Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Garden Report #65

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

A closeup of dinathus
 • Writers write: I want to thank everyone for their support and readership. For many, you have been new found, gardening and writing friends, and I have enjoyed the exchanges. The readership now numbers around two thousand, which has surprised me as we started with only a hundred. The Garden Report takes me ten hours every week, to produce. I write, edit, arrange to use photos and mail it. Then come the questions, which I enjoy answering, though some weeks they number around thirty. The last few issues have taxed me. I am now quite tired and it is time for me to take a rest. There will be no Garden Report for a week or two, perhaps three. Then I will return. If it rains persistently for several days and I cannot be in the garden, mine or yours, then I will be back sooner.

A flower pot in my back garden

Thank you,

Rod McDonald

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Garden Report #64

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Dianthus and sweet potato vine in my garden
• Writers write: It is another sunny morning in the garden. There is no wind. Joggers trot by as I write this. Some are attached to dogs. There are a few white butterflies floating around as well as wasps. A group of wasps have taken up residency in my garden, building a nest inside my brick wall. So far they have not bitten either of us and interestingly, we have found several of their dead bodies floating inside the beer traps, meant for the slugs. Who knew that wasps liked beer? I wonder: If a wasp develops too much fondness for beer, are there AA meetings he can attend or does he go straight to rehab? And what does his wife say to him when she smells beer on his breath. “Out with the boys again? Leaving me here alone with the babies. You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s not as if I ask a lot from you. My sister’s husband is the head of their colony. I should have listened to my mother.” Time to stop.

• Readers write:

     • Daniel Redenbach appreciates the plug. He wrote “thanks for the mention Rod!”

     • June Blau is not reading the blog right away and here is her explanation. “I am postponing reading this week’s edition for a few days. We are in Inuvik for another 24 hours. Greetings to all from the Canadian Arctic!”

     • Roberta Nichol got a chuckle from the fashion police report. She writes: “I sure chuckled at your description of the 45 year old and up men with the long shorts, tall socks and walking shoes. I can visualize it easily and it is pretty funny, alright. I wonder why they do that? Are they shy to show their legs off? They should be shy, to go out looking like that.”

     • This is in from Jodi Sadowsky. “Always love the Garden Report. As well as the enjoyable walk and visit as we had the other night. Ending with the Saskatoon pie is always a plus!”

     • Gayle White gardens in Winnipeg and she sent this response to The Garden Report. “I took your advice and had my lawn aerated over a month ago. Then the scorching hot weather arrived here in Winnipeg. My lawn is still somewhat green, while my neighbors’ lawns are pretty brown. Did the aeration help with that?”The answer to Gayle’s questions is absolutely yes. The aeration helped her lawn even in the heat spell. The aeration allowed what water there was to percolate into the subsoil instead of running off into the street.

     • Sherrie Tutt suggests that bandage scissors, with their blunt ends, are best for gardening as they do not poke holes in your pockets.

     • Kate Berringer had this comment regarding eating mud off of my desk. “The dirt on the desk is from Murphy, perhaps? It was probably good for you, lots of minerals.”

     • Jean Freeman always sends out good karma. She wrote “Thanks as always for the lovely and enlightening messages!” Did anyone listen to Jean’s story on ‘Definitely Not The Opera’ this Saturday? It was hilarious.

Rosy O'Grady hardy clematis
• Farmers’ Market: There is a new vendor at the market selling goat cheese with chives. It is very tasty. Five bucks for a hundred grams. Sort of like a cream cheese with herbs. Sharon Wallace has some wonderful Saskatoon pies for sale. Wink Howland’s honey is always a good buy and there are some wonderful Walla Walla onions ready for the pan.

• Fashion police: One of our readers approached me at The Farmers’ Market and asked me to note that he was wearing very short socks with his walking shorts. Congratulations! Now we need to convince around five hundred bozos out there to follow suit.

• First call: Fall bulbs, especially tulips, will be arriving in two to three weeks time. September is an ideal time to plant bulbs. There is an adage that reads ‘fall bulbs for spring flowers’. I could write many words regarding the joys of tulips but being succinct I will write, they are worth the effort.

• Last call: This week should be the last week that any of us are fertilizing our lawns, perennials, trees and shrubs. Of course it is perfectly okay to fertilize your annuals until the middle of September as they are not being hardened off.

• Personal service: I stopped into see Tony at his India Food Center on Victoria Avenue. Lovely man. I asked for his advice on products that he felt were special and he recommended four items. All were very good choices for the freezer to toaster oven chef. I also made a chicken masala from scratch on Saturday that was divine, just so you know that I am not totally devoid of culinary skills.

• Tomato blight: There have been a few reports of tomato problems but nothing that has resembled the blight we had last August. Of course, that one blew in overnight claiming the red fruit throughout the province. If your tomatoes are going black on the bottom, that is not the blight. It is blossom end rot.

A closeup of  Rosy O'Grady hardy clematis
• Next year country: The title kind of shows that I am a prairie boy through and through, doesn’t it? Two things that I must remember for next year are: Plant more annual dahlias and celosia. Both of these flowers are considered old school and have been around for years. I had not planted either for many seasons, and this spring I had an opportunity to plant both at a ranch house south of town. They performed wonderfully! Unfortunately, I have to live through other peoples’ gardens with these two, because I have so little sunny spots in mine.

• On that note: I grew impatiens in my limited sun garden parts this year and they outperformed the impatiens that were in the deepest of shade. In fact, my deep shade impatiens were not impressive but my dappled light ones were very nice, as well as the sunny ones.

• I’m not finished: After years of growing petunias, I don’t care what other writers claim: petunias grown in full sun totally outperform identical pots growing in less sun.

Morden Blush
• A rose by any other name: Prairie Joy and Morden Belle are blooming very well this year. They are both into their second round of flowers and most bushes are loaded. They are releases from The Morden Research station and are hardy for our area.

• Gee…I’m not that smart: I have written here before how people would phone me up at the garden center and tell me that they had a plant that was about three feet tall and green in color, and would I please tell them the name of that plant. They were the same people who would also phone to tell me that a branch on their tree was not looking good and would I please diagnose that disease over the phone, as well. My favorite analogy was calling the doctor to inform him that you had a finger that wasn’t’ looking so good and did that mean you have cancer? Pretty damned hard to tell what anything is when you have so little information. On another note, when us hort people get together to gossip, we often remark on how certain call in show hosts always have the answer to every caller’s problem. Why we gossip about that sort of stuff is real hort people get stumped all of the time. None of the truly good ones always have the right answer, as we are always learning new things.

A mother duck is in here
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Garden Report #63

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Dancing under the prairie sky
• Writers write: I always enjoy a get together, a happening, a cultural event that brings together old and new friends. The Folk Festival, The Fringe Festival, The Cathedral Village Arts Festival, and The Regina Symphony in the park are some of my favorites. Saturday night was one of those magical times for me. We were guests at Hawgarama, hosted by Gary and Audrey Drummond. We attended, along with Heather and Brian Lowe and Brad and Sandy Crassweller. We had a good feed of barbecued pulled pork and there were hundreds of homemade pies to choose from for dessert. But even better than the wonderful food, was being able to dance under the prairie sky to Rory Allan and to The Bellamy Brothers. There is something very special about an old time dance under the sun and the stars and being surrounded by grain bins. There were little children filling up the dance floor, dancing in what only could be described as a primal but hilarious fashion. Two and three years olds are predisposed to anarchy, refusing to be restricted by societal concerns. The moon was shining in its full glory, so bright that it actually cast our shadows, as we walked along the gravel road at the end of the night. In between the dancing and the eating, there was conversation. I ran into perhaps fifty readers of The Garden Report and each person had their take, their say on what they enjoyed best (and least) from this weekly blog. There were school friends dating back to the 1950’s as well as people I was introduced to for the first time. I have often written that you have to live somewhere and wherever that place is, a sense of community ensures that life is worth living. In a way, The Garden Report if I had only one word to describe it, is about community.

• Readers write:

     • Roberta Nichol writes regarding a Garden Tip. “Interesting you should mention scissors in the garden. I think they're great. Clippers, I find, are too clunky for a finer job, such as a stem that's really thin.”

Murphy taking it easy after a hard day
     • Daniel Redenbach who is one of our younger readers, and a rising star in the film community, sent this information along. This is in regards to a short film that he produced. “Close To Here" will premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival on August the 20th! I'm still awaiting specifics (time/location), but it is part of the first short film program on that day.”

     • I do not enjoy harping over the importance of aeration but reader Greg Morley is now a convert to the process. He writes “The lawn out front is back to perfection. The aeration is the key. I actually had a lady from the neighborhood stop by as I was cutting the grass a week ago. She and her husband wanted to know how I grew such a beautiful lawn. I said “Rod explained the aeration component”, I gave her the fertilizer mixture numbers and Drew's phone number. So, thanks for the encouragement and absolutely spot on advice. I cannot believe that the soil would be that hard after one winter.”

     • Jean McNeil who gardens near Ottawa had this to say. “Have been enjoying your weekly Garden Report and like some others, it takes me till later in the week to get it read. Always enjoy, the humorous stories, the factual gardening tips, and the social notes. My heart came out of my chest back in the spring when you listed some addresses where forsythia in bloom could be viewed. I thought I was the only one who kept lists of places to glimpse magnificent gardens. I recall the first time I saw forsythia and didn't know what it was. It was practically blooming out of the snow and I was just about knocked off the road. Now I have one of my own where I can gaze at it from my prayer chair.”

     • Another happy camper in Bev Cardinal. She writes “The Garden Report – informative, educational, and highly, highly entertaining! Cheers!”

• Garden Tip: You should be fertilizing your lawn for the last time this week. My recommendation is to use a fertilizer from Crop Protection Services on McDonald Street North, close to Global Television. The numbers are 17-19-0-15 with the last number being sulfur. Apply five pounds to a thousand square feet and water well.

A container filled with dianthus and bacopa in our garden
• Garden Tip: I convinced a new gardener to clip off the spent blooms from his roses. He did so and now his roses are filled with new buds, some even have twenty ready to bloom shortly. Deadheading, the removal of spent blooms really does encourage new blooms to develop.

• I need glasses: I was working away on my computer and beside it, I had a wonderful piece of poppy seed loaf. I noticed I had dropped some of the poppy seed filling on the desk. I dabbed it with my finger and stuck the sweet confection in my mouth. It was mud. They were similar in color and appearance but not in flavor. Next time, I will put my glasses on before assuming everything on my desk is edible. The one question I have not been able to answer is: how did mud wind up on my office desk?

• Farmers’ Market: I have my favorite vendors at the market but I also enjoy trying products from new operators. The maple walnut fudge from the vendor in front of City Hall is to die for. It is the best fudge I have ever tasted. Very creamy and a very strong maple taste. The other new item that I tried from a vendor in the same locale, was a poppy seed loaf. It was a bit pricy at ten bucks, but it was also amongst the very best, especially after it was warmed up. For those who enjoy tart and sweet, give a taste to the prairie cherries now available. They are grown at Lumsden.

• Not so good: Readers Jodi Sadowsky, Roberta Nichol, Maureen Hawley and myself went for a neighborhood walk on Tuesday. It was one of those random occurrences with Saskatoon pie at the end. We all live in the area. While we love old Lakeview and the houses, we were appalled at the number of homeowners who have allowed Creeping Bellflower to proliferate in their yards. It is truly a scourge.

Mandevilla and petunia in the full sun
• Tasty: The New Haven peaches have arrived and they are very, very tasty.

• Extra tasty: The feta cheese made from sheep’s milk has the best flavor of all the feta. Carlos sells it at The Italian Star.

• Fashion alert: The fashion police have returned. Do someone you know a favor, please. If you know someone who is over forty-five, wears shorts to his knees, with walking shoes, and socks pulled up to almost touch his shorts, tell him to stop. Wives, do not let your husband out to go shopping if he is dressed in this apparel. This is not only a fashion faux pas but it is repulsive and perhaps a mortal sin, though the bishop has not gotten back to me just yet.

• Garden Tip: If any reader sees signs of tomato blight, please let me know. Last year, it blew in with a wind and overnight, our tomatoes were stricken. Apparently, if you harvest your tomatoes green and process them, you can beat the blight.

• Job opportunity: I need a student, someone young and tough, to work with me on two projects for a few weeks. The student must be exceptionally hard working, be able to follow directions, willing to learn landscaping skills, and he/she must have a driver’s license and a vehicle. Again I stress, the student must be hard working as anyone who has worked for me knows, I have very, high standards. Send me an email as the projects begin immediately.

Daylilies in our garden
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Garden Report #62

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Morden Belle Rose is blooming this week
 • Writers write: Last night we took in The Regina Folk Festival. This is a cultural highlight of the year, something I have attended since 1970. The Folk Festival has changed over the years. It is now an eclectic group of performers and long gone is the emphasis on traditional folk. The audience has grown in size, too. There was a time when there was lots of room to spread out a blanket and kick back in Victoria Park. Last night, it was a sold out show and we were all quite cuddly with our neighbors. What has remained consistent is the good vibe of the festival. It is a gathering place for old friends. It is a coming together of like minded people and the hassle factor is very low. The festival format has always appealed to me. For the price of admission, the ticket holder gets a wide range of performers. And if you don’t particularly care for one performer, you are bound to enjoy the next. In every community, there are certain events that assist in defining a community. The Regina Folk Festival is one of those markers and has been for over forty years. A celebration of life.

• Readers write:

     • Wanda Bellamy sent this along. “Good morning Rod: Kirk & I sure had a good laugh visualizing the Cat & Vole chase! Thank you for starting our Sunday morning off with laughter.”

     • Lyn Goldman empathizes with chasing the cat in your underwear. She writes: “Funny story about you chasing Murphy! It reminds me of the night I was searching for my Siamese cat, Sundance, when I lived on Angus Crescent. About 2 a.m., I heard a plaintive call from the ledge above the neighbor’s garage door. I had to get the ladder from my garage to get him down. I was wearing my short nightgown! I did think the police might be called, but cat safety comes first!”

     • Penney Pike who lives in Calgary shared this: “ ‘Morning Roddy. Just finished this week’s Garden Report - great read as usual. Your story about chasing Murphy down the street in your underwear reminded me of the night I had to run through the snow in my socks (not just my socks!) to capture my escape artist cat. The pizza delivery man assisted me in the round-up, so needless to say, I tipped him 20 bucks. Fatso took great delight in leading us on a merry chase.”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoyed the cat chase story. Here is her thoughts: “Oh, God, Rod, I'm still howling. I'm breathless with hysterical laughter after reading about your big chase down Regina Avenue. That's the kind of story I will think about later on and burst out laughing again. And again, and again, that's the best one yet. The ill-fated beets story now takes second place. And you know, I would have done the same thing, had it been my beloved pet.”

     • Georgia Hearn also loved the cat story. Here is what she wrote: “Rod: Loved this edition. I laughed so hard, as I could actually picture you chasing the cat that was chasing the vole. Those clematis are gorgeous.”

     • Marsha Kennedy had this comment. “I had a good laugh about the French ‘exhibitionist’.”

     • This from Sarah Wills near Toronto. “Really enjoyed your newsletter this week. I wish I was one of your neighbors (and not so I could see you running down the street in your t-shirt and shorts!)”

• Garden Tip: One of the most useful garden tools is a pair of scissors. Seldom are they mentioned, but I have found scissors to be of invaluable assistance. When carrying out my gardening tasks, I usually have a pair in my back pocket and I am always trimming something with them. I use them all of the time to tidy up my containers so that they are even, I prune my tomato plants and move back the strawberries as they encroach on the walk way.

• Garden Tip: My good woman looks after the beer filled slug traps. She tells me that they are working just fine this season. As mentioned here before, she inserts a Styrofoam coffee cup into the garden soil, fills it with beer and the slugs dive in. This leads me to believe that slugs have some Irish blood in them. Especially when you realize they never attempt to climb out of the trap.

• Garden Tip: Another seldom mentioned item that has a multitude of uses in the garden are bamboo stakes. I use them to mark my bulbs so I don’t dig them up, I use them to hold up my tomatoes, I use them to stake my mandevilla and I use them to mark my sprinklers so that I don’t run over them with the aerator. My advice is to keep a good supply of them in your garden shed.

• Too strange not to be true: I got a phone call from Revenue Canada in Ottawa. The caller was asking for my GST payment, which was indeed late. I told him it was on its way, which was true. He asked me if I was “the Rod McDonald from Prairie Gardens”. I told him I was. He told me that he and his wife watch the show all of the time, in Ottawa. I gather a station there is broadcasting it. He sounded as if he was a real fan of the show. Gee, I wonder if I get a discount on my next installment.

• Sad but true: Last Friday’s wind storm here reached close to a hundred kilometers an hour. Lots of branches from my fifteen American Elms to be picked up but the real casualty was my native ferns. Many were plain old flattened and are now starting to brown off. Not really a tragedy unless you are a gardener.

• Have you noticed: Gardeners as a group tend to be optimistic because why would a pessimist garden? After all, everything is probably going to die anyways, right? Gardeners tend to be good cooks and they do love their food. Gardeners tend to be readers more than television watchers. Gardeners tend to share with others as they have learned that there is always more than enough to go around. Gardeners tend to persevere, growing something year after year until they get the hang of it. Gardeners tend to be opinionated, insisting that their way is the best way. Gardeners tend to work in their gardens well into their eighties and nineties, or until God calls them home.

• Cute: I was pruning the spent blooms off of my daylilies. I know that sounds a bit compulsive but they really did look better after I was finished. As I moved into one batch, I looked down and I could see one orange paw, that’s all. I pulled the cover of the plants back and hiding in the jungle was Murphy, my Irish cat. Just hiding, waiting for a meal to come along, or in this case, Dad.

• Good idea: One of my better ideas was to have a security system installed in the house, many years ago. We have the control panel close to the door for easy access and I also have a master control in my bedroom. It gives me peace of mind to roll over during the night and glance at the panel, knowing everything is alright. Another reason to have the panel in my bedroom was when the boys were teenagers. They would come home, after I was asleep. Disarming the control panel would wake me up which is what I wanted, and I would check the clock. Sound like a dad thing? One day at supper, I turned to Number Three Son and I asked what time he had arrived home last night? He was seventeen at the time. He told me “a little before midnight,” knowing that his dad owning a greenhouse, was usually asleep before eleven p.m. I told him that our control panel had a special feature. That I could scroll back and find the last ten entries and exits and did he wish to change his answer. He did. He now said it might have been “a little after midnight”. So I scrolled. The exact time had been 2:47 a.m. which is more than a ‘little after midnight’ and definitely past his curfew. It was at this point that our son learned that technology is a double edged sword. It can be used for good and for evil.

• Old school: When I was a teenager, my parents did not have technology available to assist in parenting. But my dad did have a watch and he did stay up until you got home and yes, I did break curfew twice. Once in Grade Eight and once in Grade Ten. Hardly makes me a rebel without a cause does it? I was grounded for the Grade Eight infraction and I got leniency for the one in Grade Ten. Funny how you remember that stuff forty plus years later.

My ferns before the storm
 • Not again: I have lived on this corner for thirty-eight years and we only have power outages once or twice year. That was until the last couple of years and now we are getting outages five or six times a year. We have had two this past week. One for six hours and one for two and a half. SPC (the power company) doesn’t seem to have a solution. I can’t help but to wonder if the outages are tied to the rise in our squirrel population. Apparently they short out power boxes.

Mandevilla-loves the sunshine
 • Garden Tip: I have often recommended mandevilla plants for hot, sunny and windy exposures. One of our gardeners, Audrey Drummond, has sent us a photograph of her thriving mandevilla, loving the sunshine.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Garden Report #61

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

• Writers write: I was up early this Sunday morning. I had to do a bit of work at a ranch south of town. As I drove through the city, the evidence of Friday’s midnight storm was strewn about. Branches everywhere. Someone once said that windstorms are Mother Nature’s method of pruning out the weak branches. She did a very good job, even if she did not clean up the casualties. Dotted though out the blocks of houses were gardeners. The diehards were out, cleaning everything up in true gardener fashion. Gardeners persevere. It’s what they do.

Sharon's garden- Jackman's Purple Clematis
• Readers write:

     • Jean Freeman passed this story along: “I'm off to the bus for Saskatoon to see Love's Labor Lost and A Winter's Tale at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. God bless STC, on behalf of us who don't or can't drive, yet live in this province of vast distances and fascinating places and events that so often are taking place, way over there!"

     • Terena Murphy-Bannerman sent this report from France. “Hi Rod; just finished reading your July 17th report. I am in the middle of rural France and do not frequently have access to a computer. I spend a couple of weeks every year with old friends here who were practicing the organic lifestyle, before it became fashionable. Yves and Michele grow all their vegetables and preserve them for winter. They get together with neighbors to kill and dress the meat from community-raised animals, and they live simply but very well. Yves has a huge garden where the veggies are interspersed with flowers, as his father and grandfather passed down that hint on pest control that still works today. Huge dahlias beside the Haricot beans, roses beside the potato plants, etc. It has been a wet July here, and you should see the size of the slugs we picked off the lettuce today: maybe we could cook them with lemon and garlic for dinner?”

     • Marsha Kennedy writes: “Good morning Rod. I was in New Dance Horizons’ garden tour last weekend. I wanted to share my garden, not only to help NDH, but because I was enchanted when I went on my first garden tour some years back. I spent the remainder of the week catching up in the studio and went outside yesterday, to see that my garden had gone astray during a few days of neglect. I must get in their today.”

     • From Victoria, this bit from Sally Orr. “I thoroughly enjoy reading it every week.”

     • Jodi Sadowsky likes humor. “Thanks for The Garden Report. Too funny re: the dragon flies!”

     • Roberta Nichol wrote “I absolutely love walking in the Lakeview neighborhood. There are so many friendly people, walking their dogs, or simply out gardening in their yard. I am in love with several houses in the area, and how they have implemented their perennials. Wow.... just gorgeous.” Roberta is also an enthusiastic supporter of Classic Antiques at 1920 Francis Street (just north of Victoria Avenue).She reports that Anita and Doug Hutton, who operate the store, are very good at what they do.

     • Kristi Liske has been noticing the insects this year. “After many weeks of examining the flies and mosquitoes that have come into my yard and sadly, into my house, I was happy to see the dragonflies arrive for dinner. The arrival of these fine insects left me wondering.....have all the flies and the mosquitoes injected steroids this year? They are huge!”

     • Lyn Goldman has a restaurant recommendation. “I love your note about Winner's! And I found a new restaurant for you -- it's called Dynasty and it's beside The Wingate Hotel on Broad Street. Great Asian buffet, so fresh that they won't let you put something on your plate if they're on the verge of replacing it with a fresh batch. Please thank the head of the dragonfly committee for me, too.”

Police on the bridge trying to slow things down
 • A picture is worth many loud mufflers: A number of neighbors have been filing complaints with City Hall and with The Police Service, regarding the speeders and loud mufflers coming across the bridge. The police service has responded  and reader Jack Tunnicliffe provided us with the photographic proof. Here’s hoping we have a quieter summer.

• Garden Tip: This is a repeat of a repeat of a repeat. Found another lawn that needed aeration. The weight of last winter’s snow has been too much for most lawns to handle. Compaction issues are showing up this late because we had such a rainy, cool spring. If you want a recommendation, here it is: Call Drew (586-0828) at Mr. Caretaker and he will aerate your lawn. The price varies as to the size.

• You can look but never buy: I was at a store called JYSK. They had on display, two smaller desks. Both suited my needs. I tried to buy the first one. They had none left in the back. I tried to buy the second one. They had none left in the back. “How about I take the floor model?” I asked. Nope. You can only buy a floor model if it is discontinued. So I said to seventeen year old kid who was assisting me, “This is indeed an interesting game we are playing. I can look. I can choose. But I can’t buy. Why are your doors even open?” Stunned by my devastating logic, he mumbled, “Uh…that’s the way we do it here.”

• Garden Tip: It appears to be a good year for roses. One of the best things that a gardener can do for their roses is to remove the spent blooms. This encourages the plant to set new buds. If you are not certain as to how far you should cut the blooms back, there are many excellent books on the market that have illustrations. I have also found that roses in our area enjoy a shot of iron chelate. Iron chelate ensures that my rose leaves maintain a healthy, dark green appearance.

• Interesting: Over the years, I have had an opportunity to travel throughout the province, filming gardens. I have visited with people who have little income, and their gardens flourish. They make use of compost and they obtain their plants from friends and neighbors. They produce a great show and spend little money. I have also visited with people who have spent many thousands of dollars and they have very little to show for their money. The point which I assume you have already figured out, is: Regardless of the amount of money you spend on a landscape, in order for it to be a beautiful garden, it requires the loving hands of someone who cares. Money does not buy a garden, but love creates one that is priceless.

• Garden Tip: It is time to fertilize your trees, shrubs, perennials, hanging baskets and annuals. As recommended here, use a water soluble such as a 10 30 20 or a 15 30 15. Those ones have been very good for me over the years. As a cutoff date, I try not to fertilize any of my permanent plantings after August 15th. That allows the plant to harden off or prepare for the winter. I do fertilize my annuals and hanging baskets late into the fall as they are not staying for the cold months.

• She had it in her: Congratulations go out to reader Shawna Bell on the arrival of her baby boy. Shawna, along with her parents Wilbert and Sharon Ronald, operate Jeffries Nursery in Portage la Prairie.

• I understand: I was attending a national greenhouse conference a few years ago in Toronto. The convention sent a van to pick us up each morning. On the second day, I was seated beside a well dressed gentleman. I introduced myself and then asked “what brings you to this conference?” His accent indicated that he was from Quebec and that English, was definitely not his first language. He told me: “I am here as a visitor. Next year, I wish to be here as an exhibitionist.” I didn’t correct him. “ Yes, next year, I wish to have a chance to expose myself to many people.” If you think that was funny, you should listen to me speak French.

• Best year ever: What you ask? Is it a flower, a vegetable, a herb? Nope. It is the Canadian Football League. I have never seen so many close and well played matches. That’s it for sports, and now stay tuned for the weather.

A dragonfly eating a mosquito on Brad's arm
 • Very tasty: Have you ever noticed how many people who love to garden, love to cook? They seem to go hand in hand or if I wish to be fancy, they have a symbiotic relationship. So, my patio tomatoes are bearing lots of fruit and I needed to use up five ripe ones. I chopped the tomatoes into quarter inch chunks, added in two tablespoons of chopped, just harvested, Walla Walla onion, lots of fresh basil, oregano and a touch of mint. Dressed it with a splash of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, ground salt and ground pepper. Served it as an appetizer and received five star reviews from two people, besides myself. Shameless self promotion, but it was tasty, in a scintillating manner.

• Every neighborhood has one: I have always maintained that one of the best things about living in Lakeview is that we take great pride in our local lunatics. They provide us with color. I think I have crossed the line and I might now be in that group, the group the neighbors chat about. Friday night, I was on my way to bed at eleven. Then I remembered that I had not yet let Murphy, my dear Irish cat, in for the night. Every evening, he likes to take a constitutional walk along the brick pathway in the back garden. Usually, he greets me at the door but this night, I could see him chasing a vole across the neighbor’s lawn. I called to him. Of course he didn’t listen. He’s a cat. The vole ran out onto Regina Avenue with Murphy in hot pursuit, something that he has never done before. I gave chase, wanting to rescue him, which I did. He is safe. So where is the color you ask? Uh…I was on my way to bed and all I had on was my jockeys and a t shirt. There I was, running down Regina Avenue on a Friday night, in my underwear, chasing a cat who was chasing a vole. The really sad part is, I was completely sober. The neighbors did not call the police. They said “it’s just Rod.”

The gohers like to get high around our neighborhood
 Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Garden Report #60

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

• Writers write: The tomatoes are beginning to ripen in their pots, the daylilies are in full bloom and the shade from the American elm allows for a quiet breeze. It is that time of year to sit back with a glass of cold sun tea and to enjoy the tranquility of my efforts. I am content.

• Readers write:

     • Wanda Bellamy writes “I am enjoying reading your newest report while we have our first cup of coffee on our balcony in Lumsden. A beautiful and peaceful day in the country. We were expecting a lot of noise and commotion while Big Valley was on, but haven't really noticed anything other than a lot of RCMP in town. Have a great day in the sunshine!”

A University of Saskatchewan Lily
     • Gwen Barschel has this to say. “Rod, just read today’s installment, and enjoyed as usual. I have had the first of hopefully many raspberries from my garden, and have netted them to keep the birds off. Thought you would enjoy a photo of my U of S lilies, purchased as bulbs at Gardenscape in Saskatoon, a few years ago. I have been trying to find more for friends, but have not been successful, so I may be digging them up this year and sharing a few. You’re right, that sharing is one of the best things a gardener can do. Enjoy your week. Also added a shot of my ‘Knowlians Black’, really deep purple, morning glories. One of my most favorite plants.”

Knowlian's Black Morning Glory
     • From London, Ontario, Wendy Richardson wrote: “Just finished the Garden Report for today and really enjoyed as per usual. It’s almost like you are writing me a letter every week. Found the tips helpful about the peat moss because we have heavy clay here.”

     • Jennifer Cohen responds to the demise of the independent hardware store. She was brief: “Bernie really likes CMS for odd stuff. And it's close to a favorite of yours, Nicky's.” Rod’s note: CMS is Canadian Metal Services, a salvage shop and hardware store at Winnipeg and 8th Avenue. They are a ‘soup to nuts’ place. Maybe no soup, but lots of nuts.

     • Fringe friend and reader Courtney Siebring’ is now living in Halifax. She sent this along: “I've been following The Garden Report... I'm actually turning into a bit of a gardener myself. Domestic Artistry has become a fascination... I love it. Just tomatoes in pots this year and my regular flower gardens. But I'm building a compost bin from old wooden pallets and preparing some space to do square foot gardening next year. My neighbor Miss Ellen, has promised to teach me to can, once the tomatoes are ready and I have a freezer FULL of rhubarb.”

     • This short and sweet from Murray Wallace. “Good morning, Rod. Sunday am. I have enjoyed your Garden Report this past month. Keep them coming.”

     • Neil Slater has a suggestion for other great food places. “I'm often surprised when I read The Garden Report, for I seem to know so many of the people who email you. Today, it's Marsha Kennedy, but I've read of John Huston and many others. One of the best small stores is Tony's India Food Centre on Victoria Ave. If you need any eastern spices or Jamaican foods, Tony is your man! And don't forget the Ukrainian Coop; they have excellent food, too.”

     • Susan Rollins, who gardens near Craven, sent this message. “The daylilies you gave me last year are blooming and looking lovely, and the strawberries are busy producing strawberries. Thanks again for all your gardening suggestions. Even those of us who have been gardening for awhile can always use tips.”

• A great morning: My definition of a great morning is up early, tend to the garden, breakfast on the patio with a dark roast coffee and then a wonderful bicycle ride through Wascana Park. If the sun is shining and there is very little wind, then it moves from a great morning to a fantastic one. Guess who had a fantastic morning just before he wrote this?

• Garden Tip: Always pot up a few of your extra bedding plants into four and six inch pots. If you do this, you will always have decent sized replacements available for your flower boxes and beds. Trust me on this one, you will always need a replacement here and there, no matter how good a of a gardener you claim to be.

• Garden Tip: When replacing your garden hose, do not buy a cheap vinyl one. Do not be mislead by the slick ads attached to many hoses that proclaim themselves to be ‘kink free’ and so on. One hundred per cent rubber is the best way to go. It will cost you more money up front but it will last longer and cause you less grief. And less grief is a very attractive consideration these days, for most of us.

• Hot is the new cool: For the last eight weeks, I have been involved in a training program, Monday to Friday. I can’t get away for a cafĂ© lunch. I have to make my lunch every morning and eat it in my training room. Sandwiches could get quite easily boring, so I try to reinvent the wheel with different breads and buns, and fillings. One of my favorite toppings is hot, pickled peppers. At least to me, though some will disagree, there is not a sandwich that does not taste better loaded up with hot, pickled peppers. Just to be certain, I do not own any shares in the hot, pickled pepper company. Please don’t ask if I own any shares in the Tums’s company. That is confidential.

• Low maintenance daylilies: These plants are members of the hemerorcallis family. My experience says that they must be planted with a good amount of sunshine. I have tried to grow them under dappled light (overhanging tree branches) as some sources have suggested. They lived, but never thrived. Once moved to a sunny exposure, they bloomed prolifically. I have also found that once established, they require very little maintenance and can exist on a degree of neglect, including forgetting to water them on a regular basis.

Martagon Lily
 • A lily for the shade: There is one lily that performs well in the shade. It is called the Martagon Lily. I have one planted in my back yard and while I am not an enthusiastic member of the cheer squad, it does have its features. I included two photos this week from when it was in bloom.

• Free kisses: Nothing to report here. I just throw stuff like this in every now and again to see if you are paying attention. Okay. So it is misleading advertising. Here’s your damned free kiss. Was it worth the complaining?

• Please don’t touch my food: I went for a walk this week. There is a national chain restaurant that faces Albert Street with its back door on McIntyre Street, which is where I was walking. There were four kitchen staff outside the back door, having a smoke. I could use many adjectives to describe them, but suffice to write, you really, really, don’t want these people touching your food.

• A paler shade of white: This is my first year growing the White Wave Petunia. I have been growing the original pink variety for many years and I have been pleased with its performance. The White Wave is an excellent performer and it appears to hold its flowers longer. The flowers are a ‘clean’ white and they do not ‘dirty up’ as they wane. As with Pink Wave, shearing the White Wave is mandatory to achieve a full plant.

• Other news from the garden: My dianthus has been much improved over other years. I have been getting out there regularly, with my scissors, removing the spent flowers. That appears to be the secret. I have not grown the lime colored Sweet Potato Vine for several years. I just fell out of love with it. I planted three of them this year as an edge plant in a large clay pot. They have performed just fine and are looking great. The heat has sent the pansies on a holiday until September. The roses are not in bloom but they are loaded with buds so the second show will be a good one. The shade plants including the ferns and the Snow on the Mountain are extra tall this year, due to the wet and dark spring. Usually, this means they will have an earlier collapse due to the heat. When extra tall, a plant usually lacks strength.

• Good job: While attending university, I would often hitchhike to school, rather than ride the bus. I would simply hold up my thumb at the corner of Elphinstone and Dewdney, and someone would pick me up. Over time, there were four different drivers who would regularly give me a lift to school. One of those regulars was Alan Blakeney, the Premier of the Province. The first time Mr. Blakeney picked me up, he apologized for having to drop me off at the corner of Albert and College. He explained to me “I work in the park.” I was so tempted to ask him: “Work in the park? What do you do? Cut the grass?”

• Today’s thought: As long as you have a garden, even a small one, you will always have something to do.

• Today’s second thought: Never ask a gardener how things are growing this year, if you have to be somewhere important in the next two hours. Note: There are many adaptations to this one.

• Sadly: The Reverend Bob Gay passed away this week. Bob was the Downtown Chaplain for many years, working with any and all. He was also a strong supporter of the community and its various arts programs. You could always count on seeing Bob and his wife at the various theater performances. My mother worked with Bob back in the 1970’s and she thought the world of him. She was impressed with his willingness to serve the poorest of the poor. When she passed away this winter, our first thought was to ask Bob to conduct her funeral, which he did.

• Attention single guys: I got dragged into Winners/Homesense and JYSK on Saturday by a certain someone who I share a house with. Let me tell all of you single guys looking to meet women, both of these stores are filled with females. Great looking ones, in all age brackets. Something for everyone. So why head to the singles bar when you can go to stores likes these? All you have to do is flag one down and ask her for her opinion of the throw pillow you are holding. Shameless scam. Needless to write, I was not allowed to do anything other than to record the experience.

• Farmers’ Market: More and more veggies are showing up including one of my favorites, Walla Walla onions. Lots of Saskatoon berries and Sharon Wallace is now selling her incredible pies.

• God bless the dragon flies: Earlier this week, we had a swarm of dragon flies arrive in our yard. They buzzed around for several hours, feasting on the mosquitoes, and then they were off to the next buffet. After they left, very few mosquitoes. Sitting outside was a real treat. I would like to personally thank the head of the dragon fly committee, for their fine efforts.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Garden Report #59

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

My neighbor- The Saskatchewan Legislature
 • Writers write: I was up early on Saturday morning. I wanted to get into the garden to ensure that everything was looking wonderful, before the heat of the day. I finished my horticultural duties and I headed off to visit some of my favorite shops. My first stop was at Maple Leaf/Oscars on 11th which is a combination bakery/butcher shop. They are so old school there. I love the place and it was packed with customers, which is always nice to see. On Victoria Avenue, I said hello to Carlos at The Italian Star Deli. He is everyone’s friend. Then to Orange Boot, which produces some incredible loaves of old style bread, including a killer ‘Saskatchewan Sourdough’. They only opened their doors as a family business in January. It was their dream to bring good bread to Regina and by the lineup out the door, their dream is coming true.

     Then down to The Farmers’ Market. Every now and again I hear someone pitch The Farmers’ Market as a cheaper alternative to grocery stores. Not true. Food is not cheaper at The Farmers’ Market, but that is not why I attend or do the hundreds of others this warm morning. I take it in because I can find certain foods and qualities of foods that I cannot find elsewhere. Now, as big of a supporter as I like to be, you need to be forewarned, not everything at The Market is first rate. You have to be prudent.

     The other reason for my showing up is for the social aspect. I always allow at least an hour as I run into old friends and we chat. It is nice to connect with people who were in Grade One with you or grew up in the same neighborhood. I finished off with a quick hello to The Roughrider’s former coach, Ken Miller, and it was time to leave. Friends, butter tarts, beets, carrots, and a new crop of Saskatoon berries. The pace is slower and life not so frenetic. It’s the way I like to shop.

• Readers write:

Chinese Catalpa Tree at Brandon, Manitoba
      • Andrew Morton sent along the photo of the Chinese Catalpa tree. planted in Brandon, Manitoba at Patmore Nursery.

      • Paula Grolle learned how to pinch geraniums from an old-timer. Here is what she wrote: “In 1979, I was given a pink geranium by my elderly neighbour, who had a great garden. Every fall I brought it into the house and put it on the window ledge, where it bloomed all winter. Out it would go for the summer etc. It made 3 house moves with me. That is why I always buy pink geraniums; so I can remember the guidance he gave me when I was just starting out. His first words of advice were to take off the flower when it was half spent.”

     • Michel Touchette is a regular reader and as well, he is recognized as one of Canada’s top nurserymen. Michel had this to say about planting trees in the right spot. “I am amazed, but not surprised, when someone plants a Mountain Ash in a low spot. I simply say to the customer, the name is Mountain a couple times, then their eyes flicker. The same applies to Colorado spruce planted in gumbo and the tree is dying. Colorado is the home of the Rockies. Water moves away from the trees roots quickly. On the Prairies both trees will do well under normal conditions, until you have a year like this year.”

     • Doreen over at The Marian Center wrote: “Just received The Garden Report and this issue caught my attention in a big way. Last time I was in Cypress Hills, I searched for orchids. No luck. Might have been the wrong time of year. Maybe I didn't know where to look. Those photos that Marsha Kennedy took are fantastic.”

     • From Marsha Kennedy. “I am taking a break from garden work and just read your garden report. Always a Sunday treat, Rod!”

     • Ann Anderson wrote, in what I can only assume is ‘tongue in cheek’ style. “Hi Rod, I read part of your message at home on Sunday, but have to wait until Monday to read the rest on my computer as my Blackberry will only display part of the message. It's a Garden Report cliff hanger ... What will happen next? Did the tomato survive? Will Rod end with a story from his childhood? I can hardly wait to get to work on Monday mornings thanks to you!”

     • Reader Elaine Wurm did not write, she spoke. She said that she loves reading The Garden Report because it has the feel of a small town newspaper, in an electronic format.

     • Wendy Richardson, who gardens in London, Ontario sent these kudos along. “Love reading the garden report, love your humor and the tips as well. Spent the afternoon in the garden today as it was a gorgeous day, sunny and about 27, with low humidity which is very much appreciated. Our tomatoes are spectacular this year and I can hardly wait until they ripen. We may even have some by next week. I love the summer and being outside. Our back yard is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Hope that you are enjoying yours as well.”

• Garden Tip: This week is not the right time of year to be moving any plant. If you have to move a plant at this time of year, best to do it in the early morning when it is cooler. Best to do it on a rainy or cloudy day. And best if you dig as big of a root ball as you possibly can. Ensure that the plant receives a nice shot of water after transplantation and do not be alarmed if it flags for a week or two.

• Garden Tip: One of our readers wanted to know about cutting back a mockorange that is predominantly dead in the center. Every now and again, a shrub cries out for a haircut. A hair cut is not proper pruning, but as I wrote, every now and again. When you cut a shrub back that has massive amounts of dead branches within it, you give that plant a second chance. An opportunity to renew itself. If it is a mature plant, the root system is usually strong enough to provide that opportunity. Best to do a hair cut in the spring, so that the new growth has a chance to mature and to harden off for the winter.

• Prayers can be answered: I was crashed on the couch, Monday night. It was nine p.m. I was channel surfing, sipping a cup of tea, wishing I had a pastry or some other decadent treat to accompany my warm cup. The doorbell rings. Who can that be? None of my friends are out this late. They’re home watching The National with Peter and Wendy and Amanda, right? Why, it’s Norma, my next door neighbour. She has in her hands a plate, with six pieces of gourmet dessert including cake, tarts and pavlova. It was almost a religious experience.

• He loves Regina: Rob Gee, who performed his play ‘Fruitcake’ at The Regina Fringe Festival last week, has fallen in love with Regina. He was impressed with The Fringe, the people, how friendly we are and the support he received for his performances. Rob is from England and he is performing this week at The Winnipeg Fringe. He will be back next year.

• Sometimes we don’t hug enough: I was at my school reunion a few years back, and an absolutely gorgeous woman came over and gave me an affectionate hug. She also proffered a kiss and told me how happy she was to see me. I had no idea who she was, but dammed if I was going to deny her this opportunity. Throughout the supper, she would toss a wave and blow a little kiss to me. I liked this reunion. Why are people always complaining about reunions? Finally I asked one of my classmates who this beauty was, as I still had no idea. He told me. I was shocked. “Her” I said! “Skinny, flat chested, scrawny, gawky, whiny, nerdy…her? What is this? Cinderella at the ball?” My classmate, who was equally impressed as to how the duckling had morphed into the swan, spoke for the two of us: “Who knew?”

• That’s it: At the same reunion, my high school sweetheart and Maureen were engaged in a conversation. The old flame said “I wonder how it would have turned out if I had married Rod?” To which Maureen replied “Well, for starters, you would never ever get to hold the remote.” That’s it? That is how my life is defined? As a remote control hog? Somehow I thought there was something more to my composition, then again, perhaps not.

• Garden Tip: Hanging baskets are the most susceptible of all our gardening projects to the elements. Especially wind and heat. Best to always check for watering requirements, every morning. I have seen hanging baskets that were dry in the morning, wilt at lunch and be cooked for supper. I think I’ll lie down now.

My garden with the evening sun shining through
 • Garden Tip: I have never seen a garden that had too much peat moss in it. Peat moss is a wonderful, organic product that can be used to break up the heavy clay soil in our area and in sandy soil areas, it adds substance to the soil structure. You should use it when planting trees, shrubs, and perennials, as well as bulbs and annuals. I also find that peat moss is an excellent choice as a ground cover to retain the moisture. One of the problems is that many people think that installing a bag or two will do the trick. Here is a hint: Every second year, I recover my beds in the spring or the fall with a layer of peat. I think nothing of purchasing fifteen bags for my urban garden and it’s not that large.

• Gardeners share: I have written this many times, good gardeners share. They share their wisdom, their time and often their plants. It’s all about karma. Wednesday night, reader Denise Cook dropped off a basket filled with strawberries from her garden. Tasty and so good for your body and soul. I would never stoop so low as to suggest others provide similar gestures (unless you really, really want to), but I would recommend that you share your bounties with friends and neighbors. It’s the Canadian thing to do.

• Old school: There was a time when every neighborhood had its own hardware store. The one man band type of hardware store. It was a place where you could find ‘things’. The guy running it always seemed to know what you needed, mainly because he had been there for thirty years. He had window screens, a key cutting machine, paint and fence staples, which for some reason I was always buying. They are all gone, save one. Rosemont Hardware on 4th Avenue, across from Martin Collegiate, is still open. I was over there this week, and he still sells nails by the pound, weighing them on the old balance scale. And the fellow running it has been there for the required thirty years, so he knows what you are talking about, even when you are not certain what you have just described.

• First one: My first tomato ripened on the vine Friday. It is allocated for tonight’s salad, served with basil and oregano from the herb garden. I would invite everyone over, but it is only one tomato.

• Favorite times: Sure, I love Christmas and my birthday. But I also love blueberry season, which is in full swing right now. Big, fat, juicy, sweet blueberries. And I could write another twenty or so adjectives.

• Two degrees of separation: There was young man selling Saskatoon berries from his orchard at The Farmers’ Market. I bought a pint. I asked him what variety of bush he was growing and he responded “Martin”. I told him that variety was developed by my beloved mentor, Dieter Martin, in Langham, Saskatchewan. He had heard of Dieter and he was excited to meet someone who actually knew him.

Geranium pots accent my pillar steps
 • Thought for the day: A garden is a place we go when we want to enjoy life.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Garden Report #58

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

A closeup of a 'Lady Slipper' Prairie Orchid
 • Writers write: The Garden Report has grown in its first year. We now receive, some weeks, thirty responses. I try to include as many as I can without redundancy. Readers should know that I do correct all spelling mistakes that I spot, and most grammar errors, without being ‘The Grammar Commandant’. As an aside, I have been nailed three times by readers for spelling mistakes and that is okay. It makes me a better writer. I also do something that is not always considered kosher. I have on occasion, fixed things. When someone sends in an obvious wrong word i.e. using spatula when they clearly meant spectacular, then I repair that mistake. I realize that one day, someone will take great offence. That is almost guaranteed to happen. I never change or omit the meaning or intent of a response and I always include ones that are critical or in non agreement. That’s how I do it. Just wanted that out there.

• Readers write:

     • Jeannie Freeman remembers gardens from the past. She writes: “HALLELULIA!! That's for the roses (especially the bushes of little yellow roses that grew on many prairie farmsteads and in town backyards because the pioneer women brought them west, along with their rhubarb roots). Halleluiah as well for the mock oranges, which I have loved ever since Bill and I could finally afford to move into our first rental house, on Retallack St. Our lovely old house had a mock orange by the front door, lilacs under the kitchen window, and a yellow rose bush by the back fence! Heaven!! I love your Winston Churchill story, and all his other quotes. A wise man.”

     • Laura Ross sent this along. “Good Morning Rod: Thank you again for The Garden Report. Summer has finely arrived in the Queen City. If you know of someone who would like to share some of their dark, purple irises, please let me know. I have come to really appreciate the look of irises in the garden. I think the fireworks this year were spectacular, a great way to end Canada Day. Thanks again for the report see you in the back alley.”… Laura

     • This arrived from reader Wanda Bellamy. “Good morning Rod & Maureen. It was great visiting with you July 1st. Please forward The Garden Report to my new email, we don't want to miss it when we move.”

     • Short but sweet from Kate Berringer. “Hallelujah! (as you asked). Also, love the Fringe too. I’m doing one volunteer shift this year and hopefully taking in some shows.”

     • Ken Alexe really enjoyed The Fringe commercial that I produced for the festival this year, as did many of you. It received a lot of air time. Ken wrote: “Your unique combination of skills and background as a TV producer and Fringe performer have, once again created a great product that has played extremely well with audiences.”

     • Alan Bratt is also a strong supporter of Bob Anderson, over at Concept Media. Here is what he wrote. “Greetings Rod: Ever since you recommended him, I have been taking my Fringe printing to Bob Anderson. Not only does he get the work done when I expect it, it is done before I expect it, and it is done better than I had imagined it. And he is real nice guy.” Rod’s note: Now, if only we could find someone in the eaves trough business, just like Bob.

     • Lyn Goldman is thrilled that the bloom is on her rose, and yes, I am playing with words. I am always pleased to read of another gardener’s success. Here is what she wrote. “I have roses blooming all over the place! Never had more than 3 or 4 before.”

'Lady Slipper' Prairie Orchid

     • Marsha Kennedy was the photographer for our prairie orchids in the attachment. She was at Cypress Hills. She had this to say as a way of commentary. “I saw lots of striped and spotted coral root and the conglomerate rock site was all in bloom with wild flowers. The photo attached is the white ladies slipper with striped coral was in the camp grounds where we camped. There was some rain but it was all worth it.”

Cheryl Hutton in a recent play
      • Cheryl Hutton out of Calgary, sent along a photo of a show she recently appeared in. She also had this to say about The Garden Report. “Sitting on our front porch, coffee in hand, Aaron reading a book, cat purring away between us, and me with my laptop catching up on a few weeks of Garden Reports. A perfect Sunday morning, truly. I was at a BBQ last night with some friends of ours and one is an avid gardener. He said he loves to share perennials, because you think of the person who gave them to you every year. Thanks again for your lovely writing. Love how you finish the reports with a cute anecdote or story. The last one of "F" for effort was made even better by your ability to always find the right button to the sentence. Ending it with "Close enough" made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that. Oh - and glad to hear you can't always salvage plants in the cold and rainy weather - makes me feel better about myself…”

     • Rhonda Rein is pleased that her tomato plant, which suffered greatly a month ago, has now improved. She writes “Thanks Rod! It was as if you read my question of the week for you! I was going to write in and ask you when we should remove the bands on our elm trees. So thanks once again for a very informative blog, love them and keep them coming! PS – also thanks for the tips on my tomato plants that were dying a few weeks back. Drainage holes have been established now and it’s looking great! See my attachment.”

     • Nathan Harvie is a new reader from Edmonton. This is his first response. “Just finished reading #57 a few minutes ago, entertaining as always! Thanks for putting me on the list.”


      • Bob Anderson didn’t mind me giving him a mention in last week’s edition. Here is what he had to say. “Thanks for the plug Rod – much appreciated. I read your newsletter weekly – always entertaining.”

     • Keith Carpenter lives in Vancouver and he is a regular reader. He sent this along. “I still enjoy all the insights to prairie living in your Garden Reports.”

     • Marcus Fernando writes about the over use of salt, from his home in Birmingham, England. “ I'd like to add my weight (what there is of it!) to your salt in food campaign. My problem is the salt which they put in food in restaurants. Every time we go out for dinner, I end up waking up in the night with a raging thirst. This, of course, never happens with home cooking. The reason is the amount of salt they add to the food, and of course they do this just to enhance the flavor of the food. Nowadays I'm so used to having low-salt cooking at home, that when I eat out I'm increasingly aware of the taste of the salt...rather than the flavor of the food. Unnecessary, unappetizing, and unhealthy!”

• Garden Tip: Once again, the creeping bellflower has taken over gardens in Lakeview (my neighborhood). I keep a clean garden, a very clean garden, but even I have to go on patrol, scouting this invasive plant. On Saturday last, I was canvassing and found fifty of this scourge, growing in my garden. You have to know where to look. Best to lift up plants such as peonies and strawberries and often, there are seedlings growing at the base. I even found four growing in my Snow on the Mountain patch, which is almost unheard of. Here is the problem: most people are not eradicating the plant. Some are even cultivating it in the mistaken belief that it is an ornamental perennial. As this plant has continued to spread, it is now dominating some yards. If you want to be organic, just pull them out by the root, especially before they flower and set seed.

• Garden Tip: In the country more so than the city, field columbine is once again a major problem. This plant was appropriately named ‘strangler vine’ by the people at The Classic Landscape Company. The plant weaves itself into ornamentals, and once that occurs, it is difficult to remove. Best to get it when it is young.

• Garden Tip: When the summer heat hits your yard, invariably there will be casualties. Best not to leave pansies or impatiens in the full sun. They prefer a bit of shade, as do your ferns. If your pansy pots stop blooming, do not despair. Simply move the pot or the container to a shady area, trim back the plants and they will start blooming when it cools down. Some years, they don’t rebloom until September, but what a great fall plant.

Persian Yellow Rose
 • Garden Trivia: Jeanie Freeman wrote in about the yellow roses that have bloomed all across the prairies, for a hundred years. Did you know that the name of that rose is ‘Persian Yellow’. It is very prickly, very tall and extremely hardy. Also, everyone please note: This rose was brought to Canada by my people. Yes, you read that correctly. Scottish immigrants brought the rose with them from the old country, as early as 1840. I would like all of the other ethnic groups to please say ‘wow’ in your native language. Thank you.

• Did you know: While the bulk of our readers are Canadian, we also have regular readers in fifteen other countries. Did you know that while most of our readers are from the broad, cultural mosaic, we have a very large number who are from the theatrical, writing and art’s community? Did you know that several of the largest greenhouses and nurseries in western Canada are regular readers and co responders?

• Oh yeah: Roberta Nichol wrote in this week, insisting that I know next to nothing about women. And her point is?

• Could I have a second chance: I was fifteen years old and the legendary Luella Lovering was my Grade Ten English teacher. She was in her seventies and had been teaching for a very long time. I actually adored her, but I would never have admitted that to my buddies. She was a fine teacher. One day, she was returning assignments that had red marks all over them. They were grammatical corrections. She was attempting to soothe our battered egos by saying “Keep writing and don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I should know, I am not perfect.” There it was. You heard her! She said “I am not perfect.” For whatever reason, I decided to help her along with that assertion, her being an English teacher. I said out loud (with forty-five years of regrets) “Did you know that when you write on the chalkboard, you never dot your ‘I’s’ or cross your ‘T’s’?” It was about two seconds after I spoke those words, that I realized how wonderful it would be to have a time machine, reset the clock and delete what I had just said. Apparently, she did not appreciate editorial critique. Can you spell detention?

• Garden Tip: There are several Mountain Ash that are not doing well this year. Too much rain. Mountain Ash prefer well drained soil. If your tree has yellow leaves that give themselves up easily, then it should benefit from a dose of iron chelate, often sold under the trade name of TruGreen. Note to yourself: Do not plant a Mountain Ash in a low lying area.

• Garden Tip: I have been asked to look at a few lawns that, in spite of our rainy spring, are showings signs of dehydration. There is a simple explanation to that apparent contradiction. There was so much snow this past winter, between three and five feet in many yards. That much snow is a heavy weight on the lawn below. Compaction occurs and water, even lots of water, runs off. Easy remedy. Aeration. Do not listen to the idiots out there who say that aeration is strictly a spring thing. You can aerate a lawn any time of the year. It will open up the soil so that water, air and fertilize can percolate down into the root zone.

• More six year old humor: Best joke I ever heard from a Grade One girl? Q. What is the difference between broccoli and boogers? A. Grade One boys don’t eat broccoli.

• Thought for the day: If I take the time to count my blessings, I have less time to complain. Now go drink your herbal tea.

• A true prairie boy: Ron Atchison was a legend as a Saskatchewan Roughrider football player. He played from 1951 until 1966. Ron and his wife Brenda, were regulars at Lakeview Gardens and I always enjoyed my chats with Ron. After all, as a little boy growing up on Dewdney Avenue, I thought Ron and all Roughriders walked on water. One day we were talking about his career on the field. He said “some of us get our fifteen minutes of fame in one lump and for me, it got spread out over several years.” He told me that he rarely went back to Taylor Field, that he didn’t want to hang onto something that no longer existed. Ron was always kind and humble when we spoke. After football, Ron made his living from something he really enjoyed. He was a carpenter. He worked with wood. He was a prairie boy, through and through. Ron passed away about a year ago.

• Garden Tip: For those of you new to tomato growing, it will assist your plants if you prune them. Tomato plants that have been pruned are stronger and will maintain their fruit in an upright position.

• Love clean: We had a quick supper at 13th Avenue Coffee House in between Fringe shows on Saturday night. The food is always flavorful there but that is not what I want to talk about. I had to pee. I hate, I absolutely detest dirty washrooms. Their washrooms were spotless. I like that. I knew you would appreciate the sharing.

• Garden Tip: Visiting with one of our readers this week, she has a pot of floppy geraniums. I showed her how to pinch the blooms off, once they are spent. She is reluctant to do this, as are many of you. I will say this as clearly as I can: If you want beautiful geraniums, become a ‘heavy pincher’. You are doing the plant a favor by removing blooms, past their prime. This is not a theory. I have done it for years and it produces the finest of geraniums.

A new lawn - well watered
 • Way to go: Chad Jacklin, who has been renovating The Artesian on 13th Avenue for almost two years now, has done a fantastic job. He has been very creative in his alterations to the building and it is a special place for performers and audiences.

• Fringe Festival: The Regina Fringe was well organized and a real treat to attend as an audience member. Kudos go out to Jodi Sadowsky for all of her efforts as the Producer. We love The Fringe for its sense of democracy. Performers ranged from seasoned veterans who have performed almost everywhere, to those who are on their first outing. We witnessed the genius and brilliance of Jem Rolls, Rob Gee and Colin Godbout. One of our Regina readers, Alan Bratt, had a show this year that he had written. Its theme was how we treat the elders within our community. He pointed out that when we turn people into objects, then we do things to them, rather than things for them. It was very well done. If you are reading this on Sunday, there is still time to catch a show or two as this is the last day.

A new lawn left unwatered
 • Fringe folklore: Maureen and I started organizing Fringe Theater in Regina, back in 1998. Our first endeavor was to bring in Shannon Calcutt in ‘Izzy The Clown’ and John Huston performing ‘Shylock’. Some of our readers will remember those early beginnings. Both shows played back to back on a Friday and Saturday night in March. We had to plead, cajole and beg to get seventy patrons out for Friday and fifty for Saturday. Fringe was so new to the people of Regina that there was one lady who thought it was a ‘French Festival.’ We went on to produce nine more Fringe weekends under the name of The Regina Knot-a-Fringe Theater Group. We operated under that name for legal reasons. If you were a part of our family, it was mandatory that you ‘volunteer’ to work at these shows. My brother in law and youngest son ran the lights, my sister ran the box office and the rest had to take tickets and usher. We produced these weekend events until The Fringe Festival officially started in 2005. Now we clap and cheer.

 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina