Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Garden Report #85

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Getting the containers planted at the farm-photo Billy Patterson
 • Writers write: As with many of you, this past week has been a busy one with planting. With our shortened prairie season, we have almost a frantic need to get everything into the ground or containers. This year, I tried a few different items including the purple version of the Wave petunias. Also, my old nemesis, lobelia was given one more chance to humiliate me. So far, Mr. Lobelia has been behaving as a wonderful guest should, but that is his pattern. Three weeks from now, he will abruptly begin to self destruct, and no matter what steps I take, I will be left with the proverbial egg on my face.

'Stairway to Heaven' Jacob's Ladder
 • Readers write: This incredible perennial promotion comes from our resident Landscape Architect, Ingrid Thiessen. “Hi Rod, I thought your readers may be interested in this plant - 'Stairway to Heaven' Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans). It has made it through 2 winters thus far. I am trying to find out if it will be an alternative for places in the garden where goutweed is too aggressive. Still testing it to see how it will handle the heat of the summer. It was discovered by the New England Wild Flower Society Director in 1999, as a chance seedling from a flat of native Jacob Ladder plants. Sales of this plant benefits the society.”

     • Lyn Goldman asks “A pleasure, as usual, Rod, but where's Murphy?”

     • CJ Katz has an interesting suggestion. Read on. “I was thinking – you should have readers write in naming their favorite gardening tool. Mine, bar none, is my stirrup hoe. I couldn’t live without it. I think I might be able to live without my husband, but my stirrup hoe? Now that would definitely bring tears to my eyes if that got broken or lost. I bought mine, probably 16 years ago, at Lee Valley in Ottawa and it’s still just as wonderful. It makes quick work of weeding. It works in a back and forth motion cutting tiny and mid-sized weeds right off at the base. Aerates the soil too. Lee Valley no longer carry it but you can order it online from Johnny Seeds.”

     • Marcus Fernando is responding to #84’s comments about the rewriting of history by the Americans, regarding their war in Vietnam. From a British perspective, here is what Marcus has to say. “Of course, history is also created by what is conveniently forgotten. For example, apparently the Allies didn't commit any war crimes in WWII. Only the Germans and Japanese did that. Even the terrible raid on Dresden, perpetrated largely by the British, and which served little or no strategic purpose, is rarely discussed. Indeed, as far as I am aware, no one in Bomber Command ever admitted ordering the raid.

     Of course, there are those who will accuse me of "not understanding", or being unpatriotic. Well, my Great Uncle lost his life in Bomber Command during the war. I don't in any way demean the bravery of these airmen, but I cannot allow myself to approve of the programmed strategic bombing against civilian targets, which was advocated by ‘Bomber’ Harris.”

     • Paula Grolle always has an interesting story to tell. “My girlfriend, who lived next door, moved to Chicago in 1968. We still visit and keep in touch. She was bartending at a concert when four women asked if soda water was called the same in the States. She has a really good ear and picked up the dialect. She asked them where they were from. “Regina, Saskatchewan”. She laughed and said “I lived there and have a good friend still there, but you wouldn’t know her.” Lo and behold, they did know me. We all went to school together. How small is this world?”

     • Roberta Nichol also has a great story to tell. This one is about her mother and her in London, England when she was a teenager, many years ago. “Who should we be watching a few minutes later but Mick Jagger! He walked by, wearing a funky straw hat, and just a' grooving along. We jumped up and, after grabbing mom out of the Antique market, followed him into a clothing store that was next door. Jim left us, then, embarrassed by our fan-like behavior, as mom and I gawked. In fact, we gawked so much that Mick stopped talking to the clothing store manager, and looked at us, smiling. Did we ask for his autograph? No. Did we say, "Hi...."? No. Did we look like idiots? Yes, absolutely. Note: he was much better looking in person. Peaches and cream complexion, and lovely blue eyes. My brush with greatness.”

     • Keith Carpenter travels the prairies, representing Van Noort Nursery Company. Here is Keith’s response to my comments over the lack of young people becoming horticulturalists within the green trades. “Another great Garden Report. The point of greenhouses not getting taken on into the next generation. As mentioned earlier this week I am in the midst of traveling around to many greenhouses and garden centers throughout the prairies. A common thing I am hearing is how the independent industry is struggling against the big box stores. I have had many conversations of how this next generation of consumers does not want to put any thought, effort or creativity into gardening. There are becoming fewer loyal greenhouse and garden centre customers to go around. With all the flashy ads and perceived savings, the local garden centre is struggling to keep profitable. What can be done to save them before garden centers go the way of the local hardware store? As you know, with all the hard work and time invested, the desire and love to do it must be there. The thing is how does someone new get into a position that they can take over.”

• A wife’s tale: We were having a lovely brunch of whole wheat pancakes, French roast coffee, low salt bacon, strawberries and orange juice in the garden this morning. It was a beautiful day in paradise. Maureen says: “If I die before you, I want you to marry again. I want you to marry a real drama queen, who smokes and lies in bed all day, demanding you do everything for her. I want you to marry someone like that so you really, really miss me.”

Gallardia is an excellent, hardy perennial for the sun.
• Garden Tip: Blooming this week are the late lilacs. They normally have a duller leaf than the French lilacs sometimes called the early lilacs. Also out are the little leaf lilacs, a dwarf variety that is often grafted onto a taller stem. Intense fragrance from the little leafs in my garden. Also out in bloom are the Three Lobe spirea which grow about two to three feet tall and are filled with white flowers. Peonies and roses have an incredible number of buds right now and my expectation is that this will be the finest year for their blooms.

• Great pancakes: Here is another pancake recipe that knocked our socks off. They were that good. Mix into a bowl, one and a half cups of whole wheat flour, with one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of nutmeg and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir together the dry ingredients. Separate three eggs and beat the whites into a froth. Add the yolks into the center of the dry ingredients with a cup and a quarter of milk. Mix together. Fold in the whipped egg whites. Rough chop two tablespoons of any nut you have available. We had some blanched peanuts. Add those nuts into your batter along with three tablespoons of cottage cheese. Pre heat your skillet for five minutes on the number four setting out of ten. Grease your skillet with a bit of canola oil and add in a half cup of batter. When air bubbles form on the top side, then flip. Give the pancake another minute on its second side. Serve with some slices of fresh strawberries, butter and maple syrup. They were so good, we ate one with no syrup.

Bergenia is also a reliable perennial for the prairies
 • Garden Tip: Pinch off your spent blooms to increase flower productivity. If your leaves are showing a lighter than usual green color, they will benefit from a shot of 10 30 20 fertilizer. I have been noticing a few plants with this mild sign of underfeeding. All the rain has washed away the nutrients.

• What would you do: In business, only five to ten percent of your decisions are black and white. All the rest are shades of grey. Here is a true scenario. A customer arrived at the garden center. She shopped occasionally at my place. She had a large pot that she wanted to find a companion for. One of my high school students spotted her arrival, gets her a cart and lifts the pot out of her SUV. This is full service, the way I preach it. She could not find a match, so she exits the garden center. The same students spots her leaving, takes the cart to her vehicle, puts the pot into the rear compartment and closes the back door. She goes home. The pot has a crack in it. She tells her husband the student must have not put the pot all the way in and when he closed the door, it must have cracked the pot. She does not want to make a fuss but her husband insists. He calls me, demanding a new pot. I told the husband, it was not my pot to begin with. The student reached out to help her because it was heavy and if he did close the door on it, how come it did not make a noise? Perhaps the crack occurred in transit. He insists that the crack was caused by the student and that it was my responsibility, as he was my student. What would you do? I will tell you what I did next week.

• Garden Tip: Many trees develop small bits of new growth lower down on their trunks. It is always best to remove these twigs when they are young, rather than waiting for them to develop into a major branch. Do not prune any elm, whether it is American, Brandon or Manchurian until August 31st. Open elm wounds attract the beetle that carries Dutch Elm disease.

• Garden Tip: It is a good idea to remove the tree bands during the summer months. Leaving the bands on during the summer softens the bark, and encourages rot. As an aside, two people in the past week have come in contact with the grease or Tanglefoot used on the tree bands. One product works just fine to remove this mess. Barbeque lighter fluid. Use it outdoors as it really stinks up the house. Rinse the grease off twice with the fluid, then wash your hands with soap and water twice, then apply hand cream as the fluid is very hard on your skin.

Moose are migrating to the south of our province and city
 • Pizza time: We usually only order pizza once a year. Last week, we checked out The Chimney, down the road from us. It was a little light on the toppings and the sauce, which disappointed us. This week, the power went out at supper time. It was either a peanut butter sandwich with red onion or order out. We opted to order pizza again, this time from The Copper Kettle. We went with one of their more unusual toppings. Chicken, tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese. There was a decent amount of sauce, toppings and cheese. We enjoyed it. Much better than The Chimney’s offering. They give you a choice of a pop, Caesar salad or ten per cent discount with your pickup. Forget the Caesar salad. It had been prepared way too far in advance. The lettuce was soggy and the croutons had turned to mush.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonal, from a late spring paradise in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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