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!

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