Mark Cullen e-newsletter
February 2013 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

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I have good news: we have rounded the corner.

With February upon us there is a temptation to batten down the hatches even tighter as the wind blows and snow continues to pile deep [or it continues to melt and then return as it is in Southern Ontario].

 Good News

Good News The good news is that we are gaining almost a minute of daylight at each end of the day every day.

The good news is that it is time to sow early seeds of petunias, impatiens, and geraniums and start your tuberous begonias - which have arrived at your local garden retailer.

The good news is that it is Valentine's Day in 2 weeks: the best excuse to bring flowers into the house whether they are given to you or not. And to make someone happy by giving flowers, whether you are in love with them or not.

The good news is that our social-gardening-calendar is filling up [see the list below!]

The good news is that Canada Blooms is only 6 weeks away - the biggest horticultural event on the continent - in Toronto March 15 to 24.

The good news is that we are closer to the first day of spring.


 Reflecting on History

Len Cullen I have been rummaging through some of my late father's files lately, looking for some pictures with historic significance.

I found this one of him, standing in front of our family tree. It is a Little Leaf Linden, located in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto. He planted it in 1959 when the building belonged to the Royal Bank. The tree was part of a larger landscape that is all gone now, sacrificed to urban infrastructure like sidewalks, curbs and a right turn lane for cars.

This tree is a survivor, however, and I treasure this picture and my memory of taking Dad to a Maple Leafs game the night that I took this picture.


 Trees For Life

TFL logo Activity with Trees For Life, the urban tree coalition is picking up these days. Last week we completed our first ever Trees For Life Summit where Robert Burton, the Mayor of Oakville, Ontario hosted as the honorary chair for the day.

A fine group of 25 distinguished 'influencers' came together to noodle just how we are going to 'double the urban tree canopy' across Canada. Private foundations, not for profit tree planters, politicians and a hand full of private citizens with a keen interest put their heads together.

The results of the Summit will become public in a short while, along with the launch of a website and a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of urban trees. Stay tuned. I promise to keep you apprised.

Dad would be proud to see the progress that we are making to date. He planted, after all, a few thousand trees in the City of Toronto, and the surrounding area, in his time. One might be tempted to think that it was all for profit. Ask anyone who is in the gardening business and you will get the same answer to that question: laughter, mostly.

Gardening, like farming, is not something that you choose to do primarily for the money. It is a higher calling that brings societal, economic, environmental, and health/wellness values with it. When we are lucky [and work hard, as my Dad would remind me] the money can be ok. Considered a bonus.


 Things To Do This Month

Amaryllis February is a great month to begin warming up your gardening muscles: the ones in your head as much as the physical ones. Here is your To-Do list for February:

- Check your overwintering dahlia tubers to make sure that they are healthy and firm, ready to plant in pots next month. My buddy Merle Carson, who is the Past President of the Greater Moncton Dahlia Club in Moncton, New Brunswick sent me this fabulous parade of photos featuring dahlias like I have never seen them before. Have a look

- Start tuberous begonias. In shallow growing trays lay down about 2 cm of peat moss. 'Screw' the tubers into the peat with a gentle twist, concave side up. Cover the bulbs with peat but just barely. Water and keep in a warm place and put a transparent top on the tray. A sunny window works and so does the top of the refrigerator which radiates heat from the back.

- Make a plan of your vegetable garden or a list of the vegetables that you wish to grow this summer. Take a trip to the garden retailer and peruse the seed racks. Fresh seeds are now in and the selection is at its best. Come spring you will be busy with other things in the garden and there is no way that you are going to take your time with this job. I know that I don't. I place my orders with the seed catalogues too. We are blessed in Canada with a wide range of seed suppliers. Some of my favourites are Veseys , Stokes Seeds, Garden Import, Dominion Seed House, OSC Seeds, and McKenzie Seeds.

- Check out your indoor tropical plants. If roots are growing through the drainage holes in the bottom and if surface roots appear it is time for an upgrade in pot size. This is a great time of year to do this as most tropical plants are still dormant but they will begin to grow in late March through April - just in time to put down new roots in a new pot. Go up one pot size only.

- Tropical plants: check for insects. If you see something flying away as you brush against your Ficus benjamina, apply Green Earth insecticidal soap every 2 or 3 days until you have it under control.

- February is a month of heavy, wet snow. When that occurs be sure to use a corn broom to brush the excess snow off of your cedars, junipers: any plant that bends under the weight of the stuff.

- Enter my amaryllis contest on my Facebook page. We love sharing your stories and photos! And I love giving away Mark's Choice vegetable seeds to the winners.


 Anything is Possible

Urban farming Coming up this month I have written a 3 part series for the Toronto Star that I am looking forward to getting published. The subject is 'urban agriculture'. I ask readers to imagine living a very different kind of city, based on the book 'The Urban Food Revolution, Changing the way that we feed cities' by Peter Ladner.

In addition I took a trip to Detroit with son Ben this month to see a new project called Recovery Park, which provided the material for the third article. The story examines the transformation of a decaying, hulk of urban landscape into something productive, healthful and dynamic. I hope that you enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed researching them.

I invite you to look for these articles at Just click through the Toronto Star link. Series begins Saturday, February 2nd.

Thanks once again for listening. Have a great February. Enjoy the time that you have to dream of that garden come spring 2013 and don't be shy. I am here to tell you that anything is possible with some seeds, soil and the will to paint a landscape with plants.

Keep your knees dirty,


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Premium Vegetable Seeds

Vegetable seeds I personally selected these 12 premium veggie seed varieties for:
- garden fresh flavour
- ease of growing in Canadian conditions
- overall garden performance

Now is the time to get out and look over the seed racks. Buy seeds now while the selection is at its best.

Home Hardware Item Numbers:
Dusky Green Bean 5063-161, Slenderwax Yellow Bean 5063-162, Kestrel Beet 5063-163, Juno Hybrid Carrot 5063-164, Fanfare Cucumber 5063-165, Lollo Rossa Lettuce 5063-166, Tango Green Leaf Lettuce 5063-167, Simply Salad Blend 5063-168, Early Frost Pea 5063-169, Samich Spinach 5063-170, Golden Delight Yellow Zucchini Squash 5063-171, Blue Spice Basil 5063-172


 Where is Mark this Spring?

Mark February 2 - Men's Saturday Morning Breakfast. The Salvation Army Oshawa Temple Corps/Church.
Breakfast begins at 8:30am.
For more info. visit

February 2 - Guelph Organic Conference & Expo.
I will be there at 12:30 to 2:00pm on Saturday. Hope to see you there.
For more info. visit

February 6 - Ontario Parks Association, Annual General Meeting
9:00am. I will be the keynote speaker on the subject of the importance of urban trees, Trees for Life, the Urban Tree Coalition.

February 9 - 2nd Annual Long Pond Classic
Join me for a weekend of great fun and celebration of Canada's greatest game. We play hockey on Long Pond, where the original game was played. Grand dinner and auction with me as auctioneer, on the Saturday night. Click on the link for all of the exciting details.

March 1 - Markham Spring Home Show
I speak at 4:00pm on Friday, March 1st. Hope to see you there.

March 2 - I am the key note speaker in Windsor, Nova Scotia at the Urban Tree Conference.

March 15 to 24 - Canada Blooms Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. - Denis Flanagan and I open the largest garden festival in Canada with an overview of the 6 acre event from the main stage.
Friday the 15th at 1:00 p.m. daughter Heather and I use pictures from various garden tours that we have taken together in 2012 to illustrate our points of view about great garden design. Be warned! We do not always agree.

March 30 - St. Catharines Home Show

April 6 - Burlington Home Show

April 7 - Divas by Design, in support of HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre. The event runs 10am to 4pm. I will be speaking at noon.

April 20 - Mississauga Home Show

April 27 - Vermilion Home & Garden Show

May 24 - Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre Grand Opening at Gravenhurst Home Hardware. Check out their Facebook page for more details.


 Bird Studies Canada Birdathon 2013

Birdathon This year I am volunteering as Guest Birder for the 2013 Baillie BIRDATHON. Every May, the Baillie BIRDATHON generates essential funds for bird research and conservation.

You can support Bird Studies Canada and dozens of other Canadian conservation organizations by sponsoring a 2013 BIRDATHON participant, or by registering to participate yourself!

For more information 

 St. Brigid's Day

Saint Brigids Celebrate St. Brigid's Day with Diana Beresford-Kroeger & Ellen McIsaac and the Ottawa Celtic Choir.
All proceeds will go to the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Date: February 2, 2013
Time: 7:30pm
Location: 310 St. Patrick Street, Ottawa, ON
Cost: $10

For more info. 

 Get Ready for Spring!
 Workshop for Beginners to Experts

Riverwood Date: February 2, 2013
Time: 9:30 - 11:00am
Join the Mississauga Master Gardeners as they unravel the mysteries of how to propagate popular summer blooming Dahlias, Begonias, Crocosmia and other bulbs, tubers and corms.
Learn how to start various plants from seed and care for them until they are ready to plant in your garden.

Location: Meet at MacEwan Field Station at Riverwood, 4190 Riverwood Park Lane, Mississauga Cost: FREE

For more info. 

 First-Ever Travel Night
 At Toronto Botanical Garden

TBG Date: February 7, 2013
Time: Doors open at 5:30pm
"Travel Night" starts with Travel Fair, where you can collect information on fabulous tours and trips with a garden theme.
From 6:45 to 7 pm, join Head Librarian Zachary Osborne for Talking Books in the Weston Family Library.
Admission to the Travel Fair and Talking Books is free.

TBG Lecture Series
What: "The Globe-Trotting Gardener" with Lorraine Flanigan
When: Thursday, February 7 at 7:30pm
Where: TBG Floral Hall
Price: TBG members FREE, General Admission $25, Students $15

For more info. 

 The Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society

ORGHPS Date: February 10, 2013
Time: 1:30pm
Location: Toronto Botanical Garden

Bobby Ward. The Plant Legacy of JC Raulston.

Free admission, non-members welcome

For more info. 

 Nepean Horticultural Society

Exotic plant Date: February 21, 2013
Time: 7:30pm
Location: City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue, Nepean

Interested in Gardening? Come and Join us!
Guest Speaker: Marc Ladouceur
Topic: Exotic Plants for Northern Gardens

Everyone Welcome. $4 for non-members.
More info: 613-224-7184


 Get the Jump on Spring

TBG Date: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Time: 10am to 4pm
Location: Toronto Botanical Garden

TBG's annual Horticultural Open House. Floral Design Competition, Marketplace, Free Gardening Advice, Winter Garden tour (weather permitting), Gently used book sale, Meet with Horticultural societies, garden clubs and environmental organizations.
Admission is Free, however a $2 donation is appreciated.

For more info. 

 Free Tree Planting Workshop

Tree Planting Workshop Trees Ontario and local planting agencies are hosting a free tree planting workshop. Join us to learn more about tree planting subsidies, financial incentives, climate change adaptation, forest management and technical tree planting expertise.

Space is limited and pre-registration is encouraged.

Date: March 5, 2013
Time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Location: Scugog Community Centre. 1655 Reach Street, Port Perry, ON

To register 

 Canada Blooms

Canada Blooms Dates: March 15 to 24, 2013
Location: Direct Energy Centre. 100 Princes' Blvd, Exhibition Place, Toronto
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.

For more info. 

 6th Annual Gardening Saturday

Gardens Manitoba Manitoba's largest gardening tradeshow and educational symposium

Date: March 23, 2013
Time: 9am to 4pm
Location: Canadian Mennonite University, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Gardening Saturday connects gardeners to the experts, products and services in Manitoba's vital horticultural community.
Admission: $6

For more info. 

 Canadian Master Gardener Conference

Master Gardeners Date: April 5 to April 7, 2013
Location: Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville, ON

A full weekend of engaging speakers on an array of topics - trees, phenology, bugs good and bad, Darwin, turf, daunting deer and phytoremediation, to mention a few.

For more info.