Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Garden Report #82

Sunday, May 18th, 2012

'Morden Sunrise' Rose
• Writers write: I’m not in a bitchy mood, but I am tired. I’m tired of seeing the volume of plants and gardening products that the box stores are selling. Home Depot, Lowes, Rona, Wal-Mart, Superstore, Costco and the list goes on. People lined up to get their fertilizers from stores that have no idea which fertilizer is appropriate. People lined up to buy apple trees that do not have one chance in a hundred of surviving here. People lined up to buy plants from staff who have no idea what they are selling.

     At this time of year, everywhere I go, I am inundated with people asking advice. Why? Because none of the box stores offer anything you need to know. Yet, there are reputable, independent garden centers and greenhouses that have the staff waiting to give you good advice. One of our readers made it quite clear that Larry out at Sherwood Greenhouses always ensures she has the right information to care for her plants. This type of service you cannot find at the box stores.

People keep asking me how retirement is going?
     This season, go to the independents. Find the one where you feel most comfortable and form a relationship with the people who work there. Become a known customer. They know how to make plants grow. If you don’t support the independents, we are going to lose that wealth of knowledge, just as we did with the demise of the neighborhood hardware store. I mourn the loss of my local hardware store.

• Readers write:

     • Marcus Fernando has a garden in Croatia. Here is his comments regarding my take on weeding. “I had to smile at your "get ahead of weeds" week. I believe you described them as "small but visible". You must come to our garden in Istria sometime! Our weeds are large and man-eating.”

     • Neighbor and reader June Blau loves to travel. I never know where she will be from week to week. “Warm greetings from the lovely Fairmont Hot Springs where I am enjoying your blog. I must be getting homesick? Always enjoy your observations, reflections, stories & gardening advice, all of which you craft so creatively. Thanks for your dedication to this contribution to our lives.”

     • Chris Pasterfield has a comment regarding the audience singing at The Symphony’s ‘Beatles’ Night’. “Sorry to have missed the Beatles with you. Our other social engagement was lively, but no singing!”

     • Daniel Jackson is one of our younger readers and he is moved to respond when there is food involved. “Mmmm.... my mouth is absolutely salivating at the thought of what you have described as poppy-seed loaf, which has no superior in taste.”

     • Laura Pettigrew is known as a composer and a flautist here in Regina. She is composing a new piece to recognize the hundredth anniversary of The Regina Tornado. This piece will be performed in the only downtown church undamaged by the destruction of 1912. She writes :“The work will be performed / premiered at St. Paul's Cathedral on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at noon.”

     • Jackie Arnason has taken French classes from my Grade Nine teacher. She has this story to tell. “Rod - thanks again for a wonderful, cheery, Sunday morning read. I remember taking an adult French class with Louis Jule. One of the women, much older than the rest of us, couldn't make the ‘oo' sound. Louis knelt in front of her, took her hand, pursed his lips and said in his lovely French accent, “like this, ‘oo’”. She rolled her eyes and said, "oh say it again Louis". I remember Louis going all red and blushing. We quickly left that sound and went on to something much less intriguing.

     I'm looking forward to the Cathedral Festival, always a fun-filled week.”

     • Roberta Nichol weighed in on the ostentatious graduation ceremonies that are so common these days. “Yes, Grads have gotten 'way out of hand. Excess, excess, excess. Unnecessary, and very hard on those who can't afford such things. Both my grad dresses were sewn by mom and I think I looked pretty darn good. I remember having the treat of going to the hairdresser's in Grade 12 but for sure, the clothes were ‘Styles by Mom’. I remember in Grade 12, badgering mom for a graduation gift, like a watch, or some such thing: "Marilyn is getting a watch..... all my friends are getting gifts for graduating....." and mom said, “you're not. I expect you to graduate”."

     • Georgia Hearn was to the point. “Great issue! Glad you keep it going.”

     • Lyn Goldman enjoyed the photos last week. “Gorgeous iris, Rod! Thanks! I hope your hand is recovering.”

     • Jean MacKay is off on a wonderful trip this summer. Read on. “Don’t change a thing! Pretty soon I will be telling you about the MacKay’s (all twelve of us) August trip to Scotland.”

     • Joanne Brown has been a reader for some time but this is her first time writing back. “Rod, I love your Garden Reports! In your last one, you mentioned being in the Fine Arts Program at Central Collegiate. How many of your readers are aware this program even existed and how it made blossoms out of many? It was the first Fine Arts High School Matriculation Program in Saskatchewan, and students were chosen from various high schools within the city.” Joanne also noted that the acclaimed ceramicist Vic Cicancsky was our home room teacher.

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman, who is a regular reader sent this along. “Thank you for the tour of your yard yesterday, and it was a pleasure to meet you in person.”

'Autumn Joy' Sedum-plant now for a fall display
     • Keith Carpenter from Van Noort’ Nursery out in Surrey, wrote in this week. “I am still enjoying your Report every week and the insight you give of not just the gardening industry, but of the culture of Regina and Saskatchewan and the Prairies.”

• Thorn less raspberries: Yes Virginia, there is such a thing. There is one nursery left growing Muskoka thorn less raspberries in northern Manitoba. I got in a hundred of these for our readers. If you would like some, I have a few left. They are ten for $25. They are bare root which means they are not potted. Easy to plant.

• Garden Tip: This is the busiest gardening weekend of the year. People are out across this land doing what we love to do, plant. At this time of year, the people who work at greenhouses, are forfeiting their sleep. Trust me on this one. Four hours is the most they can get in May. As I have thirty-five years in the trade, I suggest that you not fret if your local greenhouse is not answering their phone. It is best to go down and see what they have, in person. The staff are swamped and while your call is important, their telephone is ringing, nonstop. I asked reader and friend Les Vanderveen, who works in the largest greenhouse on the prairies, if he has crossed that invisible line into insanity yet, and he assured me he had. It happens to everyone in the greenhouse business at this time of year, so be gentle with these people. They are in a word, overwhelmed.

• Surprise: Most of us thought that with such an early spring and warm weather in March and April, that this year would have been a fast start to our gardening season. It didn’t turn out that way. Our gardening season is off to the same start as most years. Of note, the tulips for the most part are slow this year. Mine are coming, but in bits and pieces, not a full on bloom fest.

• Not a surprise: When we were in high school in the 1960’s, none of us boys were all that sensitive to women’s’ rights issues. Women’s rights were being talked about but not in everyday conversation. There was one boy who continually crossed the line in his treatment of the girls at our school. He showed a great disdain for their feelings and did not hesitate to reference them in negative and sexual terms. He definitely stood out with his behavior. For a career, he chose The RCMP. He rose within the ranks of this organization that is mandated to protect us. Today, we hear of lawsuits being launched by the female members of The RCMP. In the lawsuits, the women have filed claims of continual abuse and a culture of disrespect. In hindsight, The RCMP might have been better off in their screening process, if they would have interviewed the high school girls for their opinions of the candidates.

• Blooming this week: More tulips, more daffodils, iris, bergenia, flowering crabs and apples. Also beginning their flowering period are the early lilacs known as The French Lilacs and Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris). The later lilacs such as Little Leaf, Preston and Villosa, will not be blooming for another four weeks, give or take. The beautiful tree, blooming in all its glory, at the south end of The Albert Street Bridge, is a Mayday, just in case you were going to ask. The pink blooming trees, which are especially spectacular this year, are Rosybloom Flowering Crabs. The most popular varieties of Rosybloom are Thunderchild, Royalty, Selkirk, Gladiator and Fuchsia Girl.

• Garden Tip: Yes. If you have not already done so, it is a very good time to fertilize all of your plants. Again, if you wish to review my recommendations, go to #80.

• Time is relative: A few readers have comments regarding the time stamp on The Garden Report and other late night emails they have received from me. Let me begin by stressing, I am not an insomniac. I have two, very loud machines in my bedroom. One is a reverse osmosis machine that cleans my city water and the other one is my hemo dialysis machine. Both not only make noise, but they also have flashing lights and alarms on them. Try sleeping through the night with those babies. So, I keep my laptop close by and when I am up, I might as well get some work done. I am tethered by a four foot long tube to my HD machine, so raiding the fridge is not a possibility. Maureen will not wake up and complete that task for me either, ungrateful women that she is, insisting upon her sleep.

• Garden Tip: Be wary of fertilizers high in nitrogen, the first number. Nitrogen is of course, important to plant growth but excessive use of it grows a plant too quickly, without developing the roots. For most situations, I try to find a balance.

• Shout out: A special thank you to readers John Ciotucha and Billy Patterson for helping me out with my gardening activities as I am unable to use my left hand for a few weeks. John even washed my car for me and it has not been that clean since it was new. This is one of the meanings of community.

• Garden Tip: To bag, or not to bag, that is the question. There is a long standing debate over the bagging of lawn clippings. I do recommend for the most part, letting the clippings fall back into the lawn. They will provide a nice cushion to walk on and as they break down, they provide good compost for the grass roots. I do bag the clippings when the lawn is really long prior to cutting. If not, I am left with some unsightly ‘hay’ lying across my lawn.

• Homemade tomato soup: Are you tired of the crap that Campbell’s passes off as tomato soup? Me too. Here is a simple recipe you can make in no time at all. I cooked up a batch on Tuesday and it was delicious. Take eight tomatoes, cut them into quarters and place into a pot with one and half cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook the tomatoes for thirty minutes or until tender. Add this into your blender and puree the tomatoes for about thirty seconds. Be careful, as the tomatoes are hot at this point. Add the puree back into the pot. Stir in a teaspoon of garlic, a half teaspoon of salt if you want salt, a half teaspoon of fresh ground, black pepper, and a teaspoon of rosemary or basil. Let this simmer for an hour without the lid on. This helps it to reduce and intensify the flavor. To finish it off, I squeeze in the juice of a fresh orange, two pats of butter, and it is ready to serve. It is so fresh to the taste. If you want to turn it into a cream soup, add in a cup of whole milk, your choice. Also, if you object to the tomato seeds, then of course, you can strain it. Personally, they don’t bother me.

• Garden Tip: Prior to planting your newly purchased bedding plants, it is advisable to ‘harden them off’. Hardening off is a process where a gardener leaves new plants outside when the weather is good and brings them in when it is not, such as when the temperature is getting too cold. Hardening off allows the more tender plants to develop some toughness for the garden. Every year at the greenhouse, I would get a call from someone who had taken their new purchase and planted it directly into the garden. That evening, the temperature dropped quite low and the plants were flattened. They invariably believed that I had an obligation to protect them from their folly.

• What was old is new again: I was gardening on the Angus Street side of my house. Three people in their early twenties rode their bicycles past, as I toiled. The bikes were old. The young man had a straggly beard and dreadlocks. The two women accompanying him also had dreadlocks. Their clothes were a time machine, back to 1967. I was nostalgic. I was tempted to ask them to hang for awhile. “My parents are not home,” I wanted to say. “Maybe we could smoke a ‘doobie’.” Then I remembered, I don’t do that anymore.

A mandevilla in bloom
• Garden Tip: If you are going to plant fuchsias, and I really do love this plant, protect them from the wind. Nothing will destroy a fuchsia quicker than a strong wind. They need to be in an entranceway or some area that is wind free. If you have an exposed area with strong wind, then look at a mandevilla or a diplademia for a hanging basket. Both of these plants can take lots of abuse.

• Pay for the new stadium: Our new football stadium can be paid for quite easily, without raising property taxes. Simply have the police set up along The Albert Street Bridge, issue tickets to motorcycles and cars that have excessively loud muffler systems and The City will be flowing in money. There is no shortage of these idiots who go vroom, vroom!

• Garden Tip: I lost a dogwood this winter that had been growing just fine for four years. I have no idea why? This stuff happens. Anyone who tells you that everything they plant grows, well we have a special name for that person within the gardening community. We call them delusional but your are free to substitute the words ‘Fibber Magee’ if that is more to your liking.

• Father knows best: At The Symphony’s tribute to The Beatles, two of the songs played were ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’. I could hear my dad’s voice shouting: “Turn that goddamned radio off! That’s not music!”

I planted this Thunderchild in 1980
• The glory of the Thunderchild: Thunderchild Flowering Crab was developed by the late Percy Wright, in Saskatoon during the 1970’s. He named it to honor Chief Thunderchild of the First Nations. The tree was released in 1980 and the one featured here was planted by yours truly, in that year. The price was regularly $29.95 and as an introductory special, $19.95. It is planted in reader Sandra Rayson’s yard and I would suggest it has proven to be a good buy.

• Garden Tip: Nothing appears more simple, yet takes years of experience to develop as a skill, than watering. Here are two basic tips. It is always best to water early in the day. Morning is the best. Evening is the worst. Second, it is always best to water quite deeply, everything. By this, I mean get at least an inch of water down on your lawn, so that it percolates into the root zone. Frequent and shallow watering does not encourage deep root growth.

     Here is something of interest. Every fall, when I am cleaning up my pots, I conduct a post mortem. I examine the roots of all the potted plants as I discard them for the winter. The plants that performed the best, also had the roots going the deepest. The poorest performers, had roots that only grew half way down the pot.

• Wasted on the young: A few years ago, I was at the boxing club. There were two young female boxers. Both were attractive and young, in my eyes. One was twenty-two and the other was twenty-nine. They shared the same first name. In the change room, there were two young men, around nineteen. One expressed to the other that in his opinion, one of these two women was “hot”. The other asked for clarification as to which one he was referring. The original speaker spoke with incredulity, that of course he was referencing the twenty-two year old. After all, the other one was “really old. Like she’s probably, almost thirty.”

It was at this point that I felt an incredible need to lie down and rest awhile.

Jodi's nephew- what a sweetie!
Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina


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