Mark Cullen e-newsletter
February 2011 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

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February is the Month of hope.

A couple of weeks ago the media was making a big deal about the 'most depressing day of the year'. It was Monday, several weeks after Christmas (when bills are coming in, I guess) and in the dead of winter. Now, please, tell me that this was not an idea that was hatched here in Canada.

What strikes me as a colossal waste of newspaper and air time is a notion that cold weather and short days are depressing. The 'bills are adding up' may be true but it smacks of some copy writer that has conjured up just one more issue to make 'news'. I say this with the greatest of respect to people who suffer from SAD and really do find January depressing. My point is, why put a finer point on it than necessary?

 We Dreamt

Hearts You may recall in my January newsletter that I declared that month as the month to dream. To relax, sleep a little more, light a fire or turn up the furnace and reflect on the garden that was (2010) and the garden that can be (2011). Needless to say my phone was not ringing off the hook with reporters seeking interviews. Seems they were more interested in confirming feelings of depression.

Well I am back to declare that February is the month of Hope. (And love, as Valentine's does fall in the middle of it).

In January we dreamt it: in February we get hopeful.

We are, after all, more than 1/2 way through winter (more or less) and guess what, days are getting longer. About one minute longer to be more precise. And over a month or two that adds up.

So, what is it that we are hoping for? Glad you asked.

Now is the time to get down off of our lofty perch or comfy chair and start getting real. Fact is the gardening season is not far away at all, even if you live in Newfoundland or the Yukon (as some of my readers do). We need to get planning if we want the best garden ever in 2011.


 Here is how I can help:

Pathway Follow my recipe for a great garden. Go one step at a time and be sure to pull out some pictures of your garden from last year to help nudge you in terms of 'what can change'. Or not.

1. A garden begins with a path system. I have a 10 acre garden and I could not have started it in earnest without knowing where the paths would go and how I would get home when using them. This is a golden rule: paths should connect and always lead home.

2. How will it function? Whether you have an established garden or you are starting with a blank canvas of dirt or a lawn area (bless you!) the question is the same: are you interested in entertaining? Kicking a soccer ball? Want to install a play gym? A run for the dog? Are you interested in creating a quiet place where you can read a book or listen to your iPod and swing in a hammock? Once you have this figured out it is much easier to decide how you will design your outdoor space.

3. Bones. Every structure has bones: a house, your body and your garden have this in common. The bones of your garden are loosely defined as the 'woody' plants that stand over winter and grow from year to year. Flowering shrubs, trees, evergreens and permanent vines all play a role here. Imagine them placed in strategic spots around your yard in an effort to help you achieve goal #2.

For instance, if you want to create a private place in your yard consider large evergreens, a hedge and fast growing shrubs. Harness the fragrance and greenery of permanent trees and shrubs that flower, preferably at different times of the year. Flowering crabapples and cherries grow to 5 or 6 metres high and flower early in the spring. Japanese Lilac 'Ivory Silk' flowers reliably each June; Weigelia in July and early August; Potentilla produces buttercup flowers all summer long. You get the idea.

4. Hire a professional. An experienced garden designer will help fill the blanks for you. If you have taken the time to think through your answers to goals #1 and #2, a visit with a garden designer will be very productive. For a list of garden designers in Ontario go to and for other parts of the country go to

I hope that this gets you off on the right foot. I can assure you that if you think through your plan for a great looking garden this spring during the month of February you will feel hopeful. Because it is a positive experience and hope springs from positive experiences.


 More for February:

Dahlia Summer flowering bulbs. They are not in garden retailers yet ut they will be before my March newsletter is sent to you. Be sure to check out the dahlias, gladiolas, tuberous begonias, etc. soon after they arrive at your retailer as the selection is at its best then. More on this next month.

Seeds. Check out the selection of fresh seeds for this season at your local retailer and consider ordering on line. Here is a list of great Canadian seed sources with links to their sites:

Garden Import
McFayden Seeds in Brandon, Manitoba
Stokes Seeds in Niagara
Richters Herbs
Veseys Seeds in P.E.I.
Dominion Seeds in Ontario
Early's Seeds in Saskatoon

There is still plenty of time to relax and make plans for the upcoming gardening season. Here is a reminder that Canada Blooms, the biggest and the best garden event in the country arrives at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place in Toronto Wednesday, March 16 through Sunday, March 20. It promises to be fantastic: this 15th anniversary edition of the festival includes a living tribute to Juno Award nominees including Sarah Harmer, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Ben Heppner and Jully Black; and a special tribute to Oscar Peterson.

Canada Blooms promises to be the best ever. You can get a discounted ticket on line now at

And by the way, I am there Wednesday through Saturday with my buddy Denis Flanagan at 11:30am to give you an overview of the event and to help you plant your day.
Friday at 1:00pm I speak with my daughter Heather, the 'Landscape Architect' in training. We will share some of our gardening experiences through colourful images and story telling.

See you then.

Thanks so much for reading and remember to keep your knees dirty.



 My Facebook Page

Logo Have you visited my Facebook page recently? If not, you are in for a surprise. I have been adding new pictures every week. There is a photo album of amaryllis images which I have received from visitors. You will also find my spring schedule, complete with links to each event.

Stop by and take a look. I encourage you to send in your own amaryllis photos and I will add them to the 'growing' photo album.

My Facebook Page 

 Where is Mark this Spring?

Mark * Saturday, March 16-19. Canada Blooms. Catch Denis Flanagan and myself on stage every morning (Wednesday to Saturday) at 11:30am as we welcome everyone to the Festival and help you plan your day.
I will also be speaking with my daughter Heather at 1:00pm on Friday, March 18. More Canada Blooms info below.

* Saturday, March 19. Markham Spring Home Show.
Location: Markham Fairgrounds, Markham, ON
Time: 2:00pm - 4:00pm

* Saturday, March 26. Burlington Lifestyles Home Show.
Location: Mainway Recreation Centre, Burlington, ON
Time: 1:00pm

* Saturday, April 2. International Home Show / Successful Gardening Show
Location: International Centre, Toronto, ON
Time: 12:30pm and 3:30pm

* Friday, April 15. Outdoor Living Extravaganza.
A Retreat and Seminar with Proven Winners.

Location: Angus Glen Golf Club, Markham, ON
Time: 8:30am - 4:00pm. I speak at 2:30pm.
More information below and at

* Saturday, April 16. Mississauga Lifestyle Home Show.
Location: Hershey Centre, Mississauga, ON
Time: 1:00pm

* Saturday, April 30. West Nipissing Garden Show.
Location: West Nipissing Recreation Centre
Time: 1:30pm book signing and 3:00pm presentation.


 Canada Blooms

Canada Blooms Canada Blooms returns this year from March 16 to 20 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Some of the Festival Highlights for 2011 include:

* Canada Blooms experience the JUNO "Rocks" Gardens honouring the 40th Anniversary JUNO Awards will feature five celebrity gardens built by Award Winning Ontario Landscape/Designers.

* The Canada Blooms Preview Party presented on March 15th is a Must Attend event where guests are able to meet Canada's leading gardening experts while viewing the gardens and special features of the 15th Anniversary Celebrations.

* Utilizing the theme "Rhythms", 20 exceptional gardens will be created by members of Landscape Ontario. Designs will have a range of floral instruments, musical notes, etc.

* Canada's premier speakers will be presenting to visitors in the Canada Blooms Educational Series including Mark Cullen, Frank Ferragine, Paul Zammitt, Charlie Dobbin and many others offering visitors over 200 hours of free gardening seminars.

Canada Blooms is a not-for-profit organization that gives back to the community throughout the year by funding community garden projects around Ontario. Canada Blooms is also dedicated to providing the community with horticulture expertise, education and resources on an ongoing basis.

Now in its 15h year, Canada Blooms was founded by Landscape Ontario and The Garden Club of Toronto. Each year it is supported by a committed group of partners, sponsors and volunteers.

Canada Blooms has been named One of Ontario's Top 100 Events by Festivals and Events Ontario and One of North America's Top 100 Events by the American Bus Association.

Festival Information:
Dates: Wednesday, March 16 to Sunday, March 20, 2011
Hours: 10am to 8pm (Wednesday to Saturday); 10am to 6pm (Sunday)
Venue: The Direct Energy Centre, Toronto
Tickets: Available online at and at participating garden centres for a special advanced discount price of $16. At the door $18; Seniors $16; Students $16; Children 12 and under are free.

More info. 

 Get the Jump on Spring

TBG Take a break from winter and start planning for this year's growing season at this annual event.

Gardeners who are counting the weeks until Spring arrives can look forward to one of the earliest harbingers of the season at the Toronto Botanical Garden's annual event, Get the Jump on Spring.

Date: Saturday, February 19, 2011
Time: 10am to 4pm

Admission is free, but a $2 donation to the TBG will give visitors a chance at great, garden-themed hourly prizes!

Presented in partnership with the Ontario Horticultural Association, District 5 and the Toronto Master Gardeners, the event offers a chance to find out more about horticultural societies, garden clubs and environmental organizations from across Ontario. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and there are fascinating hourly lectures and demonstrations, a popular floral design competition and a marketplace with spring flowers and many garden-themed products for sale.

Location: Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Avenue East (at Leslie). Free parking.

For more information 

 Canadian Organic Growers (COG) 5th Annual Organic Conference

COG Your Food, Your Choice: The Promise of Organic

Date: Saturday, February 19, 2011
Location: U of T Conference Centre, 89 Chestnut Street, Toronto
Cost: $65 (after Feb. 5 - $85)
Organic lunch included!
Info and registration: or 416-466-4420.


 Join me for a Proven Winners Event

Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza. A retreat and seminar with Proven Winners.

Date: April 15, 2011
Time: 8:30am to 4:00pm
Location: Angus Glen Golf Club, 10080 Kennedy Road, Markham
Tickets: $80 per person

Registration includes the seminar, a catered lunch, snacks throughout the day, raffle prizes, and a gift bag filled with fun and useful gardening items.

To register