Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Garden Report #70

Sunday, February26th, 2012

A midwinter's dream
 Writers write: Today is a special day. It is February 26th and on this day in 1973, I moved into our first house on this corner. It was a small, 800 square foot bungalow, with one bathroom and an unfinished basement. Nothing special at all. But to me, it was a castle. Who was to know that thirty- nine years later, we would still be on this corner, in this lovely neighborhood. I paid $15,5000 for the first house, which at the time, seemed high. A special thank you to my neighbors who are also readers, for sharing this area with me. People already know how I value our neighbors and community. I need not write more.

Readers Write:

     • Jean Mackay had this to say. “A cool Garden Report as always! I agree with Heather –yours is much more than a Garden Report. Maybe gather The Garden Reports into a book, and sell them to profit The Fringe Festival? Just a thought this early Sunday morning.”

     • Liz Calam loves to garden and she lives across the street from us. Here is her take on the name. “I really do enjoy The Garden Report and am so glad you are back. I read with interest that two folk have remarked “perhaps you have outgrown the name of your blog…” How about ‘Our Gardner’s Report’? The name is almost the same but can cover a wider range of whatever you want. Whatever….keep them coming!”

     • Jackie Arnason had a maintain the status quo view. “Rod - I like the name The Garden Report. This is not only about gardening the earth but also your stories are gardens of the heart. Keep up the fine work.”

     • John Ciotucha was straight to the point about a name change. “If it works, don't fix it!”

     • Jean Freeman is always a positive voice in the universe. “I know I'm only one of a very large group of folks who are all a neighborhood of friends because we (read The Garden Report).”

     • This was sent in by Marsha Kennedy. “Just wanted to say it comforts me that you are ‘back on’.....and I am one of many who feel the community and loving humor and advice you share with us.”

     • Chris Dodd has a sense of humor. Read on: “I have a contribution for the mural representing the 1912 tornado - it's a photo of my office. It's been busy! Loving your column.”

Anne's garden in northern Manitoba
     • Our resident landscape architect, Ingrid Thiessen sent along comments and four photos. Here are her comments. “Thank you for passing on the new plant introductions - loved them all! Your garden tip on containers reminded me that I was going to send you photo's of my mother-in-law's garden. She puts leaves into the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of her containers to reduce the weight and soil required. Anne has gardened for over 50 years in Pine River, Manitoba. I especially like her delphiniums, since I can't grow them. Some years they are 2 meters high!”

     • Roberta Nichol relates to last week’s bit about becoming our parents. “Absolutely. I find myself becoming my mom and my dad. I will talk to anyone and everyone. That is so my dad!”

'Downy Mildew' on impatiens
Garden Tip: Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouse has this piece of advice regarding impatiens. “Last year’s extra moist climate in North America and Europe, caused a massive spread of a new disease in impatiens, called downy mildew. In many areas, there was total destruction of every impatiens plant. We are told that it is under control for now. Of course, if 2012 is also wet, continued control will be difficult. This particular mildew can actually survive our winters. It over winters on dead plants, therefore removing, and not composting this season's impatiens is necessary. At this point it only attacks the Walleriana family, unfortunately both the seeded and vegetative types.”

Garden Tip: I asked Dr. Phillip Ronald at Jeffries’s in Portage la Prairie to recommend three newer plants for this coming season. His first selection appears in the photo as Starlite Flowering Crab.

Starlite Flowering Crab
The life of a storyteller: Storytellers occupy an important role within both modern and primitive cultures. It does not matter if we gather around the tribal campfire for the stories or join an online conversation. Storytellers are the conduit through which oral history is transmitted. Our stories are not always exactly the way we have been. Rather, they are a narrative of how we wished we had acted. All of us, given the chance, would rewrite portions of our lives. All of us would change things that we said and did, and for the better. The storyteller in society does that for us.

Gender differences: As regular readers realize, women respond to this online magazine at a much higher rate than men. We have many male readers. It is not as if they are absent from our numbers. Men approach me at The Symphony, The Globe, The Farmers’ Market, The Fringe Festival, any public place I make an appearance. They comment about a story or a line. I ask them: “Why don’t you ever write in?” The usual answer is “well, I just told you what I thought.” My only comparison is that 98% of thank you cards are written by women, even if two names are signed to the card. Guys take the time to read, but not to respond. Just not our thing.

Role reversals: Is it only us? We have been noticing that our boys, all in their thirties now, often use a certain tone in speaking to us. The comments are somewhat along these lines. “Dad…how many times have I already told you this? You have to click the view button to change that format. Do you even listen when I tell you these things?” Hmm…I wonder where they learned that phrasing?

But that is your punishment: Number Three Son came home with a less than stellar report card around Grade Five or Six. He asked his mother to dole out the punishment, but “please don’t let dad see the report card. I don’t mind the punishment, but dad’s lecture will be at least thirty minutes long and go on and on. Just punish me, but don’t let him tell me one of his stories.”

The film’s storyteller: All of us know that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who work on a major film. At one time, I thought that the writer was the genius behind a film. Then my admiration moved to those on camera, after all, that is who we see, the actors delivering their lines. Then I changed my mind yet again to admire those behind the camera, the photographers and the directors. After all, they choose the angles and capture those moments for all to see. In recent years, I have come to realize that it is the film editors, sitting in their darkened, editing suites, who are the true storytellers of the film. They take many hours of film and choose one scene over the other, and join the sequences together. A good editor makes the story flow, not stumble. I was watching ‘Amadeus’ from 1984. It was on the old movie channel. The editing was a work of art as it jumped from the aging Salieri telling the story to The Opera House in Vienna. It all fit together, because some unsung man or woman did their part. The film editor as storyteller.

So true: One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as to the editing process, whether on film or paper, was this: “You have not done your job until you are reduced to tears over the material that you had to leave out.”

'White Dream' Tulips in a vase
Not very often this happens: Congratulations go out to our reader, Jeremy Parnes. Jeremy, after being the spiritual leader of Beth Jacob Synagogue for many years, has been ordained. He is now Rabbi Jeremy to us. Mazel tov! Now that he is a Rabbi, Jeremy is promoted to assistant editor of The Garden Report. He is in charge of writing Jewish jokes, but no Yiddish punch lines, please. Of interesting note, there are several clergy people and spiritual leaders who are regular readers of The Garden Report, and they represents a wide spectrum of religions and churches.

The trees block the view of the forest, Part #2: Last week, I wrote of the man who wanted four healthy trees cut down in his back yard, as they were blocking his view of the adjacent park. Out itinerant Englishman, Marcus Fernando has a house in Birmingham, England. He shares a somewhat similar story. Here it is. “I can add to your anecdote of the man who wanted his trees cut down. When I first moved into my house in Birmingham (24 years ago!) there was an elderly woman living next door. In short, she was one of those more cantankerous elderly people who can never imagine ever having been young. I'm generally pretty good with people of advanced years (after all, I'm in apprenticeship myself!), but this old lady really made it tough.

This lady hated trees, which begs the question: why did she opt to live opposite a park?! Our road, Avenue Road in Birmingham. is really quite delightful as it borders Kings Heath Park, and is lined with trees. I think the lady's vitriol towards the trees stemmed from the fact that they have a tendency to shed leaves every now and then. She was forever sweeping her drive (or her ‘runway’, as she insisted on referring to it) to keep it leaf free. This also became a bone of contention between us: I was not so interested in keeping my front garden permanently leaf-free, so she began to insist that the leaves were blowing out of my garden into hers!

Anyway, to (finally!) link in with your tale. During one of our more lucid conversations, she confided in me that she wanted all the beautiful trees lining our road to be cut down. Why? Because they blocked her view of the park!!

Well, the little old lady is long gone now, but one of my final sightings of her, many years ago, was around Christmas time. I was sitting upstairs, looking out of my window overlooking the park, and watching a group of schoolchildren, guided by a Park Ranger, plant a fir tree. Lovely. Seasonal. Educational. Suddenly I heard the familiar crackly voice from down below: "Take it away! Take it away!" And there she was, in all her glory, hobbling down her ‘runway’ and shaking her stick at the somewhat startled children. She really didn't like trees! One more was just too much to cope with!”

A few years ago and then some: Downchild Blues Band was in town, playing The Blues Festival this week. A favorite memory of mine goes back to 1977 or 1978. Sandy Monteith was running Pub Night at The Students Union of The University of Regina. It was an every Thursday gig and Sandy was legendary for booking the best bands of the time to play. I worked for Sandy at these events. It was a very warm, September evening and Downchild was on stage. We had seven hundred kids packed into an auditorium with a rated capacity of 480. The place was hopping. There was this table of fifteen or so thugs, definitely not students, seated towards the back of the room. Real troublemakers. Donny Walsh, Mr. Downchild himself, spots the bad vibes. He has the world’s longest extension cord on his guitar, about two hundred feet. He wanders out into the audience, playing riffs. He approaches the trash at the back of the hall, takes one of their beer and chugs it with his teeth, as he plays an incredible blues number, up and down the scale. The place went wild. I have never seen an eruption of screaming, clapping and hollering, quite like that night. The bad assed trash were impressed. The dude swiped one of their beers and gave them a personal performance at the same time. It was performance art at its finest.

Old joke: What do you get when you cross a Mafia hit man with a performance artist? Someone who makes you an offer than you cannot possibly understand. (Rim shot, please.)

Talking to strangers is okay, in spite of your mother’s warnings: Reader Lyn Goldman writes in that she was talking to someone who she did not know, while at a bed and breakfast in Mexico. It turns out that the man is a friend of Lyn’s hairdresser here in Regina. Six degrees of separation, reduced to two.

Siam, Yes I am: Thursday night we stopped into Siam, our favorite place for flavor. You have to call ahead and reserve a table now, they’re that busy. We had an assortment of tastes, starting with a chicken soup cooked in coconut milk and lime leaves. So very, very good. One of my favorites. For a salad course, we ordered a tender beef salad, mild for our delicate palates. It arrived spicy hot. How hot Johnny? Hot enough to burn our lips. The owner explained that it was the ‘yum sauce’ that made it hot, not the chili peppers. It was tasty but misnamed as ‘tender’. The beef was not tender, it was chewy. Small complaint. Our main course was a garlic and basil, pork dish with green beans. Now this was tender, very tender and great flavor. We also had some rice and tea. No booze, but with tip included, it was $43.

Anne's garden filled with delphiniums and heliopsis
No you’re not: I got a phone call from a 206 number earlier this week. The caller said he was with “Windows Security Center.” This is a scam. They tell you that your computer has been infected, ask for your password, credit card number and banking information, then the fun begins. I said to the caller “we both know that you are not with Windows or Microsoft, so why don’t you just cut to the chase and say who you really are with?” He hung up on me. So rude. Definitely not Canadian.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in fresh snow, Regina.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Garden Report #69

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Canadian Artist Rose 'Bill Reid'-photo courtesy of Peter Harris
• Writers write: Community is important to me. I write and speak of it, often. I brag: I live in a wonderful neighborhood. One of our regular readers is starting out, in a new house in a new community for her. She asked how she can create a wonderful community around her? The simple answer is: It only takes one person to get the ball rolling and many will join in. The easiest way is to organize either a pot luck supper or a block party. That gets people talking and next thing you know, no one is a stranger. You are all neighbors now. Does it work? Come the 26th of this month, we will have been living on this corner (two different homes) for thirty-nine years. What’s our neighborhood like? How’s this: For my birthday party in September, we had a community pot luck supper at our place. I had a great time with sixty wonderful people.

• Readers write:

     • Georgia Hearn remains positive. “The Valentine sentiment touches my heart and makes all of us appreciate the need for laughter. We could use more of it. And to think, after Valentine's, spring is not far away.”

     • Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company enjoys customers who plan ahead. “You are very right. Now is the time to prepare for your landscape project.”

     • Heather Lowe had this to say. “I agree with Gursch…perhaps you have outgrown the name of your blog….I’ve wondered that for awhile. Not that I have a better suggestion, mind you.”

     • Marian Donnelly wants artists to know that there is a submission process in place for a mural to recognize the 1912 tornado that swept across Regina. If you need more information, I can forward you her contact address.

     • Gail Aubin of Carman, Manitoba always sees the bright side of life. “Always nice to get this newsletter in February, to remind us that spring is around the corner.”

     • Joana Cook is working in South Africa these days and has been accepted into the PHD program at King’s College, this September. She wrote “Good to see The Garden Report coming out again. It's a great way to keep on top of (and keep me a bit grounded with) Regina.”

     • Jan Pederson in Winnipeg has a sense of humor. He wrote: “Your police (former paperboy) story has provided endless laughter around the house.”

'New Day'
• Garden Tip: Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouses runs a very clean operation, filled with many of the newest plants being introduced to the market place. Here is one of his top picks. “ One of my favorites for 2012, is a new series of gazanias, called ‘New Day’. They show much larger blooms and have thicker stronger stocks. The advantages of course are, more color and less prairie wind damage. This series also has a breakthrough in breeding, producing a lovely, completely clear true orange flower. Yes, not a sign of the traditional dark centre ring in the blooms.”

Canadian Artist Rose 'Campfire'
• Garden Tip: Michel Touchette from Jeffries Nursery in Portage, sent along a photo of a tri colored rose being released in 2013. This one is called ‘Campfire’ and the photo shows the progression of color changes. It is a part of The Canadian Artist Series and it is named to honor one of Tom Thompson’s paintings. Michael also noted that with the release of the ‘Bill Reid’ rose this year, that this one is an improved version of ‘Morden Sunrise’. 

Cheryl's 'Aerogarden'
• Garden Tip: Reader Cheryl Geiger-Paul sent along photos of her ‘Aerogarden’. She has had these herbs growing for only three weeks and they have really taken off. They receive around sixteen hours of artificial sunlight a day.

• An alternate universe: Many years ago, I had a customer ask me to provide a quote. He wanted me to cut down four large trees in his back yard. The trees were in good shape. I asked him why? He said that the trees interfered with his view of the park. I said “so you want me to cut down these four trees so you can look at other trees?” He responded with a ‘yes’. I refused. He found someone else. I think there is a moral to this story. It is: If you want to do something stupid, you will always find someone to join you in your mission.

• The older we get, the more we become: When I was a young boy, perhaps eight or nine years of age, my mother and I were out for a visit on a Sunday evening. I can’t recall who we were visiting, but we were somewhere around the corner of 13th Avenue and Wascana Street. My mother began chatting to a woman over her side fence about her garden. After a two or three minute chat, the woman invited us into her kitchen. I asked my mother if we were related to this woman or how we knew her. My mother told me we were not related. They had just met. My mother was a farm girl and no doubt this woman was also a farm girl. Regina, in the 1950’s and 60’s was still a collection of farm people, a glorified small town. I learned an important lesson that night. The basic adage: A stranger is only a friend who we have not yet met.

• Becoming our mothers, Part #2: In 1975, I was twenty-three years of age. My father was deceased, my siblings were working, so my mother and I went to California on a two person, family vacation. We were in Los Angles and my mother began a conversation with a woman her age. The woman lived in L.A. They quickly became new found friends. The woman asked my mother to join her at a singles dance for people of their age group that Saturday. I was flabbergasted that we had only been in L.A. three days, and my mother already had a circle of new friends. And to boot, she was going dancing on Saturday night. You see, I was way too cool to talk to anyone. So I remained aloof, waiting for the world, (and the girls) to come to me. Need I write, I spent Saturday night alone with no one to talk to or to dance with? As I write this, I am now older than my mother was in 1975. I talk to anyone. I don’t care if we know each other. If I am in the grocery story, a conversation can erupt over the merits of the blueberries, their cost and quality. I no longer need a formal introduction to chat with someone at The Symphony. We have Dvorak in common. That is enough of a primer. I am no longer way too cool. I no longer wait for the world to come to me.

• Really?: I was at The Symphony last Saturday. A woman, closer in age to ninety than she was to eighty, engages me in a conversation. She informs me that she recently held a garage sale. She told me that she sold her skates and her skis. I was so tempted to ask her if she had kept her stripper pole or had that been sold as well. But I didn’t know how that one would fly. Morale of the story: Humor is important, but discretion, is the better part of living a long life.

Part of the 'Aerogarden'
 • A golden opportunity: Many of us go through life, wishing we had become an artist. Any type of an artist. Most of us, when given the chance, chose the more conservative side of life. We chose a steady job, a home life filled with the known. If you are one of those who have always wondered what life would have been like had you taken the road less travelled, risked everything for your artistic mission, you now have a chance to find out, albeit vicariously. A long winded approach, but here is the landing: The Regina Fringe Festival will be happening in July and they need billets. People to provide a clean bed in a decent home for travelling actors, who are exploring their dream. This year, there are 19 acts performing at The Regina Fringe, up from the usual 15 or so companies. We have been billets in the past and thoroughly enjoyed our guests. You don’t get any money, just a few comp tickets for shows. But you do get the opportunity to provide a safe landing for those people who are taking a chance, moving along the theatrical road, less travelled.

• Just so you know: I get emails every week from readers who ask me to add their friends to the list of Garden Report readers. I do that, assuming it is okay with the person to be added. If by chance, you were added to the list by a friend, and do not want to be included, that is okay with me. A short note, and you will be deleted.

• Garden Tip: At one time, begonia bulbs or more correctly, begonia tubers, were easy to find. Lots of colors and lots of choices. A great highlight for the shade. Not so anymore. Are starting your own begonia tubers worth the effort? Yes and no. Yes, they provide you with bigger plants, vivid colors and varieties not always available at greenhouses. No, because they are easily susceptible to overwatering, mildew and slugs. If you are going to grow them, now is a good time to start. Just remember the Achilles heel of this plant is too much water. When it is garden time, they do perform very well in raised pots or planters, which gives you more control over slug maintenance.

• Garden Tip: Now is a good time to be scouting out some new and different garden pots for this coming season. I have long been an advocate of container gardening because it provides the gardener with so many more options. Container gardening allows the gardener to put their best foot forward, displaying only the prime pots and hiding the less successful ones in the back garden. Containers allow the older gardener more opportunities, not having to bend over as much. Container gardens allow the gardener more control over the watering and the drainage, which has been a problem during the wet years. Do I practice what I preach? I ‘bang up’, my euphemism for planting, between forty and fifty pots every spring. To reduce the weight of my larger pots, I place in the bottom, old plastic pots and trays, and then fill the gaps with potting soil. My potting soil of choice is Premier’s Pro Mix. Best way to purchase it is in the 3.8 c.f. grower size. Usually, under thirty dollars for the bale. It fluffs up to be about double its size in volume.

Top grafted Little Leaf Lilac
 • Some people get it, some don’t: When I had my own greenhouse, I got a call from a woman representing Pasta Prima on South Albert. She was looking for some Christmas poinsettias. She asked my price and told me that she could get poinsettias for half that from Safeway. I said “let’s change the topic for a bit. How much would it cost me to bring a friend to your restaurant for lunch? Ten to fifteen dollars per person?” She confirmed the price. I then pointed out that I could go to Safeway and purchase a box of Kraft Dinner (which is a pasta) for only a buck. “But they’re hardly the same thing!” she exclaimed. My response was “so you do understand that quality is related to price then, right?”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Garden Report #68

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

A few tulips growing in my back garden, last May
• Writers write: Valentines’ Day is oh, so close, and as a self defined writer, I should be able to pen something equal to that of Hallmark quality. But I can’t. I am not an author of sonnets or of four line poems. I can offer this: After spending the last thirty years of my life with the same woman, I am pretty certain that love is having someone to laugh with you. I know that tears are a part of a relationship, but laughter is (or it should be) the bulk of any time spent together. When I was a young man, I found it difficult to laugh at myself. I had a need to prove my worth; and how could I do that, if I found chinks within my armor. Today, I laugh at myself. My armor has many, many chinks, and who cares. After all, us humans are pretty funny. We talk about the need to diet as we put the pie in the oven. We pass commentaries on the lives of Hollywood stars, who we have never met. We worry what others think about us, never realizing that for the most part, they don’t think too much about us at all. Yes, we are a funny lot after all. Just look in the mirror. That anti aging cream…did it really work? The new after shave I got for Christmas. Did beautiful women fawn all over me as I walked down the street? The best gift of love that any of us can give to ourselves and others, is to laugh, loudly and often.

• Readers write:

     • Readers like to eat, and they like to prepare good food. This email was from Denise Cook. “Hi there. I had to tell you that I tried your “chili” recipe out last night (at least that’s what everyone called it). It was a huge success and there were absolutely no leftovers, and I usually send leftovers home. I served it with homemade bread.”

     • Paula Grolle had a good laugh: “Reminder to myself- do not read Rod’s garden blog while drinking rum. I nearly lost a perfectly good mouthful of rum when reading “not a good idea”. My personal favourite is Oops!”

     • Lyn Goldman is always a fan. “It's good to hear from you again, Rod! And I loved the photos -- the yellow roses are exquisite; the garden makes me eager for summer; and the little dog is a gem! Welcome back.”

     • This short note from Cheryl Hutton. “Yesterday's report was a great read – thanks.”

     • Denise Mirva was also short and sweet. “I was thrilled to see the resumption of The Garden Report!”

     • Ann Anderson liked one story in particular. “Rod, as usual, I love to see your Garden Report pop up in my inbox. Your bicycle story brought tears to my eyes as I am just now peddling my bicycle away from Mom.”

     • Allan Bratt is steamed over the loss of SCN. Read on: “ I completely agree with you about SCN. It was a great loss to the community, not only as a way to showcase the talent in this province but as an incubator of that talent. As the president of the Saskatchewan branch of ACTRA, I can say we have tried to explain to the government that artists are among the boldest of entrepreneurs, who for relatively little seed money, will work like demons to give a return but somehow that message does not get through in the same way that it would if we were a potash miner. It is very frustrating.”

     • Actor and Fringe Producer, Jodi Sadwosky emailed: “Thanks for another great Garden Report. Wonderful to hear and feel everyone's excitement at its return. I love the Keg these days. Since it reopened its gotten better. Love the bike story at the end as well. Freedom - scary and exciting at the same time. So true.”

Our smiling reader, green house grower Michiel Verheul
     • Terena Murphy-Bannerman has been enjoying the milder weather this winter. “ Isn't it wonderful to be able to ramble around one's yard wearing a light vest, making planting plans and sipping from a glass of wine in February?” Terena also wants it known to all members of The Liver Lovers Club, that we might require the care of a competent psychiatrist. Should I include a LOL or is that necessary?

• Garden Tip: I have recommended for house plants at this time of year and for starting garden seeds, a plant starter fertilizer with the numbers of 10-52-10. Sadly, none of the independent garden centers are open, so reader and gardener Jean McKay went looking elsewhere. She finally found some at The Canadian Tire East. I rarely advise readers to patronize a box store but this appears to be the only option right now. If there are independents with this one available, let me know.

• The tale of two cappuccino/bakery shops: I really do not enjoy writing less than stellar reviews of independent shops in our city, but I can’t be a fake cheerleader either. I have now tried Le Macaron, located in the east end, three times. I have not been impressed any of those three times with their offerings, their service or their ambiance, which I found cold and impersonal. On a brighter note, also in the east end, just off of Arcola, on Woodhams Drive, there is a place called Brewed Awakenings. This place is worth seeking out. It has decent coffee, great desserts and they have some scratch soups with baking powder biscuits for lunch. The ambiance is relaxed and one of community. It has a good vibe, the staff have been fun to chat with and I have been a customer, seven times.

• Garden Tip: With snow on the ground, it is the perfect time to start planning your landscaping project. Whether you have an established yard that needs a new look or a brand new house on an empty lot, it is time for the plan. When I had my own shop, every April, we would get calls from customers wanting to book designs or installations. They believed that they were being early with their calls. They were surprised to find out that we were booked for the year. Many regular customers, booked in the fall, for the next year. So I am telling you this: It is not too soon to give either Heather Lowe a call at 545-1519 or Ingrid Thiessen at 529-4980. Both are very professional in their abilities to assist you with designing a beautiful garden or outdoor living space.

• More of Readers Write:

     • Jeanie Freeman had this to say about CBC’s Definitely Not The Opera: “ What glowing praise for my DNTO stories! Thanks from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement! I keep telling those CBC folks that I would have a lot more stories for them if they just weren't so insistent on the truth! As a dyed-in-the-wool storyteller, it's only under duress that I would ever let the facts get in the way of a good story! So that's why you don't hear me on there more often!”

     • I have been a long time fan of Gursh Madhur and all the fine work she did keeping Access Channel Seven broadcasting for many years. Gursh was the producer. She now lives in Winnipeg with her husband, Dr. David Barnard, who used to be The President of The University of Regina and now occupies a similar post as the head of The University of Manitoba. Gursh sent this note along: “I just spent time reading this and really enjoyed your insights and perspectives. I wonder if your blog has out grown the title? This is a wonderful blog on community. I too agree that it is a shame about SCN. Thank you for sharing this report and for being such an amazing force. You my friend, are a gem.”

     • Brad Crassweller was in Hawaii, surfing and relaxing in the tropical warmth. He read The Garden Report in Waikiki Beach and responded with this: “I read The Garden Report last night - my sentiments exactly on the vegetable garden thing. I think I need to get a garden going this year as well.”

     • Cheryl Geiger-Paul is a new reader and had this to say: “Hi Rod...I so enjoyed this Garden Report. I laughed out loud so many times as I read it to my husband. Thank you for your humor and little tips. Looking forward to the next report!”

     • The writer inside of Gail Bowen allows her to pen this complimentary thought. “ How lovely to wake up to you and the photos of the Artist Series Roses, Max and your garden. The lyrics from Hello Dolly say it all: "it's good to have you back where you belong".

Blue Oat Grass in the foreground
     • Marcus Fernando and Tina Hoffman, are expecting another child. The child has a Canadian component to his incubation. Read on: “I thought I'd lend your Garden Report an added degree of tropical glamour by informing you that I'm reading #67 in an internet cafe in Sri Lanka. The sea is but a few feet away. Indeed, I can hear the waves crashing from here. Palm trees are waving, and the flowers are (of course!) glorious. Tina, Pascal and I are over here exploring this most beautiful island...and digging up some of my roots (cultural, not vegetable!). I think it was a wise choice: while we bask in 38 degrees of heat, back home in the UK it is minus 12, and snow-bound! Did you get my message about Tina expecting number two son in July? We will definitely not be calling him ‘Edmonton’!! Mind you, ‘Riverbend’ has a certain ring to it!"

• A local plug: I have been renovating, decorating, repairing and cleaning the house, all winter. I have been blessed to have the always hardworking, Sandy Thiessen do the heavy lifting and the painting. We have painted quite a few rooms and we have been dealing with Colorburst Paint at Albert and Avonhurst. They are a Benjamin Moore dealer. The staff have been excellent in assisting us with the right paint and lots of good tips on how to do it better.

Dianthus and Sweet Potato Vine
• Garden Tip: When planning out your garden and containers, give some serious consideration to using a few dianthus plants. It is fairly easy to grow, provided you remove the spent blooms on a regular basis. That is the secret to growing this plant. Why I plant some dianthus every year is, it is one of those plants that make you smile. You cannot walk past blooming dianthus without finding a degree of amusement in these petite bloomers.

• Great to see: The Artesian on 13th Avenue has become a very popular place. Lots of theater, comedy shows, concerts and weddings. We needed a small, performing arts space within our community and now we have one. It is fully accessible with an elevator for those who need that service.

• This is not right: I wandered into our guest bathroom earlier this week. I’m not supposed to be in there, except for emergency purposes. Regardless, I was. To my great surprise, I found that the towel set in the guest bathroom is so much nicer than the towels in our bath. The guest towels are luxuriantly soft, incredibly absorbent and brand new, to boot. I would have asked the Towel Queen, why the guest towels are so incredible, but, I already know her answer. There would be this tone, yep, a tone, and the answer would be “because, they’re for company.” Ah…to be a guest in my own house. I can only dream.

A lovely landscape, south of Regina
 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald, from a beautiful, sunny morning in Regina!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Garden Report #67

Sunday, February, 2012

I can only dream of my back is covered in snow right now
• Writers write: Thank you for all of your kind responses and writing how much you have missed The Garden Report. I have included many of your emails in the Readers Write section, but not all, as over a hundred of you took the time to write.

       This province of ours is filled with so much talent in the arts’ community. One of our showcases for that talent was the former SCN Television. It had as its motto ‘Saskatchewan’s Storyteller’ and it was a fitting one. The station told many of the stories that this province needs telling, and we in turn, need to hear. Sadly, for whatever reasons, the government cut the funding, sold the station and now it is City Television, programming lots of American television. All we have left on our sets to get out those important, local stories is Channel Seven on Access. Thank goodness for them. However, nothing replaces SCN and its ability to tell the Saskatchewan story! I was one of those independent storytellers, so I have a vested interest in a Saskatchewan station, but I have an even greater vested interest as a citizen, a prairie boy and a viewer. The ship may have sailed, but the Provincial Government needs to restore that station. Its costs were every bit recovered in the culture it presented and preserved. We need a station that is not programmed from Toronto and filled with American television. We need prairie storytellers on air.

• Readers write:

This is Rob Van Zanten's adopted grandbaby, 'Max'!
        • From rainy Vancouver, our champion rose grower, Rob Van Zanten had this to say: “Sitting here reading The Garden Report with my coffee on a rainy Wet Coast Sunday morning. Coffee seems to taste better...”.

       • Sherri Tutt has a plan for The Garden Report: “I have all 66 issues of The Garden Report and I am starting a book of tips excerpted from them. Hope you don't mind.” (Rod says: Be my guest.)

       • From Calgary, actor Cheryl Hutton sent this along: “So...amidst my speeding around the house this morning, what do you think stopped me in my tracks? Yup, you guessed it. The Garden Report. I dropped the socks I had in my hand and read. Slight procrastination on my part, perhaps, but a tribute to your report! Nothing else could get me to stop. Well done. Now if you could only help me with my to do list.”

       • Sandra Rayson was motivated to plant. Read on: “My heart is overjoyed with the return of The Garden Report! On a snowy, grey day, it sure lifted my spirits & actually motivated me to re-plant my amaryllis bulb that has been wintering in the basement.”

       • Roberta Nichol is singing again: “Well, well.... what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful surprise! I was elated to find The Garden Report in my mailbox this morning! When it first popped up, I thought, "What the heck is this doing here?" Then I saw the date! Yeeeeehaaaaa!”

       • Our neighborhood nurse, June Blau sent this from across the street: “Imagine, if you can, my delighted squeal upon opening my inbox to find The Garden Report once again! Thank you for the effort you put into writing this wonderful blog. I feel privileged to have access to it.”

       • Wanda Bellamy is a true Scot: “So nice to wake up to The Garden Report! From one Scot to another.. Happy Robert Burns Day!”

       • Author, Gail Bowen has a new book coming out in April. It’s title is ‘Kaleidoscope’. In between editing her new book, she wrote this: “Seeing The Garden Report appear again in my Inbox made me feel that, once again, God was in Her heaven and all was right with the world.”

       • We have readers all over the world, and this came in from Janine and Kevin Gray, who live in Southern California: “Nice to see you again - both in the photo and in your report. We very much enjoy your good sense of humor and writing style. Good to have you back.”

       • Long time fellow writer, Jean Freeman penned this: “ Welcome back!!! It was like a breath of spring to open your email and see those beautiful photos -- especially the one with the smiley faces and the pixie Highland Elf in the middle!!” Note to readers: If you ever have the opportunity to listen to one of Jean’s stories on CBC One, take it. The only danger is that you might laugh so hard that you will wet yourself…not that that has happened to me.

Canadian Artist Rose 'Bill Reid'-photo courtesy of Peter Harris
• Garden Tip: Regular reader and die hard gardener, Paula Grolle, shared her geranium over wintering experience with us: “Each fall I haul in my three geranium planters and place them in my south facing bay window. I fertilize them and they pout for a month by dropping leaves, but then they take off. Now they are starting to produce flowers again, but I pinch them off. I water every 10 days or so and fertilize maybe once a month. They are very full and happy.”

• Not a good idea: There are some cultures and some people who name their children after the area where they were conceived. Thus, names such as Paris and London have become popular. If this were the cultural practice in our province, there would be thirty year olds registering to vote with names such as ‘Back seat of ’58 Chev’ and ‘Kitchen table-after smoking hash oil.’

• Thank God for veterinarians: My beloved Murphy is starting to bark, as if he were a dog. I took him to our local vet and she said “It is obvious. You have a Canadian cat. He is attempting to become bilingual.” Stop your groaning. It took me a week to write this.

• Eating out: We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do, we try to find those places that offer us ‘big flavor.’ We gave a try to A Taste of Tuscany on Hamilton Street. There were three of us and we shared two of their salads, lasagna and a pasta with meatballs. It was okay, but not brilliant. It was lacking in flavor. Add to the absence of taste bud stimulation, an overpriced check for a pasta meal, and it is not one we will be revisiting. Too bad, as we have been searching for an Italian place that impresses us.

• Better luck: A grab joint that has impressed me recently is Milu’s on Victoria Avenue. It is located in the old Bokoria Club. I have watched as they prepare Vietnamese subs and rice noodle bowls. Their prep area is exceptionally clean and they are methodical in their assembly of your dish…which is a good thing versus being haphazard. Lots of flavor. There are no seats, so you have to take your order home or eat in the car.

• Move over Food Channel: Here is a comfort food dish that I like to make on a cold, Saturday night. I place a bit of canola oil into the bottom of a good sized pot. I add in a pound of ground beef, a chopped large onion, two cups of whole mushrooms, half a chopped up red or yellow pepper, and I let it cook away for ten to fifteen minutes, turning now and again. When that is ready, I add in a tin of baked beans, a quarter cup of hot banana peppers, one cup of salsa, and a half cup of chopped pineapple. For flavors, I add in some ground black pepper, garlic, and at least a teaspoon or more of cumin. For the finish, I add in half a cup of barbecue sauce and some hickory liquid smoke. I let it reduce down with the lid off, on a simmer for thirty to sixty minutes. I serve it with either whole wheat toast or low salt, taco chips. You can garnish the top of your serving bowl with some chopped up tomatoes. It’s not gourmet, but it sure tastes good. Hardy, smoky, tangy, sweet, pungent, meaty with a bit of a back bite. Reader John Ciotucha stopped by for supper. He couldn’t get enough of it and even took a Tupperware bowl to go.

Canadian Artist Rose 'Emily Carr'
• Garden Tip: This year, it might be the year to start growing more of our own vegetables. Nothing can give us more joy. Growing our own vegetables is something that has been almost lost to us, even though most of us grew up with large gardens. Our mother’s knew how to stretch a dollar and how to feed us. Seed racks are on display in many stores or if you really want some great varieties, you can order seeds from Stokes or from T and T Seeds. Both are excellent seed companies. I am giving serious thought to digging out my daylilies which occupy some of my premium sunny spots…just so I can get in a bit of a salad garden.

• Too much fun: I was on my way home this Tuesday. I had a half an hour to spare, so I dropped into see everyone’s friend, Carlos at The Italian Star. I didn’t buy anything. I just hung out. At The Italian Star, there is a continual conversation going. It changes as people come and go. It could start out as ‘what’s wrong with our health system’ and quickly move onto The Rider’s chances and then a round table of ‘is it worthwhile to have a financial advisor?’ All topics are open for discussion. Everyone contributes. There is no right or wrong and there is no beginning or ending. It is just one giant ‘middle’. Somehow, even though I am a Scot, I totally fit in. It’s as if I am an onion in the middle of a great soup, simmering on the back burner. How’s that for an analogy?

• Boxing Night in Regina: If you enjoy Olympic style boxing, and I do, then March 30th is a date to mark on your calendar. The Lonsdale Boxing Club from Dewdney Avenue will be hosting ‘The Battle of the Prairies.’ Tickets are cheap. Only ten bucks if you get them in advance. You can watch some of our talented young people, work their magic in the ring.

• Liver Lovers’ Lunch: Some people think I have made up ‘The Liver Lovers’ Club. But I haven’t. If you would like to join our club, we will be celebrating St. Valentine’s Day with a liver lunch at The CBC Cafeteria, College and Broad. The lunch is only ten dollars and that includes everything. Lunch starts at 11:45 a.m. You have to let me know if you are coming as they need to know the number of Liver Lovers who will be attending. Reader Heather Hodgson is the organizer of this luncheon. Thanks Heather.

• Thorn less raspberries: Reader Jim Tomkins asked how one can obtain these plants. He had some at his old house and really enjoyed the berries as well as not being scratched. Here is the problem. Most nurseries no longer grow ‘Muskoka’ which is a thorn less raspberry. I did find a small nursery in Valley River, Manitoba that still has it listed. If readers are interested, I will order some of these canes. We can get them shipped to me on the bus. We need to order a minimum of a hundred and the cost will be $2.50 for each cane. Gardeners should note: these canes will be bare root, not in pots.

• Zam Zam: This is a hole in the wall in an out of the way place. It is located just west of 4th Avenue and Park Street. The big seller at this Lebanese joint is a pita wrap. The pita is fresh made in their back room bakery and one can purchase the pitas separately, to take home. They fill the pita with lettuce, tomato, and other veggies, your choice of a rotisserie meat, sauces and cheese. We had a chicken wrap and it was tasty and filling. The problem with giving this place a triple A rating is that I compare it with The Falafel King in Vancouver, which sets the highest of bars for this style of food. The Falafel King (you have to ignore the corny name to enjoy their tasty food) has two locations. One, spotlessly clean on Davie Street and one on Denman, that is divvy. Their tzatziki sauce, hummus and stuffed grape leaves, along with their carrot or lentil soup, are second to none. So damned filled with flavor. Now, back to Zam Zam. They do offer every Friday and Saturday, until six p.m., a Lebanese platter, filled with middle eastern food. I have heard good things about this and I will try to wind my way out there. Oh…the things I do for my readers. Eat, eat!

In two to three months, it will be tulip time again
• The Keg: I have not been to The Keg in at least twenty years. I just don’t believe in patronizing chains when there are so many great independents around. Having delivered that polemic, we were given a gift certificate for Christmas and we checked it out, last Sunday. The place was absolutely packed with a line up. As there were only the two of us, they had a small table left at the very back and we took it. We were pleasantly pleased. I had a very tasty Caesar salad and the Romaine was incredibly crisp. Lots of flavor there. Maureen had a green salad which she said was lovely, followed by Oscar Chicken. This was a chicken breast served with a cream sauce and scallops. Lots of scallops. I had the prime rib dinner and it was also first rate. They served my dinner with a really hot horseradish and a small container of au jus. The au jus was very tasty and most pieces of my beef had a quick bath in this liquid. We finished off with a slice of cheesecake for me and Maureen ordered the Crème Brule. Both were very good. Food, dessert, one glass of wine for the Mrs., tax and tip was a hundred bucks, so it is not cheap.

• Hot is a relative word: I was in Tony’s India Food Center on Victoria East, stocking up on supplies. It is a wonderful store filled with all sorts of food products and Tony is as decent and as fun as you would want. So, he asks me to give a try to this curry sauce that is premade. Instead of adding my own curry spices, you just add this into your pot. I asked Tony, “Is this hot.” He said “not at all.” I usually don’t’ follow recipes but as this sauce was new to me, I did, this time. I added in the 125 grams of sauce (half a cup), just as instructed. I let my curry simmer away and before serving, I gave it a taste test. I just about burnt out my nostrils, it was that hot. To reduce the heat in a curry, I usually add in a half a cup of yogurt. In this dish, I added two cups of yogurt and it was still off the wall. We ate it. It was tasty as all get out. But we also had a box of Kleenex at the dinner table, blowing our noses and wiping away the tears of joy. Next time I am in Tony’s shop, I am going to ask my question differently. “Is this hot for me?” Hot is a relative word, not an absolute.

• More of Readers Write: Sorry about the length of this Garden Report, but over a hundred of you took the time to write. I didn’t have room for all of you, just a sampling

       • Gwen Scott from Fort Langley, B.C. missed the read: “Welcome back Rod! I have missed your weekly dose of witticisms, sage advice for keeping plants green and growing, and sharing your life perspectives with your readers. I was one of those student nurses who hung out with your beloved Maureen. It has been good for me to maintain our friendship with the added bonus of getting to know you, the "Mark Twain" of Regina. I almost wish myself back in that picturesque city (Regina) when I hear you describe the things that you love there. God bless you!”

       • Our itinerant Dickensian actor, John Huston, penned this from Toronto: “It's grand to have you back. I spent a busy Robby Burns Day but managed, just, to get in a late haggis dinner at a local pub. I called ahead just as the kitchen was closing and said, "I'll be there, please hold one for me". They did. Not the best haggis I've had but not bad. I did the first two lines of ‘The Ode’ and fell to.” Rod’s note: If you have the opportunity to see John perform in one of his plays, take it. He is a major talent.

       • Joanne Terry was pretty excited this Monday morning. “OMG Rod – Thank you so much for your come-back. It was so delightful to open up my email this morning to find The Garden Report. Everything stops at work on Monday mornings until I have had a chance to read my Garden Report”

       • Noelle Chorney, who edits the wonderful Gardener for the Prairies, out of Saskatoon, was kind: “Glad you’re back, Rod! As far as Garden Reports, I’ll enjoy whatever you’re able to offer.”

       • Wendy Richardson gardens in London, Ontario. She grew up in Regina but she was Wendy Campbell on Gordon Road, back then. She wrote: “I was so pleased to see The Garden Report in my inbox, yesterday. It was a treat to read your blog as usual and I had missed it.”

'After Eight' Oriental Lily
       • This from Ingrid Thiessen, our favorite Landscape Architect. “What a great way to start the morning. I loved "a burden shared is always cut in half while a joy shared, is always doubled.” I have winter oregano growing but am inspired to start the basil. And Lawrence needs a new pancake flipper so Kitchen Gear, here I come. So glad to see you are back.”

• The last word: When I was six years old, my mom was teaching me to ride my bicycle. She would hold me upright by the bike seat and I would peddle away. We would do this after supper every night, heading north of Dewdney, on Rae Street. One night I was peddling really fast and I shouted back “Mom! Look at how fast we are going!” Of course, she had let go of the bicycle seat and I was easily a half block away from her. It was at that moment that I understood mixed emotions. On one hand, I was excited beyond belief to be peddling extra fast. Yet, I was terrified that I was on my own and that Mom was no longer holding me up. It’s that way with all things in life. Freedom is exciting and scary, at the same time.

'Bridal Wreath' Spirea- a good plant for the sun and lovely cascading branches
 • Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in Regina