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

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