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

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