Winter Protection Good Investment

Seasonal celebrations take second place to final outdoor activities. Inside, turn attention to holly and mistletoe, poinsettias and azaleas.

Before we starting thinking of holly and mistletoe, azaleas and poinsettias and other passions of Christmas, such as getting outside of portions of plum pudding and more liquid refreshment there is, indeed, work outside. Rudyard Kipling may have written a limerick on la belle province, but nevertheless such holds more than a modicum of truth from sea to frigid sea:

  • There was a young man from Quebec
  • Who stood in snow up to his neck
  • When asked: "Ain't you frizz?"
  • He replied: "Yes, I is,
  • But we don't call this cold in Quebec."

In common with most Canadians, coniferous evergreens do not find the snow cold. But when it falls heavy, wet and in quantity, they can be permanently pulled out of shape, particularly those upright forms frequently found flanking front doors, access ways and similar features. Wrapping with netting made specially for the purpose is infinitely preferable to bundling them in burlap. Protected or otherwise, they are planted in large part for their winter foliage. Why then hide it away for a goodly portion of the year?

Burlap finds a use, however, when used to form screens for valued hedges. While the use of salt is mercifully diminishing, there are still situations where it is spread, often to be blown or sprayed across deciduous hedges or even specimen pines and spruce that screen the home from the rude stares of the passing proletariat. Hammer in two-by-two posts on the street side of such plantings, then staple the burlap to them.

Many experienced gardeners treat new broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons in a similar manner for their first few years following planting with a three-sided screen formed in a similar fashion. All such ericas, as gardeners who are au fait know them as, will at the same time benefit from a mighty mulch of peat, pine needles, oak leaves, or any combination thereof.

Perennials are becoming ever-more popular and never more so than among growers and retailers. They know that, come spring, they will be supplying replacements for those that failed to survive the winter. The commonest reason for this calamity is the nouveau gardener – and some not-so-nouveau also – having neglected to mulch their perennial plantings with straw, compost or shredded leaves. December is a good month to apply such, now that the ground is frozen or nearly so.

The snow will, of course, eventually arrive, for this is Canada and a Canada without snow is unthinkable. According to Ligurian folklore, if the pet cat turns its back towards the fire in the hearth, then snow will soon arrive, or so records Fred Plotkin who is familiar with that part of Italy. So you are now prepared, should such a disaster strike as recorded by W. Fields: "It was bitter cold, snowdrifts fifteen feet high, saloon doors frozen tight." Time then to turn to houseplants.

Knowing you are a gardener exposes you to gifts of the inevitable poinsettia presented by well-meaning guests. Not a few will have an unwelcome cargo of whitefly, spider mite, aphids and other pests – the poinsettias that is, although possibly the guests also. The former should immediately be treated to a generous spray of insecticidal soap as a precaution against introducing such to other, perhaps more valued houseplants.

Poinsettias and other gift plants will do best and last longer if they are in a bright, cool location, out of direct sunlight with temperatures 15C by night and 25C by day. Most commercially raised gift plants are treated with time-release fertilizer in the soil and so will probably not benefit by additional feedings. They will by surprisingly thirsty though. Check daily if the soil is dry, by feeling the surface or hefting the pot. It is hard to determine this state if the pot is gunged up with wrappings. What are we looking at anyway – the plant or the gaudy garnishing? These embellishments also impede vital drainage. Strip them away and conceal instead in a jardinière or other tasteful container.

While florists hold narcissus to be the flower of the month, closer to Christmas it is holly that is held by many to be a sign of the festive season. There are many species of Ilex, but it is I. aquifolium or English holly with red berries and prickly foliage that is associated with Christmas. Unfortunately, it is not truly hardy outside of coastal southwest British Columbia. This is the holly that was sacred to the Celts as was another plant only seen this time of year, the parasitic mistletoe. Not only did the Celts hold that it was unlucky felling a tree on which it was growing, it was equally disastrous cutting mistletoe at any other time of year. But at the winter solstice, hung in the house, it will ensure happiness to all who kiss under it. Unfortunately for those more sociably inclined, this is said to work only in the home, not out in the workplace. They might take heart, however, in the words of Mae West who was wont to claim that, "I was Snow White – but I drifted."

December Trivia

December Flowers

  • Holly or Narcissus
  • Poinsettia

December Birthdays

  • 6th – (William) Joyce Kilmer, 1886 U.S. poet best known for his 'Trees' (killed in action World War I on 30 July, 1918).
  • 6th – Clarence Birdseye 1886 developer of frozen foods (died 7 October, 1956).
  • 12th – Erasmus Darwin 1731 naturalist and grandfather of Charles Darwin (died 18 April, 1802).
  • 21st – Jean Henri Fabre 1823 French entomologist (died 11 October, 1915).

December History

  • 6th – Britain extends suffrage to agricultural workers 1822.
  • 15th – Canada adopts the new maple leaf flag 1964.
  • 16th – The Boston Tea Party 1773: first attempt to make iced tea on a large scale.

December Canadiana

  • 6the – Susanne Moodie, author Roughing It In The Bush, born 1803 Bungay, England (died 8 April, 1883).
  • 7th – Wilson Stewart, paleobotanist, born Madison, Wisconsin 1917; University of Alberta professor.
  • 8th – John Hubert Craigee, plant pathologist especially with wheat rust, born 1887 Merigomish, Nova Scotia.
  • 23rd – Yousouf Karsh, photographer, born Mardin, Turkey 1908 (died Boston, 13 July, 2002).

December Saints

  • 7th – St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, d.397, patron of Milan, bees, domestic animals.
  • 21st – St. Thomas, Apostle of the Indies d. 1st century martyr and patron of architects and, presumably, landscape architects, as well as builders and divines.

The Perfect Christmas Tree

From the Toronto Sun (December 22, 1999):

Three men searching for a perfect Christmas tree had to be rescued after spending three days wandering in dense forests and deep snow. The men eventually found a cabin where smoke from the fire they built led rescuers to them.

Much to the horror of some, it must be admitted that the Christmas tree did not originate with the nativity of the Christ child. The Druids – a bloodthirsty pack of pagan butchers, if truth were known – bedecked many evergreens at the winter solstice to assure good luck for the coming year. Roman maidens wore garlands of unopened pinecones to symbolize their virginity. In Germany of old, the happy heathens bedecked firs with eggs as fertility symbols while their damsels danced around the Abies specimens in the belief that their wishes would be granted by a troll therein. Exactly where and when conifers came to be associated with Christmas is uncertain but certainly pine and fir trees have long been regarded as symbol of fertility and immortality, particularly in Germanic countries.

How Christmas trees came to England and acceptance by royalty is subject of much dispute. Most authorities agree that they arrived during the 18th-century with the accession of first member of the House of Hanover to British throne, George I, in 1714. Members of his court, German merchants and Hessian soldiers in the army all seem to have been involved. In 1800, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, is aid to have ordered a 6-foot fir to be decorated with strings of almonds and raisins, along with little wax dolls and – a blatant fire hazard – small candles.

Depending which tale takes precedence next; it was either 40 or 41 years later that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle. This became something of a fixture for the royal family each Christmas and, in 1848, they were shown in an engraving in The Illustrated London News gathered around the tree. The rising middle class eagerly seized upon the fashion and the season and its scent has never been quite the same ever since.

Christmas cards arrived in the same decade, the 1843 invention of London art shop owner Henry Cole who had a thousand printed at a shilling a piece, far too higher price to become popular until mass production brought prices tumbling a quarter-century later.

By Christmas of 1855, however, the artificial tree had arrived, at least as a palm with "green calico leaves," according to The Lady's Newspaper. It was not until after the First World War that such fare become popular, particularly with working-class families, when the British toilet-brush manufacturer Izal started making them, which goes a long way to explaining for the appearance of cheaper artificial Christmas trees ever since.

With the real Christmas tree came the Christmas tree seller. In 1895, The English Illustrated Magazine interviewed the largest supplier of Christmas trees in Britain, operating out of Covent Garden, London and described as the 'high priest' of the trade. His family had been in the business since the 1830s, he claimed, and they were presently selling 30,000 trees each season. They were, he said, spruce from private estates, thinnings not specifically grown as Christmas trees, the largest 40-feet high. In Britain, Norway spruce and Nordmann fir are now the commonest used, while in Russia a yolka designates the fir most prized as a Christmas tree.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, in Canada the most popular trees are balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine and white spruce. Almost all of these are raised on farms devotes to their production, the average tree taking ten or a dozen years to grow to saleable size. A hectare of such trees produces enough oxygen every day for about 40 people. The "world centre" for balsam fir raising is apparently Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.

Scotch pine and fir are longest lasting – the latter also have the best scent, particularly balsam fir. Their stiff needles also make them easier to decorate. When selecting a tree, don't be forced to hurry. After finding one of suitable height and shape for the house, lift a couple of feet and drop the butt end sharply on the ground. If many needles come loose, forget it, and choose another. Upon arriving home, immediately cut a couple inches off the base of the trunk. Plunge the based into a large bucket of water to which has been added tablespoon of bleach per gallon, and allow to stand overnight. This will greatly prolong the tree's life, opening new water uptake channels and killing clogging bacteria.

Not everyone likes Christmas trees. In spring 2000, Greek presidential candidate Dimosthenes Vergis, 59, president of the Ecological Union of Greece, campaigned against them. Other features of his race to rule Greece included "spelling his party's name on the bare buttocks of nightclub dancers" and "having topless models hand out campaign pamphlets on a central Athens avenue," according to the National Post. He lost.

Gardening Web

Global Warming Explained

Attempting to keep abreast with the scientific advances in global warming theories is almost as much of a problem as the sorting through those from earnest environmentalists and self-serving bureaucrats and politicians. Now help is at hand in the site set up by Dave Reay, an environmental scientist at the University of Edinburgh, U.K. And when a website comes with recommendation from the journal Science it is doubly worthy of attention. Both scientific articles and constantly up-dated news may be accessed here. Also, as Science notes:

For teachers and students, Reay has written succinct backgrounders on such topics as the possible effects of global warming; sources of greenhouse gases; and carbon dioxide sinks, such as plants and the ocean, that store the molecule.

More can be found at

Mapping Malaria and Other Ecological Changes

Pollution Probe, working with Canada Health and Environment Canada, recently released a report predicting all kinds of dire disasters for south-central Ontario when (and if) the climate warms. Others are way ahead of them, for example the Life Mapper network, a distributed computing project at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, that utilizes the computers of volunteers in their downtime to amass awesome amounts of data on how global warming may affect ecological aspects.

Removing Stains from the Garden Escutcheon

Gardeners may have to tolerate stains on their reputations but on clothing there is now and website offering scientific advise on how to get rid of 250 embarrassing stains caused by various common garden and other substances. Pitch from pines, gums and other goo from spruce can be eliminated with turpentine while grass stains succumb to banana oil. All this and more from researchers at Cornell University in upstate New York. There's even a list of a few that have defeated them.

December Horticultural Happenings

Toronto Field Naturalist Outings

Free guided walks; children welcome but please no pets; all are TTC accessible; dress according to weather, bring beverage, camera, notebook and binoculars'. More at 416-593-2656.

December 1st: Monthly Meeting, Emmanuel College, 75 Queen's Park Cres. East, basement, 2 p.m. talk: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Monarch Butterfly.

December 3rd: Wards Island Nature Walk – meet 10 a.m. ferry docks at foot of Bay St; bring lunch and binoculars.

December 12th: German Mills Nature Walk – meet 10 a.m. at ne corner Steeles and Leslie; bring a snack; walk ends at 12:30 p.m.

December 15th: Lambton Woods Nature Walk – meet 10:30 a.m. entrance to James Gardens on Edenbridge Dr; bring a snack.

December 15th: Three Creeks Urban Ecology – meet 2 p.m. nw corner Yonge and Lawrence.

December 19th: Black Creek Heritage Walk – meet 10 a.m. Jane St at Alliance Ave.; bring lunch and binoculars.

Civic Garden Centre


9 December Festive Planters 7 – 9 p.m. (members $20, public $30) creating seasonal urns


5 December Christmas & Holiday Open House 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. 20-minute demonstrations ($2 each) on seasonal plant and bulb care, decorating gifts and mantles, creating festive garlands, wreaths, table centre pieces and arrangements

Richters Winter Festival of Herbs

1 December Free demonstrations, festive herbal food samples, children's crafting corner, unique herbal gift ideas and, at 2 p.m., Melanie Johnson from Precious Petals will speak on 'Making Herbal Gifts.' 357 Highway 7, Goodwood, Ontario 1-800-668-HERB or website.

Mycological Society of Toronto

Meetings on mushrooms and "forays" to look for them; more information 416-444-9053

High Park Sunday Walks

Meet 1:15 p.m. south of the Grenadier Restaurant; a $2 donation is requested; details 416-392-1748

Ontario Rock Garden Society

8 December Civic Garden Centre, 777 Lawrence Ave East, Toronto commences with plant sale at 12:30 followed by speaker at 1:30 p.m.: Barrie Porteous "Alaskan Adventure" Visitors welcome.

Designs in Ice

27 & 28 December, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto. Come and see fantasies in ice inspired by Lord Of the Rings. More at 416-338-0338.

Nature Conservancy Travel Trips

For more information, call 703-841-7413, visit or e-mail.

20-29 December Belize & Honduras rainforests, barrier reefs, Maya ruins

Allan Gardens

South side Carleton Street between Jarvis and Sherbourne Streets; open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekends and holidays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; further information 416-392-7288

Centennial Park Conservatory

Three greenhouses with a total of more than 12,000 square feet of interesting and changing plant collections. 151 Elmcrest Road. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information at 416-392-8543

Cloud Garden Conservatory

A walk-through greenhouse that recreates the lush tropical foliage of a Costa Rican cloud forest. South side of Richmond Street, between Yonge and Bay Streets. Open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed on holidays). More information from 416-392-7288

Gardening in the Headlines

A round-up of the past few weeks' news of interest to gardeners


  • The steel gateway art by the pathway leading into the Don River parklands at the northwest corner of Sheppard Avenue and Leslie Street in Toronto has not been art at all to Councillor Sutherland and numerous local citizens, but it can stay, ruled City Council, and be covered with ivy as its artist designer desired. City Gardening notes the words of Frank Lloyd Wright: "A surgeon can bury his mistakes but all an architect can do is cover them with vines."
  • A pair of 200-foot transmission towers in suburban Victoria, B.C., is blamed for garden sprinklers erupting unannounced, garage doors springing open, radio malfunctions and an automatic bed ejecting its occupant. Industry Canada hires a retired professor from the University of Victoria to investigate.
  • The modest Rosedale mansion of the Reisman/Schwartz duo proceeds apace, Gillian Cosgrove reports in the National Post, with conservatory, sunken marble pool, theatre, guesthouse and so on all with "plenty of space for greenery and landscaping" in "the compound." In the third world, a "compound" is where those requiring protection from the general population reside.


  • Kathryn Gannon, 33, who started her career planting trees in Alberta, announces outside a New York courthouse following her sentencing to three months for stock market crimes that a film is planned based on her life which progressed from tree planting to ecdysiast to reach dizzy heights as Canada's best known porn star performing under the professional name of Marilyn Starr.
  • Falling trees are blamed for killing six, including three children, in Britain as the islands are swept by winds of around 130 km/h and are recorded as gusting to 155 km/h at the peculiarly-named Mumbles in south Wales.
  • A white cedar located on an island cliff in Lake Temagami, northern Ontario, was over 550 years old when it recently died, say researchers, who believe that there are far older cedars located in the same area. The oldest white cedar yet dated, and the oldest in Canada, is growing on Ontario's Bruce Peninsular and has lived 1,050 years. The oldest dated tree in Canada is a yellow cedar from B.C. which, when cut, was 1,835 years old.
  • The 17 bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) in the White Mountains of California that make up the Methuselah Grove are the oldest living things on Earth – 'The Old Man' dates back 4,767 years. Those interested in the science of Extreme Life Extension are studying these trees and their near-starvation diet as the possible secret to longevity, according to New Scientist.
  • "It's absolutely amazing, here it is almost mid-November, and we still have green trees," says Richard Ubbens, Toronto's chief forester. Then came 20-cm of snow the night before the city's famed Santa Clause Parade.


  • Rock climbers are accused of destroying rare ferns and other plants in the Bruce Peninsular National Park, Ontario, by scraping off the rocks.
  • After two years of battling bylaws and defying city work crews over their natural plantings, Toronto father-and-son Victor and Douglas Counter are forced to concede defeat when Justice Romain Pitt upholds a bylaw restricting growth to no more than a metre high, four meters back from roadways for safety reasons.


  • Demanding an assured minimum price, banana growers in Ecuador block roads to bring attention to their cause. The country is the world's largest producer of the fruit.
  • Thanks to war and salt pollution, 20 per cent of all the date palms in the lower Euphrates-Tigris valley have been destroyed, according to a UN report.
  • It is possible to use discarded peanut shells to extract hydrogen fuel, Scientific Carbons of Blakeley, Georgia, claims for their pilot plant. Perhaps there is hope for Jimmy Carter yet.

Spices and Herbs

  • Onions, garlic and other Allium consumed in quantity can cut the risk of prostate cancer in half reports the American Institute for Cancer Research.


  • Areca palms are fine in the home, but their chewing their nuts – a mild stimulant known as betel in Asia and the Pacific – is causing problems in the Solomon Islands, where police threaten to charge imbibers who open their car doors while driving to spit out the bright red juice.


  • A sample of soil is offered for US$9.99 on then withdrawn when it is noticed that it is listed as "Robert Pickton Dirt From His Pig Farm," the believed site of at least 15 murders of missing Vancouver street women.
  • A team led by Klavdia Oleschko the National Autonomous University in Mexico City have developed a device that fires microwaves into the soil, allowing farmers to determine instantly if planting conditions are favourable, according to the journal Physical Review Letters


  • A new pest threatens southern Ontario gardeners as they join their Manitoba brethren similarly plagued. Two wild boars mysteriously appear on the Oneida reserve, west of London.
  • A school caretaker, 61, pots a ferocious squirrel in England with his air rifle, according to tabloid The Sun, ending a reign of terror on the townsfolk, including the man's granddaughter, 2, who was bitten about the face by the beast.
  • The North American Millers' Association applies for exemption to the ban on methyl bromide, a potent pesticide that assures us clean grains, due to be phased out after 2005 under the Montreal Protocol of 1987.
  • Fifty years ago last October, the journal Nature reports, results of testing pesticides DDT, BHC and dieldrin against the malarial Anopheles gambiae, A. funestus and culiccine mosquitoes. The research involved treated huts occupied by volunteers. The most effective was dieldrin.
  • A pair of chemicals, jasmonate and salicylate, trigger a plant's defences when it is attacked, causing release of toxins. Research reported in the journal Nature now shows that these same two chemicals can activate an enzyme in the attacking pest's gut, which neutralizes the toxin.
  • Although only one West Nile virus death is proven in Toronto, city health honchos claim it killed as many as six others this past season. They propose to treat storm sewers in 2003 with methoprene, a synthetic hormone that mucks up the metamorphosis of the mosquito larvae lurking there. The chemical has "some impact" on other insects and aquatic life and there are alternatives. From the same wonderful folks that want to ban pesticides in the suffering city...

For the Birds

  • The Toronto Field Naturalist newsletter notes that in Britain, "starlings and house sparrows are becoming so rare that they have been put on the list of species whose survival is threatened." They would be welcome to all of ours, which they blessed us with over a century ago.
  • Scientists at Arizona State University report that urban birds prefer higher-income neighbourhoods even the tree cover is sparser in such areas. Both populations and individual species increase, the researchers say but they cannot explain why.
  • Fanatical bird watchers flock to Arctic Sweden to enter on their life lists the rare Parus cyanus, usually limited to Mongolia. Most will eschew from announcing their target's English name, the azure tit.
  • When residents of Woodstock, Ontario, complain that the huge crow population is preventing sleep, local politicians in their wisdom vote for a $7,500 fireworks program to disperse the birds with loud noises.


  • We couldn't wait for it: The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex is here. It is acceptable to have sex in the backyard, Greenpeace says, but not on weed killer-doused vegetation. And if your thing includes wood paddles, "make sure they are made from sustainably harvested timber." More at the archives of The True Green Report, Canada Free Press, 4 November 2002.
  • Since about 500, or 10 %, of the malaria parasite's genes the same as those found in plants, they should be susceptible to drugs based on herbicides, suggests Geoff McFadden, a botanist at the University of Melbourne, Australia, reports New Scientist. Such drugs "probably won't have side effects on us," he adds. We can't wait for Greenpeace to spot this one.
  • Pioneer Hi-Bred International of Des Moines, Iowa, and Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences withdraw permission for researchers at Ohio State University, Columbus, to use sunflower transgenes developed by the companies but not released commercially. This effectively blocks the scientists from discovering if such could be transferred to wild sunflowers, creating "superweed," reports the journal Nature


  • A Los Angeles restaurateur pays the trifle of US$35,000 for a white truffle weighing in at a kilogram from northern Italy.

Gardening in the City

  • Recently-retired Sheridan Chief Horticulturist Larry Sherk protests the installation of a parking pad for 12 cars at Toronto's historic Ashbridge House on Queen St. E., now home of Canada Blooms offices and what he claims is lack of care to "unique 100-year-old shrubs." In fact, the shrubs on the western portion of the grounds were planted during restoration work 30 years ago.
  • Toronto's new Official Plan states that new parks will be created while existing green space will be maintained and improved – well, they couldn't get much worse. Also on the list of bureaucratic endeavours is the encouragement of quality landscaping.
  • Sharon Dunn, National Post columnist and former consort of a provincial premier, discovers that DIY removal of raccoons is expensive when using chicken instead of sardines to trap the beast in the wall near her bed instead nets her an odiferous skunk. Cost of cage trap, plus professional skunk disposal, ditto raccoon: almost $400.
  • The Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sheela Basrur proposes a 90 % reduction of the use of pesticides on residential properties and 60% for commercial and industrial after a year-long community consultation. Her report is presented to the city's Board of Health 18 November.
  • A new lobby group joins the fray at Toronto City Hall. The Pest Control Safety Council of Canada (PCSCC) says it wishes to "provide public education on the safe and responsible use of pest-control products across Canada."


  • Besom brooms, like those traditionally associated with witches, are in great demand, thanks to Harry Potter tales. The last such besom binder in Britain, Harry Eddon of Yorkshire, receives a Department of Environment grant to update his equipment to make the hazel-handled, heather besoms that are preferred by many gardeners for uses that do not include nocturnal air travel.


  • The world's largest fertilizer company, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan reports third-quarter profit up 33% from a year ago, thanks especially to nitrogen sales.

Science and the Gardener

  • In a new study, respected scientists Dr. Nigel Pitman, of Duke University, N.C., and Dr. Peter Jorgensen, of Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis estimate that between 22 and 47% of all plants on the planet are threatened. In Ecuador, a staggering 83% of that country's entire flora was in danger of extinction.
  • Fruit flies became resistant to DDT worldwide within a few years, including laboratory strains that had never been exposed to the pesticide and a similar resistance has been demonstrated in the mosquito malaria vector Anopheles gambiae throughout coastal West Africa, reports a research team in the journal Science.
  • The largest extinction ever took place at the end of the Permian period 250 million years ago when 70% of land animals and almost all marine life perished. The reason, according to a team of researchers at the University of Oregon, is soil were totally depleted of oxygen, killing all plant life, hence also animals. Methane did the same in the sea, reports New Scientist.
  • A rare find of a mummified hadrosaur (Brachylophosaurus canadensis) dinosaur in Montana shows it to have dined on at least 40 different plants, including freshwater algae, ferns, liverwort and angiosperms, according to expert Dennis Braman, of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
  • The French, when asked about "biotechnology," confuse it with "plant therapy," according to an Ipsos poll reported in the journal Science. And over a third think it is associated in some way with organic farming. And we thought our education system was lacking.
  • The phrase "public understanding of science," or PUS, will be replaced in Britain by public engagement in science and technology, PEST, Brit bungleaucrats decide. About time too, as New Scientist reports one Minister of the Crown as claiming on BBC radio that in medieval times we did not have DNA.
  • The journal Science calls it a "witches' brew" for the EPA to examine when it comes to deciding whether the very widely used herbicide atrazine will continue to be permitted in use. One team of researchers report serious abnormalities in sexual organs of male frogs at minuscule contamination levels, a second and equally respected team of scientists have been unable to replicate these results. Both are presently busy slanging each other in the official EPA atrazine docket, open to public examination.
  • A bamboo bicycle is developed by Indian scientist D. P. Mishra for impoverished rural residents to manufacture at home. Yes, grasses are becoming more popular...


  • Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert proclaims his province's tourist advertising campaign a success in Ontario as residents of central Canada now know that 50% of Saskatchewan is forested, and not just prairie.
  • An "insect zoo" opens at the Horticultural Gardens at Kansas State University, where there is already a butterfly conservatory along with a conservatory dating from 1907 which features tropical and desert plant exhibits. Sure doesn't look like Kansas, Dorothy.
  • The notorious Dounreay nuclear facility on the north coast of Scotland maybe an environmental catastrophe but it has still can boast a silver 'green tourism' award from the official government tourism authority, VisitScotland, notes New Scientist.
  • Global warning is blamed by the Royal Horticultural Society for their predicted demise of the traditional English garden in 50 to 80 years, to be replaced by palm trees, bougainvillea, figs and other foreigners to the sceptr'd isle.


  • Fist major Maritime storm with winds of up to 100 km/h tears out a large tree by its roots in a village near Halifax and hurls it into a house.
  • Golfers can rejoice in the effects of global warming, at least in south-central Ontario, as Hamilton elects to keep the public Chedoke Golf Course open all winter thanks to less snow and milder conditions experienced recently.
  • Good news for stricken Canadian prairie farmers: global warming is going to help them according to a model developed by Jonathan Foley, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and his team, reporting in the journal Global Ecology & Biogeography.

Law and Gardeners

  • A Quebec dairy farmer accidentally discovers a marijuana patch while tending his herd, and receives an arrow shot from a crossbow through his shoulder.
  • Toronto mega-city proposes to extend bylaws to protect trees in ravine areas and make it illegal for them to be felled without permission. Such bylaws are presently in effect in former municipalities of Toronto, East York and Scarborough, but not North York, Etobicoke or York.
  • The Toronto Field Naturalist newsletter brings to our attention and item overlooked in The New York Times that reported a squirrel in Britain had led police investigators to several boxes of burgled loot concealed at the base of a tree.
  • One of the worst droughts in a century hits eastern Australia, causing water restrictions to be enforced for gardens and other uses, including a recommendation from Environment Minister Sherryl Garbutt that people shower together to save water.
  • Ontario's largest hydroponics marijuana grow operation is shut down by police in Mississauga, who remove 9,500 plants from a second-floor industrial site, and value it at $10.5-million.
  • Canada is now the "third-largest supplier of high-grade marijuana in the world now to the United States," behind only Mexico and Columbia, according to Ontario's Minister of Public Safety and Security Bob Runciman, something he says, "it's not something wee should be very proud of." He wants the courts to impose much harsher sentences on those engaged in the highly profitable if illegal business.
  • French farmer Jos Bove receives a 14-month jail sentence for destroying genetically modified crops.


  • Admitting its previous plans had not worked, the World Bank reverses a decade-old policy of not lending funds for forestry projects, to the very vocal protests of environmentalists.
  • Refusing to bow to the monopoly of the Canada Wheat Board, 13 Alberta farmers are sent to jail for having the audacity to actually sell their own grain directly to the United States. Aided by a relief fund, five are released a short while later.
  • Pause for thought before you tee up for the first hole of your next round of golf. Groundskeepers are engaged in the 6th most dangerous occupation, according to statistics on the tabloid Metro Toronto. Being a police officer ranks 8th.
  • Statistics Canada announces the past year was a good one for maple syrup production, up 15%, but poor for honey, down 6%.
  • Saskatchewan harvests were down 45% from average levels of late this past season, thanks to lethal levels of locusts, droughts and unseasonable frosts.
  • The bioprospecting firm Diversa of San Diego, having been active in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Kenya and South Africa, is now turning north to Canada, where it hopes to study organisms at a privately owned pulp mill, according to a news report in the British journal Nature.

Kyoto Kafuffles

  • Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Environment Minister David Anderson enrage provincial premiers by refusing to grant their demands for a first ministers' conference. Chretien confirms he intends to ratify the Kyoto accord before the end of the year, whether the provinces like it or not.
  • Albertan Peter Lougheed takes to demonstrating disdain for a certain accord by pronouncing it 'kai-ota,' much to the displeasure of linguistically pure environmentalists.
  • The Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists in an unusual statement point out that the science behind Kyoto "is the basis of the entire debate," and that there is no "significant evidence" to connect greenhouse gases with climate change. In any case, the 3,000-member organization says, even the "greatest efforts" cannot reduce CO2 significantly.
  • Tom Sale, Manitoba's Energy Minister justifies Kyoto on the grounds that warmer summers will lead to a longer mosquito season; an original outlook to say the least from a province whose inhabitants claim the insect is their provincial bird.
  • While Chretien's Liberal government claims 80% support signing the Kyoto accord, a new Sun Media poll shows that 55% oppose it, while a third poll by The Comedy Network shows that 60% of Canadians believe politicians are "very likely to lie" on important issues.
  • Far from absorbing carbon dioxide, encouraging planting new forests will actually increase global levels of he greenhouse gas, says New Scientist, reporting on the research of Riccardo Valentini of the University of Tuscia, in Viterbo, as he presented the first results of the CarboEurope program. "The Kyoto Protocol to halt climate change is based on a scientific fallacy," says New Scientist.
  • "Lipstick on a pig," is the way skeptical Alberta Environmental Minister Lorne Taylor describes Ottawa's updated Kyoto plan, which will only cost 60,000 jobs, federal bureaucrats claim – none of them theirs.


  • Despite loosing legal bids to stop the Bayview Ave extension through the sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine and protect the threatened Jefferson salamander, conservationists take heart with York Region agreeing to spend $10-million to construct steel-and-concrete wildlife tunnels under the highway.
  • A dust storm in eastern Australia, up to 1,500 kilometres long and 400 kilometres wide, is the worst in three decades, bringing dust even to the country's premier city of Sydney.
  • Elizabeth Nickson of the National Post, coins "greenmail" to describe the aggressive fundraising activities of such prominent environmental organizations as The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, the National Resources Defence Council and the Environmental Defence Council.
  • Australia, already bedevilled by droughts, faces what is likely to be its worse bushfire season ever, as midsummer approaches Down Under.
  • Greenpeace's Toronto offices on Dundas Street are picketed by some of its employees, members local 343 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, who demand executive director Peter Tabuns honour their contract. Greenpeace, says a union rep, "expects governments to honour environmental treaties they have ratified. We expect Greenpeace to honour this labour treaty that has been ratified."
  • The 14 countries of the Southern African Development Community decided at a summit in Luanda, Angola, to set up their own organization to examine possible risks from genetically modified crops.
  • The Kansuta forest in Quebec's Abitibi region is saved from lumbering by the intervention of popular folksinger and poet Richard Desjardins who formed the environmental group, L'Action Boreale.


  • The first Albertan to be diagnosed with West Nile virus is reported, although it is believed he contracted the disease while visiting Texas and Louisiana.
  • Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture report that tea increases insulin activity in the body by more than 15-fold, which may explain why tea can also fight heart disease and high blood pressure. Refreshing, too.
  • Global warming threatens Toronto and the Niagara region with dire disease increases, warns a typical piece of fear-mongering from the combined efforts of Pollution Probe, Health Canada and Environment Canada, in a report conveniently released as Prime Minister Jean Chretien attempts to be remembered in Canada by committing the country to the Kyoto scheme.
  • Mice fed large quantities of flaxseed were given greater protection against prostate cancer, reports a team from the Duke University Medical Center in the journal Urology. Note also out item of similar claimed benefit of garlic.
  • The average marijuana joint today contains 150 mg of THC as opposed to 10 mg in the 1960s, a British study reports, contains 50% more carcinogens than tobacco smoke and impairs the immune system. Meanwhile, Canada's Senate announces it is not a health hazard.
  • The risk of mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia increases with the amount of marijuana used and the age such use commences, report researchers at Kings College, London, England. Those dubious of claims made by advocates of cannabis now may now explain away their behaviour.
  • In a $35,500 report for former Defence Minister Art Eggleton, his former girl friend Maggie Maier recommends aromatherapy for Canada's soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Bioprospecting has received a boost, reports Nature, with increased funding from the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH). This will involve a program "which aims both to identify plants possessing useful pharmaceutical ingredients and to encourage sustainable development in developing nations." Five projects are already underway.
  • Chocolate and cocoa may help prevent heart attacks, researchers in Chicago announce – but, so far, only certain dark chocolate seems to be effective, they say. Milk chocolate is not, something to remember when enjoying seasonal snacks.

Final Words

The friars were behind on their belfry payments so, in order to raise the necessary funds, they opened a small florist shop. Since everyone liked buying flowers from these men of God, the rival and long-established florist across town thought the competition was most unfair. He politely requested the fathers close their business down, but they refused. Faced with the imminent collapse of his business, he returned a few weeks later to beg them to cease and desist. The friars ignored him. Even when his old mother approached them, still the priests rejected all possibility of curtailing their competition. The florist decided he would have to resort to the ultimate threat his town possessed. He hired "Horrible Hugh" McGinty, a vile and rough tough, to call on the friars. Hugh happily went to work, trashing the store, and beating up on both stock and priests. He assured them in no uncertain terms, that he would return and complete the job if they didn't close down the business. Terrified, the friars finally complied. This goes to prove that Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.