Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Garden Report #52

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Murphy resting in the garden
• Writers write: Let the trumpets sound and the drums roll their beat. We have an anniversary. That’s enough excitement for now so let’s get on with it. My own garden is looking as lush as ever with all the cool and rainy weather. The ferns are up as are all of the other perennials. The tulips are in their full glory and the martagon lily that I planted four years ago, has five stems filled with buds on it. The lawn which suffered dearly from snow mould has recovered and while it is not thick, it is evenly green. It will thicken by the end of June. The slugs have not attacked the hostas yet but I suspect those sneaky critters are laying in wait. Maureen will soon be installing her slug traps filled with quality Canadian beer.

Readers write:

     • #Jean Freeman writes “I loved your story about your son and the mountains.”

     • #Lyn Goldman writes “I loved your pictures of Murphy.”

     • #Gary Drummond writes “Thanks for your reports every week. They are always an enjoyable read and for many different reasons. I'm not sure how you keep stats but I send 5 copies out most weeks. Cheers.”

     • #Michel Touchette writes “The Garden Report has become an intellectual gymnastic that I look forward to read on Sunday .Thank you for keeping my mind flexible especially during the spring madness. It is so easy to develop tunnel vision at this time of year and forgetting the small joys of life -like friends. Take care. Michel from Jeffries Nurseries Ltd.”

     • #Joanne Crofford writes “Thanks for repeating the advice you gave me in Safeway…love the photos.”

A mama duck in June Blau's backyard
      • #June Blau sent along a photo of a mother duck who has taken up residence in their wood pile.

     • #Reader John Huston wants us to know that he had a birthday on Sunday and that the world did not come to an end.

     • #A friend of this blog caught a spelling mistake but worried I would take offence. I don’t. I used the spelling of rouge when I meant rogue. It is one of those words where I would have never figured out what was wrong, it looks so right. The friend liked the photo of Murphy checking out the robins in the Dolgo Flowering Crab.

     • #Readers Mike and Kristi Liske are expecting their first child. Mike is a bit overwhelmed by the news but he will adapt. We always do.

     • #Reader Rachelle Elie has a new clown show opening in Toronto in early June. If you need more info, send me an email and I will forward you the show’s information. Rachelle’s work is funny, original and brilliant. I should charge for such nice compliments.

     • #Georgia Hearn wrote “Fabulous edition!” but did she send money?

     • #From Saskatoon, Lola at The Ninth Street Bed and Breakfast writes “You're becoming very popular with your enjoyable musings on all things garden and life in general!”

     • #Marcus Fernando writes from Croatia this week “Tina and I are really making headway in our new Croatian garden! Mind you, there is a clear division of labour (or "labor", as you Transatlantic types like to say!): I'm there with a pickaxe, breaking up the sun-baked earth, clearing rocks and hacking down the undergrowth...and Tina plants things!”

Kwanzan Cherry in Sarah's backyard
     • #Reader Sarah Willis from southern Ontario sent along two photos of a Kwanzan Cherry in her back yard along with a lovely photo of her two puppies. Sarah was concerned that Murphy the Cat was getting too much publicity. For people who have known me a long time, they will remember that I always had puppy dogs in my garden. McIvor gardened for fifteen years with me and now his ashes are mixed into the tulip beds. And before McIvor there was Cleopatra and going back into the seventies, there was a cute Samoyed who lived with us named Samantha.

     • #Ann Anderson wrote in to say that she loves The Garden Report and she wants to know if one can grow cucumbers in a container on a balcony? The answer is yes to both the container and the balcony. Ann can also grow tomatoes and herbs on her balcony as well.

     • #Cheryl Hutton had this to say, but she wrote it of course. “I've caught up on the last couple of reports and let me join everyone in congratulating you on your 50th (now 51st) report! I still love each and every one of them. You've got a way of embracing the everyday and bringing joy to the little things. Your writing first struck me with this quality back during the 2008 Regina Fringe with the nightly newsletters and you've continued to grow and excel every week with the Garden Report. I realize there will be a day when they no longer come to my inbox but let me tell you, I hope I'm old and retired well before that day! A selfish statement on my part, perhaps, but there you go!” Thanks Cheryl, how long before you are ‘old and retired’.

     • #Wendy Richardson of London, Ontario lets us know that the rain has slowed down gardening in that area as well as here in the Regina region. Wendy adds “enjoying The Garden Report.”

• Garden Tip: A reader asked why her tulips bloomed last year, but only grew leaves this year with no flowers. In order for tulips to bloom the next year, you must allow the leaves to fully ripen before cutting them back. The leaves must be withered and brown before you remove them. If that has occurred, the bulbs have recharged themselves for another season. Most of us cut the leaves too soon and the bulbs do not have the energy to throw another bloom, just the leaves.

• Garden Tip: This question came from a reader via the internet. Please remember that when you ask me a question and post it under the ‘comment section’, there is no way I can respond as your address does not show up. The question is: Should the plugs be raked up after a lawn has been aerated? The answer is only if they really bother you. The plugs usually break down in a week or two, depending on how hot and dry it is. They are good for the lawn. But they do look like goose droppings and if they bother you, then rake them up. Horticultural wise, they are fine, but aesthetically is a different answer.

For what it is worth: I used to receive employment applications from people who had worked at the box store garden centers, all of the time. They wanted to move up to the big leagues and work at a quality greenhouse and garden center. I would administer a simple test to these people who claimed they had this experience. I would ask them to tell me their three favorite annuals that grew in the sun and their three favorite annuals that grew in the shade. They rarely could pass this test. On the other hand, the avid gardeners who applied, when asked that question, could not be shut up. They didn’t have three favorites. They had fifty or a hundred and they were going to tell me all about them.

Kwanzan Cherry bloom
• Never too old: My mother had a friend who was eighty-five. I was teasing her that she should turn him into a boyfriend. She told me that he already had three girlfriends. I was confused. “You mean he has three friends who are females?” “No, no,” Mom replied. “He has three girlfriend girlfriends.” I was curious, so I grilled Mom about her friend. It turns out he and his wife married when they were twenty and she died at eighty. His thinking was that he had been married to one woman for sixty years and now it was time to ‘play the field.’ I think he was just another man who had difficulty with commitment.

• Garden Tip: If you need to cover your bedding plants because there is a frost warning, never use a plastic or a poly sheet. Plastic transmits the cold. Always use a cotton bed sheet.

• Garden Tip: This year continues to be the best year ever for the blooms on the Mayday Trees and the Schubert Cherries. Absolutely spectacular! The flowering crabs and apples are beginning to pop and I suspect it should be a grand year for them. The cooler weather always encourages a longer bloom period.

• Garden Tip: A well cared for lawn has very few problems with weeds as compared with an uncared for lawn. What is a well cared for lawn? One that has been fertilized, watered, aerated, reseeded in the bare patches and cut every five days at this time of year. When a customer would ask me what to spray because they had nothing but weeds in their lawn, I would always ask ‘why do you have so many weeds.’ That is the real question that needs answering.

• Garden Tip: I was making my rounds of the greenhouses and I must compliment Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouses (behind CTV). Larry always has his operation neat and tidy and for people who know me, a clean greenhouse is a must. Larry has some new petunias growing that are worth looking at. I normally don’t’ stop at the parking lot greenhouses, but I had occasion to visit Custom Potters just south of Park and Arcola. Gwen who owns the place, does a lot of custom potting for both residential and commercial operations and she has some interesting basket stuffers for sale to the public.

• Strolling down 13th Avenue: Saturday was the 20th Annual Cathedral Village Arts Festival Market. Another incredible turnout with thousands of people checking out hundreds of booths. We spent a few hours in the afternoon visiting with many readers of The Garden Report. We think that next year we will get a booth and put up a sign ‘Visit with Rod and Maureen’. That way we can have some soft chairs and a big thermos of tea. Every year, the organizers ask that people not bring their dogs to this event for several good reasons. There were lots of dogs again and some people just don’t seem to get it that the street is just too crowded to bring along their adorable pooch. New Dance Horizons had their booth in front of Mysteria once more. I got a free hug from Robin, the founder and director. If you have not done so already, purchase your Secret Garden Tour tickets soon. Robin will probably give you a hug, as well.

• Good news: A community often declines when it loses its long time independent businesses. In our neighborhood, we lost two hardware stores that were mainstays for years as well as both of our shoe repair shops. I ran into Frank who used to own Frank’s Shoe Repair on 13th and he is back in business, part time. He is working out of his garage near Connaught School. You can reach him at 533-7395 and he will fix anything made of leather, vinyl or canvas. Frank is an ‘old school’ shop keeper so you can count on him to fix it right.

• June?: Am I the only one who has a problem with The Stanley Cup being played in the month of June? Whatever happened to seasonal sports? Having gotten that off of my chest, I will be cheering for Vancouver.

• Soon: Mosaic will be starting this week. For those new to the city, Mosaic is an annual event that features pavilions organized by ethnic groups. You can jump onto the bus and visit Scotland, France, The Ukraine, India, Germany, Italy and so on, if you have your passport. It is a good time filled with food and cultural events. Mosaic is on this year June 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Yes, I will be at The Scottish Pavilion. Why do you ask?

• Worst job: The worst job I ever had was as a volunteer. A few years back I was asked to be a traffic marshal for The Cathedral Village Arts Festival. I was assigned the corner of Garnet and 13th. The traffic marshal’s job is simple. All you have to do is ensure that people do not park in the middle of the adjoining street. That way, if an ambulance or a fire truck has to get through, it can. You have to ask people politely, not to park there and being Canadian, it is not a problem because we are so damned easy to get along with, right? Let me assure you, I met several Canadians who were not so polite. I had one elderly lady insist that she could park in the middle of the street, blocking traffic, because it was convenient. I had to insist that she move and she said “you are shitty!” I suspect that these violators are the same group who park in the handicapped stalls, because that is convenient as well.

• You can’t beat beets: I was six years old, living at the corner of Dewdney Avenue and Rae Street. I was in Grade One at Albert School and my best friend lived a few houses north on Rae. His name was Lorne and we played together all of the time. One Sunday that autumn, Lorne and I were playing in his back yard and there was a pail of beets, dug from the garden by his mother, by the back steps. Lorne said “I hate beets” and proceeded to pee on them. Wanting to show my solidarity with my best friend, I joined the urination process though secretly, I liked beets. We continued to play through the afternoon and at supper, I was invited to join Lorne’s family. Out of the kitchen comes Lorne’s mom with a big bowl of steaming beets and she announces “when I was speaking with your mother, she informed me that you love beets so I made extra, just for you.” She filled my plate with a double serving of this wonderful vegetable as Lorne and I stared at each other in horror.

Two good puppies...Meadow and Jasmine
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in rainy Regina

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Garden Report #51

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Murphy watching a robin
• Writers write: When I started The Garden Report, I emailed it to about a hundred friends, mostly people within the neighborhood. That was almost a year ago. We now have almost a thousand readers on email, thanks to readers forwarding their copies to friends. On line, there are another thousand readers. I don’t know the online readers , but the tracking company reports that they live mainly in Canada, The U.S.A. and followed in this order: Slovenia, Germany, Denmark, The U.K., Russia, China, Poland and Malaysia. Each week, I receive between fifteen and thirty responses to The Garden Report, which is a good number. Readers are sending in their opinions on plants, restaurants, shows and anything else that strikes their fancy. Many readers are sending in photographs to be published within the blog and that is greatly appreciated. I have written this before: I have never made up my mind as to where this is going or how long it will last. I have been treating it like a ride at Disneyland. I will enjoy it until it’s over.

• Readers write:

     • Maureen Hawley writes “Morden Belle rose is breathtaking and you should add Bazaart to your list of things to do this summer.” Okay, I will. Maureen has provided us with the photos of the tulips and Murphy, this week.

     • Lila McDermaid of Indian Head writes “What a great way to relax for a few minutes on Sunday evening—pick up garden tips, always a chuckle or two, info re: great food & beautiful pictures. Thank you for your blog—as Jan P said “please carry on as long as you get pleasure from it”.

     • Mike Liske ate a bowl of my home made tomato soup but he couldn’t figure out my ‘secret ingredient’. It was a cinnamon stick.

     • Roberta Nichol wrote in to say “ I want to congratulate you on your FIFTIETH Garden Report! I hope you know how many people you entertain, make smile, teach, identify with, and motivate with this blog. Well done!!!!!!”

     • Robin Poitras writes “Congrats on #50, seems like yesterday that you started the reports! I love the way they wander and grow like wild flowers.” Robin wants readers to know that they can purchase an early bird ticket for $35 for The Secret Garden Tour. Robin will have a booth set up in front of Mysteria Gallery at The Cathedral Village Arts’ Festival Street Fair.

     • Speaking of Mysteria Gallery, this arrived: “Thanks again for the great writing and warm humor. Hope to see you soon, Marlo.”

     • Sandra Rayson writes “You have become the ‘Oprah of Regina’.” Well thanks for the sentiment Sandra but have you noticed my blond hair and blue eyes and my XY chromosomes…or is this about my weight gain? Because if it is about my weight gain, you should know I am retaining water…maybe not forty pounds worth but lots and lots of water.

     • Chris Dodd writes “As always, this was a treat to read. Yesterday was my first round of the greenhouses. Finally spring is here. I have a question – I love kale, but so do the cabbage moths whose pulpy green children turn it into lace. Do you know of any effective control for them?” Chris, usually rotenone will control the cabbage moths. Rotenone is an organic.

     • Marcus Fernado writes in from Birmingham, England: “Thanks again for a flourishing read! I'd like to add my endorsement (yes, I know I do that FAR too much!) to your comment about cyclists. Bear in mind, this time though, that although I drive I am primarily a cyclist...and when I go out in poor light I'm lit up like a Christmas tree: flashing lights front and back, AND helmet lights, and fluorescent jacket, and reflective strips....the works. I can never understand why cyclists take chances when the remedy is so simple. I also think that many of them are under the mistaken assumption that it's only their own life they're endangering. Pity the poor motorist who has to swerve at the last minute, and piles into a tree or (worse) a child on the pavement.

     Of course, as a cyclist I have plenty of grievances about the behavior of some drivers...but that's for a different column!”

• They grow up: When Patrick was a little boy, I took him on a trip through The Rockies. He had heard about the mountains but he was not quite sure what they really were. One morning, we were surrounded by several peaks, thousands of feet tall. Patrick asked “So where are the mountains.” It became the family joke that when one of us could not see something clearly in front of us, we would crack “where are the mountains.” Just one of those things that happens in a family. Well, I got an email from Number Three Son this week. He is in Jasper at a conference. The email was titled “Are we in the mountains
Patrick's Mountain somewhere in Jasper
yet?” A good laugh from his dad. He attached this photo of what he assumes to be a mountain in Jasper.

• Garden Tip: Creeping or roving bellflower is an obnoxious weed that is very prevalent in our city. If you have it in your yard, drastic measures are required to prevent it from taking over.  How invasive is it? I had removed all of it last year and it reappeared in my garden this year. If your neighbor has it, you will get it.

• Garden Tip: Yes, it is definitely time to fertilize your lawn, your trees, shrubs and perennials.

'White Dream' Tulips
 • Tulip Report: The bulbs planted close to the house, ‘the sun trap garden’, are blooming just fine. I have two varieties in their full glory: A pure white one called ‘White Dream’ and a two toned purple one called ‘Jackpot.’ I cut my first batch of ‘White Dream’ and filled a small vase in the kitchen. What started out last October as me digging a hole ended with me getting a big hug today.

• Garden Tip: When I operated Lakeview Gardens, every year I had people calling about now. Their neighbor’s tulips were looking gorgeous and they wanted to plant some bulbs. I would have to tell them that ‘fall bulbs equal spring flowers’. In other words, tulips are planted in September and October. I had one lady who insisted that Canadian Tire was expecting a shipment of tulip bulbs any day now. That is an excellent way to get me ticked with you…quote the ‘experts’ at Canadian Tire.

• Garden Tip: Carrying along the box store line…let me assure you that if you are a novice gardener, the worst possible source for information are the box stores. I often go undercover, playing the part of a new gardener, and I ask box store staff for advice. If I have not been clear before, let me spell it out in absolute terms: Box store staff know very little about gardening and should not be relied upon for good information. More often than naught, they rely upon reading generic tags for their education. There are much superior sources out there.

• Garden Tip: With last year’s destructive end of the season, wind driven blight, most of us lost our tomato crop. Sad. If you are going to plant tomatoes this year, you might want to find some heirloom varieties sometimes referred to as heritage varieties. These tomatoes are open pollinated, meaning they are not hybrids. They appear to have more blight resistance. They are around, but you have to look for them. I purchased some ‘Brandy Wine’ tomato plants for my own garden.

'Jackpot' Tulips
• Garden Tip: When planting hanging baskets, containers and window boxes, try to add in another dimension by including hanging or cascading plants. Vines such as lamium, sweet potatoe vine, and ivies are all good choices. Also highly recommended is bacopa which is now available in many colors. My old nemesis, trailing lobelia works for many gardeners (just not me ).

• Garden Tip: My advice for container gardening is to use a quality potting mix such as ‘Pro Mix’ and to fertilize every two weeks with 10 30 20 or a 15 30 15. To improve bloom quality, become a dedicated ‘dead header’ or ‘hard pincher’. Simply remove spent blooms, stem and all. This cleans up the look of your pot and forces more blooms to emerge.

• Garden Tip: If you have a windy spot and God knows, most of us have more than one, then I would recommend planting a mandevilla. They can handle harsh conditions even as a hanging basket. One of the worst choices you can make for a windy spot is a fuchsia. Other choices for a windy spot include geraniums, marigolds, verbena and Mexican Heather.

• Garden Tip: As a gardener, you will need advice now and again. It is in your best interest (and your garden’s) if you learn the correct names of your plants. I was listening to CBC and they had a call in garden show. A fellow wanted advice on his ‘Mother’s Day bush’. The gardening expert had no idea what he was referring to and neither do I. Just because you call a plant by a certain name, does not mean that anyone else will know what you are referencing. Common mistakes include calling spruce trees firs, calling junipers cedars and vice versa and some people actually refer to any flower with a bloom as a daisy. The problem is that if you ask for advice and you provide an incorrect name, you will invariably get the wrong advice.

'Tacoma' Fringe Tulip
• Garden Tip: With the possibility of a late frost always looming, did you know that a pansy is one of the toughest plants in your garden? Pansies can handle frost as low as minus seven and sometimes even a minus nine. Marigolds on the other hand, will turn black at temperatures of plus two and three. So when you refer to someone as being ‘a pansy’ because they are not tough, perhaps calling them ‘a marigold’ would be more appropriate.

• Honesty required: As many of us are reaching a certain age, I think that it is only fair to come clean: Mom…Dad…wherever you are…I just want you to know that the library downtown was never open until one a.m. when I was in Grade Eleven. I made that up. I am sorry. You can ground me if you want and I don’t mind because I was not going out anyways.

• More honesty: One of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous, was complaining to me that her husband is a poor listener. I had to stop her and ask “do you know who you are talking to?” To be honest, I have never had a husband in the neighborhood come over to tell me I was setting the bar too high. There are no wives on our block who say to their husbands “why can’t you be more like Rod McDonald? He is such a good listener?” So before any of you decide to file husband complaints with me, please remember to whom you are speaking.

• Library stories: As a little boy, one of my favorites read by ‘the story lady’ at the library was Babar the Elephant. I was reading that the stories originated in 1930 from a mother to her children.

• Television tip: If you are being interviewed for television news about a cause you are involved with, take off your sun glasses for the interview. This week, there had to be at least a dozen people wearing their shades talking about everything from health care to safety issues on television. If you keep your shades on, you appear to be a shifty character. The audience needs to see your eyes.

• Cell phone ignorance: Wednesday afternoon I was sitting in the radiology department at The Pasqua. There were nine of us, waiting for our names to be called. There was a rather large sign indicating that cell phones were not to be used in this area. Seated beside this sign was a gentleman, around forty-five years of age, and he was yapping away on his mobile phone. The looks on peoples’ faces told me they were not comfortable being forced to listen in on his call, as well as him ignoring the sign. Being a curious student of group behavior, I asked the other eight people “Why are Canadians always so polite? Why do we inwardly object to a behavior, but rarely do we speak our mind?” Well, that got the ball rolling and my eight fellow Canadians suddenly had opinions, loud opinions, about inappropriate cell phone use. This story should write itself, that we shamed him into terminating the call. Only in Hollywood. He carried on, totally ignoring our hostile gesturing. Where is a cattle prod when you really need one?

• That can be topped: I worked with Gloria Wahl for many years, a lovely lady. Gloria’s mother passed away and there was a well attended funeral. As the priest delivered the eulogy, a cell phone went off. The owner of the phone reached into her purse and retrieved it. After all, she was a dedicated professional and this call could save a life. She was a real estate agent. The part I could hear went like this: “Yes, it’s still on the market. 2100 square feet. Hardwood floors throughout.”

• Always nice: I have written before that we need to acknowledge people whose commitment to decency shines brightly. My late friend, Larry Mathieu, was one of those people who always found something nice to say about everyone. It was just his personality. If someone was stringing us a line of B.S., Larry would compliment them on their creativity. We were friends for many years and I only heard him speak negatively of one person in all that time. Larry and I were having coffee and a woman we barely knew sat down beside us. She proceeded to complain to us about what a rouge her husband was. She went on for at least ten minutes, finishing with a claim that he drank too much to boot. Larry leaned into me and whispered “If I was married to her, I would drink too.” It made me laugh. It was the one and only time he had nothing nice to say.

• Garden Tip: Blooming this week are something pink and something white. Most of the pink blooming shrubs this week are either Double Flower Plum (also known as The Rose Tree of China) or Muckle Plum. The trees filled with massive amounts of white blooms are either Mayday Trees or Schubert Chokecherries. They are from the same family. The main difference is that the Schubert will turn purple in mid to late June.

• Garden Tip: In speaking with one of our readers, I realized that she did not understand what it is to ‘harden off’ bedding plants. When I write Garden Tips, I sometimes forget that what I understand to be common language is not always understood by novice gardeners. If you are not certain, just send an email. There are no dumb questions. When a plant is grown in a greenhouse, it is grown in almost perfect conditions as to temperature and little wind. These plants are often referred to as being ‘soft’. When you bring them home, it is best to toughen them by allowing the plants to acclimatize to the outside. This is called ‘hardening off’. You leave your plants out in a protected area, when the temperature is above plus twelve and you bring them in when the temperature falls below. As the plants develop toughness, you can increase their exposure to temperature. You should observe the stems of your plants getting stocky and the leaves should not be as soft as they ‘harden off’.

• A special week: This coming week is one of my personal favorites. The Cathedral Village Arts Festival is on from Monday until Saturday. Events are planned for every day and all events are free. Many of our readers are involved in organizing this week and they deserve a big hug for all of their hard work. I hope to see many of you at this 20th Annual Festival.

Murphy enjoying a nap
 • Thanks for reading this week…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Garden Report #50

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Morden Belle Rose

• Writers write: Spring continues to arrive utilizing the installment plan. A little bit here, a little bit there. Trees are just now starting to show buds and full leaf is easily two weeks away. Overflowing river banks have turned parts of the province into massive lakes and southern Manitoba is referencing this year’s flooding as a one in three hundred year event. It is strange for prairie people to complain of too much water as our usual concern is of not enough. How this season will play out for gardeners and farmers has not yet been determined. It is safe to write, things will be different.

Readers write:

• Joanne Terry writes “Keep up your good work.”

• Georgia Hearn writes “Another absolutely entertaining and very informative edition. The Insectigon is an excellent suggestion.”

• Sherri Tutt writes “Another crack at the ants! FYI, I never truly delete The Garden Report.”

• Roberta Nichol agrees that there are many, many layers to women that do not exist in men. So we finally have that settled.

• Lyn Goldman agrees with Paula Grolle from #49, that The Cottage prepares excellent liver and onions, never overcooked. Lyn reports she has two daffodils up which after a long winter and a slow spring, is something to celebrate.

• Jodi Sadowsky writes “Thanks for writing and sharing.”

• This one arrived from Mike Liske: “Hi Rod, I have a single tulip in our front yard that has a single bud on it......the unfortunate thing is this tulip is not supposed to be there. I excavated the entire front yard 2 years ago, installed a 4' waterfall, with a quarry stone wall, artificial turf and some plantings.......the tulip was never part of the design, and it's popped up each year right against the foundation. It flowers and then quickly dies out, I then think ‘oh well now it is done for’, and the next year it comes back.”

• This email arrived from regular reader Cary Rubenfeld out of Winnipeg. It is in response to #49’s assertion regarding the simplicity of men: “ Hello from the baggage carousel in Las Vegas, waiting for our luggage. I was reading your "subtext" paragraph out loud to the missus. It gave us a chuckle. ...... After which she asked "..... I never call you an idiot, do I......?” Sigh”

• Greg Morley wrote “Just read #49…totally true about subtext…I really do love and appreciate your blog.”

• Jan Pederson writes “You are a gifted wordsmith. Please carry on as long as you get pleasure from it.”

• Jean McNeil from near Ottawa writes “Have been enjoying your Garden Report, all the various angles.”


Morden Blush Rose
• Garden Tip: Yes, it is okay to start fertilizing your lawns now.

• Question: Why do I still see young girls texting as they drive down the road? The fine is something like $280. What is so important that it cannot wait another three or four minutes until they get to where they are going?

• Another question: Why are bicycle riders riding without flashing tail lights on their bikes after dark. It is almost impossible to spot a cyclist at night unless they have reflective material and a flashing light.

• Third and final question: Why is it that people who call and say “this will only take a minute” always talk for at least five, if not ten minutes?

• Garden Trivia: The soilless mixes that most of us use today were developed at Cornell University in 1948. If that question ever comes up during a game of Trivial Pursuit, you can thank me for the answer.

• Garden Trivia: Today’s large hanging baskets are made possible by the soilless mixes. When I started in the trade in the seventies, hanging baskets were often six inches with eight inches being a large one. Using real soil limited the size due to weight issues. Then soilless mixes started being used and the sizes increased to eight and ten inches. Today, we often see twelve, fourteen, sixteen inches and even larger hanging baskets.

• Garden Trivia: When I started planting perennials in hanging baskets and containers along with annuals in the 1980’s, some of the old line gardeners were ready to hang me for heresy. Now today, anything goes. We are no longer as rigid as we once were.

• Garden Tip: There is a forsythia in full bloom on the 2800 block of Albert Street as well as the 2800 block of Angus Street. Forsythias usually bloom yellow and before they leaf out.

Morden Cardinette Rose
• New rule: As of today, any person who tells a story longer than ten minutes or involves sums of money greater that ten thousand dollars, must have my permission prior to beginning said story.

• Random thoughts of a new MP: “Wow…man…I thought I was going to have to flip burgers at McDonald’s this summer cause my dad said I had to get a job but now I got myself elected and it pays way more than ten bucks an hour…let’s see now, I have my suit from Grade Twelve Graduation and dad says I can borrow some of his ties…maybe mom can be my Executive Assistant and like cook supper for me and my new friends in the caucus…is that how you spell it, caucus? Like my mom does a killer version of Kraft Dinner with chopped up little olives and everything in it…this is so cool. Hey dad…can you give me a ride to Ottawa, my car is like low on gas.”

• Garden Tip: I have seen too many hanging baskets already out in the wind and exposed to the elements. Baskets need to be acclimatized to the outdoors after being grown in a greenhouse. Don’t let them swing in the wind for at least two weeks after hardening off.

• Garden Tip: Of all the herbs we can grow here, I would venture to say that basil is the most useful. I use basil in my soups, stews and salads. I use it in Thai cooking, Italian cooking and Greek cooking. It is at its finest when you slice fresh garden tomatoes, drizzle the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh ground black pepper, and then chop in some fresh basil. It is as close to paradise on earth as one can get. By the way, I am not opposed to rosemary, thyme or oregano. They are good as well. I don’t want to get nasty letters from disgruntled herbs.

• Guessed wrong on this one: Before The Beatles hit the big time, they auditioned for Decca Records in London, hoping to receive a recording contract. Decca sent a letter to the band advising them that Decca had no interest in signing them. The reason? Decca asserted that a four boy/guitar band was passé and that no one would be interested in that type of music.

Morden Sunrise Rose
Another judgment lapse: A friend of mine was given some shares in Ipsco. When the shares hit fifteen dollars, a friend told him that the company would not go any higher, so he sold his shares. The final share price for Ipsco when it was bought out a few years ago was $176!

• Coming attractions: The Cathedral Village Arts’ Festival, one of my favorite weeks. The Secret Gardens Tour organized by our first lady of dance, Robin Poitras. The Regina Fringe Festival and The Regina Folk Festival. Lots of great stuff happening this summer.

• Television land: The last few years I have not been getting much work in film or television. Just the way things happen. Jodi over at The Fringe office asked if I would produce a commercial for this year’s festival and my brain said “why not?” I hooked up with a wonderful film editor who is also a blog reader, Adrian Dean, and we set to work. Adrian is one of a number of young film people who have arrived on the scene in the last few years and he knows his stuff. Watch for our commercial coming to Channel Seven in about a month’s time. I’ll give you a hint. Think: John Phillip Sousa.

• Television land years back: Two of our faithful readers, Jean Freeman and Lyn Goldman, were active in the television community long before tape had been invented. Translation: Much of their work was done live, which made for some interesting television. There were no second chances.

Top graft Little Leaf Lilacs at Byland's
• Farmers’ Market: The outdoor version is still operating at City Hall until the construction on 12th Avenue is complete. I took in Saturday’s event and lots of people were out. I go for the social aspect as much as for the pickles and the baking. I ran into Dan de Vlieger and we had a discussion regarding the federal election. Dan taught Political Science for many years and I was one of his students in 1971. In that particular class, the students for the most part had long hair, wore torn jeans with tie dyed t-shirts. After all, it was 1971. Seated beside me was a student who kept his hair cut short, and he wore a white shirt with a tie to every class. That was my introduction to Ralph Goodale. Having Ralph sitting beside me made for an extremely interesting semester, and even back then, his sense of decency always shone through.

• Thanks for reading and enjoy your garden…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Garden Report #49

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

'Tiny Bee' Asiatic Lily
• Writers write: It is a quiet day on our street. I suspect many are attending Mothers’ Day brunches held throughout the city. Last night’s rain has washed away much of the winter’s grime. The tulips are up six inches, not yet setting bud, but soon. There is a gentle optimism in the air. Spring has shown her pretty face.

• Readers write:

     • Paula Grolle wants us to know that good liver and onions are available at The Cottage on south Albert. She also had some decent snitzel at The Bavarian Forest.

     • CJ Katz of ‘Savour Life’ fame suggested that I utilize some bullets for busy headings such as this one. CJ writes that it is easier to read this way.

     • Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company reports that he has seen phenomenal levels of vole damage to lawns this year.
     • Sandra Rayson writes “Great edition (#48), better than medicine with laughter, re: Paper boy and ‘Blues Brothers’.” Sandra also gave me some organic caraway seeds, grown in Saskatchewan, to use in my stews and soups.

     • Roberta Nichol agrees with me that Kate’s mom was the ‘hot one’ at the wedding. We share an eye for talent.

     • Jean Freeman writes “Thanks for the story and the excellent admonition about making babies and being responsible for the results. Would that more people would take that route.”

     • Jodi Sadowsky writes: “Loved the flyswatter story.” Sure. It’s a funny story if you are not being the ‘swatee’.

     • Dani Mario writes “You are growing a community.” Is that legal?

     • Carlo over at The Italian Star says “The Garden Report is where I get my information on community happenings now.”

     • Sally Rollins writes “This time of year is so exciting…”
Voles have caused much garden damage this year

• Garden Tip: A few of you have written in complaining about ants. If they are a problem, as in they are getting into your house, there is a simple, effective, organic solution. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth along the travel path of any creeping insect, such as ants. This product can be found in most garden centers and it is sold under the name ‘Insectigon’. It is safe to use around pets and children. It is not a chemical. Rather, it works through a mechanical action.

• Garden Tip: Do not dig up perennials that you think did not make it through the winter, just yet. It has been a late start and new growth is emerging very slowly, but once the sun warms the soil, they will take off with a growth spurt.

• Garden Tip: Lawns should be fertilized around the middle of May, the middle of June and again around the middle of August. Use five pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet. Refer to #46 for my fertilizer recommendations. If you have deleted #46, it can be viewed at

Vole damage to a fruit tree
Garden Tip: There is a bit of sunscald this year which is the browning of evergreens, usually on the south side of the plant. Of particular severity are the Scot’s Pine planted along the west side of the Lewvan, adjacent to Harbor Landing.

• Grammar Tip: They are Scot’s Pine, never ‘Scotch Pine’. Scotch is a whiskey, not a people or a land. Just had to clarify that for my ancestors. A Scot drinks scotch in Scotland but a scotch never drinks a Scot, anywhere.

• They grow up: I stopped into Lakeview School where our boys attended elementary school for fifteen years. The polling station was in the gym for Monday’s federal election. They had posted on the wall, all of the staff photos. The bad news is, I did not see any male teachers. Young boys need male role models as well as female. The good news is that the principal is female and she is Lori Kukura. Lori grew up in the neighborhood on Garnet Street. Her mom is Gloria Wahl who was my right hand office person at Lakeview Gardens for ten years.

• Lots happening:

     • The Artesian on 13th has a full schedule of shows for the month of May. You can Google their website for information.

     • Coming up at the end of the month is one of my favorite events, The Cathedral Village Arts Festival. Many people think the festival is that monster market they have on the last Saturday along 13th Avenue, but there is much more to this gig. There are great theater shows, music and art happenings for the entire five days plus lots of activities for the kids. Sadly, the family dance that used to occur on Saturday night had to be cancelled because a few thugs were turning it into ‘fight night’. Incredible, that five to ten people can ruin a family dance party for three hundred.

     • Don’t forget the annual New Dance Horizon’s Secret Garden Tour. They are always looking for gardens, volunteers and ticket buyers.

     • Mosaic is on its way as well. If you take in The Scottish Pavilion, remember to stand and salute as the pipers march past. That is considered proper etiquette in Gaelic culture. Just trying to teach you how to be one of the clan.

• Layers upon layers: Myself and two of our regular readers were deep in discussion on Wednesday night. All three of us are men. We want the women of our lives to realize that men are not layered, that we do not engage in sub text when we speak and we do not comprehend it when it is spoken to us. When a woman says she is going to the theater with her friends, we hear that she is going to the theater with her friends…nothing else. The reverse is also true. When we speak, there is no hidden agenda. When a man states that he does not care for cauliflower that is what it means. There are no other secondary inferences. We do not speak in sub text because we don’t understand it. Thus when two men disagree, one will say to the other “you are an idiot” and the response will be “so what?” And then it’s done. It is finished. When a woman says “you are an idiot”, rest assured, that is the beginning, not the ending.

A block of Goldmound Spirea at Byland's Nursery
• Garden Tip: Hanging baskets and other bedding plants should not be left out over night when the temperature is dropping down below plus twelve. To harden your plants off, have them outside during the warm part of the day and increase their exposure to the elements on an incremental basis.

• What?: Several years ago when I had a column in The Regina Free Press, I wrote a tongue in cheek article about The General Hospital. In the column, I asserted that I had been to the hospital to have a bladder repair and that they had a special on that week. With every bladder repair operation, you could get your two knees repaired for the price of one. Pretty funny, eh? I had six people call or email after it was published. They wanted to know who did the orthopedic surgery and did I recommend that doctor.

• It’s great to be tall: I stopped into the Asian store on 11th Avenue to pick up coconut milk for my green curry. I was the only Caucasian in line with seven Asians. At five foot ten, I was easily the tallest person in the store. I actually had people asking me “what’s the weather like up there?”

• The tulip report: Mine are about six inches tall but no buds showing just yet, but soon. Everything is looking good and on schedule. I planted some miniature daffodils a few years ago and they have perennialized themselves, popping up each spring. Shrubs and roses are starting to bud out and it is definitely time to trim back any winter kill.

• Kitchen Gear: Talking to Kirk at his new store on Hill Avenue and he has been pleased with the reception he has received from the neighborhood. Our community is quite friendly and I have never found it to be cliquey. We have always welcomed newcomers to the area. Hopefully, we keep that up.

• Sadly: Dennis Losie passed away this week at the age of 63. Dennis was very active in the neighborhood, always greeting people with a smile, a wave or a story. He organized the musical night at Christ the King Church every year as well as selling 50/50 tickets for The Regina Rams for many years.

• Computer scanning: In the last year, I have had the experience where I have brought an item that had a sale price to the cash register, only to be rung up at the regular price. The answer usually is “someone did not enter the sale price into the computer.” Just this week, it happened at Klein’s on 13th. In the last year it has happened at Shopper’s on Broad, the east Superstore, Rona, Sobeys and Extra Foods at The Golden Mile. If a store can find the time to put up advertisements that a product is now on sale, they can find the time to enter that sale price into the computer. For what it is worth, Rona and Superstore both refused to honor the posted sale price. Shoppers, Klein’s and Extra Foods honored the price. Sobeys not only honored the price, they gave me an extra five bucks off for their mistake.

• Indian Head: We were out there on Tuesday to do a gardening seminar. I love Indian Head. It is a hot bed of gardening and there are many beautiful homes in this town of around 1800. Lots of community pride and it is a very clean community. Many of the people taking in the seminar are readers of The Garden Report. One of the attendees reported success with killing slugs by spraying Listerine on them. I have never tried this so I am assuming that it is the alcohol within the Listerine that is killing them. And if they don’t’ die, at least their breath smells less slimy.

• Part time job: I have had a few people within the neighborhood looking for someone to come in once or twice a week to tend to their gardens. If you are a decent gardener, knowledgeable about perennials, shrubs and gardening protocol, then send me an email. I will connect you with those people. These people are not looking for a student.

• Noah’s ark: Readers in both the west and east parts of the Qu’Appelle Valley report wind and water damage this week. The water levels are so high this year that most of the residents have not been able to ascertain the degree of damage.

• Best of the season: Last night’s symphony was easily the best of the season. There were three combined choirs on stage behind the orchestra and four soloists in front. The piece was Verdi’s ‘Requiem’. The power of the piece is incredible.

• Thanks for reading and a happy Mothers’ Day…Rod McDonald in rainy Regina

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Garden Report #48

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

• Writers write: There are so many garden tips to write. I struggled through January, February and March to think of tips to share with you. I was desperate. Not today. This past week, the readers of this blog have been filling up the In Box with questions. All of us are chomping at the proverbial bit. It has been a long, long winter. Kate and William have happened. The airwaves have been filled with every detail imaginable. Anyone with an English accent has been interviewed. I have no strong opinions other than I did like Kate’s dress better than Diana’s. I am also to the age where I can safely write that I thought Kate’s mother was much hotter than Kate. Just saying. And Monday will be our fourth time to the federal polls in seven years. This election has more interest in it that I would have thought. I have no predictions. I leave that to others. I will venture forth this prediction. Next Sunday will be Mothers’ Day. I will predict that the mother who resides within this house will receive a plant of some sorts as her gift. Just predicting.

Marie Victorin Hardy Rose
• Readers write: Regular readers from Classic Antiques, the Hutton’s, are relocating their store on June 1st to 1920 Francis St., which is just behind Lee’s on Victoria East. Gail Aubin from Carman, Manitoba wants us to know that there is a wonderful chef at The Carman Golf Course Dining Room. Gail reports the food is fantastic. Bobbi Jo Cook is now residing in Vancouver, attending Film School. She wrote that she still has fond memories of when I took her to Vancouver when she was sixteen; and how I knew all of the good and cheap places to eat along Davie Street. Marsha Kennedy is pleased to see her old friends ‘the perennials’ poking their noses out of the earth. Marsha writes that she worries every spring that this is the year we will not have a summer. Robin Poitras from New Dance Horizons extends an invitation to readers of The Garden Report to join her committee in staging ‘The Secret Garden Tour’ again. Robin is always on the lookout for good gardens to showcase. Roberta Nichol writes “I was very happy to see The Garden Report on my computer when I finished walking my Easter Beagle…” Marcus Fernando insists that he no longer channel surfs because there is nothing left on television that interests him. Obviously Marcus does not get ‘What Not To Wear’ in Birmingham. Joanne Terry shares that when her son was three, she asked him for the ‘magic words’ after he received a gift and his response was “hocus pocus”. Nancy Topping writes that the Yorkshire Pudding recipe published here was very delicious and that her spring bulbs are coming up just fine. This email arrived from Rob van Zanten. It is a common sentiment that I hear often so I included it verbatim. “Hi Rod. I have to tell you that I always enjoy reading your Garden Report every Sunday. Sometimes it arrives early to mid morning and it goes great with my weekend coffee binge and sometimes it arrives a little later in the afternoon and I save it for my evening read. Keep em coming...Regards your Wet coast friend, Rob.” The Liver Lover’s Club will be meeting at The City Hall Cafeteria this Thursday for lunch at 11:45 a.m.

• Garden Tip: Now is the perfect time to move a tree, shrub or perennial. The key to moving plants is to take as big of a root ball as possible. To improve transplant success, I like to use a transplant solution that you can find at most garden centers. The key ingredient to look for is IBA or indole butyric acid.

• Garden Tip: If you have not done so already, now is a very good time to be trimming back last year’s perennials. Once the new growth emerges, it is difficult to reach in and clean out the old growth.

• Garden Tip: If you have a raspberry patch, it is best to remove your oldest canes which are your second year ones, right to the base. Just leave the one year canes to fill in. Thinning your canes will increase your fruit numbers.

Ornamental Grasses

• Stories of a paperboy: I delivered The Leader Post as a young boy back in the 1960’s. There were not too many opportunities to earn money if you were a boy other than rake a lawn here and there and deliver papers. Paper routes were something that were a valued concession, handed down from brother to brother and from friend to friend. As a paper boy, I had to collect the subscription money from the customer every two weeks. Some of my customers treated me really fine, always glad to see me, always with something nice to say. Then there were those who seemed to think it was okay to yell and scream at a twelve year old because they had disagreed with an article or an editorial. I had customers yell at me “keep that goddamned Liberal rag out of here” and then at the next house, I was chastised for being a courier of “that goddamned Conservative rag.” I had no idea who I was actually a shill for at the time. I was only the paper boy, and not anyone who chose content. And six days a week, rain, snow or shine, I made sure you had your newspaper on time. Forty some years later, I have reached a conclusion: Old farts who yell at paper boys should be shot. A little harsh but in retrospect, a fair outcome.

• Garden Tip: Just about all plants that you purchase at a greenhouse have been grown in a soilless mix such as Pro Mix. This is a wonderful growing media. But you have to remember that you are responsible for feeding the plant its nutrients. Best to feed your plants a small dose of plant food each time you water, which is called a constant feed, than to provide it with a lot of food every two or three weeks.

• Soups are built: Great soups are never made, they are always built, layer after layer. This is my version of a Corn and Shrimp soup. I start with a roux of four tablespoons of oil and six of flour, stirring continually over medium heat for two minutes. I add in three cups of no salt chicken stock, two cups of water, one diced onion, two diced carrots, four diced celery stalks and I bring this to a boil for two minutes, stirring continually, then reduce to a simmer for twenty minutes. I then add in two cups of corn niblets, one teaspoon of garlic, one of thyme, one of crushed coriander seed, one of caraway seed and two teaspoons of rosemary. I simmer the soup all afternoon. Twenty minutes before serving, I add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, bring the soup to a boil and add in twenty shrimp that have been deveined and the tails removed. I only allow the shrimp to boil for about one minute and then I turn back to simmer. For a finishing touch, I add in two/thirds of a cup of salsa, stir and serve with corn chips. Hot sauce is available for those who want an extra kick. This recipe will serve eight as a starter or four in a meal form.

Hansa- an old fashioned rose
 • Garden Tip: This one is from Michel at Jeffries Nursery. To control an aggressive plant such as a raspberry or an ornamental grass, sink a five or seven gallon pot into the ground. Then plant into the pot which will now act a barrier to stop the roots from spreading.

• Surprise, surprise: I ran into a young friend who is twenty. She has a new baby. She complained that the father is not being very responsible. At what point will people understand that if a boy is immature and irresponsible before he fathers a child, chances are he will not change after the baby arrives. We had a young man/boy at the boxing club who was showing off his baby with great pride. I got in his face and said “This baby is not a toy! You are responsible for what you have created for at least thirty years if not longer.” He says “I know. I know.” Ten years pass and he has fathered three babies with three different mothers, and he has not raised one of them. If you know how to make a baby then you should know how not to make one.

Father knows best: Number Three son in Edmonton phones and says “You’re not that tough anymore.” He is very brave when he is calling long distance.

• Parenting book: The problem with parenting is that if there were a book of answers to any and all questions, you would find out that the book would include three hundred possible responses to any situation. Of those three hundred, 297 would be wrong and three would possibly be right. But the book would never tell you which ones were the possibly right ones. Sad secret: Parents invent things as we go along, hoping like hell that we get some things right.

• Garden Tip: Walking through the neighborhood, I spotted some Tulipa Tardas in bloom. These are dwarf tulips or rock garden tulips. They grow only four inches tall and have yellow or lilac colored blooms early in the season.

• Stairway to heaven: I had a customer who was eighty-seven years young. I invited her up to my office for tea one afternoon and she looked at the sixteen steps to my second floor office and said: “That’s a lot of steps.” I helped her climb them, which she did ever so gingerly. When she was comfortable in my office she told me a story of when she was seven years old. Her mother and her were in downtown Regina at The R.H. Williams Department Store on 11th Avenue. There was a broad staircase to the second floor and being seven years of age, she ran up and down the steps several times. Her mother warned her that there would come a time when she would no longer be able to run up and down those stairs. She had laughed at her mother as she could not imagine that a time such as that would ever occur.

• Garden Tip: In the newer areas adjacent to the countryside, there has been a lot of vole damage to the lawns and to some of the plants this winter. Some of the lawns I have inspected in Wascana View need replacing, they are that damaged.

• Pick your spots: In our house growing up, we always used the back door. The front door was for company and all others were relegated to the back door. Just the way it was. My mother spent a lot of time in the kitchen. It was her domain. You had to pass through her kitchen to use the back door. She would offer advice and warnings as you passed through the kitchen. As I got older, I developed the ability to ‘talk back’, something my mother did not appreciate. She was a good Scot’s Presbyterian woman who did not hesitate to punish her children for their transgressions. She had three favorite weapons at her disposal. A rolled up newspaper that made a loud sound but didn’t hurt all that much, a wooden spoon that hurt like hell when it landed on the knuckles and the dreaded fly swatter. Now, most readers might think a fly swatter cannot do that much damage but trust me, in the hands of an expert swatter, it really, really stings. I was a repeat offender when it came to offering lip to my mother. She would reach for her weapon of choice but I was too quick for the old girl, as I sprinted out the back door with her shouting “you have to come home sometime.” By the time I did arrive back home, usually all had been forgiven and my sentence of death had been commuted. Just the way it was. One day I was particularly lippy and she reached for the fly swatter. No problem, I had my hand on the door knob, ready to flee before a single blow reached my adolescent body. This time she had locked the door, something she had never done before. So there I was, trying in a great panic to unlock the back door while she was snapping that swatter again and again and again. This story should end with my reformation, with my learning to keep my lip zipped, but I was a very slow learner.

Spring is close by
• Our future: In 2005, The Provincial Government decided to honor the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of our province. They had a number of events planned for July 1st at Wascana Park. One of those events was a reenactment of past Saskatchewan history with various politicians playing their parts. I was cast as Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker and my friend from Saskatoon, Mel Melanson, was cast as Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier. It was a hot day that July 1st and half way through our show, Mel and I walked over to my house which was close by, for our break. We had some ice tea and cooled down. Then we headed back to the park to resume our performances. We were in our period costumes, Mel from 1905 and me from 1957. As it was a bright, sunny day, both of us had on our sun glasses. Two teenage boys approached us as we waited for the light to change on Albert Street. One boy says to the other “Wow…they even hired Blues Brothers impersonators!” Sad to report, but history is not what it used to be.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald on a sunny, spring day in Regina!