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!)

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