Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Garden Report #138

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

It’s Canada Day-July 1st!

• Writers write: In 1992, Maureen and I were in Saskatoon for ‘Shakespeare on the South Saskatchewan’. We were walking along Broadway, their funky street and someone handed us a flyer, asking us to take in a show that was starting in ten minutes. We did, even though we had no idea what we had just bought tickets to attend. We enjoy surprises. The show was called ‘A Requiem Mass for Sir Jonathon Swift’. My eyes widened as the play progressed. My heart started to race. This was theater, similar in style to what we had been working on in the sixties, in Fine Arts School, where story line mattered more than production values. Theater with little technical support but lots of chutzpah and new boundaries for the creative process. Wow! My dormant creative juices were flowing again, my mind was racing with the possibilities. We took in more shows and the next year, The Saskatoon Fringe became our summer holidays. For eleven years, Maureen and I took a week’s vacation to Saskatoon, just for The Fringe. We waited for someone from the arts’ community to start something in Regina. And we waited, and we waited.
Hanging out at The Winnipeg Fringe Festival 2008

In 1999, we started something, not certain how far into the process we would go. We held the first weekend mini Fringe Festival. Two solo plays staged by the outstanding actors, John Huston and Shannon Calcutt. We sold seventy tickets for the Friday evening and fifty for the Saturday, at The Unitarian Center on College Avenue. We also got a threatening letter from The Canadian Fringe because they claimed the word ‘Fringe’ was their copyright. Who knew you could copyright a word? We changed the name to ‘The Regina Knot-a-Fringe Festival’ and as the adage goes, the rest is history.

For the next six years, we produced nine of these weekend, two show, mini fests and won audiences over with plays including Pinter’s ‘The Lover’ from the English company, Dreamsurf Productions. The actors lived in our house, wandering around in their pajamas until noon. They cleaned out our refrigerator. It was similar to having teenaged kids home again. We begged and borrowed many of the resources and if you were related to us, you were conscripted to be a ‘volunteer’ for the week. Amazing what you can do on a shoestring. Most importantly, we sold tickets. We found an audience. It was not easy.

In 2005 Daryl Komick at The Exhibition Board and Ken Alexe from SCN wanted to get a true festival off the ground. It was time. The incubator process was now finished and it was time to give birth. We joined The Canadian Fringe Festival, thus allowing the legal use of the Fringe name. A dozen shows performed the first year. The Festival struggled. We were in an odd venue, Buffalo Days. We lasted two years there before moving to Cathedral, a much better fit. Maureen and I pushed The Festival along, cajoling acts to show up in Regina, often paying for the air fare to ensure their appearance, until 2009. Jodi Sadowsky has been the main push since then and she has done a wonderful job, often flying solo. It is still not easy. Regina has never taken off the way The Fringe has in Winnipeg or Edmonton. In those two cities, The Fringe is a monster production. One hundred thousand tickets are sold to see plays from all over the globe. The first time that we took in Edmonton was in 2002 and we were shocked when human gridlock occurred. There were so many people at the festival that it took twenty minutes to walk a block. Congestion was thicker than a New York rush hour. Now that, is a festival.

The Regina Fringe has not been an easy sell, but that doesn’t mean we have given up on promoting it. After all, we are prairie people, through and through. We don’t give up. The Regina Fringe is around for another year and this is not a plea, rather an instruction: If you want a great time and a chance to enjoy one of Regina’s best festivals, then buy some tickets and take in the plays. I guarantee - you will be amazed, thrilled, impressed, cry, laugh and become a true convert. Now, was that such a hard sell? This year, July 10th to the 14th.

• Readers write:

• Marsha Kennedy gets it. I write tongue in check, on occasion. “I love your humour with real-life depth in nuance.”

• Lyn Goldman reports “The photos are gorgeous, Rod. My peonies haven’t bloomed yet, but my little leaf lilac (just three years old) is coming along very well.”

Vic and Joanne's new rock garden
• Terena Murphy Bannerman weighs in on my wise crack about our Dutch readers. “As an Irishwoman, married to a Saskatchewan Scotsman, I've heard the in-laws make jokes about the frugal and serious (dour?) Dutch; the pot calling the kettle black, perhaps? But chocolate sprinkles on morning toast was a Dutch invention, I believe. Game over.”

• Gwen Barschel enjoys good food, as do most of our readers. She took a class in baking bread and says: “Good morning, you mentioned Orange Boot Bakery today, and I just had to weigh in. I attended their Bread Braiding & Pretzel making class on Saturday. What a great group of bakers, and they produce an awesome array of delicious food, real food. I saw for myself what went in the dough, no words longer than butter! Let’s hear it for the people who feed us real food.”

• Roberta Nichol has been spying on my hostas. “You're right. Your hostas are looking fabulous. I've watched them burst into beauty for weeks now and they really are in their glory. Gorgeous. I have seven peonies in my yard, (too many, I think) and the main one is about ready to 'burst.' Any day now, I would think. Probably this week.”
Always listen to what your mother tells you and follow
the safety rules of the road

• Joanne Crofford now lives in the apartment above what used to be the Harley Davidson store. Her garden is smaller than her former one, up the street. Joanne gardens with her husband Victor. “These are some early days photos from our much reduced rock garden in our newest home above the store. The flowers aren't very developed and yet, somehow very lovely. I appreciate the mix of flowers in a rock garden. Lots of delights.”

• Last week, I ran a photo taken by Martha Poon in London, England of a rose. Martha reports “I was tickled to see that the snapshot I sent to Mom made your Garden Report. The rose bush in question lives in ‘Queen Mary's Rose Garden’ in Regent's Park.”

• Wilma Bell Wessel is a new reader. She has an opinion about school reunions. “So glad I am now on your list. I love The Garden Report. Keep it up (as if you could stop). Dave had his 50th reunion for Central (year of '63). Well attended and very good atmosphere. Terrific dance with ‘Becky and the Jets’ as the band. So the 50th year is a good one to aim for, Rod.”

Top grafted Little Leaf Lilac
• Jackie Arnason loves her lilacs, especially the ones shown here in #137. She writes “I love the picture of the lilac tree! Twelve years ago my daughter had lilacs as her wedding flowers. We thought of freeing some from the trees in Wascana Park but decided that was too risky so instead we begged them from all the neighbours and decorated the back yard as well making the bouquets for her and her attendant. If the ones in the park had been as beautiful as yours we may have risked imprisonment for them.”

• Les Vanderveen is one of Canada’s top greenhouse growers. He sent along the photo of a yellow peony, growing from a salvaged plant. Here is Les’ story of the peony he saved. “Our beautiful yellow peony, this year has five buds and blooms. I had this one returned three years ago, by a customer, because it didn't look to healthy. My wife thought we should give it a try. First year, it barely survived, second year one bloom and now this is year three.”

• Rayanna’s Report: Hey Rider fans and readers of my blog! My daddy took the cute photo of me and you got to admit, I am a sweetheart in ‘Rider Green’. I am back in town, (I actually reside in Edmonton) visiting my grandparents and hanging out. I enjoy the cool vibe of ‘The Queen City’. What’s new you ask? At eight months, not much. I basically eat, poop, cry, laugh...all the basics are covered. For lung exercise, I occasionally let go with a really good scream, just to shake things up. My Grampa Rod still sings to me ‘til I fall asleep, but that only works when I am crabby and ready for the eight count anyways. It’s not like he’s got ‘The Golden Touch’ you know. Grampa also keeps whispering “no boys on motorcycles”. Oh yeah, right, I can’t wait! What did you think of that Rider/Eskimo game on Saturday, eh?
"Go Riders, go!"

• How to fertilize a lawn: I have been getting a few requests for this information. Here are the basic rules for the Regina area. Use 17 19 0 (also acceptable numbers are 26 13 0 or 11 52 0 or 34 17 0). Apply five pounds per thousand square feet. Best way to apply the fertilizer is to place the amount you need into your spreader. Set the spreader on its lowest setting that allows the fertilizer to escape from the chamber. Push the spreader in an east/west direction. Then push the spreader in a north/south direction to finish off the application. Apply lawn fertilizer three times a year, early to mid May (it was later this year), middle or third week of June and the middle of August. You are not supposed to apply lawn fertilizer after the middle of August because it has a six to eight week residual effect. You don’t want your grass growing or emerald green in October. Plant growth should be slowing down and prepping for winter.

• Forest Tent Caterpillars: I have been seeing a few of these critters around town and they were a pest last year. Mainly, they were hanging out, doing their damage in apple/crab-apple trees (malus family). They often weave a web that is noticeable from the ground and they eat many of the leaves from the surrounding branches. They can kill a tree, if the infestation is severe enough.

• Not so smart: Some dude in a white BMW zooms by me on The Albert Street Bridge, Wednesday morning. He has vanity plates. He weaves in and out of traffic, obviously in a hurry. Both of us turn right onto College Avenue and he carries on with his special form of driving. In total, he made five lane changes of which only two were legal ones. I plod along, in my Perry Como like, mellow mood and guess what? I am right behind him waiting for the red light to change at Broad Street. Lots of risk taking and he still wasn’t ahead of the game. Part of me, the non Canadian part, wanted to get out of the truck, walk over and ask “where’s the fire” or better yet, ask “have you signed your donor card because if you haven’t, now might be a good time to do so.”

• Rain, rain, go away: Okay, I know from the elders who survived The Great Depression that one accepts moisture in any form on the prairies. More rain equals more plant growth including weeds. One of the tricks of gardening is to stay ahead of your weeds, catch them while they are young sprouts and cultivate them. Early cultivation ensures that the little (insert bad word here) do not grow up to be robust fellows, overtaking your garden. Another issue with the recent downpours is that some of the roses are suffering from too much water. If the rose leaves are a light green, it is time to feed them. I use a 10 30 20 or a 15 30 15 and I apply two teaspoons at the base of the plant. The next rain or watering dissolves the plant food and usually, in a week’s time the leaves are a much improved, darker green. Also, iron chelate is a good product to use to green plants up. If you are having trouble finding iron chelate, send me an email and I will set you off on the right direction.

This peony started to bloom in
Audrey's garden on Wednesday
• Peonies: One of our regular readers asked if this is a bad year for peonies and I would have to say ‘no’. So far, most peonies have been quite prolific, except mine. I had a gorgeous ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ in my back garden. It was loaded with twenty-five fat buds and when they popped, the flowers began curling immediately and were finished within three days. Other gardeners’ peonies have been blooming with much more elegance than mine, at least this year. When you wait an entire year to get peony blooms and they don’t work out, I am reminded of my mother, who was a very practical gardener. Mom would say “some years you get corn, some years you don’t.”

• Part time job: I have a couple of neighbours looking for someone to help them out on a part time basis, in their gardens. You must love and know something about gardening. If you are interested in perhaps five, ten or twenty hours of work per week, send me an email and I will hook you up with the right people. This is a job for a mature and experienced person, not a student position.

• Rose blooms: Hardy roses are starting to bloom this week and it appears as if we are in for a banner year. There are now four hardy roses that are a part of The Canadian Artist Series and these roses are very worthwhile. My personal favourite is ‘Emily Carr’ which is a luscious red that has a profusion of blooms throughout the summer.
One of my favourites, Canadian Artist
Series 'Emily Carr' - perfectly hardy

• Busman’s holiday: Keith Carpenter of Van Noort Bulbs and Nurseries was in town this past Thursday and we hung out. What do two nurserymen do when they get together? We toured gardens, visited a greenhouse and ate slow cooked, barbecued ribs with lemon and basil. Then we set to the serious business of telling stories, some new and some old, of nursery people who have became legends. In a nutshell, we talked shop. It was the best of summer days. Van Noort Bulbs is a large supplier of every type of bulb, both fall and spring, that you can think of in addition to growers of a wide array of perennials. Many of you have their plants growing in your garden without even knowing it.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the sunny summer of Regina

'True Emotion' Lily- photo by Jan Pederson

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Garden Report #137

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 

Little Leaf Lilac-top grafted-in our neighbour's yard

• Writers write: Another week and nothing profound enters or exits my mind except to write, all of us can and should benefit from a spiritual advisor. We need another person to balance our thoughts, to keep us on the right path.

• Readers write:
• Roberta Nichol enjoys a back handed compliment, as much as any of us, I think. “Speaking of age, this is what happened to me in Juneau. My buddy and I wandered into a jewelry shop, where the pressure to buy was quite insane. It was starting to slightly annoy me, but the young man prattled on. As the three of us were conversing, he looked at me and said, "You know, I bet in your day, you were really pretty!" What? Idiot! Dorothy, my friend, assured me later that it was meant to be a compliment.” Rod’s note: My response, in similar situations is something like “In your day, I bet you were capable of being polite. So what happened?”

• Marcus Fernando has decided, even though many comics are unemployed, he should steal their work. Here is his submission regarding an alternative response from my mother, in #136. “Of course, another good reply your mother might have given at the dinner table might have been this:

SON: (entering boisterously) Hello, you old goat!

GUEST: Is that your son?

MOTHER: No, it's my kid.”

• Ingrid Thiessen is concerned, as am I, with the record amount of elm seeds that are blowing across our city. “Elm trees are taking over the prairies. Soon there will be no grass left. I looked up at the branches and the seed storm isn't finished yet.”

• Sheila Tooke is one of our internet readers. This is her first response and she writes a lovely compliment. “Hi Rod, reading your Garden Report has become a Sunday morning ritual for me. A really enjoyable read - lots of great information about gardening, food, Regina events, living a life and of course your great sense of humour! A really nice mix.”
A rose growing in London, England

Great photos:  Top grafted, Little Leaf Lilacs are in bloom across the city and looking spectacular. Maureen took the photo in a neighbour’s yard. The hostas are looking wonderful in our yard as no doubt, they are in yours. The container garden is a collection of four pots that I ‘bang’ up every spring. It graces my front entrance. I have learned to use some pretty decent sized pots out front. Martha Poon, daughter of Sandra Rayson, took the photo in London, England in a garden called ‘Regent’s Park’. She reports it is incredible. No, I don’t know which variety the rose is, but thanks for asking. The peony and the Lady’s Mantle were both photographed by Maureen, in our back garden.

• A different epiphany: There are very few right or wrong answers, but we do discover that there are answers that are less painful than others.

• Good point: I had a friend who announced one Christmas that we consume way too much sugar during the holidays. I agreed with him. Then he opened a jar of maraschino cherries and chugged the entire contents. Well, at least he had a sense of what was the right thing to say.

• Tandoori Kebab: It was Fathers’ Day and I got to choose where the family would go for supper. As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of big flavour so we headed off to the non descript Tandoori Kebab, recessed into the wall of the twelve block of Albert Street. This place is rarely busy, having never caught on except with the Pakistani community. What I enjoy the most is that they use more spice than most Indian restaurants. The flavours are intense, a bit hot but nothing that readers can’t handle. If you want it hotter, they will accommodate you, gladly. A basket of hot from the tandoori oven, naan bread arrives with your meal and a it is perfect for sopping up the curries. Service was good. Supper, three masalla teas, tax and tip was sixty-three bucks for three of us.

Hostas growing at the base of an elm tree in our front garden
• Ah, yes, married life: Monday night, I took a piece of Lebanese pita, spread some hummus into the center, then added in thin, sliced onions, sheep milk feta and finished it with a drizzle of hot sauce. It was ‘The Bomb’ of snacks. Maureen came along, got a whiff of my nosh and informed me “you can sleep by yourself tonight.” Sigh. Food or the love of a beautiful woman. Why does God always present me with so many choices?

• Lunch time: We love to have lunch on the patio when the sun is shining. I made some really great ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches the other day and here is what made them so tasty. First, you have to start with a good foundation. The bread must be a chewy one, like they make at Orange Boot. Second, slice the ham thin, lots of it, poach it in a fry pan with a bit of water, when warm, top with the cheese, cover the pan until it melts, serve it on the good bread with lettuce for sure and perhaps tomatoes with lemon pepper. What I do not care for at most cafes is that they serve their ham and cheese cold and they skimp on the ham. At our house, a ham and cheese is always served with warm ham and cheese and we don’t skimp. Hot banana peppers are always a welcomed option on mine as is some mustard. For the saline conscious, Maureen has been buying low salt hams and they are just fine. You don’t have to wash the lunch down with two glasses of water. Ask me if I enjoy my food? Go ahead, I dare you.

• Landscapers chat: Thursday morning. It’s raining. I can’t go to work or get out into my own garden. Drew Millard from Mr. Caretaker calls. He can’t go to work either. He knows I am stuck at home drinking my coffee, reading the paper. We chat about life, lawns and love. So, if you ever wondered what we in the green trades do when it rains, now you know.

• Follow the rules: When I was six years old and in Grade One, The City installed traffic lights at the corner of Dewdney and Cameron Street. They are still there, today. The Principal of Albert School held an assembly. He told the entire school that “everyone must cross Dewdney at the Cameron Street lights”. I put up my hand. I said “but I live over on Rae Street and I don’t need to cross at the lights”. He said “everyone must cross at the lights on Cameron Street.” So, being a good, little boy, I crossed at Cameron Street, using the lights, walked down Dewdney Avenue for three blocks and re crossed Dewdney Avenue, for the second time, to get to our house on the other side of the street. This went on for a week or two, until one day my mother noticed I was dashing across Dewdney, which was a very busy street. She asked what I was doing on the wrong side of the street? I told her and she overruled The Principal. This is a story of little children following the rules and of adults, not listening to what a six year old is trying to tell them.
Four containers close to my front steps

• Time flies: This week or perhaps it will be next week, is the 44th anniversary of my graduating from Grade 12. I received my diploma from The Fine Arts Program at Central along with twenty-two other artistic students. Someone in the class said “we should have a reunion in ten years time.” Being seventeen years of age, ten years was way too long. Everyone agreed, it should be in five years. It was settled, five years it was. So this is, as I wrote above, our 44th year and we still, have not had that five year reunion. The good news is that I do write this blog and five or six of the twenty-three read it.

• Let’s hear it for the peonies: I love peonies. Who doesn’t? Mine started blooming, Friday morning. Others in the city are blooming or close to it. If not this week past, then the week ahead. Did you know that peonies make for a fine bouquet in your kitchen? Yeppers, they look just fine in a vase on your table. Best time to split your peonies, if they are getting overgrown, is around the middle of September. When you replant a peony, ensure that you do not plant it too deep or that will slow down your blooms for a few years.
Pink peony blooming this week in my back garden

• The rain is great for the crops: Thursday’s rain was such a gentle rain until four p.m. at my place. Then thunder did its thing, lots of it, the skies opened and the gentility of the rain became a torrent. It poured for twenty, perhaps thirty minutes. It was so thick, you could have sliced it into pieces and sold it to the Middle East. I checked a few different gardens around town and there are small amounts of damage and yet, plants being resilient, most will recover inside a week or two. Lots of drain channels were created as water always finds its way to the lowest spots. Hopefully, the lowest spot was not your basement. At least we were not hit with the deluge that encompassed Calgary and other parts of southern Alberta. They are indeed devastated while we here were only inconvenienced.

• The good old days: The Stanley Cup Final is on this week. Two of the original six, Boston and Chicago are battling for supremacy. No problem with me, except for the date. It is June 23rd, the summer solstice has come and gone. Hockey used to be a wrap in March or early April. Then baseball took its place and then football and then it was Hockey Night in Canada, again. There was a seasonal order to everything. Now, it’s big pot of mush. No separation. Why have a five month hockey season when they can make us pay for an eight month one?

• The best of summer: I enjoy the sun coming up this time of year around four a.m. because if it wakes you up, you can roll over and go back to sleep for another two hours. When the sun wakes me up in December, I know that I am really, really late for the start of my day.

Sandra's tulips have bloomed for a very long season

• Tulip award: Sandra Rayson wants an award. Her tulips are still blooming, especially her ‘Blue Amiable’. It has just been that type of year with a late start and not too much heat. Other years, given a week of plus thirty weather, tulips are finished by the end of May. So, do we give Sandra an Order of Canada, a Nobel Prize, an honorary Super Bowl Ring? How about we invent a prize? Perhaps we can get those frugal Dutchmen (the Dutch make us Scots look almost generous) to sponsor us. Then again, maybe not. You do realize that we have lots of Dutch who read this, right? Oh well, I can beg forgiveness next week.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in sunny and rainy Regina (pick one)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Garden Report #136

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the Dads! 

My three sons plus a new baby girl!
 • Writers write: Rather than fill this space with words that are uninspired, I will leave it empty, except for the explanation.

• Readers write: It has been awhile since we heard from Joanne Crofford. Here are her comments from #135. “Three cheers for the beautiful grandmother holding her grandchild. She looks terrific and a bit mushy, as grandmothers tend to do when holding their little loved ones. I think that Burger Baron has pretty good fish and chips. I always like them. Although I am someone who could likely eat the fish sauce with a spoon.”

• Joanne Brown (affectionately known as ‘Brownie’ in our Fine Arts’ school days) a wordsmith these days. “I was sure the proper word was ‘teethe’, but it wasn't in two of my reference books. Kudos to Jean Freeman for the confirmation. And, what a beautiful photograph of Maureen with Rayanna. I hope Rayanna inherits Maureen's glorious hair!”

• Ed Heidt is missing our lovely June summer, now that he resides in New Mexico. Ed has two comments regarding #135. “Well Rod, first of all, I must share with you that my friend John and I saw ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ at the Toronto Fringe in 1999, for six bucks, when it was nothing but one of 200 Fringe shows! What a lucky show to take off as it did! Also, gossip: I have always liked this analogy that you might appreciate. The analogy describes what happens when a person gossips - or passes on gossip. It's like emptying a feather pillow out the window and trying to re-gather up all the feathers. That little analogy has stopped me from gossiping, many times.”

• Ken McCaw read #135 while on holidays, in Portugal. He sends this comment regarding Joe Pettick’s design of The SPC Building. “Something Joe Pettick told me about the building, that is another example of his quiet genius is, he made the building in the shape of Lambda: The symbol for power! You can only see that from above the building.”

Purple or Blue Onion-a fall planted bulb
• Garden Tip: I have been getting several inquiries regarding a blue/purple flowering plant this week. It has been a very good year for Purple Onion which is a fall planted bulb. It is an ornamental and quite a lovely accent plant for most gardens. I have included a photo of it from my own garden. This bulb will spread quite easily which is good news for all of our Scottish gardeners. If you plant five, you will often have fifteen in a few years time. One inquiry suspected that it might be a weed. Not true.

• Garden Tip: A ‘Young’s Weeping’ Birch was spotted by our reader Heather Lowe, growing near the South East Leisure Center. This one is in perfect health and has been well cared for. This tree is seldom found, growing in Regina. I might have sold five of them in the last thirty-six years, that’s all. This specimen, could have used a bit more room as it has dominated the yard.
A 'Young's Weeping' birch growing in Regina

• A true gardener: I have been waiting for over a year, to have my left knee replaced. My turn finally arrived, the hospital called and wanted to do the surgery in two weeks time. “What?” I said. “It’s gardening time! I can’t come now. Call me in the fall.” Yes. Against much sound advice, I have decided to limp for another few months rather than abandon my garden. If St. Peter comes a calling, the answer will be much the same. “Could you come back after I plant the fall bulbs?

• The Cottage: If you were to write one word to describe The Cottage, located on South Albert Street, it would be consistent. George, one of the original owners, still runs the kitchen and has done so since 1979. It doesn’t change much. It is not gourmet, new wave or cutting edge. It is your basic, Greek run, meat and potato joint, done with a bit of upscale pretension(our waitress wore a gold tie). You usually know what you are going to order, even before opening the menu. It has a loyal, regular clientele who attend faithfully, for their weekly night out. We were there Thursday night. Service was very good. We both had the liver and onions (stop your complaining, now) and it was perfect. The liver was sliced thin, not overcooked and served very hot from the kitchen. Even I don’t like cold liver. The fries are disappointing and always have been. They are straight out of a freezer bag, those thick cut ones that used be called ‘railroad fries’. Why this place can’t take a basic Craven grown spud, wash it and slice it and toss it in the fryer, is beyond me. Maureen had the baked potato with all of the four trimmings. She said it was very good. There were a few assorted veggies, almost an afterthought, on the plate. They were julienned and acceptable. Why I mention the shortage of veggies is, in our house, the veggies occupy the lion’s share of the plate. The meal was preceded by a house salad which was pretty much all lettuce, with two tomato slices, topped with feta cheese and a vinaigrette dressing. It was tasty, albeit not too exciting. It is a good, basic place, to take your mom. There were several tables with just that. A mom and dad, two teenage children and grandma along. I fully realize, now that I am a grandfather, that I might have gone to school with that grandma. Would we go back? Yes. Two entrees, no appies, one shared dessert, no drinks, tax and tip was $55.
Purple Onion mixed in with a bit of Little Leaf lilac and
Snow on the Mountain

• Watch where you step: Maureen was at the fish store on 13th, picking up some Red Snapper for supper. She comes home and tells me that “this old guy comes up and starts talking to me about my necklace.” I had to ask: “How old was he?” She stopped to think and then it set in. He was a little older than us, but not by much. This aging thing is turning into a real land mine of political correctness. Who can you call an ‘old fart’? Who is the generation above us that we can rebel against? Now, when we play our Dylan and Neil Young music, it’s the kids telling us to turn it down. Somehow, yelling at your kids “you just don’t understand who I am and what I stand for” sounds more pathetic than it does rebellious. “Hey man…stop laughing…you are ruining my vibe.” I often wonder, when we get to the old folk’s home, will they let us toke up every afternoon with our herbal tea? You know…just to take the edge off of things.

• Pot luck, the legal kind: After we cleaned up, okay, truth in writing: After Maureen and her sister cleaned up from the pot luck last Saturday, we had two dishes left that need to be claimed by their owners. One is the traditional glass casserole dish, nothing fancy. The other is a handmade, cheese and fruit plate, earth tone in colour. Only aging hippies need apply for the latter dish. As a secondary note, we received lots of emails and comments about how much people enjoyed the community pot luck supper at our place. Pot lucks are always a better time than even a well catered affair (and cheaper for the host). Add in the community singing and we had an old school, barn raising party, albeit everyone left at nine p.m. to be home in time to watch The National (insert sigh here).

'Bridal Wreath' spirea glorious in their blooms
• Spireas are blooming: Those smaller shrubs that are starting to look so beautiful this week, are often spireas. If the shrub is around three feet tall and has white flowers, chances are it is a ‘Three Lobed’ spirea. If they are closer to the five to six foot range, chances are they will be ‘Bridal Wreath’ spirea. Both cascade but more so the ‘Bridal Wreath’.

• Green and White: The Riders were back at it, with their pre season, exhibition game in Edmonton, Friday night. Pre season games are never all that exciting but this one had a few interesting twists and turns. That is to be expected with rookies fighting for a playing spot. Last season, I made a decision to watch each and every CFL game, unless circumstances dictated otherwise. My synopsis is that I enjoyed the season, the quality of the league play and I plan on doing it again. I don’t usually include much in the way of football in this blog, but readers must keep in mind that I was raised along Dewdney Avenue, in the shadow of Taylor Field. Even on dialysis, my blood has a green tint to it.

• Garden Tip: Not to be a nag, but if you have yet to remove your elm tree bands or to fertilize your lawn and your plants, now is a wonderful time to do so. Everyone, collectively breathe out a sigh and say “yes, mother!”

• Tit for tat: When my mother was eighty-five, I stopped into her condo for a quick visit. It was the afternoon and she had four women over for tea. I didn’t know the ladies. I said to mom “how are you, you old goat.” One of the ladies asked my mother, “is this your son”? Without missing a beat, mom replied “No. I have never seen him ever before.” Mothers have a way of bringing their kids back into line. And she didn’t even have to reach for her flyswatter to make me behave.

• Good barbecue: We barbecue year round, even when it is minus thirty. Dedicated, you might say. Saturday night, I tossed on two pork chops for supper. I like to get some dark grill marks on one side at least, and then turn down the heat for the flip side. I was looking for something a little different to renew my enthusiasm for the grill. I applied a thin layer of maple syrup to the top side, flipped it over to caramelize the sugars a bit and when that occurred, I brought them to my prep area. I sprinkled on a touch of salt and pepper, a nice shot of Saigon cinnamon and a drizzle of lemon juice. Wowser! I served them with barbecue baked beans and spinach...but a homemade apple sauce would have been the cat’s meow.
Mixed planters are starting to fill out

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in The Capital City-Regina!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Garden Report #135

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

'Negrita' and 'White Dream' tulips-I plant lots of this combo
• Writers write: Gossip fascinates me. How a honest person, who would never lie to a friend or a neighbour, can repeat a story that is blatantly untrue, because they heard it from someone else, is quite remarkable. Gossip usually contains just enough truth to ensure that it appears real and if it is real, then it is repeatable, right?

I have several stories that I could share with you, but here is my favourite. Joe Pettick was the architect of The Sask Power Building on Victoria Avenue. It is unlike any other building in our province, due to its flowing curves. The building has been written up in many, many magazines for its creativity. Over the years, I have heard several people lay claim to being ‘The genius’ behind the design. Roger Mitchell, a local architect said it best: “Anyone who walked through Joe’s office during the design phase says that they were the inspiration, for the building, not Joe.” I worked for Mr. Pettick for several years, as his landscaper. When he was eighty-three, he invited me down to his office to discuss a project. I felt comfortable enough to ask him for his side of the gossip. He smiled and said “I have heard those rumours, many times. My response is always the same. There is a plaque in the foyer of the building and it has one name on it, mine. That is good enough for me.”

What amazes me is that while many people are willing to lay claim to something well done, no one ever accepts responsibility when there is a disaster. Have you ever heard anyone claim that they were the captain or the navigator of the ship that ran into The Iron Workers’ Bridge in Vancouver? Or the engineer that certified the mall that collapsed last year was safe? There never is a line up when something bad happens. Why is that?

• Readers write:

• Rob Van Zanten sent along the gorgeous photo of Mother of Thyme. Rob resides in Surrey, B.C. Here is the side story to the picture. “Good morning Rod: Took this photo last night, at home. Planted 5 x 1gallons about 10 years ago and now it is a carpet of colour approx. 3m x 3m in the front of the garden. My younger nieces and nephews love to play and lay on it and it never seems bothered by the abuse. I am though. Enjoy.”
From five plants, all of this!

• Jean Freeman does her job as a regular member of The Grammar Police. She explains the nuances of our language to Rayanna, who is cutting teeth these days. “You asked about whether you are starting to teeth or tooth -- the verb is to “teethe", but the process is "I am teething"! However, with just one tooth, I'm pretty sure you could say "I'm getting ready to toothe" or "look folks! I'm toothing!"Or just wait a while and bite everybody!”

• Patrick, our Number Three Son, sent this along regarding our granddaughter. “Thank you for the Rayanna report. We will try to send more photos of her geeking out.”

• Wilma Bell Wessel is pleased with Maureen’s photographic skills. She is to the point. “Great pics, Rod.”

• Lyn Goldman was over for a garden visit and then looked at the photos from #134. She writes “Wonderful photos, Rod. Wonderful garden!”

• Jess Paul is a forward from another reader. Jess notes “Kelly Pierson loyally forwards on your Garden Report every week and I must say, I truly enjoy reading it on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee. Appreciate your insight and sense of humour! Can you add me to the official list?”

• Marsha Kennedy and I share a common addiction. We both spend lots of money on our gardens. Here is her side. “Every year, I tell myself and proclaim to my friends, that I am not going to spend so much on plants this year. But when I walk into a nursery, I can't help myself.”

• Gail Bowen has found a way for me to make some money off of my gardening addiction. “Thank you for the plant sale and for the chance to see your exquisite back garden. Lyn Goldman and I think you should rent it out to friends for an hour or so, so we could goof and gossip and pretend that all this beauty is ours.”

• Ann Anderson enjoyed the photos from last week. “Rod, your garden is absolutely stunning! (Note the exclamation mark - if you'd seen my face when I opened the photos, you'd agree that it's warranted.)”
Dad and Number Three Son

• Adella Hayko reads The Garden Report in Edmonton, where she lives. “Hi Rod. Your yard and flower garden is awesome and so is Rayanna.”

• Helen McEwen is a lovely lady who I worked with for many years, in the greenhouse. She is a reader of this blog and has this comment. “I still enjoy your humor in The Garden Report.”

• Keith Carpenter reps for Van Noort Bulbs, the people I buy my tulip bulbs from. He enjoyed the photos of the garden, complete with the tulips he sold me last September. “Thanks for the pictures; the garden is looking really great. I always enjoy being able to see the roots or bulbs put to work and flowering. So often, by the time that I make it out in the late spring, the flowers are done or at least on the last petals and past their prime.”

• Mike Liske weighed in on the food at our two local hospitals. “My order resembled food but was nothing even close. I came to the conclusion, if you are sick or a patient in the hospital, you may in fact starve to death with what is served and if you are a bystander waiting, you may actually end up in hospital because of the food.”

'Blue Wow' tulips by a sixty year old bird bath
 • Interesting thought: My late friend, Larry Mathieu, had time to think, as the cancer claimed his body. One day he turned to me and said “we have only two real fears. One is of dying and the other is of getting old. Sooner or later, one must occur.”

• Keep your priorities straight: When Patrick was six years old, I took him to visit Byland’s Nursery, which is an incredible size. He was sitting in The President’s Office at Byland’s, turning around in the swivel chair. John Byland asked Patrick “do you want to be The President of Byland’s when you grow up?” Patrick said “no...but can I have your swivel chair?”

• The Globe finishes the season with a winner: ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is a musical that fully admits to being campy. It arrives on stage with a narrator to link everything together in a giant game of ‘let’s pretend’. It works. It was a fun evening for us and our guests. That’s the good news. The not so good news is the show finishes its run today, Sunday, June the 9th.

• And your point is?: I had a friend who took a moral position. He said “none of us admit to telling racist and sexist jokes but all of us admit that we have listened to them. It takes the teller and the listener to complete the transaction.” I was hosting a party and a friend from Saskatoon says to my other friend “did you hear the one about the two Pakis?” Quickly, my friend said “I am sorry but I do not listen to racist or sexist jokes.” The teller of the joke was a bit thick and his response was “if you have already heard it, then just say so.”

• Garden Tip: When watering a lawn, best to water deeply and less often than shallow and frequently. I find, if it doesn’t rain, that my lawn needs watering every five to seven days. I try to get close to an inch of water onto all parts. You can measure your amount of water by placing a pan on the lawn in random spots when irrigating.

A very proud grandmother
• Garden Tip: Every year is different. Some years we have apple blossom that seem to last forever. This year, my own Dolgo Flowering Crab bloomed with little fanfare and the flowers disappeared in the same manner, quietly. That appears to be the situation, city wide. Late blooms with little longevity. Regardless of the length of bloom time, if we do not have those flowers, we do not have the fruit and God knows, I love my prairie apple pie.

• ‘The Gardener’, summer edition, is out: In the mail this week was my copy of ‘The Gardener’. It is available best through a subscription but you can also purchase it at newsstands. I will say this again: It is the best magazine for gardeners and it is published in Saskatoon. Yes, this freelance hack has a page in it as well. Featured article (not mine) is the second installment regarding roses.

• Recycle it, man!: Coming soon, to your house, if you live in Regina, are our blue bins. No longer will recycling be a private company contract. Now, The City will be looking after it. Apparently, there are a few changes from what Crown Shredding accepted and what The City will. If we as a community, can reduce the amount of material that makes it way to the landfill, great.

• Another one: A drunk driver, already wanted on warrants, speeds through an accident scene, knocks down a young Conservation Officer who is directing traffic. The young man dies. The drunk flees the scene but is apprehended later, in Saskatoon. When another drunk driver killed the gentleman at Arcola and Park this spring, I suggested the strongest of messages be sent to those who drink and drive, with long, long jail sentences. Each time this happens, I am disgusted. There is no difference between firing a loaded gun into a crowd and drunk driving. Both offences need to be dealt with harshly. On this issue, my Canadian sense of understanding and forgiveness have been exhausted. I have no compassion left for the perpetrators.

• Garden Tip: In full bloom this week are lilacs. Without being technical, lilacs can be divided into two major types, early and late. Early lilacs are usually fragrant with shiny leaves. Late lilacs are usually not as intense in perfume, their leaves are dull or without as much shine and the colour of the blooms are usually not as intense.

• Too funny: A fellow I know does not drink liquor, at all. One night, on the way to the beach, he gets pulled over and the Mountie asks “how much have you been drinking tonight? The driver informs the officer that he does not imbibe the cursed spirits, ever. The Mountie, realizing he is indeed sober, responds “you drive like a drunk!” That story was courtesy of his wife.
Michiel's greenhouse full of lovely plants

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, now is the time to remove the tree bands from your elms. Whatever cankerworm there were this year, have already done their thing. Best to reband your trees in late August, early September, prior to the first good frost.

• Please, no more: Elm seeds. They’re everywhere! I sweep the patio and two hours later, you can’t tell I swept. I have never seen this many seeds and I have lived on this corner with these elms for forty years.

• Fish and Chips: Regular readers know I am always on the search for the best fish and chips. The best I have had to date were at Go Fish in Vancouver, close to Granville Island. I heard a couple of reports of good ones at Bonzinni’s, south on Albert Street. I called ahead and asked what fish they use. Many places use Basa or Pollock because they are a cheaper fish. Bonzinni’s uses Pollock, so we did not go there. Instead, we headed off to Bushwacker’s where cod is on the menu. My favourite is halibut but it is hard to find as it is so expensive. The cod was decent, not great, but good at Bushwacker’s. You get three pieces for your $14.95 price tag, plus a large serving of fries, which were undercooked. The meal does not come with any accompaniments such as soup or salad. You do get two lemon wedges and a bit of non descript tartar sauce. We ordered a Greek salad for $10.95 for the table and shared. It was okay, but nothing great. Maureen and Colleen had a cider each and I, alas the sober driver, had a water. Total for the three of us including two ciders, tax and tip was $92.00. My beer drinking friends do tell me that the beer is some of the finest in the land at this Dewdney Avenue pub.

Community singing after our pot luck supper
• Neighbourhood pot luck: Saturday night, we had a pot luck supper for the neighbours, a few friends and relatives, to celebrate Maureen’s birthday. Great food, great people, great singing and a great time. All of the kids were home and Maureen’s sister flew in from Toronto to celebrate. In total, we had sixty people in our home (thank goodness we have a big home) for the supper and the party. What flabbergasts me is that there were no leftovers. Turns out that I invited too many members of ‘The Good Eaters’ Club’. We had a community sing song after supper, led by the irrepressible Wilma Bell Wessel.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the summertime of Regina!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Garden Report #134

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Our garden- photographed yesterday
• Writers write: With six feet of snow in my back yard and no April showers to bring on the May flowers, I was concerned as to how my garden would turn out. Here we are now, early in June, and I can write that my garden, this spring, is: My best spring garden yet. I suspect the intensity of this spring, when it did arrive, jammed all the blooms into a shorter period. This week, I have had ninety per cent of my thousand tulips in bloom as well as my Dolgo Crab and all of my pots, filled with annuals. This is why I have included so many photos, courtesy of Maureen. My friend John C. has been over, helping me with the heavy lifting, and he reminds me and I in turn you, that ‘we’ do not grow gardens. God grows gardens, we only pull the weeds.

Saturday morning, many readers came by for the driveway sale of my extra flowers and Brad’s herbs and veggies. Thank you. While here, many of you toured my back garden, looking at the different varieties of tulips and the woodland part of the garden, which is growing an inch, every day. I enjoy having visitors. It is a treat and having visitors who are readers of The Garden Report is even better. Some of you, I met for the first time and it is great to put a face to an email address.
This photo is taken from our back steps with a pot of
annuals in the foreground

• Readers write:

• Ingrid Thiessen is full of praise for my back garden. She writes “Absolutely stunning! After such a long, hard winter it's so special to see those blooms. A wonderful example of correct scale, repetition to create colour unity, and lovely flowing lines. It's just like the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. I love the colour scheme.”

• Sarah Willis reminds us of the story of the shoemaker’s son. “Just read this week's Garden Report and am ashamed to admit my husband and I are among those dishing out plants and advice, while the weeds at home pile up. I did manage to over seed the grass on our boulevard earlier this month - but while working seven days a week at either Landscape Ontario or Cudmore's Garden Centre, there's not much time for garden maintenance in May. Will definitely get to it in June, however. Our garden looks great when we have the time for it, but just not right now.” Rod’s note: My doctor used to smoke and eat at his desk. Permission is granted to get to it in June.

• Pat McMullan is a relatively new reader in Winnipeg. She writes “I just had to send a note to say how much I am enjoying Rod's blog!”

• We have not heard from Alan Bratt for awhile, but he ensures that we know he has his priorities. “I always enjoy the pictures you include with your reports and I particularly admire that you also include nice dogs and cats looking for homes. I wish I could take them all.”

• William Hrycan is the Horticultural Editor for ‘The Gardener’. He really knows his stuff. I will vouch for that statement. William sent this along, explaining how you have to reach out to others to get it right. “I am honoured to be mentioned alongside such highly regarded horticulturists. Thank you. At my office, Dieter Martin is on our speed-dial - I too know when to ask for help.”

• Email glitch: For some unknown reason, those readers with emails that began with a ‘t’ or a ‘w’ were eliminated from the data base. So, if you are one of those people and you have not been receiving The Garden Report, send me an email so that I can reinstate you. Thanks.

We love our tulips-every variety
• Wow!: This past week has been one of intensity, delivered by Mother Nature. Blooms are breaking out everywhere and plants are growing at phenomenal rates, trying to catch up with the slow start. It is most unusual to have forsythia blooming at the same time as apples but this year, everything is bunched together. Even our peonies have buds on them. Maydays’ which should have bloomed a full four weeks ago are in their glory.

• Garden Tip: When your tulips are finished blooming, you need to do two things to prepare them for next year. First, remove the spent flower and the stem, right to the base. Second, wait for the leaves to ripen which means they turn brown and brittle. When the leaves are finished, then and only then, can you cut them down. If you cut tulip leaves prior to their ripening, you will ensure the following season that only leaves grow and not blooms. That is how you prepare tulips to re-bloom next year. Others, including us, treat our tulips as annuals. We pull up the bulbs when the plants are finished blooming and discard the bulbs. Then we plant our annuals in the tulip beds and replant new bulbs in September.

• Garden Tip: Some gardeners do this, others don’t. I do. I like my tomato plants to be strong and stocky. To accomplish that, I pinch back or prune the leaders and the lateral tips of the plant. When I pinch, I get tomato plants that are much tougher and able to withstand the prairie winds.

• Houston Pizza: Saturday night, we found ourselves at The Normanview Shopping Center. We don’t get there very often, as it is a good distance from our home. There was a doctor there we had to see. By the time we were finished with the medical thing, it was eight p.m., two hours past supper time and we were famished. Houston Pizza is next door to the medical clinic and voila, we were ordering supper, trying not to chew on the napkins. I had the liver and onions (no gagging sounds, please). It was as good or better than the liver I have had at many other places in town. It was tender, not overcooked, served with a salad, fries and garden beans that were also not overcooked. Maureen had the feta chicken, skipped the potato, but they filled her plate with lots of the garden beans, both yellow and green with a few carrots tossed in. They had two kinds of hot sauce sitting on the table, something I do enjoy. Supper, no drinks or dessert, tax and tip included, was thirty-eight bucks. My litmus test for any restaurant is: Would I go there again? Yes I would.

• Garden Tip: To grow the most beautiful hanging baskets and containers, develop the habit of pinching. Simply remove the spent flower and its stem whenever the bloom is waning. This encourages new buds to develop and keeps your plant in a perpetual state of renewal.
Blooming tulips and trays of impatiens, ready to be planted

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, it is time to fertilize your lawn, your shrubs, perennials and annuals.

• Orange Boot: You cannot go wrong with the Saskatchewan Sourdough bread baked at Orange Boot. It is my personal favourite. It is my first choice for my morning toast and peanut butter, as well as my sandwich bread for lunches.

• Gourmet dining: John C. and I were busy delivering bedding plants to job sites on Tuesday. We worked through lunch, wound up at The Pasqua Hospital because I had to stop in for a quick UVB treatment and voila, there we were at Robin’s. Both of us had their interpretation of a roast beef sandwich. Here’s the review: We were starved, so we finished everything, crumbs and all. We have had worse sandwiches than that one, but not many. I think they get their roast beef from Arby’s which as readers know, I am not convinced is really food. Rather than call it roast beef, I would describe it as being legally edible, processed, food like material.

• Follow the basic rules: At the ranch/farm where I work part time, we had six and seven feet of snow on the lawn. The weight of the snow compressed the soil underneath, ensuring that the water ran off it. It looked dead, very dead. I had Drew Millard out to aerate the lawn two weeks ago, then I applied the fertilizer (17 19 0 with 14% sulphur) and we turned on the water. The grass has been mowed three times now and it is 97% recovered from the winter damage. Give it another two weeks and it should be looking picture perfect. No magic wands, no alchemy, just the basics of gardening and let Mother Nature work her magic.

• It’s a family thing: My cute as a button, great niece, Andi Reich, is one of the children featured on the new Roughrider television commercial. Andi is my brother’s granddaughter, for those of you keeping track.

Rayanna writing this week's blog-we start young in my family
• Rayanna’s Report: For all my friends back in Regina, good news! I will be in town the weekend of June 8th. It’s my Grandma’s birthday. I asked Grampa Rod how old Grandma will be and he laughed. He said “I tell her she’s a hot chick”, and then he laughed again. Do all old people act this weird or is it just my family? Speaking of getting old, I turned seven months, two days ago, and I am starting to teeth ( or is it tooth?) Do you know that my parents require me to cheer for The Roughriders, not The Eskimos? Once a Rider fan, always a Rider fan. Sorry, got to go. Just had a boomer and I need changing.

• Billy was back in town: Billy Patterson, who worked for me last year and the year before, was back in town for a week. He is continuing his apprenticeship in the wonderful world of horticulture with Dieter Martin in Langham (north-west of Saskatoon). Dieter is eighty years young and still considered to be the Dean of Horticulture in our province. Billy is enjoying working in Dieter’s greenhouse and the nursery. He stopped in and of course, I put him to work for several hours. After planting some flowers around town, Billy and I devoured a decent Lebanese wrap from Zsa Zsa over on 4th, near Park Street. Whenever I am in their neighbourhood, I pick up a few bags of the pita bread, baked in store. They have 60% whole wheat pita and it is very, very good.
'Emily Carr'-a great rose!

• Garden Tip: If you want to split your hosta plant, you still have time to do it. Best to divide hostas every five to seven years.

• Garden Tip: To grow a lovely fuchsia, do not place it in a windy or severe location. I have found that if you grow a fuchsia in an alcove, slightly protected, that is one of the secrets for its care. The other piece of advice is – do not overwater a fuchsia. Nothing will kill the plant quicker than too much water.

• Sorry I missed you: Mosaic was on this week and while thousands of you made it out to this multi cultural event, I had to regrettably, pass it up this year. Two reasons: First, I was a bit burnt out from last week’s Arts’ Festival and secondly, it was bedding plant week. I was run off my proverbial feet and perhaps my butt. My butt is something I am reluctant to discuss, unless of course you wish to note how small it is for a man of my age. ‘Tight Buns’ McDonald you can call me.

• Plants for sale, plants for sale: While I sold most of my extra plants on Saturday, I still have left a few trays of impatiens (great for the shade) and a few hanging baskets and clay planters (mainly for sunny spots). If you want to buy any of these plants, just send me an email and I will let you know when I will be home.
Our peony is setting bud with tulips blooming beside it

• Readership increases: According to the firm that tracks readership of The Garden Report, the online volume increased from 2,068 last May to 3,711 this May. That’s a nice jump. People are finding us. Add in our thousand or so email readers and the number is getting close to the five thousand mark. We are still advertising free, other than a few shameless promotions.   

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in sunny but cool, Regina.