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

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Citizen Science

I received an urgent e mail message from my wife yesterday: evidently she heard and saw her first robin this spring. The news was welcome as the thaw is excruciatingly slow this year, at least where we live in our zone 5 garden, an hour north of Toronto.

Thank goodness for the sight and sounds of birds this year. They know that spring is here, it is just hiding.

There is barely a hobby gardener in this country who does not consider themselves a birder also.

Which is to say that the North American Bird Conservation Initiative or NABCI has released the first ever publication entitled 'The State of Canada's Birds' and it makes for fascinating reading. This 34 page document is lushly illustrated with bird pictures and is organised in such a way that you will get the gist of it while reading it over your lunch hour.

The State of Canada's Birds is based on the accumulation of bird survey results from over 40 years. We need this information to understand the rise and fall of bird populations for its own sake and to measure the effects of climate change and human activity on birds in North America.

Armed with this knowledge we can make changes to our behaviour that affects the outcome of native bird health and population growth. Indeed, we have already made huge strides in our efforts to 'bring back from the brink' of extinction such birds as the Bald Eagle, the Whooping Crane and many raptors [i.e., hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey and vultures].

Here are some highlights from the study:
- One of the greatest declines in bird population is among 'insectivores': insect eating fliers like swallows and fly catchers [for me, a surprise as we have hundreds of swallows nesting on our farm]

- Since 1970 Canada's bird population has declined by 10%

- Waterfowl, chickadees, woodpeckers and raptors have increased in population

- Reductions in environmental pollution across the country are reflected in increases in bird population [so we can make a difference!]

- Some duck populations have increased by more than 50% [Canada geese populations by more than that: surprise!]

 Bird Studies Canada

Bird Studies Canada Bird Studies Canada, the lead organisation of its kind in this country, has been tracking birds for decades through various national bird counts, thanks to its members who are people just like you and me. Over 80% of the birds counted are sighted in their surveys in backyards and on feeding stations. They call this 'citizen science'.

Every May, Bird Studies Canada organises one of the largest bird-a-thons in the world and the oldest in North America: the Baillie Bird-A-Thon. The idea is to count as many bird species as you can in a 24 hour period. You can hike the Bruce trail, take a walk through a local conservation area or park, or you can sip coffee from your porch while watching your bird feeders. The information has a great deal of value regardless of where you are when you make your observations.

BSC uses this information to track the migratory patterns of birds and to gain an understanding of bird populations relative to geographic areas. The money raised is invested in the research and conservation of native birds.

As the Celebrity Birder [using the term loosely] I am looking forward to my day of birding with David Love and other experienced birders on May 14th at Tommy Thompson Park. We will be raising much needed funds for Bird Studies Canada that day and I will no doubt be learning a thing or two about our native bird species from people who eat, drink and breathe birds every day.

I would be delighted if you would sponsor me. The first $5,000 raised will be matched by a generous donor who does not wish to be named. Just go to my website at and click on the Baillie Bird-a-Thon hot link to find my sponsor page.

Baillie Birdathon 

 Things To Do in Your Garden for April

dahlia - Start your dahlias and canna lilies in one gallon [4 liter] sized pots. Use a quality soil like Mark's Choice Container mix.

- Start seeds of vegetables and flowers for May/June planting. This is a great way to save money on store-bought transplants later this spring and you will surprise yourself at how much fun it is [and how much satisfaction there is in it!] go to my recent Toronto Star column for a seed sowing chart.

- Clean indoor tropical plants and repot the overgrown specimens. Repot to a new pot one size larger than the current pot it is growing in.

- Bring home some colour! Potted daffodils/tulips/primula and English daisies are widely available and very inexpensive [how do they grow them for so little money?]


 Things To Do in Your Garden for April

Golfgreen - Cheat. Add to the flower show that you created last fall when you planted your spring flowering bulbs and plant some more. The pre-planted pots of bulbs that you see sold everywhere provide a great opportunity to get a jump on spring. They bloom earlier than the ones beneath the ground and will continue to bloom for a long period due to cool evening temperatures. Granted, this tactic only works when temperatures do not drop below -8oC and they are not trashed by the weight of a late spring snow. To me, it is worth the risk.

- Speaking of outdoor, early spring colour. It is now time to plant frost hardy flowers like pansies, violas, primula, violets, ranunculus and the aforementioned flowering bulbs. If you live on the prairies your time for planting these beauties will come mid April, weather dependant.

Lawn. April is LAWN month:
- Rake the winter debris off your lawn after the snow melts and when you can walk on your lawn without leaving a permanent impression of your foot.

- Fertilize with Golfgreen. The high nitrogen, slow release formula is the best in the business. This year they added a special form of iron that makes your lawn 22% greener and will not stain your patio or driveway. Look for the exclusive formula of Golfgreen at Home Hardware. It is the one with my ugly mug on the bag. This is, truly, the only fertilizer that I use on my lawn.

- Overseed bare or thin patches of turf with a 2 cm layer of triple mix or Mark's Choice Lawn soil. Spread Golfgreen lawn seed over the area evenly, rake smooth with a fan rake and step on it to bring it into firm contact with the soil. Water thoroughly and frequently until established.

- Aerate your lawn with a power aerator if you have clay soil or heavy foot traffic.

Plant. Some of you will be waiting for the May 24 planting weekend. Well, that is fine if you are only planting frost sensitive material, like petunias and tomatoes. But if you want to plant roses, shrubs, trees, evergreens and the like, there is no better month to do it than April. For one, the cool temperatures lend themselves to a better transplant success rate and secondly, the selection of plants is better than at any other time of year.

- Sow veggie seeds. As my friend, the late Lois Hole of St Albert Alberta, used to say to me, "Mark, for goodness sake tell people to sow their carrots in April." She was so emphatic about this that you would think it was a religion. I guess to her it was, sort of. In addition to carrots, sow your peas, snow peas, onion sets, and multipliers. If you didn't plant your garlic last fall, do it as early this spring as you can.

- Soil prep. Itching to get going but still too cold to plant? Get your containers ready for May planting by emptying them of last years' soil [put it in the garden] are refill with fresh container mix. I use Mark's Choice Container mix, Home Hardware. Well, yea! Prep your garden with fresh soil/compost and mulch so that you have less to do come May.

And finally - come and see me Sunday April 7th in Waterloo, Ontario for Divas By Design. I am the keynote/lunch speaker for this very special event. Mine is just one part of a day long series of special presentations. Go to for details. We are raising money for the Hope Spring Cancer Support Centre. I am pleased to volunteer my services.

I am busy at a variety of home shows around the country this month: check them out below. Note the special 'gardening clinic' in Vermillion Alberta on Friday, April 26th. It is going to be a fun and informative day. Only 25 people may register so get your name in there soon! Visit

Have a great gardening month - breathe deep and get energy from the warming earth. Feels good, no?

Keep your knees dirty,


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Dahlia Collection

Dahlia collection Start dahlias indoors now. An early start means earlier blooms.

I love to grow dahlias! They are one crop that can be successfully grown almost anywhere in Canada with great results.

I have been looking for some outstanding garden performers with extra large tubers, and I have finally found them! I think that you will enjoy these varieties for their exceptional colours and quality.

Remember to always plant dahlias in a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunshine.
Home Hardware item# 5029-213


 Survey Winners

Bypass Pruner Set Last month I invited you to participate in a short survey. I appreciate the great responses we received: over 1000 in all! I have randomly chosen 4 winners from the survey participants.

Winners will each receive a Mark's Choice Bypass Pruning Kit.

List of winners:
Claire Ferenbach
Cindy LaChance
Crystal Harvey-Robertson
Jordan McKinnon


 From the Garden Shed
 My Weekly Blog Post

Blog Every Wednesday I post a new entry in my blog, From the Garden Shed. Based on recent survey results, most of you did not know about my blog.

To make it easier to find, I will include links to my blog here in the newsletter.

In case you missed them, check out my postings from March:
March 6 - Shrubs and Perennials

March 13 - Cutting Gardens

March 20 - How to Limit Deer Damage in the Garden

March 27 - Skunks, and Raccoons, and Mice!


 Where is Mark this Month?

Mark April 6 - Burlington Home Show
Location: Mainway Recreation Centre
I speak at 2pm

April 7 - Divas by Design
Supporting Hope Spring Cancer Support Centre
Location: St. George Hall. 665 King Street North Waterloo, Ontario

April 20 - Mississauga Home Show
Location: Hershey Centre, Mississauga
I speak at 2pm

April 26 - Good Life Institute, Vermilion Alberta
One-day class with Mark Cullen

April 27 - Vermilion Home & Garden Show
I speak at 11am, 1pm and 3pm

View my full schedule 

 New - Featured Plant of the Month

Featured Plant I learned from the recent survey results that you would like to learn more about specific plants. Starting this month I will include a 'Featured Plant of the Month' in each newsletter.

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'
Common names: Variegated Solomon's Seal, Striped Solomon's Seal, Fragrant Solomon's Seal, Variegated Fragrant Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' is the Perennial Plant Association's 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year. This all-season perennial has greenish-white flowers in late spring and variegated foliage throughout the growing season. The foliage turns yellow in the fall and grows well in moist soil in partial to full shade.

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' grows 18 to 24 inches tall and will spread by rhizomes to form colonies. A good choice for the shade woodland garden or the part-shade to full-shade border.
Hardy to zone 3. [Edmonton]


 Story of how Mark Cullen's newsletter does a great job promoting S.H.A.R.E.

SHARE One day in December I received a phone call from Lorraine Roberts that owns Plant Paradise Country Gardens in Caledon, along with her husband Robert. Lorraine told me that she read about S.H.A.R.E. in Mark's November newsletter and was impressed. She looked S.H.A.R.E. up on the internet and thought that their company would be interested in supporting what we do. We had a great telephone conversation and I told her more about S.H.A.R.E. She reviewed her plan on how they were going to support us and they wanted some S.H.A.R.E.'s brochure.

Starting on Saturday, April 13th and running till June 2nd 2013, Lorraine will hold a workshop on garden topics at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The cost will be $10.00 per person for each workshop and all the proceeds will go to S.H.A.R.E. To review the list of workshops and to register go to

Then on Saturday July 6th and Sunday July 7th, 2013 ,they will be hosting their 6th Annual Delphinium Festival at their Plant Paradise Country Gardens, 16258 Humber Station Road, Caledon. Everyone is welcome to celebrate summer with friends and gardening enthusiasts at PPCG. Experience the refreshing peace and beauty of their botanical garden and organic perennial nurseries The festival includes gardening workshops / seminars at a cost of $25.00 per person with the proceeds going to S.H.A.R.E. Throughout the days there will be free guided tours of the garden, concerts, raffle, food and refreshment and much more.

Lorraine is allowing S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation to have a booth at this festival to inform others about our great projects on how we help people in the developing countries to help themselves to become self- sustained. Check us out

Thank you Lorraine and Robert Roberts for all your support. People like you do make a difference in this world to help eliminate poverty. Everyone that helps the everyday operation of S.H.A.R.E are volunteers so all proceeds will go directly to our projects.

A hardy thank you to Mark Cullen for all the promotion that he gives S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation in his newsletters, his column in the Star and his radio broadcasts. Lorraine found out about S.H.A.R.E. and so will others.

Submitted by Joseph W. Gray / Treasurer


 Submit Your Local Event Listings

Calendar 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 15 th 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 information.


 Montreal Botanical Garden
 Bird Watching

Birdwatching The Botanical Garden is a prime location for bird observation because the diversity and quality of trees and shrubs provide the food and protection birds needs as well as a suitable habitat for building their nests.

More info 

 Oakville Horticultural Society
 Talk on 'Gardening from a Hammock'

Gardening from a Hammock Date: April 8
Time: 7:30 to 9:00pm
Location: McMillan Hall, Knox Presbyterian Church, 89 Dunn Street, Oakville
Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'
Topic: Low-maintenance Gardening
For more info: email [email protected]


 Peterborough Garden Show

Peterborough Garden Show Dates: April 12-14, 2013
Location: Evinrude Centre, Peterborough, ON
Admission: $6 per day (children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult)
Come and see the latest products, over 150 knowledgeable vendors and exhibitors to meet your garden and landscaping needs.

For more info 

 Nepean Horticultural Society

Creative Containers Date: Thursday, April 18
Time: 7:30pm
Guest Speaker: Christine Libon
Topic: Creative Container Gardening
Location: City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue, Nepean

For more information, call 613-224-7184


 Muttart Conservatory
 Music at the Muttart

Muttart Conservatory Date: April 18
Time: 6-9pm
Stop in for music performed by local artists, and check out the beautiful pyramid lighting. Featuring 'Foray into Folk'.

More info. 

 Bobcaygeon & District Horticultural Society

Bobcaygeon Date: April 18
Time: 7pm
Location: Knox Presbyterian Church Hall
Topic: Landscaping with Edibles: Marjorie Mason


 Mount Hamilton Horticultural Society

MHHS Date: Saturday, April 20
Time: 10am
Location: Sherwood Public Library, 467 Upper Ottawa St.
All gardeners are welcome to visit our Gardening Booth presented by gardeners from the Mount Hamilton Horticultural Society. We'll be pleased to reply and follow up to questions on gardens and horticulture. Learn about joining and "growing" with the Great Gardening Group.


 Ottawa Orchid Society
 32nd Annual Orchid Show

Orchid Show Date: April 20 and 21
Location: Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa
Orchid displays, art gallery & orchid vendors.
General admission: $10. Seniors: $8. Children (8-12): $8

For more information 

 Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society Meeting

HBRose Society Date: April 21
Time: 2pm
Location: Royal Botanical Gardens Centre, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington
Guest Speaker: Elizabeth Schleicher on "ROSAFRICA" an illustrated report on 2012 World Federation Rose Society.
Everybody is welcome. No entrance fees.
For more information, email [email protected]


 The Riverwood Conservancy
 Fundraising Gala

Riverwood Conservancy Earth: a Celebration
Date: Friday, April 26
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Oasis Convention Centre. 1036 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga
Tickets: $100 per person. $750 table of eight

More info. 

 VanDusen Botanical Garden
 Plant Sale

Plant Sale Date: April 28
Time: 10am to 4pm
THE sale of the year. More than 40,000 plants for sale. Catalogues available in advance at the Garden Cashier for $2 starting April 1. Bring your wheelbarrow and a friend.

More info.