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

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