Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Garden Report #100 ‘The Anniversary Edition’

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Our hanging basket
 • Writers write: When I started The Garden Report, I acknowledged that I had no idea where this thing was going. Usually, I have direction in my projects, but with this blog, I decided to sit back and let the flow take it where it was supposed to go. Part of that flow has been the readership, which provides valued input. Without the readers, I would be a lonely, old dude sitting at home, filling out his diary as if I were a twelve year old girl.

     The Garden Report started out with a hundred of my friends on the email list. I was spending a lot of time at home, due to my renal failure. I was fearful that I would lose contact with the outside world and I thought that this might be one way to interact. The idea exploded as people began to forward their Sunday Garden Report to friends and then to friends of friends. Within weeks, I was getting emails from people I had never met.

     Patrick, our number three son, is a techie. He arrived home for a visit and installed The Garden Report on the internet. It gave me readers in Denmark, Australia, Croatia and other points of interest in the universe. My mail box was filling up with people asking questions with accents. Okay. I made that up. Accents don’t translate through the computer. What started as a hundred friends has now become three thousand friends, three/quarters of whom I have never met.

Rod, Murphy, who says he is not spoiled, and Maureen
     What do I think? Cool. Where is this thing going? I have no idea. I just plan to enjoy the ride until it’s finished.

• Readers write:

     • Boy of boy. You write fifteen hundred words every week and then you make one mistake, and the sharks go wild in a feeding frenzy. Several of you jumped in regarding, it is a ‘statute of limitations’, not a ‘statue’. Sadly, I did mean ‘statue’ as in there is a statue of limitations, cast in bronze, near The Legislature. It is right next to ‘The Bill of Wrights’ Memorial. Nice save.

     • Penney Pike lives in Calgary. She writes: “We've been having the most amazing weather. I might even get around to painting my fence before the snow flies...maybe. Loved The Garden Report this morning.”

     • Robin Poitras runs New Dance Horizons and has done so for many years. She is also a big fan of this blog. She had this to say. “I also want to commend and thank for your wonderful Gardens Reports. Always informative, full of good ideas, interesting questions and concerns to consider, sometimes provocative and between the images of flora and the descriptions of food, some reports seem to emit scents! Thanks for sharing, providing much food for thought, connecting people, plants and events and for being your very, special self. I do enjoy the Sunday read. Congrats on the upcoming 100th report!”

     • Chris Dodd wrote this: “I had the privilege of peacefully beginning my Sunday, as I often do, with a great cup of coffee and The Garden Report. Thanks for all your thought and hard work on that. (I really wanted to use an exclamation mark there, but I remember what you had said.....) Rod’s note: Thanks for leaving them out, unless they are really, really necessary. Ie., The Riders win The Grey Cup!

     • I wrote in #99 that Murray Wallace, now that’s a good Scot’s name, taught me to eat butter tarts, straight from the deep freeze. Turns out, we are not the only guilty parties. Wanda Bellamy, from Lumsden, wrote in with this nugget: “I remember as a child eating the frozen butter tarts from our freezer and my mother being furious when she took out the empty ice cream pails she had placed them in. Have a great day filled with love & laughter.”

Roberta hanging out by the back door
      • Roberta Nichol understands the double meaning of ‘child of the sixties’. She writes: “Child of the 60’s- I loved that. On January 26th, I will join you as a ‘Child of the 60’s’, in two different ways. Some days, that thought doesn't bother me at all. The other day, it did. But I guess I'll live through it. There's nowhere else to go, anyway, so we might as well enjoy each miraculous day, right?” She also wrote in about frozen butter tarts. “I loved your bit about Murray Wallace having taught you about frozen butter tarts. My poor dad, after mom put him on a diet, got caught red-handed, in the basement, by the freezer, gulping down frozen butter tarts. Guilty as charged.”

     • It is always a delight to hear from Kate Berringer. “My grandmother (who’s 94) says that life began for her at 60. Enjoy!”

     • Gail Bowen pounds out those wonderful ‘Murder at the Mendel’ mysteries, two blocks over from where I hammer away at this rag. She weighs in on being another year older. “I turned 70 yesterday and so far it's a brilliant decade! Yesterday, I woke up and went to bed with my husband of 44 years (name???). Anyway, I am one very, very lucky woman.” Rod’s note: Gail is being funny, forgetting Ted’s name, or at least I think she is.

     • Robert Stedwill is a new reader and here is his take on what happens on this page. “Great reading Rod, and I want to be the first to congratulate you on the 100th edition next Sunday! I also enjoy your tips on restaurants that I haven't tried yet, or even knew about. I need to get out more!”

     • Joanne Brown and I share a delight for great food. She writes: “Didn't know you were such a foodie, Rod. Me too. Siam is rated one of my top five in the city. Also, Michi. It is the only Japanese restaurant in Regina that is owned and operated by Japanese; and all of their chefs are Japanese. Someday, sit at the sushi bar at lunch and watch these masters at work. And, talk about restaurant names, have you ever been to Nits in Moose Jaw? The food is wonderful. It's also Thai, but doesn't have the charm of Siam.”

     • Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouses has two pear trees growing in his yard, and his experience has been different from mine. He reports: “Rod, I beg to differ on your version of pear trees in Regina. Our pear trees ‘Early Gold’ and ‘Golden Spice’ had a nice crop of fruit this year. The pears are small, only a couple of inches (5cm) tall. The fruit must be tree ripened for the best taste. At this stage they are soft, juicy and delicious. Our ‘Early Gold’ never developed fruit for 15 years, until two years past, we added the ‘Golden Spice’ as a pollinator, and bingo, both have fruit. Yes, pear trees are beautiful, showing thick, glossy, dark green leaves, but they do have an abundance of long sharp thorns. They are also quite spectacular, when blooming in spring. It should be noted that, early attempts at breeding prairie hardy pear trees produced more thorns than fruit, Which most likely triggered Mr. Boughen's comment.”

     • John Huston, our itinerant actor and reader sent this in regarding a restaurant recommend. “If I'm ever back in Regina, unlikely, but you never know, I'll have to try The Tandoori Kebab Touch.”

     • The lovely Nancy, over at The Marian Center, Regina’s soup kitchen, sent this note along. “Thanks for all The Garden Reports that you are sending. I was thinking of you yesterday, as we were picking someone up from the airport and were in your neck of the woods.”

Cimicifuga-an excellent, fall blooming perennial
• Garden Tip: There has been no rain for more than four weeks now so cracks are appearing in the ground. If you have not been watering regularly, then get to it lads and lassies!

• Farm Report: Farmer Reg Gross reports that his crop is in and his winter wheat, which goes to the ethanol plant, finished at 82 bushels to the acre. His canola was up from 35 to 50 bushels to the acre. North of town, Brian Lowe reports barley at 70 bushels, Durham wheat at 50 and canola at 34.

• The tulip report: I have started planting tulips, muscari, fritalaria, alium and a few daffs. I have had good luck with the miniature daffs called Tete au Tete. They grow to be about six to ten inches tall and bloom a bright yellow. They have perennialized themselves in my garden, right by the roses. Remember, with the tulips, eight inches down, pointed side up, dust with bulb dust, cover with peat moss and top dress with bone meal. Simple and only a bit of hard work. Always plant your tulips in bunches or groups. Never plant them in lines, as if they were soldiers.

Anne's garden filled with delphiniums
 • Zam Zam: I reviewed this Lebanese place about a year ago. This week, I was in their neighborhood, 4th Avenue and Park Street, and I needed some lunch. For eight bucks you get a freshly baked pita, your choice of white or brown, then you pick from nine veggies including turnip. I was so tempted to ask how many people include turnip in their choice, but I didn’t’. Then you select from chicken, beef, lamb or falafel and you get to choose from ten sauces. I went with chicken, all the veggies except turnips, and for my sauces, a triple layer of hummus, taziki, and sweet chili. It was very good and filling. Of note, several of the construction workers who work in that area stopped in for lunch. They are regulars and several of them ordered the lamb. That surprised me but if they are regulars, then I suspect the lamb must be quite good. It’s a decent place for a quick lunch and something different than Subway. Apparently, they now have a location in The Cornwall Center.

• You get what you deserve: Heather Lowe and I were talking about pricing and customers who grind the price. A few years back, my closest competitor was Bob Mullin at Prairie Lily Greenhouse. If you walked into his place and quoted one of my prices, he would immediately offer to cut that price by several percentage points. He thought he was being a sharp operator by lowering his price to steal away customers from me. After a few years of this, he went bankrupt, owing a million dollars to various members of the community. On occasion, I would hear someone say it was “too bad” that he went under. I was never able to find any charity within my heart on this issue. He went bankrupt because he deserved it.

• Community supper: Every fall, The Drummond’s host a community, fall supper at their farm, south of town. About a hundred of us gathered on Monday night for a pot luck. There were the babes in arms right up to the elders. One fellow at my table was 93 and going strong. Told me stories of his father homesteading where the town of Balcarres is today. The hall had a great vibe to it, relaxed and fun. I could not help but to notice the gender difference at pot lucks. Women feel it is their obligation to try a bit of everything. Guys don’t. We know what we like and we fill our plate with those items. I arrived back at our table with three items on my plate whereas Maureen had 37, a tablespoon of everything. We each got filled by our own methodology. My way is quicker.

• Something’s happening: Joe Fafard has set up a pop up art gallery in an old confectionary building located near Broder Street and College Avenue. I have not been but I will be soon. Others have attended and are raving. Joe is such an incredible artist and doing something like this is really so neat. Am I too old to use that word, ‘neat’? The man who can have a show and has had them, in every major gallery in Canada, has chosen a rundown building in a solid, working class neighborhood. Far out!

• My friends are getting old: Some things in life just don’t line up. While explaining to my friends that I have to have my knee replaced this winter, (it’s just old and worn out) I cannot fathom why their hair is white. What’s wrong with them. I don’t get it.

• Garden Tip: Every autumn, people ask what is the tree with intense red leaves, at the south end of The Albert Street Bridge? It is an Amur Maple. They are the most spectacular of all the trees in the fall, they are hardy for the Regina area, but they are very susceptible to iron chlorosis. If you wish to grow one, ensure that you add in iron chelate on a regular basis and never overwater an Amur Maple. They do not like wet feet.

• Rider Green: I seldom write about our Riders because so many others already cover the team and do it quite well. Rest assured. I am a Dewdney Avenue boy, through to the core. I read, I watch, I listen, I cheer. Here is my kick, pun intended. The two leading field goal kickers in the league are Luca Congi and Paul McCallum. Both played for us. Both were axed by us. They did not go to another team as a free agent. I have to scratch my head over that one.

• Garden Tip: This question in from Gail White. Can bone meal be left out in the garage over winter? The answer is yes. All granular fertilizers can be left out in the garage. Liquid garden care products should be brought into the basement or some other above freezing area. Certain liquid products can be frozen and still be okay come the spring. Others are destroyed by the freezing. If in doubt, there is often an 800 number on the bottle. A call to the manufacturer will answer your question.

• A lovely lady: Sylvia Fedoruk died this week at the age of eighty-five. She was well known for her work on the Cobalt Bomb cancer treatment, sports and for five years, she was our Lieutenant Governor. She was a great lady. When she was Lieutenant Governor, she would be going to work around seven: thirty in the morning. If she saw me, wandering around the garden center, she would ask her driver to pull over, roll down the window and shout in a strong, but friendly voice “good morning Mr. McDonald.” I would wave back to her. No other LG ever did that.

     One day, she was visiting Lakeview Gardens. She said “your place is so lovely, you deserve an award!” I turned to her and said “skip the award. How about you use your influence to get my property taxes lowered?” She smiled and said “now that, I cannot do.”

'Little Princess' Spirea
 • Garden Tip: Two readers have recently asked “what role do wasps play in the garden”. I am not an expert on insects, but I am certain that others will respond with a more complete answer. This much I do know. Wasps are carnivorous and they clean up aphids and white flies lingering within the garden. Billy Patterson told me that when he was tree planting up north, the wasps would move in and take care of the biting, horseflies. He said they were always glad to see the wasps. I have observed the wasps landing on some of my flowering plants so I am going to assume they play a role similar to the bees in cross pollination. Of note, the wasps enjoy my ‘Little Princess’ spirea, when it is in bloom, more than other plants.

• Just a note: From time to time, readers ask if I will work on their yards. Right now, I am not accepting any new clients. I have three, beautiful gardens that I am involved with, and that is more than enough. If you need professional advice, as in a consultation of an hour or two, I do those on occasion, for a fee. You can email me for those rates. Also available to do consultations, and I can recommend both of them, are Heather Lowe and Ingrid Thiessen.

September elm tree canopy along Regina Avenue
• Beautiful autumn: This has been one of the finest of Septembers. Warm, very few clouds, a bit of wind and that fall smell. Best of all, at my age, no homework!

• Don’t tangle with a three year old: This story came from my mother. According to her, I was three years old and shopping with mom at Eaton’s. We were at the cash register and a lady, unknown to us, was wrinkling up her nose. She thought she could smell something emanating from me. Apparently, I picked up on her displeasure and proceeded to calm her down. I explained: “Relax lady. It’s just gas.”

 • Thanks for reading…from Rod McDonald in the sun belt of Regina!

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