Noman A. Todd

It seemed somewhat soothing and a bit of an anodyne to the current provincial dyspepsia from a diet of forests and fish when I came across this:-

"How blessed he, who leads
a country life,
Unvex'd with anxious care,
and void of strife!
Who studying peace, and
shunning civil rage,
Enjoyed his youth, and
now enjoys his age." Dryden

Despite my lumbar aches and my scaly skin, I thought Dryden had sent me a personal message as I reflected on my country life.

It looks pretty good right now (mid- summer) and an awful lot better than it did in January. I recall being admonished, after complaining at length about the disaster that the blizzard had wrought, that after a couple of years one would not know that anything untoward had happened.

At the time I thought the person somewhat insensitive but I now look around and see healing and regeneration.

I was taking cuttings from an augustinii recently. Eight feet up in the air a one inch diameter branch was still caked in mud where it had been driven into the ground by the weight of snow. All along that trunk were new shoots that had sprung from dormant buds.

The twelve foot davidsonianum which had been reduced to a two foot stump with nary a leaf has several sprouts that look as if they don't want to wait another twenty years to get to twelve feet.

My polyplegic magnolia 'Susan', which I had written off as being no more than an excuse to start my victim's recitation on the trauma of the blizzard is now really quite presentable and while giving the appearance of youth is, in fact, enjoying her old age. Magnolia grandiflora is another matter?

But on to other things: The 'Propagation Group', by the very nature of its purpose, is a forward-looking bunch. As most of you know it meets on the third Monday of the month, usually at Ken Webb's house. One of the ideas that germinated at a spring meeting was to try to create a new hybrid that would be suitable for giving to attendees to the 2005 convention which our club will be hosting. For my effort, I used a plant in a pot as the mother plant and brought it into our bedroom where it could be pollinated and kept safe from the bees without all that mutilation that has to go on outside.

After the flowers had faded and the pollen was happily united with its intended, the plant was moved back to the open elements close to the back door where one could watch the capsules swelling and anticipate the sowing of the seed. But best laid plans? - a passing neatnick saw an undeadheaded rhododendron?.

I have always cherished rhododendron 'Faggetter's Favourite'. In fact we brought the plant with us when we moved here twenty years ago. I have, however, not had much success in propagating it. Faggetter was the head gardener at Slocock's nursery in England. One Saturday morning a lady called to ask if we had 'Faggetter's Favourite'.Could she come to see the plant? The lady was Mr. Faggetter's grand -daughter - all the way from Australia. We didn't have any little plants but we immediately put down a couple of layers which will be transportable next year.

A few days later I had a call from our bank saying that one of my checks had bounced. Having been guilty of such a sin in the past I am very sensitive on the matter and full of self-righteous umbrage I immediately tried to call the bank whose cheque I had used.

Have you tried to telephone a bank recently? You get a machine. "If you want this, Press 1 ; If you need this, Press 2?". If you just want to talk to someone you are out of luck. Frustration at trying to prove my innocence was eruptive. In the midst of all this phone activity was an incoming call. "

How the heck do we get to your place?" "And who the heck are you?" I barked back, thinking it might be the World Bank or the Securities and Exchange Commission. "I'm the bus driver with your load of visitors."

"I don't know about any visitors and it's polite to be invited before landing on someone's doorstep." "We'll be there in twenty minutes."

"Where are you from?" "Thailand".

And sure enough, twenty minutes later a bus load of Thais spilled out over the landscape led by one with 'THE DOG FATHER" blazoned on his baseball cap. Still smarting from the indignities inflicted by the modern banking system, I proffered a limpish handshake.

Very quickly, however, I learned that these strangers were knowledgeable. The second-in-command was a lady and when I asked her name and I stumbled over its pronunciation she said "Just think of rhododendron makinoi."

I knew I was talking to plantspeople.

They were from the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, an organization working on improving the living conditions of Thais in the northern part of the country. One of the projects was the creation of an arboretum. I have since been in contact with Mr. Diskul, the Secretary-General (the wearer of the dog father cap) and have mentioned the possibility of forming a chapter of the ARS in Thailand. That would be an interesting and possibly mutually beneficial development.

The reach that the genus rhododendron has is truly universal. I wouldn't be surprised if NASA finds rhododendron pollen on Mars.

But thinking of age again, koi are known for their longevity. A few years ago we put some in the pond to keep the regular goldfish company. The big blue heron got all but one. When I chased the heron off the pond he was so full he could barely gain enough altitude to reach the lowest branch on the nearest Douglas Fir. Only one lonely koi remained but he seemed content enough with the remaining runts of goldfish and I liked him as did our grand-daughter. He was 'the big fish'. He would swim around followed by his underlings. Maybe he imagined he was wearing a cap with Koi Father written on it.

During March, and still now, every time we go near the pond there is a huge splash caused not by fish but by bull frogs which presumably trekked up Batu Road from Elk Lake. A neighbour who lives nearer the lake told me he had shot five of these eastern intruders, with five pellets from his air pistol after having found half eaten goldfish in his pond. A sixth despite a fusillade of lead is still on its predatory bonanza.

A last paragraph and a happy report about my prize sinogrande. It is grown from seed and I think it is now eight years old. I first noticed it when it displayed a mauvish metallic sheen on the new foliage. Each year the leaves (beloved by slugs ) get bigger and bigger.This year they measure over 24 inches in length. The plant is not much more than that in height.

Peter Cox records its leaves reaching 30 inches in its native habitat and in some British gardens but that occurs in very moist monsoony conditions. Perhaps the wet spring has suited it as well as it has the bullfrogs. When sinogrande first bloomed at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in 1933 they cut the truss and marched it down Princess Street accompanied by the skirl of the bagpipes. I think it had taken about forty years to get its first bloom and it took another forty years to bloom again. Well I don't think this old man will stage a similar procession on the Causeway no matter how great the benefits of living in the country.