brings me back, that is his choice. You are not God. When it is my time, you let me go.” We respected that wish. It is important that our loved ones know what is to be done. It will take a lot of the pressure off of their shoulders at a difficult time.

Name this plant and win a prize!
• Contest time: Casey Van Vloten wants our readers to name this new caragana plant. The photo of the plant is in the attachment. Here are Casey’s instructions: “This is a seedling selection ,that is unique in that the foliage comes out with butter yellow foliage for about 3 to 4 weeks ,then it darkens to the standard green. The plant is about 6 years old and is only 4ft. We just started grafting it for commercial production. I would like to offer a plant to one of your readers who comes up with the best name.” Signed… Casey

• Election blues: Again I stress, I am not a political animal but everywhere I go, there are many conversations about the upcoming election. And ninety per cent of that conversation is how ticked off the public is for having been put through this three hundred million dollar exercise. There is democracy and then there are massive egos. Massive egos that feed on others shortcomings. Here we are, this wide nation that has learned to get along in the cultural mosaic, and yet we have these elected officials attempting to create divisions where few exist. This is not Ireland. There is no them and us. This is not Iran. Our religious zealots can speak their mind but they cannot control the population. I am almost certain that we have a spare island in the Arctic where we could ship every last one of them and if they want to survive, they better learn to cooperate. If you elect me as your king, your exalted leader for life, all this nonsense will stop. I will lower taxes, improve services and there will be free tulip bulbs for everyone.

• Oh, Oh!: As readers know, I am a big fan of Nicky’s Café. Regular reader Heather Lowe is also a fan, until this week. Heather and her husband Brian had lunch there and while the food was good as always, the service was exceptionally poor. Heather rarely complains, but her letter regarding the lack of service was quite long and pointed. Hopefully, this does not occur again.

They only ship plants, not Dutchman!
 • Of fame and humility: On Thursday, we headed over to The Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery. Here is this world class gallery, a stone’s throw from where we live and I seldom find the time to visit. Maureen on the other hand, is there all of the time. We were attending the opening of the ‘The Shadow of Mao’ by Huang Zhong Yang. The gallery was filled with writers, artists, students, readers of this blog and many others from the community. Joe Fafard, recognized as Canada’s leading sculpture, walks into the room. Joe knows his place in history, yet he maintains a Saskatchewan boy’s sense of humility. All eyes in the room turn towards him and the conversation drops off. His presence commands that attention. Joe ignores it. He is there for another artist’s show. I think of how at another opening a few years ago, Ted Godwin who is also recognized as a national artist, was in that same room. Ted’s massive ego fills time and space until there is little air left for others to breathe. The contrast between Joe and Ted is at opposite ends of the graph. Joe approaches me, asks how my writing career is going. It is easy to have a conversation with Joe. He is so down to earth. A few minutes later, a woman in her late fifties approaches and says to me “Sorry to interrupt your conversation.” I respond “A beautiful woman always trumps a conversation with Joe Fafard.” She blushes. Joe smiles. He is French and an artist. He appreciates a beautiful woman as much as I do. The woman tells me that we met thirty years ago. My memory kicks in. “Yes, you have a daughter who used to play with our youngest son ?” I have that right. I recall that she was a single mother and that she was dating my friend John. I asked her if they are still dating. She stared at me and said “We broke up twenty-five years ago.” Someone should publish a blog with this information so that I don’t create any more of these awkward pauses. Also, I should probably call up my friend John and take him for lunch. Obviously, I have ignored our friendship for some time. She then informs me that for the last eight years, she has been living with another friend of mine. She tells me his name. Yes, he is a friend of mine indeed. What? Eight years? What happened to his wife? Oh, they divorced years ago. I didn’t know that. I really have to start getting out the house more often. Obviously I am falling behind. In high school, the news of a break up and the start of a new relationship could travel from one end of the school to the other in under two hours. I really have got to go to these art openings more often.

Another spring, another crop is growing
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

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