Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Garden Report #98

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Wasps on a bloom by Billy Patterson
 • Writers write: There is an adage that reads ‘if you want to trace your family tree, the quickest way to do it is to run for public office.’ We have an upcoming, civic election. Sometimes things get down and dirty and candidates throw mud. It happens at the provincial and the federal level as well, the mudslinging. Has anyone ever stopped to think that with the mudslinging and the digging into a candidates past, we discourage many good people from running. Who wants every stupid thing they did in high school held up for inspection? We have the right to know who our candidates are and what they stand for, but there also needs to be a line drawn in the sand that we should not cross.

     Speaking of high school and stupid things, a man approached me recently. He starts in about what my friends and I did to celebrate The Riders winning The Grey Cup, in1966. We were fifteen at the time and it was not our finest moment. Let’s just say that fifteen year old boys do not think ahead, or think for that matter. I said to him “That’s forty-five years ago. The statue of limitations for telling that story ran out twenty, maybe twenty-five years ago.” He took the hint and shut up.

     By the way, as you read this issue, you will become aware that there are many pieces regarding fatherhood. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it worked out.

• Readers write:

Don and Marian's dahlia bloom
     • Don Volpel sent us a photo of his dahlia, seeing as Stu Wass and Trevor Langen sent in one of theirs. Dahlia growers do take pride in their blooms.

     • Reader Billy Patterson, sent along several photos. One is a close-up of two wasps on a bloom (up at the top) and the other one is  from Sandra Rayson's garden (further down the page). The flower boxes are painted a hydrangea blue in case you were wondering.

     • A coded message from reader Lyn (one L) Goldman. “You make me smile, Rod.”

     • Neighbor and reader, Jack Tunnicliffe, weighed in on how good Honda motors are on small equipment. “Speaking of Honda's, I bought my lawn mower in 1982, while on the road directing CFL football games in the old days. I don't think they sold them here at that time. I brought it home with me and it has continued to run flawlessly for almost 30 years. First pull start, every time. I finally had a tune-up done two seasons ago, just because I thought my baby deserved it. I expect it will run for many more years.”

     • Frank Flegel responded a to a few bits of #97. I numbered them so you know where a new one begins. “#1- Right on with the role model item. #2- Where were you when I bought my new lawn mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine? #3- That photo of Tina and Sebastian should be on a calendar somewhere or win an award in a photo contest! #4- I grew my first artichoke and I don't know why people grow them. Harvested one, steamed it as per the internet, dipped the leaf tips in mayonnaise and thrrp! The heart wasn't all that great either. #5- You should patent The Garden Report before someone else swipes it.”

     • Ina Fields enjoyed reading what constitutes a role model. She writes “I would like your permission to post your definition of a role model on my Facebook page. It is so well written and concise. It hits the nail on the head and some of my young friends on Facebook could use a dose of this kind of thinking. I love your writing, no matter which way it comes, spoken by you or being read by me. Thanks for having me on the list from the very beginning.”

     • Marcus Fernando claims he has lost his anonymity due to The Garden Report. “An American was planning to visit us here in Croatia. She was a friend of a friend, and so she didn't know us personally. I sent her various e-mails, saying where to find us when she reached our village, but for whatever reason she was unable to access them at the crucial time. So she quickly went online, and ‘Googled’ me (or whichever search engine she used). In her words: "I found you! You were on some sort of gardening forum!" Yep! An American visiting Croatia tracked me down via The Garden Report from Canada!”

     • Joanne Brown is a big fan of The Garden Report. She writes: “Rod, your Garden Reports are a breath of fresh air, community concern, love for your family and friends, and wisdom, not just related to gardening. September is my favorite month too. Can you help me out here? Next week, my front yard is getting trenched to lay a new sewer line, so spring will be a good opportunity to make some changes. I want to sow several areas with large red poppies. A friend is going to give me some seeds soon. Is there a better way to go about it? Do I plant the seeds in the spring or fall? These are seeds from perennial plants. Please include some brief advice in your next Garden Report.” Rod’s answer: With a replaced sewer line, it is normal for them to sink for five or six years. Best to build up a nice berm, a layer of garden soil twelve to fifteen inches higher and make it fairly wide. Then you can plant a perennial garden. Seed is usually best sown in the spring and it is much, much cheaper than potted plants. Also, ask a few friends if they would like to divide their overgrown plants. You will gladly use them. You can have a few of my daylilies and strawberries if you want. That’s a start.

     • Roberta Nichol taught school and she knows the value of good role models in the home as well as in the classroom. “I completely agree with your take on a role model. You don't have to be able to leap buildings in a single bound to be one. The bottom line? You need to be a good person who lives a good, honest life. You need to be as consistent as you can, you need to be fair, kind, compassionate. It's tough to be a role model. Nobody's perfect.”

     • June Mayhew is always sweet, and yes, she is the mother of Canada’s silver medalist in rowing at The Olympics. But don’t ask her about that medal. She is much too modest to discuss the win, unless you really want to talk about it. She writes, “Still love The Garden Report...hugs!”

Ingrid Thiessen's shot of three, columnar spruce in Jasper, Alberta
     • Mike Labatt asks this good question. “Rod, can we move the evergreens at the farm up to freeze-up? Also when is best time to transplant rose bushes and bleeding hearts?” Rod’s answer: You can move spruce with a tree spade until freeze up. I have done it many, many times. Do not move pine in the fall. Rose bushes and bleeding hearts prefer to be moved in April, before bud break. If absolutely necessary to move them in the fall, then take as big of a root ball as possible. If you have plants in a pot that you purchased from a garden center, they can be planted at anytime as they are not subject to transplant shock.
  • Ingrid Thiessen was in Jasper, Alberta and she took the photo above.  It is of three of the finest, columnar spruce that many of us in the nursery trades have ever seen.  I am guessing here but they are either 'Blue Totem' or an Iselie Nursery introduction.  Not certain so you are welcome to weigh in. 

• So, your dad’s a fireman: There is an old story that goes like this: A Grade One boy was standing at the front of his class. He said, “My dad is a fireman. He drives a big, red truck, with a siren. He runs into burning buildings and he carries people out. He saves lives. Everybody loves my dad because he is a hero!” The teacher looked at him and said “Your dad is a world famous brain surgeon at the university. Why would you tell the other kids he’s a fireman?” The kid dropped his head down for a moment and then spoke: “I was just trying to impress them.”

• So, your dad is in the bulb business: Reader Rob Van Zanten tells this story from when he was a little boy. He and his siblings had to help their dad out by packaging tulips in the fall, and gladioli in the spring. Rob and his sister, as they worked putting ten bulbs or corms into a package, complained that their dad should be in the candy business, not selling bulbs. They fantasized that they were packaging up licorice allsorts, gummy bears and jelly beans.

• So you think your dad is important: One day, many years ago, when Maxwell was a little boy, he was playing outside with a friend. The boys had accompanied me on many trips to other greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers. We were seeing how others ran their operations. Max got a little confused over what my role was in these visits. I heard him say “my dad is the boss of all the garden centers in Canada.” Along a similar vein but with less respect, when the boys got older, one of them told me “You don’t’ really work. You just go to the garden center and tell other people what to do.” Gee, I wonder why I found my job so stressful if that is all I had to do.

• Cheap and good: A friend of mine married, for the second time. Both of her husband’s drank excessively. She told me that she was seeing a ‘shrink’ and that he had advised her that she sought out men who were drunks because her father was one. I asked, “how much did you pay him?” She informed me that the total was close to ten thousand. I couldn’t resist. I told her that I would have only charged $500 for that insight. My advice is both cheap and good, thus the title.

Tulips, cut fresh from the garden, are lovely
• Cheap and good #2: Last week, I put in ‘Writers Write’, my views on what it takes to become a role model. It was based on a conversation I had a few years ago. I was having a coffee with a fellow I had known for several years. He was doing the ‘I want to be a role model for my kids’ thing. He had mentioned it a few times before. Being so bloody polite, I said to him “If you want to be a role model, why don’t you stop hitting your wife? It’s not good for the kids to see their dad beat up their mother.” He stared at me. I had his attention. I just knew he really wanted to hear more from me, so I carried on. “And I saw you shoplifting over at Safeway on 13th. That can’t be good for your kids so maybe you should stop that? And you have a girlfriend. If your kids find out about her, they are going to be confused as to what type of a role model you are.” Now, you would think he would have offered to pay me for such great advice, the same amount the ‘shrink’ charged my friend above. Nope. He got up, walked away and he hasn’t spoken to me for four or five years now. He thinks I should mind my own business. Every now and again, I read in the paper that he has gotten an absolutely free, three month vacation over at The Correctional Center for stealing something. He’s being a role model to his kids alright, without realizing it.

• A real life role model: My friend Ian Cook, had a wonderful dad. I write the word wonderful in the most basic sense of the word. Mr. Cook was a quiet man who believed in family, farming and community. He was a special man without every winning an award for being special. He never scored the winning goal in The Stanley Cup playoffs. Ian would say “when my Dad says he fixed something, you can count on it being fixed right. It’s the only way he knows how to do something.” Mr. Cook enjoyed his life, all ninety years of them. Again, my friend Ian explained that “my dad always worked hard and kept life simple. Because he kept life simple and kept to his beliefs, he always slept well. He knew he had done his best each and every day. He was never in a rush to finish a project because he always enjoyed what he was doing.” Each one of the Cook kids knew that they could count on their mom and their dad to be there for them at each juncture of their lives. That’s being a role model.

• Then and now: Today, some young dads form support groups with other dads, to discuss their parenting issues. In the 1950’s, if my dad were to form a support group with other dads on Dewdney Avenue, it would have been to discuss how often you should spank your kid. “Is it a regular thing or just when he really deserves it?”

• We are never ready: I was thinking about Patrick and his buddies. Many of them are getting ready to be first time fathers or they already are. Most of them are a little nervous about the event. I can share this with them: None of us men are ever ready to be a dad, whether we are twenty or forty. It feels as if it were only yesterday that we were playing cops and robbers with our buddies at the playground. We are concerned that we won’t be good dads. All we can do is to try our best and it usually works out. And, no matter how good of a dad you are, there comes the teenaged years when you will wonder, “what the hell did I do wrong?” It’s just part of that thing called life. Even the best dads worry that they are not getting it right.

• Garden Tip: It is always best to dig peat moss and rototill your garden in the fall, instead of the spring. If you incorporate your peat moss now and rototill the garden areas, then the soil has a chance to blend over the winter. Lumps will break down due to the frost and you will be able to plant as soon as the weather warms up in the spring. To quote one of my favorite gardeners who has left this earth for heaven’s garden, Sandra Whittick, “you can never add too much peat moss to the Regina soil.” Listen to Sandra’s sage advice on this matter.

• God’s garden bounty: Do you have lots of veggies and fruit in your garden? Too much for you to use? Here’s a suggestion. The Marian Center over on Halifax Street can use any and all of your produce. You can give them a call at 757-0073 and ask what time you can drop off your donation. The same suggestion applies to those who hunt. If you have extra game, The Marian Center will gladly include it in the meals for the men they serve.

• Garden Tip: Fall is autopsy time for gardeners. Relax. It’s not so gruesome. When you discard your annuals, whether they are in boxes, pots or the ground, inspect the root system. Carrying out that task will teach you more about growing annuals than any book. If the roots were shallow and undeveloped, either you had them in the wrong place or you were doing something wrong. Either way, you learn what not to do next year. Gardening is a long, slow educational process and if you are like me, sometimes you feel as if you are in the slow learners’ class.

• Are we different or the same: I was in Saskatoon, at The Medical Arts Building. In the lobby was a mother, with two children. I am not certain, but I think they might have been Sri Lankan. The boy was six and the girl was eight. The boy was being a real pest, annoying his sister. After a few dirty looks from the mother, she had had enough and she spoke, in a harsh language. The boy stopped what he was doing. He knew what was coming next, if he kept it up. Now, I have no idea what her exact words were, but I think I could come really close with a guess. Sometimes we don’t need a translator to get the gist.

My brick patio under construction
• Amateur night at the rental shop: I was picking up a plate tamper at a rental shop. A plate tamper is the small machine used to compact the base, prior to installing bricks, and then it is used to level the bricks after they are installed. The fellow at the rental shop told me that he was loading one into a homeowner’s car. He asked the fellow how much brick work he was doing? The fellow was confused. He was refinishing his hardwood floors and was this not the machine that sanded the wood down to a like new finish?

• The Farmers’ Market: I think that most people are pleased with the move back to Scarth and 12th Avenue for the market. The new mall, in spite of the complainers, has been a good spot. On Saturday last, people were enjoying themselves, visiting, shopping and taking in the experience. Lots and lots of veggies, fruits, baking and fudge. Yep. I am mentioning the fudge, yet again. Does anyone see a pattern here?

• Bacon is not a health food: Okay, okay, I get it. Bacon is filled with fat, salt and nitrates and it is not good for you. But I do give in to temptation and have a taste, now and again. If that sounds like a rationalization, it is. I had some of the guys over for a brunch and the ball game. I cooked up some bacon from Oscar’s on 11th Avenue. Oscar smokes and cures the bacon himself. It is so filled with flavor as compared with the grocery store product. Here is my question for those readers with opinions on healthy eating: If it tastes that good, is it really, really bad for you?

• I make amends to my body: With our bountiful harvest of fresh garden veggies, I am in healthy eating heaven. Some nights, we have three or four different fresh vegetables on our supper plate. Carrots, steamed beets backed up with beet greens, tomatoes off the vine only an hour (don’t even think of asking if they are fresh), garden herbs, potatoes and cabbage. We had a freshly harvested cabbage salad the other night and Maureen commented “you can taste the freshness of the garden it came from.”

     I have to laugh when I think back to last March. Reader, Cheryl Geiger Paul, gave me six leaves of a basil plant she had grown under lights. They were like gold. We ate them ever so slowly, moaning appropriately. Today, if Cheryl would like me to repay her, I can give her six hundred leaves, which should cover the interest.

• Garden Tip: Sure, it has been cool at nights but it has also been windy and hot at other times. So what’s my point? Just because the calendar reads September, does not mean that you put your hose away. Your plants still need water. So does your lawn. I gave all of my garden area a thorough soaking on Thursday and come Friday morning, the sun was shining and everything was looking just so darned perky.

• Justice can be quick: A friend is disabled and he has a placard that allows him to park in handicapped parking spaces. He pulls into The Bank of Montreal and there is a car parked in the handicapped zone. He parks behind it so that the other car cannot move. As he gets out, the able bodied driver of the parked car returns. My friend asks the man why he parked in a handicapped zone? His reply? “I was only in there a minute.” My friend said “So you won’t mind then, because I will only be a minute as well,” and he went into the bank, leaving the other fellow cooling his heels.

Tulips need to be planted soon for spring blooms
• Garden Tip: You can start to plant your fall bulbs, such as tulips, any day now. There is a reason fall bulbs have the nickname of ‘sleeping beauties’. You plant them now, they remain unseen for six or seven months and then the blooms are there. When they do flower, you are reminded that they were indeed worth the work.

     Planting tulips is easy. Dig a pit about eight inches deep. Plant five bulbs to the square foot, pointed side up. Dust with bulb dust (rose dust is the same thing) and back fill with peat moss and garden soil. Top dress with a bit of bone meal and water once. If it is a dry fall, give the bulbs a second watering. You can plant bulbs under deciduous trees as the flowers are formed prior to the leaves emerging on the trees. I plant tulips under a giant elm tree, all the time, and they bloom just fine. Tulips do not like ‘wet feet’ so do not plant them close to a drain pipe or anywhere in the garden where it is continually wet. If you have a slight slope or incline, that is a perfect place to plant tulips and other fall bulbs. Fall bulbs that are often ignored, but provide great blooms, are Allium Giganteum, Muscari, Scilla Sibirica and Fritallaria. They have done well in my yard for many years, so you know they are hardy for the 2b Zone.

This is a shot of Sandra Rayson's garden
 • Good gardeners share #212: If you are nervous about planting tulips for the first time, send me an email. If a few of you want to see how it is done, then on Saturday, September 29th, you can come over to my garden around two p.m. and you can see how easy it is to do. Being a bit of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn character, I might even allow you to dig a few holes for me.

• Great symphony: Saturday night was the opening of the 104th season of The Regina Symphony. Great music! One issue. The Center of the Arts (ugh! The Connexus Arts Center) has decided to improve their parking lots which means that half of the spaces were shut down. Absolute chaos out front. People parking all over the place, and to add fuel to the fire, they only had two staff members on to deal with the issue. What were those two staff members doing? “Uh…you can’t park here. This lot is filled up.” Brilliant! Just what I needed to know. Someone should give those administrators an award for …um…let me see…doing nothing!

• Oh yeah!: The patient walks into the doctor’s office. He has a banana shoved up his nose. The doctor tells him “It’s obvious. You’re not eating right.” No groans, just toss money until I stop.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in, it’s looking like autumn, Regina!

No comments:

Post a Comment