Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Garden Report #125
Sunday, March 31st, 2013

The spring melt is just now starting at our house
• Writers write: I don’t get it. Hockey is Canada’s game or so we say. It defines who we are, contributing to the fabric of the nation. When I was a kid, you took your stick, hung your skates across the blade and off to the rink you went. All of us thought we were great. Most of us were not. Not the point. We had fun, dreaming of being called up to play for one of the six NHL teams. There were very, few parents at our games. I don’t know why. They just didn’t attend. Those who did, rarely caused problems. Did I mention there was never any charge to play? Hockey was Canada’s game and it was free!

Hockey has changed. Last week, there was a brawl, another one, involving parents at a hockey game in Ontario. It made ‘The National’. There is as much violence and vulgarity in the stands as there ever is on the ice. Parents swearing at seventeen year old referees during games played by seven year olds. Go figure. And it’s not limited to the dads. Nope. The moms are getting in on it as well, sometimes being the instigators. That is equality, in the saddest of ways. Some leagues are now banning parents from attending. Another one is requiring parents to attend classes on how to be a good sport at games. I can’t make this stuff up. Why? This game is supposed to be fun. It is supposed to be about the kids. When do we get our game back or is it too late?

• Readers write:

• Margo Soriano enjoys good food. She writes “If you haven’t tried the tasting menu (offered every Monday night – always different) at La Bodega, you are missing a treat. We’ve enjoyed it several times now and have never been disappointed. Hats off to Adam and his team for offering something unique.”
Pink peonies bloom in June in Regina

• Dough Gummeson takes exception with my view of people trying to order coffee at The Victorian Tea. “I have been to many teas that served tea and coffee including church functions, community functions and fund raisers. All labeled with the name tea. In fact a tea that serves only tea might perhaps be in the minority.” Rod’s note: The Victorian Tea is a very, strict tea. You will sit up straight, you will not complain and you will drink your tea. No coffee! People who complain, must stand with their nose in the corner for one hour. No laughing!

• CJ Katz, our resident foodie, sent this info along. “Hi Rod – a fun Report as always. You’re sowing seeds of laughter and wisdom. I just thought you might like to know that quinoa is a fruit, not a grain. It’s related to beets actually. I’ve had interesting and sometimes vigorous arguments with people over the years. People call it an ancient grain, but it’s really a fruit. I’ve now started eating quinoa for breakfast most mornings. I cook up a batch (1 part quinoa to 2 parts water with the barest pinch of salt) early in the week and then microwave as needed. I like mine with a teaspoon of maple syrup, blueberries and almond milk. Now that’s a power breakfast.”
Red Feather Grass is a good choice for a sunny planter

• Chris Dodd likes to yank chains, even though she is not a tow truck driver. “Has everyone missed the critical point about your gotch question? I wanted to believe, as a Scotsman, you didn’t wear any. Were you just testing us?” Rod’s note: Shhh…don’t let everyone else know. I tell them that they are really smart.

• Dianne Palmer enjoys live theater. “Good morning Rod. I went to Globe on Friday night. I thoroughly enjoyed their production of 'Pride and Prejudice'. I was impressed with the actors’ skill at remembering and delivering the large amount of amount of dialog and narration that were the fabric of the production. I appreciated the portrayal of all of the characters - they were right on. I found Mr. Collins to be particularly repulsive - which was perfect. I love the story... it is a favourite of mine, and this play is my favourite of this season. I look forward to reading The Garden Report on Sunday morning . Keep up the good work.”

• Don Nasheim writes this: “Just thought I would clarify something. You mentioned the ban on smoking in public places as 13 years ago when in fact it was 8 years ago January 1st 2005. It was the last day I smoked as I felt exactly as you, I will be a prisoner to no one! And the lift off my shoulders was enormous, the mind is a powerful thing! Have a good week.”

• Marsha Kennedy has this for you to read. “I had a good chuckle, reading about your little performance with the television reporters. Yup, that was the Rod I remember, with fondness mixed with a little hesitation. Even if you say you will be sandbagging with no interviews this year, I am sure those working around you will enjoy many moments of comic relief to help pass the time. I am worried sick about my basement this spring. Have a wonderful week.”

• Neil Slater is wondering as are most of us. “How are we supposed to prune our elm trees? They're still buried in snow! Starting to recognize the signs of cabin fever in myself.”

Courtney admired these tulips from last week

• Courtney Siebring is one heck of a fine actor. Sadly for us, she has resided in Halifax these last few years. That is a long way to go to see her perform. Nonetheless, she stays in touch with The Garden Report. Here is her take on last week’s photo of the white tulips. “After this latest Garden Report, I just had to send you this picture of these white tulips that I took earlier this week. I was in the grocery store on Tuesday and stopped at the flowers to take a look. A beautifully, eccentric woman with wildly curly, bleached hair came by and said "a touch of spring...a little touch of spring...that's what I need." She reached over and picked up a bouquet of hot pink tulips, the same color as her lipstick and put it in her cart. I looked at her and said, "it's what I need, too." Maureen and I are on the same wave length... and the pink lipped lady from the store. Happy Spring!”

• Job opportunity: There is a summer job available, starting around the middle of April and running until the end of September. It is as a gardener for two properties that I have built. It is full time, Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. with half an hour for lunch. I am looking for someone who is quite experienced in gardening, as there will be weeding, fertilizing, watering and planting annuals involved. You have to be able follow my instructions to a ‘t’ and you will need a vehicle to get to the two job sites. You have to be able to work on your own. If you need me to hold your hand, you’re not the right person for the job. There is very little shade at either job site. This job is a wonderful learning opportunity. Many of those who have worked under my supervision have gone on to careers in this trade. A dozen or so own their own businesses. This job is not suited for students.

Garden Tip: If not already done so, start your begonia tubers now. Remember that the key to growing them is not to bury the tuber deep into the pot. A ‘shallow grave’ works just fine for growing begonia tubers. Do not overwater the soil. Wet soil destroys more tubers and seedlings than any other cause of death.

• Garden Tip: This one ties into the one above. At the garden center, we would get telephone orders to deliver a plant, as a way of thanks, to a nursing station at one of the hospitals. We would shudder when those sales came in. We would deliver a perfectly fine plant, that would sit on top of the counter and each shift that arrived, would assume that the last shift had been too busy to water and they would carry out the task. That was three water applications a day. After three of those days, the plant would be drooping and we would get a call that said “your plant is not doing very well.” Always the same tone when using the word your.

• Sad to see him go: Thursday was Costa Maragos last day as the news anchor at CBC Television. Costa is a decent man, who had a loyal audience for his broadcast. When he was out and about in the community, he was always approachable, engaging, never stand offish. He says that his plans are to remain in Regina.

Rayanna's first grocery store trip

• Grampa’s Report: We have Rayanna with us until Wednesday. Her eyes now focus and I spend much of my time playing the clapping game. I am pretty well, a full time, performing monkey for my granddaughter. My speciality is ‘peek a boo’. So far, so good. And you thought those acting classes were a waste of money.

• The Dad’s Report: Patrick and Lisa, the former party animals are home, from Edmonton. It’s wonderful to have them. Patrick especially, used to hoot with the owls, staying out ‘til five a.m. Now they are parents and headed off to bed on Friday night at nine p.m., claiming exhaustion. I can relate. In the 1970s, I spent every Friday and Saturday night, dancing, partying and kissing the occasional pretty girl (when circumstance permitted a kiss). Yeah! In the 1980s, I found myself playing ‘Inky, Dinky Spider’ and attempting to answer the question “where does the light go when it goes out, Dad?” I also went to a lot of school concerts instead of rock and roll extravaganzas. From Joe Cocker singing “I get high with a little help from my friends” to the grade four class warbling ‘O Holy Night’. That’s life.

• And the damage continues: I was talking with Robbie Barlow over at Barlow Lang Insurance. Robbie was one of my high school, student employees, many years ago. Nice to have those connections. He told me that with all the ice dams on local roofs this spring, he is getting a record number of damage claims. When I am out getting groceries, the common greeting this month has been “so, any water damage?”
Can’t wait for our common greeting to change to the regular “how about those Riders?”

Lemon cake for Sunday supper dessert-yum/yum

• Good eats: For Easter Sunday this year, we are doing something different. No turkey or cabbage rolls. This year, it is sauerkraut and spare ribs. I layer an inch of sauerkraut in the bottom of a large pan. Then lay down the spare ribs, no seasoning. Then another inch of sauerkraut, a layer of apple and onion slices and the spices, which are nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. No salt needed as there is more than enough in the kraut. Then one more layer of sauerkraut and a drizzle, be gentle please, of Canadian maple syrup. I like to bake my pan slowly for several hours. A slow cooker works fine for smaller amounts but for a large gathering, it is into the oven at 250 for six or seven hours. No need to mix anything as it will blend just fine. The ribs will be so juicy and tender.

• Harassing calls: I have been receiving multiple phone calls this week, from a California number, 1 707 723-4478. They are trying to sell medical alert systems. I asked them to quit calling and was met with an incredibly rude, American response, saying that I had signed up for these calls on the internet (which I did not). Sask Tel has a call blocking feature but all a caller needs to do to get around this blockage is to use another line and usually, they do have multiple numbers. I really wish that Sask Tel would shut down these numbers or is it that they are making too much money off of the long distance charges and are by default, a partner in these scams?  I am filing a complaint with The RCMP if it happens again and they can ask The FBI to investigate. 

• Three signs the kids are home: First, my car seat has been pushed back all the way to accommodate longer legs. Second, the radio is no longer tuned to CBC Two. Third, the gas light is flashing empty and will do so, until I fill it up. Until I fill it up, they drive their mother’s car.
• Garden Tip: With all of this snow, expect two things to do as soon as you can. First, there will probably be a higher amount of snow mould this year. Lightly rake it up and get it into a garbage bag where possible. Be careful of allergies. Snow mould is a tough one on me and many others. Second, get your lawn power aerated when it is dry enough to do so. Power aerators can be rented but always brush the parts that come in contact with your lawn with a solution of bleach, to kill off lawn disease. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can book Drew Millard at Mr. Caretaker to do it for you. I use Drew’s service every year. His number is 306 586-0828.

Keep your lawn clean of snow mould as soon as you can!
• Farmers’ Market: This Saturday’s market was packed with patrons but not with vendors. We need a few more booths to keep it interesting. I would love to see it expand to the size of the ones in Calgary and Edmonton. There were some dill pickles back at the market, courtesy of Golden Orchards. One of the enjoyable aspects of The Farmers’ Market is running into friends. Jennifer Cohen and I had a lovely visit and she remarked “this is worthy of a mention in The Garden Report”. She’s right. It is worthy.

• Thanks for reading and have a most enjoyable Easter...Rod McDonald in Regina

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Garden Report #124

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Rayanna-dressed for St. Patrick's Day
• Writers write: This week, the weather has dominated the news, every day, every night. Storms, blizzards, white outs. Highways have been closed, traffic backed up for miles, even Via Rail was delayed for twenty-four hours on their way into Saskatoon. One fellow, on his way home to Grand Coulee, spent the night on the road after his truck slammed into a snow drift, that had crossed his path. Very few injuries, just a lot of inconvenience. All of us can survive an inconvenience.

This has been a rough winter for all of us. Last year, I started pruning on April 2nd, the earliest start ever to the landscape season. Mike Liske at Classic Landscape finished his first brick job on April 7th. This year, uh, it will not be the same as last. I suspect that we will be sandbagging, along the edge of Rotary Park, shortly.

In 1973, when the mighty Wascana rose over its banks, our neighbourhood was cordoned off. There were security officers who inspected your driver’s licence before allowing you to enter. The City did not want the area filled with sight seekers as they worked to protect what they could. Jack Lyster and I had to move a couch from my house. It was strictly a coincidence that we were doing that task on a Sunday afternoon. CBC Television was driving by looking for a story. They stopped their van and out came a camera man and an interviewer, mike in hand, shouting “are you moving your stuff to higher ground?”

Never being shy of a microphone or a chance to do a little improv, I explained to the camera that yes, we were moving everything to higher ground. “I have lost confidence that The City will be able to hold the water back much longer.” Now, I am much more mature today than I was back in 1973, so I wish to apologize for raising the alarm bells. But it was so much fun to watch the evening news and see the interview run, uncut. This year, I think I will just help to fill the sandbags and not grant any more interviews. No doubt, The City Engineering Department will be appreciative of my silence.

• Readers write:

• Lyn Goldman was gallivanting down south. “What a pleasure to read you again! I've been in Mexico for a couple of weeks, and missed you. Good advice about contacting Heather -- I definitely need some design advice!”

• Roberta Nichol insists that she is not a follower. “Have you ever stopped to think that you are sending this Report out to thousands of people, asking about the frequency of changing your underwear? And the hilarious thing is, people are responding to it, including me? Amazing. Utterly amazing. Now, don't get the idea that you can play your little flute ( or trumpet, maybe) and lead us all into the river to drown. That's where I draw the line.” Rod’s note: For your information, my flute is not little, it is regulation size.

• Frank Flegel has a cutie for us. “A kindergarten teacher's class in a Regina Catholic elementary school was waiting for the new Pope to make his appearance in the balcony when one of the kids asked: "What happens if he sees his shadow when he comes out." A bit of a giggle I thought Garden Report readers would enjoy. And enough about gotch. I usually read The Garden Report before Sunday brunch.”

• Marcus Fernando knows only too well, the experience of being a parent. “Regarding your comment of child achievements and proud parents. We are constantly coming up against those parents who make comments such as, "Oh, isn't Pascal reading yet? Our three year old is already able to recognise some words"; or "Oh, our child is already talking. I'm surprised yours isn't". It's a parental one-upmanship and a complete nonsense, of course. One of our friends (also with a young child) put it nicely into perspective. Having suffered the umpteenth "Oh, isn't your child talking yet?" comment, he patiently observed: "How many people do you meet in life who never quite got around to learning to talk?" Children have their own timetables...and quite right too!”

• Neil Slater is an optimist regarding our volume of snow that will be melting soon. “There's twice as much snow at SIAST as there was at this time of the year in 2011. Take heart, though, since there's less water in the ground. Fall 2010 was a wet one, and last fall wasn't, so the snow will have somewhere to soak in, which may help to minimize flooding.”

Vegetable growing is incresing in  popularity
 • Garden Tip: This is more of an observation than a tip. Many more gardeners are growing food crops now than they were ten years ago. There has been an increase in the awareness of where are food comes from and how it is grown. This is a good thing.

• Lock me up: When one of our sons was around eight years old, he asked his mother “who pays Dad, if he owns the company?” Good question. She told him that I make my money by buying plants wholesale, at a lower price and selling them retail, at a higher price and keeping the difference. He looked at his mother with eyes wide open and asked “is that legal?” So far, it has been.

#291 is still on trial and has not been released for sale
• Garden Tip: If you wish to grow roses, then your growing site must have at least a half day of full sun. The more sun, the better a rose will grow. There is this myth that roses are difficult to grow. Not true. I have planted many roses for people who are not gardeners and as long as they get fed once a month, watered when needed and lightly pruned two or three times year, they will grow just fine. If you can grow lilacs, you can grow roses. Rose #291, yet to be named as it is still in a trial, appears to be a good one. If it is named and released, you will be able to say “I read about it in The Garden Report first.”

• Garden Tip: If you have an elm tree growing on your property, now is the time to prune it if required. Remember that it is illegal to prune elm trees from April 1st until August 31st. This ban helps to reduce Dutch Elm Disease. There is no cure for DED. Once a tree has been infected, it must be removed and the wood disposed of legally. Elm wood cannot be used for a fireplace or a fire pit. That’s the law.

• Good show: ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was on at The Globe and it was a great version of a classic. One of the problems of producing a classic show is that most people know how it is supposed to go, so your margin of error is quite small. Considering how small The Globe’s stage is, they did a lovely job of ensuring the actors were not bumping into each other. Don’t laugh. That is always a fear of every director.

On the road with a show at The Winnipeg Fringe Festival
 • Bizarre: In 2005, I was performing in Winnipeg at The Fringe Festival. I was on stage as the audience filed in as part of the pre show, warm up. I was in costume and more importantly, in character. A woman came onto the stage and asked me if I could speak quickly during the show as she had a tight schedule and didn’t want to miss another show, after mine, that was down the street. How many times have I written, I can’t make this stuff up.

• Be safe out there: Every week, one of our readers with a Hotmail or Yahoo account is being hacked. What happens is, I get an email from one of those accounts and there is a link attached that invites me to click. There is seldom a message attached and usually it doesn’t feel right. One of my friends had her account hacked and the first suspicion was that the email was signed with her first and last name. Normally, she only signs off using her first name. Do not open the link! Delete the email and phone the account holder to let them know what is happening. Do not email as often that email will go right back to the hacker.

• Bumper sticker: I have not seen this one for a long time: ‘If I am okay and you are okay, then why did you just lock your car door?’

• Tired snowmen: The lads and a few lassies, who clear snow for a living, are tired beyond reason this spring. March is usually the month they rest their bodies before the spring rush of landscape work. This winter, they have been going nonstop and still are. Our readers who are in the snow business have told me they have had very few days off and are still falling behind.

• Drunks are intuitive: This drunk called me last week. He got my number from a friend of a friend who said I knew something about not drinking. We talked. He refused my request to take him to the detox center. He told me point blank “you are an asshole”. I told him, as he didn’t know me, that was just a lucky guess on his part. He didn’t’ get the humour. “Most people need to know me for a few weeks before they reach that conclusion”.

Tulips from the greenhouse
• It’s spring indoors: Maureen took this photo of a bouquet of white, spring tulips we have in a vase, on our kitchen table, this week. We can’t wait, but we must, for our own tulip garden to begin blooming.

• So much better: It has been thirteen years since anyone was allowed to smoke in a restaurant or a public place. This is a good example where a law protected the many from the few. The law has even protected the few from themselves. Many smokers have quit because they were in their own words, “tired of being a social pariah.” I have compassion for people who share this addiction. I quit in ’89 and I wrote a letter to myself that I posted for two years on our fridge. The number one reason I wanted to quit was “I am tired of being a slave to my addiction.” Do you know the fear a smoker faces when they are booked on a no smoking flight of four hours or when they attend a three hour seminar and find out there are no smoking breaks? It is dreadful. I wanted out from that fear, that tyranny an addiction imposes.

• ‘Madmen’ returns: Sunday, April 7th is the return of the hit series and intense drama, ‘Madmen’. It is on Channel 43 of The Access Network. This episode will be a two hour, season opener. For those of you who love ‘Downton Abbey’, you might find this one enjoyable.

• Reality television stinks: I am getting so tired of reality television. Pawn shops, truck drivers, tow truck drivers, obnoxious children, obnoxious adults, people who hoard, people who smoke crystal meth, people who are addicted to tattoos, university kids who drink too much, men who kill alligators, obnoxious chefs and the list goes on and on. These shows are dominating the airwaves for one reason and that is they are cheap to produce compared to dramas. The race to the bottom continues. Stay tuned to watch my new reality show, ‘Naked Gardeners’. Anyone want to be on it? Anyone?

• Revenge is sweet: Our middle son was complaining to me that his cat misbehaves and does not listen. I could not resist the opportunity. “Now you know how your mother and I felt all these years”. He failed to see the humour.

'Morden Belle' rose-a real beauty
 • Garden Tip: On Thursday, March 28th at 7:30 p.m., over at The Neil Balkwill Center, Darcy Schenk will be speaking. Darcy has been a long time employee of The Wascana Center Authority and he knows his trees, which is the topic of his talk. The talk is hosted by The Regina Horticultural Society. The talk is free for members and a small charge for non members. A word to the wise: Arrive early as the seats fill up quickly.

• Home Show: The annual Home Show at The Exhibition Grounds is on this weekend. I took it in as I do most years and there was very little to do with gardening for the visitor. There were no greenhouse or garden center booths, just a few landscapers and one sod grower exhibiting. I have heard several complaints that DJ Paving has not had their incredible display set up for the past two years. Talking with Don over at DJ, he is no longer participating as he did not enjoy working with the producers of the show. It is the show’s loss as Don put on a great display of flowers, bricks and moving water.

• La Bodega: This local bistro on Albert Street is offering up a tasting menu supper for thirty-five bucks. I read the menu and it sounds as if it would be a wonderful, culinary adventure. Reservations are important.

• Victorian Tea: Maureen has worked as a volunteer for several years now at The Victorian Teas held at Government House. I have attended many times and the functions are a fun time. The tea is affordable because of the volunteers who donate their time to the event. Every tea, there is always someone who insists they don’t want tea, they want coffee, which is not served. What is it that some people don’t understand when they attend a function with the name ‘Victorian Tea’ as the title? The sign out front does not read ‘Tim Horton’s’. They don’t serve French fries, either.

Eating Chinese food in Vancouver
• Cross cultural borders: When the boys were young, we were in Vancouver, checking out Chinatown. I told the boys that we were going to be on a great adventure, exploring the shops and tasting the foods they offered. As we were about to enter a restaurant that is renowned for their pot stickers, a Chinese mom and dad were trying to calm down their five year old. He was screaming at the top of his lungs that he did not want pot stickers for lunch, “I want to go to McDonald’s! I want to go to McDonald’s!”

• Thanks for reading....Rod McDonald in six feet of snow...Regina

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Garden Report #123

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

'Dexter Jackson' apple-a Saskatchewan introduction
• Writers write: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you’. The basic love poem has been penned for Valentine’s Day for a century or two. Sugar is sweet, no argument here. It is also addictive, highly addictive. The addiction, courtesy of ‘Big Sugar’, Pepsi, Coke and The Seven Eleven Corporation, has moved from adults to youth, to children to young children.

I was driving from the garden center out to a landscape job on a summer morning. It was a little before eight a.m. The sun was shining brightly and no wind. The start to a beautiful July day. As I approached the intersection of 13th and Pasqua, walking down Pasqua Street was a family of three. Mom, Dad and a three year old. Each of them had, cradled into their bodies, ‘Double Big Gulps’. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is a plastic cup filled with two litres or sixty-four ounces of soda pop. That translates into approximately 75 teaspoons of sugar for each person, including the child, to start their morning off. Slurp, slurp.

Feed a child a morphine pill or give him a cigarette to smoke and you are facing criminal charges. Rightly so. The bottom line is that sugar companies, along with the pop companies and retailers such as Seven Eleven, have engaged in actions to ensure there is an entire generation hooked on their product. Addiction equals profit, at least for them. For the population, it equals a bankrupted health system, diabetes, obesity, shortened attention spans, uncompleted educations and that is the short list.

I am not opposed to sugar in a treat form. I do love my ice cream, but I also try to limit it to the now and again, not the everyday. When we were kids, a coke was seven ounces and a king sized coke was ten ounces. The thought of a 32, 48 or a 64 ounce coke would have been considered preposterous. But that ship sailed many years ago.

I am fully aware that I am preaching, perhaps to the converted, but the damned alarm bell has been ringing for years and very little has been done. New York City has been trying to get a law enacted to limit the drink size to sixteen ounces and that should only be the first in a series of shots fired at ‘Big Sugar’. As with the tobacco companies, expect the sugar companies to fight back and not always in a fair manner.

• Readers write:

• Anita Hall asked this question. “Were you being funny when you asked about changing your underwear every time you showered?” Rod’s note: If you laughed, it was a joke. If you wrote a ten page thesis on the rules of underwear changing, then I was being serious. Your choice.

• Jackie Arnason offers this ruling on the underwear debate. “Rod - you asked about re-using your gotch. I am probably old enough to be your mother so here is my take - you are allowed to re-use the gotch, once - but you must turn it inside out. Hope this helps to reduce your laundry."

• Reader Janice Cerato is a mother, a grandmother and a Registered Nurse. She believes she is fully qualified to pass an official ruling on the frequency of underwear changes. “Once a day is adequate, regardless of how many showers are taken."

Pascal, Tina and Sebastian- fans of TGR!
• Marcus Fernando was surprised by #122. “How is it that, in all the time we've known each other, I never knew you were a trumpet man? Come to think of it, did you know that I am a trumpet man? Why have we never talked trumpet before? How come we've never compared trumpet heroes (Louis Armstrong and Herb Alpert, in my case)? Most importantly: why have we never tried to crash through some chords together? Next, you'll be telling me you're a puppeteer as well!”

• Jodi Sadowsky responded “my sister thinks that The Naked Bean is first rate as well.”

• Roberta Nichol has this to say about people who pass through our lives. “I truly believe that each person we meet comes into our lives for a reason. They may turn out to be our best friends, or just a passerby. But in my mind, there are no coincidences, and each of them are supposed to be there. Maybe to make us think. Maybe to make us stronger, or maybe to make us more patient or compassionate. Who knows? Sometimes, we may never know what that reason is.”

*It is always enjoyable to receive an email from Chris Dodd. “As usual, The Garden Report is a very enjoyable way to start Sunday morning. I want to mention, I recommend you try Flip Eatery’s Cuban pulled pork sandwich.”

• Don Volpel had this comment. “Good morning Rod. I normally do not respond to comments made by others, but this time I had to. I too, attended the funeral of this lady who was a friend. The eulogy by her husband touched me as well. I wish to point out that as we age the appreciation of life becomes more inherent. This man's wife had suffered for a very lengthy time and had time to prepare herself to meet the God of her understanding. His eulogy brought memories back that I will hold on to and remember forever, especially when I was thinking of my life with my spouse and how we really don't communicate how we feel about them enough. I am now going to make a point of doing that more often. Thank-you Rod for expressing this in your newsletter.”

• Terena Murphy Bannerman has read The Garden Report in many different locales. “Congratulations on your milestones; surely the popularity of The Garden Report confirms that you have a winning format; we read (wherever we happen to be in the world) to have a trip home. Over the years, I have been in rural France, a coastal village in Ireland, a B&B in Italy, a hostel in Bavaria, a former royal palace in Zanzibar and a tented game reserve in Tanzania when I logged on for a slice of home. I treasure the feeling of connection you give us, it's like a cosy visit with an old friend. And when I am reading in my home here in Lumsden, I enjoy the feeling of a shared conversation with the group. Thank you.”

• Georgia Hearn was full of compliments this week. “Loved, loved, loved, this issue. So funny in spots. Keep it up.”

• Heather Lowe is up late on a Saturday night. “It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m still up, reading The Garden Report. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for a good read. Now I’m off to bed.”

• June Blau has a different take. “Many thanks again for a great Sunday read! In response to your volunteers as weeds: sadly, it applies beyond the plant world. Is this too cynical?”

• Neil Slater responds to the toque as religious headwear assertion. “As for your writing this week, my wife agrees that hockey toques are a religious item of apparel, and I would add to that caps with automotive logos. The passion with which people (usually males) will argue the merits of a particular make of vehicle can be amusing. Or tedious...”

'Felix Leclerc' rose
 • New column: I have often mentioned ‘The Gardener’ magazine which is published in Saskatoon. It is the finest publication for gardeners both new and established. The people who run the magazine have long been fans of The Garden Report. I am now writing a regular column for their publication, titled ‘The Anecdotal Gardener’. The magazine is published four times a year and is available on newsstands and by subscription. This issue, there is a great article on hardy roses by reader William Hyrcan.

• Parents’ pride: I have seen and no doubt you have as well, parents who brag of their children’s’ accomplishments, as if this proves they were superior parents. Children’s accomplishments, while something to be proud of for any parent, belong to the child who worked for them. I have seen kids who accomplished much in life who came from terrible homes as well as the opposite. There are kids who have had every opportunity to excel and insisted on mediocrity as their choice. One of my favourite stories regarding parenting and kids achieving came from Wayne Gretzky’s father, Walter. Walter was asked by a reporter if he was proud of Wayne and Walter growled “I am proud of all my children!” Not all kids grow up to be Wayne Gretzky, but all kids grow up.

The good sleepers club at work!
• Grampa’s report: The only two things that Rayanna and I share so far is, both of us enjoy our meals and both of us love our naps. Good eaters and good sleepers, that is our claim to fame right now.

• Liver Lovers Club: Oh stop your complaining. You don’t have to join us. For the truly converted, we will be meeting on Thursday, April 4th at 11:30 a.m. The venue is The City Hall Cafeteria. Be early as the line up is very long! The City Hall Cafeteria will be shutting down for renovations for ten months so we will be meeting elsewhere after that.

• Once again: I still maintain that middle age is meeting a pretty lady, walking her dog, and being more interested in the dog than her. “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”

• The spirituality of children: Ask any small child to draw a picture of God and they will carry out the task immediately. Ask any adult and they will respond that it cannot be done. I suspect the reason us adults cannot draw God is that we have forgotten what he/she looks like whereas small children remember.

• Best tomato soup: Better than Campbell’s, Aylmer’s or Heinz, the tomato soup I made last week was wonderful. There appears to be a lot of vine ripened tomatoes on sale recently, so I took advantage and bought several. I cut nine of them into quarters and poached them in a quarter cup of water. I then cooked them down for an hour, mashing them with a potato masher. I added in a teaspoon of fresh ground rosemary and a teaspoon of ground coriander seed, a half teaspoon of salt and pepper and two cloves of smashed garlic. I let that simmer for another hour with the lid off to reduce it slightly. The more you reduce tomatoes, the more intense the taste. I added in a tablespoon of butter and a cup and a quarter of whole milk. Then I took a fine strainer and poured everything through to remove the pulp and seeds. It was ready to serve once I brought it back up to a warmer temperature. So much better than canned and I know what is in it. So easy to make.

• Living life dangerously: Cooking bacon, in the nude.

• Living life ridiculously dangerously: Asking your wife if she has gained weight when she is cleaning the family shot gun. (Okay, in order for that joke to work, you have to assume that wives clean shot guns. In some homes, perhaps, that is possible. “Honey. Is my shot gun clean? I want to go duck hunting with the guys and I don’t want them noticing that it is still dirty from last week.” Okay, okay. This one needs more work. Stay tuned for next week, when the drugs should have worn off.)

• Do I have this one right: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will be gone for the rest of the week.

Billy and me planting trees
• Some wonderful news: Some of you know Billy Patterson. He worked for me part time in 2011 and fulltime last year. He will be carrying on his apprenticeship with my mentor, Dieter Martin in Langham, Saskatchewan, this year. There is no better place for a young person to learn the horticultural trade than at Dieter’s greenhouse.

• ‘Dexter Jackson’ Apple: This apple is a Saskatchewan introduction. It ripens early and can be eaten right off the tree.

'Black Scallop' ajuga
• ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga: Attached is a photo of 'Black Scallop' Ajuga. Excellent accent plant in patio pots or for the shady part of the garden. Fast growing, with large glossy dark foliage. Great display when planted en masse. Photo and info courtesy of Brian Heembrock at Aubin Nurseries Ltd. in Carman, Manitoba.

• Spring runoff: If we have a long, slow arrival to our spring, flooding will be minimized. If spring thaw arrives with a vengeance, pack your bags Martha and move to higher ground. I write this with a bit of experience, having lived through the floods of ’69, ’71, ’73 and 2011. Our house is about two hundred feet, give or take, from Wascana Creek and Lake. In 1973, as the water passed underneath The Albert Street Bridge, the roar was so loud that you had to shout to be heard. As an aside, we are closing in on the record snowfall of ‘54/’55.

Tulips cannot handle flood waters
• Oh, oh: If we have problems with run off this spring and the water remains in my back garden, which is quite flat, my tulips could be flooded out. I planted somewhere between a thousand and fifteen hundred last fall, my memory fails me, and nothing destroys fall bulbs more than wet soil. This is another reason for me to have my pump out and working hard in a few weeks time. There is always an element of risk to gardening, that is the challenge.

• The light of day: It is now light at seven a.m. and daytime sticks around ‘til after seven p.m. How wonderful the return of the longer days. It gives everyone a lift.

• Garden Tip: If you have houseplants that have not been fertilized for awhile, March is a good month to start your feeding program again. My own favourite fertilizer is 10 30 20 or 15 30 15. You can also use 20 20 20 and if you are starting seedlings right now, a starter fertilizer called 10 52 10 is a good one to feed the new sprouts with.

• An Irish kiss: Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the day in North America when all pretend to be Irish. Green, the natural colour of this province and Rider fans everywhere, is worn across the land. Beer is drank and those who cannot tolerate Guinness, will try once again to see if it tastes better this time. Irish pubs will be packed to the rafters and tomorrow, there will be many celebrants repeating the Irish mantra of “Oh God. Please, Please. If you make my head quit throbbing, I promise never to do this again.”

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, and if you are in need of design help for your yard, call Heather Lowe or Ingrid Thiessen for a booking. Both are already booked well in advance but best to get your name on the list or soon, it will be next year country. Considering how much money a gardener will spend on their yard over the years, the fee spent on design help is a truly an investment.

• A great place: I stopped in this week to visit with the boys at Dutch Cycle. I haven’t been there for some time and a visit was overdue. How do you reinvent the bicycle? What is old is new again, that is the answer. Big fat tires are the rage this year. You read it here. Yep, those tires we grew up with in the 1950s are back in style. The one benefit of big fat tires versus the skinny ones is that the big ones are much more comfortable to ride over the bumps and ruts.

• Garden Tip: All gardens evolve, change and grow, no pun intended. Why I remind people of this basic premise is that there are those amongst us who believe that once a yard has been planted, the task is finished. A tree grows big and tall. It casts shade. The potentilla that flourished for several years now languish in the shade cast by that tree. It is time to evaluate the landscape and see what stays and what goes. Heinz Wiffel, my friend over at Wascana Greenhouses said it best: “A landscape must be changed every eight years to keep it current.”

• Out and about: Saturday afternoon was my day to travel around town, shop a bit and socialize. I know, I know. What happened to the bar hopping, party animal that we used to be? Time, man, time, is the answer. I ran into Jack Severson, one of our local artists and we had a visit. Jack is riding his bike all the time, skating and walking everywhere. He turns sixty-five this summer and looks great, as if he might be fifty. Something to be said for keeping fit. I also ran into readers Michelle and Ken McCaw who are always a treat to have a chat with. Over at The Italian Star, me coming out and they going in, were Aleese and Duncan Fisher II. There are three Duncan Fishers in town and I am related to all three. I bet you didn’t know that. Duncan II and I are connected because his grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister, though married to other people. Our family might be hard working farm folk, but we are not inbred, in case you were wondering. Duncan II and I were laughing, that for being cousins, we do not look anything alike. Duncan suggested that might be a good thing. I did not clarify who it was a good thing for, lest my feelings be hurt.

I planted this one in October-here's hoping!
 • Three ideas: I get people approaching me, from time to time, bouncing business ideas off of me. Here are three suggestions for what Regina needs in our shopping community. We need A) A high end spice shop where you can purchase the good stuff. Call it ‘The Spice Box’. They could sell fresh herbs as well. B) A shop that makes and sells great soups. The soup can be to go or to sit in and enjoy with a slice of good bread. In Vancouver, two of these are named ‘The Stock Market’ and the other ‘The Soup Kitchen’. C) A bake shop dedicated to first rate pies. Again, eat in or take out. Sharon Wallace bakes the finest of pies but they are only available at The Farmers’ Market. How about a sit down place where you can order a bit of tea along with a slice and then take a whole one home. We used to have ‘The Little Pie Shop’ but it is long gone. There is a diner in Hope, B.C. called ‘Home Restaurant’. They serve great meals and slices of pie. They also pack up entire pies, charging a good price, for people who want one to take home. I asked what their best seller was and they told me lemon meringue. I bought one and it was worth every penny, if not every calorie.

• We want to buy: Rayanna is coming to visit us over Easter and we have a crib and a bassinette but we need to buy a folding, change table. Do you have one tucked away in your basement that you are not using? Keep in mind, when you quote us a price, that we come from an excellent line of Scottish people, who don’t like to pay too much. ‘A fool and his money are soon parted, but a Scot’s man and his nickel seldom are.’

• Thank you for reading…Rod in ‘yeah, yeah, this is old news, lotsa snow’, Regina

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Garden Report #122

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

'Morden Blush' rose
• Writers write: I took in a friend’s funeral on Tuesday. As I get older, I attend more and more funerals. It goes with the territory. She was a fine lady, very kind to me many years ago, when I needed some kindness. Her husband spoke at the funeral, an eulogy to his wife as she lie in her coffin. He said many things but one sentence stayed with me all week: He said “thank you for making me a better man”.

When I was a young adult, I would have found that an odd statement, as I believed that no other person could make us be anything other than what we wanted to be. Not true. There are special people in our lives, sometimes they provide us with guidance, other times with pain, but the one thing they share in common is that they do change our lives. Perhaps, we are willing to change and don’t even know it. I don’t know the answer. The older I get, the fewer answers I have.

There are people in our lives, perhaps a partner or a friend or a co worker, and they do make us better. Some are cheerleaders, others are butt kickers. Some inspire, some teach, some are just there. Regardless, we do become better people and thank God, we do.

As to a husband speaking at the funeral of his wife or a son at his father’s service, I admire them. I could never do it. In that situation, I would remain surprisingly mute. My late sponsor, John Wolkowski, when he got up in age, said to me “I want you to write my eulogy, when the time comes. You’re a good writer. But don’t read it. I don’t want you up at the front, blubbering away for half an hour.” I laughed. He knew me, only too well. When the time came, I wrote what he asked of me. I have written several eulogies and delivered none. If I tried, it would take two weeks for me to get the words out. It is best if I remain in the congregation.

• Readers write:

• Heather Lowe adds her thoughts to last week’s ‘Writers write’. “John Boxall, who was killed at Arcola and Park, was the husband of Rosemarie who has cut my hair since we moved to Regina in 1973. Rosemarie owns Apollo Beauty Salon on 13th, next door to the barber shop which is next door to The Mercury Cafe. John was doing a few deliveries for the courier service he worked for, as well as delivering bill payments on behalf of Apollo. I went to the funeral last Monday. Of course it was packed. I’m sure there are many who agree with you and your sentiments as to how the two truck thieves (and eventual murderers) will be dealt with. I like that you wrote about it.”

• Jodi Sadowsky responds to ‘Writers write’ . “Did you know the gentleman that was hit on Arcola? I drive by there every day on my way to and from work. I think of him sometimes. It is very sad and unfortunate.”

• Roberta Nichol had this to say about the tragic death at Arcola and Park. “As for your 'Writers write': I did see that awful accident on the news, absolutely tragic. There are times, I feel like you do, that these offenders need to be put somewhere, all together. We don't need that kind of idiocy. I still do have a lot of compassion though, regarding the shaky start to life that many of these young people have had, but on the other hand, once we become adults, by then, it should have sunk in that life is about choices. Everything we do is about choices.”

• Jackie Arnason is upset with prison sentences, for some offenders. “Nice to have you back! Your suggestion that the two who ran the red light and killed the gentleman should be banished to an island - I have one in mind - Ellsmere - north east, in the arctic - nothing there but ice and snow. I have lost all compassion for these types and I fear I have lost some certainty that the justice system is just.”

• This is the first time Aubrey Burlock has written in. Hopefully, he shares with us again. “Ditto on your opening story comments, Rod. Thank you.”

• Jan Pederson lives in Winnipeg and writes “I loved your play on punctuation with the Pardon/Siberia story in this weekend’s Garden Report.”

• Marsha Kennedy had a few favourite parts of #121. “Thank you for a very enjoyable Garden Report this morning, Rod. I loved the way you delivered your Writing Tips, Words Matter and Grammar Matters lessons. They were all wrapped up in great little stories.”

• Leah Biegler writes in to say that pulled pork is wonderful, cooked at home. Here is her take on it. “No need to go looking for pulled pork. Place pork roast in slow cooker that is well sprayed with Pam. (I like a centre cut with very little fat). Combine two cups of salsa with 1.5 cups brown sugar and pour over roast. Cook on low all day. Pull meat apart and serve with great bread or buns. (Hint: adjust preferred level of spiciness with mild to hot salsa).”

• Susan Rollins sent along a good vibe. “I appreciate all the gardening advise you have to offer.”

• Marcus Fernando and his lovely wife Tina, lead an exciting life, globetrotting with professional theater. Here is an update on what they are doing in England this spring. “We're busy here: just about to open ‘Lady Chatterley's Lover’ and then begin rehearsals for ‘Romeo and Juliet’. After that, Tina is going to be acting in an Oscar Wilde production and I shall stay home and look after our little boys.”

'Northern Dazzle' lily
• Milestones: Two to mention. On Wednesday of this week, The Garden Report-Internet Edition crossed the thirty thousand reader mark since it began publication in the www. The second milestone, I celebrated quietly. It occurred on the 26th of February. Forty years ago that day in 1973 was my first day of living on the corner of Regina Avenue and Angus Street. I was twenty-one, still dating my high school sweetheart and my beard, what there was of it, was a dark red/brown in colour, no grey or silver. I had absolutely no idea where life would lead me or how it might turn out. Kids? Surely you must be joking! RRSPs? Give me a break. If you had told me that I would be residing on this corner (two different houses) when I was sixty-one, I would have stared at you, wondering if you had swallowed some peyote mushrooms. For those who yearn for a long ago era, my mortgage payment was $150 a month, including taxes.

• A touch of Tommy: Tommy Toddington was a trumpet player, a ‘horn man’. When the legendary Al Hirt was the headliner at The Grandstand Show for The Regina Exhibition in the summer of 1968, Tommy was playing in the back up stage band. After the first rehearsal, Al Hirt asked the director “who is that trumpet player?” He was that impressed. Tommy had one of the sweetest tones of any trumpet player, never harsh, never sharp. Tommy was one of my two trumpet teachers, the other one being John Harding. Why I bring this up is that I ran into Tommy’s daughter while out grocery shopping. She told me that her mom is ninety, lives in a seniors’ home but is still going strong. Tommy passed away about a dozen years ago and for those in attendance at the funeral, Ed Lewis, the renowned trumpeter, organized a quartet of ‘horn men’ to play. It was not only a tribute to Tommy as a musician, it was one of the greatest pieces of music ever played in this city.

• A touch of nostalgia: When The Shrine Circus would come to the old, Regina Exhibition Stadium, most of the children in attendance would fantasize that they were the Lion Tamer, The Ring Master or perhaps the high wire trapeze artist. Not me. I have written before, I was different, even as a child. I would fantasize that I was the lead trumpet player in the pit band. The circus always had the best of musicians playing as the performers entered, creating the suspense, the danger of the moment. They were loud. They had to fill the air of a four thousand seat hockey barn. No flutes or harps were allowed. When the lions would emerge from their cages, the lead trumpet player would stand up and let his horn rip. He was the man, at least the man of the moment, for me. I would fantasize that one day I would run away, join the circus and be that trumpet player. The one who played such thrilling notes that told the audience to move forward in their seats.

Daylilies in our garden
 • Garden Tip: Think long and hard before planting a spruce tree in the front yard of any city residence. Spruce trees start as loveable five foot ‘puppies’ but they grow. Not just to ten or twenty feet. Take a walk behind The Legislative Buildings, the south side, and see how tall a spruce can grow in our area. Try sixty to eighty feet! Most city lots cannot handle a mature spruce tree in their front yard. The tree will dominate the house, creating a dark zone. Some residents have pruned the skirt of their spruce up to eight foot mark, so that they can at least walk underneath it. Nothing looks worse than a raised skirt on a spruce.

• I need a ruling: Dialysis patients itch from time to time. It has to do with the phosphorus levels. My itch has been quite severe for the last month. I shower two or three times a day and that provides some relief. That is the situation, here is the question: My mother taught me to shower every morning and then put on clean underwear. No doubt, your mother taught you the same thing. If you shower a second or a third time, do you have to change your underwear each time or are you exempt if the gotch were clean in the morning. The reason I am asking is that my mom passed away two years ago and I need a ruling as my laundry is building up to record high levels. Only older mothers are allowed to respond.

• Garden Tip: Before you choose a tree for your yard, best to check out its growth habits in your local area. Going to the internet for information or library gardening books can lead any gardener in the wrong direction. A linden tree grows much, much differently along the river banks of Winnipeg than it does in Regina. Talking to someone in Winnipeg about their linden tree would give you the wrong information. This is why local information is always so important for gardeners. I tire of people telling me how a plant grows based upon an internet article. I challenge them: “Show me the yard where it grows the way you described, here in Regina.”

• Garden Tip: Keep in mind, when discussing weeds, that the proper definition of a weed is: An unwanted plant. There are gardeners who grow dandelions as a salad crop. Weed? Not to them. My neighbour has a seedling green ash that germinated on its own. It is in a bad location for the both of us. When it matures, it will block the last vestige of sun that enters our two gardens. Several years ago, the same yard had another volunteer tree that caused both of us problems and we had to pay several hundred dollars to have it removed. Not all plants are wanted. Not all are beneficial to your garden or your home. Best to remove volunteers before they become difficult. If you lift out volunteer trees when they are young, you can plant them in an area better suited to their growth habits.

A crop of young plants growing in the greenhouse
• Garden Tip: Best to plan your spring pruning now. If you are going to do it yourself or if you are hiring someone, get ready now. Why I mention this is, spring will be upon us quicker than we can fathom. For the homeowner, now is the time to purchase a good pair of hand pruners, loping pruners (long handled) and a good quality pruning saw. If you already own pruning tools, have them sharpened. I take mine over to The Sharpening Service at Angus and 3rd. Also, it is a good idea to always disinfect your pruning tools when working with trees infected with prunus knot or fireblight. Dip your tools into a 10% bleach solution, 70% alcohol solution or if you have too much money, a twenty year old bottle of Scotch will also be quite effective.

• Not so good: When I visit the local hospitals and sadly, that has become too frequent for my enjoyment, I park two blocks away. Two reasons. First, I am a Scot and I refuse to pay a dollar for every half hour of parking. Second and of more importance, it forces me to get a touch of exercise. This week, I parked by the liquor store on Dewdney and the Lewvan, a short walk to The Pasqua. As I returned to my car, there were three people walking along the sidewalk. A young man, perhaps nineteen, had two bottles of liquor in his possession. Accompanying him was a girl of seventeen and another girl, around fourteen years of age. They were chatting excitedly, about getting drunk. You just know that that afternoon was not going to end well.

• Truth in advertising: There is a show coming to town called ‘What Women Really Want’. Lots of posters and billboards. Of course, it is a show skewed to sell products and services to women, nothing more than that. Now, if there were a truth in advertising law and this show could really, really tell people what women want, don’t you think there would be a line up of men from Saskatoon to Weyburn, demanding to be let in?

• Martha Wainwright: We took in this most interesting of concerts last Sunday night at our new, local, hot spot, The Artesian on 13th. This is not a review, just a commentary. I don’t think I have ever seen so many readers of The Garden Report in one spot, at one time. It was a conference, a reunion and a really good time. The lady definitely has the pipes. She finished the night with her version of ‘Stormy Weather’, the song made famous by Lena Horne and Billy Holliday. It was a show stopper and crowd pleaser. That song has some really, solid roots. It was first performed in 1933 at The Cotton Club in Harlem. I’m just a little fountain of ‘Trivia Pursuit’ answers today. Want another piece of trivia? Andrew Lloyd Webber, the famous Broadway musical producer, said that ‘My Fair Lady’ was the best musical ever written. “Every song was a hit.” Now that is a compliment. After writing about ‘My Fair Lady’, I can’t get ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’ to quit playing inside my noggin.

• Show tunes: One of my all time favourite show tunes (honest, I really am straight) is from ‘Chicago’. It is ‘When You Are Good to Momma’. Now, try getting that song out of your head. Here’s another one that will stay inside your brain for about two weeks after singing it, ‘Goodnight Irene, Goodnight’. Go ahead, I dare you to try just one chorus. As a six year old boy in The Church of Christ, just off of Dewdney Avenue on Retallack Street, my all time favourite was ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. Why? Because you got to march to it. Makes sense if you are a six year old boy who is very skilled at marching and singing at the same time.

• Makes sense to me: Driving along with John C. one day, he cracked “I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that I have discovered the meaning of life. The not so good news is that no one cares and everyone wants me to shut up.”

• A tough eulogy: There is a story that no doubt happened somewhere at sometime. It is told this way. A man had lived a hard life. Mean, bitter, combative. No one in the town had anything good to say about him. He died. There was a funeral but no one would go to the front to offer up a prayer, an eulogy or even a Bible reading. Finally, one fellow who was known for his diplomacy, made his way to the pulpit and offered “I understand that his brother was worse.”

• The Naked Bean: This is another one of many cappuccino shops that have opened their doors in our city. It also serves the best latte/cappuccino I have had in Regina. Lots of bite. CJ Katz loves this place and suggested I give it a try. It is a little difficult to access unless you are coming north on Broad Street. If you are heading south on Broad, it gets convoluted. It is located across the street from The CNIB and CBC. The young man waiting on me was very polite and when I asked where their goodies were made, he told me, with pride, that they were baked on site.

'Emerald Spire' Flowering Crab
• Beware of the grandmother: How bad can it be, you ask? She has a book. A grandmother’s brag book, filled with a hundred photos. If we have no visitors for a day or two, she gets antsy. I will be watching the hockey game, minding my own business and she will plunk herself down beside me. The book is opened and she begins the show and tell story of how wonderful this child is. “I know, I know” says I, but it doesn’t stop. “Aren’t those the most adorable fingers you have ever seen?” she asks.

• Take your medication, please: One morning, I arrived at the garden center. I glanced at the phone to see who had called. One number showed up twenty-two times in the last ninety minutes. I called back right away. It must be really important to call twenty-two times in ninety minutes, right? What did the lady want? “Do you sell corn seed?” I have written this before, I can’t make this stuff up.

• Pizza Pizza: Let me begin with the conclusion. Don’t go there. On Thursday, a coupon arrived in our mailbox. We are normally a fan of The Copper Kettle or sometimes Houston on Hill for a takeout pizza. The coupon tempted us as the price was half of what we normally pay. We gave into that temptation and even at half price, it was not worth it. Where do I begin? Let it suffice to write there was not much difference in flavour between the cardboard box and the pizza. I always prefer to include one positive note. Here it is: The photo on the coupon was lovely.

• A hat by another name: The Sikhs wear turbans, Canadians wear toques. Some point out that the headdress worn by a Sikh is for religious reasons. True, but talk to a hockey fan wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf toque. Now that is a true believer.

Martagon lily in our garden
• Farmers’ Market: The spring version has been open for two Saturdays now, in The Cathedral Village Community Center. I have to report some very unwanted news. The fine folks at Linda’s Pickles are retiring. They are selling off what they have left and there are no dills available. I checked out Rocky Orchards as they jar up a decent dill and they are sold out ‘til next fall. Laurel was back with her incredible poppy seed strudel. It is the best in town, second to none. Free range eggs and greenhouse tomatoes were for sale.

Thank you for reading...Rod McDonald in ‘it’s still winter’ Regina

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Garden Report #121

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013-2013

'After Eight' Oriental lily
 • Readers write: A man leaves his home. He has worked for forty-five years and now he is enjoying his retirement. He has a wife, grown children, grand children, cousins, friends. He pays his taxes, clears his walk and cuts his grass. He is a ‘regular Joe’. He approaches the intersection of Park and Arcola, the same intersection that you and I have used on many occasions. That is where life becomes unfair, most unfair.

A stolen half ton truck that was driving erratically through the east side of downtown, speeds down Arcola. They are going fast, very fast. Two of them. They don’t care. It is nothing more than a game to them. They run a red light. In a perfect world, they would be dead and the other fellow would walk away. It’s not a perfect world. His body is still. There is nothing anyone can do. The truck thieves bolt from their wreck. They can run. They can’t hide. They are apprehended. A family is devastated beyond belief. They are left wondering “why?” None of us have an answer for them.

The two responsible will be charged. They will explain, through their lawyers, that they are sorry, that they are perhaps from bad homes or they struggle with addictions. They will get a prison sentence of four or five years. Maybe a little more or a little less. It’s not fair. There are those amongst us who have made choices. They have indicated by their actions that they do not respect others. They believe they have the right to run amok. There is no difference between a speeding truck running a red light and firing a gun into a crowd. You have to know, it will not end well. There should be an island. A place that we can place these people. They can live out their lives there. They can show disrespect for each other. I don’t care. I have lost my compassion. At least for them.

• Readers write:

• Cheryl Ann Smith writes from England. She sends along nice vibes. “I'm surprised you don't take more breaks. Writing a thoughtful, humorous, informative blog every week would test the creative powers of anyone. Your last entry was very interesting to me. Humour is not one of my gifts - I love to laugh, and I come out with funny quips on occasion, but the art of writing and presenting humorous pieces is entirely foreign to me. I had never considered what goes into it - the fine balances - the possible repercussions etc. My favorite form of humor is what you present: humor that comes from everyday life, from the human condition, humor that is fun and healing, not twisted and destructive. I have to say, I learn a lot from you.”

• Marsha Kennedy sent this bit along. “As always...I loved sitting with my tea and reading your Garden Report. I had no idea that there were hydrangeas that were okay to winter here. What a spectacular plant!”

Canna 'Australia' growing on Rob's deck
• Rob Van Zanten is bullish on this canna lily. “Good morning Rod. Really enjoyed The Garden Report this morning. Canna ‘Australia’ is a big, beautiful variety that grows up to 6' here on the coast. The dark, almost black foliage is complimented by deep orange blooms. Ideal in containers mixed with trailing annuals. The photo attached is on our back deck and looked great throughout the summer. Jean won't plant any other variety and she has many choices.”

• Iris Lord responded to my request for good places for a pulled pork sandwich. “Bocado’s pulled pork is the best – served on a cheese bun. Mmmmmm!” Rods note: I tried this sandwich on Friday and it was good. So were the accompanying fries. The waiter said the clubhouse was his own favourite.

• Lona Haynee also spotted a pulled pork that looked good. “You asked about a pulled pork sandwich on decent bread. I can tell you that Eastside Mario’s has one on chiabata bread ( that’s bread not bun). It looks like a small loaf cut in half lengthwise. I can’t tell you if it’s good or not, but I can tell you it is there and new to the menu.”

• Well wishes from Susan Rollins who gardens in The Qu’Appelle Valley. “Happy to hear you are taking a well deserved break. Keep up the good work.”

'Northern Delight' lily
• When I preach, I suffer the consequences. My friend and reader, Claude Schroder, is the priest at St. Mary’s Anglican on 15th. “I read your Garden Report/sermon every Sunday, and I thought I would pass on mine from this morning to you, as one preacher to another.”

• Chris and Karen Pasterfield are suffering this terrible winter, from their Hawaiian enclave. Karen writes “Enjoy The Garden Report, keeps us close to home. Sure hope most of the snow is gone by the time we get home.”

• Susan Grieg lives in New Westminster, B.C. She writes “I thoroughly enjoy your blog and am very happy to be subscribed. Not that I want to rub it in, but I've got crocuses up all over my flower beds and lawn.”

• Sherrie Tutt loves her begonias. “Hi Rod: Thanks for the begonia-growing tips. Mine were already starting to grow when I planted them yesterday. I have always been leery about giving them much sunshine but with your wise words, I will.”

• Cheryl Geiger Paul gifted me some fresh, homegrown basil last winter. I asked Cheryl if she is growing some this year. It might have been a hint. She responds: “Hi Rod. My grow op is not happening this winter. I just didn't get around to starting it up. I am one person looking forward to the summer. Jerry and I went to the RV show at the EX last week. We are thinking of upgrading from our tent. Some of us do still tent. Well, let me tell you, we are living in the dark ages. We want a tent trailer, simple and small, to get us up off the ground but no such thing! Whatever happened to good old fashioned camping! I have such good memories of simpler times while camping with my family. I read your Sunday morning ramble every week and love it!”

• Georgia Hearn committed Christmas ‘planticide’ recently. “What a delightful issue. Loved it and will miss next Sunday, but you deserve a break. Although I hated to do it, I put outside three, lovely poinsettias. It was time, after three months.”

• Roberta Nichol enjoyed #120. “I loved your 'Writers write.' So true. Each person has their own line that determines appropriate and inappropriate. I guess the only way we find out about others' lines is if we cross it.”

• Boy hood heroes: Billy Hicke was a local hockey legend, playing for The Regina Pats and then moving up to the big time with The Montreal Canadiens, in the 1950s and ‘60s. After retirement, Billy and his wife Leanne would come into my garden center on a regular basis, to pick up their bedding plants. I always enjoyed my conversations with Billy. He was fun to chat with. I thought nothing of it. Then one day, my buddy Danny was in town, visiting me from Vancouver. Danny had grown up in Montreal in the fifties and sixties. He spotted Billy. “Is that Billy Hicke?” he asked. He had the tone of an eight year old boy. Danny runs out into the garden center, intercepting Billy before he gets to the greenhouse. Danny gushes and he gushes and he gushes. He gets Billy’s autograph. Billy is kind to Danny, telling him stories of Stanley Cup wins and having ‘Rocket’ Richard as a teammate. After twenty minutes, Billy has to get on with his life and Danny returns to my office. He is on a high for the rest of the night. “I can’t believe that I met Billy Hicke! Billy Hicke shops at your garden center.” He says this, over and over.

• Boy hood heroes #2: In the 1960s, we lived in the shadow of Taylor Field. The Red Sox baseball team played there and I was a regular, the little boy cheering on his team from the stands. There was a short stop who kept the chatter going, encouraging the opposing batters to strike out. Flash forward forty years and I am running the cash register at the garden center. An old dude, well, older than me, is being rung up. He hands me his Master Card. The name leaps out. I ask “were you the short stop for The Red Sox in the sixties?” He looks at me and says “only my wife remembers that.” I tell him of being a ten year old boy and how he and his teammates were my heroes. He nods, thinking back to when he was a young man. Perhaps I made his day.

'Little Rebel' dogwood in the fall
• The role of the writer: It is often said that history belongs to the victor. Not true. History belongs to those who write it down. Without the writer, there is no history.

• Good pizza: In my pursuit for excellence in home pizza, I have been entering into much correspondence. Mark Dyck over at Orange Boot Bakery has been kind and patient with my efforts. He has now included, as a result of my explorations, a home makers’ guide to pizza dough. Go to Mark’s web site at and click on ‘how I make pizza dough’. I will give you a hint: It is not the ingredients, rather learning to relax the dough.

• Roof leaks: This winter, there have been more complaints of leaky roofs than ever before. Here is what happened. We had a record amount of snow and then in January, we had a warm spell. In the warm spell, some of the snow melted and then froze again, creating ice dams near the roof’s edge. When the snow melts again, some of it will run into the ice dams, back up underneath the shingles and find its way inside our homes. I have two leaks so I share in your misery. Best to remove the snow within three feet of the edge of the roof. This will allow the melting water to slip past the ice dams. As to the interior damage, I have found it best to wait for the spring melt to finish before carrying out repairs. Also, the plaster needs time to dry out before patching.

• Writing tip: Often two words are viewed as being interchangeable. One must take care as nuance in language is often subtle. For many years, the words complete and finished were treated as identical. Reader Ian Cook forwarded this well thought out differentiation. It has been attributed to a gentleman named Mr. Balgobin. “When you marry the right woman, you are complete. When you marry the wrong woman, you are finished. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished.”

• Words matter: I had a small rash on my right hand. My dialysis doctor sent me to another specialist as he was concerned. She said it was nothing to worry about and prescribed a cream. No problem, right? She wrote a letter back to the dialysis doctor. He was alarmed. She had used one word that meant I was highly contagious. He insisted I wear surgical gloves in the clinic and at home. Back I went to the other doctor. I asked her why she had used this word. Her answer? “I used it in the general sense. Of course, you are not contagious.” I told her: “There is no general sense. The word means contagious and now I am required to wear surgical gloves.” I insisted “write to the clinic and tell them that. You can’t use a specific word and then redefine its meaning.”

• Grammar matters: So what’s a punctuation mark here and there? Try this old story on for size. A Russian prisoner was to be shipped off to Siberia. The telegram of his punishment was to read “Pardon impossible. To be sent to Siberia.” The telegraph operator inserted the period in a different place and the man walked free. It read “Pardon. Impossible to be sent to Siberia.”

• Historic architecture: I met a writer last summer who has a blog that features historic homes. She fell in love with old Lakeview in Regina and went on the walking tour of our neighbourhood. That’s how we met. She was walking by my house. Her name is Susan Grieg and she lives in New Westminster, part of Vancouver. Our house, here on Regina Avenue, is featured this week in her online magazine. You can view the photos and read the story at Neighbours and readers, Laura and Terry Ross’ house will be featured later on this month.

• Good advice: Never trust a skinny cook.

• Angor: We do not get out to this long time favourite all that often, because it is way across town, but last Saturday we made the trip. What we enjoy most about Angor is that you can find some different dishes on their menu. We were not overly hungry so we held back and ordered only a soup and salad. I voted for one of their funky soups but I was overruled and we had the basic wonton soup. Everyone makes wonton but at Angor, their broth is a cut above most. Very flavourful. For our salad course, we received a Cambodian salad that was spicy with a bit of chicken on top. The salad knocked it out of the proverbial park. Very tasty. We were full and did not need a third dish. If you want the regular chicken balls and ginger beef, those are on the menu as well but I do suggest trying a few of their unusual offerings.

• Changing demographic: On Thursday evening past, Landscape Architect Ingrid Thiessen was the speaker at The Regina Horticultural Society meeting. We attended and Ingrid came through with a brilliant lecture on the elements of design. I have not been at a Hort Society meeting for several years. The place was filled with younger gardeners in their twenties and thirties. The Society really went to town to attract a younger crowd and it worked. There was a time when I was the youngest person there and that was not right.

• Asian Market: This independent grocery store used to be on 11th Avenue. It was so packed with goods that I found I barely fit into the aisles. They have moved to a much more spacious building at 9th and Albert. They have a wonderful selection of frozen fish along with a produce department stocked with items I am not certain are items. There are two purchases I always make at this place. One is coconut milk for my Thai curries and the other is fresh basil. It is one of the only places you can find fresh basil and you can get a nice sized bag of it for two bucks. They label it as being Thai basil but it sure looks like one I have grown in the summer called purple basil. One of the side benefits of going there is that at five foot ten, I feel absolutely tall. Other shoppers walk past me asking “how is the weather up there, stretch?” Now, if only I could find a store where I appear to be phenomenally thin.

'Little Rebel' dogwood
• Garden Tip: There are some new plants coming to a nursery near you soon. ‘Little Rebel’ Dogwood is new as is ‘Purple Spire’ Crab. Both are in the attachments. The photos are courtesy of Dr. Phillip Ronald at Jeffries in Portage La Prairie.

• Seedy Saturday: This event is really growing. On March 2nd, you could barely fit yourself into St. Mary’s, it was that crowded with gardeners chatting, buying seed and taking in seminars. I spoke on the new Canadian Artist Series of roses. Being there allowed me the opportunity to meet several readers of The Garden Report who I had not met prior to that event. It is always nice to put a smiling face to a name or email address.

• A true gardener: A man comes home late. It almost midnight. His wife asks where he has been. He sits down. He says “I have a confession. I have a beautiful mistress across town and I spent the evening with her.” His wife sniffs his clothing and yells “don’t you lie to me! I can smell the peat moss on you. You’ve been over at the greenhouse again!”

'Purple Spire' Rosybloom Crabapple
• Garden Tip: If rabbits are a problem, eating your shrubs and trees, try protecting them (the plants that is) with a shroud of burlap. Burlap lets the plants breathe whereas plastic wrap does not. Also, there is a rabbit repellant that you can paint on with a brush. It is called ‘Skoot’. It is not toxic, rather bitter. So bitter, that no animal will take a second bite.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in Regina (with lots and lots of snow if you need some!)