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Slugging It Out

Conchologists—scientists who study slugs and snails—extol their subjects. Gardeners are prone to use more earthy language in their descriptions. There are few places where humans reside not also occupied by terrestrial gastropods. The deserts, no—also not in the High Arctic and Antarctica. Oh yes, and the International Space Station. Elsewhere on the planet, much to the delight of the mollusks, gardens have been established.

So how, particularly in these times of environmental concerns, can we control these slimy subjects without resorting to chemicals? Alas, many of the ways commonly suggested have proven to be not particularly effective.

By Wes Porter - Saturday, April 22, 2017 - Full Story

A Real Fool

“Only fools think money can solve any problem,” my lifelong best friend and mentor, Jaybird, once told me.

As a boy I didn’t always pay attention to the old black man’s wisdom, but one day, while lolling with my pals on Uptown Avenue in our Mississippi Delta hometown, I learned the hard way to abide by his wise words about money. I didn’t have a cent, and was certain money could solve a problem I had: coming up with twenty-five cents to buy an All-Day Sucker at Peach-Eye’s Grocery.

By Jimmy Reed - Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Full Story

The Fern That Walks

When Canada’s first long-distance walking trail was formed in the middle years of the last century the organizers chose as their symbol the Walking Fern, Asplenium microphyllum. Ontario’s Bruce Trail follows the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Fall for 800 kilometres north to the tip of the Bruce Peninsular. As elsewhere in eastern North America, this rugged limestone country offers an especially suitable habit for this unusual fern, unlike almost any other.

If your idea of a fern is an upright plant with lacy and, well, fern-like foliage, the Walking Fern going to surprise you. That is if you can find it. W. Sherwood Fox wrote in The Bruce Beckons (1962) of the east coast precipitous cliffs overlooking the spectacular Georgian Bay:

By Wes Porter - Saturday, April 15, 2017 - Full Story

This is quite possibly the greatest TV commercial ever created

Maybe it’s that queasy, inescapable, instinct that tells us millennials are awful. Perhaps it’s just a desire to see the adults back in charge after a decade of ...weirdness.  It could be that people are yearning for a time when men were men instead of strange adult man-children.

Whatever it is, we’re all feeling it, and this new Carl’s Jr. ad is tapping into it - in spades.

After ten years of bikini-clad supermodels eating giant burgers and rolling around in soapy car washes, the fast food chain has decided to rejigger its image.

The result is, quite possibly, the greatest TV commercial ever made.

By Robert Laurie - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - Full Story

Easter Hands

One fine spring day, on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird told a story to a group of us children, a story he called “Easter Hands.”

As the old black man slipped into the hypnosis of his bullfrog bass voice, we little ones clustered at his feet, leaning toward him like eager flowers toward the rising sun. He told us the story of Easter.

We had heard Jesus Christ called different names — Savior, Messiah, the Nazarene, Son of Man — and our young minds were confused. Jaybird told Jesus’ story in a way we could understand.

By Jimmy Reed - Monday, April 10, 2017 - Full Story

Beauty and the Beast Rose

Released February 2017, Beauty and the Beast an American musical romantic, dark fantasy film starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles, an adaptation of the beloved 1991 Disney animated fairy tale.

A red rose kept beneath a jar in the Beast’s castle slowly sheds its petals. When the last petal drops, he will die. Needless to say, heroine Belle saves him from this fate in the nick of time.

By Wes Porter - Saturday, April 8, 2017 - Full Story

LILY DEATHS, LAWN DAMAGE, MORE

April showers: When acclaimed director John Ford was filming The Quiet Man on location in Ireland, it was explained to him that, “If he could see the mountains in the morning it was sure to rain; if he couldn’t see the mountains it was raining.”

Easter comes late this year—not until the middle of the month—but already white lilies abound. And that spells a possible fatal attraction for frolicking felines. Despite some controversy there now seems little doubt that lilies of any kind can kill cats. So, sorry, but it’s one or the other. There are, of course, many other flowers that are safe to have around our furry owners.

By Wes Porter - Saturday, April 1, 2017 - Full Story

One Helluva Bad Day

It was a torrid July day in the summer of 1961. On my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, a huge field was covered with 80-pound hay bales that had to be loaded by hand onto trailers and hauled to the barn. 

At five o’clock, Dad opened the bedroom door. “Hay time, boys, git up. Jaybird is waiting outside for y’all.”

By Jimmy Reed - Friday, March 31, 2017 - Full Story

Questions We’re Often Asked: Flowering Indoor Plants

There are hundreds of candidates to provide colourful blooms, some even scented, for house and apartment. Unlike those grown principally for their foliage, most require a little more care to persuade them to flower. But the results and almost guaranteed admiration from visitors is worth it. ‘Bright light’ means several hours direct sun a day, while filtered light means at the back of such exposed room or perhaps near a window in an east or north room. Always use room-temperature water—cold water is almost certain to cause flower and bud drop.

By Wes Porter - Thursday, March 30, 2017 - Full Story

Going to Pot: The Stoned Age

When—not if—Canada’s government legalizes recreational use of marijuana, gardeners will enter a new era.

Decades ago potted plants, usually sold for home d√©cor, became termed ‘pot plants.’ These have also been referred to as ‘houseplants,’ but with the advent of their becoming popular for offices and other commercial spaces, ‘indoor plants’ perhaps fits the bill better.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - Full Story

True Blue to Dye For

True blue blooms, as gardeners know, are hard to find. No less for our ancestors searching for such a source to dye both textiles and themselves.

A reliable blue was discovered at least 6,000 years ago, in various species of Indigofera, a genus of some 700 species of leguminous annual and perennial herbs, shrubs and small trees native to tropical and warm regions. The major natural dye source has been I. tinctoria, a deciduous subshrub with pink and blue flowers originating in southeast Asia.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Full Story

Mycoheterotrophic Plants A.k.a. Fungus Flowers

Walkers in the northern woods can hardly failed to have wondered about them. Pale ghosts in the gloom of the understory, emerging from the leaf litter.

Formerly classed as saprophytes, feeding directly on dead and decaying matter—think famed Triffids of science fiction—they are now known to be botanically even more interesting. And make fanciers of Orchidaceae and Ericaceae take notice.

These non-photosynthesizing plants are not parasitic. They obtain their nutrients by living in a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi, in turn, are associated with vascular plants. There are believed to be at least 400 species of such plants that totally depend on such relationships and another 20,000 species that are partially so.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Full Story

The Rock

Following a tour of Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner’s home, I asked students in my creative writing class how the great writer felt about mankind’s capacity for endurance.

A student replied, “He summed it up in one line from his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: ‘I believe man will not merely endure; he will prevail.’”

By Jimmy Reed - Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - Full Story

Vitamin K2: How It Helps Heart and Bone

Ask people what they know about vitamin C and some will reply it’s good for preventing common colds. Maybe they’d add heart attack, if they’ve read my column. But ask the same question about K2 and most people will give you a blank stare. Now, Dr. Dennis Goodman, cardiologist and Director of Integrative Medicine at New York University, says ignoring vitamin K2 is dangerous.

In 1929 Danish scientist, Dr. Henrik Dam, discovered vitamin K. Since then researchers have discovered two types of K, K1 and K2. Leafy green vegetables are rich in K1. It plays a vital role in blood clotting. But K2 isn’t easy to obtain in the diet, placing many at risk of being deficient of this vitamin.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, March 20, 2017 - Full Story

The Only Leprechaun Colony West of Ireland

A leprechaun colony, the world’s smallest park and some Hibernian horticulture are intertwined, blending in Portland, Oregon. It all started when Dick Fagan returned from World War II. As a journalist at the daily Oregon Journal, he was sitting at his desk alongside a second-floor window one day in the downtown Jackson Tower at Broadway and Yamhill, Portland. A circular hole in the median below caught his eye. Meant to receive a light standard which had never arrived, it was now overgrown with weeds.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Full Story

What Winning Takes

In reading and writing, I found rhyme and reason, but not in arithmetic.

One afternoon, when Jaybird and I were lounging on his front porch looking across my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, I told him that my teacher’s explanation of percentages went right over my head.

By Jimmy Reed - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - Full Story

SPRING ARRIVES—SORT OF

“Nature-based solutions” might sound like it belongs on the side of a gardener’s van, as an editorial in the esteemed journal Nature observed. Nevertheless, the new buzz phrase reflects gardeners’ growing concern with the environment and climate change in particular. Hence drought and flood-proof plants will become more popular this coming season, tough plants that can stand up to extremes. Look also for more offerings in container plantings as gardens shrink in area while decks and patios increase.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

Gump director makes a romantic WWII spy thriller

Robert Zemeckis has made a lot of interesting and innovative movies during his decades-long career and he has also pushed the state-of-the-moviemaking-art during that time.

I don’t think he’s had a huge hit like he did with Forrest Gump, the Back the Future trilogy or Who Framed Roger Rabbit (among others) in a while, perhaps since Cast Away at the turn of the century, but you can always rely on him to push the cinematic envelope in one way or the other, and his films are always entertaining as well.

He’s also the guy who pushed the 3D IMAX envelope, starting with the exquisite The Polar Express, which means that such famed movie tech visionaries as James Cameron are really standing on his shoulders.

Zemeckis’ Allied, his telling of a couple of World War II spies who fall in love and start a family back in England, sees him recreate the world of the day beautifully via his typical use of digital effects. The film is a bit of a change of pace for him as well: a romantic drama that’s laced with more “F-bombs” than I can remember from any other Zemeckis film I’ve seen.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Full Story

Three “Hots” And A Cot

When I showed Jaybird the pistol, he gave me a withering stare.

“Where’d you git that gun, boy?” the old black man who was my best friend and mentor asked.

“I borrowed it from Dad. Late in the evening, me and my buddies shoot rats at the garbage dump a few miles from the university.”

By Jimmy Reed - Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - Full Story