Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Garden Report #100 ‘The Anniversary Edition’

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Our hanging basket
 • Writers write: When I started The Garden Report, I acknowledged that I had no idea where this thing was going. Usually, I have direction in my projects, but with this blog, I decided to sit back and let the flow take it where it was supposed to go. Part of that flow has been the readership, which provides valued input. Without the readers, I would be a lonely, old dude sitting at home, filling out his diary as if I were a twelve year old girl.

     The Garden Report started out with a hundred of my friends on the email list. I was spending a lot of time at home, due to my renal failure. I was fearful that I would lose contact with the outside world and I thought that this might be one way to interact. The idea exploded as people began to forward their Sunday Garden Report to friends and then to friends of friends. Within weeks, I was getting emails from people I had never met.

     Patrick, our number three son, is a techie. He arrived home for a visit and installed The Garden Report on the internet. It gave me readers in Denmark, Australia, Croatia and other points of interest in the universe. My mail box was filling up with people asking questions with accents. Okay. I made that up. Accents don’t translate through the computer. What started as a hundred friends has now become three thousand friends, three/quarters of whom I have never met.

Rod, Murphy, who says he is not spoiled, and Maureen
     What do I think? Cool. Where is this thing going? I have no idea. I just plan to enjoy the ride until it’s finished.

• Readers write:

     • Boy of boy. You write fifteen hundred words every week and then you make one mistake, and the sharks go wild in a feeding frenzy. Several of you jumped in regarding, it is a ‘statute of limitations’, not a ‘statue’. Sadly, I did mean ‘statue’ as in there is a statue of limitations, cast in bronze, near The Legislature. It is right next to ‘The Bill of Wrights’ Memorial. Nice save.

     • Penney Pike lives in Calgary. She writes: “We've been having the most amazing weather. I might even get around to painting my fence before the snow flies...maybe. Loved The Garden Report this morning.”

     • Robin Poitras runs New Dance Horizons and has done so for many years. She is also a big fan of this blog. She had this to say. “I also want to commend and thank for your wonderful Gardens Reports. Always informative, full of good ideas, interesting questions and concerns to consider, sometimes provocative and between the images of flora and the descriptions of food, some reports seem to emit scents! Thanks for sharing, providing much food for thought, connecting people, plants and events and for being your very, special self. I do enjoy the Sunday read. Congrats on the upcoming 100th report!”

     • Chris Dodd wrote this: “I had the privilege of peacefully beginning my Sunday, as I often do, with a great cup of coffee and The Garden Report. Thanks for all your thought and hard work on that. (I really wanted to use an exclamation mark there, but I remember what you had said.....) Rod’s note: Thanks for leaving them out, unless they are really, really necessary. Ie., The Riders win The Grey Cup!

     • I wrote in #99 that Murray Wallace, now that’s a good Scot’s name, taught me to eat butter tarts, straight from the deep freeze. Turns out, we are not the only guilty parties. Wanda Bellamy, from Lumsden, wrote in with this nugget: “I remember as a child eating the frozen butter tarts from our freezer and my mother being furious when she took out the empty ice cream pails she had placed them in. Have a great day filled with love & laughter.”

Roberta hanging out by the back door
      • Roberta Nichol understands the double meaning of ‘child of the sixties’. She writes: “Child of the 60’s- I loved that. On January 26th, I will join you as a ‘Child of the 60’s’, in two different ways. Some days, that thought doesn't bother me at all. The other day, it did. But I guess I'll live through it. There's nowhere else to go, anyway, so we might as well enjoy each miraculous day, right?” She also wrote in about frozen butter tarts. “I loved your bit about Murray Wallace having taught you about frozen butter tarts. My poor dad, after mom put him on a diet, got caught red-handed, in the basement, by the freezer, gulping down frozen butter tarts. Guilty as charged.”

     • It is always a delight to hear from Kate Berringer. “My grandmother (who’s 94) says that life began for her at 60. Enjoy!”

     • Gail Bowen pounds out those wonderful ‘Murder at the Mendel’ mysteries, two blocks over from where I hammer away at this rag. She weighs in on being another year older. “I turned 70 yesterday and so far it's a brilliant decade! Yesterday, I woke up and went to bed with my husband of 44 years (name???). Anyway, I am one very, very lucky woman.” Rod’s note: Gail is being funny, forgetting Ted’s name, or at least I think she is.

     • Robert Stedwill is a new reader and here is his take on what happens on this page. “Great reading Rod, and I want to be the first to congratulate you on the 100th edition next Sunday! I also enjoy your tips on restaurants that I haven't tried yet, or even knew about. I need to get out more!”

     • Joanne Brown and I share a delight for great food. She writes: “Didn't know you were such a foodie, Rod. Me too. Siam is rated one of my top five in the city. Also, Michi. It is the only Japanese restaurant in Regina that is owned and operated by Japanese; and all of their chefs are Japanese. Someday, sit at the sushi bar at lunch and watch these masters at work. And, talk about restaurant names, have you ever been to Nits in Moose Jaw? The food is wonderful. It's also Thai, but doesn't have the charm of Siam.”

     • Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouses has two pear trees growing in his yard, and his experience has been different from mine. He reports: “Rod, I beg to differ on your version of pear trees in Regina. Our pear trees ‘Early Gold’ and ‘Golden Spice’ had a nice crop of fruit this year. The pears are small, only a couple of inches (5cm) tall. The fruit must be tree ripened for the best taste. At this stage they are soft, juicy and delicious. Our ‘Early Gold’ never developed fruit for 15 years, until two years past, we added the ‘Golden Spice’ as a pollinator, and bingo, both have fruit. Yes, pear trees are beautiful, showing thick, glossy, dark green leaves, but they do have an abundance of long sharp thorns. They are also quite spectacular, when blooming in spring. It should be noted that, early attempts at breeding prairie hardy pear trees produced more thorns than fruit, Which most likely triggered Mr. Boughen's comment.”

     • John Huston, our itinerant actor and reader sent this in regarding a restaurant recommend. “If I'm ever back in Regina, unlikely, but you never know, I'll have to try The Tandoori Kebab Touch.”

     • The lovely Nancy, over at The Marian Center, Regina’s soup kitchen, sent this note along. “Thanks for all The Garden Reports that you are sending. I was thinking of you yesterday, as we were picking someone up from the airport and were in your neck of the woods.”

Cimicifuga-an excellent, fall blooming perennial
• Garden Tip: There has been no rain for more than four weeks now so cracks are appearing in the ground. If you have not been watering regularly, then get to it lads and lassies!

• Farm Report: Farmer Reg Gross reports that his crop is in and his winter wheat, which goes to the ethanol plant, finished at 82 bushels to the acre. His canola was up from 35 to 50 bushels to the acre. North of town, Brian Lowe reports barley at 70 bushels, Durham wheat at 50 and canola at 34.

• The tulip report: I have started planting tulips, muscari, fritalaria, alium and a few daffs. I have had good luck with the miniature daffs called Tete au Tete. They grow to be about six to ten inches tall and bloom a bright yellow. They have perennialized themselves in my garden, right by the roses. Remember, with the tulips, eight inches down, pointed side up, dust with bulb dust, cover with peat moss and top dress with bone meal. Simple and only a bit of hard work. Always plant your tulips in bunches or groups. Never plant them in lines, as if they were soldiers.

Anne's garden filled with delphiniums
 • Zam Zam: I reviewed this Lebanese place about a year ago. This week, I was in their neighborhood, 4th Avenue and Park Street, and I needed some lunch. For eight bucks you get a freshly baked pita, your choice of white or brown, then you pick from nine veggies including turnip. I was so tempted to ask how many people include turnip in their choice, but I didn’t’. Then you select from chicken, beef, lamb or falafel and you get to choose from ten sauces. I went with chicken, all the veggies except turnips, and for my sauces, a triple layer of hummus, taziki, and sweet chili. It was very good and filling. Of note, several of the construction workers who work in that area stopped in for lunch. They are regulars and several of them ordered the lamb. That surprised me but if they are regulars, then I suspect the lamb must be quite good. It’s a decent place for a quick lunch and something different than Subway. Apparently, they now have a location in The Cornwall Center.

• You get what you deserve: Heather Lowe and I were talking about pricing and customers who grind the price. A few years back, my closest competitor was Bob Mullin at Prairie Lily Greenhouse. If you walked into his place and quoted one of my prices, he would immediately offer to cut that price by several percentage points. He thought he was being a sharp operator by lowering his price to steal away customers from me. After a few years of this, he went bankrupt, owing a million dollars to various members of the community. On occasion, I would hear someone say it was “too bad” that he went under. I was never able to find any charity within my heart on this issue. He went bankrupt because he deserved it.

• Community supper: Every fall, The Drummond’s host a community, fall supper at their farm, south of town. About a hundred of us gathered on Monday night for a pot luck. There were the babes in arms right up to the elders. One fellow at my table was 93 and going strong. Told me stories of his father homesteading where the town of Balcarres is today. The hall had a great vibe to it, relaxed and fun. I could not help but to notice the gender difference at pot lucks. Women feel it is their obligation to try a bit of everything. Guys don’t. We know what we like and we fill our plate with those items. I arrived back at our table with three items on my plate whereas Maureen had 37, a tablespoon of everything. We each got filled by our own methodology. My way is quicker.

• Something’s happening: Joe Fafard has set up a pop up art gallery in an old confectionary building located near Broder Street and College Avenue. I have not been but I will be soon. Others have attended and are raving. Joe is such an incredible artist and doing something like this is really so neat. Am I too old to use that word, ‘neat’? The man who can have a show and has had them, in every major gallery in Canada, has chosen a rundown building in a solid, working class neighborhood. Far out!

• My friends are getting old: Some things in life just don’t line up. While explaining to my friends that I have to have my knee replaced this winter, (it’s just old and worn out) I cannot fathom why their hair is white. What’s wrong with them. I don’t get it.

• Garden Tip: Every autumn, people ask what is the tree with intense red leaves, at the south end of The Albert Street Bridge? It is an Amur Maple. They are the most spectacular of all the trees in the fall, they are hardy for the Regina area, but they are very susceptible to iron chlorosis. If you wish to grow one, ensure that you add in iron chelate on a regular basis and never overwater an Amur Maple. They do not like wet feet.

• Rider Green: I seldom write about our Riders because so many others already cover the team and do it quite well. Rest assured. I am a Dewdney Avenue boy, through to the core. I read, I watch, I listen, I cheer. Here is my kick, pun intended. The two leading field goal kickers in the league are Luca Congi and Paul McCallum. Both played for us. Both were axed by us. They did not go to another team as a free agent. I have to scratch my head over that one.

• Garden Tip: This question in from Gail White. Can bone meal be left out in the garage over winter? The answer is yes. All granular fertilizers can be left out in the garage. Liquid garden care products should be brought into the basement or some other above freezing area. Certain liquid products can be frozen and still be okay come the spring. Others are destroyed by the freezing. If in doubt, there is often an 800 number on the bottle. A call to the manufacturer will answer your question.

• A lovely lady: Sylvia Fedoruk died this week at the age of eighty-five. She was well known for her work on the Cobalt Bomb cancer treatment, sports and for five years, she was our Lieutenant Governor. She was a great lady. When she was Lieutenant Governor, she would be going to work around seven: thirty in the morning. If she saw me, wandering around the garden center, she would ask her driver to pull over, roll down the window and shout in a strong, but friendly voice “good morning Mr. McDonald.” I would wave back to her. No other LG ever did that.

     One day, she was visiting Lakeview Gardens. She said “your place is so lovely, you deserve an award!” I turned to her and said “skip the award. How about you use your influence to get my property taxes lowered?” She smiled and said “now that, I cannot do.”

'Little Princess' Spirea
 • Garden Tip: Two readers have recently asked “what role do wasps play in the garden”. I am not an expert on insects, but I am certain that others will respond with a more complete answer. This much I do know. Wasps are carnivorous and they clean up aphids and white flies lingering within the garden. Billy Patterson told me that when he was tree planting up north, the wasps would move in and take care of the biting, horseflies. He said they were always glad to see the wasps. I have observed the wasps landing on some of my flowering plants so I am going to assume they play a role similar to the bees in cross pollination. Of note, the wasps enjoy my ‘Little Princess’ spirea, when it is in bloom, more than other plants.

• Just a note: From time to time, readers ask if I will work on their yards. Right now, I am not accepting any new clients. I have three, beautiful gardens that I am involved with, and that is more than enough. If you need professional advice, as in a consultation of an hour or two, I do those on occasion, for a fee. You can email me for those rates. Also available to do consultations, and I can recommend both of them, are Heather Lowe and Ingrid Thiessen.

September elm tree canopy along Regina Avenue
• Beautiful autumn: This has been one of the finest of Septembers. Warm, very few clouds, a bit of wind and that fall smell. Best of all, at my age, no homework!

• Don’t tangle with a three year old: This story came from my mother. According to her, I was three years old and shopping with mom at Eaton’s. We were at the cash register and a lady, unknown to us, was wrinkling up her nose. She thought she could smell something emanating from me. Apparently, I picked up on her displeasure and proceeded to calm her down. I explained: “Relax lady. It’s just gas.”

 • Thanks for reading…from Rod McDonald in the sun belt of Regina!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Garden Report #99

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Still laughing at sixty-one!

• Writers write: It’s my birthday today and for the curious, it is my 61st one to celebrate. I am not one of those who hides behind the perpetual joke of being thirty-nine. Age is what it is, neither a negative nor a positive. I am aware that I sound as if I have made the conversion from Baptist to Zen Buddhism. You should not be surprised. After all, I am a child of the sixties, in two different ways now.

My neighbor from down the street, Rhonda, was inspecting my new patio and chatting away about life. She opined that several people had passed away recently, in their forties and fifties, and she concluded that every day we have left is one to celebrate “here in paradise.” Today, I will go along with her on that. Today, I will celebrate a wonderful day.

• Readers write:

     • Kate Berringer is responding to the bit about celebrating the 1966 Grey Cup win. She writes, “So, you’re not going to share the story, even if the statue of limitations is up?”

     • Dianne K. is a first time reader and responder. “Please keep me on the distribution list. What amazing gardens-hope someday mine can look that good.”

     • Heather Lowe writes “The pictures are very nice.”

     • Apparently, I know my birds from the bees but not the wasps. This note from Margaret Bessai is in regards to a photo posted last week in #98. “Hi Rod, those wasps look like bees to me. Thanks for your weekly writing!”

     • Kathleen Livingston also takes umbrage with bees being labeled wasps. “With bees having such a tough time and the critical role they play in our world, it would be worth the effort to help your readers distinguish between wasps and bees. The insects on the flower in the published photo are bees, not wasps. They should be made welcome in all gardens.”

     • Murray Wallace taught me to eat butter tarts when they are frozen, which are delicious. He also enjoys reading. He writes “Thank you for The Garden Report as I really enjoy receiving and reading it. What a fine job that you do as to all the info related to gardening.”

     • Georgia Hearn sends along her accolades. “I so enjoy my Sunday morning read. Keep it up and keep the commentary, the humor and the advice, both gardening and other, coming. We love it.”

Murphy's seventeen now, a real senior cat
     • Jeanie Freeman, besides being everyone’s favorite television persona, is a big fan of The Garden Report. She reads it faithfully, and this week she weighs in: “You are absolutely correct with your comments about the stupidity of the mudslinging that seems to be the norm these days for civic, provincial and federal elections! I am appalled and discouraged to think how many good people are discouraged from going into public service because of the possibility of having their every action, and their family's every action, dragged into the dirt.”

     • And now to another Jean, this time Jean McKay. Jean wants to share her extra plants with another gardener, as good gardeners always share. “Message for Joanne Brown. I have some white windflowers ( anemones) and violets to share. You will have a fine Friendship Garden next year.”

     • Joanne Brown is indeed grateful that people are willing to share their plants. If you have some to share, send me an email. Meanwhile, Joanne wrote “Thanks Rod, and I will take advantage of your excess daylilies and strawberry plants come spring. I'll also contact Jean.”

     • Roberta Nichol enjoyed last week’s photos. There were some very nice ones, I agree. “Lovely pictures this week, well, they are always lovely, but those flowers are amazing.”

     • Rhonda Rein wanted to know who to get to band her trees. I recommended Rick Harris, as one local business person, who performs that service. She wrote in about her experience, Saturday evening. “Thanks again Rod! Rick Harris just came by to band our tree. Got to meet his great, furry pal, Jazz. What a great dog he has which can do some fantastic tricks, too! Great entertainment for a Saturday night. Hope you enjoyed the first day of fall.”

Garden Tip: It is mandatory that your elm trees be banded this week to reduce the negative effects of the fall canker worm. Also, keep up the watering, albeit on a reduced schedule. I am seeing way too many lawns that are showing stress from the lack of water.

• Listen to your elders: In 1985, I had a rough year. I lost the lease on my garden center land and had to move, mid season. Russ Boughen from Valley River, Manitoba, always provided a listening ear for my problems. He told me that behind every cloud, there is always a silver lining. Look for it. I bought myself two acres over at Hill Avenue and Pasqua, set up a new garden center and things were successful. Russ phoned the following year and asked how sales were. I bragged. “They’re almost double over last year” I exclaimed! Russ said one word which was not really a word but a comment. He said “Hah!” and followed that with “I told you so!” The old boy was there through what appeared to be bleak journey. He assured me that everything would work out for the best, and it did.

• Hurrah: The fine people over at Orange Boot Bakery have a slicer and I for one, am doing the dance of joy. I can now freeze my bread and pop it in the toaster, come the morning.

• Pears in Regina: Jen St. Onge was wondering about pear trees in Regina. The pears that we grow here do not produce fruit that is all that edible, either out of hand or for canning. Many years ago, I asked Russell Boughen, who is the ‘Dean of Prairie Fruit’, what were the pears good for? His response: “If you have a neighbor you don’t like, you can wing them at the back of his head.” As a secondary note, even though our prairie pears are not tasty, they are a wonderful ornamental tree. Definitely worth planting.

The new tulip 'Blue Wow'!
• October 19th Gala: I seldom use this space to promote upcoming charitable events. Most readers are already swamped with charitable requests, all of them of great importance. But this one is close to my heart, or better written, close to my kidneys, which are close to my heart. It is The Kidney Foundation’s Gala at The Connexus Arts’ Center and tickets are a hundred bucks each or a table of six is five hundred. It is a fund raiser to assist families where dialysis is involved. Dialysis usually costs a person most of their income earning potential. The Kidney Foundation tries to help out with those issues and related travel costs. For those who are new to The Garden Report, I have been on dialysis for five years come this October 16th thus my connection. 

• It’s tulip time: My tulips arrived from Holland, via the Van Noort family in Vancouver, Thursday. They will be planted as the frost knocks down my annuals. Every fall, I try something new. This year, I ordered a hundred of a new, double tulip called ‘Blue Wow’. Great name, eh?

• New greenhouse: There will be a new greenhouse/garden center, come this spring. It will be located two miles south on Albert Street, across the street from the old, Cinema Six Drive In. The owners are Brad and Sandy Crassweller. Brad was a student employee of mine, many years ago. As an aside, my first greenhouse was twenty by thirty-six feet and I was more proud of that little structure than anything I ever built afterwards.

• Visitors: Gardens get visitors, that much we know. Two people of note, who stopped in recently, were Heather Lowe, the Landscape Designer and Jan Pederson from Byland’s Nursery. Both of them approved of the new, brick patio and Jan left me with a list of Byland’s new introductions for the coming year. They have thirty new items listed. Yea! Jan also mentioned that he has been using the phrase ‘statue of limitations’ that was recorded here. He said the phrase is so appropriate when people want to drag up stories from too many years ago.

Red Feather Grass is one of my favorites
• Garden Tip: Those of your who grew Red or Purple Feather Grass and other ornamental grasses this year, do not cut them down this autumn. Let them remain throughout the winter and you will get much winter landscape enjoyment from them. Next spring, if they are an annual grass, then you can remove them.

• Tandoori Kebab: I gave this place a thumbs up a few weeks back. It is definitely not one that grabs your attention, being stuffed into the twelve block of Albert Street. I found myself alone, a week ago Friday night, my good lady being out with ‘the girls’. I thought “should I cook up something fantastic and then have to clean up or should I go out somewhere where they will do the dishes for me?” That took less than five seconds to mull over, and I headed down Albert Street, fourteen blocks to Tandoori Kebab Touch. Don’t ask me how they chose this name. I had a great supper, filled with flavor. That is my criteria, right after cleanliness. Is there big flavor? Lots of flavor. This place is ranking right up there with Siam as my two favorite ‘big taste’ joints.

• Something you didn’t know: When you run a greenhouse/garden center, your telephone rings all day long. People asking questions about plants and how you should care for things. Here is the kicker, approximately two/thirds of the calls are for advice on plants that were purchased elsewhere, as in the box stores. This situation occurs at all garden centers across our country, just not mine. I used to get about a hundred and fifty telephone calls every day and one hundred were for advice on plants from Super Store, Wal Mart, Rona and Home Depot.

• Garden Tip: If you wish to cover your plants at night, to protect them against the frost, never use a plastic cover. Plastic will pull the frost into the plant. Always use a cloth sheet. Do not be in a hurry to remove the sheet come the morning. Let the sun warm things up and wait until noon to remove the covering.

• Bumped into: I was out early on Thursday morning and I ran into Irwin Taylor. Irwin is now eighty-one, still going strong, running Gale’s Wholesale. Many people know Irwin as Gale’s sells many craft and floral items to the gardening public. We joked about only the good dying young and I suggested we start planning a hundredth birthday party, for both of us.

• Flip, flop and fly: Okay. That is the name of a blues song that ‘Downchild’ made famous. This is not about that song. Rather, it is my take on ‘Flip’, the restaurant on Hamilton Street, near Victoria Avenue. I have heard many good things about this place, so, when asked by my Mrs., where I wished to celebrate my birthday supper, I suggested this eatery.

     First, it is not a massive bistro so reservations most nights, are a must. We saw several people turned away. The place is a basic white with floor to ceiling windows, overlooking that most scenic part of Regina, Hamilton Street. Next. It is noisy. Very noisy. You have to shout across the table to be heard, which ensures that it is even noisier, because now, you are being very loud. I read once, that commercial establishments want it to be loud because then it replicates a party, and people buy more booze. It didn’t work for me as I remained sober throughout the evening. But I did shout a lot, just as if I was at a busy party.

     The supper menu is not a long affair. You have a basic six choices, plus a special, all ranging from $20 to $24. If you want soup or salad up front, be prepared to pay $5.50 for the soup and $10 to $14 for the salad. I opted for the steak, which was amongst the finest I have eaten. It was blackened on the outside and a true medium rare on the inside. It’s only accompaniment was the ‘dirty rice’ which was filled with flavor. There was a small container of a cheese sauce which neither me nor Maureen or Maxwell thought was tasty. It went untouched after the initial taste.

     Maureen chose the chicken with spinach and feta. It had a liberal sprinkling of dill weed and was equally excellent in taste to my steak. With her meal, there were three pieces of braised corn cob and a bit of new potato. Max had the short ribs which were very tender and he reported the taste to be first rate. He, being a now disinherited son, did not offer the old man a sample.

     Maureen had a glass of red wine for $8.50 and I had a coffee which was surprisingly, served in a French press. Very nice. Max and I shared an ice cream dessert that was cinnamon/chai in flavor. The two flavors were there but it was neither rich nor sweet. Very disappointing for five bucks. Maureen had the cup cake of the day which was an apple cinnamon and it was equally disappointing, being heavy and slightly frozen at the same time. Maureen wondered if it was a cupcake and not a muffin, where was the icing or topping?

     Here’s the kick. I don’t mind the $23 main, but I keep thinking there should be more than the steak and the rice on the plate. How about a vegetable? I must be old school on this one. I kind of suspected that the meal was going to leave two of the three of us hungry, so I ordered the house fries for four bucks, as an add on. Good thing I did as that is what filled Max and I up. Some good news is that the fries were first rate, up there with some of the best in town. Total for the three of us including tax and tip was $120.

Late summer geraniums on my new patio
     The service was good, the meal was very good, albeit not filling, the coffee was excellent but you can skip the desserts until they kick it up a notch.

Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald from a sun drenched autumn, in Regina!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Garden Report #98

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Wasps on a bloom by Billy Patterson
 • Writers write: There is an adage that reads ‘if you want to trace your family tree, the quickest way to do it is to run for public office.’ We have an upcoming, civic election. Sometimes things get down and dirty and candidates throw mud. It happens at the provincial and the federal level as well, the mudslinging. Has anyone ever stopped to think that with the mudslinging and the digging into a candidates past, we discourage many good people from running. Who wants every stupid thing they did in high school held up for inspection? We have the right to know who our candidates are and what they stand for, but there also needs to be a line drawn in the sand that we should not cross.

     Speaking of high school and stupid things, a man approached me recently. He starts in about what my friends and I did to celebrate The Riders winning The Grey Cup, in1966. We were fifteen at the time and it was not our finest moment. Let’s just say that fifteen year old boys do not think ahead, or think for that matter. I said to him “That’s forty-five years ago. The statue of limitations for telling that story ran out twenty, maybe twenty-five years ago.” He took the hint and shut up.

     By the way, as you read this issue, you will become aware that there are many pieces regarding fatherhood. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it worked out.

• Readers write:

Don and Marian's dahlia bloom
     • Don Volpel sent us a photo of his dahlia, seeing as Stu Wass and Trevor Langen sent in one of theirs. Dahlia growers do take pride in their blooms.

     • Reader Billy Patterson, sent along several photos. One is a close-up of two wasps on a bloom (up at the top) and the other one is  from Sandra Rayson's garden (further down the page). The flower boxes are painted a hydrangea blue in case you were wondering.

     • A coded message from reader Lyn (one L) Goldman. “You make me smile, Rod.”

     • Neighbor and reader, Jack Tunnicliffe, weighed in on how good Honda motors are on small equipment. “Speaking of Honda's, I bought my lawn mower in 1982, while on the road directing CFL football games in the old days. I don't think they sold them here at that time. I brought it home with me and it has continued to run flawlessly for almost 30 years. First pull start, every time. I finally had a tune-up done two seasons ago, just because I thought my baby deserved it. I expect it will run for many more years.”

     • Frank Flegel responded a to a few bits of #97. I numbered them so you know where a new one begins. “#1- Right on with the role model item. #2- Where were you when I bought my new lawn mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine? #3- That photo of Tina and Sebastian should be on a calendar somewhere or win an award in a photo contest! #4- I grew my first artichoke and I don't know why people grow them. Harvested one, steamed it as per the internet, dipped the leaf tips in mayonnaise and thrrp! The heart wasn't all that great either. #5- You should patent The Garden Report before someone else swipes it.”

     • Ina Fields enjoyed reading what constitutes a role model. She writes “I would like your permission to post your definition of a role model on my Facebook page. It is so well written and concise. It hits the nail on the head and some of my young friends on Facebook could use a dose of this kind of thinking. I love your writing, no matter which way it comes, spoken by you or being read by me. Thanks for having me on the list from the very beginning.”

     • Marcus Fernando claims he has lost his anonymity due to The Garden Report. “An American was planning to visit us here in Croatia. She was a friend of a friend, and so she didn't know us personally. I sent her various e-mails, saying where to find us when she reached our village, but for whatever reason she was unable to access them at the crucial time. So she quickly went online, and ‘Googled’ me (or whichever search engine she used). In her words: "I found you! You were on some sort of gardening forum!" Yep! An American visiting Croatia tracked me down via The Garden Report from Canada!”

     • Joanne Brown is a big fan of The Garden Report. She writes: “Rod, your Garden Reports are a breath of fresh air, community concern, love for your family and friends, and wisdom, not just related to gardening. September is my favorite month too. Can you help me out here? Next week, my front yard is getting trenched to lay a new sewer line, so spring will be a good opportunity to make some changes. I want to sow several areas with large red poppies. A friend is going to give me some seeds soon. Is there a better way to go about it? Do I plant the seeds in the spring or fall? These are seeds from perennial plants. Please include some brief advice in your next Garden Report.” Rod’s answer: With a replaced sewer line, it is normal for them to sink for five or six years. Best to build up a nice berm, a layer of garden soil twelve to fifteen inches higher and make it fairly wide. Then you can plant a perennial garden. Seed is usually best sown in the spring and it is much, much cheaper than potted plants. Also, ask a few friends if they would like to divide their overgrown plants. You will gladly use them. You can have a few of my daylilies and strawberries if you want. That’s a start.

     • Roberta Nichol taught school and she knows the value of good role models in the home as well as in the classroom. “I completely agree with your take on a role model. You don't have to be able to leap buildings in a single bound to be one. The bottom line? You need to be a good person who lives a good, honest life. You need to be as consistent as you can, you need to be fair, kind, compassionate. It's tough to be a role model. Nobody's perfect.”

     • June Mayhew is always sweet, and yes, she is the mother of Canada’s silver medalist in rowing at The Olympics. But don’t ask her about that medal. She is much too modest to discuss the win, unless you really want to talk about it. She writes, “Still love The Garden Report...hugs!”

Ingrid Thiessen's shot of three, columnar spruce in Jasper, Alberta
     • Mike Labatt asks this good question. “Rod, can we move the evergreens at the farm up to freeze-up? Also when is best time to transplant rose bushes and bleeding hearts?” Rod’s answer: You can move spruce with a tree spade until freeze up. I have done it many, many times. Do not move pine in the fall. Rose bushes and bleeding hearts prefer to be moved in April, before bud break. If absolutely necessary to move them in the fall, then take as big of a root ball as possible. If you have plants in a pot that you purchased from a garden center, they can be planted at anytime as they are not subject to transplant shock.
  • Ingrid Thiessen was in Jasper, Alberta and she took the photo above.  It is of three of the finest, columnar spruce that many of us in the nursery trades have ever seen.  I am guessing here but they are either 'Blue Totem' or an Iselie Nursery introduction.  Not certain so you are welcome to weigh in. 

• So, your dad’s a fireman: There is an old story that goes like this: A Grade One boy was standing at the front of his class. He said, “My dad is a fireman. He drives a big, red truck, with a siren. He runs into burning buildings and he carries people out. He saves lives. Everybody loves my dad because he is a hero!” The teacher looked at him and said “Your dad is a world famous brain surgeon at the university. Why would you tell the other kids he’s a fireman?” The kid dropped his head down for a moment and then spoke: “I was just trying to impress them.”

• So, your dad is in the bulb business: Reader Rob Van Zanten tells this story from when he was a little boy. He and his siblings had to help their dad out by packaging tulips in the fall, and gladioli in the spring. Rob and his sister, as they worked putting ten bulbs or corms into a package, complained that their dad should be in the candy business, not selling bulbs. They fantasized that they were packaging up licorice allsorts, gummy bears and jelly beans.

• So you think your dad is important: One day, many years ago, when Maxwell was a little boy, he was playing outside with a friend. The boys had accompanied me on many trips to other greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers. We were seeing how others ran their operations. Max got a little confused over what my role was in these visits. I heard him say “my dad is the boss of all the garden centers in Canada.” Along a similar vein but with less respect, when the boys got older, one of them told me “You don’t’ really work. You just go to the garden center and tell other people what to do.” Gee, I wonder why I found my job so stressful if that is all I had to do.

• Cheap and good: A friend of mine married, for the second time. Both of her husband’s drank excessively. She told me that she was seeing a ‘shrink’ and that he had advised her that she sought out men who were drunks because her father was one. I asked, “how much did you pay him?” She informed me that the total was close to ten thousand. I couldn’t resist. I told her that I would have only charged $500 for that insight. My advice is both cheap and good, thus the title.

Tulips, cut fresh from the garden, are lovely
• Cheap and good #2: Last week, I put in ‘Writers Write’, my views on what it takes to become a role model. It was based on a conversation I had a few years ago. I was having a coffee with a fellow I had known for several years. He was doing the ‘I want to be a role model for my kids’ thing. He had mentioned it a few times before. Being so bloody polite, I said to him “If you want to be a role model, why don’t you stop hitting your wife? It’s not good for the kids to see their dad beat up their mother.” He stared at me. I had his attention. I just knew he really wanted to hear more from me, so I carried on. “And I saw you shoplifting over at Safeway on 13th. That can’t be good for your kids so maybe you should stop that? And you have a girlfriend. If your kids find out about her, they are going to be confused as to what type of a role model you are.” Now, you would think he would have offered to pay me for such great advice, the same amount the ‘shrink’ charged my friend above. Nope. He got up, walked away and he hasn’t spoken to me for four or five years now. He thinks I should mind my own business. Every now and again, I read in the paper that he has gotten an absolutely free, three month vacation over at The Correctional Center for stealing something. He’s being a role model to his kids alright, without realizing it.

• A real life role model: My friend Ian Cook, had a wonderful dad. I write the word wonderful in the most basic sense of the word. Mr. Cook was a quiet man who believed in family, farming and community. He was a special man without every winning an award for being special. He never scored the winning goal in The Stanley Cup playoffs. Ian would say “when my Dad says he fixed something, you can count on it being fixed right. It’s the only way he knows how to do something.” Mr. Cook enjoyed his life, all ninety years of them. Again, my friend Ian explained that “my dad always worked hard and kept life simple. Because he kept life simple and kept to his beliefs, he always slept well. He knew he had done his best each and every day. He was never in a rush to finish a project because he always enjoyed what he was doing.” Each one of the Cook kids knew that they could count on their mom and their dad to be there for them at each juncture of their lives. That’s being a role model.

• Then and now: Today, some young dads form support groups with other dads, to discuss their parenting issues. In the 1950’s, if my dad were to form a support group with other dads on Dewdney Avenue, it would have been to discuss how often you should spank your kid. “Is it a regular thing or just when he really deserves it?”

• We are never ready: I was thinking about Patrick and his buddies. Many of them are getting ready to be first time fathers or they already are. Most of them are a little nervous about the event. I can share this with them: None of us men are ever ready to be a dad, whether we are twenty or forty. It feels as if it were only yesterday that we were playing cops and robbers with our buddies at the playground. We are concerned that we won’t be good dads. All we can do is to try our best and it usually works out. And, no matter how good of a dad you are, there comes the teenaged years when you will wonder, “what the hell did I do wrong?” It’s just part of that thing called life. Even the best dads worry that they are not getting it right.

• Garden Tip: It is always best to dig peat moss and rototill your garden in the fall, instead of the spring. If you incorporate your peat moss now and rototill the garden areas, then the soil has a chance to blend over the winter. Lumps will break down due to the frost and you will be able to plant as soon as the weather warms up in the spring. To quote one of my favorite gardeners who has left this earth for heaven’s garden, Sandra Whittick, “you can never add too much peat moss to the Regina soil.” Listen to Sandra’s sage advice on this matter.

• God’s garden bounty: Do you have lots of veggies and fruit in your garden? Too much for you to use? Here’s a suggestion. The Marian Center over on Halifax Street can use any and all of your produce. You can give them a call at 757-0073 and ask what time you can drop off your donation. The same suggestion applies to those who hunt. If you have extra game, The Marian Center will gladly include it in the meals for the men they serve.

• Garden Tip: Fall is autopsy time for gardeners. Relax. It’s not so gruesome. When you discard your annuals, whether they are in boxes, pots or the ground, inspect the root system. Carrying out that task will teach you more about growing annuals than any book. If the roots were shallow and undeveloped, either you had them in the wrong place or you were doing something wrong. Either way, you learn what not to do next year. Gardening is a long, slow educational process and if you are like me, sometimes you feel as if you are in the slow learners’ class.

• Are we different or the same: I was in Saskatoon, at The Medical Arts Building. In the lobby was a mother, with two children. I am not certain, but I think they might have been Sri Lankan. The boy was six and the girl was eight. The boy was being a real pest, annoying his sister. After a few dirty looks from the mother, she had had enough and she spoke, in a harsh language. The boy stopped what he was doing. He knew what was coming next, if he kept it up. Now, I have no idea what her exact words were, but I think I could come really close with a guess. Sometimes we don’t need a translator to get the gist.

My brick patio under construction
• Amateur night at the rental shop: I was picking up a plate tamper at a rental shop. A plate tamper is the small machine used to compact the base, prior to installing bricks, and then it is used to level the bricks after they are installed. The fellow at the rental shop told me that he was loading one into a homeowner’s car. He asked the fellow how much brick work he was doing? The fellow was confused. He was refinishing his hardwood floors and was this not the machine that sanded the wood down to a like new finish?

• The Farmers’ Market: I think that most people are pleased with the move back to Scarth and 12th Avenue for the market. The new mall, in spite of the complainers, has been a good spot. On Saturday last, people were enjoying themselves, visiting, shopping and taking in the experience. Lots and lots of veggies, fruits, baking and fudge. Yep. I am mentioning the fudge, yet again. Does anyone see a pattern here?

• Bacon is not a health food: Okay, okay, I get it. Bacon is filled with fat, salt and nitrates and it is not good for you. But I do give in to temptation and have a taste, now and again. If that sounds like a rationalization, it is. I had some of the guys over for a brunch and the ball game. I cooked up some bacon from Oscar’s on 11th Avenue. Oscar smokes and cures the bacon himself. It is so filled with flavor as compared with the grocery store product. Here is my question for those readers with opinions on healthy eating: If it tastes that good, is it really, really bad for you?

• I make amends to my body: With our bountiful harvest of fresh garden veggies, I am in healthy eating heaven. Some nights, we have three or four different fresh vegetables on our supper plate. Carrots, steamed beets backed up with beet greens, tomatoes off the vine only an hour (don’t even think of asking if they are fresh), garden herbs, potatoes and cabbage. We had a freshly harvested cabbage salad the other night and Maureen commented “you can taste the freshness of the garden it came from.”

     I have to laugh when I think back to last March. Reader, Cheryl Geiger Paul, gave me six leaves of a basil plant she had grown under lights. They were like gold. We ate them ever so slowly, moaning appropriately. Today, if Cheryl would like me to repay her, I can give her six hundred leaves, which should cover the interest.

• Garden Tip: Sure, it has been cool at nights but it has also been windy and hot at other times. So what’s my point? Just because the calendar reads September, does not mean that you put your hose away. Your plants still need water. So does your lawn. I gave all of my garden area a thorough soaking on Thursday and come Friday morning, the sun was shining and everything was looking just so darned perky.

• Justice can be quick: A friend is disabled and he has a placard that allows him to park in handicapped parking spaces. He pulls into The Bank of Montreal and there is a car parked in the handicapped zone. He parks behind it so that the other car cannot move. As he gets out, the able bodied driver of the parked car returns. My friend asks the man why he parked in a handicapped zone? His reply? “I was only in there a minute.” My friend said “So you won’t mind then, because I will only be a minute as well,” and he went into the bank, leaving the other fellow cooling his heels.

Tulips need to be planted soon for spring blooms
• Garden Tip: You can start to plant your fall bulbs, such as tulips, any day now. There is a reason fall bulbs have the nickname of ‘sleeping beauties’. You plant them now, they remain unseen for six or seven months and then the blooms are there. When they do flower, you are reminded that they were indeed worth the work.

     Planting tulips is easy. Dig a pit about eight inches deep. Plant five bulbs to the square foot, pointed side up. Dust with bulb dust (rose dust is the same thing) and back fill with peat moss and garden soil. Top dress with a bit of bone meal and water once. If it is a dry fall, give the bulbs a second watering. You can plant bulbs under deciduous trees as the flowers are formed prior to the leaves emerging on the trees. I plant tulips under a giant elm tree, all the time, and they bloom just fine. Tulips do not like ‘wet feet’ so do not plant them close to a drain pipe or anywhere in the garden where it is continually wet. If you have a slight slope or incline, that is a perfect place to plant tulips and other fall bulbs. Fall bulbs that are often ignored, but provide great blooms, are Allium Giganteum, Muscari, Scilla Sibirica and Fritallaria. They have done well in my yard for many years, so you know they are hardy for the 2b Zone.

This is a shot of Sandra Rayson's garden
 • Good gardeners share #212: If you are nervous about planting tulips for the first time, send me an email. If a few of you want to see how it is done, then on Saturday, September 29th, you can come over to my garden around two p.m. and you can see how easy it is to do. Being a bit of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn character, I might even allow you to dig a few holes for me.

• Great symphony: Saturday night was the opening of the 104th season of The Regina Symphony. Great music! One issue. The Center of the Arts (ugh! The Connexus Arts Center) has decided to improve their parking lots which means that half of the spaces were shut down. Absolute chaos out front. People parking all over the place, and to add fuel to the fire, they only had two staff members on to deal with the issue. What were those two staff members doing? “Uh…you can’t park here. This lot is filled up.” Brilliant! Just what I needed to know. Someone should give those administrators an award for …um…let me see…doing nothing!

• Oh yeah!: The patient walks into the doctor’s office. He has a banana shoved up his nose. The doctor tells him “It’s obvious. You’re not eating right.” No groans, just toss money until I stop.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in, it’s looking like autumn, Regina!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Garden Report #97

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The fall canopy along Regina Avenue
• Writers write: I read in the paper, I hear in conversation, anyone who has experienced some difficulties, that they wish to turn their lives around and to “become a role model.” Okay. Fair enough. All of us, any of us, when facing difficulty, want to turn things around, me included. The ‘role model’ quote is what gets me. Those two words are overused and misused, repeatedly. Let me spell it out, in clear, concise language what a role model is for those who don’t quite understand the job. I write from the male perspective, without apology.

     A role model is not a hero or anything spectacular. Chances are that he will never get to save someone from a burning building or score a touchdown to win the game in overtime. He goes to work every day, and doesn’t complain when he comes home. He attends his kids soccer games and their dance recitals, even when he is tired. He shovels his walk in the winter and he mows his lawn in the summer. He doesn’t shop lift and he tells his kids why they should not. He tells his kids when he doesn’t know the answer, but he also tries to find out what it is they are inquiring about. He treats his wife with respect. He doesn’t ask for others to fix his problems. He works for everything he has and he appreciates what he has earned. He is grateful for life itself. He tells his kids that life is not always fair, but you have to learn to deal with the cards that are dealt to you. He doesn’t let his past interfere with his present or his future. That is a role model. Boring but consistent. His claim to fame is that he is there every morning and every night, for his kids. That’s a role model.

• Readers write:

     • We have not heard from author and neighbor, Gail Bowen for some time. She writes “Happy Labor Day weekend! It occurred to me I've never thanked you and your readers for the garden photos they send in. Quite a few of the photos have ended up as Wallpaper on my BlackBerry. At the moment, the Langen' glorious dahlia has pride of place.”

     • Trevor Langen appreciated that I played matchmaker, pairing him up with an experienced dahlia grower. He writes “Morning Rod, loved your Report. Thanks for showing our dahlia. Stu and I chatted last Sunday. Thanks so much for putting us together. I wrote copious notes on how to plant, nurture and store the dahlia but more importantly, I got his phone number.”

     • From The Ninth Street Bed and Breakfast, an absolutely wonderful establishment in Saskatoon, Lola writes “Hi Rod: Even though I don't often write, you should know that I enjoy your Sunday Garden Report and I thank you for sharing your stories and knowledge. Your story about Obed Ramirez was so sad! Will he and his family have to leave Canada? Can we help in any way?”

     • Georgia Hearn is also concerned over Obed’s impending deportation. “Another great issue. So sorry to hear about Obed. He is such a nice man...immigration is frustrating. I work with a girl from Germany who is facing a similar situation. Thanks again for the gardening advice.”

     • May Blois was upset with the pending deportation of Obed and his family. She writes “I have never written before but the piece you wrote on Obed Ramirez just makes me very upset. Someone like this upstanding person comes to our country and wants to work so he and his family can live a decent life and Immigration gets all snotty. Why can't they help him fix their papers instead of being imbeciles?”

Tina Hoffman with her new born, Sebastian
     • Marcus Fernando writes from Birmingham, England. “It may not make great theatre, but I'm afraid I'm just going to have to agree with you again. Your story about Obed being sent back to Mexico is a familiar one, and not just in Canada. All over the world we have got so tied up and hidebound by inflexible rules, which should actually be guidelines. The trouble is, the bureaucrats are just looking for a box-ticking exercise to keep their lives simple. It's good that you're bringing the plight of Obed to a wider audience. If only ordinary people like us could shake the monolith.”

Sandra's garden
     • Sandra Rayson passes out more compliments than most of us. She writes “Congratulations on getting The Garden Report out ahead of schedule, despite having Patrick & Lisa home. The shots you picked for The Garden Report were lovely.”

     • Roberta Nichol is responding to the dismantling of our film industry. “I feel the same way about the CBC music programs being taken away from Saskatchewan. I can't stress enough how much those programs helped the likes of local entertainers get off the ground, so to speak. Bonnie Austring and Shawn were always there at the Folk Festivals, with their CBC truck, recording all of us including Bob Evans, Connie Kaldor, Don Freed, and me. I honestly don't know what our provincial and federal governments are trying to do. I really don't. It makes me sick.”

Jana's first red peppers
     • Local artist Jana Kartarna likes to garden and she is pretty excited about something new in her veggie patch. “Hi Rod, this is the first time I've had bell peppers turn red on the plant and I just thought I would share. I bought these wonderful peppers as bedding plants from the Plant Ranch this spring. Also, if I send this picture to you, then I will have a record if my hard drive crashes!”

• Good gardeners share #813: I have four good sized Boston Ferns, a couple of large peace lilies and some smaller dieffenbachia to give away. I used them in my summer, flower pots and I don’t want to overwinter them. They are yours for the asking and you do not have to return them. I do ask that you bring over an appropriate size pot so they can be repotted. You are welcome to use my Pro Mix potting soil. You can pick them up somewhere around the first frost, whenever that might be. Let me know who is interested and I will form a list of people to contact when it is the right time.

• Garden Tip: A few people have been confused over the timing of what needs to be done right now. You can prune your elm trees. You should be banding your trees against the fall cankerworms. You should not be fertilizing anything except your annuals and baskets. You should be getting ready to plant your tulips, anytime after the 15th is okay. Hope this clarifies things.

• Points of view: I am often surprised how two people you love can describe the same person from opposite viewpoints. My father described my grandfather as being hardnosed, tough, and strict. My dad’s sister described the same man as being soft, a real pushover and easy to get along with. My father was the eldest son and no doubt, subjected to a young, strict father. My aunt was the youngest and the only girl, and no doubt she had her dad wrapped around her baby finger. With maturity, I have realized that they were describing the same man but many years apart. All of us change, and thank God we do.

• Good eats: I stopped into visit my kid sister. She lives at one of the beaches adjoining Long Lake. She loves to cook with fresh veggies, just like her handsome, older brother. She fed me. Two types of corn, boiled beets, spinach and strawberry salad, fresh pickled carrots, pickled green beans and a garden relish. She said it best: “It is the best time of year with the harvest coming to the table”. I hope you are enjoying the freshness of God’s bounty this week.

• God’s bounty: I stopped by Jim and Lynn Tomkins’ garden. Jim, at one time was a math professor and then the President of The University. Today, he is a gardener. It doesn’t pay near as well but he doesn’t have students demanding a better mark. I helped myself to one of their many fine carrots. It measured two inches across which while no means a record, was impressive. Jim should astound us with his math skills and tell us how many cubic inches or centimeters were inside this root. I’ll give him a hint. Pi = 3.14.

• Transplant clinic back in Saskatoon: You might have heard on the news, or read in the paper, that the transplant clinic in Saskatoon is back up and running. They now have two transplant surgeons on staff, able to perform the surgeries. Several of you have contacted me, thinking that this improves my chances. Here is what has been happening. The last three years, with the closure of the clinic, the province has been airlifting both the patients and the kidneys to Edmonton, for transplantation. The clinic here has assured me that every available kidney was utilized in those years, albeit in Edmonton. This problem still remains: There is a shortage of donor kidneys, both from living sources and from cadaveric donors. Living donors can donate one, changing the recipients life. Cadaveric donors donate both their kidneys, increasing the gift of life to two people. How does a recipient feel about their transplant? I know quite a few, and one of my friends who received her new kidney in March said to me: “Night and day, Rod, night and day.”

• Garden Tip: Do you still water into the fall? Yes, unless it is raining enough to provide an inch or two each week. Do not let your baskets and containers dry out. Once or twice a week, depending on the weather should be enough. With your lawn, once a week should be fine but do give it a good soaking. There are people who will tell you to let your lawn go into the winter dry. They are wrong. Ensure your lawn goes into the winter wet.

• September, my favorite month: The air is crisp. It smells just right. The sun is strong but it does not burn. My sweaters come out of their drawer. I look in the mirror and say “This one looks nice and it still fits.” The tomatoes, the beets, the carrots, the apples are all in abundance in the gardens. There is no snow to shovel. The weeds have slowed down to a snail’s pace and are easy to control. The school bus has returned from its summer siesta, picking up the kids in the neighborhood for another day of learning. The sun does not wake me at four a.m. It is now respectful and lets me sleep until a half past six. The night air that permeates my bedroom is so cool and comfortable, often filled with a hint of smoke from the neighborhood fireplaces. September is my favorite month of all.

'Power Surge' Mums-hardy for our area
• Garden Tip: There are lots of fall mums on the market right now. Gorgeous colors. They are mostly annuals but go ahead and give your garden a tickle of color and plant a few of them. We purchased ten of the fall mums in smaller pots, four inches, and we planted them into our flower boxes. Sure gives the old house a sprucing up with the yellows, golden browns and purples.

• Too funny: Reader Chris Dodd shared this bon mot. “When I was younger, some people who were trying to decide whether I was important or not would ask me what my father did. I would either tell them he was a mime or a one-man band. Discussion over.”

• In a pear tree: There is a pear tree, absolutely laden with fruit, growing over at the old fire hall/new EMT building at Hill Avenue and Kings Road. I have had readers mention this tree to me as it is very much on public display. Here is an interesting back story. In 1987, the fire hall was having an open house. You could bring your kids and they got to sit in a real, red fire engine. I took Max who was ten and Patrick, who was seven at the time. We also took along a pear tree. I asked the captain if we could plant it as gift to the firefighters and as a remembrance of our visit. He said “sure” and the boys and I did the deed, planting the tree. We gave it a bucket of water and left. Twenty-five years later, that tree is gorgeous, and proudly bearing hundreds of pounds of pears. And if you go to pick some of those pears, stop to remember two young boys looking at a pear tree as their dad tells them “one day, this tree will be bigger than you.”

• Garden Tip: For those homeowners and gardeners who are planning on purchasing a new lawn mower, snow blower or rototiller soon, consider this: Take it from someone with thirty-five years in the trade, any power equipment with a Honda motor is worthwhile. Over the years, I have worked with many pieces of equipment and Honda motors were always the most reliable. They start when they are hot and they start when they are cold and that’s what you want your motor to do. When I get together with the guys from the landscaping trade, all of us agree that Honda powered equipment is the only route to go. Gee, for a plug like this, you would think they should send me over something, like a fruit basket.

• Too funny #2: A friend was applying to join The Ukrainian Coop over on Winnipeg Street, at 11th Avenue. You have to be of Ukrainian descent to be a member. The woman taking Ken’s application asked “can you prove that you are Ukrainian?” Ken had a great answer. “Why would I lie about being Ukrainian?”

• A good story worth repeating: I was at a wedding in 2006. A fellow comes up to me, he has had a few drinks. He tells me that he has seen my posters around town and he knows I am an actor. He then tells me that to be an actor, “all you have to do is get up on stage and let it all hang out.” I responded: “Really? You don’t have to take classes, study other actors, work with a coach or a director? Just get up there and ‘let it all hang out’.”

     I asked our fellow what he did for a living and he told me that he was an architect. I couldn’t resist. “You know, I have some paper, a pencil and a ruler at home, I think I will become an architect, too.” He insisted that much more was required. “Training, experience, guidance, and study. Not everyone can be an architect, you know.” That’s good to know that there are a few professions left where you can’t just ‘let it all hang out’ to get the job done.

The fall  colors of a Linden Tree
• And in conclusion: My friend, Gary Robbins, the photographer, posted this at a show of his work: “Just because you own a camera does not mean you are a photographic artist any more than owning a typewriter makes you a Hemingway writer.”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald from sun laden September, Regina, Saskatchewan!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Garden Report #96

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

'Morden Belle' Rose with blue petunias
• Writers write: I have to wonder: What makes a Canadian? Is it the ability to say the sound “eh” at the end of a sentence. Is it being polite to strangers or is it being obsessed with a hockey team? Or is it something else? The reason I am asking is simple. I work part time at a farm/ranch south of town. I have been there for four years. For the past year, I have been working with a man named Obed Ramirez, who is from Mexico. His wife and his two children live on the property with him. He does a wide range of work but his primary job is to look after the landscaping that I have installed. He is a good man. Works hard. Struggles with English but is trying to learn. Loves his two children and his wife. Of note, he loves being in Canada. He feels it is a great country. His children go to school and he doesn’t worry about their safety. He tells me, in his broken English, that where he came from, violence dominates their everyday life.

     My grandparents came here a hundred years ago for the same reason that Obed has come here. To find a better life. To raise his family in peace and quiet. To one day say “I am a Canadian”. It might not happen. The good people over at immigration have ordered him to return to Mexico. Seems the paperwork wasn’t filled out the right way. He’s not supposed to be here.

     Here’s my kick at the can. The man works hard. He works as hard as any Canadian born person I have employed. He is honest and straightforward. He never complains. All he asks for is opportunity and when it is granted, he is grateful. I contrast that with a half dozen people I know who were born here. They got a decent education through the public schools. They have had their chances to do the right thing, but if you offered them a good job, across the street from where they live, they would find reasons to turn it down. The bottom line is they don’t want to work and they are not grateful. They want someone else to fill their hand with goodies.

     Obed wants to work. He is willing. He wants to be a good Canadian and pay his way. We need more people such as Obed Ramirez, not fewer.

• Readers write:

Tina with her two sons
     • Alan Bratt has been a professional actor for many, many years in our province. He weighs in on what has happened in the last two years to our first class, film industry. “I agreed with what you said about the waste of talent resulting from the destruction of the film industry. When I was young, I saw many of my friends leave the province because they wanted to act and there was little opportunity here. And then I saw people like Rhonda Baker and Steven Onda and Kevin Dewalt take huge risks, using real entrepreneurial skills, build an industry. And I saw people like Andrew Gordon, Jay Robertson, Peter LeRocque and Tracie George impress producers from other places with the skill of their work. I saw people like Virginia Thompson create shows like ‘Corner Gas’ and ‘Incredible Stories Studio’. I saw wonderful people like Shannon Jardine and her husband Terry come back to the province, their home, to make films. Best of all, I saw people like Amy Matysio able to keep Saskatchewan as their base while building a career that crosses borders. And then I saw our government flick that away like some dirt on their trousers. There are a lot of fine people in the caucus and I really thought they had a vision for the future. I guess I was wrong.”

     • Joanne Vollbrecht’ has this say about powdery mildew. “Thank you Rod for the info on powdery mildew. I discovered it yesterday for the first time on my perennials in my front yard. I've not done a good job of keeping the yard clear this year so that area was shadier than usual which may have contributed to the mildew. I guess now I can tell my son it wasn't his fault for throwing bad water on the yard.”

     • Craig Livingston forms a team with his mom, as readers. “So you like my mom's lily-o-nine-petals? We were just talking about it and your name came up. Small world.”

     • Penney Pike reads The Garden Report from her home in Calgary. She relays an interesting story, this week. “Had to share this story with you. My sister is working part-time for a big box store that also sells plants. This lady wanted to return petunias and impatiens because, are you ready, a deer ate them! Living it up in God's Country.”

     • Edie Friesen sent along a compliment. “By the way, thanks for all the work of putting The Garden Report together. I can only imagine how long that must take! I often forward it to my son and daughter-in-law, who are creating a ‘Garden of Eden’ in their large, pie shaped, backyard in Maple Ridge.”

     • CJ Katz follows Edie Friesen by issuing her own kudos. “Rod, you’re a swell guy, if I can use an old phrase! Thanks so much for attaching my invite to your newsletter.”

Sandra's garden
• When I was seventeen: At Roberta Nichol’s concert last week, she told the story of being young and filled with confidence. She wrote a letter to Pete Seeger and asked him to perform at The Regina Folk Guild. Why not? He was the father of today’s folk music. Talk about chutzpa. Pete’s wife actually wrote her back, saying that he was a bit busy but thanks for asking. When I was sixteen or seventeen, I was a trumpet player and one of my heroes was Al Hirt. He was playing at The Regina Exhibition, backed up by a stage band of local musicians. I wanted to meet one of the biggest names of the trumpet world in person. How to do it? I made him a gift candle, something that was a hobby of mine at the time. I wrapped it up in a nice box and a gift card. My high school girlfriend and I took in the concert and then we snuck back stage when it was over. A security guard stopped us. I told him that I was a delivery boy and that I had a parcel for Al Hirt. He told me he would give it to Mr. Hirt. With all the balls of a brass monkey, I looked the security guard in the face and asked “are you authorized to sign for Mr. Hirt.” He mumbled a ‘no’ and I brushed past him, knocked on the green room door and this huge man answered. Al Hirt was truly a giant in the physical sense as well as the musical world. I said “Mr. Hirt, I am a trumpet player, just like you, and I made this candle as a gift just for you.” He thanked me, gave me his autograph and politely closed the door. He did not invite us in to chat or to jam into the late hours of the night. If he did, that would have been another story.

• Gardening for the couch surfers: My show, ‘Prairie Gardens’ is being broadcast on City Television, Channel Twelve, these days. I have seen it on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. I don’t own the show so I never know when or where it will appear. Last week’s show was about planting fall bulbs.

• Garden Tip: Now that September is here, it is definitely time to be planning your fall bulbs. I wrote planning, not planting. Planting occurs after a bit of frost has nipped your annuals. This usually means for our area, September 15th to the 30th for a start date. Planting fall bulbs is so worth it. They provide gardeners with spring color, long before annuals are safe to plant.

• Garden Tip: No more fertilizer or plant food for your lawn, perennials, trees or shrubs. The time has passed and now you must allow Mother Nature to begin her dormancy preparations. What you can still fertilize, if required, are your annuals and hanging baskets. These babies are not going to be surviving the winter so keep them green and blooming as long as you want.

• Garden Tip: Definitely time to band your trees against the dreaded cankerworm. The girl cankerworms are too fat to fly, so they will try to climb up your tree to lay their eggs. If you band your trees, you can stop her from making it to the top. Trees that need banding include elms, fruit trees including apples, crabs, cherries and plums. If you want someone to band your trees, give Rick a call at 347-0104.

Trevor and Judith's dahlia
• Good gardeners share #817: Trevor Langen had a query about growing and preserving dahlias. He and his lovely wife, Judith, are fairly new to the world of dahlias. I am no expert but reader Stu Wass has been growing dahlias for many years. So, I put the two of them together and now Trevor and Judith are on the right track. Said it many, many times before. Good gardeners share their knowledge, their time and quite often, a few of their plants.

• Good gardeners share #929: Reader Edie Friesen and I shared this week. She brought me some incredible Mennonite sausage from north of Saskatoon and I returned the favor with some back yard tomatoes. My birthday is coming up in three weeks time and I usually get gifts of garden veggies stuffed into boxes and bags from friends. When I was ten years old, the thought of a birthday gift being beets and onions would have reduced me to tears. Today, you can give me all of the garden veggies you want and I will always be grateful.

• Just wondering: I am a frequent flyer when it comes to our local health district. The Transplant Clinic is always getting them to check out something I own, even if I didn’t know I owned one. This week was my annual cardiac profusion test. In short, checking to see if my ticker can handle the surgery when a donor is found. I was there a little more than four hours. Staff treated me well, so no complaints there. My total time of actual testing, around thirty minutes. With scheduling, I could see being there an hour, perhaps an hour and a half, tops. But I wasn’t. I was there for four hours and another time, I was there for five and a half. I have reached a conclusion: The Health District, values the time of their staff to a much greater degree than their patients. You sit and you sit and you sit. Finally they call your name and somehow, I always feel as if I have won the lottery. I doubt if the CEO or any other administrator of The Health District would have sat in my office for three hours, waiting to have a twenty minute interview with me about their garden. Nope, they would have demanded I be much more efficient.

• Daisy’s Pantry: This is my second time there and it was good. I had their special which was a bowl of lentil soup and a ham sandwich. The lentil soup was basic and needed something more to spice it up. Whether than was cumin, coriander or lemon, I can’t decide. The bread was homemade and the ham was real ham, off the bone, not one of those processed pieces of crap. I get so tired of places serving up meat that had to go through any process at all. Just kill the pig and smoke the ham. It’s that simple. Didn’t mean to sound grouchy, but ham does not have to be complicated.

Trollius makes many a gardener smile
• Abstractions: This house form cappuccino shop on Rose Street, near 14th, offers up the best lentil soup in the city, next to the soup made by my Mrs. My good wife turns out a lentil and lemon soup to die for. At Abstractions, they have a very good one, just not worth dying for, but better than most places you get lentil soup. Definitely worth visiting. The kindly gentleman who runs the place is a wonderful conversationalist, if he is not too busy looking after the kitchen.

• Lentils 101: A few years ago most of us didn’t know what lentils were. Only a few vegetarian hippies knew that lentils were a wonderful thing to cook with. Today, we are growing many fields of lentils and they are being purchased all over the world. Turns out we grow a really great crop of lentils. Nicky Makris, everyone’s friend from Nicky’s CafĂ©, tells this story. Nicky was back in his home village in Greece. At the little grocery store, they were selling bags of lentils, shipped from Richardson, Saskatchewan. Nicky was so proud.

• Different strokes: Patrick (Number Three Son) was home for a few days. He quipped that his father-in-law, Ray, asks him to go for a beer: Whereas his dad (that’s me) wants to drive him around town showing him landscaping jobs. Well, looking at landscaping jobs is healthier and you never get the police asking you for a breathalyzer test on a garden tour.

• Fifty years and counting: Yesterday, I put on my Sunday go to meeting suit and my company manners. It was Ray and Angie Markwart’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a party over at The Living Spirit Center. With their Ukrainian background, no surprise here, we ate cabbage rolls, perorgies and smoked sausage. No jelly salad as it was not a formal affair. Pastor Carla got the ‘kids’ to renew their vows which were first delivered on September 1st, 1962. She asked Ray for his secret to fifty years of wedding bliss and Ray cracked up the house with “Well, as a painter, I was high on paint fumes for at least half of the time.” I kind of thought the women required us men to say at a vow renewal, that we promise to be better husbands for the next fifty years. The least we can do is to say the words.

• Chicken marinade: I love to barbecue but chicken has never been my favorite thing to grill. I made up this marinade on Monday and it worked out just fine. I combined together two ounces of olive oil, two ounces of lemon juice, a tablespoon of liquid smoke and one of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, along with two ounces of Hoi Sin Sauce and two ounces of honey. Then I whisked in a bit of salt, pepper and the mandatory garlic. I had bone in chicken breasts and I ran them through the marinade which in reality was now more of a glaze. I grilled them on high for five minutes and then ran them through the marinade again when I turned them over. I did this a few times during cooking and brought them to the table in the marinade/glaze now turned sauce. Very, very good. The sauce was spooned out onto the accompanying vegetables.

Another shot of Sandra's garden
• Are you certain: On television, they were interviewing a ninety-five year old man on how to stay happily married for seventy-five years. He answered that the key was to “never let the sun set on an argument”. I think, at his age, the old boy must have forgotten a few of the bell ringers him and the Mrs. must have had sixty years ago.

Vicarious thrill, so what: I was driving across The Albert Street Bridge, early on Saturday morning. In the car ahead of me, there was a couple in their fifties. The woman was driving. She was just a reefing on her passenger, who I assumed was her husband. The finger was wagging to emphasize key points to her speech. Even from the back, the man had the look of someone with very little to say. I get home. I tell the family at the breakfast table about what I had witnessed. Adding fuel to the fire, my Mrs. says “you really derive a vicarious thrill when its someone else in hot water with their wife, don’t you?” And her point is…

• Thanks for reading…from the sunshine here in Regina, Rod McDonald !