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

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