Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Garden Report #79

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

The forsythia are in bloom this week
 • Writers write: A roller coaster ride for the week. On Monday, I was shoveling gravel all afternoon. It was a balmy 27C. and the sweat formed easily. As the week progressed, the temperature dropped to zero and rain moved in, late on Thursday, carrying on through the weekend. April showers lead to May flowers. Many trees and shrubs are in bud. The forsythias are in bloom. The tulips are popping up, taking a look around to check out their spring digs. Mother Nature is a beautiful and wondrous force.

• Readers write:

'Bearded' dianthus
 • Joanne Terry has this opinion of last week’s featured plant. “That bearded dianthus looks kind of like a ‘Stargazer’ lily with a bad hair day. Kind of cool though.”

• Judith Langden sent along well wishes and good thoughts. “Thank you for responding to my question and adding me to The Garden Report. I love your Report and enjoy the beautiful weather.”

• Georgia Hearn thinks the readership might be a front for a cult. Read on. “Another great report with humor and such good advice to add to our gardening culture. So nice to see new readers that are friends and have now joined the ‘following’, or perhaps, the converted is a better term. Have a great week.”

• Sharon Wallace, baker of wonderful pies, writes: “Enjoy all your garden tips on your blog. Thanks.”

• Jean Freeman was pretty excited that her Mayor’s Arts Award was recognized here. “I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again! You are a sweetheart with a crusty (even flaky) exterior and a heart of melted chocolate! Thank you for your good wishes and generous praise, which I will always attempt to live up to. I find now, at my venerable age, that it was a good thing I got into the habit of writing out my speeches and off the cuff comments while I was young, because now I have a bitch of a time remembering anything that isn't written down!”

Rob's new line of seed potatoes
• From Vancouver, one of our resident rose growers and nursery people let us know of something new. “Great read with my Sunday morning coffee. Thanks again. We are starting to ship heavy into Saskatchewan right now. Attached is a new line of seed potatoes I designed last fall. The prairie gardeners love their potatoes.” Rob Van Zanten

• Joana Cook has been working in Africa recently. She writes from London, England, to let us know she is being transferred to the west coast for a stint. “I will not be home, per se, but at least back in Canada for awhile. My next project is focusing on mining in northern Canada. I will be based out of Vancouver for likely three months.”

• Ed Heidt has not written for awhile. He leads an interesting life as a teacher, an actor and a priest. He will be performing a friend’s new play this fall. “I read your first note on writing and editing and thought he might have some comments on John's play. Rochester, New York, is having its first four day Fringe Festival in September and John has been working on a play about the Jesuit priest, mystic evolutionist, Teilhard de Chardin. It’s pretty dense but I thought what the hell! Rod will have some juicy comments about this.”

• Roberta Nichol had this to say regarding the backbones of community. “It's good to see how Marlo and Chad have contributed to the Cathedral community, and also a shame to hear of the others who choose not to participate in any way. Sad. Nothing really one can do about it except to celebrate that some choose to be productive.”

 'Morden Belle' survived its first year just fine
 • Apprentice landscaper needed: I have a project this spring to build a private garden. I need some help. It’s a paid job. You have to be strong, really strong. It’s tough work. There is bed building, path installation and planting. It rains some days and is really hot other times. Life is tough. You can’t complain. You get to operate a rototiller and a plate tamper. You also get to push a wheelbarrow, lots. It is a Monday to Friday gig. It could be full time or part time, depending on the availability of the right person. It starts right away so it is not suited for a high school student. Did I mention I only work with people who are bright and don’t need a ton of supervision? Send me an email if you are the right person for this job.

• Garden Tip: This email came from the always lovely, Chris Dodd. She asks a gardening question within the email and I answer. Here is her missive. “The Garden Report is such a great treat on a Sunday morning! As a pro you might tell me this is a bad idea, but I have found that in addition to a bankrupting amount of peat moss, dump a bag of kids play sand into Regina soil. It helped with the ‘glue when wet; concrete when dry’ feature of the otherwise fertile Regina soil.

     Also thanks for the photo from Larry of the bearded dianthus. I saw them last year and loved them. I enjoy going to Sherwood. Larry always takes time to show me what's new and how not to kill it when I get it home!” Rod’s answer: Adding sand into Regina soil is not advised over the long run. The immediate reaction upon adding sand is that the soil is much more flexible. But the problem lies ahead. Think of it this way. If you take clay, sand and water, all you need to make concrete is the Portland cement. There is an old English ditty that goes ‘clay on sand, okay, sand on clay, no way.' Best to keep adding peat moss until the soil has a beautiful tilth to it.

• A good idea: Those people who do not know the difference between sex and peanut butter, are advised to renew their commitment to peanut butter.

This is how wet it was last year...don't forget!
• Garden Tip: This email arrived from Terena Murphy Bannerman, who gardens somewhere in our beautiful, Qu’Appelle Valley. She writes: “You always manage to fit so much practical advice into your Garden Report; on life as well as on gardening. May I ask your help? I have a lovely 8-10 foot Blue Spruce in my front yard. We bought it about 7 years ago from Scotty's Greenhouses here in the valley. This year, the 'blue' seems to have gone. Is there something I should be doing to encourage the color to come out, burying pennies around the roots, perhaps? Help.” Rod’s answer: The blue should emerge with the new growth around the first or second week of June. The excessive rain fall last year probably washed out some of its color. Do not add anything other than a good quality fertilizer. Evergreens enjoy an acid fertilizer so a 30 10 10 would be a good choice.

• The shells that we shed: I am sitting at my desk, in my writing room. I look out onto the Regina Avenue street scene that unfolds in front of me. I have lived on this street for thirty-nine years and I have see many people move in and then out. I think of Athol’s house across the street. She resided there for seventy-five of her eighty-three years. Coulter’s lived in what is now the Calam’ house back in the seventies and I still think of it as the Coulter’s house, though they have been gone for more than thirty years.

I share this thought. Houses are similar to bodies. There comes a time when we give each of them up to move on. Our bodies and our homes are the shells that house us, but only for a moment in time.

• Garden Tip: If you are looking for a pyramidal plant, cedars are not always the best choice. They are often difficult to establish. A better choice, especially for hot and sunny locations, are the upright junipers. They have variety names such as ‘Wichita Blue’ or ‘Blue Haven’. They are easy to look after and with a bit of shearing, they can remain fairly tight and compact.

• Daisy’s Pantry: Reader and writer, CJ Katz, gave a good review to Daisy’s Pantry a couple of weeks ago. Maureen checked it out with a friend and she gave it a thumbs up. So, two women telling me the same thing, and I actually listened. It was rainy and cold on Friday. A perfect time to visit. It is best described as funky, not boutique. Things don’t match. They didn’t spend a lot of money on décor, which is fine with me. After all, I am there for the food. The menu is small, very small. The place is small, very small. The woman working the counter was very pleasant. They had a special for eight bucks and I went with it. It was ‘Hangover’ soup with a three cheese and bacon focacia served warm. The soup was a hearty meal in itself. The sandwich was decent but needed a crunch or snap inside, like a bit of onion or hot peppers. They had three desserts which looked devastatingly delicious, but I had to pass. Watching the figure. It is worth checking out. It’s just east of The General Hospital. If you get to the corner of 15th Avenue and Toronto Street, you’re just about there.

• Garden Tip: At this time of year, gardeners ask a plethora of questions (fancy word, eh?). A popular one is my opinion of power raking. Power raking is normally not necessary unless there is an extreme thatch build up within your lawn. Excessive thatch build up is defined as one inch or more. Under one inch, the thatch acts as an under carpet, providing a cushion to walk across. Better than power raking, most lawns benefit from aeration or plug removal at least once a year. Some lawns improve with twice yearly aeration. It really does work. The fellow I hire is Drew Millard at Mr. Caretaker, 586-0828.

• Budget cuts: A reader of The Garden Report works at CBC. She told me that due to budget cuts, the five ‘w’s’ of news reporting have been reduced to four. They had to let ‘when’ go. Apparently, Sesame Street has picked up ‘when’s’ option and now every third Tuesday will be brought to you by the number four and the question ‘when’. Thank God ‘who’ is safe, at least on first.

Dwarf bougainvillea
• Garden Tip: Larry Levsen sent along the photo of the dwarf bougainvillea. He says it is his favorite new plant of the spring.

• 13th Avenue: There is a Filipino place on 13th, close to The Mercury Café. They don’t’ have a lot of things for sale but every week, I buy a six pack of their barbecued pork buns. They are six bucks. Very tasty for a snack, or two with a bowl of soup for lunch. Best to warm them up.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in cloudy and cool Regina

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Garden Report #78

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

'Pink Spire' Flowering Crab in bloom
• Writers write: Writers write as climbers climb, because they must. I receive pieces of writing from new writers, asking for review. I don’t have many rules, but I do have a few. They are: a) if you have something simple to say, write it simply, b)do not overuse adjectives and adverbs, c)do not overstate your case, your readers are intelligent people, and d)remember that many can write, but few can or will edit. Editing is what separates the good from the better, and the best.

• Readers write:

• Ingrid Thiessen’ landscape design class is filling up. She writes “Thank you again for posting the fundraiser. Nine people so far! With your friendly reminder I am hoping to meet the twelve person minimum. What would I do without your extensive network?”

• Gwen Barschel is bullish on a café that I have never heard of called Kave Has. “It is a cafe, across from Luther college on Dewdney Avenue. Great homemade desserts, soups, etc. It may only be open for lunch and coffee, I’m not sure. The best coconut cream pie ever!”

• Marian Volpel recalls a departed teacher. “I also remember Miss Shirley Covey. She was Don’s cousin’s homeroom teacher, across the hall from my home room at Scott, circa 1958. I never had her for a teacher, but I saw her in the hallway every day. I remember her as being a soft spoken woman, but maybe not in the classroom. Enjoy The Garden Report.”

• Sandra Rayson is always the cheerleader. “Congratulations on The Garden Report on Saturday night. You are ahead of schedule on everything, impressive! I can see the divine inspiration in each Garden Report. The readers are happy, especially me!”

• Margaret Bessai is disappointed with the closure of The Indian Head Tree Farm. “Rod, thank you so much for writing about the decision to shut down the tree farm, and the cuts to the PFRA research centre.”

• Marsha Kennedy has not written for awhile, but she had lots of good things to weigh in on. “It was comforting when I saw your first Report after a long silence! Like many of your readers, I feel your Reports gather a community, joined together through your stories, and I thank you for that vision and the talent you have to create that feeling.

I adored your story about Miss Shirley Covey. I think we all have teachers from our past that we have never forgotten and some with regret. Your story allowed me to revisit my own memories of past teachers. Miss Deck, the kindergarten teacher at Athabasca School, now closed, was there for many years. Her image and essence are ever present in me. I have always wondered what became of her and if she is still alive?

It was good to see the call for gardens for New Dance Horizon’s Secret Garden Tour. My garden was on that tour last summer and it was a really enjoyable event as I met so many wonderful people. I encourage anyone with a nice garden to get involved with this very fun and rewarding event. I stayed outside and met so many interesting and nice people. Not only is going on the tour a rather magical experience, but hosting your own garden becomes a magical experience, as well. Gardens bring people together to share and tell their stories. After that weekend I was exhausted from the heat but had a great feeling of joy inside me.”

• Edie Friesen is writing for the first time. “Enjoyed your latest Garden Report as usual! That Easter meal that you were privileged to attend was just amazing!! My goodness, do those Ukrainian folks know how to put on a spread! Anyway, carry on your great work with The Garden Report, and all the best.”

• Many of you had your say about cabbage rolls. This in from Kate Berringer. “Great read again, Rod. I had the pleasure of tasting the cabbage rolls you made for the green room at the Fringe Festival a few years back. If you ask me, delicious should be the criteria used when evaluating food, not authentic. In other words, I couldn’t care less how authentic your cabbage rolls are, they were delicious!”

• My buddy from Fine Arts School, Penney Pike, has trouble sleeping. Here is her hilarious take on insomnia. She sent it during the early hours of the morning. “Those of us who never sleep, have the pleasure of reading The Garden Report before everyone else! That means we get our chuckle just before we try, once again, to fall asleep. Keep 'em coming!”

• Bobby Sue is always a fan. She makes me blush. “I just have to say, this is one of the most funny, entertaining, informative and thought provoking Garden Reports I've seen in awhile. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoy each and every one of them, make no mistake, and do look forward to them. But this one had magic. It was really neat, how I felt my emotions changing with each little topic. You know, Rod, I really appreciate reading these, as I sip my coffee and munch on delicious cinnamon raisin toast. This is the life. Thanks so much.”

'Jackpot' tulips cut from my garden
• The sounds of spring: We were out for a walk through the neighborhood on Saturday evening. The sounds of spring were everywhere. Wascana Lake is alive with the pulsating cries of the waterfowl returning from their winter vacations. Then there are the deep throated mating calls of the Regina male as he guns his motor on The Albert Street Bridge. “Vooroom, vooroom!” he goes. An occasional female of the species turns her head but she does not join him. She is waiting for the male to reach maturity. It is a long wait.

• Garden Tip: What can you be doing this week? Prune your trees and shrubs. Tidy your perennial bed. Lightly rake the lawn. Aerate the lawn if it is dry. Do not fertilize. Does your back ache yet?

• Of dreams and angels: I was deep asleep one morning and my lady came into my bedroom and held my hand. I did not wake up. When I did open my eyes, an hour later, I remembered how wonderful I had felt. My experience set me to thinking. When we are with a loved one who is passing over, it is important to hold their hand, until the angels arrive to guide them on their next journey.

• Garden Tip: While quite expensive, I have found it is money well spent to purchase a 100% rubber hose. The vinyl hoses kink and are difficult to wind up.

• My life with women: I was in Sunday School. I was six years old. This girl sitting across from me said in her princess voice: “Rodney. If you were not always so busy fooling around with Arthur, you wouldn’t always be in trouble with teacher.” It was the alpha, not the omega.

• Time is moving along: I had a wonderful customer who has long since passed away. His name was Paul Groome and he was ninety-two years young. One day, he was in the garden center, looking for a spruce tree. I showed him the smallest ones I had. They were twelve inches tall and priced at ten dollars. He looks at me and says “for Christ’s sake man! I’m ninety-two. Show me something I can see!” He bought a three to four foot tree which meant I had to drive him and the tree home in my truck. Surprisingly, he planted it himself. As an aside, his brother was Roland Groome, the first pilot in Canada with a license. Regina Airport is named Groome Field, after Roland.

• As old as we feel: One of my all time favorite gardeners and customers was Sandra Whittick. She lived to be a grand old dame, passing at ninety-three. She drove a 1967, red, convertible Mustang at one point in her life. I asked why she drove a sports car at her age. Her answer? “Because, I am a sporty grandmother.”

• Sandra’s garden tip: “You can never add too much peat moss into Regina soil.”

• CBC Two: I don’t listen to a lot of commercial FM because it can be very repetitive. My car radio is usually turned to CBC Two. I am exposed to music I have not heard before. Last week, driving along, I heard a group that specializes in baroque music. Except, they had left their comfort zone and recorded Leonard Cohen’s ‘Susanne’. The soprano was at the upper end of her range, the sound was pure and simple. The singer allowed the complexity of the poetry to shine through. By the time the song had finished, my eyes were moist. After first hearing it forty-five years ago, ‘Susanne’ still allows me to touch her perfect body, with my mind.

• Garden Tip: Most of your garden maintenance can be carried out with four basic tools. They are a fan rake, a three pronged cultivator, a ‘d’ shaped edger and a broom. Of course, you need a few more tools but those four can accomplish many of your tasks. For pruning, three tools are required. A good pair of hand pruners (secateurs), a pair of loping shears and a curved saw.

• Oh, to know it all: When Number One Son was twelve, he took a Red Cross course in babysitting. He was leaving for his first job and his mother said “if you have any problems, just give me a call.” He responded “but Mom, you didn’t take the course and I did!” Not only did his mother have three kids at this point but she had been a nurse at ‘Sick Kids’ in Toronto.

Glory of the Snow is a fall bulb that emerges early  spring
• First up in the spring: Glory of the Snow. This is a bulb that is planted in the fall. It is one of the first bulbs to emerge every spring and because of its early arrival, it is appropriately named Glory of the Snow. This photo came from a fellow in Portage, seeking identification. Thanks to my Dutch friend, Frank Van Noort for his assistance.

• Congrats: Reader Jeanie Freeman received one of The Mayor’s Arts Awards recently. Jean is known to most readers as an actor, playing the role of ‘Grannie’ on Corner Gas. But to those of us within the writers’ circle, Jean is first and foremost, a writer. Her stories on Definitely Not The Opera (DNTO) are hilarious.

I will never forget the evening we celebrated Johnny Sandison’s fifty years in the broadcast world. There were six speakers at the head table to toast the man. Five winged it, speaking in an off the cuff fashion. All five died a slow death in front of the audience of twelve hundred, stammering, stuttering and flopping. Jean was the last speaker. She had everything written out. I was so proud of her that evening. The writer. Prepared. Organized. Succinct. Funny as all get out.

• I was young, once: I was twenty-four, working at The Senator Hotel in Saskatoon to put myself through university. One night I had a table with people in their fifties. When the beer flows, so do the stories. After sufficient lubrication, one fellow announces to the group that he has no problem making love to his wife every night. Being twenty-four, I thought to myself: “What? Only once a night!” Now that I have sailed through my fifties, I know the ‘every night’ claim was the beer talking.

• I was young, once #2: I was sitting across from a young man of twenty-four. We were having coffee. He complained to me that his father had recently chided him for making a major decision without consultation. The twenty-four year old felt that his dad had crossed a line. I listened. I told him that I agreed with his father and that most dad’s would take the father’s side. He was less than thrilled to hear my opinion. The point is simple. When we are faced with major choices, we are always better served to reflect with someone else than to act impulsively. There is a an adage that applies here. It is: Act in haste, repent at leisure. I am this young man’s age, twice over and then some, and I have learned that it is in my best interest to counsel with someone who I respect, before finalizing a big decision. Having written that, it is a fair question: Did I ever act impulsively in my younger years? Most readers, have shared in that answer.

• Backbones of the community: Every community has them. They are the backbones. They get things done. Chad Jacklin is one of those backbones of 13th Avenue. He is always doing something to improve the street. Chad has been involved in installing the new bike racks along the street. The bike racks were designed by Cathedral artist Heather Cline. As busy as he is with partner Marlo in their two business’, Mysteria Gallery and Artesian Performance Hall, Chad finds time to keep things happening in Regina’s boutique shopping district. Two other interesting facts about Chad. First, he is a brilliant artist, creating sculptures from discarded objects and second, he is a reader of The Garden Report.

• No backbone: There are a few merchants along 13th Avenue who contribute absolutely nothing to the community. I know. I have approached them personally, on several occasions, asking for their assistance in various forms for The Fringe. Nothing. Not a minute of their time, not a corner of their store, not a dime of their money are they willing to donate. They contribute nothing to their own Cathedral Village Arts Festival. They give back nothing, but rest assured, they take everything they can. While they do nothing to benefit the community and the ambiance along 13th, when it comes time to sell their property, they will be the first to claim a high price due to the intrinsic value of being situated in the buzz of Cathedral. Leech is the word that best describes these merchants. I am so tempted to out them for what they are. Sadly, in every community, there are the givers and there are the takers.

Bearded dianthus
• Garden Tip: Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouse sent along the photo of the bearded dianthus. His comments include: “A bearded dianthus has a rather unusual flower. When our customers first see it, there are only two comments ever used:1. Yuck, that's ugly. 2. Oh, it's funky, I want one. The comments tend to portray our client's age.”

• To be from Philly: My mother was a baseball fan. As a young girl, she played. As an adult, she cheered. In 1975, I took mom to see a few big league games. We took in the action at Orange County, home of The Angels. The Angels were playing Philadelphia and mom decided we should cheer for the home team. We had good seats along the third base line. As the game progressed, a rather loud gentleman, sitting two rows down and eight seats over from us, made it clear, he was a Philly fan. By the third inning, mom and the Philly fan had exchanged a few words. By the fifth, it was not going well. In the seventh inning, mom stood up and told her nemesis, “you guys from Philly don’t know squat!” What made this exchange incredibly off the wall is, that if offered a million dollars, I doubt if mom could have placed Philly on the map.

'Marie Victorin' Explorer Rose
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in the Regina sunshine.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Garden Report #77

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

• Writers write: I don’t normally place someone’s passing in this spot of The Garden Report, but an exception is required for Miss Shirley Covey. She was the Latin teacher at Scott Collegiate for many years. To write that she was a popular teacher would be understatement. She was one of those rare people who reached out to hundreds if not thousands, of fourteen year olds and said what needed to be said: “You are okay and we are going to survive your teen aged years. And we will have fun doing it.”

In my business years, my secretary and I would engage in great debates over grammar, as English is a construct of a number of interpretive rules. When we were at loggerheads, we would call up the long retired Miss Covey. She, being the last of the great arbitrators of such arguments. Her rulings were final, leaving one of the parties to gloat and the other to wallow in the bloodshed of defeat.

'Pink Wave' petunias love the sun
My favorite Shirley Covey story is this one. When I was fifteen, I hitchhiked often, not having my license to drive just yet. It was 1967. A farmer picked me up one evening, in his International truck. He asked me where I attended school? He responded that he too, had been a student at Scott Collegiate back in 1946. He inquired “is that sexy Shirley Covey still teaching there?” I was horrified. The concept of Miss Covey being referenced as ‘sexy’ was unthinkable. I kept that conversation as a deep secret for thirty two years. Flash forward to 1999 and I was the MC at The Scott Collegiate Reunion. I was to introduce Miss Covey as the key note speaker. Prior to doing so, I relieved the burden of my secret to Miss Covey. I told her of the ‘sexy’ reference and assured her it would not enter into my introduction, as I had too much respect for her. To my great surprise, she insisted. Her exact words were: “No one has ever had the courage to refer to me as ‘the sexy Shirley Covey’. I want everyone to hear those words tonight”. I told the story and introduced her to the assembled throng: “..and here is the one and only, the sexy Shirley Covey.” She got a standing ovation, not for her sex appeal, but because she had loved an entire generation of teenagers. Not for what they would become, but for who they were that day.

• Readers write:

     • Ingrid Thiessen is running a homeowner’s landscape design seminar as a church fundraiser. “Thank you for advertising the fundraiser and your most generous comments. I have already received my first student who read your blog! Thank you. With appreciation, Ingrid.”

     • Judith Langen is a fan of Ingrid’s. “Love, love your Report. Thanks for sharing as I'm really trying to have a better garden this year. I have a chuckle with your family stories. We had Ingrid at our housing conference in the fall 2011. She received rave reviews.”

     • Georgia Hearn loves to garden. “Love the verbena and I will visit Sherwood Greenhouse. From working with you, I know the value of Pro-Mix. I am excited about the workshop and will contact Ingrid. Thanks for more laughs and more learning. It is always worthwhile to read your Sunday reports.”

     • Gerald Wilcox had this to say: “I always enjoy reading The Garden Report. Today, it had just the right mix of humor and warmth to bring hope and brightness to my day. I wanted to tell you I appreciate being included in the circle of readers.”

     • Many of us know Frank Flegel from The University of Regina or from the world of broadcasting. He is now one of us, a reader. “This is the first time I read The Garden Report to the end. Thanks to Tommy Fong for forwarding it to me. He knows I enjoy vegetable gardening and have a plot in the community gardens behind the old fire hall in Whitmore Park.”

     • Jackie Arnason had a comment. “Loved your lesson in reality! When I was working (ages ago!) my criteria for hiring was first - a good attitude and second, a desire to learn. Without both of these - hiring the person was of no benefit to either them or me.”

     • Roberta Nichol is being a school teacher, again. Read on. “Cheryl Hutton's husband suffers in silence, “like most of us”? Rod Mcdonald, I have never heard you silent about anything during the years I have known you.”

     • We have not heard from Robin Poitras (New Dance Horizons) for awhile. She is still a reader. “Your Garden Reports sure are special. I'm was home with a nasty cold this past weekend and I must say, kind of enjoyed taking the time to catch up on reading and writing. I really appreciate the great gardening information you extend and always enjoy the often surprising interconnections you weave between the animal, vegetable and human worlds and the community.”

     • Billy Patterson is fairly new to gardening and as with all new converts, he is a true believer. “It might interest you to know that I am leading a week-long day camp with fifteen, 6-8 year olds titled ‘Little Green Thumbs’. I enjoy getting dirt under these kid's nails and teaching them to love growing plants. Today, I let them play with worms for half an hour. Something so simple, yet they found more joy playing with those worms in that half hour than most adults have in a week! Trying to teach kids can help you learn a lot about the important things in life.”

     • Sandra Willis gardens in southern Ontario. Here is her report. “I'm glad you are getting a good response from readers. You obviously have the knack of making a personal connection through the printed word. We have some great gardening weather in Southern Ontario and I hope you do, too. Forsythia and magnolias are already in bloom (unheard of) and the Bradford pear in my backyard isn't too far behind. The bulbs seem to be a bit more sensible and aren't quite as far ahead. I don't know how it will all play out, especially for the fruit farmers in the Niagara peninsula.”

• Garden Tip: We were having the nicest spring weather there, for awhile, then we got a taste of winter again. People were asking, when should I do this, when should I do that? They wanted to get a jump on the season. I am reminded, in these situations, of what my friend and reader Garfield Marshall likes to say. He offers “just when we think we are smart, Mother Nature makes fools of us all.”

'White Dream' tulips in a vase
• A Ukrainian feast: I had Easter supper with twenty-eight Ukrainians, and that is not the beginning of a bad Saskatchewan joke. My youngest boy is married to one, not that there is anything wrong with that. So, we got an invitation to join her family for supper. The first thing readers who have never been to a Saskatchewan Ukrainian supper need to know is, there will always be enough food for at least a hundred. We had three types of cabbage rolls, perogies, sausage, seafood, ham, barbecued beef, chopped pork, eight salads, fifteen desserts, pickles, cheese and the list goes on. Let’s just say it was not a situation sponsored by Weight Watchers. The only thing missing were the jellied salads. I am certain that will be rectified the next time.

• Throw down: People should stop invoking the word ‘authentic’ for recipes, based upon their mother’s maiden name. Just because your mom’s family name was Kowalchuk or Yakimouski, does not mean her cabbage rolls or perogies are ‘authentic’. What it does mean is that your mom made her food the way her mom taught her and, rest assured, there were adaptations made along the line. Her cabbage rolls might be excellent, but they are not ‘authentic’. There is no such thing as ‘authentic’! My cabbage rolls are very good and I will throw down with any babba out there, whether she be Polish, Ukrainian, Armenian, German or Ukanatazan ( I made that one up). We will call our grudge match, ‘The Authentic Cabbage Roll Super Bowl’. First prize will be authentic pergoies.

• Of cabbage rolls and kings: I have produced over two hundred episodes of gardening shows for television. I have featured roses that no one has ever seen before and I have received perhaps, three inquiries for those yet unknown roses. I have produced only one show that featured cabbage rolls. Only one! Yet, the inquires and comments continue to pour in, years after its first airing. People have asked my advice, given me theirs, challenged my use of certain ingredients (hot peppers) and generally, wanted to discuss the show at length. The people of this province do take their cabbage rolls seriously. Hmm…I wonder if I could be elected The Czar of Saskatchewan on a platform of free cabbage rolls for every constituent?

• Throw down #2: ‘Authentic’ jumped the ship a long time ago, into nationalities. People will claim that the Chinese are good cooks, the Italians good brick layers and the Dutch, good greenhouse operators. It is true, there are Chinese cooks who are outstanding, but rest assured, there are bad cooks who claim Chinese ancestry. The same rule applies to Italian bricklayers. Some of the best bricklayers are Italian, but not all Italians are good bricklayers. When I had my greenhouse, I had an employee who spoke Dutch. An elderly woman was shopping one day, he recognized her accent and addressed her in their first language. She responded in Dutch, saying “I knew that this place was too clean to be run by anyone but a Dutch family.” He informed her that the closest I came to being Dutch was my love of that country’s licorice. Generalizations are never bang on, except for the Scot’s. The Scot’s are a generous people, except when we are not. We are also known for our bravery, the women for their fair skin and the men as great lovers. I could go on and on, but we Scot’s are known for our humility, as well. For those who are tongue in cheek challenged, insert (he writes with a sigh) your LOL at this juncture.

• Benefits of the job: One of the perks of writing The Garden Report is that readers, on occasion, drop off homemade goodies. Over the Easter period, Edie Friessen walked over with a loaf of paska bread, made with a cream cheese icing. For those uninitiated, it is an egg bread used to celebrate Easter in the eastern, European countries. Very tasty and very appreciated. I do admit that this is a misuse of editorial privilege, shamelessly trolling for home baking and goodies.

• Baking it old school: I stopped into Brewed Awakenings on Tuesday. They have such a nice vibe to their cappuccino shop. In their display case, they now have Jam Jams. Talk about old school. I didn’t try them, yet, but tomorrow is another day.

'Winnipeg Parks' hardy rose
• Old school store: I stopped into The Coop Store up on Winnipeg and Ninth North the other day. They have soup to nuts for most homeowners, and I actually saw a couple of staff members who knew what they were doing. Beats going to Rona or Home Depot.

• Garden Tip: If you have a caragana hedge, a cotoneaster hedge, a Manchurian elm hedge or a potentilla or spirea plant, after several years, it will become woody. It will become so thick with branches, that it is difficult to prune. Every ten or so years, these plants will benefit from being cut six to twelve inches from the ground. This will give the plant the opportunity to develop new growth and manageable branching.

• A small club: Over the years, I have had the odd person who I found so obnoxious, that I have assigned them a permanent listing on The Idiots Club. It is a small club, as I have developed a remarkable tolerance for fools. There is a man who lives six blocks away who has a hedge of Manchurian elms. It had become so overgrown with dead wood and thick branches that it was impossible for him to maintain. He asked my advice and I told him that if he were to cut it down, that it would grow again. The new branches would be easy to cut. He did so that November. In January, there was a social. He approached me at this function and said “So help me God. If those plants don’t come back in the spring, you will be hearing from me!” This from a man who had solicited my advice for free. I told him that he should pray that his wife outlive him. He asked “why?” I answered that if she were to die first, he would never receive another invitation to a social function in the community. I can give as good as I get.

• Timing is everything: The adage is that in comedy, timing is everything. It also applies to growing crops in a greenhouse. There is an old joke, from the trade, that goes like this: I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that my poinsettia crop is the finest anyone has ever grown. The not so good news is that it will be ready December 26th. And you thought greenhouse people had no sense of humor.

• Garden Tip: If you want or have a need to get a start on some outdoor planting, then go with pansies. Pansies are one of the strongest flowers that you can plant early. They will survive frosts of minus seven and even of minus nine. Marigolds on the other hand, will turn black at plus two. Even mentioning the word ‘frost’ can destroy a crop of marigolds. So the next time you call someone a ‘pansy’, just remember that in reality, you are saying they are quite tough.

• No call from the diplomatic league: A friend came into my greenhouse. She was walking gingerly, not putting any pressure on her toes. I recalled that she had had some surgery. I assumed, it must have been for bunions on her feet, the way she was walking. I asked how the foot surgery had gone. She responded “I had a hysterectomy you idiot.” My friends are so kind. I mentioned the way she was walking. Her response to that was “you have a hysterectomy and let’s see how you walk!” Some days, I am better off not saying anything.

'Black Satin' petunia
• Garden Tip: The photo of the ‘Black Satin’ petunia came to us from Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouse.

• Garden party: The Humane Society is having a garden party/fundraiser on May 2nd. Tickets right now are $25. If you would like more information, go to their website at

• Gardens wanted: New Dance Horizons will be hosting their fifteenth annual ‘Secret Gardens Tour’ as a fundraiser. They ask people to nominate either their garden or a friends to be included in the tour. If you have a suggestion, send me an email and I will hook you up with the organizers.

We are a good looking crew planting trees and shrubs
• Good looking crew: I need some assistance when planting new gardens. I sometimes turn to the Thiessen sisters, Sandy and Becky to help me out, as they are hard working. In the attachment, there is a photo of us. I am the one wearing the cool shades.

• The times they are a ‘changing: Culturally, we have had Saskatchewan’s storyteller taken away from us with the demise of SCN. Then the film industry had its bottom taken out with the elimination of the Film Tax Credit. This week, the federal government has gotten in on the act. CBC is going to have some changes, the scope of those yet to be determined. Now, the tree farm at Indian Head is to be shut down in 2013. The tree farm provided farmers and acreage owners across the prairies with seedling trees and shrubs for over a hundred years. As any of us drive from Winnipeg to Calgary, we see thousands of homesteads with trees surrounding the houses. All of those trees came from Indian Head. They provide a sanctuary for humans, birds and wildlife. They provide a windbreak and reduce the use of fossil fuels to heat homes. They provide oxygen and they cleanse the air of pollutants. We need more trees not fewer. Did the winds of The Great Depression not teach us anything?

• Old school saying: A stranger is only a friend that we have not yet met.

• Sixties bumper sticker: If I’m okay and you’re okay, then why did you just lock your car doors?

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Garden Report #76

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

It's spring time...but we got some more winter snow
 • Writers write: It’s a snowy morning here in Regina. The kids are home for Easter, which makes momma sing with joy and the old man growl and bark. We have just finished Sunday brunch, featuring Maureen’s Irish Soda Bread, the finest in the land ,along with my version of coffee. My coffee is known to cause heart arrhythmia in people with less than rugged constitutions. Lisa, my number one daughter in law, took the photos of the newly arrived snow. We were having this incredible early spring in Regina. I was in the garden, with my hat on to reduce the exposure to the sun, all of this week. Now I am wearing my toque. For our non Canadian readers, a toque is a wool cap, not a puff on a marijuana cigarette. So, now where was I? Oh yeah, the snow will be slowing down that early start we had to spring construction. Talking with contractor friends, some of them have been up and running on their outside work for two weeks, which means it is the earliest start, at least in my memory. Until this year, 1981 was the benchmark year for early starts.

• Readers write:

       • Gail Bowen and I share the same view of community. Here is her take: “I like what you say about our neighborhood renewing itself. Our block of Retallack Street is alive with little kids again, and it's great to see new families discovering what we've known all along. Lakeview is a fine place to live.”

       • Maryanne Slater had this to share: “I enjoy your weekly blogs and fantasize about being even half the gardener you are.”

       • Roberta Nichol thinks I write the truth. “Another blurb that made me howl was ‘The Good Eaters Club’. President, okay I'll take on the job, but you can be the Vice President, how's that? I sort of am the President, aren't I? I love to eat.... there's just no denying.”

       • Sharon Barber was succinct. “Great report again.” Jodi Sadowsky followed suit. “Thanks for another great report.” Marlo V. was also brief. “Always wonderful to read your report! Thank you for your wisdom and humor.” Georgia Hearn made it a parade. “Another pleasurable read on a Sunday morning. I would agree....collect all these and write a book. You would sell tons immediately. I for one would promote it.”

       • Patrick Hawley who doubles up as a regular reader as well as our Number Three Son weighed in on last week’s restaurant review. “We have several Original Joe's here in Edmonton now. Their pulled pork is also very good. I believe they started up in Calgary.”

       • Cheryl Hutton, out of Calgary, is taking the female side of the argument. Her husband suffers in silence, as do most of us. Read on. “Thank you so much for this week's report. I've been keeping up to date with my reading but haven't found the time to send you a note back so today is that day. I realize this comment relates back to a few issues ago, but I adore the conversations you print between yourself and Maureen. Always a highlight! She makes me laugh so much with her quick wit and common sense. Please tell her that she is not alone in her struggles and that it makes perfect sense to me why shampoo for her sister would be next to the foot cream.”

       • Joanne Crofford takes this view. “Well Rod, you seem to be challenging the talents of John Gormley in provoking responses from your readers. I prefer your style of community engagement but the fact people respond means you are connecting with things we care about.”

       • Lyn Goldman enjoys good food and pretty flowers, as do most of our readers. “Gorgeous begonias, Rod! I, too, have heard about the good food at Original Joe's. Unfortunately, I have also heard about the loudness of the venue. So, like Earl's, it won't have me as a customer. I like to have conversations with friends when I dine out. I don't mind your printing my comments, but please note that my name is spelled Lyn!”

Behind every sucessful man, there stands a good woman.
 • More employment opportunities: Again this week, we have someone looking for a gardener. If you are interested, I will connect you with the homeowner. I am not involved with this garden, just passing the message along. “Hi Rod. Just finished reading The Garden Report. Thanks! I have received this request from a client who has a large yard about 14 miles north and 5 miles east of Regina. ‘I am looking for someone to spring clean my flower beds and weed them this year. Do you know someone I can hire to do this?’”

• Garden Tip: With the relatively low amount of snow this year, one would think that snow mould would be rare. Not true. I have been finding patches of it all across the city. It explains why many of you have been reaching for the Claritin these past two weeks.

• The Zen of tree pruning: Last week, I printed the three basic rules of tree pruning. Those were the mechanics. Here is something equally as important. If you don’t love the tree you are pruning, then stop. To prune properly, you must love trees in general and the one you are working on in particular. Second: Understand that pruning is a layered process. You must take a break from what you are doing and come back to it later, with a different view. Third: Always take a little less. You can never add branches back in. Fourth: When you get good at pruning, you will understand that the tree will always tells you what to prune.

• Garden Tip: Good gardeners know that it is okay to change things around in the garden. Plants need to be moved when their time is up. A garden is an evolving project, never finished, always changing. Good gardeners know this.

• Tell her mother: We took two young women to The Globe Theater with us. It was their first time and they really enjoyed the show. A week later, a thank you card arrived in the mail from both of them. There was a time when a thank you card was standard, but not anymore. I wanted to send a note to their mothers saying “you taught your daughters well.”

• A dad’s tale: Patrick (Number Three Son) and Lisa (Number One Daughter-in-law) were due home from Edmonton on Thursday evening. We knew they would be late so we left all of the lights on outside, in the kitchen and their upstairs bedroom. We fell asleep waiting for them. I woke up at three a.m., noticed all the lights were still on and decided I should get up and wait for them. As it was three a.m., I thought that was close enough to breakfast, so I poured myself a bowl of Cheerios and read a newspaper that was lying around. I don’t know how old the paper was but the lead story mentioned that Nixon might have trouble being re-elected. By four a.m., I was tired. I had looked outside several times, as dad’s do, checked the phone and the clocks. I went back to bed. I assumed that because it was raining, they had pulled over to a roadside motel. At nine a.m., I was ready for my real breakfast. I heard stirrings in the basement. The kids had gotten in at 12:30 and did not want to wake us. They had spent the night in the basement bedroom. Leaving all the lights on? Well, that’s just a habit left over from their teen years. I resisted the urge to do the dad’s rhetoric: “All the lights on? Do you think I’m made of God dammed money?” No. I am beyond that part of my life and I gave up swearing for Lent.

• Tulip time: None of the tulips I planted in September have poked through the soil yet, in spite of the warmth we have experienced. Older tulips, planted years ago, have found their way up through my garden as well as the gardens of three readers. This is not unusual that the older ones emerge ahead of the newly planted bulbs.

• Florists delight: I ran into an old friend from the floral trade. I asked which was her favorite flower. We were in synch with our favorites being alstromeria, followed by tulips and then roses. Alstromeria is often the number one choice of flowers made by people who work within the trade. It is simple and complex at the same time. They last a really long time if cared for properly.

'Twister Pink' Verbena
 • Larry’s delight: I stopped out at Sherwood Greenhouses (behind CKCK TV) this week. I picked up some bales of Pro Mix. You remember Pro Mix? It’s the potting soil I recommend for readers to use. Larry showed me around his place and it is spotless, something I admire in a greenhouse. He also has some new introductions on the go including a dwarf bougainvillea and an extremely interesting verbena. I get tired of visiting greenhouses that keep offering the same old, same old. I like to see the new introductions. 

'Baby Blue' Spruce
  • ‘Baby Blue’ Spruce: Long time friend, grower and reader, Casey Van Vloten sent along the photo of a block of ‘Baby Blue’ Spruce he is growing. Casey started in the nursery business the day he was born. His father, Walter Van Vloten was known across Canada for his tree growing expertise.

• A landscaping class with Ingrid: “I am running a Home Landscape Design Workshop as a fundraiser for Grace Mennonite Church. I will donate the proceeds. The intention is to design your own yard. It will be held Saturday May 5 from 9:30-4:30 with a preparatory class Monday April 30, 7:30pm-9:30pm. The cost will be $100 per person. Have a spouse, or friend that is helping you with your yard project? Both can take the class for $160 plus GST. An outline will be forthcoming soon. For more information they can call or email me. Thanks Ingrid Thiessen 789-5449” Rod’s note: Ingrid is a brilliant architect and this class would be worthwhile for most gardeners to take. She knows her stuff.

• Sorry, not you: A few years ago, The Federal Government threw some money into a training program through The Employment Branch. The idea was to take people who had been on UI regularly, and give them the skills to improve their employment chances. I get it. Some people need that help and I do believe in second chances.

So, this program is up and running and they asked me to speak to the class, as a representative of prospective employers. I took my HR person, Joan Anderson along to speak as well. We both put on our business suits and prepared our remarks with handouts for the students, wanting to put our best foot forward. If there was someone exceptional in that program, we wanted them to work for us. We arrived at the classroom where we were to speak.

The student sitting in the front row was male, twenty-four, had his cap on backwards, was chewing gum and to top this off, he had his feet up on the teacher’s desk, both of them. I glanced at his feet. Too subtle? I spoke for ten minutes, explaining the joy and benefits of working in a greenhouse. I asked at that point, “any questions?”

Our student, who still had his feet up on the teacher’s desk, smirked and said “how much you going to pay me?” I take no offence to bluntness. I enjoy bluntness. I returned his format. “Nothing! I will be paying you nothing because you are too ill mannered to work for me. You don’t even have enough sense to put on a good impression for a potential employer. You chew gum, you have your cap on backward, you have your feet up on your teacher’s desk which is so incredibly disrespectful and to top it all off, you think you are being funny by asking a blunt question about money. Questions about money are never funny! When you learn some manners, then maybe you will get a chance. Any more questions.” The teachers gathered around me after the engagement and suggested I should drop by every week to introduce the students to a dose of reality.

Garden Tip: For those of you who have Easter flowers: Hydrangeas must be watered regularly or they will droop. If they droop, then give the plant a good soaking and it will revive within twenty-four hours. If you have an Easter lily and plant it outside, the chances of it blooming are very slim. I have only ever heard of one Easter lily blooming in the garden, and that one bloomed the second year after it was planted.

Last word: As the ladies were getting ready for brunch this morning, Maureen announced to all who would listen “being a woman is very hard work.” Patrick responded: “Being around women is also very hard work."

It never rains in California and it never snows in Canada...except today!
Thanks for reading...

Rod McDonald in snowy but sunny Regina

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Garden Report #75

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Begonia baskets in the greenhouse
• Writers write: The readership online is climbing in an accelerated mode. May and June were the busiest months for visits to, not surprisingly. March has now surpassed last summer’s numbers by fifty percent. I wrote this before, I started this as a way to stay in touch with friends and neighbors as I journey through my health issues. I did not want to become disconnected from the world. Where this ezine is going, I still don’t know. I have turned down all attempts to purchase advertising though that could change some day. With no advertising, the reader can assume that any product, service or establishment I recommend, I do so with nothing to gain. I have never asked, but always wondered, how some of our gardening gurus rationalize their promotion of places such as Canadian Tire. Canadian Tire is not a great place to shop for your garden products, and even beginning gardeners have figured that one out. Why would self styled experts lend their name to a third rate garden store? I might be up on a bit of soapbox, but lines in the sand are meant not to be crossed.

• Readers write:

     • C.J. Katz has been busy. “ I finally had a chance to catch up on your Garden Reports. I needed some humor after two straight weeks of editing recipes and photographing dishes for my upcoming cookbook.”

     • Cheryl Ann Smith who is residing somewhere in the mists of England, found her way through the fog to a computer. She writes “This is a great issue! I love your stories. When is your book going to come out? ‘The Best of Rod - Stories of a life in Canada’. It would be great.”

     • Lynn Goldman picked up on the intended humor of last week’s two photos. “Murphy & Maureen are gorgeous! You look pretty good, too. I like the matching bow ties.”

     • Itinerant actor and regular reader, John Huston wrote this: “Thanks for an, as always, refreshing read. I'm trying to decide which of you or Murphy looks better in the tie.”

     • A new reader introduces herself. “Hi Rod. I am new to The Garden Report and I have enjoyed reading #73 and #74. Love the pictures. Did you notice that Murphy has the same look on his face as you do in your formal wear? Is it a good thing when we start looking like our pets?” Signed Dora Mushka.

     • The resemblance issue continues with this from Dianne Palmer. “Rod , I always enjoy The Garden Report. Lovely pictures of you, Maureen and Murphy. I noticed a strong resemblance between you and Murphy. You both have the same expressions of bemused and complacent. Perhaps not bemused, more reflective.”

Street dances and farm dances are a lot of fun
     • In response to my lament over the absence of The Cathedral Family Street Dance, Joanne Crofford weighed in: “Interesting you mentioned the street dance at the arts fest. Just the other day my son, Orion, asked me what happened to it? Is it time (next year, as this year is already booked), to bring it back? How would we prevent difficulties next time?”

     • Jean McKay is involved as a volunteer in a new project. Here is her community news. “A new sign of hope here in Regina. A first in all of Canada. A brand new private school with free tuition and great benefits, for low income students. Read the monthly reports and if interested please come for a visit. I enjoy my volunteer work there. We will be delighted to have you come!”

     • Cheryl Geiger Paul was complimentary and judicious in her words. “. Enjoyed The Garden Report today!”

     • Sharon Barber was also succinct in her reviews. “I have loved getting your Garden Reports, though I am a poor gardener at best.”

     • New reader, Sharon Poissant wrote this: “Just received an email from a friend who forwarded your blog to me. I found it to be very enjoyable, interesting and would appreciate being added to the list.”

     • Compliments come in groups of four as you will see. “I appreciate your hard work producing these beautiful Garden Reports; always enjoyable; thank you.” That one from Sandra Rayson.

• Readers write #2: The following are all comments regarding the elimination of The Film Tax Credit which has effectively cut the film industry off at the knees.

     • Joanne Terry’s take: “I totally agree with you on the Film Industry Tax Credit. Saskatchewan was almost unheard of in the film industry prior to the tax credit and now all the movie producers and executives in Los Angeles have discovered our incredible landscape and wonderful, talented people. Heavens! Even Brad Wall was on Corner Gas. Why would the government spend all that money on the new sound stage, if there wasn’t some fore-thought into the movie industry here in Saskatchewan?”

     • Roberta Nichol wrote this: “Bravo, regarding your stand on the elimination of the Film Tax Credit. I believe that the powers that be have not thought this through whatsoever. By making this move, Saskatchewan, artistically and culturally, has taken several steps backwards, making us the only province in Canada that will be without this tax credit. Very sad. Back in ‘the sticks.’ Economically flourishing, yes, but where the film industry is concerned, the ‘Hooterville’ of the nation.”

    • Jean Freeman is upset. “ I write to you in the dark hours of the night, and I'm referring to the darkness of the soul and spirit, not just of the clock! I've spent most of yesterday and today sending emails of protest and anguish to all the officials, bureaucrats and movers-and-shakers I can think of, to try to add what pressure I can (however insignificant it may be) to bring our government to its senses regarding the gutting of the Film Tax Credit, Tourism Saskatchewan, the Economic Development Regions, and now the Provincial Archives, for God's sake!”

     • Jack Tunnicliffe, my lovely neighbor, is more than upset. He is about to lose what he has spent close to thirty years building. “I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I sent a letter to Brad Wall as well as our local MLA. I will lose most of my business as part of the spinoff of removing the tax credit. For me it's a little different. I don't really qualify for any tax credits, the producers do, but they are the people who use my facility for finishing their products. All of Java Post came directly from my pocket and not from a subsidy or grant. I built Java from the ground up and I am even my own bank. I've always been financially responsible and have accepted no favors. What we make as a business flows directly back into Saskatchewan through taxes, rentals, purchases, renovations, etc.

     Now my clients will be forced to move away. The first call I received was from my best client, Virginia Thompson of Verite Films. They are now based out of Toronto but have a strong connection with Saskatchewan and Java Post through a decade of Incredible Story Studio, Corner Gas and now Insecurity. She told me they would be moving the production to Manitoba and like that it was over. I was dumbfounded, in five minutes I had lost my number one client of a decade. They used our service because they knew we were the best, not the cheapest. They are hounded by Toronto post houses to win their business but they tell them of the quality of service they receive from Java Post and they are loyal to us.”

• Garden Tip: Rhonda Rein wants to know the answer to this question. “First off, I’m so glad to have your reports back and all the interesting bits of humor to boot! I just read about not removing the plastic white tree wrap off your trees until end of April. Just wondering if this also applies to the burlap wrap too? We have 4 cedars in the back yard with the burlap wrap so thought I’d check to see if it’s ok to remove that now or hang on until end of April too?” The answer: Burlap is supposed to protect your cedars from the late winter sun. You can remove the burlap once the ground has thawed sufficiently to allow the roots to move water into the branches. That time will vary from year to year but you can test the soil with a shovel.

My Jackpot Tulips from last year
• Gardener wanted: One of the most beautiful, private gardens I have visited is looking for a gardener. This is a paid position, ten to twenty hours a week, near Lumsden. You must be a very experienced gardener who has a solid background in containers, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. You need to have a car to get there. This job is not suitable for a summer student. If you are interested, I will forward your reply to the people involved. Please note: This position has no connection with me. I am only posting it on the chance that one of our readers would be interested in the opportunity. Perhaps I should start a Want Ads column?

• Good gardeners ride to the rescue: Four of our readers have come forward to donate iris to a new gardener. I have always maintained that good gardeners share.

• The times, they are a changing: Has any reader noticed there is an extreme difference between a first date kiss and a thirty year kiss? At thirty years, the kisses are closer to the ones you offer up to your sister. The lips are there and contact is made but a quick getaway is the major imperative.

• Dandelion delight: This past Tuesday evening, Ian Cook took me to the Pat’s playoff game against Moose Jaw. One of the readers, I don’t know his name, came over to our seats and told me that a dandelion had emerged in all of its glory last week. I have never heard of one up this early. This is perhaps the earliest spring ever. For those with good memories, 1981 was an exceptionally early spring as well.

• Oh yeah: When the boys were little, I would do the dad thing, and issue my ultimatums by counting to ten prior to enforcement. “I am going to count to ten and if you boys aren’t in bed, I am coming up, so help me God!” And I would begin counting. The boys, who are now men, were home for Christmas and they would not get up for the brunch I had prepared. I shouted up the stairs, “if you don’t get down here right away, I am starting to count.” Max caved right away. He couldn’t’ handle the pressure. Classic middle child. Down he came. Patrick, ever the one to push the limits as the youngest (he hates the word ‘baby’), responded “Let me know when you get to six and I’ll start moving.” He’s too big to spank and too old to ground. To quote a Charles Dickens character, “Boy for sale!”

• Winnipeg readers: Reader and proud papa, Cary Rubenfeld sent me the reviews for ‘Angels in America’ being performed in Winnipeg. His son Michael is one of the leads. The play has received glowing accolades.

• Oh yeah #2: Most readers figure out that on occasion, I write with tongue in cheek. I never add those popular ‘LOLs’ as I find them insulting to both the writer and the reader. When I wrote for The Free Press, people would write to the paper saying they liked the humor. Now and again, the paper would receive a letter from some reader alleging I was not funny at all, which would set off a chorus of giggles amongst the staff. Usually, the writer would misinterpret a nod and a wink for straight up reporting. That was the lead in for this: In 2006, I was doing a one hour comedy show in Winnipeg at The Colin Jackson Theater. One night, the show was going along just fine which means the audience was laughing. I delivered a punch line, big laugh and then from half way up, a woman says “I don’t get it.” I looked at her and said “if I stop to explain all of the jokes, it’s going to be a really, long show.” Alright, I cave to the pressure. LOL.

• Oh yeah #3: One of the weirdest responses, when I wrote for The Free Press, was to a column regarding surgery. Within the body of the column, I suggested that The General Hospital was having a sale. That, for every bladder operation, you could choose to have one of your knees repaired free of charge. The office received three inquires from readers, wanting to know if my knee surgery was a success and did I recommend the surgeon? No one inquired as to the quality of the bladder surgery. Please don’t make me add another LOL, please.

Northern Dazzle Lily
• Garden Tip: At this time of year, I am reminded of how useful bamboo stakes are. For new gardeners, you can purchase them, usually in bundles of twenty-five from garden centers. I take mine and cut most of them into about twelve inch lengths. They are the perfect garden marker to remind yourself come the spring, where you planted your bulbs and new perennials. Every spring, we love to get out there and turn our flower beds over, only to uncover something we had no intention of uncovering.

• Original Joe’s: This chain opened up its Regina location at 25th and Albert Street, recently. I have not been there but Bobby Sue, the president of The Good Eaters Club, had her lunch there recently. Here is her review. “I went to Original Joe's yesterday for lunch, and I thought I was going to die happy. I ordered the Pacific Rim Noodle Bowl and chose the Shanghai noodles. It's probably not spicy enough for most, but it was just right for me. My God, shrimp, chicken, pea ( or radish?) shoots, noodles, celery, carrots and a broth that will make your eyes roll back in your head. I will be having the third helping today, and then it will be done. Yes, the bowl was that big. I really enjoyed it.”

• Garden Tip: It is the perfect time to begin your spring pruning. Remember the three basic pruning steps. First, remove dead and dying branches. Second, prune for the future health of the tree. Third, prune for the aesthetics and balance of the tree. Many novices, start with number three, which is a mistake. No elm pruning from April 1st until August 31st.

• Communities change: When I moved into this lovely neighborhood in 1973, many of the houses were in poor condition. I was the youngest of the new owners. Within a few years, a half dozen homes had been purchased by my friends and the upgrades began. Homes from the 1920’s and ‘30’s were restored. Children were born, raised, schooled and moved away to begin their own lives. Time moved through Lakeview, as it moves through all neighborhoods. Today, the homes are filled with couples now in their sixties and seventies. In the next few years, some will move south to Phoenix or to the coast. Others will sell their home and move into a condo. Our neighborhood will be in transition, a state of renewal. Young people will move in. Children will be born. New names will appear on tax rolls. The houses have stories to tell but they will remain untold. In the background, someone is singing ‘Old Man River’ and time keeps moving along.

• Garden Tip: In the old days, gardeners would receive their plants from a mail order nursery, bare root. Bare root simply means the plant has no soil around its roots. It was grown in a nursery field, then dug and shipped. Most gardeners do not understand bare root material as they have only worked with container grown plants. Bare root should always be planted as soon as possible, and watered well. These plants will do well in your garden, but do not expect much growth in the first year. Their norm is to establish their leaves in year one and begin growing in the second year.

Victoria Falls shot by reader Joanna Cook
• Last call: You must band your trees now! I witnessed the male, cankerworm moths hovering around on Friday night. The girls cannot be far behind if the boys are already out on scouting missions.

• Boys night out: Fourteen readers of The Garden Report took in the boxing matches this past Friday evening. We had ringside seats and it was a great time for the lads, just the lads. We didn’t hold up a sign that read ‘No girls allowed’ as if we were in Grade Four. To no one’s surprise, none of the female readers indicated that they wished to crash our night out.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina