Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Garden Report #91

Sunday, July29th, 2012

Murphy watching a robin
• Writers write: Writing The Garden Report is an interesting experience. What started out with a hundred readers, all known to me, has expanded. I do not know most of our readers today, yet we share this bit of time every Sunday. When I was out for a quick bite on Friday night, I was introduced to someone I have not met. His name is Steve. “Pleased to meet you, Steve” I said. He responded: “Your write The Garden Report.” Cool.

• Readers write:

     • Noelle Chorney, our writer/reader from Saskatoon had this to say: “Thoughts on your ‘What Would You Do?’ question. It seems that the best thing to do is to look after your own karma and let her worry about hers.”

     • One of our readers did not wish her name published, lest people think she is a religious zealot, which she is not. But, she did send along a Bible quotation regarding ‘What would you do?’. Here is the quote: “Matthew 18:15 to 17:“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

     • Frank Flegel also had an opinion on the above issue. Here is his take: “The friend? I would tell her. Somewhere in the Bible, I believe it says, "be kind to your enemies. It will be like putting burning coals upon their heads" or something like that.”

     • Sandra Rayson tossed a compliment our way. “Thanks for The Garden Report despite your schedule. You are a wonderful inspiration. Keep up the great work.”

     • Roberta Nichol is symbiotic (fancy word, eh?) with Gail Bowen on our neighborhood. “I do agree with Gail Bowen. Lakeview is a fabulous community. That is why I bought my home here. My first home as an independent adult was also in Lakeview.”

'Northern Dazzle' Lily
     • Jackie Arnason liked the pictures in #90. “ So glad you are back, Rod. I was worried. I love the picture of the girls in the peat moss. Children are so involved in whatever they are doing , something for us to emulate!”

     • Gary Drummond only writes in once a year. Kind of a quite gent. Here is this year’s take. “Morning Rod. Thanks for another good Report. As you mentioned the crops are amazing.”

     • Sherrie Tutt shares about native plants. “Hi Rod: A few years ago, I helped plant Western Red Lilies in front of the Lifelong Learning Center (the old McKenzie Art Gallery beside Darke Hall). It was part of a special project to re-establish these rare plants. After several years of fussing and praying over them, they have finally bloomed. A magnificent display and much taller than I expected. I encourage anyone nostalgic for Prairie Lilies to go take a look. Sadly, some show cut marks where people have helped themselves. Please tell your readers that they are rare and they are protected by law. They are not to be tampered with in any way.” Rod says: It is illegal to dig out Western Red Lilies in the wild as well as in a planted bed.

     • Cheryl Geiger-Paul is a member of The Good Eaters Club. Read on: “We are in Budapest, and our children are supposed to be looking after the garden. I have eaten my way through Budapest! I am going to need more than a yoga class when I get home. I have eaten the best goulash, palacinta, letcho, and suteme. We are off to relatives today, so more eating. Be well my friend and looking forward to my garden when I get home.”

     • Lyn Goldman (note the one ‘n’) enjoys the photos published here. “The photos are terrific, Rod! CJ's butterfly is spectacular, and the two little girls in the wheelbarrow are delightful. What a treat it is to read your Report, gossip and all!”

     • Mark Dyck is a first time responder and he begins with a thank you. He owns Orange Boot Bakery. “Thanks for yet another mention in your Garden Report newsletter. We always appreciate the kind words. Almost as much as the gardening advice and community news!”

     • Liz Calam tells us that the photo of Billy’s kids playing in the peat most brought back this memory: “I loved the picture of the little girls in the barrow of peat. It brought back memories of school ‘spring half-term break’ when a child in England. Our gardener, Mr. Smith, would have all four of us in the greenhouse and our job was to break up the large bale of compressed peat moss so it could be used for planting. We loved it!”

Left bunch @2.99/right bunch @4.99
• Two sides to every story: Last week in #90, I mentioned that several people at The Farmers’ Market voiced their concern over the price of produce this year. Our friends at Corn Maiden/Lincoln Gardens are regular readers and they took exception to those comments. Now, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so presenting both sides is not a problem. From the produce vendors point of view, they say you have to compare apples with apples. Factor in the organic nature, the freshness and the quality. Kim from Lincoln sent along a photo comparing a bunch of beets she purchased at a local store, on the left, for $2.99 versus her bunch which sells for $4.99, on the right. Clearly, her bunch is much bigger so comparing prices based on the word ‘bunch’ is not fair. Again, I never mind presenting both sides. If you have an opinion, send it along.

• Farmers’ Market: It was packed with people out enjoying the morning and the market. The produce stands are filling up with green goods and there was a Saskatoon pie festival happening. One of my rules for going to the market is never to be in a rush. It is as much a social outing for me as it is a shopping expedition. I managed to have a short visit with readers Ken and Michelle McCaw. Michelle was the producer of the noon show on CBC One for many years. Ken was is known as having been a high school teacher.

• Garden Tip: On the prairies, we are taught from the time we are knee high to a grasshopper, to never complain about rain. Never, never, is there too much of it. If you do complain, Grandma will tell you about the time it did not rain from ’34 ‘til ’37. But it did rain again, this week, and lots of it. My garden tip? Grow rice.

• Calories in Saskatoon: We made a day trip to Saskatoon. There is a lot of road construction and the housing boom is incredible in that city. We had lunch at Calories on Broadway, one of our favorite cafes. We met up with long time friend and reader, Darryl Peterson, of Ninth Street B and B fame. I had their version of a California Club, served on an incredible baguette. It had turkey, bacon, tomato, lettuce and a house made mayo with lime. Very, very good. Maureen had a veggie sandwich on their wild rice bread, which is her favorite carb. Along with that, she had a cup of soup. Calories’ soups are legendary for their tastiness. We finished off the meal with a lemon square, sweet and sour, that was divine. Ask me if I am a fan of Calories? Go ahead.

• Calories cultural relations: We were joined at our table by Chef and owner, Remy Cousyn. Remy is originally from Marseille, in the south of France. I spoke to him in French and he responded in English, which is what happens every time I try to engage people in their native language. Is there something wrong with my accent? I did take French in both Grade Nine and in Grade Ten at Scott Collegiate, so I must be really good at it by now, right?

Daylilies in our backyard
• Broadway Roastery: To finish off our perfect lunch, we had the best latté in Canada at The Broadway Roastery. This cappuccino joint is a block and a half north of Calories at Five Corners and near the bridge into downtown. I don’t know how they do it, but their latté is as good or better than any espresso based coffee in Vancouver or anywhere else. Ask me if I am a fan of The Broadway? Go ahead.

• Garden Tip: Blooming right now are hydrangeas. The best two varieties to plant in our area are ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Pee Gee’. Other varieties must be covered and treated as if they are tender, tea roses.

• Hot and Sour: Local readers will remember Tan Hoa, the hole in the wall joint on Dewdney, near Angus Street. It was a Vietnamese place that introduced us to Hot and Sour soup. Throngs of people flowed into that place, just to get their fix. Today, Hot and Sour soup is available at many places including Chinese restaurants. Tan Hoa is long gone, as the RCMP had a problem with their organic farming of a cash crop, but one can still find first rate soup at Peking House on Rose, near 11th Avenue. If you have a favorite place for Hot and Sour soup, let us know and we will share it here. My nickname for Hot and Sour soup is Kitchen Sink Soup cause everything is in it.

• Garden Tip: Do not prune elms, of any variety or size, until the end of August has passed. Pruning elm trees now, can encourage the beetle that transmits Dutch Elm Disease, something now of us want.

• Rehab, soon: A fellow was telling me that he had gotten very drunk last Saturday and had a tremendous hangover. He was also complaining that “the stupid neighbor decided to mow his lawn with his noisy lawnmower at seven a.m., Sunday morning. It was so loud and irritating I was tempted to call the cops. I just lay there, refusing to move, and he had to mow around me.”

• The crop report: I am not much of a farmer. In fact, I don’t farm at all but I do like talking with our local farmers. Right now, the winter wheat is turning an absolutely ripe brown/gold. Incredibly thick. I found out that our winter wheat, which will be harvested around August 10th south of town, is sold to the ethanol plant at Belle Plaine. Canola has replaced wheat as our number one cash crop. There are literally seas and oceans of the yellow blooms in the countryside this year. There are fields of peas but not as many as last year. When I asked one of our lads why, he explained “peas aren’t paying squat.” Got you. Also, I noticed that there is not as much flax growing this year. I only saw one or two quarters of it on the way to Saskatoon. Perhaps one of our rural readers can enlighten us. Perhaps, flax is not paying a good price either.

• Opa: This is a chain featuring fast food, Greek style. I was at their franchise in Edmonton, off of 82nd a few years ago and now there is one in Harbor Landing. We checked it out on Friday, for a quick bite before The Red Sox game. Maureen had a wild salmon skewer with a Greek salad. She said the salmon was slightly overcooked. I had a souvlaki plate with a chicken and a pork skewer, salad, taziki sauce and pita bread. The pork was better than the chicken, the salad was fresh and crisp, the taziki sauce was mild with not a lot of zip and the pita bread was not really pita bread. So, it has some good things going on but not great. The price for the two of us was eighteen bucks.

• Farmers’ Market must haves: Here is a list of my must haves at our local market. They include Howland’s honey, Laurel’s poppy seed Danish, maple nut or chocolate nut fudge, Darlene Lipinski’s whole wheat, cinnamon buns, Sharon’s pies and Linda’s pickles. I purchase many other items, but those are the items I never leave without.

An inground fountain
• Sadly: Judy Burlock was my friend since the late 1960’s. We met through my high school girlfriend who babysat for Judy’s children. She also worked at the garden center, when we were on Albert Street, in 1983 and ’84. Many of our female readers would have known Judy from The La Leche League which promotes natural breast feeding. Judy founded The La Leche League in Regina to assist new mothers, back in the seventies. She was a great lady. She helped hundreds of young moms. She passed away a few weeks ago. I got to say my goodbyes to her not too long before she died.

One of my fondest memories of Judy is this one. We were planting flowers in 1984 for Mr. Reimer from Avenue Florists, at his house. Mr. Reimer was up in years and could no longer plant the flowerbeds, himself. When we were finished and he was paying me, Mr. Reimer said “Where do you get such young and sexy helpers from?” He was referring to Judy. Being young at the time, I responded: “Mr. Reimer. She’s not sexy. She’s a mom, with three kids.” I am now older, and hopefully wiser. I now can state, without hesitation, that mom’s, with three kids, are sexy. Very sexy.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in the sunshine of Regina!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Garden Report #90

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Our youngest fan, Pascal Fernando
• Writers write: People talk. We all know that. Chris across the street had a negative experience with a local tree pruning firm. He told me that. I had a roofer who would not come back to repair a big leak. I told you about that. When we are unhappy with a firm, we tell people and sometimes, quite a few people. Here is something that most of us do not realize. If you are a difficult customer, someone who complains continually or is always trying to get the price reduced, then contractors talk about you. Contractors have their own, unofficial version of The Better Business Bureau. It is an informal list of people who they do not want to work for. It has been circulating for years. For example, there is a well known businessman who lives in a lovely house on Albert Street. He has a reputation for being so hard to get along with amongst contractors that most will not even give him a quote. When you see a contractor working at his place, it is usually someone new to the trade who does not know what they are up against. The contractor will find out soon, and he will not be back a second time.

     My friend Doug Bradley, has been a reputable, journeyman carpenter for thirty years. One day he wanders into my office and tells me that he has done something that he has never done before. He has walked off of a job, half finished. He told the customer that no matter where he chose to place the rail on her deck, she would complain that it was either too high or too low. No matter what he did, she would complain. I named someone as the potential suspect and he blanched. “How did you know it was her?” I told him that everyone who had ever worked for her had walked off the job, including us. He was only one more contractor who did not meet her expectations. That list is out there, though you probably will never see it.

Note: #90 did not come out last Sunday as I did not have the ten hours available that are required to produce it. I was equally busy this week but I snuck in a hour here and another one there, until it was finished.

• Readers write:

     • From the Toronto area, Sarah Willis weighs in. “As always, you have given your followers a great read. I loved the story of the used lawn edging bandit, have noted the chicken recipe for use later this week and appreciated your take on the stolen flower pot story. One of our two kayaks was stolen from our backyard during the Victoria Day weekend, when my husband and I, all three kids and two dogs were hard at work at the family's garden centre. The thieves stole the kayak with the slow leak, so I really hope karma visits them in the middle of a lake...without a life jacket.”

Agave Tree in Italy courtesy Leanne Carlson
     • Leanne Carlson is on vacation in Italy. She writes “Hello from Orvieto Italy! I'm staying in the most magnificent villa with my girl friends. The Agave tree is in bloom. It only blooms once in its lifetime. We are surrounded by olive trees & rosemary bushes taller than I am. The tomatoes taste like candy. Ciao.”

     • Candace Holmstrom has a question. “Someone I know planted this in my yard several years ago. It was small and she told me it was rhubarb. It's doubled in height from the second year to this, the third year and is now about nine feet tall. Is it a weed? A noxious weed? What's the difference? Or is it an herb? I like it but don't want to have a plant that is threatening. But I so adore its exotic height and abundant leaves! Everyone anxiously awaits your word!”

Common burdock-courtesy Candace Holmstrom
     • Ingrid Thiessen rides to our rescue with the answer to Candace’s question. “It looks like common burdock listed as Noxious on our provincial 3 tier weed control act (prohibited, noxious and nuisance). It is a great looking plant and I was certainly disappointed to find out it was a weed! I always thought the term used in the purple loosestrife campaign ‘beautiful killer’ was effective in switching one's mindset. Many weeds are indeed beautiful. I think this is a good opportunity to remind your readership that there are many plants we grow in our gardens listed as noxious or prohibited by our government. This includes common baby's breath (not pink creeping baby's breath) chamomile, oxeye daisy, dame's rocket, common tansy and yellow toadflax. On a typical walk in my neighborhood I see most of these plants in people's gardens. They cost millions of dollars of damage to both agriculture and the environment. Interestingly roving bluebell is not on the list.”

Monarch butterfly feasting on lilac-courtesy CJ Katz
     • CJ Katz sent along the incredible photo of a Monarch butterfly feasting on a lilac bud. She writes: “Hi Rod – Marg Hryniuk was asking about butterflies. For the first time this year I had Monarchs come to visit. One day I was planting in the backyard and this huge orange flash fluttered right by me and was gone. I thought ‘did I just see a Monarch butterfly? No it can’t be.’ The next day my husband told me he was standing outside on the back deck and saw our miniature lilac bush covered in them. I tell you, I was so sorry I missed seeing it! Then the following day when I was outside, I made sure to keep my eye out and sure enough, they came to visit. They have the longest tongues I’ve ever seen! It goes deep down into the flower for the nectar. I took some shots and was really happy with the result. Here’s one I took. You can see it’s tongue going down into the flower.”

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman has also been enjoying the butterflies. “We have had many Monarch butterflies this year, and more varieties that I'm not familiar with. Black and white striped ones, bright yellows, and a stunning turquoise one. The birdhouses are also humming, although we lost one in the windstorm. A day like today makes the -40 winter days bearable, doesn't it?”

     • My mother came from a family of twelve children so I get to enjoy over a hundred first and second cousins. This response is from my cousins Judy and Rick Kerr. “ Morning, Thanks for your Garden Report . So helpful. Love it.”

     • While checking out The Regina Fringe, I met reader Robin Endsin who lives at Lumsden. She writes “It was nice to meet you too, Rod! I do love those exclamation points! And thank you for getting the Fringe started. We had a great time yesterday.”

Photo courtesy Maureen Hawley
     • Jean McKay loved the photos in #89. “Lovely Report and thanks again and again. Please, can we do something with the photo of the yellow begonia and pansy? Make note cards? Put a little garden saying inside and on the back page, a tribute to who grew them and who took the photo? Sell them to benefit Fringe? I am an idea woman , not a techy but maybe someone will run with this plan.” Rod’s answer: Maureen took the photo. I planted the begonias. God provided the sunshine and the rain. Kind of a group effort.

     • Mike Liske had a chuckle. “I had to laugh over your story about stolen lawn edging.”

• Garden Tip: This is not a tip. Just bragging. My five patio tomatoes, growing in pots because I just don’t have too many sunny spots in my yard, are ripening. The first one tasted just fine in a sandwich with fresh basil. I have another twenty or so ripening this weekend.

Little leaf linden with chlorosis
• Garden Tip: With last week’s deluge of rain, there will be an increased amount of iron chlorosis. First symptom is a lighter, than normal green leaf. Best way to treat it is with iron chelate. Several of our readers have emailed to say that they were pleased with the results of the iron chelate treatment. This is not a new product. It was around when I was a punk kid starting out in the trade. It has never been popularized and that is why most of you have not heard of it.

• Garden Tip: As I write this, I notice a lovely purple flower in my back garden. Hang on now. That is one of those contagious creeping bellflower. They sneak into my yard when no one is looking. Best to remove them when you have one or two, lest they create a staging ground. I have seen flower beds in Lakeview filled with this weed.

• Community: One of the great things about living on our block is that many different people take the time to organize social functions for the neighborhood. Kelly, Elmer, Laura, and The Calam’ take their turn. Now Liz and Dave have a barbecue planned for July 29th, behind their place. If you need more details, drop me a line. The social is listed as being for Regina Avenue residents but if someone from Angus Street wants to sneak in, I suspect that will be okay.

• The crop report: While many parts of the eastern Canada and the southern States are suffering under a blazing heat wave with no rain, we have been much more fortunate. We have had three really good dumps of rain in the last month and then you can add in some glorious sunshine. The wheat is so thick, south of town, that you cannot walk through it. The canola is in full bloom and the peas, well peas are peas. What can you write about them besides they are green.

• Upcoming: The Regina Folk Festival is on its way. Another highlight of the Regina summer. It is in Victoria Park, August 10th to the 12th. Good vibes shared with good people.

• Kind of funny: I was in a treatment room at The Pasqua Hospital, awaiting a cortisone injection into my left knee so that I can hopefully, quit hobbling. There were six other patients in the room, waiting their turn. The orthopedic surgeon was about to give me the shot. He says “be brave and don’t scream out. If you scream, the other six people will run out the door and God knows, I need the money.”

• Blooming this week: The best crop of daylilies this city has ever seen is blooming to their hearts’ content. Pinks, yellows, oranges and a few purples are showing up all over. Conditions must have been just right to give us this explosion of color. Also in their glory are the potentilla and some of the spirea. Hollyhocks and delphiniums are looking really decent as well. I spotted a few astilbes in bloom. This perennial is not planted enough because it is not super hardy. The ones I plant usually live around three to five years before they peter out. Even with this five year limit, astilbes are worth planting because they are so lovely.

• Friday night at the ball park: We took in another Red Sox game on Friday evening. A great night for baseball. The game has its own laid back rhythm and the crowd you share it with is pretty easy going. None of the posturing and screaming that you see at a hockey game.

• New road in our community: In the next few weeks, there will be a brand new road opening up to traffic. They are constructing a cross road from Pasqua Street through the empty field, connecting with Parliament Avenue. Now you will have three choices for east/west traffic flow: Gordon Road, 25th Avenue and the new Parliament Avenue.

• New road, old plan: The new Parliament road has been on the planning board for thirty years. I remember going to a neighborhood meeting in 1990 to discuss, yet again, the extension road. It was one of those meetings where people who spoke, spoke with incredible amounts of passion. One fellow explained to the city that Parliament Avenue is a “fragile community, held together by thin threads and an increase in traffic will destroy our street!” What the hell was he talking about? We live on Regina Avenue, the airport road. A very busy, arterial street. We also have an incredibly strong sense of community in our neighborhood, not related to traffic issues. We are strong because we have bonded together by being a supportive and nurturing group of neighbors.

• Orange Boot: I love their bread. Short and to the point with my praise. When are they going to get a slicer in the shop? I have asked, every visit, for the eighteen months they have been open, to get a slicer. Is there a slicer? Not yet.

• The old boys: Reader Casey Van Vloten called this week. We chatted for close to an hour. Casey grew up in the plant trade and has been a part of it for fifty some years. He knows pretty well every nurseryman, greenhouse operator and garden center owner in Canada. And most people within the trade know Casey. We talked about who has retired, those who have left the trade and those who are carrying on. Fellows, well into their seventies and eighties, are still building their craft. It is an incredible trade in that people work so late into their lives. I suspect there is an addictive quality when one works with plants. I know, I keep getting drawn back into the world of horticulture. Just when I think I am out, I am back in. Someone calls and talks about a special project, one that is totally different, “never been done before” and I begin to drool, just like a Rottweiler in front of the butcher shop.

• Fruit tip: The nectarines are in season and they are sinfully delicious this year. We had a bowl on the kitchen table, filled with nectarines as they ripened. The aroma was intoxicating to a food lover’s soul.

Junior gardeners playing in the peat soil-courtesy Billy Patterson
 • Original Joes: I keep hearing good things about this western chain. Regular reader and president of The Good Eaters Club, Bobby Sue, raved over the Pacific Rim bowl and I tried it, Friday night, before the ball game. Absolutely delicious with shrimp, chicken, broth, noodles, and veggies including pea shoots. The shrimp were the best shrimp I have had in a soup. The bowl is fourteen bucks but then again I had to take some home as I could not finish. Maureen had a cup of their daily soup which was a Moroccan vegetable. Very tasty. She followed that with one of their pizzas. It had a thin, crisp crust with a good shot of tomato sauce. I have never understood pizza joints skimping on the sauce as the sauce is so cheap. The veggies were crisp, a good amount of mozzarella baked into it and finished with a dusting of feta. While never a big fan of the chain stores, the food was definitely worthy of a return visit. Service was excellent.

• Garden Tip: One of the women who works at the independent insurance broker I deal with, asked me this: “Why are the stocks on my rhubarb so thin”. The answer: Her rhubarb had been transplanted three years ago into a shady part of the yard. Rhubarb never amounts to much more than some leaves in shade. Move it into full sun and next year, the problem should rectify itself. We had a peony planted in the shade when we bought this house. It would get one bloom at best. I moved it five or six years ago and we had thirty plus blossoms, big blossoms, this year. My beloved mentor would often say “Always plant plants where they want to grow.”

• What would you do: I had a friend. We got along just fine for many years. Never an argument between us. Then I found out that when I was not present, if she thought it would be of benefit to her, she would throw me under the proverbial bus. I was hurt. I found out that she did that to others, just not to me. That information did not make me feel better.

     Time passes. I hear about a job that would be perfect for her. A job that she would be very interested in exploring. Here is the question: Would you tell her about the job or would you say to yourself, this is the price she pays for mean mouthing her friends? No easy choices here.

• Garden Tip: It is time to apply a shot of fertilizer to most of your plants including shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals. I always use a water soluble 10 30 20. If you cannot find that analysis, and I am hearing from a few of you it is difficult to find, then use a 10 15 10 or a 20 20 20. Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen such as 30 10 10 should only be applied to evergreens, not to deciduous plants.

• Farmers’ Market: Things are in full summer swing which means there are more and more veggies showing up every week. Sharon Wallace was set up and I purchased a Saskatoon and an apple pie. They are in the freezer as I write this but that is only a stopping off point. Soon, they will be in my toaster oven, coming around to a warm temperature. One thing to note, while I am a big fan of the farmers’ market, I did hear several complaints this Saturday morning. Several shoppers believe that the price of the produce has gone up too high at some booths. Their comments were that they would be buying their veggies at a store which purchases locally grown produce.

'Lolipop' lily from U. of S.-courtesy Gwen Barschel
 • She is so right: Reader and author Gail Bowen, lives a block over from us. She was delivering a speech recently and it was televised. She said that Lakeview is a wonderful neighborhood and that Regina is a great city to live in. Glad to hear another positive voice out there.

 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Garden Report #89

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

'Morden Sunrise'-later colors, my garden
 • Writers write: The Fringe Festival wraps up today for another year. We saw some really good pieces of theater, which is the norm for any Fringe Festival. We also got to see some work that is not really ready for prime time, but then again, all of us have to start somewhere. I saw many of our readers out enjoying The Fringe and hopefully, I was a good influence on you. My parents always wanted me to be a good influence. They also wanted me to behave myself. Liz and Dave Callam, Jean Freeman and Roberta Nichol were billeting hosts and that is so important to the success of the festival. Thank you billets.

     This year was our first drag queen show at The Fringe. Drag queen shows are a regular feature at other festivals but never at ours. Is it because we are so prudish or is it sheer happenstance? Regardless, the drag queen singer had the finest pair of legs anyone has seen. She was absolutely gorgeous. Do you kind of see where I am going with this?

     A big shout out to our regular reader, Jodi Sadowsky, for all of her hard work as the producer of the show. She logs long hours to get everything running smoothly.

• Readers write:

Chris' 90 year old tree after the storm
• Chris Pasterfield sent along the photo of the tree in his backyard, after the windstorm. Here is his report. “Vicious winds indeed. We have lost half a ninety year old ash in the winds and it appears the other half will have to come down. However, it has been a wonderful year for Karen's roses with her George Vancouver, Winnipeg Parks, Morden Blush, John Davis and the 'rookie' 'Hope for Humanity' doing extremely well.”

 Reader Frank Flegel was recently inducted into The Television Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. He responds to the Medicare crisis of 1962. “Re: Medicare. Some people did leave. My doctor, who I had almost since birth, among them. Medicare is great but since 1962 it's been a merry-go-round of doctors. They don't seem to want to stay put.”

• Roberta Nichol weighs in on Medicare, as well. “In regard to Medicare, we Canadians are truly a very lucky people. Can you even imagine having to pay every time you saw the doctor, let alone go for surgery? My gosh, the mind boggles. Truly, Rod, as you said, our Health Card is our birthright as a Canadian. It's human nature to want to gripe and complain about issues, but when all is said and done, I absolutely believe that without question, we live in the best country in the world, by far. I am feeling very patriotic today, and plan on wearing my embarrassingly red Capri’s and red and white T-shirt with the abstract maple leaf on it!”

• CJ Katz and I share a fat soul. Here is something she has written and to no surprise, it involves food. “Hi Rod – sorry about you missing out on the fish and chips at La Bodega. I never thought you’d call my bluff! I’d forgotten that it was a lunchtime dish. After trying many different F&C over the years, I’m standing by La Bodega on this one! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just wanted to mention to your readers who are sowing multiple crops of radishes, that the tops are totally edible. I throw them into salads all the time. Also, for a change of pace, halve radishes and sauté them in a skillet with a little butter and salt.”

• Jodi Sadowsky writes: “Hey Rod thanks for mentioning the Regina Fringe. I appreciate it greatly. Hoping we get a big crowd out this year. I hear you on the port-a-potty!”

• Jean Freeman shares a compliment. “Kudos, thanks and many blessings on your head for being the spark that started The Fringe in Regina more than a decade ago, and have helped to nurture and foster it since then. It is truly one of our little known but fortunately, growing in popularity, annual entertainment events, and you were definitely its ‘Daddy’!”

• Georgia Hearn is also full of compliments today. “What a delightful start to the Canada Day festivities! I love your advice and trust you to the max to give the best. The pictures are exquisite. Keep it coming.”

• Cheryl Hutton had her question answered before she even asked it. “Trim your hanging baskets and containers is what I was wondering about tonight. I even said out loud to Aaron that my plants were looking a bit scraggly with some overgrowing each other in the mixed containers and wondered what Rod would say about trimming them? Then I read your Garden Report from Sunday. Hilarious. Now you can add mind reader to your list of achievements.”

• Marg Hryniuk wants to know if anyone else has spotted large numbers of butterflies this year? She writes: “No observations from anyone about the butterflies this year? So many and so diverse. In fact, I saw my first Monarch outside the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Maybe it's just happening outside Regina, at Wolseley for example, I was told that this wonderful phenomenon was due to our mild winter, so I'm curious if there have been other sightings among your southern Saskatchewan readership.”

• Heather Lowe is touring Scotland, the land of her Maclean ancestors. She writes: “Of all your worldwide readers, I'm not sure if there are any Scottish ones. The past two Garden Reports have been enjoyed here in Scotland, thanks! We've been here since June 17th and have travelled a good portion of the country. It's absolutely beautiful and full of amazing history.”

• Petunia sale: I have some very nice petunias, leftover from a friend’s garden. They are in four inch pots, well grown and fertilized, and they are available in white, pink or purple. They are in trays of 25 and are $25 for the tray which is a buck a pot. You can mix the colors in the tray. Let me know.

• Garden Tip: The photos of the roses, peonies and begonias are from my garden, this week. They were taken by the woman who doubles as the mother of my children.

• Canada Day boomers: For those who did not celebrate our national holiday in southern Saskatchewan, let me tell you that there was a thunder and lightning storm of magnitude. It went on for four hours and the heavens poured down upon us. I half expected to see Noah’s ark float by.

Part of my window boxes - yellow begonia and blue pansy
• Garden Tip: Us gardeners tend to be impatient and highly self critical. My four window boxes, out front, were not my best effort this year. Other years, I have been so proud of them, right out of the gate, but not this year. Yet, with a bit of care and time, they have grown into lovely window boxes and I am very pleased. Time and care, the two things on the gardeners side.

• Gampa’s report: Patrick and Lisa were home for The Canada Day weekend. Lisa definitely has the baby bump going on. I introduced myself to the child, safely ensconced in his/her mother’s tummy. I told the baby to call me ‘Grampa Rod’ to distinguish me from ‘Grampa Ray’ who lives on the other side of town. I did not tell the unborn grandchild any of my best jokes yet. I am saving those for when he/she is two or three years old. Two and three year olds really get my humor.

• Fathers shouldn’t lie: My friend and sometimes reader, Lynn De Jong who lives in the Vancouver area, grew up in a traditional Dutch family. Her dad told her that only the Dutch could fart and that she should not tell anyone outside of the Dutch community about their ‘talent’, lest they become envious. Lynn was in her teen years before she found out the universal truth about tooting one’s own horn.

• Dads do exaggerate: Growing up, my dad made ‘Nova Scotia’ baked beans and ‘Nova Scotia’ fudge. When I finally made it to Glace Bay, where he had been raised, my aunt asked me why I called those two dishes ‘Nova Scotia’? She told me they call them baked beans and fudge. No need to place ‘Nova Scotia’ in front of them. I assume it was my dad’s equivalency of ‘Canadian’ bacon. Along that same note, when I was in Texas, they called my toque a ‘Canadian hat’, which really made me laugh. They also asked why Canadians spoke so quickly. I told them it had to do with our low temperatures. If we didn’t speak quickly in passing, we might freeze to death, eh? I just had to put that ‘eh’ in there. Sorry.

Karen's 'Hope for Humanity' Rose- growing across the street
 • Garden Tip: Blooming strong this week are the spirea, potentilla, roses and the mockorange. One of my favorite spriea is called ‘Little Princess’. You can’t go wrong with a few of these in your yard. Peonies are finished here. Best to remove the spent flower and the stem, just to clean up the appearance of the peony. Also, if you were letting your tulip leaves ripen, they should be brown by now. Once brown, you can cut the leaves to the ground.

• Recipe time: For Canada Day, I oven roasted some chicken breasts, bone in. I mixed together half a cup of olive oil, half a cup of lemon juice, two tablespoons of honey, two teaspoons each of oregano, rosemary and basil, half a teaspoon of salt, five crushed garlic cloves, one cup of sliced mushrooms and a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. I poured this concoction over the chicken and they kind of poached inside this broth. I placed bacon strips across the chicken as well. I baked it at 350 for an hour and a half covered, then a half hour uncovered to brown it up. It was very tasty, moist and easy to make. I served the marinade over top of the chicken when it was plated. To really finish this dish off in a Greek style, add in a cup of crumbled feta cheese. The best feta cheese in town can be purchased at The Italian Star on Victoria. Ask for the sheep’s feta.

• Farmers’ Market: The veggies are starting to come in, a few at a time. Our favorite pie maker, Sharon Wallace, is not there yet, but soon. I tried an Armenian mushroom pastry. It is a puff pastry with mushrooms and it was quite tasty except the bottom was burnt. You don’t see the bottom when you buy them in a package of two for six bucks. I scraped off the burnt and it was edible. With the burnt left on, it was bitter.

• Rice cooker: I was cruising through London Drugs and they had a rice cooker on sale. It was a smaller one but it was only twenty bucks. I had always resisted purchasing one prior to this. I thought I could cook rice just fine on the stove top. I have had the rice cooker for close to a year and I must admit, it does a better job than the stove top method. The rice is not mushy or overcooked. The brown rice is quite chewy and that is a good thing. I don’t want my rice to be melt in your mouth tender. I want the rice to be of substance or a la dente.

The opening colors of 'Morden Sunrise'
Garden Tip: Your weed growth should not be as aggressive as it had been during May and June. This does not mean you should not be cultivating between your plants. What it does mean is that you don’t have to do it as often. I reduce my frequency from weekly to every ten days. By the end of July, every two weeks is usually sufficient. This year, there were more elm seeds and thus seedlings, than I have ever seen before. Keep in mind, I have lived on this corner for thirty-nine years so I have seen quite a few crops of elm seedlings.

• Tied in knots: Do you remember a time when there was a shoe repair shop in every neighborhood? And when you needed laces for your runners or hiking boots, you could find the right size at that shop? Finding shoe or boot laces has become increasingly difficult. I have looked. I did find a good selection at Mark’s Work Warehouse in the east end, south of Rona. Who would have thought to look there?

• Slow Food Pub: We were at The Fringe on Thursday night and it was past our supper time. Neither one of us had been to Slow so we decided to check it out. First, it is definitely a pub by feel. Quite loud, a party type of atmosphere. We were not feeling adventurous and ordered two basics, a burger and chips and a veggie burger with salad. My burger had a dry bun with an overcooked beef patty. I should have sent it back but the vortex of hunger and time worked against my instincts. It was served with cheddar cheese, bacon and jalapeño peppers. The flavor was nothing special at all. The chips were excellent, served with two types of vinegar without having to ask. Maureen’s veggie burger also came with the same dry bun but her patty was decent. Her side salad was fresh and tasty. Fourteen bucks for each of the burgers and one dollar extra for the side salad instead of chips.

• Garden Tip: Ants are a major problem this year. There is an organic control called rotenone. There are also a number of home remedies that involve borax and icing sugar. If you are a Buddhists, of course you cannot touch the little critters but for the rest of us, read on. Boiling water poured into a hole works and to keep any insect out of your home, place diatomaceous earth around the outside. This product is very safe for pets and children. It is not a chemical.

• Speaking of Buddhists: We were at a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in China Town, Vancouver. Lovely place, great food. A dude in his fifties walks in. He is Canadian, rough looking, loud and opinionated. He starts raising a stink. Why? Because they do not have sweet and sour beef on their menu. The Chinese people, who owned the place, were trying to calm him down by offering him sweet and sour tofu. It was as if we were watching someone wave a red flag in front of a bull. “What’s wrong with you people?” he was shouting. Such class and dignity. The name of the restaurant, posted in large letters out front? ‘The Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant.’ Definitely a case of false advertising.

• Karma: I have a wall around my back garden, about seven feet tall, of cinderblocks. It was built sometime in the sixties. To soften it, I put pots of Wave petunias and bacopa on top of the pillars. They look nice. I have been doing it for years. Someone swiped one of those pots this week. They think they took something of value but when they stole that flower pot, they took only bad vibes. I know, I know. I sound like a true flower child.

Pink peony in my garden/white impatiens underneath
• Too funny: I am working on a private garden in the east end of town. I pulled out some old, black poly lawn edging. It was in rough shape. You can’t reuse it, it’s that rough. It was going into the garbage at my place. It was in the back of my truck. I stopped at Safeway on 13th to get some coffee filters, on my way home. When I came out, someone had taken it from my truck. I laughed. I could see them running down the street. If they had only left me their address, I would be more than willing to drop off other useless junk.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in the sunbelt of Regina

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Garden Report #88

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

The Winnipeg Fringe 2007
• Writers write: The Regina Fringe Festival arrives but once a year and this week is the week. Performers from around the world and down the street will be acting out, just for us. Tickets are cheap as in only ten bucks a performance.

     Fringe theater was not always a part of Regina’s cultural mosaic. In 1998 or ’99, my memory fades, Maureen and I decided to change that. We hosted a weekend mini Fringe of two plays. One hundred and twenty people attended. Just enough to pay the actors and the hall. Everyone else worked for free, which is often a Fringe tradition. We repeated that event, producing nine more weekends of Fringe theater over the next seven years. In 2005, The Regina Fringe Festival had its opening season at The Regina Exhibition. It stayed there for two years before moving over to Cathedral Village, an area more suitable for this event.

     When interviewed in the past for The Fringe Festival, I often referred to Fringe Theater as being “the best theater in the world”. I am not going to sell you on that idea with words. Go. See a few plays. You will see what I mean. Theater that is so real, so democratic, so accessible. It is truly theater that changes how you view theater.

• Readers write:

     • Lyn Goldman was succinct. “Splendid!” is what she wrote. As to which part she was referring, one must guess.

Native ferns at their best
     • Linda Lyster sent this in: “Hi Rod. I just wanted to let you know that my ferns in Regina this year are so-so, but at the cottage at Regina Beach they are glorious! They are over four feet tall, and multiplying like crazy. I tried to dig a bunch up before they matured, but wasn't fast enough. Should I try again in the fall or wait until next spring?” Rod’s answer: Best to mark your ferns in the fall with a bamboo stake and dig them in the early spring.

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman writes: “ Hi Rod. As always, a lovely way to start my Sunday, thank you.
My Siberian iris have been a joy in my garden for several years since a friend gave me a 'bit' for my birthday (gardeners share). They always make me think of a delicate Japanese watercolor painting.”

     • Neil Slater weighed in on life back in the old days. “I'm a bit younger than you, Rod, but I remember the horse-drawn milk carts in Regina. We arrived in Regina from Scotland when I was four years old; and now that I think about it, I probably remember the horses more than the carts. And I definitely remember the oil-fired space heater in our first house on Garry Street. That was a tiny place that has since been expanded, and it had vents in the ceiling to spread the heat around a bit. We didn't have to share bath water. Life has gotten easier, even for some of us young folk."

     • This from Gwen Barschel. “Good Morning Rod, enjoyed The Report as usual. What is the name of the lovely orangey/red rose in your pictures? Me thinks I need to have one of those. Yes, the roses are lovely this year. I have three, so far. After your advice a year or two ago, I have used the iron chelate whenever my rose leaves are looking pale, and within a week or two they are back to their glossy green.”Rod’s answer: The rose does not have a name and it is not on the market, yet. It is still under trial and is being seriously considered for release. I wanted our readers to see it here first as I think it will prove to be a good one. I think it might be an improvement over Morden Sunrise which we enjoy in our own garden. It’s name is Rose #291 until further notice.

     • Cheryl Hutton, our actor, reader, mother to be and Calgarian, has not written for awhile. “This morning I indulged and read my five backlogged Garden Reports. Wonderful as always. And reading them back to back is kind of like getting to watch your favorite TV show without having to wait until the next week to see what will happen. You can immediately move on to the next one and get caught up. Like with your story about replacing the cracked pot. I think I would've gone mad having to wait a whole week to find out what you ended up doing! And I was thrilled to hear your answer. I would've done the same thing. P.S. I am an over user of the exclamation mark when I send texts or emails to make sure my tone comes across as I mean it. But now I'm a bit self conscious about it! Eeeep!”

     • Roberta Nichol, as a retired school ma’am, always has an opinion, especially in regards to grammar. “Good morning, Rod! I am writing with my Emeril coffee, big, easy, and bold, by my side. We do love our caffeine, don't we? I am so happy to read that perhaps Jeannie Freeman felt a little affected by your comments regarding exclamation points. If I can be in the same grammatical company with her, I am a rich woman, indeed! Also, like her, The Garden Report is truly one of my guiltiest pleasures. I held off on watering my plants this morning, as I was waiting for it to appear on my laptop. And that called for a second cup of coffee. Ah, life is rough.”

• Times change: Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Medicare, our universal health coverage system. Some readers remember how the introduction of Medicare split the community apart. Those for and those against. Rumors flew. The most ridiculous one was that the government would be filming women in the examination room as they undressed. Some people said they were going to move. They didn’t of course. It was as is so often, just rhetoric.

     Today, we have lived with Medicare for quite some time. There are two and a half generations who have never known any other system. Medicare and the health system has its flaws. There are problems. But there is not one person from the right or the left of the political spectrum who would advocate its remission. Even the most conservative of the politicians talk about improving Medicare, not removing it. All any of us need to do is to listen to the problems and abuses of the privatized health care system, south of the border. Millions of people who cannot afford a doctor’s visit, let alone a prescription or a surgery.

     We were out for a bicycle ride a few years back. We stopped in Victoria Park, sat on a bench, enjoying the evening air. A man was sitting on the bench across from us. He tells us that he is from Baltimore and is passing through. Just over nighting in a downtown hotel. He asks me about Medicare. “Is it true that you carry a card that allows you free medical care, for everything?” I showed him my Health Card. He kept looking at it. Again he queried: “With this card, you can have a heart transplant, for free?” He was in awe. I accept that card as being part of my birth right, of being a Canadian.

• Garden Tip: In full bloom this week are those incredible Mock oranges. Cut a bouquet of mockorange, place them in water in your kitchen. When you wake up the next morning, enjoy the citrus fragrance and thus, the name. Also out in full glory are the Japanese Tree Lilacs. These trees are out front of Earl’s on south Albert Street as well as over by The Science Center. Lovely white blooms on a great tree.

'Morden Blush' rose-a real winner
• Canada Day: Being July 1st, my family and I will take in the programs and fireworks at Wascana Park. Seeing as we live one hundred and fifty feet from the entrance to the park, I don’t think parking should be a problem. One of the best things about living so close to the park is that if nature calls, we can run home to use the bathroom. No port-a-potties for this family. We may be from pioneer stock but we have no intention of carrying on the outhouse tradition of our grandparents.

• Garden Tip: Seeing more and more chlorosis which is when the leaves of a plant turn yellow with the green veins showing through. Treat with iron chelate.

• Fare thee well: Wednesday past, we had a monster wind storm that knocked out power from Prince Albert to North Battleford. We kept our power in Regina but every street had good sized trees or tree branches knocked over. I was trying to sweep up a planting site during the big wind and my broom became a sail, trying to lift me into a Mary Poppin’s scenario. Eventually I realized that the wind would clean the area just fine, without my using the broom.

• Garden Tip: If you have a wet spot in your garden and you want to plant a tree or a shrub there, here is an old trick. Dig your hole at least six to eight inches deeper and fill with crushed rock. This will give you a bit of drainage so that the roots are not water logged.

Not recommended methodology: When I was hiring people for the garden center, every now and again, there would be a person sitting across from me who had decided they would not give out any information. Somehow, the interview was more of a cat and mouse interrogation process, in their view. I would ask a question, and they would duck it or turn it around and answer my question with a question of their own. You could see on their face how clever they thought they were. Well…I was looking for people who wanted to help customers solve problems and find the right plant for their garden. That sort of thing. I had no need to hire people who were so clever that they could not deliver a direct response. I don’t play games. I would end the interview on the spot. They were usually quite surprised that their little game was over.

• Garden Tip: This is more of an observation than a tip but I didn’t know what else to call it. Gardening is so enjoyable, that even really bad gardeners have a good time. I have had many people take me on a tour of their garden, showing off their efforts. They see a masterpiece worthy of Monet. I see something totally different than that, perhaps a dog’s breakfast, but I keep my tongue in neutral. I simply say “you really enjoy what you do” and if someone is having fun, then that is what is important.

• Finnegan update: Finnegan, the petite, orange kitten who wandered into our life several weeks ago, is doing just fine. He has totally bonded with his new owner and he is growing quickly. His favorite hobby is to climb onto his daddy’s chest in the morning, and stare into his eyes until he wakes up. He also thoroughly enjoys jumping from the cupboards to the television set and then to the chesterfield.

• Garden Tip: I am fully aware that I repeat myself but some of you are in the slow learners group. Watering is best carried out early in the morning. Early in the morning means before nine a.m. Watering in the heat of the day should only be carried out on an emergency basis. Water deeply not shallow.

• La Bodega: Reader and food writer CJ Katz recommends the fish and chips at La Bodega. We headed over there on Thursday. I had it in my mind that this was a night for a fish and chip supper. Surprise, surprise! Fish and chips are part of their lunch menu, but not their supper menu. According to our waitress, the fish is fried in a Corona beer batter and is very popular with the noon crowd. So, we went to Plan B. Maureen enjoyed their version of a Waldorf salad with chicken and wasabi mayonnaise. I got half of Plan A and half of Plan B. I ordered the Steak Frites which is a fancy way of saying steak and chips. The chips were first rate. A really large serving to boot. In the running for best in town with Nicky’s and Bushwackers. The steak was a four ounce tenderloin. Very tasty. Very small. For close to twenty bucks, somehow I thought it might be a bit bigger.

• Garden Tip: One way of keeping your hanging baskets and containers looking good is to take your garden scissors and trim them up. I take the scissors to all of my containers every ten to fourteen days. A little haircut and they not only look tidy but they fill out even more.

A martagon lily in my garden
• We kind of won: It is so wonderful to walk into a restaurant and find there is no one smoking. They can’t smoke since the year 2000. Now, if we could only get smoking banned from the outside deck areas, that would be the icing on the cake. All of us remember a time when you could slice the air because the smoke hung so thickly in cafes. When the no smoking law came into effect, there was a loud cry from the restaurant industry that the law would destroy their businesses. Hmm? Twelve years later, they appear to be doing just fine. People have to eat. They don’t have to smoke.

• Not sure what to say: A fellow stopped me in a store on Thursday night. He recognized me from my television programs. He asked for some advice. He told me that his grandfather grew the biggest and best tomatoes anyone had ever seen. He went on to say that his grandfather’s secret was to strip the leaves of the tomato plant totally bare and thus, the energy all went into the fruit. His question: “When do I strip the leaves off of my tomato plant?” I have heard many, many interesting gardening stories in my time, but that one has to rank in the top ten. I have never heard of that before and it doesn’t make sense. How can a plant continue to live without leaves? Maybe his grandfather was Irish and was giving him a good Blarney Stone story. If someone has had direct experience (and not anecdotal) with this tomato stripping, I would like to see it for myself.

• Opinions not required: Because I work outside so much, I tend to lose weight in the summer and gain it in the winter. One winter morning, many years ago, I was having my a.m. coffee. I had my pants on but no shoes or shirt. Hey! It’s my house. Patrick was four or five years old. He comes downstairs to join the ‘old man’. He pats my tummy and offers up “You’re getting a little porky there.”

Trollius give a perennial bed some pizzaz!
• Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in sunny Regina.