Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Garden Report #81

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

'Morden Blush' Rose
• Writers write: Thank you for all of your well wishes regarding my carpel tunnel surgery this past Wednesday. I won’t know for awhile if the surgery is successful, but my fingers are feeling normal right now. I wrote most of this week’s Report before the surgery and finished up the rest with a very slow, one handed effort afterwards. Reader Greg Morley has kindly offered to word process this ezine if I write it out longhand. Thanks Greg.

     I have choices to make every week, as I write. While I have no desire for The Garden Report to be read as a cheerleading ‘rag’ for all that is right in life, I also do not wish to be a ‘negative Nelly’ ( I love that euphemism). I try to find the middle ground, with a sense of balance. When a restaurant is good, I say so, and when it is not, that has to be said as well.

     It is difficult to speak poorly of a business or an individual. It is not in my nature. I am more of a ‘glass half full guy’. But it is equally difficult to ignore what has been my experience.

     I try to be fair. I am a Libra. Our symbol are the scales of justice. When someone disagrees with me, I include their argument, unedited. They can have their say. One of our readers attacked me for being white. I admit it. I am white. I would like to point out that I did not choose to be white. That was a choice made by my parents. This reader chose to be ignorant and a racist. She can change that. I can’t change my skin color.

• Readers write:

     • Noelle Chorney is the lovely editor of ‘The Gardener for the Prairies’, our finest horticultural magazine. Noelle is a fan of The Garden Report. She likes the humor. Here is a short and sweet from her computer. “Here's to a rapid recovery from your surgery. Looking forward to hearing from you again when you're feeling up to it. Don't rush back, because proper healing is most important for the long haul.”

     • Moving along with the magazine editors, Sarah Willis is the editor of ‘Landscape Trades’ near Toronto. Sarah asks a question. “Enjoyed your 80th Garden Report - what are you planning to do to celebrate the 100th?”

     • Our local football legend, Ron Lancaster, was not a big fan of the fine arts, just sports. He gave the Fine Arts students at Central a rough time when he was a teacher there. I will attest to that statement. Here is a memory, shared by reader Marsha Kennedy. Marsha was a year behind me in The Fine Arts program. “One day a group of us Fine Arts students were gathered around the entry to the gym, waiting for our dance class to begin. Ron Lancaster, who was teaching there at the time, came along. He seemed to be perturbed at the thought of males dancing and said: “I don’t want any of those Fine Arts boys flitting around in my gym”.” Al Ford was also a Roughrider player and a teacher at the same time as Lancaster. Ford treated us with respect.

     • Margaret Bessai is an active member of the arts community in Cathedral. She is a reader and today she writes. “Congratulations to you both, and best wishes to the parents to be, Patrick and Lisa! I agree with Chad Jacklin, you are a great heart in our community. Your photos today were inspiring. Cheers, and hope to see you around the Arts Festival and the market this May.”

     • Penney Pike has pointed out the advantage of me becoming a grandpa. “Firstly, congratulations Grampa!! Wonderful news. Being a Grampa will open up a whole new audience for your stories. Just think, someone who has never heard "well, Mom thought it was funny"!”

     • Wanda Bellamy, who now resides in Lumsden, concurs that the new bakery there is very good. “Come out to Lumsden and try the new bakery. We are loving the goodies, every Saturday, and today we munched on cinnamon buns and coffee cake. Owner Lesia is a very friendly young women and we have loved everything we have tried. Another great Garden Report! Take care.”
     • Judith Langen has this to say about information contained in #80. “Thank you for a very interesting Report. We needed some information on treating our dead patches on the lawn.”

     • Jean McNeil, who gardens near Ottawa, sent this missive. “Do you not sleep? I saw the hour of your Garden Report today. I regret I cannot attend the socials you mention or eat at the mouth-watering restaurants you suggest. I do appreciate your garden knowledge and so many other broad aspects of life.”

     • Cheryl Ann Smith sent well wishes from England, where she now resides. “What joy you bring to so many, through your observations, stories, practical tips, and somehow connecting people from all over the world. You probably need wrist surgery for all the writing you do for this blog!”

     • Sherri Tutt appreciates lawn care tips. She writes “Hi Rod. Happy spring. Thanks for the lawn repair tips. It felt like you had peeked into my yard and knew just what I needed. The info goes straight to my 'Tips' book.”

     • Sandy Thiessen is one of the best, young landscapers I have ever worked with. She is off on a grand adventure this summer, working in an apple orchard near Vernon. Sandy writes “It is absolutely glorious out here. I have been enjoying the people, the work, and the scenery.”

• Garden Tip: It is a good time to fertilize just about everything. If you have forgotten which fertilizers I recommend, check back to #80.

My mother and I on a very sunny day
• Mothers’ Day: There is an adage that maintains there is no more precious bond than that between mother and son. I can write of the bond from personal experience. As to mothers and daughters, I can only offer observations.

     I lost my mother last year and no matter how old we are when that event occurs, we are reduced to being six years of age, at best. Mothers carry us. They birth us, feed us, nurture us and wipe our cute little tushies. Mothers teach us the value of money and the importance of chores. They teach us how to ride a bike and surprisingly, how to catch a ball. At a young age, for most of us, our dads were these abstract beings. They went to work, they came home from work. Their first question upon arriving home was, how had you treated your mother. You knew from an early age, that your father acknowledged your first duty was to your mother.

     As a young teenager, I thought my mission was to place distance between my mother and myself. I was mistaken. As I cycle through life, I observe that the strongest of men have close relationships with their mothers. Most men have no fear of being seen as ‘mommas’ boys.’ They are secure enough within their maleness to accept their mother’s role within their lives.

     Even after our mothers pass, they continue to be our moms. Their life lessons are there, always reminding us to choose wisely. They are never far away. ‘God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers to help him out’.

• Garden Tip: If you have not already pruned your roses, you better do it this week.

• Cherry Lane: I visited this greenhouse, located just off of #1 Highway on the Grand Coulee Road. They appear to be a sincere couple, with a passion for growing plants. Their operation is best described as ‘homey’. It is not a production greenhouse and space is limited, but they do try to have an assortment. They have some interesting containers planted with annuals as well as a good selection of lilies and iris’. The place was clean. The plants ran the gamut from decent to very good. They are on a learning curve, having been open only a few years. I suspect that most readers would find it an interesting visit.

Other greenhouses of interest in our locale include Sherwood (behind CTV), Dorn’s (south on Highway #6) and U and K, (north of Indian Head). There is a parking lot greenhouse, south of Arcola and Park Street, that carries some interesting plants as well as a container planting service.

'Ruffled Velvet' Sibirian Iris
• Garden Tip: A very beautiful addition to any perennial garden is the Siberian Iris. This tall plant is one of those underutilized items available to us. It is best planted in a sunny location. I tried planting a few in dappled shade and while the plants lived, they did not thrive. They usually grow around two to four feet tall and they bloom in June. ‘Caesar’s Brother’ is one of the more popular varieties. The photo of ‘Ruffled Velvet’ is courtesy of Dr. Phillip Ronald.

• Fighting old battles: I ran into my Grade Nine French teacher last week, Louis Jule. I greeted him, in French. He was impressed with the quality of my accent. I asked if he might agree to increasing the mark he assigned to me in 1965. He stared right past me. Odd.

• Garden Tip: Best to mow your lawn at a medium height of two inches. If you have a mower with a five height setting, a three or four works best. If you have a four height setting, use a number three. It is not a smart move to cut your grass really short in order to reduce the number of mowing times. Short mowing removes the part of the grass plant that regenerates the roots.

• Too cool: In 1987, I took a friend who is mentally challenged on a trip to Minneapolis. He is very social. We attended an NHL game while we were there. He began talking to the people around us. At first, they were a little apprehensive or standoffish. Gradually, they began to engage him. At the end of the first period, my friend had thirty people embroiled in a discussion, debating: Was Hulk Hogan the greatest wrestler of all time? And the conversations carried on. By the end of the second period, people who we had never met, were inviting us out for a beer and pizza after the game. Someone asked us to come over for a barbecue on the weekend. It was a real party atmosphere in our section. Me? I was too cool to talk to people I had never met so I sat there, saying nothing. It doesn’t take brains to make friends. Just a smile and a “hello, how are you?”

Close up of a double flower on a cherry tree
• Blooming this week: Cherries, plums, a few tulips, forsythias, bergenia and daffodils. The cherry and plum family (prunus) includes Double Flowering Plum, Flowering Almond, Mayday Tree, Schubert Cherry, Amur Cherry and Nanking Cherry. Do you have something in bloom? Let me know and send a savable photo if you can. Thanks.

• Fun at the symphony: Last Saturday, we had Mahler’s Third which was complex and dynamic. This Saturday, we had a night filled with Beatle’s music. So much fun. We all got to sing along with The Beatles but strangely, no one sang along with Mahler. I guess we didn’t know the words.

• Farmers’ Market excellence: Two items that are divine at our outdoor market are the fudge and the poppy seed loaf. The fudge is five bucks and the poppy seed is ten. The poppy seed loaf is sold at a booth called Laurel’s Danish Pastry. You have to look for it as it is a small booth. None better.

• Container gardens: Do not be afraid to experiment with different plants in your pots and baskets. There was a time when it was considered horticultural heresy to use perennials in containers. I picked up on the trend, which started in California, back in the eighties. Some people were upset when I introduced the practice to Regina. Now it is not so unusual. No one gets bent out of shape over lamium cascading out of my window boxes.

     Passersby often comment over the lusciousness of my pots out front. Lush you say. Yep. I use lots of tropical plants including dieffenbachia, peace lily, Ming tree, dracaena, and ivies. I usually pot up three or four Boston ferns that are growing originally in ten inch hangers, into fourteen inch clays. They look great and they do just fine in the shady spots. I can’t be bothered overwintering the garden trops, so I give them away and start over every spring.

• Practice makes perfect: I have been practicing my grampa lines. Does this sound believable? “Maureen! The baby needs changing!”

• Only thirty five years ago: My brother Alvin and I tried to change his first born son in 1977. A television comedy could have been made from that effort. “I think this fold goes here. Nope. Maybe this way. Nope. Do we have this thing on the right way? Is there a back and front?” How many men does it take to change a diaper? No one knows. It has never been done.

• Garden Tip: This week is a must for gardeners. You must get ahead of your emerging weeds or else you will be fighting a rear guard battle through June. The weeds are small but visible. Get them out now, let your ornamentals fill in the spaces and your weeding will be reduced. In my own garden which is quite large for a urban lot, weeding only takes an hour a week once I have the spring crop eradicated. Eradicated? Cool word.

• I don’t get it: Coming up is another high school grad season. Gail Aubin of Carmen, Manitoba told us last year, most girls in her town spent $1,500 for grad. I have heard accounts of girls in Regina spending $5,000 for their dress. Something is wrong here. Grad should be fun, not a homage to excessive spending.

Sibirian Iris - an excellen choice for a prairie garden
• Garden Tip: Try to include plants that bloom at different times throughout the season in your garden. If you do, you will have a continuous show. Thirty years ago, a local doctor came into my greenhouse in May. He had been drinking. He purchased every plant that was in bloom. For several years afterwards, he had the best May garden of anyone on the block, but no flowers from June onwards.

• Coming up: This is the year that you must, absolutely must, attend The Cathedral Village Arts Festival. Don’t just go to the Saturday market. Check out all of the cool things presented Monday to Friday. For the Scot in all of us, the shows are free! After The Festival, in June, there is the always entertaining Mosaic. You get to tour the world in three days. My two favorite visits have been to The Scottish Pavilion (cheer on the pipers) and The French Pavilion. Both are well organized with great music. Then in July, take in The Regina Fringe which is an incredible show case for nineteen theater companies; followed by The Folk Festival in August. Emily Lou Harris is the headliner this year.

• You can do it: Last year at the Scottish Pavilion, I ran into Dave Wessel. Dave is not that big of a man. Perhaps 140 pounds. There was this bouncer with biceps that looked as if they were transplanted thighs. I said to Dave, “Twenty bucks says you can take him. Go on. You can do it. I got your back.” Dave didn’t need the money so we will never know if he could have done it.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

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