Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Garden Report #106

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Our house with lots of snow
• Writers write: I cannot fathom the horrors of war. Snipers using your head as target practice. Bombs being dropped from so high up that you cannot see the airplanes that released them. Chaos all around you as young soldiers cry out for their mothers, the life force of their blood slowly slipping away. Revolting, tragic, and shocking. There are no shortages of adjectives to describe war and its casualties. War is never neatly confined to combatants. For every soldier fallen, civilians, including children, lie beside him. Lives are destroyed.

Today, we honor the veterans and all those who have been impacted by war, including their families and civilians. Each of them have suffered. There is a reason that soldiers in the trenches describe their experience with the three word phrase ‘war is hell.’ On occasion, I have heard people say that that phrase is trite or a cliché. No it is not. They are three short words reduced down to acknowledge an experience that is not describable.

When we see the vets march at The Brandt Center, The Cenotaph or at The War Memorial in Ottawa on television, we see men who are now in their eighties and nineties. When they landed on the beaches of France or sailed the treachery of the north Atlantic, they were barely men. Eighteen, nineteen, perhaps twenty. Most had never been away from home prior to enlisting in The Canadian Forces. They had only scratched the surface of living, yet they had been asked to risk their precious lives.

For what they did for us, long before some of us were even born, for their sacrifices and for those boys who never returned home to their moms, the least we can do is to honor that minute of silence and say “thank you.”

• Readers write: Many of you wrote in to congratulate our family on the arrival of our first grandchild. Thank you for your kindness. Those emails are not being published. I am trying not to become ‘the grandfather who won’t shut up’.

• John Huston is always a fountain of obscure information. In #105, I used the term ‘Grand Pubah’ in self deprecation. According to John, this is not the correct spelling. He writes from Toronto: “ ‘Poohbah’, or alternatively, ‘Poobah’ is the correct spelling. Most people will tell you it comes from ‘The Mikado’, and they are right, up to a point. W.S. Gilbert, author of ‘The Mikado’ used an earlier version of the name ‘Pishtush-Poohbah’ in a comic poem. The name, of course, comes from two words of disdain or contempt.” Rod’s note: I have also found this spelling, ‘Pooh-Bah.’

• We had a few letters this week regarding other grammar issues. Jean Freeman who is an author and a playwright, finds the following to be the sand in her ointment. “The nit which I wish to pick is with those people who are under the impression that any word ending in an ‘s’ should have an apostrophe even if it's not a possessive. e.g. ‘Open Sunday's’, ‘Dog's welcome’, ‘Boat's for sale’. We may be nit pickers, thee and me, but standards must be maintained!”

• Denise Cook comments on the poor spelling on the Arby’s sign. “I too have noticed the Arby’s sign several times. That is the editor in me coming out.”

• Ann Anderson also writes for a living as a Communications Consultant to The Mayor. Here is her take on exclamation points. “I agree with your views on misusing punctuation, but like many rules in the English language, there are always exceptions. When I read "I LOVE YOU!!!!!!" from my daughter who's traveling overseas for several months, I am not insulted by her use of all caps and a string of exclamation points. Every exclamation mark emphasizes how much she misses me. The longer she's away the more punctuation she uses. She'll soon be bolding the text.”

• Roberta Nichol who leads the grammar police, rooting out run on sentences everywhere she finds them, wrote this: “Regarding 'Misuse of Words': I agree. In short, (writers) quit repeating yourself. Your point loses its punch. Done.”

• Georgia Hearn understands the need to promote prostate exams for men, even though she does not own that particular gland. “Rod: What a fabulous issue. I remember the issue last year about men acting responsible and getting the prostrate exam. Sunday mornings are always a treasure.”

Rob Van Zanten's grand puppy 'Max'
• Rob Van Zanten, from Vancouver, is joining the fight against prostate cancer by growing a moustache for ‘Movember’. “By the way, I am three days into my ‘Movember stache’. As I look at yours in the photo that you attached in #105, there is not a hope in hell that I will get close to that.” Rod’s note: I got started with mine in 1974.

• My cousins, Rick and Judy Kerr, recommend Table 10 Restaurant on Robinson Street. “This is a gluten free, vegan and meat restaurant. So good! We had to let you know and you have to try it.”

• Kevin Hynd was a high school student employee of mine. He wants to be a comic when he grows up. He writes: “In reference to your dog kennel story: There were certain times at the Garden Centre, when you left the room, we jumped up and down like excited puppies.”

• May Blois shares a sentiment with us. “If there are no puppies, kittens or ice cream in Heaven, I am not going.”

• David Calam lives across the street from me. I can see his house when I write The Garden Report. Today, he writes to us from across the world. “Possibly the most distant response to your Garden Report? I am sitting in the Beijing airport, waiting for the Air Canada flight home via Vancouver and Calgary. We went seeking our grandmother's home and our mother's birth place in the Lushan Mountain town of Guling, in southern China. We found the school where our grandmother taught and saw some of the sights our mother talked about but sadly, the area in which her home was located has been abandoned and has reverted to forest. A fascinating and exciting adventure. Eating wonderful food, seeing breathtaking scenery, meeting all kinds of people, experiencing kindness everywhere we went. No matter the height, the color, the language, the race, the culture, we are all the same. We are all people, nothing more, nothing less.”

• Judith Langen sent along a nice compliment. “I love your writing, your fans and the comments. Have a great week.”

• Susan Rollins (Pasterfield) has a thank you. “I think I am in a very select group with my picture twice in The Report. Thank you for your lovely words.”

• Eric Bell is a new reader and this is his first time responding. “I have been a regular reader for the past few months or so, and I don't even garden! I love the stories that you and your readers bring to your blog, as well as your reviews of local businesses.”

• Lyn Goldman has been globetrotting this fall. She writes: “I just returned from a garden tour of Tuscany. Their idea of gardens is very different from ours; low boxwood hedges carved in elaborate patterns, lemon trees growing in pots, terraces, fountains and sculptures. I really enjoyed it and the weather was fine, but I was glad to get home to my garden and my cats.”

• Kathleen Livingston sent out this good vibe. “As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed your weekly missive. Anyone who can write so compellingly about a pet – cat or dog – is all good in my books.”

• Around thirty of you took the time to express your condolences over the passing of Murphy. Thank you. I don’t want to fill up this edition with that many kind responses, so I selected one email that I thought you would enjoy reading. It comes to us from Sherrie Tutt. “Hi Rod: Your story about Murphy touched my heart, particularly because it has come at a time when I just lost my cat, Murmur. He was a feral kitty, rescued by my daughter after a tough life in the back allies of Toronto. Black, minus one ear and very shy of people, Murmur neither purred nor meowed, but made a sound like a murmur, hence his name. Thin as a rail, he had the cat version of HIV. He lived in my bedroom for less than two years, mostly under the bed or in his special basket, coming out to eat and, in the later months, to sit in the hall with big sad eyes, as if wishing he could join in. He shot back under the bed should anyone try to pet him but would sit quietly when stroked by a pheasant feather. I did not realize until the day I came home to find him dead, how much a part of my life he had become. He was my first thought in the morning, my last good-night and tempting his failing appetite, employed many waking minutes. Your story allowed me to cry for him without shame. Thank you.”

• Garden Tip: If you feel so inclined, you can still do some fall pruning. There has always been a debate in the gardening world over spring versus fall pruning, as to which is better. I do favor the spring camp on this one. Having written that, I have carried out much fall pruning do to time constraints. When you own a greenhouse, it is difficult to free up a day to prune in the spring.

Where have all the flowers gone...
 • Things change: When we become parents, our view of our own parents changes. We are no longer judgmental of them. They made the best decisions that they could. And as we age, we come to realize that we gave our parents a really good run for their money. As my mother grew into her old age, I no longer expected her to explain her shortcomings. Rather, I learned to apologize for mine. This is the cycle of life.

• I shouldn’t have asked: When I was twenty-six, I was on a flight home from Victoria to Regina. I was seated beside a woman who was in her eighties. It was a two and a half hour flight. She seemed like a nice grandmother. We were chatting away. Being a rookie to airline etiquette, I made a fatal error. I asked her if she had any grandchildren. She reached into her purse, pulled out six envelopes of photos and turned that flight into perhaps the longest one of my life. Air Canada did not stock enough liquor on that airplane. I promise not to be that grandparent and to only sneak the odd photo into the conversation.

• Too funny: A man I knew was a garden center consultant. He was hired by conferences to speak to the owners on how to make their operations more successful. That is how we met. He told me that he flies a lot and that if someone seated beside him, discovers that he is in the garden center business, they won’t shut up. They will pepper him with question after question about what is wrong with the plant in their back yard. He developed an interesting way of having peace and quiet on the many flights he takes in a year. When his seat mate asks him “what do you do for a living” he responds: “I am an insurance salesman. How are you fixed?” He said they invariably clam up and leave him alone for the duration.

• Garden Tip: Yes, you can still transplant shrubs at this time of year, if the day is nice enough. The ground is not yet frozen. Dig a nice big hole, fill the transplant with lots of peat moss and take out a bucket of water to freeze the plant into the ground. You do not need to add any fertilizer until the spring. Rod’s note: I wrote this before the twelve inches of snow arrived.

My bacopa on its last legs of the fall
• First date déjà vu: Maureen and I were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. I told her that we had just met. I said “I am rather quiet, humble, easy to get along with and I am rarely judgmental. I would love to attend a modern dance recital as boxing matches are not that important to me. I don’t snore, fart or belch and I just know I will love your cooking. I seldom complain when I don’t get my own way. I always put my dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and I wipe down the tub when I am finished.” She was laughing so hard by the time I finished that she could not offer up her version of what she would have said, had this been our first date.

• A strange child: When I was ten years old, The Sherwood Coop advertised in the newspaper that they were holding a baking contest. They had different age categories and according to the rules, your mom was not supposed to help. I enjoyed baking so I entered my apple/walnut coffee cake. I wrapped it up in tin foil and took the bus down Dewdney Avenue to their Victoria/Albert Street location. I was the only boy surrounded by dozens of girls from ages eight to fifteen. As I had not entered puberty yet, that many girls surrounding me was a total waste. Don’t laugh too hard, but I got a ribbon. My entry took third place. Surprisingly, my parents were very supportive of my interest. My dad, chauvinist that he was, told me “the best bakers are always men”.

• A welcomed visitor: Keith Carpenter who is a regular reader of this blog and works in the sales department of Van Noort Bulbs in the Vancouver area, stopped in on Wednesday. We did a bus man’s holiday, driving around for the afternoon visiting greenhouses and landscaping projects. I always enjoy visits from people within the garden trade as I have spent many years being a part of that industry. Keith left me some reading material and I will be writing about some of those new introductions.

• Garden Tip: Do not take live wreaths or greens into the house too soon. Even with misting, they only last a few days before drying out. Best to keep them outdoors. If you want cedar greens inside for Christmas, do not bring them in until a day or two before the 25th. I found the best way to keep my greens fresh was to bury them in snow. They stay perfect that way, much better than if placed in a fridge. Then I pull them out from the snow when I need them. Cedar is the most fragrant of the greens. White pine has very little fragrance. Fir has some.

• The final say: Okay. You guys, and there are several of you who really enjoy ragging me about the use of exclamation marks. We have to close the chapter on this edition of ‘As the World Writes’. There are other fish waiting to be fried so no more emails. Just to get in one last lick, you are now going to get a taste of your proverbial medicine. “Oh my gawd!!!!!” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe you REALLY DID THAT!!!!!! You used way too many exclamation marks!!!!! Like chill out man, and let the words SPEAK for themselves!!!!!!! This is so cool!!!!! Do you think if I add in like sixty-eight of them, it will get my POINT ACROSS???????”

A sea of purple
 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in a snow covered Regina.

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