Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Garden Report #74

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

In Regina, we like to garden in formal attire
• Writers write: What constitutes landscaping? There are those who would limit their view of landscaping to lawns, trees and shrubs. Others would include decks and patios. I have always maintained that everything on the outside of the house should be within the definition of landscaping, including the color of the paint and the position of the eaves trough. Everything that is visible and even that which is underground, must be considered when making landscape decisions.

Case in point. A fellow over on Montague Street painted his fence panels many years ago, in alternate colors of black and orange. It appeared to all passing by, that his house was a tribute to the A and W franchise. So, what type of tree should he have planted in his back yard? Trick question. He needed to rethink his paint choices for the fence before any tree decision could possibly matter.

When we were picking the stain color for our front steps, we took a shingle from the roof and matched the stain. Why? Because everything ties together. Landscaping is of a much larger scope than most people ever imagine.

• Readers write: This in from Heather Lowe. “In regard to volunteers. I've often wondered why people who suffer boredom, find time long or are looking for friends, don't volunteer at something. If they only knew how needed volunteers are and how appreciated they would be, life would take on a whole new meaning.”

     • Jennifer Cohen asked a question that perhaps some readers could answer. “If you ever happen to find a coffee shop which offers snacks not drenched in sugar and fat, please let us know. I usually bring a tub of yogurt because there are no healthy alternatives.” The Greenspot on Hamilton Street has some very healthy food as well as decent coffee.

     • Murray Wallace suggests when making Yorkshire pudding, that the eggs be at room temperature. Thanks for the tip, Murray.

     • Georgia Hearn was full of compliments. “You are too funny! I laughed out loud, by myself, at a couple of your anecdotes. Love it, Love it!”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoys a back and forth story. “I have to say, you could in your Garden Report, print nothing but conversations you and Maureen have and I would be happy. These anecdotes are hilarious! Absolutely hilarious! You put George and Gracie, Sonny and Cher and Lucy and Ricky to shame.”

     • Susan Rollins is doing a spring dance of joy. “I see some of my grape hyacinths are coming up. Yippee!”

     • Reader and long time friend, Neil Vandendort over at City Parks was pleased. “I really enjoy reading it. I appreciated your comments about the tree pruning...and the photo.”

     • This from Lynn Goldman. “Love the photos of my beautiful street! Even now, with the bare trees and patches of snow, I find it beautiful.” The photo of the tree pruning was courtesy of Jack Tunnicliffe.

We take snowblowing seriously in the prairies
     • Dave Calam liked the joke about snow blowers in #73. Here is his response. “Friends with benefits?

Mandevilla in bloom

• Readers write #2: In last week’s Garden Report, I printed a copy of a letter that I received from Catherine Parker, without editing or comment. In her letter, she vehemently opposed my take on The Dangerous Offenders’ Act. Three readers responded to her letter. Each of the three letters were similar in their opposition to her stance. I am printing only one, as they are so similar. This response is the last take on the subject, as I have no desire to have a war of words break out here. Both sides have had their opportunity. Now it is time to move on.

     “I read the letter from Catherine Parker and couldn’t disagree more. Some people should be locked away and never let out until they prove they are capable of living in a civilized society. The dangerous offender designation is only used for people who have already proven themselves not fit to live among us. Also her argument falls apart with the statement that they will “inevitably'” be released. Not so. They will be held until they are no longer a danger to society. They are only designated as a dangerous offender after they have shown by their own actions that they cannot be trusted to be let loose on civilized society. If they are locked away forever, then that is the proper result of their own actions. If they are capable of being rehabilitated then that would have happened during previous incarcerations.

     Also taking shots at you for being white and living in Lakeview only demonstrates her own prejudices. And I too won’t hide behind anonymity.”

Signed GORDON F. SINNETT , Regina

Even Murphy enjoys putting on The Ritz
• Garden Tip: It is perfectly okay to rake your lawns when the weather is this nice. With the raking of lawns, spores from the fungi ‘Snow Mould’ will be released. This time of year is always rough on people with allergies, as moulds are being released from their winter captivity. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for the appropriate medication. I empathize with those people sneezing and scratching. I am one of you, even though most would think after thirty-five years of working amongst plants, I would be immune. Rest assured, I am not.

• Iris’ wanted: Reader Billy Patterson is an enthusiastic gardener on a budget. He would like to plant a few iris’ this year. Does anyone have some that can be divided and given to our young friend. I gave all of my iris away three years ago, so my cupboard is bare.

• Sweet Bakery: I stopped into Sweet Bakery and Coffee Shop at College and Broad last week, to see my long time friend, Helen. Helen is the owner and the baker supreme. She makes such a fine baking powder, cinnamon biscuits, that a visit to her place is always enjoyable. Surprise. Helen has sold her establishment to a Korean gentleman and she has returned to her former job at Eddie Bauer’s. I visited with the new owner briefly, and wished him all the best.

• Plum Garden: This Chinese food establishment advertises quite a bit and I thought it might be time to check it out. I ordered Sunday supper from there. Nothing special. Lemon chicken, pea pods and beef, that sort of fare. It was okay. Not great, not bad. The standard in our city is Peking House or Angkor, and Plum Garden did not compare.

• Garden Tip: Lynn Tomkins asked this pertinent gardening question regarding the spiraled, white, plastic tree wraps. “Can the white tree wrap be reused next year? When do you think we should remove it?” The answer is the tree wrap can be reused next year and for several years after that. Do not remove them until the end of April.

• We were all young, once: When Maureen was a young nurse, she worked at ‘Sick Kids’ in Toronto. She had a roommate who was in the bloom of youth. She knew everything. They were at a party one night and a skinny, blonde girl was playing the guitar. The roommate took the guitar away from its owner and showed her how it should be played, properly. The skinny blond guitar player? Joni Mitchell.

• Ricky’s All Day Grill: This place is a chain and I seldom frequent chains, but our Liver Lovers’ Club held a dinner there. The liver, the bacon and the onions were very good. The veggies were fresh, not canned or frozen. The dessert was a cheese cake that was first rate and large enough for two. We all left stuffed. My only complaint were the fries. They were amongst the worst I have ever had. The other guests ordered the mashed potatoes and their report was they were very good. As it was a function, we did not receive menus so I have no idea what else is on the menu.

• Garden Tip: Trevor Langen asks a good question. “I have a question regarding roses. When should I be removing the protective covering from my rose bushes?” The answer is not yet. It is an unusual spring and there could be a cold period yet.

• Farmers’ Market: It’s open again, at The Community Center on 13th Avenue. Saturday mornings except this one coming up, the 31st. It will be only open 9:30 ‘til 11:30. It’s not the whole gang from the summer but enough of them to make it worth your while. Linda’s pickles, Mila’s butter tarts, fresh tomatoes, eggs and beef, and then a bit of organic cherry juice from Lumsden to wash everything down.

• Oh yeah, right: When Number Three Son, his birth certificate says his name is Patrick, was five, we went shopping for a Christmas present for his mother. We were in The Southland Mall and we walked by a jewelry/gift store. Inside their walls, they had as a floor display, a pair of giraffes. They were bronze or copper giraffes, well made and about three feet tall. They were approximately, the same height as Patrick. Did I mention they were twelve hundred bucks, for the pair? He insisted, that we should purchase these for mom. I asked him how he knew she would like them. He told me with absolute sincerity, “she’s always talking about them. She said that she really, really, wants these for Christmas.”

• Tree banding: A few people have emailed, asking who they can call to do this task. Here are the numbers of two people who I know will do it. Rick at 347-0104 and Wade at 761-0114.

• Let’s get drunk and cause some trouble: Last year’s riot in Vancouver was one of the saddest days in Canadian history. If we ever had any moral high ground, we lost it that day. Apparently, we were not finished. In London, Ontario, last Saturday, there was a St. Patrick’s Day riot. Fueled by testosterone and beer, the lads managed to destroy a fair chunk of property. There was no protest involved, just having a bit of ‘fun’.

     We in Regina are not without our inglorious moment. At our ever popular Cathedral Village Arts Festival, we used to celebrate the last day with a family street dance. It was a great evening, filled with friends and neighbors boogying to a live band. I have no idea how these things get started, but one year, a few high school boys got into a mix-up. What started as a lovely evening deteriorated quickly. And it happened the next year, as if it were supposed to be a rematch. If they wanted to scrap, why couldn’t they find a vacant lot but no, the middle of 13th Avenue was their venue. Not surprisingly, the organizers threw in the towel and cancelled the street dance. After all, who wants to be responsible for a street brawl.

     In retrospect, a bunch of us should have grabbed these punks and made them the star attraction of a dunk tank. All the small kids could toss balls at them until they slid under the water. Of course, there would be no charge to the kids. Then we should have mailed photos of the miscreants to their families. Grandma would have been so proud.

• I’m not tough: We were out for supper. A ninety year old woman approached me. She said “you’re Bea’s boy.” Yes ma’am, I’m still ‘Bea’s boy’. We were talking about mom. I told the woman that people who think I’m tough should have met my mother. She made me look like a putz. And if you wanted to meet the toughest one in the family, my grandmother, right off the boat from Glasgow, at five feet tall, made everyone else back down. Tough broads in my family.

• Danny Bhoy: A great show from the Scottish comic Saturday night. For trivia fiends out there, Danny Bhoy got his start at The Fringe Festival in his home town of Edinburgh in 2001. Now, he packs in audiences as he performs on different continents. Where’s this leading? Jodi, over at The Regina Fringe, needs billets for this summer’s festival. Perhaps, you could be hosting the next international celebrity.

• Destroying culture 101: First, SCN, Saskatchewan’s Storyteller was gutted. No longer did we have a channel that told out stories. We now had to rely on programmers in Toronto to decide what it was we wanted to view. Now, in the new budget, the Film Tax Credit has been revoked. Film production for the most part, will be relocating to other provinces. As the production companies move, so will our talented editors, actors and producers. Those who support the removal of the Film Tax Credit suggest that the film business is not self supporting. Some same it is. I won’t argue either point. Has anyone else noticed that art galleries such as the world class Norman Mackenzie, classic theaters such as The Globe, The Regina Symphony, the public library, the university, our provincial parks and day cares are not self supporting either? Come to think of it, bridges, roads and hospitals are not self supporting. They all require taxpayers money to keep them operating. We set aside a portion of our tax money to fund cultural, educational and recreational events because it is the right thing to do. The film industry is an important part of our cultural landscape. It allows us to represent who we are as a people. It gives us our collective voice. Our stories need to be told and by us.

• So true: My sister, when she was a young, single girl, had a poster in her suite. It read: ‘The more I get to know men, the better I love my dog.’ On behalf of all of the men out there, I apologize.

Getting the crop ready a few springs ago
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in snowy, spring time Regina.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Garden Report #73

Regina Avenue panorama
Sunday, March 18th, 2012

• Writers write:  When I was a young man, I thought that elderly people became more spiritual because they were preparing to die. I was cynical. As a man well in to the September of his life, and as someone who has become increasingly spiritual, allow me to set my own record straight. I have increased my spirituality because I have seen the hand of God in my life many times. I do not believe in coincidences and happenstance. So, if anyone is a time traveler, look me up when I was twenty, and tell me that I said I was wrong.

• Readers write: Jackie Arnason had this to say: “ I read your comments on Dangerous Offenders and must put in my two cents worth. I think everyone is entitled to one mistake but after a second serious offense, I believe we must draw the line. None of us have had perfect childhoods but at age eighteen, we are certainly old enough to make a choice to change. If we continue to condone the excuses that childhood neglect, abuse, etc are responsible for bad adult choices, there will be no incentive to change. The same applies to committing crimes while drunk. Keep up the great work - because of The Garden Report, I can garden to my heart's content and never get my fingers dirty.”

     • Georgia Hearn likes to see something different. “Another entertaining Garden Report. We all look forward to it and so glad it is back. Keep it up and I love the social justice issues and respect that you are not afraid to speak you mind.”

     • Catherine Parker strenuously objects to my take on Dangerous Offenders. I have included her entire objection, without editing or comment. “Usually I enjoy reading your Garden Report. It contains interesting garden related advice and anecdotes on a variety of topics.

     As I read your comments about the dangerous offenders clause, I wondered if I was reading a Conservative Party newsletter (or listening to one of the US Republican Party's debates). I wondered if you had given any thought to what happens when the individual tagged as a 'dangerous offender' is released, as inevitably the person will be. What about the concept of rehabilitation?

     It saddened me to think that you could so easily think that "less than ideal child rearing is an obstacle to be overcome." If this were so easy, I imagine that we'd live in a far different world than we do where the cycle of poverty continues from one generation to the other. Or, as a well-off middle-aged white man, do you think these are people who just haven't tried hard enough to overcome the obstacles that are in their paths? How simple it must seem from your lovely Lakeview neighborhood to pontificate on criminals and, at the same time, give a tacit nod to the Crown for wanting to keep a person in jail for longer than their specified sentence. Civil liberties, anyone?

     I sign my letter in the event that you classify my comments as coming from a poisoned pen,

Signed - Catherine Parker”

     • Heather Lowe had this to say. “My sentiments on the issue before the Crown align with yours. Of course, as you know, you will never get all your readers to agree with you on a topic like this.”

     • Marcus Fernando added this: “In reply to your opening comments about young offenders, here's a little saying I came across which might just be appropriate:

          "When I was a boy, I blamed my youth for what I did.

          Now that I'm a man, I blame my childhood."

     Says it all, really! Meanwhile, I am continuing to do my gardening in Groznjan with a pickaxe and shovel. No subtlety to be found yet, but it keeps me fit!”


     • New reader Judy Woidyla wrote in. “My sister-in-law forwarded me your Garden Report #67. Very interesting read, thanks for all the info.”

     • Ingrid Thiessen has opinions on what should be included in The Garden Report. “As always, I loved the photos...but you can't send clematis photos without the nitty gritty details. I have tried to grow clematis in less than ideal conditions on a south facing garage. Plants can make fools of us all. The clematis will survive for three or four years and then die out. So why do I try again and again in the same location? I know the roots are to be shaded, but I think the lack of snow cover on the south wall, probably does them in. Tell Sharon how much I admired this photo not only for the beauty, but for the skill, because I know it’s not so easy growing clematis.”

     • Wendy Richardson is ready to garden in London, Ontario. She writes: “It was 61F here today, sunny and beautiful, and I started to think about my garden! Thanks for doing The Garden Report as it is very entertaining and I love the connection with Regina.”

     • Reader Joanne Crawford wants to try my pancake recipe. “I am a lousy cook but I think I will try this recipe. If you recommend it, I know it must be good. However, my cooking skills challenge even the most tried and true recipes. The photos in your Garden Report provide hope for a brighter and more beautiful day, although today is looking pretty good.”

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman is reading this in Ireland. She wrote a poignant note. “Hi Rod. I'm taking an unexpected trip 'home' to Ireland at the moment, due to my Dad's illness. The Garden Report provides one of the rare reasons to smile these days, thank you. Here on the Wicklow coast, the daffodils, crocus, bluebells and heathers have been blooming since I arrived three weeks ago. On my daily walk yesterday, I noticed that the fabulous magnolias were in flower; a glimpse of our wonderful life in the middle of sadness. What a wonderful world, indeed.”

We have our own definitions: I read the phrase ‘friends with benefits’. To me, that means I can borrow your snow blower when mine breaks down.

• March Madness: It has been a very, balmy March here on the prairies. I washed my car on the front drive on Thursday. The first time that has ever happened in March. If the early spring continues, do not forget to band you trees to prevent the invasion of canker worms. If you do not wish to do this messy job yourself, there are several firms or individuals that will do it for you, for a fee. I am not one of those individuals. Also, do not remove any winter coverings including leaves or peat just yet. That would be rushing the season. Let your plants wake up slowly.

Pruning American elms along Angus Street
• Great photo: The panorama of Regina Avenue is courtesy of my wonderful neighbor, Jack Tunnicliffe. Jack also provided us with the shot of the tree pruning along Angus Street. The trees being pruned are all American Elms (Ulmus americana) planted in the 1930’s. Elm trees cannot be pruned between April 1st and August 31st, by law.

• Garden Tip: Many of you have been given a Spring Bulb Pan. The question I am asked is: Can I plant this in my garden? The hyacinth and the crocus or crocii for the particular, are not hardy for Regina. In other parts of the country, they are. The tulips and the mini daffs are hardy and they can be planted. Here is the kicker. In the greenhouse trade we say ‘once forced, always spent.’ The bulbs in your Spring Bulb Pan do not have a very good chance of reblooming. However, if you must plant them, just to see if they will grow, plant the tulips eight inches deep and the rest around five inches. Every now and again, something will pop up but don’t bet the farm on it.

• Living with a woman is more difficult than I thought: It is still winter here on the prairies. The dryness has caused my heels to crack. I am in the bathroom, rubbing some body lotion into my feet. The bottle of body lotion is always sitting on the bathroom sink. In walks my Missus. Here is the conversation.

Her: What are you doing with the body lotion?

Me: My heels have cracked.

Her: O.K. but you don’t use body lotion on your feet.

Me: Why not? My feet are part of my body.

Her: (Sighs) No, no. You always use foot cream on your feet.

Me: Do we have foot cream?

Her: Yes. In the bottom, left hand drawer, underneath the shampoo I bought for my sister.

Me: Why did you buy shampoo for your sister? She lives in Toronto. She can buy shampoo lots of places.

Her: This is her brand and it was on sale. You don’t know anything about sisters, or foot cream or living in this house, do you?

Me: You’re right. I have no idea what happens here.

Delosperma 'Fire Spinner'
• Garden Tip: Hans deJohng who owns Paridon Horticultural in Surrey, B.C. sent along the photo of the Delosperma. Hans writes that this is a dwarf plant and that it was incredibly popular last season. It must be noted that this plant does not have a prairie hardy rating on it. Rather, it has a Zone Five which means that most gardeners in this area will lose it. As with all plants, some will take the risk and succeed.

• Volunteers rock: I am a volunteer with The Kidney Foundations’ annual, residential fundraiser. I am not hustling you for a donation. What I want to tell you is this: I have observed that the best thing about being a volunteer is working with other volunteers. Saskatchewan is well known for its community supporters, whether as small town firefighters, hockey coaches or someone who knocks on doors to raise funds. Volunteers definitely see the glass as half full. Every now and again, when I hear or read that someone ledges that we are not very friendly in Regina, I wonder to myself, if they have ever taken the time to volunteer. If they had, I doubt they would be lacking in friendship.

• Regina Folk Festival: If you have not already heard, Emmy Lou Harris is headlining this year. The festival is always a great gig, something we have attended since 1969. The magic happens August 10th -12th in Victoria Park.

Clematis growing in Regina
 • Garden Tip: Here are the basics for growing beautiful clematis plants. They were submitted by readers Murray and Sharon Wallace. A photo of their incredible clematis (clematii) was published in #72. “1.The clematis are on the north fence line facing south, and have the sun all day. 2.They are watered once a week and we try to use the water from our rain barrel. 3.In the spring, I dig into the soil a granular fertilizer that is made for clematis from bone meal. 4. I save leaves in the fall (dry)and spread them over the roots in the spring. I like the look of the leaves as a ground cover.”

• Recipe time: I have advocated the serving of Yorkshire pudding in a previous column. It bears repeating. There was a time when roast beef was usually accompanied by Yorkshire pudding. Not anymore and I don’t know why. It is so incredibly easy to make. Mix together one cup of flour, one cup of milk, three eggs, half a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of garlic powder or dill. In a preheated oven of 375 F., place your twelve unit muffin tin that has half a teaspoon of butter in each compartment. Take the muffin tin from the oven after five minutes and distribute the pudding mix to the muffin cups. Place the tin back into the oven for five minutes at the 375F. setting and then reduce down to 350F. for twenty-five more minutes. The oven is usually pre heated from the roast, which should be resting on the counter, wrapped in tin foil. Jodi Sadowsky, our producer of The Regina Fringe, was over for supper Sunday last, and she enjoyed this meal. My roast which was a cheaper blade roast, was baked for five hours at 200F., which is often referred to as the ‘low and slow method.’ Very tender. Very good.

• Garden Tip: As we move into the spring and melting snow, remember that large puddles of water are not good for your basement or your plants. It is a good idea to move snow and water away from your foundation and from valuable plants. Puddles of water will not damage a forty year old tree. It has survived much worse. But newly planted roses and perennials can suffer from too much H20. If you are having trouble with ponding, perhaps this is the year to hire someone to address those issues.

• And the point is: My friend was teaching Grade One Sunday School. He told the children of the battle between David and Goliath, and asked the class what was the moral of the story? One six year old boy announced “the moral of the story is Goliath should have ducked.”

Spring tulips from my garden-last year
 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in lovely Regina

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Garden Report #72

Sunday, March11th, 2012

Writers write: In Canada, we have two designations for habitual and or dangerous criminals. The more severe of the two is to be convicted as a Dangerous Offender. Once assigned this label, the offender has great difficulty in being released from jail. The second label is that of a Long Time Offender. This labels provides for a long period of jail, plus ongoing supervision. Both are used judiciously.

          Recently, The Crown has made an application for a nineteen year old to be designated one or the other. His defense is his age. The problem is, he has assaulted two women already. The first, when he was seventeen and the second, when he was eighteen. As a society, at what point do we say enough is enough? Should he get a lesser sentence, and upon release, assault again and if so: At what point do we say he has done enough damage? Is the number five, is it ten or do we stop him at two?

         As often occurs in criminal court, the defendant offers up the excuse of having grown up in less than ideal circumstances. Poverty, neglect and addiction are mentioned. I understand that childhoods have been painful. That is tragic. But less than ideal child rearing is an obstacle to be overcome, not used as a rationalization for anti social behavior.

A pink peony in my back garden
         I do not have a problem with The Crown’s attempt. At some point, we as a society have the right to say to those who wage personal wars against others, that they can no longer live amongst us.

Readers write:

         • Alan Bratt weighed in regarding last weeks’ praise of young workers. “I absolutely agree with what you said about young workers. Over the years, the majority of my helpers (at the curling club) have been high school or university students and time and time again, they have stepped up in ways I have neither expected nor asked. They just did what had to be done. In the times when they have fallen short it was usually because I had not instructed them clearly and the fault was mine. I have been fortunate to work with such fine people.”

         • Marcus Fernando had this to say about the phrase ‘stroller mom.’ Marcus writes to us from Birmingham, England. “I guess that Tina is technically a ‘stroller mom’. However, she isn't! Why? Well firstly, because over here they tend to use the word ‘buggy’ rather than ‘stroller’. ‘Pram’ seems to be right out! Somehow the term ‘buggy mom’, or more accurately over here, ‘buggy mum’, doesn't sound quite as pleasant as the Canadian version!

         In any case, Tina isn't even a ‘buggy mum’, and I am not a ‘buggy dad" for that matter because we opted to go with carrying Pascal in a sling. He loves it, we find it much more convenient and it's cheaper. So does that mean she's a ‘sling mum’?

         • Gail Bowen is enthused and she wishes to pass her sentiments along. “Thanks to you and Larry at Sherwood Greenhouses for sending along the gorgeous photo of the ‘Field of Dreams’ corn. It's now the wallpaper on my BlackBerry, so it will be a gift that keeps on giving--the best kind. Could you please add our daughter Hildy and her six and half year old son, Ben, to your list of subscribers? Last summer Hildy and Ben discovered the joy of gardening, and they're eager to begin the next chapter. Last week they started some vegetable seeds and I know that they will enjoy a summer with ‘Field of Dreams’.”

         • Kelly Pierson wrote this: “I just read The Garden Report. Your reports always allow your readers the time to plan, to dream and renew our enthusiasm. Chances are, we’ve all been thinking about gardening for months, which is a benefit of our long winters. For gardeners in Saskatchewan, spring is a race against time! I can’t wait.”

         • Kate Berringer recommends cruising as a winter holiday. She sent this to us after reading The Garden Report on her Blackberry. Read on. “Currently, sitting on the promenade deck of the Caribbean Princess, waiting to disembark here in San Juan, having just completed a seven night cruise around the southern Caribbean. Love the photos you sent. They remind me of the fabulous colors of the Caribbean. I highly recommend cruising and cruising in the Caribbean specifically-excellent food, excellent service and all the permission in the world to be as lazy as you like while enjoying the warmth and easy manner of the islands.”

         • Sandra Rayson enjoys her Sunday morning read: “The Garden Report makes Sunday mornings that much more enjoyable.”

         • Jodi Sadowsky is a fan, as well. “Thanks Rod. Enjoyed reading as always.”

         • Roberta Nichol is still raving over the photos labeled ‘Anne’s garden’. “It's a magazine cover, isn't it? Martha Stewart would run screaming if she saw it, she'd be so threatened!”

         • Morag Armbruster, a good Scottish girl as if there is any other type, is enjoying the read. “Thank you for this week’s Garden Report. I am glad you are feeling well enough to continue on. So, thank you Rod for giving me those few moments to sit, ponder and always…have a giggle!”

         • Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company wrote to say “Something else that has come to my attention this year, is the amount of people that I see, that have read The Garden Report from “that guy that had that garden center, you know the one by the airport”…”

         • Joana Cook is living in Africa at the present time and reads The Garden Report on that continent. She sent this very interesting piece of geography along. “I just got back from Namibia and let me tell you, the coastline of the country is absolutely incredible. You see the dunes of the Kalahari desert run right into the Atlantic ocean.”

         • Sandy Thiessen had a job watering plants in a greenhouse. She understands the importance of good watering habits. “I just completed reading the latest blog! I identify with the watering misconception! When I worked at the greenhouse, I was delegated to watering because I was more reliable than the other employees! It is most definitely not the mindless job that people think it is!”

The Pike sisters off to buy groceries in Canada
         • This short and sweet from Penney Pike out of Calgary. “Just got back from a sojourn in the sun and was delighted to find a few Garden Reports waiting for me!” 

          • Susan Rollins has been enjoying the birds of winter. “I was happy to see your comments on Snowy Owls. Most days, as you drive along Highway 11 from Regina to Lumsden/Craven, you can see between one and four beautiful Snowy Owls sitting on top of the power poles. Parliaments (what a wonderful word) of Snowy Owls have been seen around The SIAAST campus and south of Regina, in the fields. They are having a great year whereas last year was not a good year for Snowy Owls. Their numbers were down and you had to look far and wide to find one.”

Best chips in town: We had supper at Nicky’s last week. They purchase their potatoes from one of the many growers at Craven. They wash and cut them at the cafĂ©. What a difference it makes versus the frozen, bagged ones. First rate chips!

What separates comedy from the news: We were watching The National. Feature story, the robo call scandal. Many of the calls were orchestrated by a cell phone listed as belonging to a Pierre Poutine who lives on Separatist Street in Joliet, Quebec. Maureen says “have you noticed that The National sounds more and more as if it were written by Rick Mercer?”

Sharon Wallace's garden features clematis
 Garden Tip: I was buying groceries last week and I bumped into Ursula and Karl, who own U and K Greenhouse. They have their plugs (baby plants) in and have begun growing their hanging baskets. U and K are well known for growing some wonderful hangers and pots. They are located about seven miles north of Indian Head.

Recipe time: I love breakfast. Nothing gets me out of bed faster (other than the need to pee) than the smell of bacon, coffee, cornbread, waffles or pancakes. I do not understand purchasing a pancake and waffle mix from the grocery store because they are so easy to make from scratch. Here is an excellent pancake recipe that I enjoy.

         • Mix together one cup of flour, half a cup of corn meal, half a teaspoon of salt (optional), half a teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of nutmeg-fresh ground if you have that available.

         • Form a hole in the center of your dry ingredients. Take two eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Add the two yolk, unbeaten, into the center of the bowl. Beat the two egg whites until they froth. This helps to make the pancakes a bit lighter.

         • Add in the whipped whites, one cup of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix together, but don’t over mix.

         • If you wish to add fruit such as banana slices or blueberries, I find it best not to add them into the mix. I like to pour the batter into the pan and then sprinkle in my fruit or walnuts.

         • I find it best if my pan is preheated on a medium heat. If it is a regular pan, I put in a tablespoon of canola oil just before adding in the pancake batter. If it is Teflon, I don’t use any oil. This recipe makes six pancakes, enough for two, especially if the other person does not show up. I always eat mine with a pat of butter and real, Canadian maple syrup. Can you say eh?

Free tickets: Every publication offers up something free for the readers now and again and at The Garden Report, we are no different. If you are interested in attending The Battle for the Prairies, which is an evening of Olympic style boxing, then send me an email. The event is Friday, March 30th at The Connexus Arts Center. The first bout begins at eight p.m. I have half a dozen tickets to give away. The boxing is presented by The Londsdale Boxing Club on Dewdney Avenue.

Free in return: Reader Cheryl Geiger-Paul delivered a zip lock bag of green leaves to me. The delivery appeared to casual observers to be an illicit exchange of euphoria inducing plants and that interpretation is correct. Cheryl is growing her own herbs, hydroponically and with grow lights, this winter. She gave me a taste of three varieties of basil, all organically grown. What a treat! Cheryl also recommends the marakesh stew at the 13th Avenue Coffee House. She says it is one of the best dishes she has ever eaten.

Garden Tip: For starting plants and containers, I find it best to use a quality potting soil such as Premiers Pro Mix. I know that I have mentioned this tip before, but a few of you have been phoning me to ask “what is that potting soil I should buy?” So, I know you didn’t write it down the first time.

Yea!: Reader CJ Katz of ‘Savor Life’ fame has a new gig. She is writing restaurant reviews for The Leader Post. She will do a good job as CJ loves to eat and to write. I think we are either related or soul mates.

Garden Tip: For most seedlings, there is not enough oomph from the sun in east facing windows at this time of year. I moved mine to a south window and they are showing signs of improvement.

Poison pen: I have not yet received a ‘poison pen’ response to The Garden Report, but that day will come. When I wrote for The Regina Free Press, I would get letters that either agreed or disagreed with my view point. No problem. Both types were published. Every now and again, a letter would arrive without a signature. Need I write that the letters were usually filled with some sort of rubbish? My publisher would always say the same thing about these nutcases: “It means we have arrived.” One in particular, took exception to me referencing my friend Ernie Wurm as “a good Catholic boy from the old neighborhood.” The writer who hid their beliefs behind their anonymity, assured me that there was a Catholic conspiracy to take over the world. Any reader can peruse one hundred of these type of letters, and the only difference is the target group. The rest of the language and intent remains the same.

         When I operated my garden center, I would receive complaints, now and again. Something that is normal to all businesses and had to be dealt with, and usually it could be. I was open eighty hours a week and some would still complain that I was not open enough hours. I would receive an anonymous letter about once every two years. Not an alarming rate but anecdotally, noteworthy. The writer would inform me of some grievance and usually end with a vague threat. On occasion, the writer would scribble their name in the signatory spot, but in an non legible style. I suppose their thinking was that they had the courage of their convictions, but not so much as to include a readable name or return address. My favorite anonymous letter assured me that the writer was a member of a very large law firm and that the firm would no longer be spending their thousands of dollars at my place. I have never in my life, received a letter from a lawyer that was not on letterhead and without a signature. Too funny, in a sad way.

A clay pot filled with flowers from last' summer's garden
 Garden Tip: When watering seedlings and other types of newly started plants, it is always best to use room temperature water. Cold water often shocks younger plants and sets them back.

Good news: I was just reviewing the crime stats for Regina. Lakeview continues to be one of the safest areas of the city. Our biggest concern is garage break ins and some residences are being hit. We still feel perfectly safe going for a walk after dark.

Liver Lovers’ Club: There will be a supper for those people so inclined to pay good money for liver and onions. We are so inclined. The supper will be at Ricky’s this Thursday. You have to pre register for the meal. If you are interested, let me know and I will hook you up with the man organizing this event. If you hate liver and onions, please leave your snarky remarks unspoken.

Great symphony: We were at The Regina Symphony Orchestra last evening and they had The South Saskatchewan Youth Symphony on stage with them for the opening overture. What power The RSO has when their numbers double with the added young people. The sound was so much fuller and layered with one hundred and ten musicians on stage. I would love to hear more of this format, much more.

Whoops: I received an email from the website of The Garden Report. The writer chastised me for not giving proper credit for the use of the photo of the ‘Bill Reid’ Canadian Artist Rose. I received the photo from a regular reader who grows many roses and I assumed, incorrectly, it was one of his. It was not. The photo of the ‘Bill Reid’ rose actually belongs to a gentleman named Peter Harris. He deserves the credit for that beautiful shot.

My sister with her baby, 'Timber'
My father did not lie to me: When I was a little boy, my father told me that I should always eat my molasses as it would put hair on my chest. I followed my father’s instructions. I will testify today, that I do have much hair on my chest. I have never asked my sister if she ate her molasses and how that turned out for her.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in a beautiful, spring like Regina.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Garden Report #71

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

'Morden Belle'-one of my favorite roses
Writers write: In 1966, I had a teacher at Scott Collegiate who regularly informed her fourteen year old students: “Young people no longer want to work hard. You have it too easy. You have no respect for your elders.” Readers get the drift. Flash forward to the first decade of this century. The teacher is ahead of me in line at the grocery store. She is now in her eighties. I overheard her conversation with the cashier. Same thing. “Young people no longer want to work hard…” and on it goes. Nothing has changed. If anything, she has become more vitriolic.

     As I cycle through my years, I am determined not to be negative, in either my speech or my attitude. The adage ‘life is too short’ comes to mind.

     I built a private garden for a client, last year. It was a good sized undertaking and one very hot summer’s day, I needed assistance with the tree and shrub planting. I hired five people for the day. They were all in their early twenties. In the 35 C. heat, they worked diligently and without complaint. I was pleased and I say so today, out loud.

Readers write:

     • Reader Gail Bowen is always up early on Sunday mornings and she is usually the first responder. Here is her lovely comment. “Congratulations on 39 years in our neighborhood. We've been here 33 years this May, and there's never been a day when we weren't grateful we ended up in Lakeview. I'm copying my very long-time and dear friend, Veronica Dreher on this. She lives in Toronto, and she'd like to be included among the lucky readers of The Garden Report.”

     • Georgia Hearn is chomping at the bit. “What a lovely read on such a snowy morning! And the pics were to die for. Those delphiniums were magnificent. Oh, how we all long for spring...even tho' it has been a mild winter, nothing is better than beautiful flowers glistening in the sun.”

     • Roberta Nichol also loved the garden photographs. “That picture of Ingrid's mother-in-law's garden is absolutely outstanding. My gosh, I would hope to have a yard that looked like that. I know I won't. Wow.... that comes with knowledge, hard work and perseverance.”

     • Marg Hryniuk was impressed with the photos from last week. “How about those delphiniums! Wow!”

     • Lyn Goldman liked the photos as well. “The garden photos are glorious, Rod! Just what I needed on this snowy day.”

     • Linda Lyster is aware of the Microsoft security scam. Here is her story. “Just had to reply to this one! When the Microsoft 'support' person called me, I knew the scam already, so asked him if he'd like to log on to my computer, check it out etc, with me doing most of the talking. When he was finally able to get a word in he asked “Why are you wasting my time?” and then I hung up! A brief moment of satisfaction for me…Glad The Garden Report is back for another season. I enjoy the gardening tips as well as the stories.”

     • Joanne Terry got the scam call as well. “Good work on that Microsoft Telescammer. When they called me I said “Since when did Microsoft take over the maintenance of Apple products?” I got the same reaction. He hung up. How rude!”

     • Donna Burton, who now resides in Vancouver, reached across the prairies to say hello to all of us. “Have been enjoying The Garden Report. So nice to have that garden connection with Regina. Miss all my garden connections, so thank you for helping to keep me in the loop.”

     • Jim Tomkins is a happy reader. “Lynn and I were pleased to see the return of The Garden Report, both because of its content and because we're glad you're feeling well enough to write it again.”

     • This one came in from a web page reader. It was signed ‘Jill’, but no last name was attached. “Just discovered your blog. Wonderful read. I am one of the stroller moms who walk by your place, just about every day.” Rod’s note: The ‘stroller moms’ are a group of young mothers from my neighborhood. They stop to chat when I am working in my front garden. We discuss hostas, children who have discovered the power of the word ‘no’ and puppy dogs-the important things in life.

Garden Tip: This week’s selection of a newer introduction recommended by Dr. Philip Ronald at Portage la Prairie is ‘Amber Jubilee’ Ninebark.

'Field of Dreams' Corn
Garden Tip: Larry at Sherwood Greenhouses sent the photo of ‘Field of Dreams’ corn along. His info includes “Want a fun plant for your children or grand-children? Try this new Zea Mays (Dwarf Corn). Last season we were part of a new plant test grow. It was a white and pink striped, dwarf ornamental corn, called 'Field of Dreams'. Not only does it fill a big container, it also produces 7.5cm (3") cobs filled with dark red to deep purple kernels. Let the cobs dry, then strip off the kernels, they actually make great tasting (white) popcorn.”

Life is not consistent: When I ran Lakeview Gardens, I had people in Estevan, Weyburn, Swift Currant, Strasbourg and other communities who would pile into a neighbor’s van, drive to Regina and spend several hours shopping at my garden center. They were huge fans, telling me that they looked forward to their weekly shopping excursions. Then there was the lady who lived three doors down from the garden center who assured all that would listen, that Lakeview Gardens was not so special, and that she shopped at Wal-Mart.

     Today, The Garden Report has regular readers not only from every part of Canada, but with the aid of the internet, from across the globe. Yet, I recently received an email from a reader only a few blocks away, who assures me that she has no time to read The Garden Report. I took her off the list as she requested. I have a tracking service that provides me with information on our readership. We have 123 readers in Australia, 115 in Slovenia and 104 in China, which boggles my mind. Life is truly interesting.

Garden Tip: Now is a good time to start some of your veggies from seed. If you start your tomatoes at this time of year, you have time to move them from a two inch to a four or even a six inch pot. If you do this, you will have a huge head start on other gardeners. You could be having fresh, garden tomatoes in late June or early July.

Bon jour: I work away, now and again, on my families’ genealogy. I have traced one of my four times a great grandfathers. His name was Gabriel Billard and he was born in St. Malo, France, in 1774. Cool. So, does anyone want to explain my 63 average in Grade Nine French? So far, my research has turned up no persons of historical interest. No rogues, politicians, pirates or slayers of dragons. All I have found is fishermen on one side and sheep farmers on the other. Baaah!

We’re a thrifty people: Many summers ago, a big dog came up to my truck and urinated on the tires, as dogs are known to do. My mentor said to the canine, “don’t do that. He’s a Scotsman. He will never pay you for your tire cleaning service.”

Garden Tip: Every year, I would get a phone call from some well intentioned member of the community, seeking employment for a relative or a friend who was not ‘too bright’. Often, they would ask if I could provide that person with a low level job, “like watering plants in the greenhouse.” Every good greenhouse operator knows that watering plants is always assigned to the best, sharpest and most conscientious of employees. The grower’s ditty is ‘the person on the end of the hose, grows the rose’. You do not have to own a greenhouse to learn this: Of all the gardening tasks to be honed, learning to water properly is the most important of the tasks. Inexperienced gardeners often want a strict regimen for advice, similar to a baking recipe: “Twice a week, two cups of water.” Good gardeners know that the best advice is: Water, as required.

The goose that laid the golden egg: In the 1970’s and ‘80’s, many thousands of Western Canadians took a few weeks every winter to vacation in Hawaii. There were charter flights leaving from all of the major airports. Then Mexico took over as the go to destination in the 1990’s. I cannot help but to notice how many more Canadians are heading back to Hawaii now. Mexico has the dubious distinction of being an unsafe travel Mecca, whether that is based in reality or not. There have been news stories of Canadians being assaulted and killed. Add in to that mix the anecdotal stories told by friends and neighbors and tourism has suffered in Mexico. Tourists enjoy adventure but they value safety even more. Many of you travel to sun spots in the winter. Send in your experiences, good, indifferent or bad, and they will be shared.

Perhaps: I was visiting an elderly friend in a care facility. His dementia had left him incapable of caring for himself. We were sitting outside on the patio and he said to me: “Rod, I really need a smoke. Can you give me a smoke?” I told him I didn’t smoke. He asked if I would ‘borrow’ a cigarette from someone else. So, I asked if he had any matches or a lighter and he said “no”. Then I asked him, “if you don’t have any cigarettes or matches, then maybe you quit smoking a long time ago and you forgot that you quit. Is that possible?” He looked at me with incredulity and said “Wow! Maybe you’re right. You just blew my mind.”

Garden Tip: In many of the box stores and grocery outlets, they now have on display, packages of bulbs, corms, tubers and roots. They are attractively packaged, presenting the most gorgeous of flowers. One problem. Most of these roots will not be planted in your garden until the middle or end of May, at least in the prairie gardening area. These roots need to be stored properly. Some require very cool storage at 2 C./34F. and others prefer storage in the 10-12C./50F. range. The stores have a temperature in the 20C./68F. area, which means the roots will dry out or sprout over time. My best advice: Don’t buy them. Good gardeners purchase these items from a retail outlet with proper storage and handling knowledge or from reputable mail order nurseries.

Tell it, sister: I was chatting with a nine year old girl. She had the capability to carry on quite a mature conversation. She has a six year old brother who gets into all of her toys and eavesdrops on her girlfriend conversations. She told me: “Mom says that my brother is cute and adorable and that he is just curious about me and my friends. It’s not true. He is just, plain annoying.”

It’s in a boy’s DNA: I had a big sister. Her name was Louva Catherine. According to my mother, I enjoyed tormenting her as did the little brother in the story above. Supposedly, I have no conscious memory of this period of my life, being two, I would stand on the suitcase that held Louva’s dolls. I would stand on it until she screamed for Mom to intercede on her behalf. There is something so appealing to a little boy to watch his big sister scream for the wrath of the almighty to descend from the heavens. It is so much fun! (A big sorry to all the sisters out there who have had childhood wounds reopened by this story. You probably needed some counseling anyways.)

Anne's garden in northern Manitoba
Garden Tip: I was listening to a naturalist on CBC. He was explaining that with the lower snow coverage this year, the voles are not able to hide as they normally do. Voles are mouse like critters that scurry under the snow, chewing up lawns, shrubs and trees. Their damage was widespread last spring, especially in newer areas, close to farm fields. With an increase in available voles, the snowy owl population are having a very good year. It’s true. I have noticed many more of these beautiful birds this year. They can often be spotted perched on top of power poles. Either that or soaring around two hundred feet, seeking supper. Their wingspan is phenomenal. So what’s the garden tip. There isn’t one, really, but we should be able to look forward to less damage this spring. Reader Jim Tomkins weighed in with a similar observation. “We haven't seen any snowy owls near our house, but they are regularly to be found sitting on power poles along Arcola and up Woodland Grove Drive as one drives toward Superstore. I like owls, and all the more now, because they're eating rodents that might harm my yard!”

Apparently: I was at The Coop Service Station on north Albert Street. I had a problem with the car wash quality. A young employee looked after me, just fine. I got home. I looked up the Coop web site and clicked on ‘Contact Us’. The closest option for what I wanted was ‘Human Resources’. I sent an email, letting them know I had been well taken care of. I received a response, a few days later. The writer thanked me for my email. He wrote that all he ever gets is the other side of the coin, when the service fails to meet expectations. I didn’t’ know that compliments are in such short supply. It’s good karma..

Tulips and ferns in my back garden
Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in very snowy, Regina.