Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Garden Report #133

Sunday, May 26th, 2013 

• Writers write: Who do you get your information from and more importantly, who do you trust to provide you with accurate information. In the gardening world, there are many who hold themselves out to be experts. You have a question, they have the answer. I am always suspicious of anyone who always has the answer and are never stumped. I have been in the gardening trade since 1977. I have worked with thousands of gardeners, listening to their problems and their solutions. I still get stumped. I still see things I have never seen before. Mother Nature surprises me and she does so all the time.

Tulips growing in Sandra's garden
     There was a woman who used to lecture me, all the time, at my garden center, on how things should be grown. She was very much an expert in horticulture. She told me so. One day, I dropped by her house on my way home from work. It was a disaster. Weeds, junk, nothing pruned, nothing maintained. It was the worst garden on the block. “Hmmm” I thought to myself. Now, you might think this story is unusual, but it’s not. The City used to have a horticulturalist, who lectured on radio and television. He had the answers to all your questions and sadly, he had a very large following, who listened to every word he spoke. One of my friends lived near his home. What The City’s expert called a ‘work in progress’, his neighbours called a giant mess. His garden was in absolute chaos, the worst on the block. There was nothing growing that he talked about in his presentations. “Hmmm” I thought to myself.

     Same thing happened at Wascana Center. When I started out in this trade, thirty six years ago, there was a horticulturalist, an expert, at Wascana Center. She would brow beat me with her knowledge at horticultural meetings. She assured me that she knew everything and I knew nothing. I listened to her, after all she was an expert and I was a beginner. Then one of my staff told me that she lived three doors down from him and would I like to look at her garden? He assured me I was in for a surprise. I did that. I dropped by to visit her garden. The front steps were falling off the house, the sidewalk had collapsed over the sewer line and the place was filled with weeds, three feet tall. Nowhere was there to be seen all these flowers and perennials she talked to me about. It was the worst garden on the block. “Hmm” I thought to myself, again.

     I have a garden that I am proud of, the one around back. I show you photos of it, all the time. My front garden, I keep it respectable but nothing fancy. In my back garden, the one surrounded by the brick wall, is a garden that visitors use the word “wow” when they visit. It is there that I garden, for myself, my wife, our pets and the birds. If you visit, then that is a delightful bonus.

     I am a good gardener but I am not an expert. Even after all these years, I am not qualified as an expert. I am different than those who hold themselves out to be experts, because I know that I don’t know everything. When I have a problem, I do not hesitate to reach out to William Hrycan (The Gardener) in Saskatoon, Michel Touchette (Jeffries’) in Portage, Rob Van Zanten (Pan American) in Surrey, Garfield Marshall (Advance Orchards) in Grand Forks and Gerry Aubin or Les and Calvin Vanderveen, who all live in Carman. I reach out to these people because they are very experienced members of the horticultural trade. They grow plants for a living and they have such a wide knowledge base. I get stumped, all the time, but I know who to call on when that happens. The answers to the questions that readers ask in The Garden Report are answered from a knowledge base far wider than my experience. The answers come from a slew of people, with many years of gardening behind them. Rob V.Z. grows millions of roses so just maybe, he might know something. And Garfield Marshall has grown just about every apple every produced on the prairies. He reminds all of us “that just when we think we are smart, Mother Nature makes fools of us all.” Great comment.
Pink peonies from last year's garden

     The answers you get, I try to keep simple. Above all else, I don’t want readers to think that gardening is complicated. It’s not. But, the best gardeners follow a few simple and basic rules. That’s how you get a lovely garden. I try to present those simple and basic rules in a language that all can understand. And when I do tell you about planting tulip bulbs, it is because I was the dude planting them. I didn’t read it in a book. When I complain about having to weed the chickweed, it’s because my back is sore from doing it, not because I read it in a book. There are those of us who garden, then there are the experts. Long rant finished.

• Readers write:

• Penny Ward Wolfson has joined our ranks as subscriber. She writes: “I’ve been covering the desk at Beth Jacob Synagogue while Suzanna is away and have had the great pleasure of reading your column while at work. This is my last week and I’d love keep up with your Garden Report now that I know it exists. Could you add my email to your list please?”

• Roberta Nichol tells it like it is: “Wow! I've been on the planet for sixty years and yet it utterly amazes me how, with one, good, solid rain, shrubs, ground cover and flowers will grow almost an inch. I'm glad one can still be in awe after all those years.”

• Last week, I included a bit called ‘Rayanna’s Report’. Her daddy, Patrick, enjoyed it. “I have read Rayanna's report four times now and it always makes me laugh.”

This is the stubborn tulip that Kristi Liske writes about
• Kristi Liske has a small story to share with us. “I read The Garden Report on Sunday and noticed you were talking about the tulips in Ottawa. I thought I would share mine and Mike’s tulip story (attached you will find a picture). Four years ago, we moved into our house. The landscaping was non-existent except for a few tulips in the front. So as a landscaper you can imagine that Mike had to redo the yard and with that, came digging up the front yard and re-grading. Now, the tulips sadly didn’t make it....or so we thought. The next year this one lonely little tulip popped up, so Mike pulled it out after it bloomed. Eventually we finished the landscaping in that area with landscape fabric and natural rock. Needless to say that lonely little stubborn tulip came up again the following year, this time we decided to just leave it. It was obviously meant to be in that space and it adds a little smile to my face every spring. Just thought I would share.”

• Kate Berrigner has something to add to the ongoing conversation and she brings a smile with her. “Speaking as a person with a law degree and as a wife of a lawyer, both my husband and I can attest to the fact that those who are given a good brain do not necessarily also receive common sense as part of the package. I’ve known some incredibly intelligent people to do some incredibly unintelligent things. Also, I would pay $2 to talk with you and Maureen on Saturday, if you decide to go that route.”

• June Blau lives across the street and she shares this household tip. “Thanks again, Rod, love your blog. Here is a useful tip for your readers: To keep fresh fruit longer & lovelier, when you bring it home, give it a bath in a solution of 4 c. water to 1 cup white vinegar, spin dry gently in a salad spinner and store in the fridge (I use a Tupperware storage bin with vents closed for berries). We are impressed with how the strawberries responded to this coddling!”

• Margaret Bessai is not only a faithful reader but she is also The Grand Pulbah of The Arts’ Festival this year. “Thanks Rod! I am just about to sit down with my coffee, and savour your writing!”

• Murray Wallace likes it when I tickle his funny bone. “Good evening, Rod. I am still laughing after I read your grandbaby’s Report. Keep them coming. I look forward to your weekly Reports. Thank you.”

• Garden Tip: Tulips are up and in full bloom wherever they were planted. A big hurrah as I adore my tulips. My own garden is filled with colour throughout. It is one of the best displays I have had. I think I planted a thousand tulips last year, maybe more, I forgot to count. My fears that the melting snow might rot the bulbs was unfounded. Tucked away into a corner behind my American Elm giant is one lonely ‘Apricot Beauty’ tulip. I planted those over ten years ago and all had withered away as the seasons passed, but one survivor came through this spring. I am calling it ‘Lazarus’. Tulips give gardeners a full four weeks (sometimes six weeks) of colour before annuals can be planted. For the new gardener, tulips must be planted in the fall.
I planted over a thousand tulips last fall-this is from today!

• Garden Tip: What to do? Everything to do! Rake, tidy, fertilize, plant, pot up your containers and baskets. Repeat. There was so much to do this past week in the garden that I didn’t think I would be getting out #133. That was until Friday when it rained and then I had an excuse to be inside and write.

• Rayanna’s Report: Thanks for all the kind words for this new writer. I am back in Edmonton. My mom and I flew back on Wednesday. I miss my Grampa. I miss everyone in Regina except for that guy who lights his head on fire at the football games. Grampa ‘s fun to hang out with. He told me about how his grandfather was born in 1882, his dad in 1904, he in 1951, my dad in 1979 and me in 2012. He calls it history. I call it really old stuff. Grampa told me that we are descended from hundreds of years of Scottish sheep farmers and Newfie fishermen. We’re not related to anyone famous or notorious but we are related to each other. Does that make sense? Get this, on the singing front. Grampa does like two hundred verses of ‘This Old Man’ to get me to sleep and this week he invented a new one. It’s called ‘What do we do with the drunken baby’. It sounds like ‘What do we do with the drunken sailor’ but with funnier words. He dances when he sings that one even though the old boy has one gimp knee. I would tell you more but there’s a warm bottle of milk waiting for me and duty calls.

• Arts’ Festival: We took in two good concerts. The Regina Mandolin Orchestra and The Jazz Bandits. Both groups are community bands and played their gigs at Westminster. Who was not out for The Arts’ Festival Street Fair? What a monster that has become. I would hesitate a guess of thirty to forty thousand people were out for this year’s edition. You could sign a petition, listen to a blue grass band, eat a pound of fudge, buy a belt or a sign for your lawn or a pair of earrings, all along 13th. I think they said there were 350 booths this year and I believe it, though I didn’t count. As for our readers, I got exceptionally good quality hugs, with Maureen’s blessing, from Margo Soriano, Bev Monk, Boopy Singh, Robin Poitras, Dani Mario, Marlo V., Chad Jacklin, Margaret Bessai and someone who I don’t think I know but they seemed to think I know them. I gave them a hug anyways and why not? This is Canada. It was a great afternoon, worthy of several exclamation marks, but I reserve the right to edit myself!

Forsythia in bloom
• Blooming this week: I have seen forsythias, Schubert Cherry, apple, cherry and Mayday in bloom along with the fall bulbs.

• Writers tip: I try not to use the same strong word, a second time, in a sentence or a paragraph. It is okay to use basic words again such as I, they, we, are, us, our, then and so on. What you don’t want to repeat are words such as phenomenal, powerful, incredible, overwhelming, scintillating, outrageous and similar words to those. If you do, you lose your effectiveness.

• Garden Tip: Use white flowers to separate strong colours from each other. When I plant my impatiens, I use white ones to separate the violets, lilac, mauve and pink ones. Another thing that is effective is to plant your colours in batches. I use three trays of pink impatiens, then a tray of white and then three trays of mauve. Better to do that, than to alternate each flower.

• Garden Tip: If you have a small bush or perennial to transplant, you should get that done a.s.a.p. Best to dig as big of a root ball around the plant as you can lift. Plant it into the new hole, slightly deeper than its original hole, back fill with a peat soil mix and fertilize with a 10 52 10 fertilizer which is a root starter fertilizer. Also, I have found transplant success using a Plant Starter that contains IBA which stimulates root development.

This is my garden of solitude, with me sitting on the swing,
at the back of the garden.
• True, true, true: A few people, including my Mrs., ask why I spend a couple thousand bucks on bedding plants every spring, for my garden. Here is my rationalization: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t use drugs and I don’t gamble. Those four things, save me lots of money, perhaps twenty grand a year. If I smoked a pack of day, it would still amount to more money than what I spend on all the beautiful flowers I buy and grow. Somehow, I feel I am still ahead of the game. I might have an addiction to lovely plants but at least it is a healthy addiction. No one has ever gotten upset because they caught me embracing a lovely begonia basket or kissing a pot of pansies. I rest my case, if not my sermon.

• I have told this one before: Many years ago, I had a woman try to return a hanging basket of geraniums that she had purchased the year before. She told me that she had waited several weeks for them to start growing again but nothing had happened. I told her that geraniums are an annual and that they only grow one year. She told me that I was “ridiculous. No one buys something that only grows one year!” So, ask me again if I miss the greenhouse business?

• Garden Tip: If you like yellow in your garden, use it sparingly, in accent groups. That way, it will shine through. It is such a strong colour that if you use too much of it, it will be lost. Now, every reader who thinks they are an artist is going to disagree, but that’s the chance I take, putting it out there. Middle aged, straight men have no business commenting on colour selection according to my gay friends.
This is one of the hanging baskets
 I am selling.  I have about a dozen different

Plant Sale

• Where: My driveway at Regina Avenue and Angus (2635 Regina)

• When: Next Saturday, June 1st, 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. (just one hour or two at the most) until everything is sold.

• What: Some plants I grew, some plants Brad Crassweller grew and some extra plants that I bought from Vanderveen’s but now I don’t need. This includes tomatoes, cucumbers, a few dracaenas, lots of dill, lots of basil, lots of cilantro, peppers, lots of strawberries, a few daylilies, oregano, thyme, rosemary, a few trays of petunias, a few trays of impatiens, some beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants. Everything is well grown and is priced accordingly. This is not a ‘fire sale’. I am not giving plants away.

• Why: I have extras and so does Brad, with his new greenhouse down by Cinema Six.

• Who: Me and Brad.

Brad is growing these basil for sale this Saturday
• Help me out: Please don’t come early or tell me a sob story about how you won’t be in town on Saturday and need to come by Wednesday night. I want to keep this simple. Saturday morning, for one hour, I am having a driveway sale and then that’s it...I am retired again at ten a.m. I only accept cash. While you are here, you are welcome to have a wander through my private back garden. Some (not all) of the tulips will be still in bloom. This sale is only open to the neighbours and to readers of The Garden Report. I am not putting out any ads. If it rains, we will be selling the plants inside the garage. If you want to drop by just to say hello, that is great. I would be pleased to see you.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in sunny and windy, but thank God no snow, Regina!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Garden Report #132

Sunday, May19th, 2013

A fresh cut bunch of tulips from my garden
• Writers write: Coming this week is our annual Cathedral Village Arts’ Festival. Along with The Fringe Festival and The Folk Festival, these are my three favourite gigs of the summer. People who live in Regina are often the first to complain that there is nothing to do, yet this Arts’ Festival wears me out, going from venue to venue, each May. Artists, poets, writers, musicians, dancers and performers present new and established work. We get to see everything from the fantastic to the ‘not quite ready’ for public display stuff. Most people think of The Festival as being the incredibly successful street fair coming up this Saturday. Not true. From Monday to Saturday, there are gigs happening all over the 13th Avenue area. Get yourself a program (available online) and we will see you there.

Just a short rant: Each year, The Festival organizers ask two things of people attending The Street Fair this Saturday. Due to the massive crowds, they ask that people not bring their dogs or ride their bikes through the crowds of people. It’s just not safe. So, last year, who do I see riding his bike, with his dog being pulled behind on a leash, but one of our local lawyers. Now, I understand that going to law school requires some decent, high school marks but you might think that at law school, they would have a course called ‘You have a brain so please use it!’ What the (insert bad word) was he thinking? And seeing as he is a lawyer, perhaps he could answer this question: Why, is it illegal to knock stupid people off of their bicycles, while riding through a crowd? Why is it against the law? Should it not be categorized as a public service? Just a note for all my cyclist friends: Be cool and ride your bike to the Festival, not through it.

• Readers write: Jean McKay sent along this interesting tidbit. “Do my G.R. fellow readers know that rhubarb is technically a vegetable, related to buckwheat?”

• Audrey Drummond had this nice thing to say: “Good morning, Rod. Thanks for your Report and the picture of your granddaughter-beautiful. Her smile is heart warming.”

• Roberta Nichol remembers her mother, who now resides in heaven. “Ah yes, our moms. Great ladies. I will always and forever appreciate my mom for her gift of music. One of my earliest memories of her encouragement was that at age three or four, I got my first record player. Up every morning, around 5:30 or so, playing Brenda Lee's ‘Jambalaya’, or Doris Day's ‘Que Sera Sera’, which was a 78 rpm! Without that record player, I don't know what I would have done. I guess, maybe she had seen an inkling of the talent in that raucous, little girl with the juicy, spitty lisp, who always got the words mixed up.”

• Laura Pettit sent this thank you along: “Thanks Rod! I truly enjoyed your story and memory of your mother. We all have many fond memories of our mothers, grandmothers and aunts, in addition to those that come with the job of being a mother. It truly is the hardest job one can ever hold and one never has the time to attend the interview!”
A shot of my woodland garden

• Georgia Hearn sends along this message: “Wonderful issue! You give recognition where due, you add humor, interest in food and coffee sites, and most of all, an appreciation for gardening and love of life. It is a pleasure to be part of your readership. Your mother would be proud. And thanks again, your advice never garden is better for it.”

• Sherrie Tutt loves her coffee. “Loved #131, as always. I'd like to add a good coffee house. The French Press (beside Shoppers Drug Mart on Albert South) makes great coffee, breakfast burritos that are addicting as well as assorted sweet and nutritious goodies. Best of all, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming with your choice of big easy chairs or small bistro tables. The owner cares for the place lovingly with fresh flowers on the table and nostalgic prints on the walls. My daughter and I head there for a great visit the minute she hits town, especially when the weather is a mean minus thirty.”

• Ray Morgan works with pest control at The City. I asked him about their tree banding time lines and here is Ray’s response. “Typically we take the bands off at the end of May. Crews have completed banding a couple of weeks ago and are now on the final stage of monitoring the bands for female moths. Very few numbers so far, it may mean very low cankerworm populations this year.”

Canadian Artist Rose 'Felix Leclerc'
• Garden Tip: It is okay to start your fertilizer program this week. For young trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, I use 10 30 20 or 15 30 15. Either one is good. For my lawn, I use 17 19 0 with 14% sulphur. This odd ball fertilizer is available at CPS on McDonald Street, north of Ross Avenue. Now, as to fertilizer recommendations. There are those gardeners who swear up and down by a certain fertilizer and only that one. Here is what I have observed over thirty-five years of working with thousands of gardeners. The regularity of the gardener in applying the fertilizer is of greater importance than the numbers of the fertilizer. Good gardeners are consistent with all of their gardening activities and the plants show the result of that consistency.

• Garden Tip: I am not thrilled with the lawn fertilizers that are being sold by the box stores. You know who I am talking about. Lowe’s, Home Depot, Rona, Costco, Superstore and Canadian Tire. All the bags I have seen are high in nitrogen and offer very little else. Here is the kick. Nitrogen will always green up your lawn but what about the other requirements such as root builders.

• Garden Tip: Very important is the aeration of your lawn. You can rent equipment or you can hire someone with a power aerator to carry out the task. Aeration removes plugs from your lawn and the holes allow water, fertilizer and oxygen to penetrate into the root zone. Aeration helps to soften the hard packed clay soil that we have here in Regina. I do believe in this important step and I had my lawn aerated on Tuesday.

'Jackpot' tulips from my garden
• Downton Abbey fanatics: This in from CJ Katz: Downton Abbey returns on January 5th. Breaking news: O’Brian will not be back.

• Tulip time: The incredible display in Ottawa has been in bloom for several weeks now but mine has just started. So far, so good. I have a few early doubles up as well as the purples and whites in my ‘sun trap garden’. The rest will follow, as the garden soil warms up.

Canadian Artist Rose 'Campfire'

• A booth, really?: Every year, we go to The Street Fair on 13th (coming up this Saturday) and we talk and we talk and we talk. One year, we did not make it to the end of 13th as we were talked out. Every year, I tell Maureen that it would be easier for us to rent a small both along 13th and set up two extra chairs, a small table and set out a sign that reads ‘Talk to Maureen and Rod-$2.00’ and we could sit there, drinking our tea and chatting away to friends we haven’t seen forever and a day. It would be much easier on our legs if not our larynx.

• Reseeding time: For gardeners who have lawn damage, this is a perfect time to reseed. This year, my back lawn was very thin due to last year’s intense shade and this winter’s snow mould. I spread a layer of peat moss, about half and inch thick over the entire lawn. I sprinkled a mix of grass seeds that contained both a Kentucky blue grass and a Creeping Red Fescue. I then applied a 17 19 0 fertilizer and lightly watered. Now I wait for Mother Nature to perform her miracle.

• ‘Sweet’ on Broad: No! Read this again. I was at ‘Sweet’ on Broad Street, a cappuccino/bakery joint. Reader Kirk Bellamy and I had lunch there on Friday. It was okay. Not great, but okay. We both had the chicken noodle soup which was rather bland, nothing special at all. Kirk had a prosciutto Panini which was tasty. You have to know, before you take your first bite, that this sandwich is going to be salty. I ordered the chicken salad and it was served on a multi grain bread. It was good, not great, but good. Service was excellent. Kirk had a decent dark roast coffee and we passed on their baked desserts, which looked really, really tempting. There cinnamon buns are excellent (I have had them many times before) and one of the few places where they are made in the baking powder biscuit style. Total for the two of us including tax was thirty bucks. ‘Sweet’ is located in the heritage building across the street from CBC, close to College Avenue.

• Misappropriation of words: I wrote, last week, that one of our boys called underwear “hunger wear” when small. Rob Van Zanten responded with his kids waiting for him at the Vancouver Airport, as he came down the “alligator”. Added into this mix, when Number Three Son was four or five, we drove by a television dish and he responded, “look, they have a plate!” Close, very close. 
Rob Van Zanten is geting ready to ship his shrubs

• Early bird special: I was zonked out on Friday night. Zonked? Is that a real word? Spell check is letting it go. I digress. I was asleep early and up early, as in a little after four a.m. I checked out my front lawn with the aid of just a hint of the dawn yet to come. Two robins were hunting for worms and immediately I thought of the adage. If I have to tell you, specifically, what the adage is, I will lose my writer’s licence for over explaining. They are very strict at The Guild these days.

• Not a sweet old lady: About five years ago, I was a volunteer at The Street Fair for The Cathedral Village Arts’ Festival. The City expects the organizers to keep each intersection open so that fire trucks and ambulances can pass through. Now you know why there are no booths at intersections. Makes sense, right? An elderly woman parked her car, right in the middle of the street, blocking access to and through the Garnet Street intersection. Myself and another volunteer saw her and we said “It is important that you not park there as you will block emergency vehicles if they have to get into The Festival.” Her response: “You two are shit heads!” Nice language, Grandma.

Rayanna is now writing for The Garden Report

• Rayanna’s Report: This is my first time as a writer, seeing as I am only six months old. My Grampa Rod, he’s the funny looking dude with the grey beard, usually does all the writing, but not today. Can we share a secret? I have a plan to wrap him around my baby finger. Actually, that is already done. He keeps talking about setting aside money for my university education. What a drag! Here is my order of priorities: First, a bike when I am three. Second, a pony when I am seven. Third, a Mustang Convertible when I am sixteen. Of course, a diamond tiara because he thinks I am a princess, goes without saying. The rest of the details I will fill out later. And just between you and me, sometimes I pretend I am asleep so he will stop singing me lullabies. Have you ever heard the dude sing? He can write, I will grant you that, but as a singer, OMG!

Canadian Artist Rose 'Emily Carr'
• Canadian Artist Series Roses: There are now four releases of this wonderful series including the new 'Campfire'.  I would not recomend these roses if they did not include the finest of Canadian breeding. 

• Thanks for reading…see you at The Arts’ Festival…Rod McDonald in it’s ‘kind of summer time’, Regina!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Garden Report #131

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

A Special Blessing for All Mothers Today
“God could not be everywhere so he invented mothers” 

Mothers are always remembered
• Writers write: It is another Mothers’ Day, the second Sunday of May. No doubt, many of you have some wonderful stories of your mother to share, and I would be pleased to read them.

Sons have a special relationship with their mothers. I will vouch for that statement. One of my fondest memories is being six years old and learning to ride my bicycle. I was a ‘big boy’ and no longer wished to be seen riding my trike. After supper, each night in the spring of 1957, Mom would take me out for my ride. She would hold the back of the bike seat while I pedalled. One night, I said to Mom “we are going really fast!” as my little legs pumped up and down. I looked behind and Mom was a hundred feet back. She had let go of the bike. I felt the exhilaration of riding the bike by myself and the fear of not having my Mom to prop me up. For those who are a bit slow on the uptake, this is a metaphor for life itself.

I was fortunate. I got to keep my Mom until I was fifty-eight, while many others lost their moms much sooner. I appreciated that. When my mother was dying, just before she passed, I spoke the only words I could muster and said “thank you for being my Mom.” Those six words encompassed our life together and how I felt.

The next day, my sibs and I gathered at the funeral home to make the arrangements. The funeral director, a lovely woman, asked if we wanted to spend one last time with Mom, in their chapel. I was dubious of the point of this offer. I hesitated. The woman said “some people find it beneficial.” I put my scepticism aside and went into the chapel. There were candles lit, Mom was in her favourite dress, lying in her coffin, looking as if she were asleep. My sister and I gathered ourselves emotionally, knowing that we would not see her again, until it is our time to grace the steps of heaven, and we asked Mom to forgive us for all the trouble we had caused her. Now, if you know my sister and I, and you remember us from when we were teenagers, you already know we had a very strong need to ask Mom for forgiveness. What we put that poor woman through when we were teenagers. We needed to do that. Thank her for being our Mom and ask her forgiveness.

I still celebrate Mothers’ Day. Maureen is the mother of our three adult sons. Lisa is the mother of our granddaughter. Mothers surround us in the neighbourhood. Let me assure all of you that even after they pass away, mothers still look after their children no matter how old we are. Whenever I cross the street, I will always hear my mother’s voice saying “now look both ways and don’t cross until it is safe to do so.”

• Readers write:

• Sandra Rayson always has nice things to say and when she says nice things about me, that is even better. Humility is something I still must work on before I meet with St. Peter. “I received The Garden Report #130 with much gratitude & respect for your efforts & faithfulness. Even if you never win a Juno or Emmy, I hope you know how much heartfelt respect & gratitude there is out there for you in the world, particularly this community which you have served faithfully for years. Please feel free to publish any or all of the above in the subsequent issues as they come from my heart.”

• Denise Cook issues a correction on my behalf, which aids in the development of my humility. “Sir Paul is Wednesday, August 14th not Monday.”

• Coffee lovers unite! CJ gives us another place to check out, rate and discuss. It’s almost as if there is homework when reading The Garden Report. “Rod – apropos Frank Flegel’s comment. I’m now convinced that the best cappuccino in Regina is at The Artful Dodger. Ordered one this weekend, for the first time since they got their machine and took a cappuccino seminar with Collective Coffee owner from Saskatoon. I was in heaven. This is traditional capp – meaning, it doesn’t taste like a milky latte – it’s an excellent balance of coffee, steamed milk and foam. They have really figured out the micro foam method. It was creamy and strong throughout the entire drink. They serve Intelligentsia coffee, by the way, which is an excellent small batch roaster. If you love a great capp, this will be an experience.”

• Roberta Nichol shows why she is the resident President of The Good Eaters’ Club-Garden Report Division. “I'd like to get myself down to the Farmer's Market--- is it on Wednesday, as well, now, or just Saturdays at the moment? I'd love to get my paws on a bunch of rhubarb. That's one of my favourite spring flavours, rhubarb. I have a coffee cake recipe with rhubarb that's to die for. It's also good in salads--- roasted, with a bit of sugar on it, to provide a glaze. Mmmmm..... and of course, muffins, along with strawberries.”

• Dani Mario was also in a mood for issuing compliments. I am beginning to wonder how much this pampering is going to cost me. “...and you, from ‘proficient blogger’ to ‘why haven't you written a book yet’?! Still loving your musings.”
Cherry Lane Greenhouse

• Garden Tip: If you have a lot of shade in your yard, but still need a good groundcover, there are two that will fill in the larger areas, fairly quickly. The first is quite well known and has several names. ‘Snow on the Mountain’ is the most common name but others call it ‘Variegated Goutweed’ or ‘Bishops’ Goutweed’. There are gardeners who will turn up their noses at this plant but I am not a snob. This plant grows very fast and fills in lots of territory and if that is your need, then go with it. Here is the kicker. It is very aggressive and it can spread into unwanted areas if you are not vigilant. I have it in my yard and because I am a very attentive gardener, it rarely jumps into beds where it is not supposed to. When it does, it gets chopped out before it can spread. If you need some, I can let you dig a few clumps from my garden, no charge. The second plant is not near as aggressive but it does a lovely job as a ground cover in the shade. It is Lamium, also known as ‘Arch Angel’. There are several varieties so read up and choose the color and variety that works best for you.

• This one you won’t believe: Now, I am the first to admit that I can be a ‘Chatty Cathy’ at times but last Sunday, I was turned into ‘Listening Larry’. I wanted to go for a walk and every block or two, one of my wonderful neighbours emerged from their homes and engaged me in conversation. It has been a long winter, we all agree, but I really wanted to cover some territory. I also, didn’t want to be rude. So I listened for awhile. You might think “what’s the big deal?” I was stopped seven times and my one hour walk turned into more than two hours. Maureen suggests the alternative is to be a jerk and “then no one will ever stop to speak to you”. Okay, okay. The complaint is finished.

• Difficult topic: Reader Ed Heidt is concerned and asks: Will you ever receive a kidney transplant? He writes “I am sort of surprised that there is no comment about your plea for a kidney from the week before. Any responses to that?” Rod’s note: There were four readers who expressed an interest. One has already been eliminated due to a prior illness. It is such a difficult decision that I protect the privacy of anyone even thinking of the being tested. Also, I do not want anyone who is considering being tested to think I am in the clear, as candidates get turned down for many different reasons. The more people who come forward, the better my chances will be. In short, I am still looking for that ‘gift of life’, a new kidney for me, albeit a used kidney.

• Tree bands: Tree bands should be left on until after all of the frost is out of the ground. Usually, the end of May is adequate. This year, I have not seen very many insects captured in these sticky traps. Hopefully, this means that the cankerworm population is on the decline. Wouldn’t that be a welcomed event?

Green grass such as this is well looked after
• Rabbit damage: Those cute little bunnies can do a lot of damage to your trees and shrubs. If they have been gnawing at your ornamentals, best to leave them for a few more weeks. Let the plant leaf out and see how much damage was done. If the bark was stripped off of the main stem, you usually have a problem. If it was only stripped on the lateral branches, then it is usually survivable. Again, give the plant a bit of time and see. Mother Nature rewards patience.

• Gardeners live good lives: We were at a banquet for ‘Wings Over Wascana’, a nature conservatory group, on Tuesday. We were the guests of Landscape Architect Ingrid Thiessen. I ran into a long time customer of mine who is a dedicated gardener and a naturalist. I asked how his garden was coming this year and he let me know that he hadn’t done very much, so far. I suspected I knew the answer but I asked the question anyways, “is your health failing?” It is. He only has four to six months left to live but there he was, out supporting the wildflower and bird people as he has done for many years. He knows his legacy. We visited for awhile, knowing that this would probably be the last time we spoke and he told me “I have no regrets and no resentments.” Gardeners are optimists. Gardeners understand the cycle of life.

• Great name: When our one of our sons was learning to speak, he referenced underwear as ‘hunger wear’. Now, if you can’t write at least six jokes from that give away, then you are not trying.
Valley River, Manitoba

• Garden Tip: Last week, I stressed the importance of checking and adjusting your sprinklers in the spring. I actually followed my own advice and found that one of my heads had come off (easy to put back on), one was broken off and one was missing the center, spray pattern part. This is not unusual, after the long winter.

• Flood report: Regina and area was not hit bad, in spite of our record amount of snow. What saved us were three things: a)The long, slow melt. The water did not come all at one time. b)The ground was dry from last fall and absorbed much of the snow pack and c)The fact that we were better prepared, than ever before, added to our saving grace. Even though the banks were not overflowing with water, I am still a supporter of The City’s preparation of sand bags, just in case. I hate fighting rear guard battles as does The City.

• Flooding in 1969: In the spring of 1969, Lumsden was under siege from an overflowing river. The call went out for volunteers to save the town. The school board asked for the senior students at Central Collegiate to help with the sand bags. They sent out a bus for us, we were allowed to cut class and the added bonus was that many more girls volunteered than boys. So, why wouldn’t I have done my part? We boarded the buses and they took us out to a sandbagging station and we started filling those burlap bags up. It was great fun. Twenty guys and about eighty girls. “Here. Let me lift that for you. Have you noticed what big muscles I have?” I was seventeen, what did you expect? How many times have I written that volunteer work always has its benefits and rewards.

A University of Saskatchewan lily introduction
• Low hanging fruit: In the news, recently, has been the story of Canadians who have off shore accounts. Apparently, some have been hiding money in The Cook Islands, Switzerland, The Bahamas and so on. According to the news, Revenue Canada seldom goes after these people as it would require many man hours, resources they claim they don’t have. Instead, Revenue Canada likes to search out low hanging fruit. The easy pickings, albeit low return investigations. Let me vouch for that. I pay my taxes. I don’t cheat. I am similar to most Canadians in my honest behaviour. I claim the deductions allowed me, such as charitable donations and medical expenses. Friday, I get a letter, demanding proof of those donations and medical expenses. Neither one of the claims is high or unusual. But, rather than chase down the millions in off shore revenue, they hope to sniff out a buck or two by going after people like me. They did this last year and everything matched up except for one prescription for thirty bucks that had to be moved into the next year. This is not a personal rant. I will send them their proof, just like I did last year. Rather, it is a more important question: When will Revenue Canada start going after the big bucks, rather than small but easy ones? Does the phrase ‘Penny wise-pound foolish’ enter into this equation?

Rayanna at six months-my lovely granddaughter

• Great show: Jodi Sadowsky knocked the socks off of her audiences, earning standing ovations for ‘Kafka’s Monkey’. We were there Friday night and Jodi’s character posed that Darwinian question, how far from the apes are we? If you are reading this early enough, there is one last performance at The Artesian at eight p.m., Sunday.

• And your point is: I ran into Dave Wessel on Saturday. He commented, “both of us get into trouble, the difference being, you are proud of it.”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Garden Report #130

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

A yellow begonia with a blue pansy in front
• Readers write: None of us like government regulations. We chafe a the bit, sometimes, grumbling about our rights. The recent tax guide asked us to deduct Line 47 from Line 53 and then divide that number by 17% of last year’s net income. Okay, so I made that one up, but I wasn’t’ too far off with the complexities, was I?

Then there are the building codes that govern everything from the size of a shopping mall to the incline of a sidewalk. For the most part we tend not to pay attention to building codes, that is, until something goes wrong. Like when a shopping mall collapses. Building codes or the lack of them have been in the news this week, with the collapse of the factory building in Bangladesh. Four hundred people were killed because there is little enforcement of how things are built in that country.

Why I am on my high horse about this innocuous subject is for years, I built things. Where there was a code I followed it or exceeded it. Code is a minimum. You can always over build, increasing the strength and the safety of a building. That is perfectly legal. When it comes to buildings or homes, we need to maintain those rules. Code is there for a reason and should not be ignored.

This spring, if you are having a bit of work done, don’t be afraid to check out building codes and inspections. Good contractors are not afraid of code as they always meet it, regardless of who is or is not watching.

• Readers write:

• Loretta Barker lives in Calgary and she had this point to make, regarding how many people read The Garden Report. “Hi Rod. I think you may be underestimating your readership by a fair bit. My mother gets hers sent to her from a friend via forwarding email. She then sends it to me in Calgary and I in turn forward it to two others. I am guessing there are several hundred of us who receive your blog this way.”

• Roberta Nichol thinks I got it wrong, that John Newton wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ rather than Robbie Burns. Robbie Burns, wrote all the great hymns and ‘Inky Dinky Spider’ as well. Roberta needs to brush up on her Scottish history. Here is her take on the entire controversy (good sport that I am). “'Amazing Grace' is not a Robert Burns' song. The lyrics are by John Newton, and there's a bit of discussion as to where the melody came from. One story, my favorite, is that John Newton was once the owner of a slave ship. Oftentimes, one could hear the slaves singing and that this tune was one of them. I sang this gorgeous hymn ( wherever it came from) at Tommy Douglas' funeral.”

'John Cabot' is a hardy rose
 • Margaret Hryniuk sent this along: “Thank you for telling me that the geranium (in #129) was last year's; I gasped when I saw it, thinking of mine struggling in the window and, yes, several hours in the outdoor sun for the last two days. Also thank you for telling me about Doreen Fisher. My oldest son took art from her and had told me how much he enjoyed her and the class.”

• Reader and renowned author, Gail Bowen, was reading #129 a long way from home. She shares “Ted and I are here for The Ottawa International Writers Festival. I'm reading from ‘The Gifted’, the 14th Joanne Kilbourn. It will be published this summer, so I'm still apprehensive about reading from it. By Christmas, I'll be able to make up my grocery list while I'm reading, but not yet...not by a long chalk. Rayanna seems to have inherited Maureen's beauty. Not many young women can bring off a Mohawk, but Rayanna has √©lan.”

• Joanne Brown asked a good question. “The deep snow in my yard has started to disappear, more rapidly than I thought--thus revealing much dog do-do to clean up in the coming days. Tell me Rod, do remnants of dog poop help to fertilize a lawn?” Rod’s answer: Dog poop does not fertilize a lawn. In fact, it will burn a lawn. Best to dispose of it legally.

• Frank Flegel loves his coffee, as do many of our readers. “Hey Rod, took in The Naked Bean on Broad street for a cappuccino and cinnamon bun. The cappuccino was great the cinnamon bun, meh. The best can be had at Sweet, just up the street from Naked Bean. They're actually a biscuit and very good.”
Lamium is an excellent ground cover

• Garden Tip: What to do? Start by lightly raking your lawn. Remove all signs of snow mould. Rake out all of your shrub and flower beds. Remove all the leaves and rubbish. Cut last year’s plant material from your perennials. This will allow the new growth to emerge. If not done so last fall, add peat moss to your flower beds to improve the quality of the soil. How much peat moss? I like to apply an inch, incorporate it and then another inch, so two inches in total. Also, if there is something that needs transplanting to another location, now is a good time to do it.

• Garden Tip: Tulips and other bulbs are starting to emerge, especially in the sunny parts of the garden. They want to grow so let them. Fertilizer for fall bulbs should have been applied last September, not this May.

• Garden Tip: If you have underground sprinklers, it is a good idea to have someone or yourself, check out the system every spring. Often, there is a sprinkler head that is either broken or misting in the wrong position. Every year, I have to adjust my sprinklers to avoid spraying the sidewalks. I have preached this before: Sprinklers are one of the tools you use to care for your garden. Just because you have an automatic system does not mean everything is okay. Too many gardeners think they can set their system for the summer and then walk away, leaving everything in perfect shape. Sprinklers can over water, under water and misapply water if not supervised. Got it? Sprinklers are a tool, not a perfect solution.

• Leonard Cohen: Yes, I have heard from several of you how wonderful he is/was. He is definitely the poet laureate of Canada and perhaps ‘The Minister of Love’. I have this to say about his concert in Saskatoon, three years ago. It was the finest live performance I have ever attended. No doubt, he repeated his effort here in Regina.

• Paul McCartney: We got our tickets and are ready to sing “it’s been a hard, day’s night and...” This concert is on a Monday, right after The Folk Festival, so it will not be in conflict with that annual event. In 1964, had you told us that The Beatles or any one of the Fab Four would be in Regina, well, plug your ears cause here come the screams. By the way, our Grade Seven teacher assured us that no one would know who The Beatles were within a year. I should have taken that bet.

This is why we built dikes along the creek
• May Day: The first of May, ah that most special of times. I was up at six a.m. on Wednesday morning to begin the day. Alright, truth in writing: I was up because I had to pee. I looked out the window. We have many, many walkers and joggers in our neighbourhood, what with being adjacent to the lake. You see the early birds out as early as five a.m. A lady walks past the house in a brisk fashion. Nothing unusual about that, except, she is bundled up in a winter parka, toque, scarf and gloves. It is well below zero. Not the right time to smell the flowers if there were any.

• Jodi’s new show: Coming up soon, May 8th to the 12th, our own Jodi Sadowsky will be performing under the auspices of The Golden Apple, ‘Kafka’s Monkey’. I have no idea what the show is about, I will just show up and take it all in. The show is at our neighbourhood venue, The Artesian on 13th. Jodi always delivers a good performance. As an aside, I performed with Jodi in Winnipeg in 2004 and her singing wowed the audience.

• Still true today: Back in the seventies, self service gas stations were popping up. I asked Gerry Butler, who was the GM of The Saskatchewan Automobile Association in 1978, what his take was on the self serves. He told me something interesting. He said that the mechanics and the auto repair/replace trade loved them. Why? He explained that most of the students who worked at full serve gas stations had a keen interest in cars. They not only checked the oil, they also checked the tires, the fan belts and took a look at anything that leaked. They caught problems before they became a major repair bill. An oil top up saved many an engine rebuild when the local lads were working after school, pumping petro at the corner station.

• Neighbourhood news: According to one of our neighbours, the next block over, we have had one of our grand old homes turned into a rooming house that has now morphed into party central, with police cars helping to celebrate on Saturday nights. There will be a meeting at St. Martin’s Parish Hall, 4720 Castle Road, on Thursday, May 9th from seven p.m. until nine p.m. Officials from The City will be in attendance. I did not do the research myself but according to the same neighbour, you can have roomers but you have to live in the house. What has been happening is people are buying up large homes and renting out rooms. All it takes is one roomer to post on Twitter there is a party happening and hundreds will join the stampede. Thank God my kids didn’t have Twitter when they were teens. My plaster walls remain relatively intact.

• Ice dam fallout: I have heard of three people within our neighbourhood who are now living in hotels as their homes are under repair from this spring’s ice dam damage. One of our readers, from across the street, lost her roof due to the weight of this year’s record amount of snow. We had a bit of damage but nothing that approached the catastrophes that befell others. We have a carpenter changing over our south dormer from a flat roof to a pitched roof, this spring, to avoid any problems with snow, ice and rain in the future. Why anyone ever built any portion of a roof with no pitch in this province is beyond me. If I had a time machine, I would travel back to 1927, ask the architect what he was thinking and report right back to you.

• Just thought you might want to know: Leonard Cohen never slept with Susanne from his famous song of the same name. She was the girlfriend of his buddy, who was a sculptor. He found her fascinating and imagined what it would be like to be spend the night beside her. So much for our imaginations. Back to tea and oranges.

• Another home is needed: Reader Denise Cook is trying to find a home for a four year old cutie named ‘Cindy’. If you have an interest, let me know and I will connect the dots.
Cindy needs a new home

• Rainbow bridge is closed for a bit: The flood waters have begun in our neighbourhood. So far, so good. There is a real roar as the water races underneath The Albert Street Bridge. The City is much more prepared this year and have been aided by the slow melt. A slow melt gives the river system enough time to carry the excess water with less damage. The Rainbow Bridge at Cameron St. and Regina Avenue is closed, as a precaution, so walkers will have to use The Elphinstone Bridge or The Albert Street Bridge. I had predicted major flooding in some of our yards due to the high snow levels, but it has not proven true. In fact, my own back yard has had less water and mud than most years, in spite of the record snowfall. The pump I bought two years ago for the flood of 2011 remains, unused, in its box. I don’t’ regret purchasing it. Better to have it sitting on the bench, unused, than to have eight inches of water lapping up against the basement walls.

• Farmers’ Market: It is back downtown for the summer, along 12th and Scarth. A good turnout of customers for the first market of the outdoor season on Saturday.

• Season climax: The Symphony finished off the season on Saturday night with a rouser from Gustav Mahler. Added into the mix of the night, the orchestra blossomed to 126 musicians as the students from The Youth Orchestra were on stage for the opening piece. Love to see the kids up there.

'Little Princess' spirea is still one of my favourites
 • This is really cool: One of our neighbours is a good gardener. He knows how to prune trees and shrubs. He walks to work. There is this building he walks by each day and the landscaping is going to ruin from neglect. It drives him crazy. Friday night, I was out for a walk. There he was, pruning away, cleaning up the trees and removing the volunteer seedlings and suckers. If I wasn’t’ on my way to a meeting, I would have stopped and assisted. I guess the radicalism of the sixties is still showing up. “Seize the moment and prune the trees. The establishment is not looking after them. All we are saying is give pruning a chance!”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald who is still dry in Regina