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

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