Mark Cullen e-newsletter
March 2011 
 Gardening with Mark
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I am thinking in cosmic proportions.

The kids gave me a telescope for Christmas and I am having a blast gazing out into the abyss. The night sky in winter is crisp and clean here in Canada. Like a Sedin Brother's snap shot. And the moon has this mysteriousness about it that is hard to explain without seeing it in person.

I have not had this experience before: planet and moon gazing through a telescope. The kids had heard me talk about the neat stuff that I could see with my naked eyes while standing on the deck out the back of our house. On a cloudless night I like to count airplanes taking off and landing at Pearson International Airport, which is about 50 km due south west of here. From time to time I would see the planet Jupiter or a full moon and on rarer occasions still I would see an eclipse or something of equal interest.

 Into Focus

telescope The telescope brings the big stuff like planets and the moon into sharp focus. And once you have seen the moon close up like that you can actually perceive it rolling on its axis. It takes me a while to get the moon to fit into the lens of the scope, but once I do it rolls out of my full view, moving from right to left. So, it rolls and moves sideways. How inconvenient.

Interesting, how we go about our business and the world continues to roll and change without our being consciously aware that anything much is changing at all.


 Winter Rolls on, Spring Lurks.

moon Recently I told someone that I have been busy working with the organizers of Canada Blooms, the Flower and Garden Festival taking place this month on Wednesday, March 16 through the 20th. Their reaction was, "Oh. Is it that time of year again?"

When you are really involved in a thing, you have your head down and you are working away at it, meeting deadlines and creating a few more. Time is short; days are full and passing all too quickly: this can give you a feeling in your stomach that is not so nice.

Then you look up at the moon and realize that it turns at a rate and in a direction that has nothing to do with you or your work.

Such is my feeling today as I reflect on the 15th edition of Canada Blooms.

Here are some facts:
- 2,000. The number of volunteers that will put the festival together. Without them the event would not exist.
- 50,000. The number of flowering bulbs that are being planted at the Direct Energy Centre for Canada Blooms.
- $9 million. The value of the 17 feature gardens, floral works-of-art, celebrity gardens and entrance gardens with all labour, materials, plants and professional design in.
- $0. The cost to people who attend the festival for the gardens (the $18 entrance fee covers the cost of the venue and administration). The cost of the gardens is carried by the professional members of Landscape Ontario who donate their time and resources to build the gardens.
- 100,000. The expected attendance at the event.
- $600,000. The amount that has been raised over the 15 years of the festival for charitable causes of a horticultural nature.


 Take a Look for Yourself

Blooms No matter where you live in Canada I urge you to consider putting the time aside to come to Canada Blooms to take it all in. You will have to take at least a day to walk the 6 acre floor of the gardens/floral hall and marketplace. Bring walking shoes, a camera and some spending money as many of the products offered for sale by the 250 vendors will be hard to resist. Some are unique to the event itself and others are just not easy to access outside of 'Blooms.

I have met many people at 'Blooms from other parts of the country. It is not unusual for people to drive to Toronto from Ottawa, Windsor, Quebec, or the States. Others fly in from Moncton, Edmonton, Calgary and points beyond. Sometimes they travel as a couple others travel in a herd. Like the women from P.E.I. that I run into every year. You can hear them laughing before you meet them.


 Juno Nominee Gardens

Blooms This year the Juno's are being celebrated with 5 special gardens that have been inspired by current Juno nominees. Another very special garden is being created to honour the memory of Oscar Peterson. My buddy Denis Flanagan has his hand in that one. And Denis and I will be welcoming you from the Main Stage every morning Wednesday through Saturday at 11:30am with a brief overview of the show using colour images and descriptions of what is going on where. Join us and plan your day between 11:30am and noon!

It is all great fun in cosmic proportions. It is intended to provide you with the inspiration that you need to make 2011 the best year of all in your own garden.

I guarantee one thing - you will walk away with ideas and creative juices flowing in a direction that can only help inspire.

For all of the details go to

Also check out my facebook page where I will post photos daily of the festival. Even if you cannot be there, you can visit vicariously through me.

If you can make it Tuesday night, March 15th, the Opening Night Party is the perfect way to get an overview of the feature gardens and floral hall. Tickets are $75 each and include a glass of Ontario wine, a performance by Juno nominee Carolyn Dawn Johnson and an act from Cirque du Soleil. This event is worth your investment of time and money. Again, bring your camera!

See you there,

Merchant of Beauty.

p.s. be sure to visit the Mark's Choice booth in the Marketplace for a free sample of a Water Wick and to see the new Garden Mule from Home Hardware. It is versatile, useful and fun.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 New biodegradable cornstarch pots

Eco Pots Cornstarch pots are made from Plastarch (PSM), which uses starch as its main ingredient. Use these environmentally friendly four inch pots to start your seeds indoors this spring. They can be planted directly into your garden or recycled in the compost bin.
Each pot comes with a matching saucer that fits securely on the bottom of the pot. The new biodegradable cornstarch pots will not decompose until they are planted in the ground or buried in the compost pile.

Home Hardware item# 5058-310


 Stay Connected with my Gardening Message

Logo Podcasts - Every week you can find a free podcast on Join me each Wednesday for timely tips. Each podcast is an average of 10 minutes of fast-moving audio gardening tips, stories, featured product and Questions of the Week.

Toronto Star - I have a regular column in the New Homes and Condos section of the Saturday Toronto Star. My column includes timely gardening information, tips, a Question of the Week (based on the questions I receive at plus upcoming garden events of interest.
If you do not live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) no worries - you can access my column online at

Facebook - As I mentioned last month, my Facebook page is updated at least once a week. You will find my spring schedule, complete with links to each event. Check back often to see pictures from each event.

My Facebook page 

 Where is Mark this Spring?

Mark * Tuesday, March 15 - Saturday, March 19, 2011
Canada Blooms: The Flower and Garden Festival
Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario

* Saturday, March 19
Markham Spring Home Show
Markham Fairgrounds, Markham, Ontario

* Saturday, March 26
The Burlington Lifestyle Home Show
Mainway Recreation Centre, Burlington, Ontario

* Saturday, April 2
International Home & Garden Show
International Centre, Toronto, Ontario

* Friday, April 15
Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza
Angus Glen Golf Course, Markham, Ontario

* Saturday, April 16
The Mississauga Lifestyle Home Show
Hershey Centre, Mississauga, Ontario

* Saturday, April 30
The West Nipissing Garden Show
West Nipissing, Ontario

* Tuesday, May 3
Orillia Home Hardware Building Centre
Orillia, Ontario

* Saturday, May 7
Wilson's Home Hardware Building Centre
Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia

* Saturday, May 21
The Warkworth Lilac Festival
Warkworth, Ontario


 Spring Tips

Forsythia * Purchase tuberous begonias and canna lily bulbs in March and start them indoors. The begonias will root best in a seeding tray full of damp peat moss on the top of your fridge, where the low ambient heat that comes up the back of it will kick-start your begonia tubers into putting down roots. The canna lily bulbs are best started directly in one gallon pots in a sunny window.

* Branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs can be cut and forced into bloom indoors. Wait for the flower buds to begin swelling and then harvest the branches with a pair of sharp pruners. Choose branches at random from all parts of the plant to maintain the natural shape. As soon as the branches are cut they should be placed in water. Treat branches like any cut flower and keep the vase full of clean water. Keep branches away from hot air vents and heat sources to prolong the life of the blooms. A short list of branches that are easy to force indoors includes: Forsythia, Camellia, Redbud, Dogwood, Flowering Cherry, Crabapple, Witch Hazel and Pussy Willow.


 Time to Sow

Seedling March is the month to get sowing. Get a head start: plant your vegetable seeds and slow-germinating flowers seeds indoors now.

Seed orders are arriving in the mail and the seed racks at the garden centres are filled with a great selection. Don't forget about the seeds you collected from your garden last year. Growing plants from seed is both rewarding and economical.

Always check the date on the package before you buy. The sell-by date is equally important for seeds as the items you purchase from your grocery store, and guarantees freshness and successful germination. On the reverse side of each package you will find complete growing advice, including the number of days you can expect to maturity and whether to plant in sun or shade.

Sowing seeds can be as simple or sophisticated as you choose. A sunny window can provide sufficient light or you may opt for supplemental grow lights. Plastic-domed mini greenhouses with cell pack inserts are available at most garden centres. The humidity dome helps to seal in moisture and encourages germination. Indoor lighting systems, heating coils and self-watering equipment are available for those looking for a more advanced approach.

Light weight potting mixes, like Green Earth Seed Starting Mix, promote optimum growth. Seed starting mixes contain sphagnum peat moss and perlite or vermiculite. They have great water retention and drain well.

Peat pellets are another option. They are made from compressed sphagnum peat moss and have a mesh cover. Add water to these pellets and they expand. You can use peat pellets to sow seeds or to root cuttings. Plant starter fertilizer from Plant-Prod helps all plants develop a strong root system. It has a high concentration of phosphorous, 10-52-10, for strong and rapid root growth in seedlings.

Some plants require up to four months of growth before being planted in the garden. Geraniums are slow-growing and require at least this long to prepare for the outdoors. However, the majority of seeds are ready to be transplanted outdoors in 6 to 12 weeks from the date they are sown. Seed packets will often recommend when to start seeds indoors. The package will also list the number of days necessary for the plant to reach maturity.


 Canada Blooms Flower and Garden Festival

Canada Blooms Feel the Rhythms of Gardening and Horticulture Canada Blooms returns to the Direct Energy Centre celebrating their 15th Anniversary as Canada's largest flower and garden festival.
This year the Festival's theme is "Rhythms" as they gear up to help celebrate the JUNO's 40th anniversary and return to Toronto.
Canada Blooms 2011 will feature a paradise bursting with six acres of glorious gardens in full bloom, more than 100,000 square feet of green-thumb shopping, over 200 hours of seminars, workshops and demonstrations, a special children's area and much more.

Dates: March 16 to 20. Preview party March 15

Location: Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto

Times: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More info. 

 Seedy Saturday and Sunday

Seedy Saturday Are you imagining Spring? Looking for heirloom seeds? Do you have seeds to trade? Then Seedy/Saturdays are your places to be! There are two Seedy Saturday/Sunday events coming up!

On Saturday March 12th, come to the Scarborough Seedy Saturday at the Heron Park Recreation Centre, 292 Manse at Lawrence Ave E ( 5 blocks S/E of Kingston Rd).
There will be a chance to exchange seeds, to buy heirloom and organic seeds and learn more about bees, worm composting and backyard gardening. Learn more about gardening at workshops from those Gardening Gurus --The Toronto Master Gardeners. For more information contact Katie Fullerton at [email protected] or 416-691-5173.

On Sunday March 27th, North York Seedy Sunday will help make your gardening dreams come true. The event will take place at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre, 5 Replin Road, from 1:00-5:00pm. Buy and exchange seeds with some of Ontario's finest seed vendors, with a focus on organic, heirloom, and local. Enjoy free workshops & children's activities. Purchase yummy snacks and network with other gardeners. For more information, please contact [email protected].


 Outdoor Living Extravaganza
 A retreat and seminar with Proven Winners

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.

Join me for this exciting event.

To register