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

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A 'Hole' Lot of Fun.

As we wade into the first full month of summer I count myself lucky.

No, not just lucky. I am the most fortunate person that I know. When I tell people what my spring schedule looks like they often gasp and say something like, 'How do you do it?' My secret is simple: I focus on the seasonality of my business. You see the one great advantage of working in a business like gardening is that you know that there is an end to it - or at least, an 'easing up'.

Things kick off with a bang in mid March with Canada Blooms and end in late June when the phone stops ringing. Literally. All of that stuff that I put off for 4 months can be considered more seriously - like book writing and all of the optional e mails and phone calls that I have been putting off finally get some attention.

 Home Hardware Tour of Canada

Travel pics I am feeling good right now as I reflect on a wonderful June full of travel across Canada courtesy of Home Hardware and the Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres that we cut the ribbons for in June.

My trip to Alberta was a highlight with a visit with my friends Bill, Valerie and Jim Hole of Hole's Greenhouses in St. Albert. They are about my age: we 'grew up' in the business together and have managed to keep in touch through mutually hectic schedules. We have celebrated successes together and grieved the passing of our parents (their Mom Lois and Dad Ted and my Dad Len).


 The Enjoy Centre - St. Albert

Hole's Greenhouses The Hole family have built the most spectacular retail gardening complex on the continent. Maybe in the world. 240,000 sq. feet [that's about 5 acres] of indoor selling space for plants, garden supplies, locally produced food, Canadian wine, indoor décor, a restaurant, banquet facilities for 600, 150 and 20 depending on the room that you choose to book. And, as Valerie says, "The most expensive production greenhouse in North America.".

Plus a full service spa that is designed by a man who consults to the Royal Family in the UK.


 You Must Go

Enjoy Centre If you have plans to travel to the Edmonton area this is a must see. You can forget the West Edmonton Mall as this is better. That is, if you like to garden.

If you are from out of the province of Alberta it will help for you to know that the Holes have an amazing horticultural pedigree. Raised on a carrot farm, doing the 'pick your own' thing for years, they decided in the late 70's to get into the retail gardening business in a big way.

There is a section of the Enjoy Centre that celebrates the past. A kind of museum if you will. The day that I was there people were lined up to see it.

The Enjoy Centre, as they call it, overlooks the massive Lois Hole Provincial Park. The second largest urban wetland in North America.

Understated Meeting.

I remember the day that young Bill and Valerie asked me for lunch, while attending a convention in Vancouver in 1980. I had no idea who they were or how committed they were to their future in the business.

In time they would prove to be leaders in the business, providing an outstanding example of how to run a first class retail garden centre in Canada. Buses full of people would come from Calgary each spring to load up on perennials from Holes. And it is not as if they don't have some good garden centres in Calgary!

Their Mom Lois meantime had developed a name for herself as the #1 garden communicator in Alberta. She travelled the province spreading the good word in her own engaging style. On a number of occasions I would have the privilege of speaking with her. She provided a fabulous example of what is possible in this business of garden writing/speaking and broadcasting. Son Jim has since picked up the communications gauntlet.

One and Only Lois Hole

Lois would go on to become a much beloved Lieutenant Governor of the province. She became well knows in virtually every corner of the province for her warmth and sincerity. She would hug everyone as she moved through a crowd, spreading her own brand of love everywhere.

Ted stayed home, for the most part: the shy one. He was steady at work doing what needed to be done. And he was good at it.

I mention all of this as I believe that most Canadians outside of Alberta really have no idea that there is a family living in northern Alberta that, if you could only meet them, visit their place business and enjoy a meal at their new restaurant you would swell with pride and say, "These folks are Canadians. Great, ordinary, hard working Canadians who are living their dream."

And all of us who take the time to visit the Enjoy Centre benefit.

Go to The Enjoy Centre website for more information. 

 Alberta Bound

Mark and Roger My visit to Hole's Enjoy Centre was just one of many wonderful events in June that made me pause as I sat down to write this month's newsletter. I know that there are people in Pincher Creek, Rocky Mountain House and Rimbey Alberta that hosted my Home Hardware visits. All of them were most welcoming and full of the western hospitality that we hear so much about.

In Nova Scotia I had the privilege of attending events in Windsor where Roger, my good friend who runs the Mark Cullen Approved garden centre at the local Home Hardware gave me the royal treatment. This included a trip to Wolfville to tour the wonderful botanical garden and the 10 year old Irving building at Acadia University. Unbelievable. Check out

In the Lobster Capital of Canada, Barrington Passage, I was treated to a full day event under sunshine and perfect temperatures. What great, warm and hospitable people! They could pass for westerners, had it not been for the box of fresh cooked lobsters that I was given. Generous or what!

Here in Ontario I enjoyed a visit to Brockville where the local Home Hardware hosted a fun evening to talk and promote gardening in that community. Manager Stefanie and dealer Paul were great. Thanks to all who came out on that rainy, stormy night, while the NHL playoffs were on no less!

Check out all the pics from my travels 

 Garden? Did you say Garden?

Garden Here at home it is time to get busy in the garden.

Here is my short list of stuff to do before the heat REALLY hits home:

- Mulch. Add 4 to 5 cm of finely ground up pine or cedar bark mulch to roses, perennials, shrubs and evergreens to retain needed moisture and cut down on weeding.

- Stake tall growing perennials. Delphiniums come to mind. Walk around your garden and check out what is growing tall and risks falling over in the wind.

- Fertilize perennials and roses with Plant Prod Smartcote 12-12-12 (

- Mulch your tomatoes with 30 cm of straw or the aforementioned bark mulch.

- Spray your tomatoes with Green Earth Bordo mixture to prevent early and late blight. Repeat in late July and early August.

- Set up rain barrels near the front of your house to water your hanging baskets and other containers. Warm water wins big blooms with your annuals. Lots of oxygen in rain water too.

- Use a Mark's Choice Soaker hose to water plants that need regular attention.

- Take lots of pictures of your garden. You will be thankful for them come winter.

- Deadhead (remove) spent flowers from peonies and other perennials that have finished flowering. Cut back your Veronica after it blooms later in July and it will re bloom in August. Same for Delphiniums.

- Relax and enjoy. You worked hard for this wonderful month of July - the month when more is going on in the garden then you really want to know. Birds and bees exchanging pollen for food - basically 'sex for a meal' kind of exchange. Like I said, you don't want to know too much.

Speaking of my sense of humour, my apologies to you if you were offended by my comments about our chickens etc. last month. Suffice to say that my attempt at having fun with the subject was not appreciated by all. I got it. Thanks.

Have a great month - stay tuned to my Wednesday podcast, blog and other goings on here at

With thanks to Brenda for knitting all of this together for us each month.

Keep your knees dirty,

Merchant of Beauty

p.s. speaking of knitting, check out Mary and Mary Lynn's knitting website and blog at and come in to say hi when you are in the Unionville area.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Plant Supports

Flex tie Climbing plants and tall perennials need a support structure for their vertical growth. Not all climbing plants are self-clinging which means they need help 'attaching' themselves to these supports. Mark's Choice flexible plant ties are extremely useful for training plants. They are designed and manufactured in Canada which means they are suitable for our Canadian environment. The supple grip insulating material used to coat the wire remains pliable to minus 50 degrees Celsius. They are reusable for many years and easy to twist. Available at Home Hardware in 16' and 50' lengths (item# 5010-436 and 5010-301).

A super adjustable peony ring made of black vinyl coated wire. The hoop adjusts from 16" to 24" diameter with four 36" legs. Home Hardware Item# 5093-551.

78" Spiral plant supports ideal for tomatoes and other tall plants. Home Hardware Item# 5010-410. Supporting your tomato plants has never been easier! These 'spiral' plant supports are all that I use on my 200 tomato plants. They are easy to install: just push them into the earth! And NO plant ties or twine are required to support your tomato plants. Every two weeks just give the main stem of the plant a twist up the support, and remove the suckers as you go.

Pigtail plant supports can be used on taller multi-stemmed plants. They have a 36" leg height and a wide coil design. Made from 6 gauge, vinyl-coated galvanized rod. Home Hardware Item# 5094-499


More info 

 Rose Care

Rose Roses work very hard to produce beautiful blooms so it is important to provide them with the proper nutrition. If you took my advice early in the season and fertilized with Smarcote Rose Food you can rest assured that your roses are receiving the correct amount of nutrients. If your roses were not fed with Smartcote you must continue to feed them throughout July. Vigoro Pink is a great organic-based fertilizer, ideal for use on your roses to produce beautiful blooms.

Roses should be surrounded by at least 2 inches of pine or cedar bark mulch. This will help deter weeds, retain moisture and in the long term it will add nutrients to the soil. Do not allow the mulch to touch the base of the rose bush to avoid encouraging the development of diseases.
Inspect your roses daily for insects and disease. Green Earth® Garden Fungicide controls powdery mildew, rust, black spot and other common diseases.
The best prevention of disease is a well-cultivated garden where your plants receive regular feeding, watering and maintenance. This provides a stress-free environment and encourages healthy growth. Remember to apply water in the morning to your roses. The water will evaporate with the morning sun and minimize the potential for disease problems.


 Harvest Ontario

Harvest Guide Available now at all Home Hardware, Home Building Centre and Home Furniture locations is this year's edition of the Harvest Ontario guide.

The guide is Ontario's most comprehensive publication pertaining to all things local when it comes to food and its source. It provides all the information you need on: local farms, farmers' markets, wineries, you-pick farms, fairs, honey and much more.

The guide's information is also available online at if you are not able to pick one up at your local Home Hardware store. On the user friendly site you can perform a variety of searches by subject or area for example to find your local food sources.

The Harvest Ontario Guide covers an area from Thunder Bay to Toronto and from Windsor to the Ottawa Valley.

Not only are you buying local and helping out your local economy and environment but you are also doing something sustainable which is important for the future in addition to enjoying the bounty of your local area. More often than not the quality of the food is much better than what's available at the local supermarket.

Produced in collaboration with Home Hardware, a proud supporter of Canadian agriculture, since its conception 11 years ago this guide is progressively becoming more in-depth every year as new local sources and attractions appear.


 The Gardens of Uxbridge

Gardens of Uxbridge Come spend the day in the gardens as Community Care Durham hosts its 15th Annual Gardens of Uxbridge. This self guided tour provides a wonderful opportunity to see beyond the gates of eight private gardens within Uxbridge and the surrounding rural area. Participating homeowners enjoy the chance to share their gardens, talk about plants and flowers and answer gardening questions. This is a day trip adventure that is simply a "must see" for the summer.

The Gardens of Uxbridge will take place on Saturday, July 9th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets for this fundraising event are $20.00 each and include a delicious box lunch. Ticket can be purchased at various locations in Uxbridge including the Tin Mill Restaurant, Blue Heron Books, John's Garden and Garden Artifacts. Other ticket locations include Branching Out in Port Perry, at Jingles Gifts in Cannington and the Tree Valley Garden Centre in Stouffville.

Purchase tickets by July 6th to be eligible to enter into the Early Bird Draw. The Grand Prize is a Dinner for Two at the Tin Mill Restaurant. As this is the 15th year for the Gardens of Uxbridge, a special raffle is planned on the day of the tour to celebrate this milestone. The winner will receive a Special Edition Anniversary painting created by renowned local artist Sharon Nielsen. Tickets for this special prize will be on sale at the Community Care Durham Uxbridge office during the day of July 9th.

As a longstanding sponsor, Investors Group is once again the main sponsor of the Gardens of Uxbridge and Community Care Durham - Uxbridge is very grateful for their continued support. The Tin Mill Restaurant is also on-board again this year as the Grand Prize sponsor for the Early Bird Draw. All proceeds from the garden tour will go to support the programs and services of Community Care Durham.

Experience the joys of gardening by spending a day in the Gardens of Uxbridge. This day trip adventure is truly a garden's delight. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 905-852-7445 or send an email to

More info.