Mark Cullen e-newsletter
January 2012 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

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A Favour

As I gather my thoughts around the content of this newsletter I am taken back by the digit 2. It is no longer 2011 but 2012.

Before you launch yourself into the New Year I have a favour to ask. Would you mind taking the time to reflect on the year that just flew by and answer this question, "What amusing thing happened in your garden?"

 The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Old Farmer's Almanac I have been approached by The Old Farmer's Almanac (Canadian Edition) to write a story for 2013. This essay will focus on Canadian stories from the garden that are entertaining. Not 'fall off your chair hilarious' but amusing.

To get you thinking, here is a brief story from our house:
My pond was plagued with stringy algae for years. I had tried a lot of magic potions to get rid of it until one day Mary found the solution on the internet: domestic ducks. Specifically Rouen (French) ducks. They have a huge appetite for the stuff.

So we ordered 6 ducklings and we nurtured them to maturity.

Well, the months passed and they learned to swim (like ducks to water) and we continued to laugh out loud at their antics. I recall the 'musical ride' each morning when they created a circle formation and dunked their heads into the water as if dancing, their idea of having a bath I suppose.

And the stringy algae? It disappeared all right. Along with every water plant that I had lovingly planted and cared for over 4 years. By mid summer they had stripped the entire pond clean of every water hyacinth, lily and even my prized lotus flower.

The ducks were moved to another pond and I called a professional to come fix my algae problem.

Email your stories to [email protected]. My Groundskeeper, Brenda, will respond to every story and if we use yours in The Old Farmer's Almanac you will receive a copy of the 2013 edition plus a copy of my latest book The Canadian Garden Primer.

Hurry! My deadline is January 31 (this year, of course).


 Save the Hockey Heritage Museum

A visit to Long Pond The story in the Globe and Mail in early November got my attention. Federal funds were being pulled from the Canadian Hockey Heritage Museum in Windsor, Nova Scotia and they were going to close the doors.

That morning I sent a short e mail to my friend Jeff Redden, the Home Hardware dealer in town, asking what we could do to raise funds for the museum.

Jeff was all over it like ants on a peony bud. He called me that same morning and said, "I didn't know about this but thanks for telling me. We will have a game of Shinny on Long Pond (the location of the very first 'hockey' game in 1800).

We will invite anyone who wants to play to join up to 6 teams of 12 people (total 72 people). This is pure fun, no-contact hockey.

We will invite NHL hockey greats to join us (my friend Syl Apps has agreed to coach the NHL team!) and anyone else who wants to come out."

And that is what Jeff and his team have done.
The cost is $500 for which you will receive a Heritage hockey sweater, a short game of shinny with like-minded hockey enthusiasts, a private tour of the Hockey Heritage Museum and a special gala dinner at King's-Edgehill School (where the original hockey players came from that day in 1800!), plus a $250 tax receipt (the portion of your fee that will be donated to the museum).

February 11, 2012 is the date and it is 'Hockey Day in Canada' - the CBC has said that they will be there to air a segment on national TV.

For more information go to I recorded a nifty one minute video for the site.


 That's Not All!

On stage Wait a minute, I am not done.

On the Friday night, February 10th, I am giving an exciting 'Garden Presentation' at the Mermaid Theatre on the Main St. of Windsor. We are going to have a blast! Lots of colour images from Canadian gardens, gardening tips, design advice, a Q&A session, complimentary Home Hardware grab bags and refreshments. And my other friend Denis Flanagan may just be there, for a few more laughs.
$10 in advance.
All proceeds of this one go to the local Band Parents' Association.
Tickets will be available in the New Year at Windsor Home Hardware. Visit for store details.
Come if you can and tell all of your friends about it.

If you cannot get to Windsor Nova Scotia February 10 and 11, forward this message to someone that you know in Nova Scotia and encourage them to come out for a great time and a terrific cause.


 One More Thing
 A New Contest for 2012

Watch the video Just for fun, lets take a plant that even Jeff Hutcheson can grow (watch the video for a great segment on this one!) and have a contest to see who can out class the other guy.

Amaryllis have a reputation for being the perfect gift for people who are looking for lots of colour and show, with very little effort. The secret to success, frankly, is in the bulb itself. The bigger and fresher that it is the more stems and flowers you will enjoy.

The new Mark's Choice amaryllis 'kit' contains a 30 cm sized bulb which is 22% larger than most of the prepackaged bulbs on the market. For only $19.99 you also get a great looking ceramic planter, soil mix and instruction on how to grow your amaryllis.

Submit your photos of amaryllis and perhaps you will win. Check out my Facebook page for details.

There is more to say, to be sure. January only 'feels' like a month off from your Canadian garden. Truth is there is much going on in your head this time of year that will help you determine the success you will enjoy in your 2012 garden.

Dream on brothers and sisters.
Dirt awaits you!



 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Sunflower Plus Bird Seed Mix

Sunflower Plus I have spent a lot of money on large bags of black oil sunflower seed over the years. The birds in my yard just seem to love it. However, not all birds love the black oil as much as the striped - or for that matter the safflower seeds (that squirrels hate, by the way). So we have mixed them into a tasty combination of quality bird seed that appeals to the broadest possible pallet of bird taste buds.
(Home Hardware item# 5453-365)

Also available in the Mark's Choice line of birdseed:
Bird Feast Songbird Blend (item# 5453-067 4kg, 5453-072 8kg)
Deluxe Blend with Berries and Nuts (item# 5453-362)
Nyjer Plus with Sunflower Chips (item# 5453-364)
Finch Blend with Sunflower Chips (item# 5453-363)



Twitter Are you on Twitter?

If not, I encourage you to join. It's free and a great source of information. The value of this information depends on who you choose to follow.

My tweets range from timely gardening tips to photos from my daily adventures.

Log on and follow my tweets 

 Owl Prowl
 Toronto Botanical Garden

Owl Prowl January 21, 2012, 6-8 pm

Public $10/Members $7

What could be cooler than a night time hike through an owl's forest home? During this event you will learn all about owls, go on a guided winter hike, dissect an owl pellet and even visit with a live owl!

This event is suitable for kids of all ages, parents, grandparents and anyone interested in learning a little bit more about these fascinating creatures.

Call 416-397-1341 to register


 Repotting Tropical Plants

Philodendron Take a close look at your indoor tropical plants. Do you see roots on the soil surface? Or growing through the drainage holes on the bottom of the container? If so, it is time to repot these plants.

Lay down a plastic sheet or newspaper and remove the plant from its pot. Purchase a new pot, one size larger than the pot it is currently growing in. Pull the roots out and loosen the root 'ball'. You can cut some of the roots or tear them to encourage new root growth.

Place a pot hole in the base of the new pot. This is a reusable disc which keeps the drainage holes free from debris. A great choice for indoor and outdoor containers.

Repot into good quality potting soil. Check out the Mark's Choice Container Soil mix. It is specifically formulated for container-grown plants. Tamp the soil down between the roots and the inside wall of the pot.

Add a Water Wick under the plant roots to retain moisture and cut down on watering. Add some Smartcote slow release fertilizer and water well.

Shopping List
Mark's Choice Container mix, HH item# 5053-500
Mark's Choice Pot Holes, HH item# 5055-005
Mark's Choice Water Wicks, HH item# 5012-622
Smartcote fertilizer, HH item# 5027-366


 Be Ready to Face Winter
 With Alaskan Ice Melter

Alaskan Ice Melter Alaskan Premium Ice Melter starts melting in seconds, preventing falls.
* Fast acting, long last
* Melts down to -31 C
* Ideal for steps and walkways
* Gentle on concrete, grass and pets

For more information 

 A Smile



 Canada Blooms
 North America's biggest home, garden show swings into Spring

Canada Blooms Canada Blooms, National Home Show come together under one roof for 10-day showcase.

Gardening enthusiasts itching to get their green thumbs back in the soil after a long winter will be able to get a jump start on spring when Canada's two premier consumer lifestyles events share space under one roof this March to create North America's single-largest home and garden experience.

Canada Blooms and The National Home Show will co-locate for a 10-day run from March 16-25, 2012 at Toronto's Direct Energy Centre, providing an expected audience of more than 250,000 visitors a dazzling variety of expanded exhibits to explore in 600,000 square feet of display space.

"Putting these events side-by-side creates a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," said Gerry Ginsberg, General Manager of Canada Blooms. "We believe this co-location will allow us to achieve a new standard of excellence and significantly enhance the customer experience for hundreds of thousands of garden and home enthusiasts that visit these events each year."

The agreement to share space for the show is not a merger, nor is Marketplace Events purchasing Canada Blooms. Each event will maintain its own identity and operate separately, offering an expanded line-up of displays, workshops and entertainment.

"Audiences of both of these powerhouse events share many common interests. It was a natural extension for us to co-locate, which makes it easier for visitors to enjoy both shows at a single venue and get inspired to roll up their sleeves for the upcoming gardening season," Ginsberg said.

Canada Blooms, marking its 16th year, will create and expand their feature gardens and floral displays in the larger Hall A. The Canada Blooms "Marketplace" will move into Heritage Court and the Industry Building. The National Home Show will occupy the remainder of the exhibit space, including Halls B, C, D and North Extension where the popular Dream Home will be located. As a convenience to consumers, a single ticket purchased at $20 (adults) for either event will allow attendees to visit Canada Blooms, The National Home Show or both events.

Highlights of Canada Blooms 2012:
* "CityCulture" theme, combining gardens with performances and art installations throughout the event, celebrates the host city of Toronto and the diverse range of cultures that come together to make it one of the most vibrant Cities in the world.
* Canada Blooms' 1st international garden. The City of Taipei, Taiwan will present a Featured Garden, reflecting the culture, diversity and native horticultural line that heighten the city's beauty and make it a top travel destination;
* Canada Blooms will donate $50,000 in proceeds towards the creation of June Callwood Park, in memory of acclaimed journalist, author, TV host and community activist;
* Canada Blooms presents the 2nd "JUNO Rock" Gardens, featuring four gardens inspired by JUNO-winning artists Kesha Chante, Jann Arden, Feist and Sarah Slean/Royal Wood, reflecting their style and genre. As an added bonus, Royal Wood will perform on the Canada Blooms main stage Tuesday, March 20;
* Landscape Ontario's Green for Life Garden, one of the most intricate gardens presented at Canada Blooms, will showcase some of the leading design and floral features in Ontario;
* Garden Club of Toronto Floral Hall: Over 12,000 square feet of stunning floral creations presented in the prestigious Garden Club of Toronto's Horticultural and Design Competition. Open to non professional exhibitors and garden club members.
* March is for Families: Designed to engage kids in 'outdoor' activity, Gardens for Living will create an extraordinary activity area in a 3,000-square-foot space.
* Blooms Gardening Solutions and Master Gardener Speaker Series: Enjoy daily free seminars by leading Canadian Experts speaking on the Do's and Don'ts for this year's garden season.
* Meet Canada's Premier Gardening Personalities:
Learn the latest gardening techniques from Canada's top experts on the Unilock Celebrity Stage presented by HGTV daily, including Mark Cullen, Charlie Dobbin, Frank Ferragine and Denis Flanagan.
* Wine Sensory Garden: Sit back, relax and enjoy the surrounding Sensory Gardens presented by Reif Estate Winery and Mori Gardens over a glass of award-winning glass of Ontario wine, paired with fine cheeses by the Dairy Famers of Canada.

About Canada Blooms

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 16th 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. Canada Blooms is also the recipient of the 2011 Garden Tourism Award for "Garden Tourism Festival of the Year".

For more information and to purchase festival tickets