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

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Becoming Art

It is not often that I get inspiration from a sock.
This is life with a passionate, no, make that obsessive, knitter. My wife Mary and I have a general understanding: she tolerates my obsession with gardening and I tolerate her 'hobby'. Neither one of us will worry that the other is without something to do upon retirement, even though we both vow never to retire, Lord willing. If the day comes that we retire 'to our hobby' we hope that we never have to retire from it.

And so it was her enthusiastic invitation to come over to her knitting chair to feel the quality of a yarn that was so exceptional that, well, she called me over in the first place. When she knits with exceptional wool she usually keeps it to herself until she can e mail our knitting-crazy daughter come business partner Lynn with the news. I am not meant to understand all of this, merely accept it. Both wife and daughter are happy with the arrangement so there is nothing not to like about it from my point of view. They thrive in their world of fiber, I in mine. It is symbiotic.

I ran my hand over the fibres and exclaimed. This is mighty fine stuff!

 Creativity with Yarn

Marys Yarns "It's called "Becoming Art" she said. Think about that carefully and your image of the little old lady in the rocking chair, knitting on the front porch melts away. Knitting as 'art' is a high calling that requires imagination, creativity and an accumulation of knowledge that allows the knitter to become so much more than just a knitter. In this scenario one becomes an artist. I have learned this over the past 30 years by living with one, not that I have ever knit a stitch myself. In marriage we learn things by osmosis. 30 years of it has a way of getting to me this way.

As a gardener I am reminded that what we do in our yards with plants is an art form unlike any other. We paint with plants: the soil and real estate are our canvas. I would love it if a plant breeder would develop a line of plants called 'Becoming Art'. It would help to cement the image of us gardeners in the mind as so much more than tillers and diggers of the earth.

Think about the effort that goes into planning and planting the large containers that we see at the front door of so many homes come spring. "What will I grow or purchase this spring that is different, yet bright, colourful and welcoming? What will require the least amount of maintenance while providing the maximum colour?"

Don't tell a gardener that their hobby is not a creative endeavour, not if you wish to endear yourself to them.

Mary's half knit sock is very cool for another reason - she is knitting it for her cousin Lynn whose late father's name was Art. The connection is as warming as the socks no doubt will be come next winter when they work their magic on Lynn's feet.

Such is the creative mind that I am married to.

I would not have it any other way.


 March is for summer-flowering bulbs, seeds and Canada Blooms

Dahlia The dahlias that you picture in your mind's eye this summer are going to bloom to beat the band, especially if this 'global warming' trend that we experienced across Canada this winter continues. Dahlias love the heat and sunshine, so, all things being equal, I predict a record season for their blossoms this year.

To get yours to look as good as you imagine them to be you should really start them in March in large, gallon sized pots. Use quality potting soil like Mark's Choice Container mix and place them in a sunny window to put down roots and sprout before your very eyes.

If you have dahlia tubers stored in the basement from last year's crop then do as my sister Sue does: bring them upstairs, separate the viable/healthy tubers and get potting. What you cannot accommodate in your house you can give to willing recipients in the family or on the street. Start your own Dahlia club like they did in Moncton, New Brunswick and who knows what might come of that.

Ditto the info above with summer flowering tuberous begonias. Gladiolas will perform much better planted directly in the ground come late April in most parts of the country. Space the plantings apart by about 2 weeks to create a succession of bloom.

There are wedding bells in our future: daughter Heather is marrying Martin early this fall. Heather, being a gardener, wants to get married in our garden. So you know what that means: lots of dahlias! I had better get to work.


 Canada Blooms

Canada Blooms In one foul swoop Canada's largest flower and garden festival has become the largest event of its' kind in North America. This happened as a result of signing a 'co-location' agreement with the National Home Show. Both will take place March 16 to 25 in Toronto at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place.

If you have made it a habit to come down to see Canada Blooms in the past (and many people have travelled across the country to do just that) I encourage you to do it again this year. All 36 feature gardens are different from any that you would have seen in past years, including the return of 4 'Juno' Gardens - inspired and created by Juno award nominees in partnership with professional garden designers.

'Blooms also features over 200 hours of garden lectures/demos and entertainment, an enlarged 'Marketplace' where you can buy rare and unusual gardening stuff, the Master Gardeners are on hand to answer your gardening questions, food services have expanded, the Floral Hall features over 12,000 sq. ft. of flower and plant competitions and - well, the best suggestion that I can give you is to go to the website to check out the details. Connect to 3 feature articles that I have written for the Toronto Star by visiting beginning March 15th. Click on the 'Toronto Star' hot link.

Note that Denis Flanagan and I 'Open the festival' at 11 am each day on the celebrity stage from opening day (Friday the 16th) to Wednesday, March 21st. We will provide a visual overview of the event so that you can plan your day to get the most out of it. Wear walking shoes and bring a camera!

That is hardly it for March. I am just getting warmed up. More gardening news below including garden events that I am a part of in Markham, Brooklin, Ottawa and more. Please read on.

And have a great month warming up for the gardening season.

Keep your knees dirty,




Long Pond Classic p.s. Congratulations to my friend Jeff Redden, Home Hardware dealer in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The 'Long Pond Classic' event on February 11 was an enormous success. Jeff and his team sold out all 72 playing positions and the gala at King's-Edgehill School. Over $20,000 was raised to support the Canadian Hockey Heritage Museum in Windsor, where the first game of hockey was played over 2 centuries ago. It was a proud moment for me just to be a part of it. Thanks to all of you who came out and supported the event.

For pictures visit the Long Pond Classic website 


Thunder Bay p.p.s. The fundraiser in Thunder Bay February 7th with the Soroptimists' was a great success also. We sold out the house (300 plus tickets) and raised several thousand dollars for the TBRHS Foundation and the Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Treatment Centre. Congratulations to Nancy Yarzab and friends.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Mason Bee House

Mason bee house I discovered the magic of mason bees last summer when I had a mason bee house given to me. Get this: they are native bees, already active in your garden. They are more effective pollinators than honey bees (which are native to Europe) and attracting them is easy. All that you have to do, after you have hung your new Mark's Choice mason bee house on the east or south side of a wall or fence (out of the wind) about 1 � meters above the ground, is to ream the holes out with a 3/8th inch drill bit once a year.

Watching the work is fascinating!

I put my new house up in May and had it 1/3 full of eggs by mid July.

The Mark's Choice mason bee house is better than any other type on the market:
* All cedar construction: solid, build to last for many years. Weather proof and closest that you will come to the natural habitat of the mason bee.
* Made in Canada
* Mason bees are solitary, non-aggressive insects that can be observed at close proximity. Supplying them nesting sites in the holes of this untreated cedar house can be an educational and fun activity for the entire family.
* Mason bees are very effective pollinators. Mount the house out of the wind and clean it out with a drill once a year.
* Home Hardware item# 5454-321


 Where is Mark this Month?

Mark Friday, March 2 - Markham Home Show at 4pm. Tips, Tricks and Techniques for a better garden this year!

Friday, March 16 through Wednesday the 21st I will be at Canada Blooms (note the event runs until Sunday, March 25).

Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 - Ottawa Home & Garden Show.

Wednesday, March 28 - Brooklin Horticultural Society. 7pm at Brooklin United Church.

Saturday, March 31 - Burlington Home Show.

Saturday, April 7 - Oakville Home Show.

Saturday, April 14 - Milton Home Show.


 An early look at Lawn Care

CIL Golfgreen Given that our winter has been mild across the country I will share some news about 'how to have the best looking lawn on the block' here. Chances are pretty good that many of my readers will be out on their lawn before the next Mark Cullen newsletter arrives.

1. Rake lightly - remove loose winter debris and get the grass blades to stand up on end.
2. Fertilize with Golfgreen. This is the best favour that you can do for your lawn early in the season. The slow release nitrogen in Golfgreen provides a continuous feed for up to 12 weeks. Nitrogen, by the way, is what your lawn craves most when it awakens each spring.
3. Aerate your lawn if the soil is compacted.
4. Spread Golfgreen grass seed over a 3 cm layer of triple mix or Mark's Choice Lawn soil (Home Hardware) to thicken your lawn and compete lawn weeds out of existence. Note: grass seed is not effected by cold or frost. If it snows on top of your new grass seed, no worries.

Chances are pretty good that you will see a new TV ad this month, featuring my ugly mug shucking a new Golfgreen formulae that is exclusive to Home Hardware.

I am very excited about this as it really is the best version of the best product on the market. And it is made here in Canada.

I am not new to Golfgreen - I have endorsed the brand for over 20 years.
What makes the new Golfgreen formula special is the extra boost of slow release nitrogen. Now that it has no phosphorous in it, Golfgreen is safe to use around the cottage.

Guaranteed not to burn.
Most sophisticated slow release formula on the market.
Proven professional grade.
Made in Canada

And with every 12 kg bag of the new exclusive blend (item# 5024-503) you will receive a copy of my new book 'Canadian Lawn and Garden Secrets' for free. My 19th book, $12.99 value.

Go to your nearest Home Hardware for details.

And thank you for trusting my word on this. You will not regret it.


 A Recipe for Continuous Bloom
 by Lorraine Roberts

Book Cover About the Book:

Continuous bloom in the perennial garden is achievable with the right plant choices and this book is your guide to getting there. The month-by-month format helps to plan, and fill the voids in your garden. There are 287 individual perennials featured - each with its own page and beautiful colour photograph. Included is information on the growing zone, length of bloom, height, width, light, and soil. There are separate sun and shade sections with the appropriate icon for each perennial.

Artistically compiled and easy to use. A Recipe for Continuous Bloom was created to provide a starting point to build a backyard oasis of continuous bloom. Perennials that are hardy to Zones 3, 4, and 5 have been chosen. The plant choices are limitless and there will always be a new plant or hybrid, but Lorraine has recommended hardy perennials that she has grown organically in the display gardens at Plant Paradise Country Gardens.

Available online 

 In Pursuit of Garlic
 An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb

In Pursuit of Garlic On Saturday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m., bestselling author Liz Primeau will celebrate the publication of her new book, In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb at Canada Blooms with a fascinating presentation, Garlic Reborn, based on the highlights of her book. The location of the talk will be Canada Blooms, Direct Energy Centre, 100 Princes' Blvd., Blooms Garden Solutions, Hall A, Room 105, in Toronto.

The garlic renaissance is here! Over the past few years garlic has become the "it" item for both foodies and gardeners alike. For a bulb that spent the majority of the past century dismissed as vulgar, its time has certainly come. And why not? Garlic is tasty, fragrant, and versatile. It has been used by ancient civilizations as a foodsource, a glue, a cure for disease, and a currency. Today, there is a renewed interest in the medicinal value of garlic - the ancients are being proven right! With its sudden surge in popularity, it comes as no surprise that garlic is finally having its day in the Western world.

Liz Primeau's love affair with garlic began when her teenaged boyfriend took her to an Italian restaurant. In her new book, In Pursuit of Garlic, Liz leads us on a tour of garlic's role in history, art, medicine, and science. She also discusses the many varieties of garlic - from Russian Red to Kettle River Giant - visits garlic fairs in search of France's elusive L'ail Rose, and explores the issue of the ubiquitous Chinese garlic, which has caused international squabble and trade wars. Liz also invites us into her kitchen, where she shares her favourite garlic-centred recipes, tips on growing your own, and the secret of the knife smack.

Packed with fascinating facts, practical advice, recipes, and engaging personal stories, In Pursuit of Garlic tells the story of the vegetable that Liz says has "made an appearance in the life of almost everyone who's ever lived."


 Scarborough Seedy Saturday

Seedy Saturday When: Saturday, March 17, 12-4pm

Where: Heron Park Recreation Centre, 292 Manse Rd

The Third Annual SCARBOROUGH SEEDY SATURDAY is BIGGER and BETTER than ever! This day promises to be for gardeners and friends of planet Earth. There will be a chance to exchange seeds with other seed savers, to buy heirloom and organic seeds from vendors and learn more about gardening from Garden Gurus such as the Toronto Master Gardeners. Or attend a workshop and learn about all season growing, seed saving and starting, Balcony Gardening and more!

Tables will include heirloom and organic seed vendors, worm composting, bee products, backyard gardening, local community groups, garden associations and environmental/nature groups such as Rouge Park, the TRCA and the North American Native Plant Society.

Want to learn more about how you can green up your neighbourhood? Then visit the Live Green Toronto booth to learn about projects, resources and grants. Or stop by and meet Environmental organizations with stewardship opportunities in Scarborough!

For more information contact [email protected]


 Renew the World Gala
 March 7

Renew the World One Night. One Reason. Humanity.

50 scientists, 50 celebrities unite at star-studded event.

Renew The World Gala set to launch the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, mark 50th anniversary of stem cell discovery and I am delighted to have been invited to be there.

In celebration of the launch of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, and the breakthrough Canadian discovery of stem cells at the Ontario Cancer Institute 50 years ago, Renew The World Gala is set to make history once again. This once-in-a-lifetime black tie evening, attended by some of Canada's top 50 talent, will give a glimpse into what the next 50 years will hold, as research by the gala's true rock stars, the scientists, continues to uncover new, life-changing possibilities leading to brighter futures, less disease and healthier, longer lives for generations to come. The unprecedented gala takes place Wednesday, March 7 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Midtown (849 Eglinton Ave.E.).

Guests will witness the awe-inspiring power of this research through patients whose lives have been transformed, and the hope it brings to billions of others around the world. Dr. James Till, one of two Canadian scientists who discovered adult stem cells, as well as 50 prominent stem cell scientists who play a key role in the advancement of stem cell research, will share their research and provide a glimpse into what the next breakthroughs might be.

In addition, 50 Canadian celebrities will lend their voice and support to advancing stem cell research, as they host tables with Canada's most influential business leaders, philanthropists, politicians, and research leaders. Celebrities will come from every field including science, the arts, sport, entertainment, business and media.

To make a donation to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, please contact James Price at 613.739.6676 or [email protected].

It's not just about being able to tell your grandchildren you were there. It's about your grandchildren.


 Start your vegetable garden for free

Vegetable seeds 'Like' my facebook page for a chance to win $8 in Mark's Choice vegetable seeds. A winner is chosen every Friday.