Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Garden Report #47

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Morden Sunrise Rose
 • Writers write: The sun is shining and the temperature has risen, just a tad. It is a late spring. The leaves have been raked and the mulch removed. The emerging bulbs and perennials have shown their tips. There is a reason why bulbs are referred to as ‘sleeping beauties.’ Murphy has been out much more this week, walking his garden path, inspecting insects that he finds along the way. Once the ferns have grown, he will resume his ‘king of the jungle’ pose, patrolling his fiefdom. The robins have been all over the garden sorting out the exposed worms. The cycle of life is so evident and just beyond my kitchen windows.

• Readers write: Joanne Terry understands my need to channel surf. She floats through all the cable channels only to discover nothing is on that she really wants to watch. I assume she has not yet found “Say Yes to the Dress”. Cary Rubenfeld out of Winnipeg writes in regards to #46 “ some of the best writing I have seen…” Lyn Goldman writes that she knows it is spring because Trout and Jilly (her two cats) are coming in covered in mud. We understand at this house. Murphy has been getting paw baths and scrubs for two weeks now. He actually does not resist as he knows what to expect. Georgia Hearn writes that The Garden Tips component of this blog is “better than attending a class or reading a book.” Reader Jean McNeil who lives near Ottawa writes that in another life time she might learn how to enjoy Brussels Sprouts. That should get some reader mail going. Kirk and Wanda Bellamy want people to sign their donor cards and are proud to have done so many years ago. Cheryl Ann Smith who now resides in the country side of England reads The Garden Report early in the morning due to the time difference. Cheryl Ann was at one time the director of The Marian Center on Halifax Street in Regina. Joan Ziffle sends along complimentary hugs to all those who need one this week. Jack Tunnicliffe wants spring to appear soon as he is anxious to get his convertible out of the garage for a spin. If he is going to The Dairy Queen, he can pick me up. Roberta Nichol responded to last week’s restaurant opinions. Roberta said she has found The Fireside Bistro to be mediocre, that Angor is a hit and miss with its meals and that she had another outstanding meal at The Creek Bistro on 13th. I have yet to eat at The Creek but it is definitely on my radar site. Joan Kortje is excited about spring but she is not sure whether she should shovel the remaining snow or start to dig. A tough choice this year. Carlo from The Italian Star Deli writes “I really enjoy your Garden Reports.” Susan Rollins who lives out in the Lumsden/Craven valley writes “Your gardening advice is so helpful for a returning prairie gardener and your restaurant reviews are appreciated…” Susan and her husband Jim have been barricaded by water this season and it has been a struggle to even leave the property. Jennifer Cohen wants us to know that The Jazz Society is having a gig at The Casino on May 16th featuring PJ Perry. PJ is an incredible saxophone player and he is worth the price of admission. Joana Cook wants us to know that it is plus twenty-five in London this week.

• Garden Tip: If you have not already done so, it is definitely time to band your elm and apple trees to protect them from the dreaded canker worms that appear every spring. Ensure that there is a band of insulation as the first layer followed by a plastic layer followed by the application of a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot. Be careful working around any of the sticky substances as they are very difficult to remove from your clothing. I have firsthand knowledge of this occurring.

• Say what?: As a small child, I suffered a touch of auditory dyslexia. Radio announcers such as the late, great Jonny Sandison would proclaim that all contest draws had been made at random. Except I heard the word Brandon which I knew to be a town in Manitoba. I thought Brandon must be a very trustworthy community because they were always holding draws “at Brandon”.

• Ancient civilization: We didn’t get a gas furnace until 1960. Until then, our house ran off of coal and wood. It was my job in Grades One, Two and Three to fill the kindling box (starter firewood) each day after school. If the box was not filled with freshly chopped wood, I was in big trouble with my mother.

• Garden Tip: If you are growing in containers this season and I very much recommend container gardening to expand your yard, then it is time to stock up on Pro Mix. This is a brand of potting soil that I recommend and use myself. I purchase my Pro Mix in the larger bales of 3.8 c.f. from Sherwood Greenhouses behind CTV.

No baseball contract!
• A baseball star is born: When I was in Grade One, I decided I should be a starting pitcher for The New York Yankees. I practiced my pitching skills until one day I was so confident at keeping the ball in the strike zone, I decided to use our kitchen window for practice. I announced to myself and the rest of the world that the strike zone was the sill around the window. I knew I wouldn’t break the window as I had such control over my sinker, slider and curve that it was …well, impossible for the pitch to veer off course. This story kind of writes itself, doesn’t it? My pitch was right on the money except at the last moment, my curve cut into the right, but only by an inch. It went through the glass pane, the flowered curtains and landed in my dad’s bowl of chicken noodle soup. For years, I always assumed the look on my father’s face that day was one of anger, utter anger. Many years later, my mother informed me that I was wrong. The look was one of fear. My poor father, enjoying his bowl of soup, had World War Three erupt before his eyes. I put the fear of God back into his life. Oh…the Yankees never drafted me after that one mistake.

• Garden Tip: This week, most gardeners should be lightly raking their lawn with a fan rake, being careful to gather up the snow mould and dispose of it. Trees and shrubs can be pruned except for elms. An aeration company can be booked but should not be employed until the lawn is a bit more dry. No fertilizer should be applied, just yet. Layers of mulch can be slowly removed, about an inch at a time, so that the plants can acclimate to the new season.

• Garden Tip: I cannot stress the importance of the use of peat moss and lots of it while gardening. Good gardeners know that you can never use too much peat moss. It can be used as a mulch and it can be dug into the soil to improve the friability of the soil. If you live in a sandy area such as White City or Pilot Butte, peat moss can improve the quality of your soil by giving it more structure and holding power. If you live in a clay soil area such as Regina, peat moss can break up the stickiness and reduce the compaction of your garden soil.

• Sigh Thai: Readers Brad and Sandy Crassweller wanted to take us for supper and if someone else is buying, I am your guest. A good Scotsman never turns down a free meal. They asked what our favorite place was and Siam on Hamilton was quickly mentioned. We had two appetizers and five main dishes for the four of us which meant there were leftovers. The food is filled with flavors and textures. There is spicy, sweet, sour, crunchy, creamy, garlicky and a few O.M.G.’s available for your taste buds.

• Garden Tip: For people in the Indian Head area, I will be holding a seminar on gardening with arthritis at the local hospital. The seminar is at seven p.m. on Tuesday, May 3rd and to register, contact The Saskatchewan Arthritis Society. Seating is limited.

Little Princess Spirea
• Noah’s Ark: Compared to other communities, Regina has had very little damage due to flooding. The creek has overflowed its bank in places but not the disaster it has been in other parts of our province and in Manitoba.

• Stupid and sad: On my way in to The Pasqua Hospital on Thursday, there was a young man in his twenties wearing a hospital gown with two bags attached to an I.V. pole. He was smoking right in front of the sign announcing that he was in The Cancer Survivors’ Garden. Maybe, just maybe, it is time for him to quit.

• Garden Tip: Cruised through Home Depot on Friday. They have a bunch of cedars, imported from B.C. and yes, there was a fellow buying them. There are two problems with this: First, the cedars have broken dormancy so any frost we have will damage the new growth. They look so lovely today but in a month’s time, they will be brown. The second problem is that the variety is Emerald Green which is marginally hardy at the best of times. Brandon and Holmstruppii are much hardier varieties for our region. My advice, do not buy them no matter how tempting the price.

• Tasty: Several of you wrote in to say that the hot cross buns at Orange Boot were very good. I had to go there three times before I got some but you were right. Their Easter buns were very, very good.

• Garden Tip: Lilies including Easter lilies will last much longer if kept in a cooler place. Temperature totally controls how long they will last.

• Magic words: One of our boys was just learning to talk and his grandmother gave him a present. Maureen, ever the epitome of etiquette asks him “what do we say when someone gives us a gift?” He didn’t respond and sat there, sucking his thumb. Maureen tried again “What are the magic words?” He brightened up, understanding the social contract in front of him and he said “Happy Birthday!”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina
Champlain Hardy Rose
The Garden Report #46

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Kelsey Flowering Crab in bloom
• Writers write: This has been my week from hell. I make no secret of my illness. My kidneys have ground to a halt and I have been on dialysis for the last three and a half years. I have my good days and bad ones. Last Sunday was a wonderful day. I felt great. I got much accomplished. The world was the way it should be. As is often the case with my illness, when I have a good day I want to shout “I am cured! Hallelujah!” But my cures are short lived. The next seven days have been a struggle. I sleep. Around the clock. I get confused. I read the same page, over and over. I take my drugs. I do my therapy. I show up for my clinics. I tell God that if this is a test, I have failed miserably. I have not borne my burden with grace or dignity. I have bitched and complained. Tim Horton’s should give out free coffee to people who bitch and complain. But then the lines would be even longer. Writers find their inspiration when they learn to access their pool of pain. Or so I have been told. If true, there must be a novel laid bare by now. One of my nurses said “At least you have maintained your sense of humor.” Is that the consolation prize? Humor is like clean underwear and your American Express Card. You can finish the joke.

• Readers write: Kirk from Kitchen Gear, the new store on Hill Avenue, appreciated The Garden Report’s welcome to the neighborhood. Kirk wrote “You definitely have a loyal following”. Liz Calam writes that her daffodils, tulips and snowdrops are pushing through the remaining snow. Gail Bowen writes “I enjoy the weekly visits with you, our friends and neighbors, and with the strangers who share a delight for everyday living.” Sandra Rayson writes “Thank you for the excellent advice on lawn care…I am impressed with the wide scope you cover. Keep up the excellent work.” Both Jodi Sadowsky and Jean Freeman wrote asking if I hired the schoolyard bully from #45? The answer is no and it was not from a sense of revenge. He would have stolen from unattended purses and he would have sworn at the customers. Not really Lakeview Gardens material. Chris Dodd has started printing the posters ‘Rod for Prime minister’. Chris also wants to know why restaurants such as Montana’s make you wait when there are clean tables ready to be used. Murray and Sharon Wallace wrote in to say that they really enjoyed the recipe for lemon/pork cutlets published in #44.

A Thunderchild Fl.  Crab I planted in 1980
• A heritage tree: Sandra Rayson sends along a photo of a Thunderchild Flowering Crab growing in her back yard. I planted this tree for Sandra and her late husband Michael, in 1980, thus my claiming it as a heritage tree. Thunderchild was developed by Percy Wright in Saskatoon. It is a very hardy, disease resistant, ornamental tree. It was known as the ‘Celebrate Saskatchewan Tree’ in 1980, the 75th anniversary of our province. It is now grown and sold all over the world. There are three other shots this week of flowering crabs and plums. They are courtesy of Dr. Phillip Ronald of Jeffries Nursery.

• Told you so: If you are wheezing and scratching a little more than usual, it is probably due to the snow mould that is out there. What is snow mould you ask? It is the white, cotton like substance that is on lawns throughout the neighborhood. It is present every year and due to the heavy amount of snow this winter, it has multiplied. It can be easily removed with a light fan rake and disposed of in garbage bags. If you have a severe reaction to it, best to hire someone not as sensitive. I have been using a bit of Claritin to get me through. I told everyone much earlier in the winter that this would happen…and it did.

Starlite Flowering Crab in bloom
• Garden Tip: Do not, do not, do not fertilize in April. Do not fertilize your lawn or your shrubs or your trees. Alright, if you have some bedding plants growing in the kitchen, you can fertilize those, lightly. It is too early to start, even on a nice day to feed your outdoor plants and lawn.

• Garden Tip: For fertilizing lawns, best to apply three applications during the growing season. Apply five pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn in early to middle May, middle June and middle August. That is May 15th, June 15th and August 15th for those who need exact dates. For sun areas, I have been recommending 26-13-0 and for shadier areas, especially in old Lakeview, I have been recommending 17-20-0-15 or its equivalent. Last year, the formula for that one had been changed to 17-19-0-14 which is close enough. That one is particularly hard to find. I buy mine from CPS which is located on McDonald Street, north of Ross Avenue. It is quite close to Global Television.

• Garden Tip: For trees, shrubs, and bedding plants, I have been using 10-30-20 water soluble. If you can’t find that one, 15-30-15 is also a good one, as long as it is the water soluble type. For the 10-30-20, I had to bring in twenty-five pound bags from Winnipeg last year as I could not find it anywhere. 10-30-20 will give you blooms with shorter stems than if you use 20-20-20. Shorter stems are what you want as they will not snap off in the wind and wind is always a consideration in Regina.

• Name that new caragana: In last week’s blog, reader Casey Van Vloten offered up a prize for the best name of a plant he is propagating. The entries for this contest include: Gayle White from Winnipeg with Cadence. Jean Freeman’s name is Butterflake, Liz Calam’ is Prairie Butter, Georgia Hearn submitted Buttercup Beauty and June Blau has suggested Buttercups. And the winner is Liz Calam’ entry of ‘Prairie Butter’. Casey is sending Liz a free plant this summer for her efforts.

• Garden Tip: This one is more of a pep talk for new gardeners. When you start out gardening, you are going to meet a handful of gardeners who will tell you that they have never lost a plant in their lives. These people are what we used to call ‘Fiber McGees”. They are delusional. Gardeners, even great ones, lose plants with regularity and this year will be no different. This year, I expect to lose some plants from drowning. There has been too much water sitting for too long in some beds and the lack of oxygen will impact those plants.

• Too funny: About twenty years ago, we had a customer return a hanging basket that she had bought the year before. It was filled with geraniums. It had not survived the winter and she wanted a replacement. We explained that hanging baskets are grown for one season only and she said “don’t be ridiculous. No one pays $14.95 for something that lasts only one season.”

• Fireside Bistro: Several of the readers of this blog have recommended this place at Smith and 15th. My friend Ian had his birthday supper there recently and I was a guest. There were five eaters of which three rated their meal as very good. Those meals included a Cajun Perch, a Steak Neptune and a Glazed Salmon. Ian and I rated our meals mediocre with Ian having the lamb and I the rib steak. My steak was in the middle, being neither great nor poor. The potatoes were okay but nothing special and my veggies were luke warm. I know that I did not challenge the kitchen with my choice of meals but sometimes a basic is all you want. I did not have an appetizer, a drink or a dessert so no opinion on any other menu choices.

• Angor: This Asian restaurant is tucked out behind Costco in Box Store Land. We visit it about twice a year and we always find the food to be somewhere between good and excellent. Saturday night was date night for us and we headed out to Angor. We tried to order their version of a Cambodian Papaya Salad but they were out of papaya, which is often the story. We switched over to a Thai Salad that had as its base crispy noodles, peppers, chicken and a sweeter dressing. Very tasty. We then gave a try to their Thai soup. This one started out with a red curry paste, broth, shrimp, mushrooms and a good shot of vinegar which ensured the sinuses were working overtime. It was very tasty as well. Our one and only entrée dish was something that we had discussed many times but never ordered. A hot pot of Coca Cola chicken, onions and carrots. We gave it a try, just to say we had ordered it. Nothing special at all. No flavor of the cola at all. Rather bland and disappointing.

• Easter Flowers: If you are purchasing a hydrangea for Easter, and they are a lovely potted plant, you must be aware that they require large amounts of water. Best to set your potted plant into the sink, filled with two inches of water, every morning for ten to fifteen minutes. Every year, I hear of or personally see hydrangeas in distress because their owners are not vigilant with the watering schedule.

• Mmmm…good: Found some really tasty hot cross buns at Maple Leaf/Oscar’s on 11th and Toronto. Most of the hot cross buns I have tasted in recent years are not fit for human consumption, that bland. But these ones are decent, not as good as mom’s home baked but still decent.

Princess Kay Plum in bloom
 • Attention deficit, I don’t think so: Friday night, there I was, as most good Canadian men were, stretched out on the couch, flipping between two hockey games and The Blue Jays in Boston. The artist/formerly a nurse who I share my life but not the flipper with, was filing complaints over my alleged attention deficit disorder. I pointed out the skills involved in juggling all three games at once, the manual dexterity required and that she as a Gemini should appreciate my ability to multi task. I understand that half of my readers support my position and the other half think I should have tuned into the ‘What Not to Wear’ marathon. This is why we have two televisions.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Garden Report #45

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Gladiator Flowering Crab in bloom
• Writers write: The snow recedes, a few inches each day. Two signs of an ever approaching spring appear. The birds have returned from their winter nesting grounds to Wascana Lake which is three hundred feet from my front door. As I stand on the front steps at night, the noise is phenomenal. The birds chatter back and forth. “Florida you say? Well this year, our flock tried south Texas and let me assure you, the weather was wonderful.” Or so goes my translation. The second sign of spring, and it is only a promise of things to come, my tulips in the sun trap part of the garden are emerging from their winter’ rest. Many are up two and three inches above the soil and while the blooms are several weeks away, there is that hope offered by my sleeping beauties. It has been a long winter.

• Readers write: Georgia Hearn writes “Another joyful read.” Reader Jim Gibbs from Winnipeg let us know that The Beach Boys did not record ‘Barbara Ann’ originally. According to Jim, it was recorded by The Regents in 1961. Now you know. Gail Aubin writes “Your Garden Report continues to be a spark in a week of ho hum emails.” Gail also adds that steaming with Vicks or Friar’s Balsam alleviates head colds. Yes, mom. Paula Grolle wants it made clear that the stories of the winter of 1947 were relayed to her, as she was not born until sometime much later. Noelle Chorney from Saskatoon reminds us of the story teller’s motto: ‘Never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.’ Roberta Nichol asked a staff member at Home Depot “Why don’t the commercials on TV emulate what happens when you really get here?” Joanne Terry prefers if people do not bother her with work related details while she enjoys her Monday morning read of The Garden Report.

• Cleared up: For years, there has been some confusion about the origins of Evan’s Cherry. Rick Sawatsky from The University of Saskatchewan is the authority on cherries and here is his answer: “Hello Rod: Dr Ieuan Evans found (or was shown) a cherry tree with suckers (a clone) growing in an old abandoned farmstead NE of Edmonton AB. He recognized the tree’s outstanding characteristics and promoted it enthusiastically. Government of Alberta provincial horticulturalists and at least one micro-propagation company joined him in promoting it and they named it ‘Evans Cherry’. Evans Cherry is genetically unique and different than the University of Saskatchewan cherries in that it has a more tree-like growth habit.”

In the old days, the snowbanks were even higher!
• Bullies: When I was a little boy, there was a bully in the neighborhood. All of us lived in fear of him. Every day at school, you wondered if this was the day he would chase you home and beat you up. Now I know that there are many people with many degrees who would comment that he was an unfortunate boy, who did not have love in his life and that he acted out in a negative manner in order to obtain attention. That’s an interesting theory unless you were the one beaten up that day. All of us were terrified of him. We elected him the captain of our flag football team even though he was not a good player and the same with our baseball team. Thank God he did not play hockey so at least we had some winter respite from him. Many years passed and one day, he was working on a house across the street from mine, as a day laborer. Alcohol was now his drug of choice and his life was a hard one. His assets consisted of the package of cigarettes he had in his jacket pocket along with a bit of change. He asked me if I had a job for him at my garden center. I wondered, how many wrong choices did this person make until he found himself in this situation. How many times did teachers, counselors, pastors, friends and family reach out to him, asking him to turn his life in another direction. I also wondered why no adult stepped in to stop him from his reign of terror when we were eight years old.

• Garden Tip: This is the answer to a commonly asked question at this time of year. What do you think about power raking? Power raking is a good thing to do if the layer of thatch at the base of your lawn is more than three quarters of an inch thick. If it is less than that, leave it alone. What is a good thing to do every spring and fall is to have your lawn aerated. Aeration is when plugs of soil are pulled out of your lawn. The plugs should be approximately two inches long. This will open up the lawn so that oxygen, water and fertilizer can penetrate into the root zone.

'Slacker'...the greenhouse gurad puppy
• Garden Tip: Related to the above tip is proper sterilization of lawn equipment. I insist that whoever brings a machine onto my lawn, to aerate or to power rake, first brush the bottom parts with a bleach solution. If a machine has been in contact with fairy ring or other lawn diseases, it can spread them to the next lawn and the next lawn. Good sanitation is important for lawn equipment and for pruning tools.

• A living directive: We rarely think of what we want to happen, if we are in a coma at the end of our life. It is important and here is what I have observed. At the dialysis clinic at The General Hospital, they bring in elderly patients who are comatose. An ambulance brings them over and returns them to their care homes. They hook them up for four hours, three times a week to clear out the accumulated toxins. If they did not have dialysis, these patients would die. The question needs to be asked, why are they hooked up and who made that decision. I have been told that it is often the adult children who are in their sixties who will not make the decision to let go of their mom or dad. They keep them going long after all hope of life has disappeared. My mother made it clear as she grew older, that when she passed away, the children were not to bring her back. Her exact words were “If God brings me back, that is his choice. You are not God. When it is my time, you let me go.” We respected that wish. It is important that our loved ones know what is to be done. It will take a lot of the pressure off of their shoulders at a difficult time.

Name this plant and win a prize!
• Contest time: Casey Van Vloten wants our readers to name this new caragana plant. The photo of the plant is in the attachment. Here are Casey’s instructions: “This is a seedling selection ,that is unique in that the foliage comes out with butter yellow foliage for about 3 to 4 weeks ,then it darkens to the standard green. The plant is about 6 years old and is only 4ft. We just started grafting it for commercial production. I would like to offer a plant to one of your readers who comes up with the best name.” Signed… Casey

• Election blues: Again I stress, I am not a political animal but everywhere I go, there are many conversations about the upcoming election. And ninety per cent of that conversation is how ticked off the public is for having been put through this three hundred million dollar exercise. There is democracy and then there are massive egos. Massive egos that feed on others shortcomings. Here we are, this wide nation that has learned to get along in the cultural mosaic, and yet we have these elected officials attempting to create divisions where few exist. This is not Ireland. There is no them and us. This is not Iran. Our religious zealots can speak their mind but they cannot control the population. I am almost certain that we have a spare island in the Arctic where we could ship every last one of them and if they want to survive, they better learn to cooperate. If you elect me as your king, your exalted leader for life, all this nonsense will stop. I will lower taxes, improve services and there will be free tulip bulbs for everyone.

• Oh, Oh!: As readers know, I am a big fan of Nicky’s Café. Regular reader Heather Lowe is also a fan, until this week. Heather and her husband Brian had lunch there and while the food was good as always, the service was exceptionally poor. Heather rarely complains, but her letter regarding the lack of service was quite long and pointed. Hopefully, this does not occur again.

They only ship plants, not Dutchman!
 • Of fame and humility: On Thursday, we headed over to The Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery. Here is this world class gallery, a stone’s throw from where we live and I seldom find the time to visit. Maureen on the other hand, is there all of the time. We were attending the opening of the ‘The Shadow of Mao’ by Huang Zhong Yang. The gallery was filled with writers, artists, students, readers of this blog and many others from the community. Joe Fafard, recognized as Canada’s leading sculpture, walks into the room. Joe knows his place in history, yet he maintains a Saskatchewan boy’s sense of humility. All eyes in the room turn towards him and the conversation drops off. His presence commands that attention. Joe ignores it. He is there for another artist’s show. I think of how at another opening a few years ago, Ted Godwin who is also recognized as a national artist, was in that same room. Ted’s massive ego fills time and space until there is little air left for others to breathe. The contrast between Joe and Ted is at opposite ends of the graph. Joe approaches me, asks how my writing career is going. It is easy to have a conversation with Joe. He is so down to earth. A few minutes later, a woman in her late fifties approaches and says to me “Sorry to interrupt your conversation.” I respond “A beautiful woman always trumps a conversation with Joe Fafard.” She blushes. Joe smiles. He is French and an artist. He appreciates a beautiful woman as much as I do. The woman tells me that we met thirty years ago. My memory kicks in. “Yes, you have a daughter who used to play with our youngest son ?” I have that right. I recall that she was a single mother and that she was dating my friend John. I asked her if they are still dating. She stared at me and said “We broke up twenty-five years ago.” Someone should publish a blog with this information so that I don’t create any more of these awkward pauses. Also, I should probably call up my friend John and take him for lunch. Obviously, I have ignored our friendship for some time. She then informs me that for the last eight years, she has been living with another friend of mine. She tells me his name. Yes, he is a friend of mine indeed. What? Eight years? What happened to his wife? Oh, they divorced years ago. I didn’t know that. I really have to start getting out the house more often. Obviously I am falling behind. In high school, the news of a break up and the start of a new relationship could travel from one end of the school to the other in under two hours. I really have got to go to these art openings more often.

Another spring, another crop is growing
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Garden Report #44

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Michiel's Greenhouse -getting ready for spring!
• Writers write: The sun has come out from behind the clouds and a slow melt continues to reduce the banks of snow. Patches of lawn now appear, especially on the south facing gardens. My body is tired today. I was at my friend’s birthday party last night as he has turned sixty. Many of my friends and myself will be having that very same birthday this year. It was a good time and our school mate Gerry Thue, brought out his band. Gerry still brings down the house with his vocals, even after plying his trade for forty-five years. Maureen and I danced for two hours, thus explaining my fatigue today. Since I was fifteen, I have always enjoyed going dancing with a pretty girl on a Saturday night. I saw many friends I have not seen for years. They have gone bald or their hair has turned grey. “What happened,” I asked? No one offered me a mirror.

• Readers write: Kimberly from Lincoln Gardens at Craven has joined us as a reader. She writes “It’s fun to read your comments on everything from family to food.” Marsha Kennedy writes that she is concerned about water in her basement this spring, something that worries many of us. Chris Dodd wrote “Your newsletter makes my week. Thanks.” Ann Anderson is concerned about the demise of the small town grocery stores as covered in #43. She notes that one finds a level of service in small town groceries that is rarely found in the city. Reader Paula Grolle weighed in on the snow levels of 1947/48. Paula says that she grew up on a farm near Midale, and that her parents had to tie a rope between the house and the barn so they could find it, and that a train became stuck in a drift near them. Ken Alexe writes “You are still at the peak of your game.” I assume Ken is referring to writing and not to football. Jodi Sadowsky writes “The pasta dish you made (in #43) sounds wonderful.” Helen Janzen who is the baker/owner of Sweet Bakery appreciates my plugging small businesses. Helen believes that it is the independents who are the heart and soul of a community. I agree.

Black Bacara - photo by Rob van Zanten
• Lovely Roses:  Reader Rob van Zanten sent along a photo that he took last summer of Black Bacarra Hybrid Tea Rose. Rob writes that this is the blackest rose on the market. While hybrid tea roses are not hardy in Regina as a rule, some gardeners are able to overwinter them by covering with lots of mulch and snow. Reader Ingrid Thiessen sent along her photo of fresh cut forsythia. Ingrid cut them this week, placed them into a vase of water and in a few days, she had these blooms.

• Service not to be found: I was in Home Depot’s Garden Center last summer. Hanging around seeing how they run their place. Several customers were shopping but there was only one staff on duty and she was running the cash register. There was no one on the floor to assist the customers. One woman was quite perturbed and she insisted that a staff member be called in to assist her. I waited to see what would happen next. Eventually, a staff member showed up, admitting they knew nothing about plants. He picked up the plant and began reading the tag to her. Her frustration was growing. “I can read a tag” she exclaimed. “What I need is someone who knows something.” Good luck with that one.

Cut forsythia stems - photo Ingrid Thiessen
• Vegetarians-quit reading: Here is my favorite recipe for pork cutlets. These are not available at every store but you can always find them at Oscar’s on 11th. I beat up two eggs, to dip the cutlets in. Then I coat the cutlets in a flour mixture that has some Montreal Steak Spice mixed in the flour. I have the burner set on the number five of ten positions, and I cover the bottom of the fry pan with canola oil. I brown the cutlets on both sides and barely cook them all the way through. I set the cutlets aside on a plate with a paper towel. I place two tablespoons of butter into the fry pan and mix in four tablespoons of flour to form a rue. I then add in one cup of stock, either chicken or beef, one cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring the rue and the pan scrapings. I add in a quarter cup of lemon juice, some garlic, four table spoons of Worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and a splash of hot sauce if you like a bit of heat. For something different, I have also added in Japanese bread crumbs to the gravy/sauce. They soften but don’t dissolve. Once it thickens up, I add the cutlets back into the gravy and simmer for ten minutes. I serve it with egg noodles. Other options include adding some chopped onions into the gravy or hot peppers. Is it good? Absolutely!

• Grammar Grandpa: One of our readers who wishes anonymity, wants to know where the nouns have gone as he ages. He reports that the adjectives, adverbs, and verbs are just fine but the nouns are no longer at his quick disposal. He now asks for dinner partners to pass him that white, shaky thing.

• Me too: On occasion, I lose nouns as well. The other day, I could not remember the name of The Beach Boys while telling a story about Dennis Wilson. There I was, saying “you know that group that sang Barbara Ann”…and then I started to sing the song which in retrospect, was a humbling experience.

• Family mythology: Many of us take stories from our families and retell them as if they were gospel truth. Unfortunately for history buffs, family stories are often embellished as they are retold until they bear little resemblance to the truth. But they are good stories. My dad would tell us the classic one of walking five miles to school in a snow storm, uphill both ways. In 2001 I visited the house my grandfather had built and raised my father in. The school was two doors down from the house. My dad could sleep until five to nine and still get to school on time. Had my dad been still alive, I would have enjoyed asking him for clarification on that story.

• My own stories: When my nephew was six years old, he was spending the afternoon with me. We stopped in at the credit union to make a deposit. I told him as we walked into the credit union “Uncle Rod owns this bank.” Daniel nodded his understanding. I asked him “do you believe that?” He responded “I believe everything you tell me Uncle Rod.” After that, I could never tell the boy another one of my whoppers.

• Garden Tip: When pruning, you have to be a little bit like Goldilocks. The pruned stem you leave behind on the tree cannot be too long nor can it be too close to the main trunk. It has to be just right.

• Garden Tip: This is more of a history lesson. Do you know that many of the plants growing in gardens all across Canada, The United States and into Europe were developed here in Saskatchewan. The following is a list of some of those plants: Thunderchild Flowering Crab, Royalty Flowering Crab, Rosthern Crab, Battleford Apple, Martin Saskatoon, Thiessen Saskatoon, Coronation Triumph Potentilla, Walker Weeping Caragana, Wascana Linden, Sutherland Caragana, Métis Rose, all of the Honeywood Lilies, the Patterson Plum series, Carmine Jewel Sour Cherry, Fuchsia Girl Crab and this is only part of the list. All of these plants can be grown in our 2b hardiness zone.

• Low calorie: I must admit I do love oatmeal/raisin cookies. I have never met a dozen of them I didn’t enjoy. Chocolate cookies are totally different. I really don’t care for them. But in fairness to those readers who do love them, I purchased six from Orange Boot on Tuesday. I offered them to four nurses for their reviews and all four gave them a thumbs up. I did sample one of their oatmeal muffins and it was good but not excellent. Of note, it was very moist.

• Baguette wars: Reader Ken McCaw weighed in a few weeks ago that Orange Boot’s baguettes are more authentic than those of Koko’s. This week, I purchased one of each from both places. The one from Orange boot has a much more crunchy crust than Koko’s, and it has a lighter dough. Ken is right. The one from Orange boot is more authentic and qualifies for our unofficial award of excellence.

• Here we go: Four elections in seven years! This blog is not political and neither am I, but this is too much. Democracy is a great institution. We vote. They govern. So why is it that we get another election that no one really wants. It appears that our House of Commons needs a few mommies to ensure some discipline. The kids in that hall are so busy name calling that nothing gets done, except some more campaigning. I would like to know exactly when our politicians are going to grow up and behave as if they are responsible adults. A pox upon all their houses.

• New boys on the block: In the old Peter’s Hardware location, a kitchen shop has opened up. It is called Kitchen Gear and it is the third store for owner Kirk Leier. I took a tour of the new place on Saturday and he is carrying some hard to find items as well as quality kitchen ware. Kirk tells me that he is willing to listen to his customer base and adjust his inventory to their tastes. My first thought is that we need a store that carries top quality spices. Welcome to the neighborhood.

• Garden Tip: If you are interested in peonies and how to grow them, then register for the peony class on Saturday, April 9th. It runs from ten a.m. until noon and the instructor is Brian Porter. The cost is ten dollars and registration is by phone at 543-8189 and ask for Keith. Brian Porter is one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to peonies.

Acidanthera - bicolor
 • Seedlings grow: Reader Joana Cook was in town for a visit. She lives in London and attends King’s College. She stopped by for a visit. She has morphed into a tall, elegant, composed young woman who celebrated her 25th birthday on Thursday. I remember when she was brand new to this world. I held her. I also held her when she was two and she wanted to terrorize the Hotel Saskatchewan. She was less than thrilled to have me restrain her. She had things to do and people to see…and she wanted to run up and down the hallways. Today, her social graces have improved but she still has things to do and people to see.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina.