North Americans, a more robust breed of gardener, know the only answer is to do your own thing.
Dog Days, Garden Etiquette, Rose Scent
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The sultry summer dog days are well and truly here. CBC’s meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe was right when she predicted back in early May that from coast to coast, this summer would be ‘hot hot hot!’ Rather than water the garden with the sweat of your brow, it is time to take advantage of your previous labours, lay back and watch the sprinklers swish back and forth.
Sure, a breakfast time perambulation of the garden will eliminate many a problem before it can swell into a serious occurrence. A tug of a weed, a snip of a dead head, a pinch of adventurous aphids before plucking aromatic herbs for later use. Travel elsewhere? But this year, with temperatures in the Iberian Peninsular already exceeding 40ºC, perhaps one place to avoid is what has been billed as ‘the world’s biggest food fight. La Tomatina, celebrated in Buñol, Valencia, Spain, will take place on Wednesday, 26 August. If paying to get covered with squashed tomatoes is your thing, fine otherwise . . .
Diversion No. 1
Black Thumb? She said she was dizzy from rotating the vegetable garden
According to Brit etiquette expert William Hanson patios, hanging baskets and a tidy lawn are a sign you’re lower middle class. Flowers, ornaments and water features speak volumes about you. Decking, ponds and tarmac on the drive show you’re lower middle class. An upper class garden is a profusion of natural life, with no earth visible and plants almost fighting for space, clambering over each other. Asters, begonias, chrysanthemums, fuchsias, gladioli and petunias are seen as too down market and always have been. A deck or patio no, but a terrace, yes. A smart accessory would be a kissing bench, a turf seat or perhaps a sundial. But garden gnomes have now passed back beyond being tacky. There are few worse accusations one can level against someone than that they own, or aspire to own, a hot tub. Other no-nos: rockeries; outdoor lighting; a rotary garden washing line. And so the list goes on. Is it any wonder with such ‘etiquette experts’ Brits are paving over their gardens? North Americans, a more robust breed of gardener, know the only answer is to do your own thing.
Diversion No. 2
Ol’ Madonna had a tree farm – ee-eh, ee-eh, oh-oh went her Hampton neighbours. The Material Girl snapped up a former spud field next to her Bridgehampton $4.9-million mansion and will now collect multiple tax benefits for her agricultural enterprise. But locals complain it is all a sham and all Madge wants to do is shield her eight-bedroom home from prying eyes with several acres of trees.
Juliet Capulet claims that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet in William Shakespeare’s immortal play Romeo and Juliet. And now there’s hope that the efforts of modern rose breeders will be circumvented and scent restored to the Queen of Flowers. The journal Science recently reported that researchers working with roses have identified an enzyme, known as RhNUDX1, which plays a key role in producing the flowers’ sweet fragrances. Scientists at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) at Colmar pinpointed the gene that switches on an enzyme triggering the flower’s classic scent.
Although many historical roses are deliciously perfumed, as the Bard of Stratford on Avon well knew, after the middle years of the last century most new offerings have been weakly scented, or worse, lacking odour entirely. This was the result of intensive international breeding. Some developers even had the unmitigated gall to claim that scent in roses was unnecessary. Now all that remain is for them to give the genetic tweak and return to roses the aroma that should never have been eliminated in the first place.
Diversion No. 3
Too much male attention harms attractive females, according to a new Australian and Canadian study of fruit flies. The study in the journal Current Biology showed that male harassment of females hampered the species’ ability to adapt to new environmental conditions.
Susan Reid of Toronto says she was recently having a lunch party in her backyard and, as soon as the food appeared, so did a bunch of wasps. “One friend asked if I had any clothes-dryer sheets . . . We placed five dryer sheets on the table after crumpling them a bit and sure enough the wasps stopped bothering us. Why would that be?” she asked of Philip Jackman in his ‘Collected Wisdom’ of The Globe and Mail half a decade ago. No reason appears to have been proffered, but having been used for this or their original intended purpose, they make great ties for staked tomatoes and similarly in the herbaceous border.
Diversion No. 4
Have you heard cauliflowers ‘sing’, asks the Daily Mail? According to the Brit tabloid, the bizarre phenomenon that causes the growing florets to squeak in farmers’ field will be at its loudest during a June weekend with the rapid growth due to cooler weather.
The seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar commences on 14 August and runs until 12 September. This is the traditional Chinese Ghost Month, full of taboos and dire warnings. For instance, if you haven’t taken a photograph of your garden at night – forget it. If some uninvited creepy company happens to wander into your picture, warns the United Daily News, it could bring bad luck – and politicians will be out canvassing for the upcoming federal election. And never mind the fountain and ornamental pond: keeping away from water is another of the longest running and best rules of Ghost Month. Using a clothesline? Then bring in drying wearables at night: wandering spirits might mistake them for living people they are free to possess – nobody wants a pair of haunted jeans, suggests the United Daily News. And if you are reading this with mounting disbelief, check out your Western newspaper for the daily horoscope.