Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Garden Report #145
Sunday, June 8th, 2014
Rayanna is writing her life's history
·      Writers write: Nothing incites opinions faster than a discussion of cell phone etiquette.  We went to Siam on Tuesday night for Maureen’s birthday.  Siam is a great bistro.  We were in the midst of our supper and a gentleman arrives.  He was in his late sixties, well dressed and appeared to be a polite sort of a gent.  He was also talking on his cell phone, as he is seated and while he peruses the menu. There is that part of me that wanted to rip the phone from his ear.  Instead, I grumble.  Then, as if this were the icing on the proverbial cake, he somehow turns his phone into a radio and begins to listen to the news.  He not only listens, all of us listen.  We have no choice.  I am not a techie but I have heard the word ‘streaming’ used so I assume that is what he was doing. He remained oblivious to all around him and the reaction he was generating.
     Last fall, we were at The Broadway Diner in Saskatoon.  Outside of the front window, there are two tables.  Two young men arrive, sit down, order and then begin texting and emailing on their separate devices.  Having supper are we?  Their supper arrives and they disconnect from their appliances and it appears as if it is to be a regular supper, then one of the phones ring. The fellow answers and the conversation begins.  His partner is busy eating.  My question is: If two people agree to meet for a meal, a drink or a coffee, is it really a meal, a drink or a coffee, if one or both of the parties is absent from the conversation for extended periods of time?
·      Readers write:  This one came from Donna Banks who used to live next door to us.  Donna now resides in Saskatoon.  “Thanks for keeping me in the loop.  Miss the old neighbourhood and still count you and Maureen as the best neighbours ever!”
     Jean McNeil gardens near Ottawa.  Jean writes “So happy to see the appearance of your Garden Report again. Your forewarning us that it will be an irregular production is good. That will take some of the heat off you on a weekly basis.  Always interested to hear that spring has arrived in other areas. It’s been slow here too.”
      Terena Murphy Bannerman has just returned from a vacation, abroad.  She writes “Just catching up on my emails after being 'unplugged' for a month.  I went to visit my French family and my Irish family, and to walk for a few weeks along the Camino de Santiego de Compestela in northern Spain.  A lovely, life-affirming month.  And what a wonderful surprise to find your newsletter; welcome back, whenever you can manage it.  You're well worth the wait!”
     My cousin, Patsy Simon, gardens near Halifax.  She has been experiencing our cool spring.  “Lots of great gardening tips. Thanks for the pics, also. Your garden looks amazing! Is that this year? We are way behind here with the awful weather we've had, our buds are just coming out now on the trees. We even had a frost warning last night. This morning it was 4 deg.”
Rajka tulips in our garden-2014
     This one came from north of Saskatoon from, a first time responder, Brenda Janzen.  “Hi Rod. I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time.  I’m not one to usually respond to blogs, but I just wanted to say I missed your advice, humor and writing this past winter.  I would check from time to time to see if your were back on.  You had mentioned earlier you had medical issues that you were dealing with, and I’ve been praying for you and your family.  Glad you’re back! Your granddaughter looks like she’d steal anyone’s heart!  Our daughter is expecting our first grandchild – and she told us they’re having a girl.  We are very excited! We live 1/2 hour north of Saskatoon in the country.  I love to grow flowers and a large vegetable garden.  So the advice you give has often been helpful.  Most of my roses made it through the winter, but there are 5 or 6 bushes that show no sign of life yet.  I will be patient and wait.  Good to know I can just cut them off and they will regroup from the bottom.”
     June Blau lives across the street from me, so if she disagrees with something I have written, it doesn’t take her too long to air her grievance, personally.  Fortunately, today is not one of those days.  June writes “Oh my dear Rod, it is soooo good to have you back!”
     Wendy Richardson was a  Regina girl, now she is a London woman...and she gardens there, as well.  “I, too, was very glad to see the Garden Report up and running again, because it means that you must be feeling up to doing it and that makes me happy. Of course I love all the content, especially your excellent humour. So glad that you are feeling up to doing this and will keep praying that you are growing stronger every day. You can't keep a good man down.”
     Noelle Chorney is the most excellent editor of The Gardener out of Saskatoon.  She and her staff at The Gardener, follow the sage Garden Report.  The Garden Report reminds them that gardening is supposed to be fun.  Noelle writes  “I was traveling last week, so had limited time at my computer, but I was delighted to see a new Garden Report in my inbox even though I didn't write to say so, and equally delighted to see one again this week! Welcome back. So glad you're feeling better. Thanks also for fighting the good fight against box store plant sales.”
·      Siam, yes I am: It rhymes but it does not make sense.  It is frivolity.  We enjoyed our supper at Siam last Tuesday, immensely.  We started with one of their soups and it was just this side of heaven, that good.  We order medium hot these days, having proudly outgrown our reliance upon mild dishes, and it was hot, for our first bowl, then we settled into a great feast and the heat became bearable.  Next was a pork satay which arrived on skewers, a Thai salad that is both hot and cold and a main curry dish.  Everything except the curry dish was excellent with the curry dish not one of those dishes we will order again.  Siam remains one of our favourite places in Regina, though the service can be a bit bizarre.  The language barrier quickly asserts itself with what is being said and what is being heard, but so what?  It is part of the charm. You might get a surprise or two.  We never seem to mind.  Dinner for two, tax and tip included, was fifty-eight dollars with two lemon teas a part of that $58.
Negrita and Maureen tulips - 2014
·      Garden Tip:  Do not, I repeat, do not give up too soon this season.  There is an adage that says that success belongs not to the talented but to those who persevere.  True words.  I cut back the roses, all the way to the ground, at my place and two other gardens, at the beginning of May.  In total, there were thirty roses.  Each of them appeared dead, as in lifeless, without bud.  All but two have now emerged with growth and several are setting their blooms as I write.  By the end of June, colour will abound and patience will be rewarded. I love success stories. I spent many years in the nursery business and I grew weary of people rushing in at the end of April or early May with one plant or another,  complaining that it was dead, demanding a replacement.  Had they given the plant time, it would have not only leafed out, it would have been a winner, with an established root system that no new plant could compete with. 
·      Garden Tip:  I was picking up some Divine Impatiens at Sherwood Greenhouse this week.  While I was there, the phone rang.  Larry, the owner, answered.  The fellow on the other end demanded to know why regular impatiens are not for sale at most places in the city.  Larry is one of the nicest men that you could meet and he excels at his knowledge in all things horticultural.  He is a real keener for the plant world.  Larry explained to the fellow about Downy Mildew and how it is destroying impatiens crops across North America.  The man on the other end argued.  He had no problems last year, with impatiens, so Larry must be imagining things.  Larry told him “there is a fellow right here who has grown impatiens for forty-one years and lost his entire crop last August.”  That fellow was me, of course.  Still no convincing the caller and Larry hung up in frustration.  How many times have I been on the end of one of those calls, where you provide the caller with the best information you have available, and they still want to argue with you?  I had one lady who, when told that forced bulbs usually do not flower the second year, insulted me.  Yep.  She called me names.  Words I can’t print here.  The late Bud Boughen would say to a caller who argued with his advice, “then why did you phone me if you didn’t want to listen to my answer?”  That comment would make the good ones sit up and take notice but for the ignorant ones, they just kept on arguing what they knew, in their hearts, to be the right answer.
Tulips tucked between a peony and a spirea
·      Nicky’s CafĂ©:  Nicky’s is as much of an old reliable as one can expect.  Each visit, I usually order the liver and onions, with soup, fries and rice pudding.  I am never disappointed.  It is always good.  We went there for supper and I had the basic, the predictable, ‘The ususual’.  Maureen often orders the salmon, which she loves, but this time she went upscale to the Chicken Cordon Bleu.  It arrived, two separate pieces of chicken with a slice of ham and a bit of cheese in the middle.  There was a sauce/gravy covering the meal.  The sauce/gravy was brown and salty.  Other than those two words, it is hard to express another description.   We arrived home, opened the internet to see what Chicken Cordon Bleu looked like at other places.  Yep.  Just what we had imagined.  Maureen thought she was ordering a piece of chicken breast that had been pounded thin, layered with a thin slice of ham and cheese, rolled tightly, breaded and either pan fried or baked with a coating over the chicken.  No comparison with what she had expected and what she had received.  And the sauce/gravy was nowhere close to what it was supposed to have been.  This meal was not their shining moment.  Even the great ones fall short when they exceed their comfort zone.  Next time, we order ‘The usual’ and leave the fancy stuff to Mieka Weins.
·      Garden Tip:  This is a continuation of never giving up or at least hanging on for a  bit longer.  In 1979 or ’80, my memory fades, I planted two apple trees for Margaret Pettick on Garnet Street.  One leafed and bloomed right away.  The second one sat there with nothing to show.  I was prepared to replace it.  Mrs. Pettick, wiser than my youthful years, told me to give it another week.  The week passed and I was about to take it out.  Mrs. Pettick came out of the house and told me that she had had her magnifying glass out and had seen young buds, ready to emerge.  “You should leave that tree where it is.  It will grow.”  I laughed, but she was the boss so I left it.  Thirty years later, the tree blooms every spring and when I drive by, I hear the tree laugh at me saying “there’s that guy who thought I was finished.  Look at who’s limping now?”
·      Pinch me if you really love me:
If you want good looking geraniums, and only if you want the nice ones, learn to pinch.  Pinching is a fancy way of saying that I take off my spent blooms, stem and all, and this allows the new blooms to emerge.  Geraniums benefit from proper pinching and if you still don’t know how it is done, send me an email and I will set up a time for you to come over.  I can show you in under sixty seconds how to do it and soon, your geraniums will be winning blue ribbons.
Geraniums need pinching to look good

·      Garden Tip:  I have been working on a garden for three years, that belongs to someone else.  We receive many visitors as the garden is that good.  This year, it will be on The Secret Garden Tour.  It is ready for that level of inspection.  One of the joys  of working on this garden is the quality of the soil.  When I was building it, I incorporated over sixty bales of peat moss into the garden area, to improve the soil.  This has paid multiple dividends.  The plants have grown exceptionally well and it is easy to look after, as in the cultivation of the weeds.  The texture is so lovely and what you need to read is that it is very important for you to do the same thing.  Add in lots and lots of peat moss.  The late Sandra Whittick, who was truly an outstanding gardener, told me when I was a young man, “you can never add too much peat moss into Regina soil.”  Sandra was so right.  End of conversation.
This garden will be part of the tour this July
·      Mosaic on Friday:  Friday night, we tried three pavilions, all new to us.  First up was The Filipino Pavilion.  Truth in writing: I quite enjoy the company of Filipino people.  I think they are a kind people, very friendly, and hard working.  I believe they are an asset to our country.  They should send a few of our Canadians to train with the Filipinos and learn how to be hard working.  So, there we were.  I enjoyed myself, had some food, watched the dancing, even saw Justin Trudeau make a grand entrance.  He had Ralph with him which is as good as a Mosaic Passport  because everyone loves Ralph.  I was sitting in the front row and looked around.  We were the only Caucasians in the group, the rest being Filipinos.  I didn’t feel out of place.  Note to the Filipinos:  I am available for adoption.  The Scots will let me go for very little money.
      A stop at The Ukrainian Pavilion was right next door.  I kept asking “who here is the real Ukrainian and who here is a poser?” 
The posers laughed.  The real ones, well, each had a story to tell.  Maureen had the borscht.  She said it needed vinegar.  I said it needed sour cream.  We were both right.  Justin Trudeau showed up, again.  I think he is stocking me.
      Next on our list was The Greek Pavilion and it was good as well.  The souvlaki pita I had was short of the requisite amounts of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, feta and taziki sauce.  Did you know that Spell Check does not recognize taziki as a word, in any form?  I asked the server for extra taziki as I am part Greek.  She asked which part and I told her “the garlic part”.  I told her not to laugh at my jokes but she wouldn’t stop.  Maureen had the mousaka and pronounced it good.  The dancing at all three pavilions was excellent.  Sadly, that is not true for every pavilion and all three were well organized. Being well organized is important to me and probably to most Mosaic goers.
·      The Fringe is coming: The web site is up and running.  There are eighteen shows coming, from next door to across the ocean.  This is the tenth year for The Regina Fringe as a registered festival, after a seven year incubation period of producing shows on weekends.  Go to for the details.  July 9th to the 13th are this year’s dates.  This festival is the highlight of my summer. 
My Mrs. thinks my flower passion might qualify
as an addiction
Garden Tip:  If you have plants in a lower spot and they are getting too much water, how do you tell?  If the leaves turn yellow and the veins of the leaf emerge clearly, the plant is suffering overwatering which has lead to a condition known as iron chlorosis.  There are two things that a gardener can do: First, reduce the water, easier said than done most days.  Second, add in Iron Chelate.  You can buy tubs of this product under the label of TruGreen.  It is usually in the thirteen dollar range.  If you can’t find it, and apparently there are a few who cannot, send me an email and I will direct you to a store that I saw this product sold at just last week. 
·      A dad’s day is never done:  I was sitting at a Mosaic Pavilion.  A father and daughter were seated across from me.  The daughter was an adult who has a good job.  She probably makes in the range of fifty thousand a year.  She wanted coffee so she asked her dad for twenty bucks.  Coffee is expensive at Mosaic, but not twenty bucks worth.  Her dad opened his wallet, as I muttered the classic “The Royal Bank of Dad-open twenty-four hours a day”, and she tootled off.  She returned with one coffee, for herself, and no change.  Funny how that works.  It was a bonding moment, at least for the two dads it was.
·      Mosaic Saturday:  Off to the Scots Pavilion we went, to hang with my people.  Great time.  One small problem.  My relatives and friends did not show up.  Not a Kerr, a Trusedale, a Struthers, a Gardiner, a Black or a Fisher to be seen, other than yours truly.  Had a wonderful time with many new friends, ones you would have called strangers, had you not met them.  Sadly, the Scots have seen falling numbers and perhaps a bit better of entertainment would bring the crowds back.  I remember the grand old days, all say “yes dad” in unison now, when the Scots Pavilion was packing them in.  Maureen had the Shepherd’s Pie and pronounced it very good with a lovely taste of spice.  I had nothing.  I was raised in a Scots’ home and I know better than to eat the food or drink the water.  The haggis is for tourists.  Thank you. 
     After we visited a wee bit with the fatherland, we headed over to The Irish Pavilion to party and what a party it was.  The place was packed and really jumping.  Great music and dancing on the stage.  I must be getting a bit on the old side because when the band played, all of the young people knew all of the words to the different songs.  I, on the other hand, didn’t even know there were words to the songs.  I think I quit drinking too soon.  I had a corned beef with cheese on a bun.  Add in a bit of some Irish mustard, which was surprisingly mild yet flavourful, and I had a good time.  I kept my love of the Scots to myself and just clapped in time as the band played on.  Or at least, I think, I clapped in time.  Everyone else appeared to be a bit slow with their clapping.  Must have been the Guinness they were drinking.
·      The telecommunications business hits the big time:  Did you know that as of the last year or two, you are more likely to die from being hit by a driver who is texting or on their cell phone than you are at the hands of a drunk driver?  So, the telecommunication companies have replaced the liquor companies as the largest harbingers of death in this province, on our highways. I am dumbfounded by this news.  Still in a bit of shock.  I am not certain if there is even an award for this situation. Wow!  There will come a day when your mobile devices will somehow not be activated, inside a moving  vehicle, but that day is not today nor is it tomorrow.  Fines are increasing for violators yet there are some diehards who are on their fourth and fifth offence.  If you see me walking down back lanes this summer, you will understand. 
·      Regina is not a big city:  My crew and I were working on a garden.  There was painter at the site, repainting the house.  He and I chatted away, amicably.  A staff member said “you are very friendly with the painter.  Have you worked together before?”  I informed her that the painter is Rayanna’s other grandfather (Lisa’s dad).  “Regina is really a small town at heart, isn’t it?”  And your point is?
·      Today’s thought:  Gee, I wish I were incredibly witty, right now.
'Angelique' tulips this year
Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the heart of gardening season in Regina, Canada.