Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Garden Report #87

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

My ferns were lovely, last year!
• Writers write: It is a Sunday morning and I have my cup of French roast in front of me. It is the writer’s drug of choice. The house is quiet. Maureen is asleep and I just let Murphy out, for his morning salutations to the sun.

     I am thinking, how much easier life is today that it was when my grandparents arrived in this country. I turn on the hot water for my morning shower. My battery powered toothbrush cleans my teeth. The toilet flushes anytime I want it to and a few times, by its own decision. I turn a knob and the stove comes to life, ready to cook my pancakes. It is such an easier life than it was a hundred years ago for my grandparents who were homesteaders.

     Growing up in the fifties, with a wood stove for heat and no hot water, it was a major production for my mom to bath us kids on a Saturday night. The water had to be heated on the stove and the bath shared amongst the children. I would plead with mom to allow me to be the first one in. I had my reasons. I lived in fear that the younger ones would pee in the water, prior to my turn. Self preservation has long been my strongest suit. No matter how difficult it was for my mother, come Sunday morning, the McDonald children absolutely shone with cleanliness, ready for Sunday School.

     Life has indeed gotten easier.

• Readers write:

     • Sherrie Tutt asked a question and she got her answer. She writes “Thank you Rod. The advice is greatly appreciated.” The advice given was this: Roses as with peonies, require a good amount of sun to thrive. My roses grow just fine with morning sun from six until noon. If you do not have a sunny spot, there is no variety that will do well. With your grass seed, you can use either shade or sun. Both should have Kentucky and Fescue varieties in them. The Kentucky works better in the sun and the fescue in the shade.

     • Susan Rollins loves to garden and to read. Here are her comments. “Another great Garden Report today. I just wanted to thank you again for the strawberries you gave us a couple of summers ago. I had bought some strawberries earlier the same year and over this winter, only two or three survived while yours are flourishing. They had babies outside of the low boxed area. I transplanted a number of the babies in with the small ones that I purchased and they have filled in. Also the daylilies you gave me are happy and healthy. I was thrilled when my PeeGee hydrangea returned a few weeks ago. I planted it in a bed without any winter protection. I am one of those gardeners who does not baby my plants. They have to tough out our prairie summers and winters.” Rod’s note: Good gardeners always share. I planted fifteen strawberries in 1995 and since then, I have given away hundreds of plants. I still have my original fifteen.

     • Jeanie Freeman always has a nice thing to say except when you tick her off. Today, I am safe. “Hi Rod! You and your Garden Reports are among my guiltiest pleasures!! Please excuse the exclamation points, but I really do want to be sure you take my emphasis seriously! It is almost impossible for me to click and delete before I take what is always going to be just a quick peek to see what pithy and informative comments you are bringing from the alien (to me) territory that is the Land of the Gardeners and Green Things. I'm always hooked.”

     • CJ Katz weighs in on the search for great fish and chips story, which is ongoing. “I love fish and chips. If I see it on a menu I usually order it. La Bodega makes a great fish and chips.”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoyed the story about butterfly breath. “I absolutely loved Noelle Chorney's story about her three year old. What lovely, sweet innocence. Oh, if we could all remember to see things through a child's eyes. Such purity and beauty. I love that little boy and I haven't met him!”

     • Margaret Bessai is also a fan of the butterfly story. “TY Rod for another wonderful Garden Report! The butterflies with lilac breath just made me smile! Cheers to you and Maureen, and best wishes for a wonderful Sunday with your extended family.”

     • Lyn Goldman, along with most of our readers, loves kitty cats and puppy dogs. Here is her story. “What a beautiful photo (of the lilac)! I'm so glad the kitten found a home. I've been thinking about him. My first two cats, when I came back to Regina, were a purebred Siamese and a splendid orange tabby. Both of them were found, and no one came to claim them when I advertised. I enjoyed their company for 14 and 18 years, respectively.”

     • Patty Softly out of Toronto is also a friend of kittens. “Glad he landed in such a good home. Love his name (Finnegan)!”

Sibiran Iris- wonderful choice for a sunny location
• Garden Tip: Blooming this week are the iris. Spectacular blooms, all over the city. If you are not familiar with a Siberian Iris, take a look. They usually grow around two to three feet tall and are a very worthy perennial for most gardens. They need a fair amount of sun. I tried growing mine in dappled light and while they lived, they rarely bloomed. The peonies and roses are incredible. Toba Hawthorn, a smaller tree, seldom seen, is also beginning its bloom period. Ninebarks and late lilacs are out as well.

• A little off the mark: I had friends who liked to party. They were going to Sweden to celebrate the summer equinox. Apparently, the Swedes really like to celebrate that event. Only one problem. My friends smoked a little too much ganga and they got confused as to when the equinox is. They were in Stockholm for May 21st.

This rose has not been released or named.  #291 in a trial.
• Garden Tip: Roses are starting to bloom and as I predicted, we are off to a banner year. Beautiful blooms everywhere I visit. When a rose is spent, remember to remove the bloom and the stem back to a complete set of leaves. This will encourage it to set bud again as well as keeping the rose bush tidy.

• Flip, flop and fly: That is the name of an old, Downchild Blues Band number, which has absolutely nothing to do with this bit. I have heard from three different sources now that ‘Flip’ on Hamilton Street is a very good bistro. We tried to get there for Fathers’ Day but they are not open on Sundays. I cooked bucatinni instead.

Canadian Artist Series Rose 'Emily Carr'
• Garden Tip: The newly released ‘Emily Carr’ Canadian Artist Series rose is also in bloom. I planted a few of these new introductions and they are a lovely, deep red. The ones I planted are even nicer than the one in this week’s photo.

• Women don’t forget: When Patrick was four, I took him up in a cherry picker, which is a boom truck with a basket on it. I had rented the cherry picker to do some high up pruning on a tree. That was twenty-eight years ago. We drove by a cherry picker last week. It triggered Maureen’s memory. She told me that I should have not taken him up in the basket with me. “He was way too young” she admonished. “This is better than the exhibition,” Patrick said.

• Old school nursery: Boughen Nursery in Valley River, Manitoba is one of those old school nurseries. They grow varieties of perennials and shrubs that no one else does. They ship most of what they grow bare root, wrapped in a bit of peat moss so it doesn’t dry out. This is the way your grandmother got her plants, long before there were garden centers. Your order arrives and it is appears as if you have just purchased a bag of dead roots. Not to worry. I planted about a hundred of their wonderful perennial roots this May and they are all up and growing. When you buy plants from Boughen’s, you are buying a promise of something special yet to come.

• Garden Tip: If your columbines are under attack from a leaf beetle or leaf hopper, which consumes the leaves very quickly, there is a control. It is called Rotenone and it is organic. Sometimes it is hard to find. If you cannot locate it, fire off an email and I will tell you the last place I saw it.

• Not so tough: Patrick, Number Three Son, has a new job. He is now in sales. He made a cold call on a contractor. The guy was rough and tough and blustery. He gave Patrick a really hard time. Patrick told me “I know that lots of other sales reps would have left because he was rude. But I thought, he’s just like my dad. Makes a lot of noise. Growls. Tries to scare the hell out of you. I’ll just let him blow himself out.” I trained my kids well.

• Not so tough #2: One day at the garden center, I growled at one of my high school students. He laughed. I asked him what was so funny. He told me: “Every student who works here is afraid of you for the first year but no one is ever afraid of you in the second year.” I should have kicked his butt just to prove him wrong, but life’s too short.

• Not stuck: I have often said: Poverty is a great institution to be from, but not so great to live in. Growing up in my neighborhood, there was a boy, a little older than me. He came from abject poverty. Absolutely nothing. He was bright. He worked hard. One teacher took a shine to him. She told him he could do anything he set his mind to do. He is now a judge in Queen’s Bench Court. When a defendant is before him, I suspect he has empathy for those who don’t have two cents to rub together. He was once there himself.

• Never too old: I had a friend who was single at the age of eighty-one. His wife for fifty-five years had passed away. He was starting to date, again. He asked my advice. “What do you do when a woman likes you, more than you like her?” I told him “At your age, you have to have figured this stuff out.” His answer? “Nope.”

• Garden Tip: If your native ferns are not as lush as they have been in previous years, not to worry. Neither are mine. I am not certain why, but my suspicion is that the lack of heat has been a bit of an issue this year. All of mine are up but not near as full as last season.

• Good times: We took in a Red Sox baseball game on Thursday night. Minor league baseball at its finest. They don’t gouge you at the gate, fifty bucks, or eighteen dollars for a ‘commemorative’ program. Nah. They only dinged us seven bucks for a ticket and three for the program, and it was a perfect night for a ballgame. No wind. Not too hot. Only a few mosquitoes. Baseball unfolds in its own time. The fans are laid back. No one gets bent out of shape. No one is calling for blood. I always find nice fellows to visit with. Men I have not met before. We sit in the bleachers, tell a few stories about ball games from our childhood. No one feels rushed. Baseball is not a hurry up game like the last few minutes of hockey. It has its own rhythm. It’s worth checking out.

• Garden Tip: With all the rain we have been receiving in this area, iron chlorosis is setting in. It is not a disease, it is a condition. The available iron and other nutrients have been washed away from the root zone. All plants can be affected but some are more susceptible including roses, apples, Saskatoon’s, cherries and maples. It is easily treatable with 7% iron chelate made by Plant Prod. Also, if you reduce your watering, you reduce the effects of the chlorosis. One of the problems we face in Regina is that because we are in a semi arid climate, we think that adding more water is the solution to every plant problem. In reality, we aggravate many plant problems with too much water. In other words, we kill more plants with kindness than we do with neglect.

'Katherine Dykes' Potentilla

• Good choice: There is a variety of potentilla that is rarely seen today and is hard to find. I have no idea why. I don’t decide trends. It’s called ‘Katherine Dykes’. It grows about two to three feet tall, and is noted for its soft, yellow flowers. Think water colors versus oils. It is a more gentle yellow in the landscape than ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Coronation Triumph’. Not so ‘jump out and notice me’. I planted five of them last year in a new garden in The Creeks. They have emerged this spring as a quiet piece of beauty. It is a variety worth planting. As a secondary note, I showed this plant to several young, landscape students. They were very impressed. They had never seen it before and wondered why it is not planted more often.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Garden Report #86

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Persian Yellow Rose- the hardiest of the hardys but prickly!
• Writers write: I don’t understand some people. We had an eight week old kitten come into our lives last week. He was lost and we gave him a home for the week. He was the best kitten we have ever had. Cute as a button, inquisitive, cuddly, well groomed and litter boxed trained. It was obvious, he had come from a good home where he had been well taken care of. We posted ads on Kijiji and with The Humane Society. We scanned the paper and social web sites looking for a posting. Someone had to be missing their kitten, right? Kelly from across the street has an extensive neighborhood email list. She asked our community whose family he belonged to. No answer. We placed him with a new owner who absolutely adores him. He has a name now, Finnegan, which suits him.

Over the years, we have found pets, both dogs and cats. One call to The Humane Society and the owner comes running. They are relieved that their pet has been found and they gush with gratitude for the care they received. I totally get that. What I don’t get is no one looking for a kitten they had looked after so well? Kittens and puppy dogs are a part of God’s wonderful creation. When I get to heaven, all of my cats and dogs will be waiting for me. After all, it is heaven, and there will be ice cream served at every meal.

• Readers write:

     • Paula Grolle has a very funny retort to last week’s ‘Wife’s Tale’. Here it is. “Dear Maureen-My very considerate husband Frank has offered me to Rod, in the event of your early passing. He feels that I will definitely fit all the criteria that you mentioned! I also think I heard some mumbling under his breath that sounded like “poor beggar but what a lucky man I am”.

     • Denise Cook is always filled with compliments, which makes her a wonderful friend. “Hi there. Thanks so much for the pancake recipe. It was timely and Rhys loved them. Also, thanks for letting me know when those tree bands are actually supposed to come off. It’s something I’ve often wondered about. You seem to always hear when they should go on but never when they should come off so now I know.”

     • Brenda (no last name) has this advice when ordering a pizza from The Copper Kettle. “Hi Rod. Thanks for another Garden Report. I always learn something new, so I thought I'd share my Copper Kettle pizza tip. They don't always mention that you can also choose to have a side of Greek salad rather than a Caesar, and the Greek is usually very nice. Adding a salad to a pizza meal makes it at least seem like a healthier supper. Thanks again.”

     • Georgia Hearn has this to say. “Rod: I love your stories and now your audience is bringing forth their stories. It is such fun....can hardly wait to hear the conclusion.”

     • Chris Dodd responded with how she would handle the situation over the broken pot. “Regarding the broken pot drama - I might have suggested that because the reason she came was she needed a second pot that if she came back and bought one, I would give her a matching one for free. She's happy and hopefully you covered your costs on the pots. While she's there, you would sell her the dirt and plants to fill them. (Let's hope she chose pots that were nice and big.) Whatever you do, she will tell all of her friends!”

     • Roberta Nichol had this take on the broken pot. “Regarding the cracked pot, I don't believe I would replace it, to tell the truth. Yikes. It's a bit of a conundrum. On the other hand, taking the high road might be the answer. There's nothing wrong with being so respectful and classy that you actually make him squirm. I'm thinking the wife would be pretty annoyed if hubby came home with a new pot. His life may not be worth much at that point! I look forward to hearing what you did do.”

     • Frank Flegel added this story to the ‘Small World’ bit from last week. “We travelled to Rome in Spring, 2011. Met by our pre-arranged transportation and arrived at our hotel around noon. Our hotel was near the ruins so we decided to walk down and have a look. Met a couple of women, mother and daughter I think, who approached and asked our help reading a map. After a brief discussion, we discovered that we were all from Regina! They were from Glen Cairn and we from Whitmore Park. A whole bunch of miles away from home, in Rome, Italy, the other wide of the world almost, and the first people we spoke with, apart from our driver and hotel clerk were from Regina. That was really spooky.”

     • Jackie Arnason loves pancakes as much as I do. Here is her suggestion. “Your recipe for pancakes sounds yummy and I have a great syrup recipe given to me by my daughter, a certified nutritionist. Mix equal parts flax oil and maple syrup. The flax oil supplies Omega 3 fatty acid which can help reduce inflammations and build healthy cells. My nutritionist says we should all take in two tablespoons of flax oil daily and this topping could cover that nicely. I've used it several times and love the buttery taste.”

     • Noelle Chorney has a problem and a question for our readers. “We are battling sparrows in our garden. We are about to put up screening over 80% of our raised bed, after I replant the lettuce, spinach and chard. The peas are beat up, but they'll survive. I'm wondering if other readers have any other suggestions. I regret that my little city plot isn't big enough for me to plant enough for everyone (including our feathered friends), but they're wiping out the entire garden and must be stopped.”

An inground fountain
• Grammar Police: Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me! Here are a couple of suggestions to assist people when they write. Do not overuse exclamation marks or capital letters to emphasize a point. If a point is truly strong, it seldom requires either one. Also, if a writer overuses exclamation points and capital letters, readers tend not to take the writer seriously. Be stingy with those two things.

• The cracked pot or what would you do: Last week, I presented a true scenario regarding a customer demanding I replace a cracked pot. Two of you wrote in with your responses. Here is what I did. By the way, there is no right or wrong answer, just different options to choose. I gave him the pot, after explaining to him that it was not right that he should have even asked. I didn’t belabor the point. But from that time on, he was dropped from my A list of customers. My primo customers got extra services such as free delivery on any item, free house calls to check on a problem and fast return calls. When a customer became unreasonable, I no longer had a desire to earn their business. I cut them loose. Life is too short to play with people who don’t play fair. By the way, when his wife came in for the free pot, she told me she was totally embarrassed and only did so to placate her husband.

• As an aside: The above mentioned gentleman, was married to another woman, many years ago. He was rude to her and demeaning, in my presence. He divorced her, took up with a newer model, and the honeymoon was on. The first year they came to garden center, he was ever so gracious to the new wife. The second year, he was a bit more forceful as to his choices versus her selections. The third year, he treated her in the exact same manner as he did the first wife. She no longer had a choice as to what plants they were to purchase. He was in charge. This scenario confirms what I have always thought. Changing wives does not make you a nicer person. If you were a jerk to the first one, chances are you will be a jerk to the next one, and the one after that.

A grafted Little Leaf Lilac
• Garden Tip: Out in full and gorgeous bloom are the later lilacs such as The Villosa series and The Preston’s. The little leaf lilacs are shining as well. The little leafs can be grafted onto a standard (a four foot tall stick) and they are perfectly hardy. I have had one growing in my yard for years, as have many others.

• Garden Tip: It is time to apply your second application of lawn fertilizer. The three times you fertilize are early May, middle of June and middle of August. I have been using a 17 19 0 (14) available from Crop Protection Services on McDonald Street North. Remember to water in the fertilizer well.

• A new low: It is bad enough that the box stores are selling lots of trees and shrubs that are not hardy for Regina and our 2b Zone, but Home Depot dropped a little further down the scale. They are now selling a ‘Pink Flowering Crab’. No name. There are many varieties of pink flowering crab. Some, such as Thunderchild, Fuchsia Girl, Royalty, Selkirk and Gladiator are hardy for here. Many others are not. So why are they not telling you what you are purchasing?

• Garden Tip: I received a call last week and was asked to inspect a new lawn, installed last year, that was not doing well. I had no connection to the job. The homeowner had under watered the sod, he had not fertilized this spring, and when he cut it, he used a push mower in a ‘Raggedy Ann’ fashion. No matter how good a job a contractor does of installing a lawn, the homeowner has to carry out a degree of proper maintenance to ensure it all works.

• Say what: When Maureen was in Grade Twelve, she had a summer job at the old Army and Navy Department Store. It was an interesting place, with farmers discussing their crops in the aisles. Maureen worked in the sock department and that goes back in history, to when someone actually helped you pick out your socks. A bachelor farmer was in need of a pair of dress socks, something he was unsure of purchasing. Maureen assisted and he had his pair, ready to be rung up. He leaned into Maureen and whispered “do I have to dry clean these or can I wash them with my other stuff?”

• No such thing: Over the years, some visitors to my garden have minimized my efforts by saying “It’s easy for you. You have a ‘green thumb’.” There is no such thing. A ‘green thumb’ is nothing more than a person who pays attention to details. The right plant in the right place with the right amount of pruning, watering and fertilizer. That is it. Nothing more. Nothing less. If I do not water my plants when they need moisture, they die. I garden under the same natural laws as everyone else. Everyone, has the potential to have that nonexistent ‘green thumb’.

• Garden Tip: Weeding is a chore. That is the bad news. The good news is that if you stay on top of it for May and June, the weeds usually slow down from July until October. Also, as your garden develops and the plants fill in the spaces, they will choke out much of the weed growth. Our garden is a mature one and weeding can be accomplished in under a hour a week.

• Garden Tip: Even when it rains, a good gardener always checks certain areas for how wet they are. There are always nooks and crannies that the rain does not get into. In my own garden, I have planters and window boxes that are fairly protected and unless the rain comes down on an angle, they do not receive natural rain fall. Our former neighbor, Kirk Bellamy, was ready to call the men in white coats when he saw me with my watering can, right after a two inch deluge. “I’m just watering the window boxes” I explained as his eyes focused, wondering if I had finally reached the tipping point.

Lady Slipper orchid in Cypress Hills Park
• Siam, yes I am: Our favorite restaurant is Siam, on Hamilton Street. Big flavors. I always tell the owner, “tears of joy” when he sees my eyes spill fluid. We were there this past Wednesday. Most of their tables were reserved, it has become that popular. We had three dishes. A chicken satay on skewers with a vinaigrette cucumber salad for an appetizer. The jungle curry soup which was definitely spicy and a beef curry dish, simmered in coconut milk and lime juice. So very tasty. My only complaint is as with many restaurants, they have no sense of timing. Appetizers are to precede the meal, as is the soup. For some odd reason, they bring everything at once. When that occurs, you have to decide which dish you are going to let get cold.

• Fish and Chips: Has anyone tried The Union Jack on north Broad yet? Let me know if you have and what you thought. I am always on the lookout for good fish and chips.

• Prediction: I predict that if we do not have a bad hail storm, this will be one of the finest years for peonies and roses. They are so full of buds, ready to bloom soon. Some are so heavy they will fall over from the weight of their flowers.

• Best in the land: I just received my summer edition of ‘The Gardener’. I have said it before and I will write it again, this magazine produced in Saskatoon, is the finest gardening magazine on the market. Great photos. Wonderful articles that home gardeners can understand. The only thing missing from their wonderful publication is my twisted sense of humor. You can purchase it as a subscription or single editions at various outlets.

• Zsa Zsa: I had an appointment at my local dialysis clinic. I like to bring along treats for my nurses. You know? A bribe to use the smaller needles on me. Or at least, get them to promise not to tell anyone that I cried like a big baby. It was close to lunch, so I stopped at Zsa Zsa, just west of 4th and Park. It’s a Lebanese, hole in the wall. They sell pitas filled with chicken and veggies, including humus and tazika sauce. Very tasty and you can purchase the pita bread, as they make it there, including a 60% whole wheat one.

• Impatiens anyone: I have five trays of impatiens left over. They are white, pink and violet in color. 36 plants to a tray for $13. Let me know if you need any.

'Galdiator' Flowering Crab-very hardy
 • From the mouths of babes: Little children know things that we as adults, have forgotten for many years. Noelle Chorney shared this with us. “I was walking with my kids in the park. There was a hedge of lilacs weighed down with blooms, and butterflies flitting among them. I said to my three year old, "Look! Can you see the butterflies?" He replied. "Yes! I can smell their breath!" I thought to myself, if we could smell the breath of butterflies, I think it's very likely it would smell like lilacs.”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald, close to the solstice, in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Garden Report #85

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Getting the containers planted at the farm-photo Billy Patterson
 • Writers write: As with many of you, this past week has been a busy one with planting. With our shortened prairie season, we have almost a frantic need to get everything into the ground or containers. This year, I tried a few different items including the purple version of the Wave petunias. Also, my old nemesis, lobelia was given one more chance to humiliate me. So far, Mr. Lobelia has been behaving as a wonderful guest should, but that is his pattern. Three weeks from now, he will abruptly begin to self destruct, and no matter what steps I take, I will be left with the proverbial egg on my face.

'Stairway to Heaven' Jacob's Ladder
 • Readers write: This incredible perennial promotion comes from our resident Landscape Architect, Ingrid Thiessen. “Hi Rod, I thought your readers may be interested in this plant - 'Stairway to Heaven' Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans). It has made it through 2 winters thus far. I am trying to find out if it will be an alternative for places in the garden where goutweed is too aggressive. Still testing it to see how it will handle the heat of the summer. It was discovered by the New England Wild Flower Society Director in 1999, as a chance seedling from a flat of native Jacob Ladder plants. Sales of this plant benefits the society.”

     • Lyn Goldman asks “A pleasure, as usual, Rod, but where's Murphy?”

     • CJ Katz has an interesting suggestion. Read on. “I was thinking – you should have readers write in naming their favorite gardening tool. Mine, bar none, is my stirrup hoe. I couldn’t live without it. I think I might be able to live without my husband, but my stirrup hoe? Now that would definitely bring tears to my eyes if that got broken or lost. I bought mine, probably 16 years ago, at Lee Valley in Ottawa and it’s still just as wonderful. It makes quick work of weeding. It works in a back and forth motion cutting tiny and mid-sized weeds right off at the base. Aerates the soil too. Lee Valley no longer carry it but you can order it online from Johnny Seeds.”

     • Marcus Fernando is responding to #84’s comments about the rewriting of history by the Americans, regarding their war in Vietnam. From a British perspective, here is what Marcus has to say. “Of course, history is also created by what is conveniently forgotten. For example, apparently the Allies didn't commit any war crimes in WWII. Only the Germans and Japanese did that. Even the terrible raid on Dresden, perpetrated largely by the British, and which served little or no strategic purpose, is rarely discussed. Indeed, as far as I am aware, no one in Bomber Command ever admitted ordering the raid.

     Of course, there are those who will accuse me of "not understanding", or being unpatriotic. Well, my Great Uncle lost his life in Bomber Command during the war. I don't in any way demean the bravery of these airmen, but I cannot allow myself to approve of the programmed strategic bombing against civilian targets, which was advocated by ‘Bomber’ Harris.”

     • Paula Grolle always has an interesting story to tell. “My girlfriend, who lived next door, moved to Chicago in 1968. We still visit and keep in touch. She was bartending at a concert when four women asked if soda water was called the same in the States. She has a really good ear and picked up the dialect. She asked them where they were from. “Regina, Saskatchewan”. She laughed and said “I lived there and have a good friend still there, but you wouldn’t know her.” Lo and behold, they did know me. We all went to school together. How small is this world?”

     • Roberta Nichol also has a great story to tell. This one is about her mother and her in London, England when she was a teenager, many years ago. “Who should we be watching a few minutes later but Mick Jagger! He walked by, wearing a funky straw hat, and just a' grooving along. We jumped up and, after grabbing mom out of the Antique market, followed him into a clothing store that was next door. Jim left us, then, embarrassed by our fan-like behavior, as mom and I gawked. In fact, we gawked so much that Mick stopped talking to the clothing store manager, and looked at us, smiling. Did we ask for his autograph? No. Did we say, "Hi...."? No. Did we look like idiots? Yes, absolutely. Note: he was much better looking in person. Peaches and cream complexion, and lovely blue eyes. My brush with greatness.”

     • Keith Carpenter travels the prairies, representing Van Noort Nursery Company. Here is Keith’s response to my comments over the lack of young people becoming horticulturalists within the green trades. “Another great Garden Report. The point of greenhouses not getting taken on into the next generation. As mentioned earlier this week I am in the midst of traveling around to many greenhouses and garden centers throughout the prairies. A common thing I am hearing is how the independent industry is struggling against the big box stores. I have had many conversations of how this next generation of consumers does not want to put any thought, effort or creativity into gardening. There are becoming fewer loyal greenhouse and garden centre customers to go around. With all the flashy ads and perceived savings, the local garden centre is struggling to keep profitable. What can be done to save them before garden centers go the way of the local hardware store? As you know, with all the hard work and time invested, the desire and love to do it must be there. The thing is how does someone new get into a position that they can take over.”

• A wife’s tale: We were having a lovely brunch of whole wheat pancakes, French roast coffee, low salt bacon, strawberries and orange juice in the garden this morning. It was a beautiful day in paradise. Maureen says: “If I die before you, I want you to marry again. I want you to marry a real drama queen, who smokes and lies in bed all day, demanding you do everything for her. I want you to marry someone like that so you really, really miss me.”

Gallardia is an excellent, hardy perennial for the sun.
• Garden Tip: Blooming this week are the late lilacs. They normally have a duller leaf than the French lilacs sometimes called the early lilacs. Also out are the little leaf lilacs, a dwarf variety that is often grafted onto a taller stem. Intense fragrance from the little leafs in my garden. Also out in bloom are the Three Lobe spirea which grow about two to three feet tall and are filled with white flowers. Peonies and roses have an incredible number of buds right now and my expectation is that this will be the finest year for their blooms.

• Great pancakes: Here is another pancake recipe that knocked our socks off. They were that good. Mix into a bowl, one and a half cups of whole wheat flour, with one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of nutmeg and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir together the dry ingredients. Separate three eggs and beat the whites into a froth. Add the yolks into the center of the dry ingredients with a cup and a quarter of milk. Mix together. Fold in the whipped egg whites. Rough chop two tablespoons of any nut you have available. We had some blanched peanuts. Add those nuts into your batter along with three tablespoons of cottage cheese. Pre heat your skillet for five minutes on the number four setting out of ten. Grease your skillet with a bit of canola oil and add in a half cup of batter. When air bubbles form on the top side, then flip. Give the pancake another minute on its second side. Serve with some slices of fresh strawberries, butter and maple syrup. They were so good, we ate one with no syrup.

Bergenia is also a reliable perennial for the prairies
 • Garden Tip: Pinch off your spent blooms to increase flower productivity. If your leaves are showing a lighter than usual green color, they will benefit from a shot of 10 30 20 fertilizer. I have been noticing a few plants with this mild sign of underfeeding. All the rain has washed away the nutrients.

• What would you do: In business, only five to ten percent of your decisions are black and white. All the rest are shades of grey. Here is a true scenario. A customer arrived at the garden center. She shopped occasionally at my place. She had a large pot that she wanted to find a companion for. One of my high school students spotted her arrival, gets her a cart and lifts the pot out of her SUV. This is full service, the way I preach it. She could not find a match, so she exits the garden center. The same students spots her leaving, takes the cart to her vehicle, puts the pot into the rear compartment and closes the back door. She goes home. The pot has a crack in it. She tells her husband the student must have not put the pot all the way in and when he closed the door, it must have cracked the pot. She does not want to make a fuss but her husband insists. He calls me, demanding a new pot. I told the husband, it was not my pot to begin with. The student reached out to help her because it was heavy and if he did close the door on it, how come it did not make a noise? Perhaps the crack occurred in transit. He insists that the crack was caused by the student and that it was my responsibility, as he was my student. What would you do? I will tell you what I did next week.

• Garden Tip: Many trees develop small bits of new growth lower down on their trunks. It is always best to remove these twigs when they are young, rather than waiting for them to develop into a major branch. Do not prune any elm, whether it is American, Brandon or Manchurian until August 31st. Open elm wounds attract the beetle that carries Dutch Elm disease.

• Garden Tip: It is a good idea to remove the tree bands during the summer months. Leaving the bands on during the summer softens the bark, and encourages rot. As an aside, two people in the past week have come in contact with the grease or Tanglefoot used on the tree bands. One product works just fine to remove this mess. Barbeque lighter fluid. Use it outdoors as it really stinks up the house. Rinse the grease off twice with the fluid, then wash your hands with soap and water twice, then apply hand cream as the fluid is very hard on your skin.

Moose are migrating to the south of our province and city
 • Pizza time: We usually only order pizza once a year. Last week, we checked out The Chimney, down the road from us. It was a little light on the toppings and the sauce, which disappointed us. This week, the power went out at supper time. It was either a peanut butter sandwich with red onion or order out. We opted to order pizza again, this time from The Copper Kettle. We went with one of their more unusual toppings. Chicken, tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese. There was a decent amount of sauce, toppings and cheese. We enjoyed it. Much better than The Chimney’s offering. They give you a choice of a pop, Caesar salad or ten per cent discount with your pickup. Forget the Caesar salad. It had been prepared way too far in advance. The lettuce was soggy and the croutons had turned to mush.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonal, from a late spring paradise in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Garden Report #84

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Our spring garden just filling out
• Writers write: I was on the phone, talking to Ron Boughen who runs the legendary Boughen Nurseries in Valley River, Manitoba. The gist of our conversation was: Who is coming up to take our place? We, being the plantsmen and plantswomen of the trade. You see, Ron and me and Garfield Marshall, Heather Lowe, Michel Touchette, Wilbert Ronald, David Vanstone, Ken Riske and Jan Pederson are all in our fifties and sixties now. We used to be the young punks of the industry but today, we are truly the establishment or the old geezers. Sadly, very few people are behind us, starting out in their twenties. The young landscapers are excellent bricklayers, wall builders, pond installers, irrigation experts and so on, but horticulture has been left out of their curriculum. There was a time when a father handed his greenhouse over to his kids and they in turn, to their children. That was the case with the Boughen’s. Now, when the old man wants to retire, he is often closing the doors. Stop to think. How many local greenhouses have we lost in the last twenty years in the Regina area? The number might shock you.

     There is a bit of good news. Taylor Crassweller, who is the son of Brad and Sandy over at Outdoor Expressions Landscaping, hopes to change that. Taylor has enrolled in The University of Minnesota and starts this September. He is training to become a grower of nursery and greenhouse plants. Taylor is eighteen, bright and willing to learn. We need a few more horticultural students, across the prairies.

• Readers write:

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman enjoyed last week’s Garden Report and wrote this: “My daughter and I have been going to The Cathedral Village Festival since two weeks before she was born. As always, we enjoyed it this year. Instead of having breakfast in the Great Canadian Bagel while watching set-up, this year we had a window booth at The Mercury, and really enjoyed their food. Great weekend as always, and congratulations to the organizers.”

     • I did not think I would live long enough to have anyone defend me as a natty dresser. Colin Perkowitsch did just that. Read on. “Just read the Garden Report and the comment from your gay friends on them needing to help you with your wardrobe. As a person who eats and breathes fine clothes, I can attest that not many guys look much better in a suit and tie than you. I can also attest that you have a closet full of great clothes and always dress up when appropriate (unlike many). I think your buddies need to cut you a little slack on the regular days and keep an eye out for how you look when you head to say The Globe Theatre or The Symphony. Also thanks again for all the great info and humour in The Garden Report. Always a joy to read!”

     • Reader Heather Lowe is an avid gardener and she has a husband who farms. The rainy weather has seriously affected him this year. “Brian is at an impasse with seeding. The anticipation of an early seeding was soon quashed. Now all he’s hoping for is to at least have it completed before we leave for Scotland on June 16th.” Heather also passed along this interesting tip for all of us foodies out there. “Have you tried a ceramic knife from Kitchen Gear? Best knife you’ll ever use.”

     • Roberta Nichol has this to say about neighborhood culture. “I loved your 'Better Than the Stones' entry. So true. There is beauty in simplicity, whether it's a concert, food, art or even a holiday. Why not put Palm Springs on hold and do a little tour of all the cool stuff that's in our wonderful province?”

     • Georgia Hearn continues to be a fan. “It is always a treat to open the mail to another issue of The Garden Report. I totally agree with you, The Cathedral Arts Festival was so much fun, with the parade and all the groups singing, dancing and playing. It was just a great time. More good advice for us all and that special humor of yours.”

     • Jennifer Cohen knows only too well, that my three passions include gardening, The Fringe and food. She covers two of those three bases here. “Heard an item which might be of interest. In London, England, there's a Chelsea Fringe which runs at the same time as the famous Chelsea Floral Show.”

     • I was teasing Jim Tomkins about the Zen of weeding his garden. Here is his retort. “I don't know if I felt Zen, but I do find that some repetitive tasks sort of let my mind start roaming and random thoughts pop into my head. Maybe that's Zen! However, I was trying to be careful not to take out any good plants as I was weeding.”

     • Joanne Crofford was listening to an interview on CBC, regarding the arts. Here is her synopsis of what should be important to us. “The guest replied that “I am not just a consumer, I am a citizen. As a citizen, when I finally leave my house and my computer, I want to know that there is live performance, live theatre as a way for the community to gather and share experiences.””

     • Doreen Dykers is a Christian sister in service at The Marian Center, our local soup kitchen. She has been transferred, by her order, to their training center in Combermere, Ontario. She had this take on gardening in Regina. “That's a great opening paragraph for Garden Report #83. As challenging as it is to grow plants in Regina, I think that it's the best place in the world to garden. It is fun to put down landscape fabric in high winds, with dust blowing, and friends from The Marian Centre shaking their heads and begging me to wait for better weather. I've come to respect and admire the gumbo that is native to this area. The plants thrive in it. As I write, there is a pussy willow happily growing among the manicured Manchurian elms. It's only a fledging, a mere 2 weeks old, but the leaves are still green. Will it survive? Time will tell.”

     • Wendy Richardson gardens and writes to us from London, Ontario. She is having a much better spring than we are and is getting ready for her son’s nuptials. Read on. “We have had the most wonderful spring this year. Have done a lot of pots for the deck so it looks pretty for the upcoming wedding this summer. The wedding is not at our house, but there will be lots of activities here.”

     • Lyn Goldman has been a strong supporter of community and the arts for many years. “Lovely Report, Rod. I especially like your comments about the Cathedral Festival and the sense of community. I love Regina for the same reasons.”

     • Mark St. Onge phoned in this comment. “I now live in a condo, so I skip over the garden tips, but I read the rest.” Gee, Mark, I think you should by a house on an acreage with a thousand trees, then you could read everything.

     • I have not heard from Sally Orr (nee Pasterfield) for awhile but when she does write, she sends along the sunshine. Sally wants us to know that she lives in The Garden City of Canada. “Another beautiful day in Victoria,”

Mountain Ash
• Garden Tip: Many of the trees with white blooms on them this week are Mountain Ash. It is a very good year for this species as some years, the blooms are quite insignificant. Remember, when you plant a Mountain Ash, it is best to choose a spot where there is good drainage. Never ever plant a Mountain Ash in a low spot, as excessive water will kill it quite quickly.

• Nice people: Politics does make for strange bedfellows, or at least those willing to hug. In our ‘photo of the year’, Joanne Crofford, former NDP cabinet minister is being hugged by Ralph Goodale, former Liberal finance minister. I told you. The Arts Festival makes everyone happy!

• The Grandpa Report: Patrick sent me the ultra sound of our first grandchild. I was pretty pumped but no matter which way I looked at it, I couldn’t see a damned thing. It was as if I had been handed a Rorschach Test. “So Mr. McDonald, what do you think you see when I show you this” he said with a Viennese accent. “Doctor” I responded, “I see a cloud but I really want to see a baby.” His turn: “So. You say you want to see a baby? Tell me more. We have much work to do here.”

• The Grandmother Report: When Maureen was a RN at ‘Sick Kids’ in Toronto, she had Italian babies on her ward, which meant she had Italian grandmothers. The grandmothers were always bringing up food for the babies, convinced that the nurses were not feeding the kids properly. Some would even bring up grapefruit, for newborns. My plan is to be much better behaved than that. No snickering, please.

Joanne Crofford and Ralph Goodale at The Arts Festival
• Garden Tip: Jan Pederson recommends ‘Dexter Jackson’ as a very good, hardy apple for our area. I am planting one for a friend. I will let you note how that turns out.

• Things change: It’s June and if this were the 1970’s or 1980’s, you would be hard pressed to find bedding plants in this city. The attitude during those years was, that once May 31st had passed, bedding plants were either sold or thrown out. The season was over. Laugh if you must, but that was the way it was. Then I came along, young at the time and bucking tradition. I noticed that people wanted plants for their cottages, for replacements, for upcoming summer weddings and so on. I started buying up the other greenhouses decent leftovers to sell throughout June. Those greenhouse operators laughed at me. They said I didn’t know what I was doing, but they were wrong. There was a market for annuals in June and today, you can find them at most greenhouses. As time went by, I discovered that the season went even further, into July and August. We started growing annuals for July, in large containers, as people wanted/needed the bigger plants to match their existing plantings. I made decent money off of the ideas that others said would not work.

• History belongs to whom: The adage is that history belongs to the victors. Not true. History belongs to those who take the time to write it down. Some recent documentaries coming out of the U.S. portray the Americans as victorious in Vietnam. Wow! Now that is text book revisionist history or an outright lie, depending on your diplomacy level.

A few tulips in my back garden
• History belongs to me: Following the above adage, I have informed my Mrs. that from here until all eternity, I am writing that she apologized this week, admitting she was wrong and that I was right. It must be true if it is published here. No ‘snarkers’ from those missing the Y chromosome, please.

• Garden Tip: Excess moisture washes away nutrients from plants. If your plants appear a little weak as in lighter green, then a shot of 10 30 20 fertilizer will benefit them greatly. If plants could talk, they would sound like teenagers. “Feed me. Feed me!”

• Interesting statistic: Just got the stats from the company that looks after The Garden Report, online. We now have two thousand readers through the internet. Add in the thousand who receive it by email and your forwards, and we are over the three thousand mark. We started out with a hundred. How many have asked to be taken off the list? Six.

• Garden Tip: When choosing your bedding plants, it usually works out best if you choose plants within the same series. For example, if you plant ‘Purple Madness’ petunias, then choose ‘White Madness’ to complement it. A series of impatiens, petunias, or geraniums means that the growth habit should be similar. Jumping around from series to series does not make for the best flower beds.

• Grumble, grumble: I don’t get downtown as often as I want. I do enjoy it. I had a doctor’s appointment this week so I took the opportunity to grab a bite from one of the food trucks along 12th Avenue. It was a sunny day and a wonderful opportunity for me to people watch. If I am really honest, I probably was watching the girl people more than the boy people. My dad used to say that “girls are like football. I’m too old to play but I do enjoy watching.” A gentleman approached me in the mall. He asked me what I thought of the experience. I told him “so far, so good.” He proceeded to file a complaint with me. His view includes it was a waste of his and the taxpayers’ money to build it. “The food trucks now have a premium place to park and the statues remind me of an auto wrecker’s yard” were just two of his zingers. My own take is that anytime we spend tax payers’ money to develop pedestrian malls, a place for people to socialize and share a bit of lunch, that is okay with me.

• Food trucks: These beacons of the culinary arts are pretty new to our Queen City. I checked one out for a quick lunch on Friday. I don’t remember the name of it which means I would flunk out of journalism school for not making notes. It had the word ‘Rock’ in it, that much I remember. I had their chicken wrap which was okay, but not great. No zing. Here is the good news. Their French fries were excellent, though they had only plain white vinegar to go with them. For great fries, you really have to have a malt vinegar.

• Garden Tip: As hard as it is for many gardeners, the best way to grow geraniums is to be a ‘hard pincher’. A ‘hard pincher’ is a gardener who removes the spent blooms from the geranium plant and does not allow them to linger. This pruning produces a superior plant, every time. Maureen cannot bear to remove spent blooms so I am forced to do the deed early in the morning before she arises.

Bergenia and a few tulips
• Pizza in the middle: We checked out The Chimney, which is down the street from us, in The River Heights Mall. We shared a pizza. Pizzas have four basic components. The crust, the sauce, the toppings and the cheese. A good pizza must have the right balance. Here is our experience. The place was clean. The waitress was pleasant. The pizza was served hot. All good. The crust was decent but the sauce was absent from some pieces. Trust me. I lifted up the cheese to check. The toppings were also skimpy and for a thirty-three dollar pizza, I expected a bit more ham and pineapple. The layer of cheese was very nice. So, two of the four basics were there, but two were in short supply. The verdict? Two thumbs down.

• Garden Tip: We stopped into Sherwood Greenhouses, behind CTV. Larry runs a clean shop which as regular readers know, is important to me. He still has a nice selection of plants left, if you have been a bit tardy. He is an excellent grower of begonias. Their color leaps out at you.

• Decent soup: We were working in the east end this week. While in the area, we had soup and a biscuit at Brewed Awakenings. Very tasty. We really like the place.

• I shouldn’t tell you this: Within the green trades, we have a joke that is not shared with the public. Our definition of a perennial is: A plant that had it lived, would have bloomed the second year.

Fading tulips-almost time to go
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in its almost summer time,