Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Garden Report #66

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Martagon Lily -good choice for a shady spot
 • Writers write: Thank you for your support in my absence from The Garden Report. I have been gone much longer than I said I would and even longer than I anticipated. I continue to struggle with health issues but I feel as if I am capable of resuming, provided I pace myself. Translation: I do not guarantee regular issues. They will appear as my strength allows them to occur. Also, a special shout out to my clansmen, clanswomen, and all those who aspire to be a Scot. My roots go back many hundreds of years with Clan Kerr. A very, happy Robert Burns’ Day to all, this past January 25th.

• Readers write:

     • Jean Freeman writes: “Your fans and rooting section will still be here when you feel like picking up the threads again!”

     • Cheryl Hutton from Calgary had this to say: “I just finished reading #63 and #64 of the Garden Report and as usual, my heart was lifted and I was transported to a calm peace of mind while I read about community, blossoms, Indian Food, and fudge at the Farmer's Market. I've always known that I love reading The Garden Reports, but it really hit home after not receiving some for a few weeks, just how much I treasure them.”

     • Ken Alexe writes: “I've always enjoyed The Garden Report, and your sense of humor and proportion, along with well-placed advice, have always resonated with me.”

     • This, from Susan Rollins: “Your words of wisdom, humor and general info are so appreciated by myself and others as you can tell by the success of your weekly report.”

     • June Mayhew is pleased: “Just a quick note to tell you how much I have enjoyed the ‘Report’. Thanks to you, my poinsettia lived far beyond its normal lifespan. I'll be adding peat moss to my garden. I've come to appreciate, even more, the beauty of a Saskatchewan summer. Some of your recipes will be joining my regular repertoire. Thank you for sharing.”

     • Joanne Crawford writes: “Thank you for all your efforts to keep us informed and entertained.”

     • Joan Ziffle took the time to write this: “Thanks for all the reports - a lot of work for you but greatly appreciated by me.”

     • From the author of mystery novels, Gail Bowen writes: “Like all your other readers, I will miss The Garden Report, but I understand. Writers do, indeed, write, but they also need time to rest and let ideas germinate and take root.”

• Garden Tip: Several of you have written in that your poinsettias are doing oh, so much better since you started watering them as per the instructions of The Garden Report. For those of you who have missed that tip, here it is again. Poinsettias, as are all house plants, are best watered by filling your kitchen sink with about two to three inches of water. Do not use soft water. Place the pot into the water and let the roots absorb as much as they need for ten to twenty minutes. Let the pot drain and then place it back where you had it. This only works if the pot has drainage holes at the bottom. All plants, both indoors and outside, are best watered early in the morning. Why this tip works is because most poinsettias are killed by overwatering and watering from the bottom prevents this from happening. Each plant has different needs depending on location and house temperature, but most poinsettias need watering every four days. Just a general observation, not a hard and fast rule.

Heather's Manchurian Ash with it's fall colors

• Heather’s photos: Regular reader Heather Lowe sent along two photos this fall. One is of a Manchurian Ash growing in her front yard. Most years, an early frost strips the Manchurian Ash of its leaves but this fall, it was so long and slow, that the tree was allowed to show off its full, fall colors. A magnificent tree. The second photo is of an ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum growing in Audrey Drummond’s flower bed. Thirty years ago, my beloved mentor, Dieter Martin out of Langham, Saskatchewan, introduced me to this spectacular fall bloomer. I have planted many hundreds, if not thousands of them throughout our area and this photo explains why? As an aside, this plant is only in its second year of growing so you can see how quickly the results can be obtained.

'Autumn Joy' Sedum (Second year after planting)
• Orange Boot: Many readers, as well as myself, continue to enjoy the wonderful bread that is baked at The Orange Boot on Gordon Road. As this business develops, they have been adding some new products including cookies and muffins. I tasted a lemon/ poppy seed muffin last week and it was incredible. Also, they have a raisin/fennel bread that is wonderful for breakfast. I enjoy it best not toasted and only with a bit of butter. The raisins provide enough sweetness that a marmalade or jam is not required.

• Sadly: We have lost two fine gentlemen since my last Garden Report. Both were people who lived their lives with positive attitudes. John Wolkowski passed away at the age of eighty-three, just before Christmas. John was an avid gardener and a regular reader of this blog, as well as being a second father to me. His guidance for the last twenty-five years of my life has proven invaluable. One of John’s favorite sayings was “a burden shared is always cut in half while a joy shared, is always doubled.” Something I will pass on.

Wink Howland was taken from us by pancreatic cancer this fall. Many of our readers knew Wink, if not by name, then by his pith helmet that he wore while selling his honey at The Farmers’ Market. Wink’s honey is amongst the finest of honeys I have tasted. The business will be carried on by his daughter. It was always a treat to visit with Wink at his booth and he was one of the backbones of The Market. As a ‘six degrees of separation’ comment, when I was twelve years old, I had a downtown, morning paper route for The Leader Post. Wink, was my district manager for about a year.

Doreen, Rod and Ugo at The Marian Center-Regina's soup kitchen since 1966
 • Karma: What goes around, comes around. As a Leader Post paper boy in the 1960’s, I had customers who treated me really, really well, and I had those who were exceptionally rude to me because I was a kid. As a result of that experience, I vowed to always be decent to my paper boys and girls. In the late seventies, I had a paper boy who lived down the street from me and I tried to be respectful to him and we would have a chat, whenever the opportunity presented itself. He grew up, became a city policeman and one day, he caught me speeding. He told me that because I had always been kind to him, he would not issue me a ticket. What goes around, comes around.

A winter gardener dreams of this...
• Winter: In the depths of winter, the best of gardens grow, albeit in our minds. There are no insects to eat away at our coleus, there is no blight to blacken our tomatoes. Our winter gardens are always a success. I love my winter garden.

• Basil growing: There is nothing like the taste of fresh basil. This winter, I am growing a small tray of it close to my kitchen sink, with its east exposure. Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It takes about a week for it to germinate and after four or five weeks in a seed tray, it can be transplanted into two or four inch pots and grown on from that stage. I was reading one of the herb blogs and one fellow does not like to transplant his basil. Rather, he allows it to fill out the seed tray, similar to a lawn. Then he harvests from the seed tray. While the leaves are not as big or as mature as they are in a transplant pot, he assures readers that the young leaves are filled with flavor. I am going to give this a try because after all, us gardeners do like to change things up. Fresh basil, for those readers who are new to the culinary arts, is the perfect companion to all things tomato, especially pizza.

• Hill Avenue: It is a real asset for us that we have many independent shops within walking distance of our Lakeview neighborhood. Hill Avenue is one of those areas and the latest addition has been Kitchen Gear, a kitchen specialty shop. It is in the space occupied formerly by Peter’s Hardware. I always enjoy a walk through this shop and my Christmas stocking had a few items purchased by Santa, from there. One of those Christmas morning surprises was a flexible, pancake flipper. When I waved it around, I announced to my assembled family “it’s a spanking stick”. My Mrs. thought the comment was very funny but the boys appeared more than a little nervous. I suspect a guilty conscience.

• New Year’s Eve: What better way to bring in the new year than with friends at a community dance. Once again, a group of us danced away the night at The Italian Club, with ‘Cornerstone’ playing the tunes. They invited our resident reader/singer, Roberta Nichol up to the stage to belt out a few tunes. As happened last year, Roberta brought the house down with calls for “more!” She finished off her bit with Cher’s “If I could take back time…” Our girl still has what it takes to lift the rafters.

• New Years continued: One of the most enjoyable aspects of New Year’s at The Italian Club was that everyone was there to dance. Most of us can remember a time when most dances were filled with more drunks than dancers. Well, things have changed…and for the better. From the first piece played until the end of the night, the dance floor was full. Add in a smoke free environment and there is a place for all of us to enjoy.

• Oh yeah!: My friend Terry McKay told a new friend of ours that I only talk tough, that I am a real softie inside. I have asked Terry to stop spreading that rumor. It is ruining my reputation. Grrrr…

Murphy loves to sit in this chair and watch me as I garden
• Murphy update: As many readers often inquire, how is my Irish cat doing? Mr. Orange (a.k.a. Murphy) is doing just fine, though arthritis is slowing down his stair climbing. He rests every three steps or so, looks up at me, expecting I should carry him to the top. He still loves to cuddle with me for afternoon naps.

• Garden tip: For those of you who will be growing your geraniums on the window sill this winter, whether from cuttings or from seed, this is important. Pinch the top growth at least two or three times before spring. This will force the plant to bush out. You want your geraniums to be full and bushy, not tall and leggy. Also, a very good fertilizer to be using at this time of year is often labeled as ‘plant starter’. Look for the numbers 10-52-10. This one promotes root growth over top growth, and that is what you want.

 • Oh yeah, #2: When I was six, my Sunday School teacher told me there was no ice cream in heaven. She was wrong. They serve ice cream in heaven all the time. And you can eat as much of it as you want and never gain an ounce. After all, it is heaven.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald from his winter garden in Regina