Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Garden Report #59

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

My neighbor- The Saskatchewan Legislature
 • Writers write: I was up early on Saturday morning. I wanted to get into the garden to ensure that everything was looking wonderful, before the heat of the day. I finished my horticultural duties and I headed off to visit some of my favorite shops. My first stop was at Maple Leaf/Oscars on 11th which is a combination bakery/butcher shop. They are so old school there. I love the place and it was packed with customers, which is always nice to see. On Victoria Avenue, I said hello to Carlos at The Italian Star Deli. He is everyone’s friend. Then to Orange Boot, which produces some incredible loaves of old style bread, including a killer ‘Saskatchewan Sourdough’. They only opened their doors as a family business in January. It was their dream to bring good bread to Regina and by the lineup out the door, their dream is coming true.

     Then down to The Farmers’ Market. Every now and again I hear someone pitch The Farmers’ Market as a cheaper alternative to grocery stores. Not true. Food is not cheaper at The Farmers’ Market, but that is not why I attend or do the hundreds of others this warm morning. I take it in because I can find certain foods and qualities of foods that I cannot find elsewhere. Now, as big of a supporter as I like to be, you need to be forewarned, not everything at The Market is first rate. You have to be prudent.

     The other reason for my showing up is for the social aspect. I always allow at least an hour as I run into old friends and we chat. It is nice to connect with people who were in Grade One with you or grew up in the same neighborhood. I finished off with a quick hello to The Roughrider’s former coach, Ken Miller, and it was time to leave. Friends, butter tarts, beets, carrots, and a new crop of Saskatoon berries. The pace is slower and life not so frenetic. It’s the way I like to shop.

• Readers write:

Chinese Catalpa Tree at Brandon, Manitoba
      • Andrew Morton sent along the photo of the Chinese Catalpa tree. planted in Brandon, Manitoba at Patmore Nursery.

      • Paula Grolle learned how to pinch geraniums from an old-timer. Here is what she wrote: “In 1979, I was given a pink geranium by my elderly neighbour, who had a great garden. Every fall I brought it into the house and put it on the window ledge, where it bloomed all winter. Out it would go for the summer etc. It made 3 house moves with me. That is why I always buy pink geraniums; so I can remember the guidance he gave me when I was just starting out. His first words of advice were to take off the flower when it was half spent.”

     • Michel Touchette is a regular reader and as well, he is recognized as one of Canada’s top nurserymen. Michel had this to say about planting trees in the right spot. “I am amazed, but not surprised, when someone plants a Mountain Ash in a low spot. I simply say to the customer, the name is Mountain a couple times, then their eyes flicker. The same applies to Colorado spruce planted in gumbo and the tree is dying. Colorado is the home of the Rockies. Water moves away from the trees roots quickly. On the Prairies both trees will do well under normal conditions, until you have a year like this year.”

     • Doreen over at The Marian Center wrote: “Just received The Garden Report and this issue caught my attention in a big way. Last time I was in Cypress Hills, I searched for orchids. No luck. Might have been the wrong time of year. Maybe I didn't know where to look. Those photos that Marsha Kennedy took are fantastic.”

     • From Marsha Kennedy. “I am taking a break from garden work and just read your garden report. Always a Sunday treat, Rod!”

     • Ann Anderson wrote, in what I can only assume is ‘tongue in cheek’ style. “Hi Rod, I read part of your message at home on Sunday, but have to wait until Monday to read the rest on my computer as my Blackberry will only display part of the message. It's a Garden Report cliff hanger ... What will happen next? Did the tomato survive? Will Rod end with a story from his childhood? I can hardly wait to get to work on Monday mornings thanks to you!”

     • Reader Elaine Wurm did not write, she spoke. She said that she loves reading The Garden Report because it has the feel of a small town newspaper, in an electronic format.

     • Wendy Richardson, who gardens in London, Ontario sent these kudos along. “Love reading the garden report, love your humor and the tips as well. Spent the afternoon in the garden today as it was a gorgeous day, sunny and about 27, with low humidity which is very much appreciated. Our tomatoes are spectacular this year and I can hardly wait until they ripen. We may even have some by next week. I love the summer and being outside. Our back yard is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Hope that you are enjoying yours as well.”

• Garden Tip: This week is not the right time of year to be moving any plant. If you have to move a plant at this time of year, best to do it in the early morning when it is cooler. Best to do it on a rainy or cloudy day. And best if you dig as big of a root ball as you possibly can. Ensure that the plant receives a nice shot of water after transplantation and do not be alarmed if it flags for a week or two.

• Garden Tip: One of our readers wanted to know about cutting back a mockorange that is predominantly dead in the center. Every now and again, a shrub cries out for a haircut. A hair cut is not proper pruning, but as I wrote, every now and again. When you cut a shrub back that has massive amounts of dead branches within it, you give that plant a second chance. An opportunity to renew itself. If it is a mature plant, the root system is usually strong enough to provide that opportunity. Best to do a hair cut in the spring, so that the new growth has a chance to mature and to harden off for the winter.

• Prayers can be answered: I was crashed on the couch, Monday night. It was nine p.m. I was channel surfing, sipping a cup of tea, wishing I had a pastry or some other decadent treat to accompany my warm cup. The doorbell rings. Who can that be? None of my friends are out this late. They’re home watching The National with Peter and Wendy and Amanda, right? Why, it’s Norma, my next door neighbour. She has in her hands a plate, with six pieces of gourmet dessert including cake, tarts and pavlova. It was almost a religious experience.

• He loves Regina: Rob Gee, who performed his play ‘Fruitcake’ at The Regina Fringe Festival last week, has fallen in love with Regina. He was impressed with The Fringe, the people, how friendly we are and the support he received for his performances. Rob is from England and he is performing this week at The Winnipeg Fringe. He will be back next year.

• Sometimes we don’t hug enough: I was at my school reunion a few years back, and an absolutely gorgeous woman came over and gave me an affectionate hug. She also proffered a kiss and told me how happy she was to see me. I had no idea who she was, but dammed if I was going to deny her this opportunity. Throughout the supper, she would toss a wave and blow a little kiss to me. I liked this reunion. Why are people always complaining about reunions? Finally I asked one of my classmates who this beauty was, as I still had no idea. He told me. I was shocked. “Her” I said! “Skinny, flat chested, scrawny, gawky, whiny, nerdy…her? What is this? Cinderella at the ball?” My classmate, who was equally impressed as to how the duckling had morphed into the swan, spoke for the two of us: “Who knew?”

• That’s it: At the same reunion, my high school sweetheart and Maureen were engaged in a conversation. The old flame said “I wonder how it would have turned out if I had married Rod?” To which Maureen replied “Well, for starters, you would never ever get to hold the remote.” That’s it? That is how my life is defined? As a remote control hog? Somehow I thought there was something more to my composition, then again, perhaps not.

• Garden Tip: Hanging baskets are the most susceptible of all our gardening projects to the elements. Especially wind and heat. Best to always check for watering requirements, every morning. I have seen hanging baskets that were dry in the morning, wilt at lunch and be cooked for supper. I think I’ll lie down now.

My garden with the evening sun shining through
 • Garden Tip: I have never seen a garden that had too much peat moss in it. Peat moss is a wonderful, organic product that can be used to break up the heavy clay soil in our area and in sandy soil areas, it adds substance to the soil structure. You should use it when planting trees, shrubs, and perennials, as well as bulbs and annuals. I also find that peat moss is an excellent choice as a ground cover to retain the moisture. One of the problems is that many people think that installing a bag or two will do the trick. Here is a hint: Every second year, I recover my beds in the spring or the fall with a layer of peat. I think nothing of purchasing fifteen bags for my urban garden and it’s not that large.

• Gardeners share: I have written this many times, good gardeners share. They share their wisdom, their time and often their plants. It’s all about karma. Wednesday night, reader Denise Cook dropped off a basket filled with strawberries from her garden. Tasty and so good for your body and soul. I would never stoop so low as to suggest others provide similar gestures (unless you really, really want to), but I would recommend that you share your bounties with friends and neighbors. It’s the Canadian thing to do.

• Old school: There was a time when every neighborhood had its own hardware store. The one man band type of hardware store. It was a place where you could find ‘things’. The guy running it always seemed to know what you needed, mainly because he had been there for thirty years. He had window screens, a key cutting machine, paint and fence staples, which for some reason I was always buying. They are all gone, save one. Rosemont Hardware on 4th Avenue, across from Martin Collegiate, is still open. I was over there this week, and he still sells nails by the pound, weighing them on the old balance scale. And the fellow running it has been there for the required thirty years, so he knows what you are talking about, even when you are not certain what you have just described.

• First one: My first tomato ripened on the vine Friday. It is allocated for tonight’s salad, served with basil and oregano from the herb garden. I would invite everyone over, but it is only one tomato.

• Favorite times: Sure, I love Christmas and my birthday. But I also love blueberry season, which is in full swing right now. Big, fat, juicy, sweet blueberries. And I could write another twenty or so adjectives.

• Two degrees of separation: There was young man selling Saskatoon berries from his orchard at The Farmers’ Market. I bought a pint. I asked him what variety of bush he was growing and he responded “Martin”. I told him that variety was developed by my beloved mentor, Dieter Martin, in Langham, Saskatchewan. He had heard of Dieter and he was excited to meet someone who actually knew him.

Geranium pots accent my pillar steps
 • Thought for the day: A garden is a place we go when we want to enjoy life.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina!

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