Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Garden Report #90

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Our youngest fan, Pascal Fernando
• Writers write: People talk. We all know that. Chris across the street had a negative experience with a local tree pruning firm. He told me that. I had a roofer who would not come back to repair a big leak. I told you about that. When we are unhappy with a firm, we tell people and sometimes, quite a few people. Here is something that most of us do not realize. If you are a difficult customer, someone who complains continually or is always trying to get the price reduced, then contractors talk about you. Contractors have their own, unofficial version of The Better Business Bureau. It is an informal list of people who they do not want to work for. It has been circulating for years. For example, there is a well known businessman who lives in a lovely house on Albert Street. He has a reputation for being so hard to get along with amongst contractors that most will not even give him a quote. When you see a contractor working at his place, it is usually someone new to the trade who does not know what they are up against. The contractor will find out soon, and he will not be back a second time.

     My friend Doug Bradley, has been a reputable, journeyman carpenter for thirty years. One day he wanders into my office and tells me that he has done something that he has never done before. He has walked off of a job, half finished. He told the customer that no matter where he chose to place the rail on her deck, she would complain that it was either too high or too low. No matter what he did, she would complain. I named someone as the potential suspect and he blanched. “How did you know it was her?” I told him that everyone who had ever worked for her had walked off the job, including us. He was only one more contractor who did not meet her expectations. That list is out there, though you probably will never see it.

Note: #90 did not come out last Sunday as I did not have the ten hours available that are required to produce it. I was equally busy this week but I snuck in a hour here and another one there, until it was finished.

• Readers write:

     • From the Toronto area, Sarah Willis weighs in. “As always, you have given your followers a great read. I loved the story of the used lawn edging bandit, have noted the chicken recipe for use later this week and appreciated your take on the stolen flower pot story. One of our two kayaks was stolen from our backyard during the Victoria Day weekend, when my husband and I, all three kids and two dogs were hard at work at the family's garden centre. The thieves stole the kayak with the slow leak, so I really hope karma visits them in the middle of a lake...without a life jacket.”

Agave Tree in Italy courtesy Leanne Carlson
     • Leanne Carlson is on vacation in Italy. She writes “Hello from Orvieto Italy! I'm staying in the most magnificent villa with my girl friends. The Agave tree is in bloom. It only blooms once in its lifetime. We are surrounded by olive trees & rosemary bushes taller than I am. The tomatoes taste like candy. Ciao.”

     • Candace Holmstrom has a question. “Someone I know planted this in my yard several years ago. It was small and she told me it was rhubarb. It's doubled in height from the second year to this, the third year and is now about nine feet tall. Is it a weed? A noxious weed? What's the difference? Or is it an herb? I like it but don't want to have a plant that is threatening. But I so adore its exotic height and abundant leaves! Everyone anxiously awaits your word!”

Common burdock-courtesy Candace Holmstrom
     • Ingrid Thiessen rides to our rescue with the answer to Candace’s question. “It looks like common burdock listed as Noxious on our provincial 3 tier weed control act (prohibited, noxious and nuisance). It is a great looking plant and I was certainly disappointed to find out it was a weed! I always thought the term used in the purple loosestrife campaign ‘beautiful killer’ was effective in switching one's mindset. Many weeds are indeed beautiful. I think this is a good opportunity to remind your readership that there are many plants we grow in our gardens listed as noxious or prohibited by our government. This includes common baby's breath (not pink creeping baby's breath) chamomile, oxeye daisy, dame's rocket, common tansy and yellow toadflax. On a typical walk in my neighborhood I see most of these plants in people's gardens. They cost millions of dollars of damage to both agriculture and the environment. Interestingly roving bluebell is not on the list.”

Monarch butterfly feasting on lilac-courtesy CJ Katz
     • CJ Katz sent along the incredible photo of a Monarch butterfly feasting on a lilac bud. She writes: “Hi Rod – Marg Hryniuk was asking about butterflies. For the first time this year I had Monarchs come to visit. One day I was planting in the backyard and this huge orange flash fluttered right by me and was gone. I thought ‘did I just see a Monarch butterfly? No it can’t be.’ The next day my husband told me he was standing outside on the back deck and saw our miniature lilac bush covered in them. I tell you, I was so sorry I missed seeing it! Then the following day when I was outside, I made sure to keep my eye out and sure enough, they came to visit. They have the longest tongues I’ve ever seen! It goes deep down into the flower for the nectar. I took some shots and was really happy with the result. Here’s one I took. You can see it’s tongue going down into the flower.”

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman has also been enjoying the butterflies. “We have had many Monarch butterflies this year, and more varieties that I'm not familiar with. Black and white striped ones, bright yellows, and a stunning turquoise one. The birdhouses are also humming, although we lost one in the windstorm. A day like today makes the -40 winter days bearable, doesn't it?”

     • My mother came from a family of twelve children so I get to enjoy over a hundred first and second cousins. This response is from my cousins Judy and Rick Kerr. “ Morning, Thanks for your Garden Report . So helpful. Love it.”

     • While checking out The Regina Fringe, I met reader Robin Endsin who lives at Lumsden. She writes “It was nice to meet you too, Rod! I do love those exclamation points! And thank you for getting the Fringe started. We had a great time yesterday.”

Photo courtesy Maureen Hawley
     • Jean McKay loved the photos in #89. “Lovely Report and thanks again and again. Please, can we do something with the photo of the yellow begonia and pansy? Make note cards? Put a little garden saying inside and on the back page, a tribute to who grew them and who took the photo? Sell them to benefit Fringe? I am an idea woman , not a techy but maybe someone will run with this plan.” Rod’s answer: Maureen took the photo. I planted the begonias. God provided the sunshine and the rain. Kind of a group effort.

     • Mike Liske had a chuckle. “I had to laugh over your story about stolen lawn edging.”

• Garden Tip: This is not a tip. Just bragging. My five patio tomatoes, growing in pots because I just don’t have too many sunny spots in my yard, are ripening. The first one tasted just fine in a sandwich with fresh basil. I have another twenty or so ripening this weekend.

Little leaf linden with chlorosis
• Garden Tip: With last week’s deluge of rain, there will be an increased amount of iron chlorosis. First symptom is a lighter, than normal green leaf. Best way to treat it is with iron chelate. Several of our readers have emailed to say that they were pleased with the results of the iron chelate treatment. This is not a new product. It was around when I was a punk kid starting out in the trade. It has never been popularized and that is why most of you have not heard of it.

• Garden Tip: As I write this, I notice a lovely purple flower in my back garden. Hang on now. That is one of those contagious creeping bellflower. They sneak into my yard when no one is looking. Best to remove them when you have one or two, lest they create a staging ground. I have seen flower beds in Lakeview filled with this weed.

• Community: One of the great things about living on our block is that many different people take the time to organize social functions for the neighborhood. Kelly, Elmer, Laura, and The Calam’ take their turn. Now Liz and Dave have a barbecue planned for July 29th, behind their place. If you need more details, drop me a line. The social is listed as being for Regina Avenue residents but if someone from Angus Street wants to sneak in, I suspect that will be okay.

• The crop report: While many parts of the eastern Canada and the southern States are suffering under a blazing heat wave with no rain, we have been much more fortunate. We have had three really good dumps of rain in the last month and then you can add in some glorious sunshine. The wheat is so thick, south of town, that you cannot walk through it. The canola is in full bloom and the peas, well peas are peas. What can you write about them besides they are green.

• Upcoming: The Regina Folk Festival is on its way. Another highlight of the Regina summer. It is in Victoria Park, August 10th to the 12th. Good vibes shared with good people.

• Kind of funny: I was in a treatment room at The Pasqua Hospital, awaiting a cortisone injection into my left knee so that I can hopefully, quit hobbling. There were six other patients in the room, waiting their turn. The orthopedic surgeon was about to give me the shot. He says “be brave and don’t scream out. If you scream, the other six people will run out the door and God knows, I need the money.”

• Blooming this week: The best crop of daylilies this city has ever seen is blooming to their hearts’ content. Pinks, yellows, oranges and a few purples are showing up all over. Conditions must have been just right to give us this explosion of color. Also in their glory are the potentilla and some of the spirea. Hollyhocks and delphiniums are looking really decent as well. I spotted a few astilbes in bloom. This perennial is not planted enough because it is not super hardy. The ones I plant usually live around three to five years before they peter out. Even with this five year limit, astilbes are worth planting because they are so lovely.

• Friday night at the ball park: We took in another Red Sox game on Friday evening. A great night for baseball. The game has its own laid back rhythm and the crowd you share it with is pretty easy going. None of the posturing and screaming that you see at a hockey game.

• New road in our community: In the next few weeks, there will be a brand new road opening up to traffic. They are constructing a cross road from Pasqua Street through the empty field, connecting with Parliament Avenue. Now you will have three choices for east/west traffic flow: Gordon Road, 25th Avenue and the new Parliament Avenue.

• New road, old plan: The new Parliament road has been on the planning board for thirty years. I remember going to a neighborhood meeting in 1990 to discuss, yet again, the extension road. It was one of those meetings where people who spoke, spoke with incredible amounts of passion. One fellow explained to the city that Parliament Avenue is a “fragile community, held together by thin threads and an increase in traffic will destroy our street!” What the hell was he talking about? We live on Regina Avenue, the airport road. A very busy, arterial street. We also have an incredibly strong sense of community in our neighborhood, not related to traffic issues. We are strong because we have bonded together by being a supportive and nurturing group of neighbors.

• Orange Boot: I love their bread. Short and to the point with my praise. When are they going to get a slicer in the shop? I have asked, every visit, for the eighteen months they have been open, to get a slicer. Is there a slicer? Not yet.

• The old boys: Reader Casey Van Vloten called this week. We chatted for close to an hour. Casey grew up in the plant trade and has been a part of it for fifty some years. He knows pretty well every nurseryman, greenhouse operator and garden center owner in Canada. And most people within the trade know Casey. We talked about who has retired, those who have left the trade and those who are carrying on. Fellows, well into their seventies and eighties, are still building their craft. It is an incredible trade in that people work so late into their lives. I suspect there is an addictive quality when one works with plants. I know, I keep getting drawn back into the world of horticulture. Just when I think I am out, I am back in. Someone calls and talks about a special project, one that is totally different, “never been done before” and I begin to drool, just like a Rottweiler in front of the butcher shop.

• Fruit tip: The nectarines are in season and they are sinfully delicious this year. We had a bowl on the kitchen table, filled with nectarines as they ripened. The aroma was intoxicating to a food lover’s soul.

Junior gardeners playing in the peat soil-courtesy Billy Patterson
 • Original Joes: I keep hearing good things about this western chain. Regular reader and president of The Good Eaters Club, Bobby Sue, raved over the Pacific Rim bowl and I tried it, Friday night, before the ball game. Absolutely delicious with shrimp, chicken, broth, noodles, and veggies including pea shoots. The shrimp were the best shrimp I have had in a soup. The bowl is fourteen bucks but then again I had to take some home as I could not finish. Maureen had a cup of their daily soup which was a Moroccan vegetable. Very tasty. She followed that with one of their pizzas. It had a thin, crisp crust with a good shot of tomato sauce. I have never understood pizza joints skimping on the sauce as the sauce is so cheap. The veggies were crisp, a good amount of mozzarella baked into it and finished with a dusting of feta. While never a big fan of the chain stores, the food was definitely worthy of a return visit. Service was excellent.

• Garden Tip: One of the women who works at the independent insurance broker I deal with, asked me this: “Why are the stocks on my rhubarb so thin”. The answer: Her rhubarb had been transplanted three years ago into a shady part of the yard. Rhubarb never amounts to much more than some leaves in shade. Move it into full sun and next year, the problem should rectify itself. We had a peony planted in the shade when we bought this house. It would get one bloom at best. I moved it five or six years ago and we had thirty plus blossoms, big blossoms, this year. My beloved mentor would often say “Always plant plants where they want to grow.”

• What would you do: I had a friend. We got along just fine for many years. Never an argument between us. Then I found out that when I was not present, if she thought it would be of benefit to her, she would throw me under the proverbial bus. I was hurt. I found out that she did that to others, just not to me. That information did not make me feel better.

     Time passes. I hear about a job that would be perfect for her. A job that she would be very interested in exploring. Here is the question: Would you tell her about the job or would you say to yourself, this is the price she pays for mean mouthing her friends? No easy choices here.

• Garden Tip: It is time to apply a shot of fertilizer to most of your plants including shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals. I always use a water soluble 10 30 20. If you cannot find that analysis, and I am hearing from a few of you it is difficult to find, then use a 10 15 10 or a 20 20 20. Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen such as 30 10 10 should only be applied to evergreens, not to deciduous plants.

• Farmers’ Market: Things are in full summer swing which means there are more and more veggies showing up every week. Sharon Wallace was set up and I purchased a Saskatoon and an apple pie. They are in the freezer as I write this but that is only a stopping off point. Soon, they will be in my toaster oven, coming around to a warm temperature. One thing to note, while I am a big fan of the farmers’ market, I did hear several complaints this Saturday morning. Several shoppers believe that the price of the produce has gone up too high at some booths. Their comments were that they would be buying their veggies at a store which purchases locally grown produce.

'Lolipop' lily from U. of S.-courtesy Gwen Barschel
 • She is so right: Reader and author Gail Bowen, lives a block over from us. She was delivering a speech recently and it was televised. She said that Lakeview is a wonderful neighborhood and that Regina is a great city to live in. Glad to hear another positive voice out there.

 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

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