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

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Welcome to December: the month of giving.

It is no coincidence, I am sure, that all of the charitable organizations that I have ever had contact with send me a request for a donation this time of year.

There is likely nothing much that I can add to the Christmas message that you don't already know: good will towards all people, peace on earth and the exchange of gifts between friends and loved ones and yes - the reaching out to people who are in need.

For this reason I draw to your attention a charity that gives in an extraordinary measure and does not advertise [much]. It is SHARE Agriculture Foundation. A uniquely Canadian charity that gives 'a hand up, not a hand out' to subsistence farmers in Central and South America.

Like any good charity, SHARE provides help to people who are unable to help themselves. In this case they help people who desperately want to help themselves but lack the resources to get started. A water well, a new kitchen stove, a cow or several chickens: whatever is needed to help people help themselves.

There are four things that make SHARE unique, in my opinion:

1. The 'pass on' principle. When SHARE provides help to a person or family it is expected that they will pass on some of the dividends of the gift as it grows. A cow has calves, chickens lay eggs [and make chicks], and a stove gets shared among villagers. The idea is to grow the gift exponentially.

2. SHARE monitors its gifts. There are two Canadians who visit the people and projects that are supported each year. They ensure that the support was given as planned and that the benefits of the gifts accrue to neighbours elsewhere. I have attended three of these monitoring trips and it is amazing to see a relatively small investment on the part of SHARE patrons grow and flourish under this system.

3. No admin fees. There is a lot of talk among donors here in Canada about the amount of money that supports office, staff and 'overhead'. While this is often necessary elsewhere, SHARE is 100% volunteer driven. Therefore, no overhead or admin fees.

4. CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] supports SHARE with a 3 times grant. In other words for every dollar raised from private sources [you and me] CIDA adds three more dollars.

I am a believer. Have been for 25 years. I wanted to share this with you just in case you are thinking of giving some of your hard earned money to charity this December and are looking for something interesting and/or different.

Thank you for indulging me in this message. It is not meant to be a solicitation [though, I guess it is]. Merely an option for readers who are thinking about who they will support this Christmas season.

 In Your Garden

Mark's garden What a great month to light a fire and read a gardening magazine. Or put your laptop on your lap and scroll through my website where you will find a weekly podcast, blog, syndicated newspaper column, hot links to my Twitter and Facebook pages and Canada AM appearances with my buddy Jeff. Look over the new Mark's Choice product line up and [if you have the time] check out my library that answers over 10,000 gardening questions.

This month I recommend that you:

- Check your indoor plants for re potting. With December providing us with the shortest day of the year your tropical plants have slowed down their metabolism. This is the best month of the year to consider repotting. December and January.

- Using evergreen boughs and a cut tree? Apply Wilt-Pruf to the needles to minimize loss of moisture and reduce fire hazard. Odourless, colourless and easy to use. Available at most independent garden centres.

- If you bring home flowering plants this month remember that all of them like to get a bit dry between waterings. Cyclamen like a cool room. Poinsettias like a warm room but not direct sunlight. [More details below.]

- Start an amaryllis this month. Check out the Mark's Choice amaryllis kit at Home Hardware. It includes an 'oversized' bulb for optimum performance. [More details below.]

- Bring an amaryllis kit to friends and family this holiday season instead of a bottle of wine [am I the only one who worries that I just might re-gift that wine to you when you invite me over?]

- Make sure that you truly did 'batten down the hatches' out in the garden: two layers of burlap around evergreens, a deep watering, hilled up the tender roses [as per my November newsletter] and wrapped the trunk of young fruit trees to prevent rodent damage.

- When it snows, avoid using salt on your walkway and drive. It is one of the most corrosive products on the market! Instead use a salt alternative [yes they cost a bit more, but they won't kill your plants!]. I use Alaskan Ice Melter.

When we speak next it will be the cusp of a new year. Imagine that.

I can tell you this: I have lots of exciting plans for the New Year and I can't wait to share them with you.

Thank you again for reading my monthly newsletter and for the privilege of allowing it to arrive in your 'inbox'.

Keep your knees dirty and warm.



A friend shared this with me and it is only fair that I share it with you.
When you want to go to another place entirely, watch this. When you have 10 minutes.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Amaryllis Kits

Amaryllis kit As a hostess gift, as a 'stocking stuffer' or as a stand-alone gift for anyone, young and old and in between - you really cannot go wrong. Not with a good quality amaryllis anyway.

Which brings me to the Mark's Choice amaryllis kit that we sell at Home Hardware. Our bulbs support so many blossoms and flowering stems that many people have reported 3 or 4 stems with 4 flowers on each stem!

I get more photos e mailed to me of these bulbs in bloom than of any other Mark's Choice product (and there are 150 of them!)

I tell you this because I do not want you to miss the opportunity to really wow the people on your gift list. This is your chance to really impress them without doing any work. The 'soil', pot, bulb and instructions are all in the gift box.

This is the best possible quality that you can buy: ask a Dutchman that knows. They grow all of our bulbs for us.
(Home Hardware item# 5029-303, red and # 5029-304, striped)

I believe the Mark's Choice amaryllis kit offers the highest quality and value. To prove this to myself, I am growing a wide assortment of amaryllis kits. Follow the progress of my amaryllis comparison on my Facebook page and share your own amaryllis photos.


 Where is Mark

Mark December 1 - Invermere Home Hardware Building Centre. More info

December 8 - In The Christmas Spirit. Newtonbrook United Church (more details below)

February 9 - 2nd Annual Long Pond Classic


 How to Care for a Poinsettia

Poinsettias With proper care your poinsettia will last through the holiday season and well into the New Year.

- Place in a room where there is sufficient light and warmth, not where the sun will shine directly on the plant.

- Avoid hot or cold drafts or excess heat from appliances, baseboard heaters or heat ducts.

- Place the plant high enough to be away from traffic and unmonitored children and animals.

- Set the plant in or on a waterproof container to protect your furnishings.

- Water the plant thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch. Remember to discard excess water from the saucer.

- To prolong the bright colour of the bracts, temperatures should not exceed 72 degrees F during the day or 60 degrees F at night.


 Toronto Botanical Garden
 Hearts and Flowers Campaign

Toronto Botanical Garden Every great city has a botanical garden, and the TBG is Toronto's one-of-a-kind. But it needs your help right now.

You can help save this precious oasis in the city that brings inspiration, solace, learning and pure joy to so many, and for free. There isn't another one like it.

The TBG relies on the support of individuals, corporations and foundations. Time matters, if you donate before December 31st, all contributions will be matched up to $50,000. So your $10 donation will be worth $20.

For more informaiton 

 Submit Your Local Event Listings

Events Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote?

I would be happy to include your event listing in my monthly E-newsletter. Deadline for submitting event info is the 15th of the month prior to newsletter publication.

Send your event info to [email protected] with the subject line 'Newsletter Event listing'. Along with a brief description of the event, please include a web address for further info.


 VanDusen Botanical Garden
 Festival of Lights

VanDusen Botanical Garden Dates: December 7 to January 1

Times: 4:30pm to 9pm

At VanDusen Botanical Garden a dedicated team of gardeners and volunteers have been working flat out to deck the Garden's boughs and building strings of 'jolly' light bulbs in preparation for the Garden's Festival of Lights.

For more info 

 Montreal Botanical Garden
 Christmas is Knocking at the Door!

Montreal Botanical Garden Dates: December 7 to January 6

Celebrate the magic of Christmas in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, lushly decked out for the season.

For more info 

 In the Christmas Spirit
 12th Year

Newtonbrook United Church Date: Saturday, December 8

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Newtonbrook United Church. 53 Cummer Avenue

In The Christmas Spirit is a beautiful way to enjoy the holiday season, and support the Newtonbrook Drop Inn to feed the homeless and hungry. Featuring Steven D'Souza (CBC), Paul Bliss (CTV) and Mark Cullen reading seasonal stories, along with festive music from Toronto French Montessori School Choir, Newtonbrook UC Chancel Choir, Seneca Hill PS, and The East York Brass and Woodwinds.

Tickets are $10 (1/2 price for children under 12) at the church office (info 416-222-5417), or at the door.


 Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton AB
 Seasonal Sundays

Muttart Dates: Sunday, December 9 and December 16

Time: noon - 4pm

Christmas is in full swing at Muttart Conservatory. Celebrate the holiday season with crafts, tours, and Christmas cactus planting.

For more info 

 The Permaculture Handbook
 An Afternoon Workshop

Permaculture Handbook Date: December 9
Time: 1pm to 5pm
Peter Bane will host a workshop based on his recent book, The Permaculture Handbook; Garden Farming for Town and Country.

Ian Graham is coordinating the workshop and can be reached at [email protected]


 Applewood Garden Club
 Annual Special Evening

Applewood Garden Club Date: January 17, 2013
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Lakeview Golf Course. 1190 Dixie Road, Mississauga

The Applewood Garden Club is hosting a special fundraiser evening with Frankie Flowers. Proceeds will be going to Heart House Hospice located in Mississauga .

In his talk, 'The Weird and Wacky World of Gardening', Frankie explores the folklore, fables and weird gardening practices of yesterday and today.
Ticket price: $15.

For tickets and more info 

 Southern Ontario Orchid Society
 Orchid Show

SOOS Date: February 16 and 17, 2013
Time: 11am to 5pm
Location: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue East

February is a dreary month and everyone is yearning for the living colours of plants. At the orchid show your senses will be stimulated and revived by thousands of orchid blossoms. Come enjoy the gorgeous as well as the bizarre world of orchids.

Admission: $12 (includes HST - cash only) Children 12 and under - FREE

For more info 

 Watching My Garden Grow
 A Gardener's Organizer

Journal A thoughtful gift for the organized gardener on your list this Christmas - or maybe the gardener who wants to get organized? Check out "Watching My Garden Grow" by Those Dame Gardeners.

It's a compact two year organizer making it extra value for your money. And it's easy to use.

Available on-line