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

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