Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Garden Report #56

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

After Eight Oriental Lilies
• Writers write: The garden season has been interesting, as always. In our area, too much rain and cool has been the problem, all the way through April, May and June. We have had next to no warm weather. Even this late in June, my boiler is still on! Contrast that with the June of 1988. That month, it was between 34 and 37 Celsius most days. The sun baked the ferns and it fried the fuchsias. People were in a state of suspended animation. They barely moved. The only store that did a good business was The Dairy Queen. They were packed. I have often written that the best months to garden are January and February. In those two months, there are no slugs, no hail and no wind to knock down your peonies. When you garden in your mind, everything is perfect.

• Readers write:

     • Terri Skuce wrote “Thanks! Very enjoyable... also very touching because Vancouver is my hometown (born there and spent the first half of my life there). I was sickened by what happened... and appreciated what you had to say about ‘Canada’s greatest night of disgrace’.”

     • Sandra Rayson has this to say about Taylors/Michelin: “Thank you for another wonderful edition. So sorry to hear about your tire troubles. I am a loyal customer of Taylor Motors, but I do know that they usually refer customers with tire problems to the Tire Co. as those have a separate warranty. Perhaps the manner in which the message was given to you was improper & I am sorry about that. I trust Michelin will honor your warranty.”

     • Marg Hryniuk had this to say about the tire story: “It's beginning to get scary! But if such stories continue to accumulate, maybe there will be change. Interesting, interesting.”

     • Reader Dean Ast had a story to relay regarding his tire experience. “It was once again time to replace tires on one of our vehicles this past week- had a screw in one & the shop said you may as well replace them all as they are getting thin on tread. Instead of spending $30 to remove the screw & repair the hole, replacing had come up with less than 60K on the set that had a longer life expectancy than that. So, off to do some homework & research. After deciding on a particular tire, I proceeded to gain some price quotes. As well, I talked to a few friends for thoughts & recommendations. One friend recommended that I NOT deal with a large box retailer as he felt their service was very disappointing - incidentally, the friend works at the said large retailer. However, this friend proceeded to tell me of a local independent retailer that he was impressed with. He said the service was friendly & the price was competitive. I called Graham's for a quote. The gal called me back a few minutes later with information that my chosen tire was on back order & suggested an alternative which also had a rebate. That tire was on my hit list as well. The price was very competitive and I felt the tire was a good choice. I left my south Regina home just before 2pm earlier this week driving to Graham's, just north of Evraz on Albert Street north. I called my wife back at 2:28pm and said "I'm done & on my way home". I would recommend that you give them a try. It was basic, but friendly service - no bells & whistles, but let's get the job done! I understand those feelings when only 1 of the tires is "history", but you seem to be forced into buying 4 tires, instead of dealing with just 1.” Dean

     • Dianne Palmer had this short but nice message. “Rod . . . . . I enjoy reading your Garden Report and your way with Words.” – Dianne

     • Another comment on the tire story. “Good morning Rod! I have been an avid reader of The Garden Report for the past six months or so….thoroughly informative and enjoyable! OMG – when I read your tale about Taylor Motors it was déjà vu….my son, Rhyse, purchased his beloved Volkswagen Jetta from them in 2009, and it had Michelin tires on it…you’re right….impressive! But on his first highway trip, one of these ‘impressive’ tires blew to shreds. The response from Taylor – almost verbatim to the response you’ve received…hmmm….makes me think they must receive quite a few of these complaints, so they’ve developed a scripted response! The response from the tire dealerships….same. He managed to save his pennies and put four new tires on the Jetta. The complete and utter lack of customer service has soured this “family” on dealing with Taylor Motors ever again!” Bev Cardinal

     • Kate Berringer responded to the topic of ‘God bless St. Mary’s’ with this comment. “I am so glad to hear your words about St. Mary’s. We’ve really strived to become a place where the community can come in and be embraced by God’s love as they go about their dancing, acting, learning and living in our space. Gone are the days, I think, when a church can afford to act like an exclusive club. We are in a time when embracing and walking along side people from all walks of life is what followers of Christ are called to do, more so than ever before!” Rod’s note: I agree.

     • Joan Kortje was saddened by the Vancouver riots. She wrote “ I too am aghast, speechless and also extremely sad at what happened in Vancouver. I am not quite as proud a Canadian as I was!”

     • Reader Jim Gibbs out of Winnipeg wrote this: “I read your report religiously and am saving the garden tips; it seems to me that there is a book in these and with changes in the printing process it is possible to have smaller runs multiple times; just a thought. If Maureen starts to roll her eyes feel free to blame me.”

Pascal, Tina and Marcus- Garden Report Readers
     • Marcus Fernando who lives in England but has performed across Canada (and loves this country) wrote his bit about the Vancouver riots. “You're right: this is not the Canada that I remember, and I've known it for a much shorter time than you.”

     • Cheryl Ann Smith who was the major domo at The Marian Center for many years, is now serving at a retreat house in England. Cheryl Ann had this to say about the Vancouver riots. “Thank you for writing what and as you did re the rioting in Vancouver. I was horrified and saddened as well, and couldn't believe that it was Canadians responsible for this. You articulated it beautifully. I'm praying that as many of these young people as possible, come to their senses, like the Prodigal Son, and realize the emptiness and death of their actions.”

     • Gwen Barschel let me know this. “Rod, we are also Lexus owners. My husband says that yes, most car manufacturers put cheap tires on their new cars. Ours wore out at about the same time. I guess some ‘families’ are nicer than others.”

     • Claude Schroder, who is the priest at St. Mary’s, had this to say. “Thanks for the encouragement about St. Mary's. Love the garden report!”

     • Roberta Nichol weighed in on the Vancouver riots, and had this to say. “I was just appalled by what happened in Vancouver. How embarrassing to the city and our country. I have to say, I really have trouble understanding how supposedly "well brought up" kids can act like that. Some of these kids have doctors for fathers, and are champion athletes! Why? Why did this happen? Life is already showing these young rabble rousers that it can be tough, if you don't think and make proper choices. Mommy and daddy won't always be there to bail you out.”

• Garden Tip: Reader Andy Idema inquired about Tower Poplars that have been bent over by the wind. The root balls are exposed. The only thing I can recommend, because the trees are twenty to twenty-five feet tall, is to cut them back to twelve feet. That will make them manageable and the root balls can be straightened out. At the height of twelve feet, the trees can be double staked and allowed to grow again. The roots were not strong enough to defend against the last wind storm.

• Blooming this week: I have seen an incredible collection of iris’ in their full glory. The Little Leaf Lilacs continue their show and are very fragrant. The Villosa Lilacs which are often referred to as ‘the late lilacs’ are in flower. I have also seen a few bleeding hearts, which I would have thought should have been finished. The peonies that survived the wind and the rain are starting their show and I have some blooms opening on my roses.

• The Fringe is coming: July 6th to the 10th this year. Great shows to be expected, as always. For the schedule and show descriptions, visit

• Strangers no more: I was fifteen in 1967, working at Klondike Days in Edmonton. I was on the midway, buying a root beer. Drink in hand, I turned around and I was bumped by an RCMP officer into an inner group of politicians. Not knowing what to do and being surrounded at the perimeter by many RCMP, I marched along with these men. One of them turned to me and asked how I was doing? I told him I was doing “just fine”. It was Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. The RCMP figured out that I did not belong to the inner sanctum, and I was hustled to the outside. That wasn’t my fifteen minutes of fame, more like my fifteen seconds.

Reader Brad Crassweller's farm-under water-two miles south of Regina
• Garden Tip: I hate to write this but for many of us, we will have to replant our annual flowers if we want a good show this year. Due to the rain, some are beyond recovery.

• You are odd: Reader Kirk Bellamy was walking by my house on Tuesday, right after the last bit of rain. He spotted me in the front yard, watering can in hand. He couldn’t pass that by. He had to come over and ask “what are you doing?” There was more incredulity in his voice than there was a question mark. I had to explain that my four flower boxes are protected by the overhang of the house and they needed water. I actually had a plant in one of the boxes with curled leaves due to dehydration. Only in Regina, you say?

• Banks are hard to understand: When Number Two Son was about eight, his mother set him up with a bank account. We were hoping to teach the boys the importance of saving. After he had made his first deposit, he was showing signs of distress. His mother asked what the problem was and he asked: “How are they going to keep my money separate from the next customer who comes in? What if they mix it all together?”

• Garden Tip: I really enjoy my Pink Wave Petunias. They are a consistent performer. One of the things I do with my Wave pots is that I trim them back with scissors, after two weeks in the pot. This ‘haircut’ helps them to bush out. After another two to three weeks, I give them another trim and then once a month for the rest of the season. That’s how you get the pots to look full instead of straggly.

• Canada Day: Every July 1st there is a huge firework display within Wascana Park. People come from all over the city to enjoy the show. We usually wander over to The Albert Street Memorial Bridge and watch with our neighbors. My question is this: why do the same idiots, every year, bring their large breed dogs, especially a Rottweiler, into a large crowd when there will be startling sounds? The owners think they are so cool walking their one hundred and twenty pound canine (they’re not) and then the fireworks explode, and the pooch is twisting and turning to break away.

• Garden Tip: Every year, I hope that my Pink Wave Petunia pots will flourish in the shade. This year, as I have for many years, I placed two fourteen inch pots on the front landing. They looked great but after four weeks in that spot, they were anemic and losing color. I had to move them around back to give them some sun.

• Free: The most powerful word in the English language is the word free. People are always attracted to the word as well as the concept. Now that I have your attention, I have a few day neutral strawberries that I dug out of my garden. Every year I dig out lots and every year, they fill right back in. If you want some, send me an email. They have been good producers for me and hopefully the karma will continue.

• Do you know: I have my herb garden planted, but I am still missing two plants, rosemary and mother of thyme. Has anyone seen either of these two in the marketplace? Let me know. Secondly, I need a bit of repair work done on my eaves trough. I have never had good luck finding someone who will do a small job. Does anyone have a good lead or tip in this matter? Thanks.

• Garden Tip: It is time for the second application of lawn fertilizer. Apply five pounds to a thousand square feet and then ensure it is watered, either by rain or by irrigation. My two recommends that I have written about in earlier editions are 26 13 0 or 17 19 0 15 (the fourth number is sulphur). You can purchase these at CPS on McDonald Street, not far from Global Television.

Blue Oat Grass- a lovely addition to a perennial bed
 • Thought for the day: If you complain too often, all you do is teach people to quit asking “how are you?”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Garden Report #55

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

• Writers write: I am watching the news on television, after Wednesday’s Stanley Cup game. The news is coming live, from downtown Vancouver. At first I am in disbelief. The reporter meant this is coming live from Detroit or Newark or Watts in Los Angles, not my beloved Vancouver. I love Vancouver. It is one of my favorite cities. From disbelief, I merge into dismay, then sadness. This is not the Canada I grew up with, nor is it the home of fair play and good sportsmanship that I brag about. This is something totally different than when the American comics poke fun at us saying “you are all so nice”. This is brutal and ugly and horrifying. My lowest point was not the broken windows and the looting and the cars on fire. It was the video of the average guy who had his arms up, asking the crowd not to smash any more windows. Someone sneaks around behind him and launches an attach. The crowd moves in and puts the boots to this one man, this one piece of sanity, in a sea of madness. It wasn’t one out of ten that were kicking this fellow, it was everyone who could. It was as if I were watching a pack of dogs, each one tearing a piece of flesh from the victim, not certain why, but doing so because everyone one else was doing it. The police and the mayor and the premier can all report it was a small group of criminals and anarchists who were responsible, that they arrived, looking to create trouble. I wished that were true, but there were more than a handful of criminals looting The Bay and London Drugs. There were hundreds if not thousands looting, and for certain, there were tens of thousands of spectators, providing an audience for those who wished to display their ignorance. I watched in stunned silence as a young woman grabs a street tree and begins pulling it down. Three or four young males add their weight to her endeavors and the tree is snapped off at the base. This tree took ten, maybe fifteen years to grow to that size and now it is gone, in five seconds, and for what? To brag on Facebook that she destroyed property? These were not kids from ‘bad homes’ who didn’t know any better. Most of these vandals and looters, at least had the appearance that they had been raised properly. Do they not realize the embarrassment they have brought on their families and their community? This is not Vancouver’s shame, this is something all of us from ‘sea to shining sea’ have to endure. I am greatly saddened having to write: This was easily, Canada’s greatest night of disgrace.

Pascal-our youngest supporter
• Readers write:

     • This one comes from Brenda (no last name). “Hi Rod: one good turn deserves another. I love picking up gardening tips from your I have something I can share with you about your quest for nutmeg: Ten Thousand Villages carries whole nutmegs (and other spices too) under the Equita (fair trade & organic) label. It's affordable and so-o-o-o wonderful - much more flavorful and aromatic than the ground stuff. Bon appétit!”

     • My nephew Daniel, enjoyed the story in #54 from when he was four years old. He writes “Hah, that is a great story about us! Thanks for the kind words.”

     • Joanne Terry sent this along: “Hi Rod – Hope you are well ! I really enjoyed this week’s edition of the garden report as I do every week. Have you used the Bulk Barn for your nutmeg nuts? Just a suggestion, they seem to have everything there. Hope you are successful in finding them.”

     • Joanne Crofford was philosophical in her email this week. Here is what she has been thinking about. “Yesterday I was examining my life, what was missing, what there was too much of, and I realized that I had almost entirely become an indoors person. It is like trying to go for a walk without a dog, or trying to find something to do outside without a garden. So this morning I decided to remedy that with a walk round the neighborhood, imaginary dog leading the way. I window shopped along 13th Avenue, embraced the fully leafed trees, and always enjoy the many ways people find to make their yards interesting mini-landscapes. Anything you can do to encourage that is appreciated and I think The Garden Report would stir even the most indoor heart. As always, photos appreciated. Joanne”

     • This email arrived from reader Leanne Carlson. “ I love reading your Garden Reports - in fact I save them & read them over many times. It’s like chicken soup for the soul - when I'm traveling for work & feeling homesick & sad - stranded in an airport - I read your words and they make me feel better. Thank you for that.”

Marie Victorin Explorer Rose
     • Jodi Sadowsky sent this along: “Thanks for a lovely garden report yet again.”

     • This from a first time responder: “Whenever you are in the store, I forget to tell you how much I enjoy The Garden Report. Not just the garden tips but the humour sometimes has me busting a gut in my office. You can be proud that no matter how busy I am on Monday morning, I always find time to sneak in a few minutes at my computer to read it. Keep up the great work. I also applaud you on your mention of people still doing things the old fashioned personal way, like an era or two ago. You know how much I value and appreciate good service in today’s impersonal retail world. Cheers and warmest regards, Colin Perkowitsch, Colin O’Brian Men’s Wear”. Rod’s note: Colin provides old school, personal service at his store. One of the last holdouts.

     • June Blau was prompted by my whole nutmeg search to write “You have likely had several replies regarding nutmeg, but here goes anyway: I get mine at Old Fashion Foods in Regina or, if you happen to be in Nelson, BC, the Nelson Coop. Once tried, one will never return to purchasing ground nutmeg. Thanks for another fab Sunday read!”

     • A new reader sent this along. “Good morning!! Yes it is finally raining here at the farm. We live north of Unity, Sk. and so far, this spring has been quite dry. Everyone feels a bit better now that we have some moisture. I would like to be signed up for your weekly e-newsletter Rod. I gardened alongside my Mom for years, until her passing, and I still put in a big garden and have lots of perennial beds and pots around the farm.” Sincerely, Trudy Fawell. Rod’s note: Some parts are dry and in Regina, we are absolutely soaked. Prairie people are not supposed to complain about too much moisture but we are now planting rice, south of town.

     • Another new reader found us and had this to say: “Rod, I just found your musings after a hint in the latest Gardener for the Prairies [ a magazine I love dearly]. I quite enjoy your ramblings, and agree wholeheartedly with your opinions on home cooking, CHRISTmas, and generally turning the other cheek. Keep up the wonderful work. I am currently working my way through your archived blogs, and look forward to the next installment. If you would be so kind as to add my email address to your list. Thanks so much and hope you are keeping well.” Gwen Barschel. Rod’s note: I love The Gardener for the Prairies as well.
Troubled tomato plant
• Garden Tip: There is a photo labeled ‘Troubled tomato plant’ sent in by a regular reader, wanting to know what is wrong with the plant. In short, it has been beaten up. It has had too much rain with no drainage holes in the bottom, it has had too much wind and too much cold. Surprisingly, it will recover if placed in the sun with drainage holes drilled into the bottom of the urn. The worst leaves can be removed and it should be fertilized regularly. It should shows sign of improvement within two weeks and be recovered within four.

• Garden Tip: Most of us always seem to have a few bedding plants left over after finishing our flower beds. I like to take a used, hanging basket, fill it with Pro Mix and install those left over plants. Just remember not to mix shade with sun or tall with short. Grow these on your patio and in three weeks time you should have something worth showing off. Aren’t you pleased that I had Scottish grandparents?

• Something different: The Regina Fringe Festival will be arriving soon, July 6th to the 10th. As the actors rarely have any money, The Festival tries to arrange billets for them. If you have a spare room and are willing to try this, send an email to We have billeted performers on many occasions and it is a lot of fun. The performers are usually quite interesting people and they are most appreciative. You don’t get paid anything but you will receive a few comp tickets to the shows.

• Garden Tip: If you have leaves on a shrub that are curling or puckering, chances are that you have aphids. If there are ladybugs crawling all over it, then than is almost a for certain. Best to treat aphids with an organic product such as Trounce.

• Garden Tip: With the wet and the cool, one of my Wave Petunia pots has developed a bit of rot in the center. This will happen in a year such as this. Fortunately, I have nine other ones that are doing just fine. My impatient plants that took a beating from this rough spring are starting to show signs of recovery. I placed the flats into a sunny spot and gave them a tickle of 10 30 20 fertilizer.

• Priority matters: When the kids were little, I took them to a greenhouse/garden center gathering at Eagle Lake Nurseries, just outside of Calgary. Tony Heuver who owned the place, provided us with a wonderful barbecue, a trampoline for the kids and a washtub packed with ice, beer and Cokes. The kids spotted the washtub, filled with pop and asked Tony how many they were ‘allowed’. Tony, being a grandfather by this time, told them they could have as many as they wanted. Now keep in mind, we did not allow the kids to have soft drinks very often so this was a really big deal. For the next ten to fifteen years, every time we were on our way to Calgary, as we passed Eagle Lake Nurseries, the kids would always point out “that’s the place where you can get free Coke!”

• Mosquito wars: Not surprisingly, we are inundated with mosquitoes. Just too much standing water providing breeding grounds galore. There are many rumors on the internet as to how to control these pesky critters. Here is one that has worked for me for years. On a hot summer’s day, when I want to spend the day in the garden, either working or entertaining, I take my hose end sprayer and fill it with Trounce concentrate. I set the sprayer at fifty mm. per liter and give the entire yard a quick spray down. I am rarely bothered for the rest of the day. How this organic product works is there is some soap in Trounce. It weighs the insects down so they cannot fly.

• Sometimes we forget: Watching the news one night, they were interviewing a couple celebrating seventy-five years of marriage. Obviously, they were in their nineties. The reporter asks the husband what is their ‘secret’ to a long marriage. The husband responds, sans his dentures, that their secret is they never argue. The reporter says “really, you never have had a fight.” Grandpa confirms that is correct. Grandma is sitting there and either doesn’t comprehend the question or else she has gone deaf. Regardless, that was the news story. I was left sitting there wondering: did he forget the time when they were first married and her mother came over to visit every day for ten days and he asked his wife “how much more is your mother going to come over?” Did he forget about the time she made cookies and he announced they were not near as good as his mother’s? That is the beauty of growing old together, you can forget about those heated discussions and tell whipper snapper television reporters that you have always gotten along. And if I ever get interviewed at that age, I hope my nurse puts my teeth in so I look good for the camera.

• Barbecue season: Vegetarians and vegans, please avert your eyes. If you are looking to grill the perfect burger this summer, may I suggest that you pick up some ground chuck from Lakeview Fine Foods. The problem with ‘ground beef’ is that it can contain anything between the nose and the tail and still be called beef. The ground chuck that Murray fresh grinds at Lakeview, is much better than most other burgers. It is ground from one part, the chuck roast. Then for the bun, Orange Boot sent me an email saying that they are hand making burger buns till Labor Day. So Maureen picked up a half dozen and not surprisingly, they were very, very good. Now if you need advice on your condiments, I am going to leave that up to you. I’m kind of a relish and mustard guy if you need to know.

'Bridal Wreath' Spirea in the nursery
• Blooming this week: A great show of spirea, especially the white ones. Now, this is not an absolute, but the larger ones that are five to six feet high are usually ‘Bridal Wreath’. The smaller ones that are two to three feel tall are usually ‘Three Lobe’ or ‘Snowmound’. Little Leaf Lilacs are starting their fragrant show as well. This is a great shrub. It usually grows from five to seven feet tall and it does not bad in the shade but it does perform best in a sunny spot. Some peonies are in full bloom and there is a peony show coming up next weekend at The Cathedral Neighborhood Center.

• God bless St. Mary’s Community Church: We were at a funeral for a friend’s mom on Saturday. As we walked into the community hall for the reception after the service, Maureen said to me “God bless St. Mary’s.” Her utterance is simply explained. St. Mary’s at 15th and Montague, is a home to more than a congregation. It is a host to The Fringe Festival, an alternative primary school, an AA meeting, The Ladies Choir, a highland dancing group and so many more. There are community concerts and meetings held at St. Mary’s, all of the time. It is much more than a building where Anglican’s gather every Sunday to worship. It is a community based church and we need more like this one, not fewer.

• Rider news: Yeah, yeah, I know. What’s a garden blog have to do with football. Short answer: I grew up on Dewdney Avenue, in the shadow of Taylor Field. The Riders won their exhibition match against Edmonton and two of the backups from last year’s club were impressive. Hugh Charles can really, really run and Cary Koch can really, really catch. That’s all.

• It was windy: How windy you ask? There are broken branches all over the city. Even my beloved peonies are flattened. This happened Thursday night and all day Friday. According to an empty pot in my back garden, we had somewhere around three inches of rain. Prairie people cannot complain about too much moisture, but…my patience is being tested.

• A tale of Michelin Tires and Lexus: I drive a nice car. I paid $65,000 for it, it should be nice. When I bought it new in 2007, the sales manager at Taylor Lexus reached across the desk, shook my hand and said “welcome to the Lexus family.” Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My mechanic informs me that one of my Michelin tires on my car has a problem. The tire is supposed to have a four year/80,000 k. warranty. I have under forty thousand k. on my car (28,000 miles for our American readers.) I call Taylor Lexus. The service rep tells me that they won’t help me because it is probably my fault that the tire is damaged. That opinion, without seeing it. Impressive physic ability. I ask what I should do. He tells me to take it to any Michelin dealer. They will look after it. So I call Costco, they are a Michelin dealer. The service manager at Costco doesn’t’ want to look after me because “you didn’t buy the tires from us.” He reluctantly agrees to look at it but if he has to replace the tire, he insists that I have to replace all four as it is an all wheel drive vehicle. Gee, I thought this would be easy. So I head over to Cal Tire. They don’t really want anything to do with me either, because I didn’t buy my tires from them. True, they were new tires on the vehicle at the time of purchase. The Cal Tire guy tells me that he will replace all four, as the tires are just about worn out, for $1,600. I have this in writing. I ask how is it possible that my tires are worn out after forty thousand kilometers? He tells me that Lexus buys the cheapest tires from a big name such as Michelin in order to impress me. That’s true. I was impressed that my new car came with Michelin’s. So I ask him if he can do anything for me. He says all he can do is sell me the four new ones, keep the bad one in the back and when the Michelin rep comes around, maybe he can do something for me. So here I sit, writing this out, with one bad tire. Taylor Motors, who I have purchased several vehicles from over the years, once again has let me down with poor service. So much for the “welcome to the Lexus family.” They have taken me from being a loyal customer to one who will not shop with them again. And where is Michelin? If the tire is really not road worthy because it is my fault, fine, I will gladly pay for it. And if I really do need four new tires because they are just about worn out, then fine, I will pay for those as well. But where are those that said they were going to look after me. And is it really true that Michelin makes a cheap tire for Lexus to impress customers such as myself, or is that not true? I don’t know. I am not a tire expert, just a car owner looking for honest answers and someone to look after me. If the Michelin guy wants to give me a call and help me out, I can be easily found.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in rain soaked Regina

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Garden Report #54

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

A lovely sea of purple in Heather's garden
• Writers write: With the wet and the cool, the garden filled out full and lush. The main weeds this year have been elm and maple tree seedlings and a touch of the dreaded creeping blue bell. I patrol for them every week. The tulips lasted a full six weeks with their staggered plantings. Staggered plantings refers to my planting the bulbs in warm and cool parts of the garden. In the warmer parts, the bulbs showed life in April and in the cooler parts, not until last week. The impatience are actually suffering from the wet and the cool. They need a bit of sun and heat to perk them up. As I garden, I am always reminded of the cycle of life. Four of my friends plus myself have lost our mothers recently. The mothers were in their ninety range and all five of them wanted to go, knowing it was time. It was us, the adult children who wanted them to hang on, to stay for another cup of tea and chat just a while longer. It is always at these times that words fail me. I never know what to write. My fingers click out words such as grieving, condolence and empathy, never able to portray my feelings. It is the passing of a generation and of an era. We are now it. There is no generation above us. The cycle keeps moving, sometimes slowly, sometimes with Godspeed, but always, it keeps moving. Gardening is life.

Readers write:

     • Theresa over at The Paper Umbrella on 13th had this to say about my tartan tie. “ Perhaps this is a little risqué, but, a simple tartan tie? As a fellow Scot, I think donning the kilt would be a more adequate gesture to do your mother proud. Some men can do this with more style and ease than others. It's a fact. I think you are such a man that could work the pleated garment.” Ed: If I did wear a kilt to these functions, I would have to make a choice in regards to underwear. I would have to decide if I would be dressing as a traditional Scot or as a modern one. I don’t think I could handle the risk or the stress.

     • Heather Lowe wrote in this response. “Regarding your two points in the last Garden Report, First Dates and Not a First Date, I want to let you know I have a farmer husband ( we’ve been married 28 years in July) who continues to be very good at asking how my day went and what did I do in that day. And he asks with interest and listens to my reply with interest. However, it is totally pointless to try talking to him if the TV happens to be on in the same room. That brings the “what did I just say?” reaction from me. Thanks for The Garden Report.”

     • Denise Cook sent this along. “I just finished reading the Garden Report and as always, got a few laughs.”

     • Chris Dodd tells us a story of a gardening dilemma. “I love having my cat for company while I garden. I am a fan of patience plants, but last year I was puzzled by why they weren't blooming well. I was looking down on them when Puss came along and reached over, bit a bud off and ate it. Guess I can figure out this mystery for myself......”

     • Linda Lyster who has been a reader since day one, has sent in her first response. “Hi Rod - I too would like to thank you for a year of useful and inspiring gardening tips, as well as many amusing and insightful anecdotes. I have been forwarding the Report on to my daughters, aspiring gardeners that they are. They comment on various tips they have found useful. Jack commented that he usually just reads the stories, but I've noticed he practices many of your seasonal suggestions, so he must be assimilating the gardening tips too! Thanks again for an enjoyable read, great inspiration to enjoy nature and life!....Linda”

     • Jean Freeman who is a writer in her own right, wrote this: “Happy June, Rod! Thanks as always for The Report and your pith and wit! I have always known that you are a philosopher, but today you conclusively demonstrated the depth of your wisdom in your comments about "Whose Fault?" Your observations about the success and longevity of plants and gardens explains exactly why some relationships thrive while others wither and rot -- not magic or good luck, but because of the care they receive. "The best plants in the world will not survive neglect", you say. Ditto for our relationships with friends and family. To quote my favorite philosopher again, "As I have written before, I lose plants just as any gardener does. Sometimes for apparent reason and sometimes I cannot explain why it happened, but it does. When it happens regularly and is widespread, there is usually a maintenance problem." Amen. And thank you for that.”

     • From Georgia Hearn comes this. “Hopefully, you do not mind, but I share your stories and garden tips with everyone I can. Thanks for a great edition. Funny, at our Sunday Walk Group, I promised a few of the girls I would send them a copy. They will enjoy it as much as I. Have a great week!”

     • Sarah Wills who gardens near Toronto had this to say. “Hi Rod - you've created a wonderful community with your garden report. I really enjoy participating from the fringe -- and will never question your fondness for dogs again! You've got my husband beat, hands down, as husband of the year. My birthday is sandwiched between Mother's Day and Victoria Day. As he owns a garden centre, I'm lucky if he even remembers it's my birthday that week. Hope you are enjoying some lovely weather. It's finally a bright Sunday morning and I'm just about to go help out at Kevin's garden centre for the rest of the day. This is his 25th year in business, and has been the latest start ever due to record levels of rain. We've had a couple of good weekends, but haven't caught up to where we should be.”

     • Michel Touchette writes from Portage and this is one of his favourite quotes regarding complainers. "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates

     • Candace Holmstrom who has been a regular reader from day one wrote this: “ It's lovely to get your Garden Report on Sunday afternoons. Whenever I receive it, I am reminded of times past — when Sundays were a time to relax, tend to our gardens, our friends and our family. Stores were closed, there was no place to buy liquor — and we realized the importance of having a day to reflect. Whether a day of reflection is a Sunday, a Saturday - or any other day of ritual — I appreciate the time that you take to put this weekly report together! And...I love the photographs of flowers you often send along. Thanks. Candace.” Rod: Losing our collective day of rest and to be with our family was a direct result of legal action by Super Store in the 1980’s. They sued to sell 24/7. Sales before family. Today, a Sunday family dinner can be difficult to plan with all of the shift work.

     • Roberta Nichol had this to say about Mosaic. “My friend Peggy and I went to Mosaic (The Kyiv Ukrainian Pavilion). Supper was delicious!!!!! I also enjoyed the gift selections and displays. From there, we went to the Philippine and Greek Pavilions, as they were also on the Exhibition Grounds. Enjoyable. We had heard so much about the Aboriginal Pavilion, so we went! It was, by far, the best yet, in terms of ‘feeling good’ and ‘family’ and most definitely, the entertainment! That was a show! It was like someone's big living room, and the family reunion was there, cheering and dancing and playing. Brian Sklar was representing the Métis, playing his fiddle like crazy, while the Riel Reelers jigged.”

     • Number Three Son from Edmonton sent this note. “Thanks again for the Sunday blog Dad…The first date story made me laugh and (it) made Lisa grumble.”

• Garden Tip: If you find yourself falling behind in mowing the lawn, and it is quite shaggy, best to mow it twice. Set your mower at its highest level, mow and bag the clippings. Then lower the mower to its normal setting and mow a second time. The grass will look much better than if it was only mowed once.

• Garden Tip: If you forgot or just did not get around to aerating your lawn this spring, go ahead and do it now. You can aerate any month of the year and it will be beneficial to the grass.

A shrub bed planted just last year
• Garden Tip: It is illegal to prune your elm trees at this time of year. The law was passed in order to slow down the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. If you have elm firewood, it is also the law that you get rid of it. Elm wood cannot be stored or transported in or out of the province.

• A medical miracle: My dad only had one arm. His left one had been amputated below the elbow in the 1930’s. I never paid much attention to that fact because I had always lived with him having one arm. One day when I was six, one of my best friends informed all of my buddies that his dad only had one arm as well. He then went to on to say that his dad had grown his arm back, thus explaining why he now had a two armed father. I ran home, extremely upset, demanding my father explain why he had not grown his arm back as well.

• Reality bites: The problem with school reunions is that no matter how successful you have become, no matter how much money you have earned or awards you have been given, these are the people who will never let you forget that you threw up in Grade Two and that class was dismissed early.

• Garden Tips: Sitting on our swing, enjoying the garden, and I look over at my two bergenia plants. One is perfectly healthy and the other is suffering a bit of chlorosis. The leaves are a light green and the veins of the plant are visible as they are dark green. What is the remedy? A teaspoon of iron chelate. Also note that I have spotted chlorosis showing up in some peonies as well, and now you know what to do.

• Expectations: When planting peonies the first year, some gardeners are disappointed that they do not get a plant filled with blooms nor does it grow to a good size. Just keep the peonies, or any other plant for that matter, alive and in good health the first year. In the second year, you will be pleased with the growth. I planted several peonies last year in a garden and they remained small and unimpressive all year. This June, they are filled with buds and most are a very nice size. They will continue to fill out each year as their roots develop.

Tollius-blooms early and is colorful
• Garden tour: Regular reader Bobby Sue Nichol dropped by for a tour of our garden. She paid the appropriate admission price with six home made lemon tarts. She fell in love with my trollius, which I have written about in previous editions.   Bobby Sue also thought that Murphy (our orange, Irish cat) is a handsome bugger indeed.

• Never give up: Every year, there are always a certain number of shrubs or roses that have experienced what is commonly referred to as winter kill. Winter kill is when the stems of the plant die back, often to the ground. At the ranch, where I planted many roses last year, most died back all the way. An inexperienced gardener might have dug them out, thinking they were finished. I trimmed off all of the dead stock and fertilized them in early May. I was at the ranch Saturday afternoon and every rose is up, budding out and of a good size. Patience is rewarded in the garden.

• Today’s thought: No husband has ever said the morning after a big scrap with his wife “You know, I think I might have said too little.”

• New readers: I have received several emails from new readers who asked to be added to the list. Thank and welcome to The Garden Report. I hope you enjoy what you read.

• Smart kid: When my nephew Daniel was four years old, he came with Uncle Rod to The Dairy Queen. Blizzards (an ice milk sundae) were new to the market, and Daniel and I were enjoying one. My friend Jimmy Moore, owned the D.Q. on south Albert that we were visiting. Jimmy came over to our table to chat to Daniel and myself. When Daniel found out that Jimmy owned The D.Q., he told Jimmy that his goal in life was to come with his Uncle Rod every day, until we had sampled every flavor listed on the menu. Jimmy looked at me and said “Did you know that you have the smartest nephew in the whole world?” That wonderful four year old turned twenty-nine last week. He’s still pretty smart.

• Thanks for reading another edition…Rod McDonald in lush Regina.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Garden Report #53

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Heather, Maureen, Rod and Brian-at a country dance
Writers write: Just to clarify something other than the butter, when I announced last week that it was an anniversary edition, I was referring to the one year mark for The Garden Report. Some of you sent in congratulations assuming it was for Maureen and myself. However, if you wish to send anniversary gifts or money, that is okay regardless of misassumptions. Now to the garden: Lush beyond belief, that is how I would describe my garden this year. Not a lot of sunshine which encouraged the plants to reach. Add in the cool weather, and the blooms are lasting twice their normal span. The flowering crabs, both pink and white are gracing the city with a show that has never been seen before. It is a bizarre year. Welcome to the garden world and expect nothing to stay the same.

• Readers write:

     • Gail Bowen wrote “ I just sent in the manuscript for the next (13th!!!) Joanne Kilbourn, and I wanted you, Maureen and Patrick to know that Patrick (Ed:#3 son) plays a small but significant role in the book. He's a young law student who finds some essential evidence and is smart enough to recognize what it is and pass it along. We continue to enjoy The Garden Report. Our Sunday treat, so thanks for that. Gail and Ted”

     • Liz Calam wrote “Happy Anniversary! Wow….a full year. It is hard to believe that the cycle of gardening starts again.”

     • Jodi Sadowsky penned this: “Hey Rod - loved the beet story! Too funny! Thanks for another great Garden Report.”

     • Roberta Nichol had this to say about karma. “I just howled at your beets story--- even back then, you were learning the tough lesson, "What goes around comes around...." Karma was already planted in your subconscious..... you poor little goobers! What a great story! Did you eat them? (Of course, they would have been washed, then cooked--- but little boys wouldn't think too much about that.)

     • Reader Ann Anderson enjoyed ‘the beet story’. She wrote “Oh my gawd, Rod! Can you hear me laughing?! I'll never be able to see a beet again without laughing. That's a classic boys will be boys moment.”

     • Joanne Crofford had this interesting comment about growing older. “The more conscious I get of my own aging and the more I enter the world of aging and the life and care options, through the eyes of my 95 year old mother, I realize the importance of pensions and housing as well as human rights, and basic safety as a important social and political issues.” Well said.

     • Sandra Rayson was yet another fan of the ‘beet story’. Here is what she wrote: “ Hi Rod, My heartiest congratulations to you on your one year anniversary of The Garden Report. You do an excellent job of this & bring joy to a lot of readers. I believe that laughter is good medicine & find many of your stories therapeutic; the one on beets, doubled me over with laughter.”

     • Lyn Goldman, ever the garden cat lover wrote “That Murphy has a beautiful tail, and an attitude! The dogs are pretty cute, too. Thanks for the reminder about not cutting back the tulips too soon.”

Lamium-a perennial
      • Dave Rotelick sent along the photo of the lamium. He wanted to know if it is a weed? Lamium is a lovely perennial that grows in the sun and the shade. It is used as a groundcover and sometimes as a hanging plant in a basket. It is easy to grow. I have lots growing in my yard. There are several varieties available.

     • Casey Van Vloten who resides in the Vancouver area, sent this thank you along. “All your Vancouver readers have just breathed a sigh of relief regarding your declaration of support for our humble Canucks.”

Nanking Cherry blossom
     • Ninth Street Bed and Breakfast in Saskatoon sent along the photo of the cherry blossom. It is in all probability, a Nanking Cherry. Lola said it made her day to walk by this shrub. I enjoy hearing when readers enjoy the simple things in life.

     • Neil Vandendort writes “Keep those Garden Reports long as it continues to give you satisfaction. I really enjoy reading them!”

Is this lawn real or artificial?
     • Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company wants you to guess if the lawn is real or is it artificial.

• Manna from heaven: (This is a repeat story from an earlier Garden Report or as they say in television land, ‘an encore performance’). When I was six years old, living at the corner of Dewdney and Rae, The Dad’s Cookie factory was two doors down from our house. One summer’s day, the truck from the factory was starting it’s delivery route. As it exited the alley, it hit a bump, the back door flew open and a case of Goodie Rings fell off the truck. Myself and two friends were playing and we witnessed the event. We scooped up the box of cookies and quickly retreated into our garage. We knew that the right thing to do was to return them to the factory or at the very least, tell my mom, but we were six and these were Goodie Rings. We knew that God would forgive us this transgression. We set to our task, each boy opening one package of cookies and consuming it himself. As it was a hot summer’s day, it was not long before nausea set in and…I think you know how this story ends, and to be certain, it did not end well.

Dragon's Blood Sedum
 • Garden Tip: With all of the cool weather and the rain, some of your plants may be showing symptoms of iron chlorosis. The main symptom is when the leaves are slightly yellow with the green skeleton of the veins showing through. Try to reduce the water levels, if that is possible, and add in some iron chelate. Iron chelate usually improves the leaf within seven to ten days. Roses, plums, cherries, Mountain Ash and maples are very susceptible to chlorosis.

• Billets for The Fringe: If you have a spare room and are willing to billet a starving actor, The Regina Fringe would love to hear from you. Billets are required for July 4th to the 11th and the festival is staged from the 6th to the 10th. If you can assist, contact Jodi Sadowsky at Performers will be arriving from England, New York, Edmonton, Ottawa, Calgary and so on.

• Fringe humor: Amongst Fringe performers, there is a joke that flows like this: If I don’t start making some money soon, I will be forced to wear a sign that reads ‘Will act weird for food’.

• Fun times: Normally, I would have posted this under the ‘Readers Write’ section, but its length needed a section of its own. As an aside, I have heard this story from many people regarding Rona and Home Depot as well. This comes to us from reader Roberta Nichol and she shares her experience at Canadian Tire: "I went there four times in two weeks, for soil, tools, but mostly trying to buy a bistro set that was on sale. I couldn't believe the poor service. When I finally got someone to help me ( he had been visiting with someone he knew), he checked to see if there were any sets left, then told me "No, you'll have to come back or go to another Canadian Tire." When I asked about a rain check, "Oh no, we can't do that with sale items." I asked if he could sell me the demo set for a reduced price. "Oh no, we can't do that." I asked if he could phone when the next shipment arrives. "Oh no, we can't do that, if everyone wanted a phone call when a shipment comes in, they'd have to hire another person." Funny, I got a phone call back in January when my sump pump arrived. Go figure. So off I went, looking for bags of soil. When I left the store, there he was, adjusting plant pots and in general, straightening up and visiting with another employee. Note to self: not for a long time, will I go in there again.”

• Mosaic: We got out for a bit of Mosaic adventure and it was wonderful to bump into a number of the readers of The Garden Report. We were kind of hungry on Friday night and decided to give The Latin American Pavilion a try. After all, we do love flavor and that should have been a good choice. Unfortunately, they are not well organized in their set up and just to get your meal, required a number of hoop jumps. All of the flavors were toned down. Not much in the way of spice or heat and all of food items were served just above room temperature. Very disappointing. The dancing and cultural events were a different story. Very enjoyable, lots of youthful enthusiasm. Over at The Francophone Pavilion, it is always well organized. The food line flows. We listened to three musical groups and the talent was absolutely incredible. One other note: We always enjoy The Francophone Pavilion because it is never a wild party pavilion. You don’t have to put up with hundreds of drunks as you do at other pavilions. Kudos to their efforts.

• First dates: One of the enjoyable aspects of Mosaic, is that you often share your table with strangers who you quickly become ‘Mosaic friends’ with. At The Latin American Pavilion, we shared a table with a couple who were our age. Both Maureen and I quickly realized that this was either a first or a second date for the couple. How could we tell? She said “did I tell you what happened at work today?” And he listened to every detail she spoke, with absolute devotion and fascination. Definitely a first date.

• Not a first date: Later on that evening, I turned to Maureen and said in mock seriousness, “So tell me about everything that happened in your day?” Both of us burst into laughter over that one. For our younger readers who do not comprehend, let me explain: Men are not good listeners as a rule. And the longer a relationship exists, the less the man listens, unless it involves, beer, pizza or the hockey game. Then you have his undivided attention. This explains why women often ask “what did I just say?” and they receive a blank stare in return.

• Great line: One of our readers has spent most of her life in a wheelchair. She joined our table at Mosaic for a visit. She wise cracked to the couple seated with us “I didn’t like the seating arrangements here so I brought my own chair.” Too funny.

• Mosaic II: Saturday night we just had to get over to The Scottish Pavilion before they sent out a search party for me. I showed up in my finest Kerr tartan tie (my mother’s clan, south of Glasgow). Besides hearing some great pipe bands, I managed to make peace with the Mackenzie clan. We are now united in a war against the Campbell’s, just to let you know, in case you are keeping track. A note to potential trouble makers: At the Scottish Pavilion, the bouncers are so muscle bound that if you hit them with a baseball bat, you will only serve to aggravate them. From there we moved over to The Italian Pavilion so Maureen could grab some tiramisu for desert. The girl likes her deserts. Nothing much was happening there in terms of entertainment so off to The Irish Pavilion we went. Usually we avoid the place because the bottom line is, I am way too old to brawl. Good news. They have that under control and while the place was packed, it was a good time and no hint of trouble. The entertainment performed by the bands, the dancers and the singers was first rate. According to Maureen, they had a decent selection of jewelry at the Irish booth and she purchased a pair of earrings. For some unknown reason, I was indifferent to this purchase. She is now suggesting that she really needs a gay male friend to go shopping with her. I am not certain, but I don’t think it is a paid position. Also heard good things from friends about The Brazilian Pavilion, but we never made it there.

Bridal Wreath Spirea at Byland's Nursery
• Blooming this week: Every crab and apple in the city as well as many lilacs. Most of the lilacs in bloom are the French cultivars and the common lilacs. How you tell the early lilacs from the later ones such as the Villosa Lilac, is the leaves on the early lilacs tend to be smooth and shiny. The later lilacs tend to have rougher and duller leaves. Bergenias are blooming all over the city. These are a perennial with a larger, green leaf. The flower appears at the end of a stem that is usually twelve to fifteen inches above the leaves. The flower is normally in a pink, mauve or purple range. Trollius are blooming as well. Many people will tell you that trollius are not hardy here but I have had no problems growing them for fifteen years. They take next to no work and they bloom early, which is a feature I enjoy. I saw some gorgeous bleeding hearts in bloom, as I drove down College Avenue. These perennials grow around two to three feet tall, and usually have pink blooms. There is also a white version, but finding it for sale can often be a challenge.

• Garden Tip: One of the advantages of container gardening is that you can always have your best foot forward. With containers, a gardener can grow an arrangement in a low profile location and when it is has reached its peak, it can be brought forward to be shown off.

A well cared for shrub bed
• Whose fault: Every year I hear stories from certain gardeners, complaining that all the plants they bought from XYZ Garden Center died. I also hear from my friends in the trade about landscaping customers calling up to demand warranty, because half of their plants have perished. Here is the reality. Last year, I did a landscaping job for a wonderful family, at a ranch south of the city. We planted hundreds of trees and shrubs and we filled up the spaces with hundreds of perennials. The family hired a woman to tend to the plantings with my occasional assistance. We went through a full winter with a very wet and cold spring. Our total losses accounted for around one per cent of what we planted and that included a few shrubs eaten by voles. We lost no trees. Was it magic or good luck? How about this: The plants were looked after properly. They were watered as required, fertilized as required, and pruned as required. The point of the story is that yes, it does help if you purchase good plants from reputable retailers. But equally important, is the care they receive. The best plants in the world will not survive neglect. As I have written before, I lose plants just as any gardener does. Sometimes for apparent reason and sometimes I cannot explain why it happened, but it does. When it happens regularly and is widespread, there is usually a maintenance problem.

• Mediterranean Bistro: We have tried twice before to visit this establishment, but it did not pan out. Our third attempt brought success. There were a few glitches but everything was worked out by the staff. Upon arrival, Maureen’s water glass was served with a lip mark on it. The waitress fixed that one right away. They have a wide menu, but are known for their seafood, so I headed to the fish choices. I chose the halibut but discovered that they offer only three choices each day, to keep everything fresh. Not a problem. Good idea. I ordered the cod and it was well cooked, the fries were very tasty and the veggies were good, but rationed sparingly. The tartar sauce on top of the cod was quite salty, so I moved that to one side and I asked for lemon slices and vinegar, which were brought to me right away. Maureen ordered the bouillabaisse which arrived with a wonderful assortment of seafood, but very little broth. She asked why there was the absence of broth and the waitress brought a cup of steaming broth to the table. I sampled a taste of the broth, and it was filled with flavor. Also of note, within the bread basket presented prior to the meal, they had a lemon butter that was very tasty. Both staff members were very personable. Dinner for two, no drinks, no appetizers or desert, tip included, came to $57.00. I don’t hand out stars, instead I always ask, would I return? The answer is yes.

White Dream and Jackpot tulips-my garden
• Husband of the year: This is my best shot at winning this contest, even though I have never been nominated before (strange, you suggest?) As Saturday was Maureen’s birthday (no number provided), I arranged with a piper at The Scottish Pavilion to perform ‘Happy Birthday’ for her. Now if that isn’t a winning entry, I give up. (Please note: I don’t want to hear from any husband who took his wife on a cruise. We don’t need any trouble at this house. Thank you.)

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in cool and rainy Regina.