Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Garden Report #99

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Still laughing at sixty-one!

• Writers write: It’s my birthday today and for the curious, it is my 61st one to celebrate. I am not one of those who hides behind the perpetual joke of being thirty-nine. Age is what it is, neither a negative nor a positive. I am aware that I sound as if I have made the conversion from Baptist to Zen Buddhism. You should not be surprised. After all, I am a child of the sixties, in two different ways now.

My neighbor from down the street, Rhonda, was inspecting my new patio and chatting away about life. She opined that several people had passed away recently, in their forties and fifties, and she concluded that every day we have left is one to celebrate “here in paradise.” Today, I will go along with her on that. Today, I will celebrate a wonderful day.

• Readers write:

     • Kate Berringer is responding to the bit about celebrating the 1966 Grey Cup win. She writes, “So, you’re not going to share the story, even if the statue of limitations is up?”

     • Dianne K. is a first time reader and responder. “Please keep me on the distribution list. What amazing gardens-hope someday mine can look that good.”

     • Heather Lowe writes “The pictures are very nice.”

     • Apparently, I know my birds from the bees but not the wasps. This note from Margaret Bessai is in regards to a photo posted last week in #98. “Hi Rod, those wasps look like bees to me. Thanks for your weekly writing!”

     • Kathleen Livingston also takes umbrage with bees being labeled wasps. “With bees having such a tough time and the critical role they play in our world, it would be worth the effort to help your readers distinguish between wasps and bees. The insects on the flower in the published photo are bees, not wasps. They should be made welcome in all gardens.”

     • Murray Wallace taught me to eat butter tarts when they are frozen, which are delicious. He also enjoys reading. He writes “Thank you for The Garden Report as I really enjoy receiving and reading it. What a fine job that you do as to all the info related to gardening.”

     • Georgia Hearn sends along her accolades. “I so enjoy my Sunday morning read. Keep it up and keep the commentary, the humor and the advice, both gardening and other, coming. We love it.”

Murphy's seventeen now, a real senior cat
     • Jeanie Freeman, besides being everyone’s favorite television persona, is a big fan of The Garden Report. She reads it faithfully, and this week she weighs in: “You are absolutely correct with your comments about the stupidity of the mudslinging that seems to be the norm these days for civic, provincial and federal elections! I am appalled and discouraged to think how many good people are discouraged from going into public service because of the possibility of having their every action, and their family's every action, dragged into the dirt.”

     • And now to another Jean, this time Jean McKay. Jean wants to share her extra plants with another gardener, as good gardeners always share. “Message for Joanne Brown. I have some white windflowers ( anemones) and violets to share. You will have a fine Friendship Garden next year.”

     • Joanne Brown is indeed grateful that people are willing to share their plants. If you have some to share, send me an email. Meanwhile, Joanne wrote “Thanks Rod, and I will take advantage of your excess daylilies and strawberry plants come spring. I'll also contact Jean.”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoyed last week’s photos. There were some very nice ones, I agree. “Lovely pictures this week, well, they are always lovely, but those flowers are amazing.”

     • Rhonda Rein wanted to know who to get to band her trees. I recommended Rick Harris, as one local business person, who performs that service. She wrote in about her experience, Saturday evening. “Thanks again Rod! Rick Harris just came by to band our tree. Got to meet his great, furry pal, Jazz. What a great dog he has which can do some fantastic tricks, too! Great entertainment for a Saturday night. Hope you enjoyed the first day of fall.”

Garden Tip: It is mandatory that your elm trees be banded this week to reduce the negative effects of the fall canker worm. Also, keep up the watering, albeit on a reduced schedule. I am seeing way too many lawns that are showing stress from the lack of water.

• Listen to your elders: In 1985, I had a rough year. I lost the lease on my garden center land and had to move, mid season. Russ Boughen from Valley River, Manitoba, always provided a listening ear for my problems. He told me that behind every cloud, there is always a silver lining. Look for it. I bought myself two acres over at Hill Avenue and Pasqua, set up a new garden center and things were successful. Russ phoned the following year and asked how sales were. I bragged. “They’re almost double over last year” I exclaimed! Russ said one word which was not really a word but a comment. He said “Hah!” and followed that with “I told you so!” The old boy was there through what appeared to be bleak journey. He assured me that everything would work out for the best, and it did.

• Hurrah: The fine people over at Orange Boot Bakery have a slicer and I for one, am doing the dance of joy. I can now freeze my bread and pop it in the toaster, come the morning.

• Pears in Regina: Jen St. Onge was wondering about pear trees in Regina. The pears that we grow here do not produce fruit that is all that edible, either out of hand or for canning. Many years ago, I asked Russell Boughen, who is the ‘Dean of Prairie Fruit’, what were the pears good for? His response: “If you have a neighbor you don’t like, you can wing them at the back of his head.” As a secondary note, even though our prairie pears are not tasty, they are a wonderful ornamental tree. Definitely worth planting.

The new tulip 'Blue Wow'!
• October 19th Gala: I seldom use this space to promote upcoming charitable events. Most readers are already swamped with charitable requests, all of them of great importance. But this one is close to my heart, or better written, close to my kidneys, which are close to my heart. It is The Kidney Foundation’s Gala at The Connexus Arts’ Center and tickets are a hundred bucks each or a table of six is five hundred. It is a fund raiser to assist families where dialysis is involved. Dialysis usually costs a person most of their income earning potential. The Kidney Foundation tries to help out with those issues and related travel costs. For those who are new to The Garden Report, I have been on dialysis for five years come this October 16th thus my connection. 

• It’s tulip time: My tulips arrived from Holland, via the Van Noort family in Vancouver, Thursday. They will be planted as the frost knocks down my annuals. Every fall, I try something new. This year, I ordered a hundred of a new, double tulip called ‘Blue Wow’. Great name, eh?

• New greenhouse: There will be a new greenhouse/garden center, come this spring. It will be located two miles south on Albert Street, across the street from the old, Cinema Six Drive In. The owners are Brad and Sandy Crassweller. Brad was a student employee of mine, many years ago. As an aside, my first greenhouse was twenty by thirty-six feet and I was more proud of that little structure than anything I ever built afterwards.

• Visitors: Gardens get visitors, that much we know. Two people of note, who stopped in recently, were Heather Lowe, the Landscape Designer and Jan Pederson from Byland’s Nursery. Both of them approved of the new, brick patio and Jan left me with a list of Byland’s new introductions for the coming year. They have thirty new items listed. Yea! Jan also mentioned that he has been using the phrase ‘statue of limitations’ that was recorded here. He said the phrase is so appropriate when people want to drag up stories from too many years ago.

Red Feather Grass is one of my favorites
• Garden Tip: Those of your who grew Red or Purple Feather Grass and other ornamental grasses this year, do not cut them down this autumn. Let them remain throughout the winter and you will get much winter landscape enjoyment from them. Next spring, if they are an annual grass, then you can remove them.

• Tandoori Kebab: I gave this place a thumbs up a few weeks back. It is definitely not one that grabs your attention, being stuffed into the twelve block of Albert Street. I found myself alone, a week ago Friday night, my good lady being out with ‘the girls’. I thought “should I cook up something fantastic and then have to clean up or should I go out somewhere where they will do the dishes for me?” That took less than five seconds to mull over, and I headed down Albert Street, fourteen blocks to Tandoori Kebab Touch. Don’t ask me how they chose this name. I had a great supper, filled with flavor. That is my criteria, right after cleanliness. Is there big flavor? Lots of flavor. This place is ranking right up there with Siam as my two favorite ‘big taste’ joints.

• Something you didn’t know: When you run a greenhouse/garden center, your telephone rings all day long. People asking questions about plants and how you should care for things. Here is the kicker, approximately two/thirds of the calls are for advice on plants that were purchased elsewhere, as in the box stores. This situation occurs at all garden centers across our country, just not mine. I used to get about a hundred and fifty telephone calls every day and one hundred were for advice on plants from Super Store, Wal Mart, Rona and Home Depot.

• Garden Tip: If you wish to cover your plants at night, to protect them against the frost, never use a plastic cover. Plastic will pull the frost into the plant. Always use a cloth sheet. Do not be in a hurry to remove the sheet come the morning. Let the sun warm things up and wait until noon to remove the covering.

• Bumped into: I was out early on Thursday morning and I ran into Irwin Taylor. Irwin is now eighty-one, still going strong, running Gale’s Wholesale. Many people know Irwin as Gale’s sells many craft and floral items to the gardening public. We joked about only the good dying young and I suggested we start planning a hundredth birthday party, for both of us.

• Flip, flop and fly: Okay. That is the name of a blues song that ‘Downchild’ made famous. This is not about that song. Rather, it is my take on ‘Flip’, the restaurant on Hamilton Street, near Victoria Avenue. I have heard many good things about this place, so, when asked by my Mrs., where I wished to celebrate my birthday supper, I suggested this eatery.

     First, it is not a massive bistro so reservations most nights, are a must. We saw several people turned away. The place is a basic white with floor to ceiling windows, overlooking that most scenic part of Regina, Hamilton Street. Next. It is noisy. Very noisy. You have to shout across the table to be heard, which ensures that it is even noisier, because now, you are being very loud. I read once, that commercial establishments want it to be loud because then it replicates a party, and people buy more booze. It didn’t work for me as I remained sober throughout the evening. But I did shout a lot, just as if I was at a busy party.

     The supper menu is not a long affair. You have a basic six choices, plus a special, all ranging from $20 to $24. If you want soup or salad up front, be prepared to pay $5.50 for the soup and $10 to $14 for the salad. I opted for the steak, which was amongst the finest I have eaten. It was blackened on the outside and a true medium rare on the inside. It’s only accompaniment was the ‘dirty rice’ which was filled with flavor. There was a small container of a cheese sauce which neither me nor Maureen or Maxwell thought was tasty. It went untouched after the initial taste.

     Maureen chose the chicken with spinach and feta. It had a liberal sprinkling of dill weed and was equally excellent in taste to my steak. With her meal, there were three pieces of braised corn cob and a bit of new potato. Max had the short ribs which were very tender and he reported the taste to be first rate. He, being a now disinherited son, did not offer the old man a sample.

     Maureen had a glass of red wine for $8.50 and I had a coffee which was surprisingly, served in a French press. Very nice. Max and I shared an ice cream dessert that was cinnamon/chai in flavor. The two flavors were there but it was neither rich nor sweet. Very disappointing for five bucks. Maureen had the cup cake of the day which was an apple cinnamon and it was equally disappointing, being heavy and slightly frozen at the same time. Maureen wondered if it was a cupcake and not a muffin, where was the icing or topping?

     Here’s the kick. I don’t mind the $23 main, but I keep thinking there should be more than the steak and the rice on the plate. How about a vegetable? I must be old school on this one. I kind of suspected that the meal was going to leave two of the three of us hungry, so I ordered the house fries for four bucks, as an add on. Good thing I did as that is what filled Max and I up. Some good news is that the fries were first rate, up there with some of the best in town. Total for the three of us including tax and tip was $120.

Late summer geraniums on my new patio
     The service was good, the meal was very good, albeit not filling, the coffee was excellent but you can skip the desserts until they kick it up a notch.

Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald from a sun drenched autumn, in Regina!

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