Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Garden Report #71

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

'Morden Belle'-one of my favorite roses
Writers write: In 1966, I had a teacher at Scott Collegiate who regularly informed her fourteen year old students: “Young people no longer want to work hard. You have it too easy. You have no respect for your elders.” Readers get the drift. Flash forward to the first decade of this century. The teacher is ahead of me in line at the grocery store. She is now in her eighties. I overheard her conversation with the cashier. Same thing. “Young people no longer want to work hard…” and on it goes. Nothing has changed. If anything, she has become more vitriolic.

     As I cycle through my years, I am determined not to be negative, in either my speech or my attitude. The adage ‘life is too short’ comes to mind.

     I built a private garden for a client, last year. It was a good sized undertaking and one very hot summer’s day, I needed assistance with the tree and shrub planting. I hired five people for the day. They were all in their early twenties. In the 35 C. heat, they worked diligently and without complaint. I was pleased and I say so today, out loud.

Readers write:

     • Reader Gail Bowen is always up early on Sunday mornings and she is usually the first responder. Here is her lovely comment. “Congratulations on 39 years in our neighborhood. We've been here 33 years this May, and there's never been a day when we weren't grateful we ended up in Lakeview. I'm copying my very long-time and dear friend, Veronica Dreher on this. She lives in Toronto, and she'd like to be included among the lucky readers of The Garden Report.”

     • Georgia Hearn is chomping at the bit. “What a lovely read on such a snowy morning! And the pics were to die for. Those delphiniums were magnificent. Oh, how we all long for spring...even tho' it has been a mild winter, nothing is better than beautiful flowers glistening in the sun.”

     • Roberta Nichol also loved the garden photographs. “That picture of Ingrid's mother-in-law's garden is absolutely outstanding. My gosh, I would hope to have a yard that looked like that. I know I won't. Wow.... that comes with knowledge, hard work and perseverance.”

     • Marg Hryniuk was impressed with the photos from last week. “How about those delphiniums! Wow!”

     • Lyn Goldman liked the photos as well. “The garden photos are glorious, Rod! Just what I needed on this snowy day.”

     • Linda Lyster is aware of the Microsoft security scam. Here is her story. “Just had to reply to this one! When the Microsoft 'support' person called me, I knew the scam already, so asked him if he'd like to log on to my computer, check it out etc, with me doing most of the talking. When he was finally able to get a word in he asked “Why are you wasting my time?” and then I hung up! A brief moment of satisfaction for me…Glad The Garden Report is back for another season. I enjoy the gardening tips as well as the stories.”

     • Joanne Terry got the scam call as well. “Good work on that Microsoft Telescammer. When they called me I said “Since when did Microsoft take over the maintenance of Apple products?” I got the same reaction. He hung up. How rude!”

     • Donna Burton, who now resides in Vancouver, reached across the prairies to say hello to all of us. “Have been enjoying The Garden Report. So nice to have that garden connection with Regina. Miss all my garden connections, so thank you for helping to keep me in the loop.”

     • Jim Tomkins is a happy reader. “Lynn and I were pleased to see the return of The Garden Report, both because of its content and because we're glad you're feeling well enough to write it again.”

     • This one came in from a web page reader. It was signed ‘Jill’, but no last name was attached. “Just discovered your blog. Wonderful read. I am one of the stroller moms who walk by your place, just about every day.” Rod’s note: The ‘stroller moms’ are a group of young mothers from my neighborhood. They stop to chat when I am working in my front garden. We discuss hostas, children who have discovered the power of the word ‘no’ and puppy dogs-the important things in life.

Garden Tip: This week’s selection of a newer introduction recommended by Dr. Philip Ronald at Portage la Prairie is ‘Amber Jubilee’ Ninebark.

'Field of Dreams' Corn
Garden Tip: Larry at Sherwood Greenhouses sent the photo of ‘Field of Dreams’ corn along. His info includes “Want a fun plant for your children or grand-children? Try this new Zea Mays (Dwarf Corn). Last season we were part of a new plant test grow. It was a white and pink striped, dwarf ornamental corn, called 'Field of Dreams'. Not only does it fill a big container, it also produces 7.5cm (3") cobs filled with dark red to deep purple kernels. Let the cobs dry, then strip off the kernels, they actually make great tasting (white) popcorn.”

Life is not consistent: When I ran Lakeview Gardens, I had people in Estevan, Weyburn, Swift Currant, Strasbourg and other communities who would pile into a neighbor’s van, drive to Regina and spend several hours shopping at my garden center. They were huge fans, telling me that they looked forward to their weekly shopping excursions. Then there was the lady who lived three doors down from the garden center who assured all that would listen, that Lakeview Gardens was not so special, and that she shopped at Wal-Mart.

     Today, The Garden Report has regular readers not only from every part of Canada, but with the aid of the internet, from across the globe. Yet, I recently received an email from a reader only a few blocks away, who assures me that she has no time to read The Garden Report. I took her off the list as she requested. I have a tracking service that provides me with information on our readership. We have 123 readers in Australia, 115 in Slovenia and 104 in China, which boggles my mind. Life is truly interesting.

Garden Tip: Now is a good time to start some of your veggies from seed. If you start your tomatoes at this time of year, you have time to move them from a two inch to a four or even a six inch pot. If you do this, you will have a huge head start on other gardeners. You could be having fresh, garden tomatoes in late June or early July.

Bon jour: I work away, now and again, on my families’ genealogy. I have traced one of my four times a great grandfathers. His name was Gabriel Billard and he was born in St. Malo, France, in 1774. Cool. So, does anyone want to explain my 63 average in Grade Nine French? So far, my research has turned up no persons of historical interest. No rogues, politicians, pirates or slayers of dragons. All I have found is fishermen on one side and sheep farmers on the other. Baaah!

We’re a thrifty people: Many summers ago, a big dog came up to my truck and urinated on the tires, as dogs are known to do. My mentor said to the canine, “don’t do that. He’s a Scotsman. He will never pay you for your tire cleaning service.”

Garden Tip: Every year, I would get a phone call from some well intentioned member of the community, seeking employment for a relative or a friend who was not ‘too bright’. Often, they would ask if I could provide that person with a low level job, “like watering plants in the greenhouse.” Every good greenhouse operator knows that watering plants is always assigned to the best, sharpest and most conscientious of employees. The grower’s ditty is ‘the person on the end of the hose, grows the rose’. You do not have to own a greenhouse to learn this: Of all the gardening tasks to be honed, learning to water properly is the most important of the tasks. Inexperienced gardeners often want a strict regimen for advice, similar to a baking recipe: “Twice a week, two cups of water.” Good gardeners know that the best advice is: Water, as required.

The goose that laid the golden egg: In the 1970’s and ‘80’s, many thousands of Western Canadians took a few weeks every winter to vacation in Hawaii. There were charter flights leaving from all of the major airports. Then Mexico took over as the go to destination in the 1990’s. I cannot help but to notice how many more Canadians are heading back to Hawaii now. Mexico has the dubious distinction of being an unsafe travel Mecca, whether that is based in reality or not. There have been news stories of Canadians being assaulted and killed. Add in to that mix the anecdotal stories told by friends and neighbors and tourism has suffered in Mexico. Tourists enjoy adventure but they value safety even more. Many of you travel to sun spots in the winter. Send in your experiences, good, indifferent or bad, and they will be shared.

Perhaps: I was visiting an elderly friend in a care facility. His dementia had left him incapable of caring for himself. We were sitting outside on the patio and he said to me: “Rod, I really need a smoke. Can you give me a smoke?” I told him I didn’t smoke. He asked if I would ‘borrow’ a cigarette from someone else. So, I asked if he had any matches or a lighter and he said “no”. Then I asked him, “if you don’t have any cigarettes or matches, then maybe you quit smoking a long time ago and you forgot that you quit. Is that possible?” He looked at me with incredulity and said “Wow! Maybe you’re right. You just blew my mind.”

Garden Tip: In many of the box stores and grocery outlets, they now have on display, packages of bulbs, corms, tubers and roots. They are attractively packaged, presenting the most gorgeous of flowers. One problem. Most of these roots will not be planted in your garden until the middle or end of May, at least in the prairie gardening area. These roots need to be stored properly. Some require very cool storage at 2 C./34F. and others prefer storage in the 10-12C./50F. range. The stores have a temperature in the 20C./68F. area, which means the roots will dry out or sprout over time. My best advice: Don’t buy them. Good gardeners purchase these items from a retail outlet with proper storage and handling knowledge or from reputable mail order nurseries.

Tell it, sister: I was chatting with a nine year old girl. She had the capability to carry on quite a mature conversation. She has a six year old brother who gets into all of her toys and eavesdrops on her girlfriend conversations. She told me: “Mom says that my brother is cute and adorable and that he is just curious about me and my friends. It’s not true. He is just, plain annoying.”

It’s in a boy’s DNA: I had a big sister. Her name was Louva Catherine. According to my mother, I enjoyed tormenting her as did the little brother in the story above. Supposedly, I have no conscious memory of this period of my life, being two, I would stand on the suitcase that held Louva’s dolls. I would stand on it until she screamed for Mom to intercede on her behalf. There is something so appealing to a little boy to watch his big sister scream for the wrath of the almighty to descend from the heavens. It is so much fun! (A big sorry to all the sisters out there who have had childhood wounds reopened by this story. You probably needed some counseling anyways.)

Anne's garden in northern Manitoba
Garden Tip: I was listening to a naturalist on CBC. He was explaining that with the lower snow coverage this year, the voles are not able to hide as they normally do. Voles are mouse like critters that scurry under the snow, chewing up lawns, shrubs and trees. Their damage was widespread last spring, especially in newer areas, close to farm fields. With an increase in available voles, the snowy owl population are having a very good year. It’s true. I have noticed many more of these beautiful birds this year. They can often be spotted perched on top of power poles. Either that or soaring around two hundred feet, seeking supper. Their wingspan is phenomenal. So what’s the garden tip. There isn’t one, really, but we should be able to look forward to less damage this spring. Reader Jim Tomkins weighed in with a similar observation. “We haven't seen any snowy owls near our house, but they are regularly to be found sitting on power poles along Arcola and up Woodland Grove Drive as one drives toward Superstore. I like owls, and all the more now, because they're eating rodents that might harm my yard!”

Apparently: I was at The Coop Service Station on north Albert Street. I had a problem with the car wash quality. A young employee looked after me, just fine. I got home. I looked up the Coop web site and clicked on ‘Contact Us’. The closest option for what I wanted was ‘Human Resources’. I sent an email, letting them know I had been well taken care of. I received a response, a few days later. The writer thanked me for my email. He wrote that all he ever gets is the other side of the coin, when the service fails to meet expectations. I didn’t’ know that compliments are in such short supply. It’s good karma..

Tulips and ferns in my back garden
Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in very snowy, Regina.

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