November 2013
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
Things To Do
Product of the Month revisited
Plant of the Month



Gardening Connections

Mark's Choice   
Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
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This is kind of personal but I am going to share it with you anyway.  

As you know, this month has been labelled 'Movember' over recent years in a world wide effort to draw attention to men's health and particularly to the issues surrounding prostate cancer.  The idea is for men to grow a moustache and raise money for cancer research.


I am not growing a moustache as the last time I tried it grew in red and thin - you could hardly see it.  In short, it looked stupid.  So, I am telling you this story instead.


In early May, after extensive medical tests, an urologist told me that I had prostate cancer.  I was the most surprised guy on earth as there had been no symptoms.  None.   The cancer had not advanced so far that dramatic action was required but it was serious enough that he recommended that I take one of two actions: radiation or radical prostate surgery. 


After some debate and discussion with loved ones, I decided that surgery was my best bet.  On June 13th I went to Toronto East General hospital and was released two days later. 


Everyone seemed to want to know how long recovery would take.  That is a hard one to answer as one person's 'recovery' is not the same as the next guy.  If we use a golf swing, however bad in my case, as the litmus test for 'recovery' the answer is 6 to 8 weeks.  I recovered right on schedule. 


I am a lucky one.  Or a smart one, depending on how you look at it.  Many people have slapped me on the back and exclaimed, "Good for you for going to the doctor and taking care of yourself."  Like 'taking care of myself' is some kind of accomplishment. 


Well, I have hung around the men's change room at my local fitness club for over 30 years now and I actually understand what the back slapping is about: men hate talking about health issues.  We would rather discuss recent sports scores and the weather than something as personal as our prostate.  So going to the doctor is something that men often put off, as if delaying an 'annual' physical will somehow make the experience more joyful when it finally happens. 


But get an 'annual' physical I did.  And here is the nut of the thing: my doctor said that my PSA (the common measure of prostate) was a very acceptable 2.1.  Generally a number below 4 is acceptable.  However, he added, "It is my job to make sure that you are healthy so I am sending you to an urologist.  Three years ago your PSA was 1.0 and I don't like how it has moved up so quickly." 


Off I went to the urologist.   And now you know the rest of the story.


On July 25 I went to see the surgeon/urologist for my post-operation checkup.  He looked me in the eye with a broad smile told me that my PSA was 0 and that the cancer had not 'marginalized'.  In other words it had not moved beyond the tissue of the prostate itself or metastasized.  It was contained. 


This, of course, was the good news that I was hoping to hear.  I had a hard time wiping the smile off of my face.


For many other men there is no smile and the news is not so good.  Statistically, over 4,000 men die of prostate cancer in Canada each year. 


I have heard it said that most every man will develop prostate cancer at some point in his life.  I have heard others say, "Well, you have to die from something."  Both of these sentiments are dangerous as they can lead the procrastinators to only procrastinate more.  I am 57 years old.  I am young, according to my doctor.  Had I left my situation for another 3 to 5 years it 'may not have been operable'.  From his mouth to God's ears. 


I am a deeply grateful, fortunate and lucky cancer survivor. 


If you know a man who is putting off until tomorrow a decision to get checked out, please pass this message on to him.  If just one guy sees his doctor and catches prostate cancer early I will have accomplished much more here than I would have by growing a no-see-um moustache.


Affectionately yours,





Things To Do in Your Garden in Movember:


With apologies to my western subscribers who have already experienced significant snowfall and cold temperatures.  If the snow is not too deep you can get out there and perform some of these tasks.  Or do nothing and hope for the best. 


Our 'winterizing' activities in the garden are an insurance policy against the worst possible weather.  Put another way, NOT protecting your garden is a gamble that the almanac is wrong and that winter will never come.  Not a typical 'Canadian' winter anyway.  Here goes:


- Wrap upright cedars, junipers and other upright growing evergreens with two layers of burlap.  At Home Hardware we developed a unique method of wrapping evergreens using a method that is similar to that of wrapping a bandage on a broken limb.  Look for the 'bandage burlap wrap' item # 5094-519.  It is a Mark's Choice product. 


- Mound triple mix or clean top soil over the root zone of tender roses (not shrub roses as they are 'winter hardy').  Hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora and miniature roses all need this insulation to prevent damage due to the freeze/thaw cycles.


- Wrap fruit tree trunks, including crabapples, with a plastic spiral wrap to prevent mice, rat and rabbit damage.  When the girth of your trees is greater than a 8 cm or 3 inch diameter you no longer have to do this as the mature bark will have lost its appeal to neighbourhood rodents.


- Apply Wiltpruf to all broadleafed evergreens including blue holly, mahonia, taxus (yews), boxwood and especially rhododendrons.  This invisible coating prevents desiccation of the moisture-bound leaves during our extremely dry winter weather.  (Good news.  My friends at Home Hardware tell me they will have WiltPruf available within the next couple of weeks.  You can order it through your local Home Hardware store.  They will need the item# 5097-806, 14oz size and 5097-815, 950ml size.)


- If you still have un-raked leaves, be sure to put them on your garden and not in bags and out for pick up at the end of your driveway.  Worms will pull the leaves into the soil and add much needed nutrition to the soil next spring.  Oak leaves should be mulched with your lawn mower before you put them on the garden.


- Cut down tall growing perennials that will blow down during the winter and leave your hydrangeas standing over the winter.  Prune down come April. (Yea! Something NOT to do!)


- Fertilize your lawn one more time.  I leave the CIL Golfgreen Fall Lawn Fertilizer application as late as I can.  It is the most important application of the year.


- Change the oil in your power mower, clean the cutting deck and spray oil on it, disconnect the spark plug and wipe down the body before putting it away for the winter.


- Put your Halloween pumpkin in the garden where Mother Nature will take good care of it: frost will 'melt' it into the soil.  Or cut it up and turn it under the soil to get it out of site.  Good for your soil. 


- Plant tulips.  There are some great deals in the stores right now! 


- Breathe deep the last, moist, cool, crisp days of autumn.  Hold the memory for 4 months.  Maybe 5.


Note:  Check out this month for a completely 'reconstructed' site.  We have been working on an exciting new 're-design' with the professionals at 5th Business.  I will alert you when it is ready to rock and roll, but in the mean time keep an eye on it.  And click through to the recent video that I shot while visiting Ireland with Canada AM.  I am delighted with the results and if you have 3 and a half minutes to watch I think you will be pleased too.  There are more videos to come from the Emerald Isle.  Stay tuned to CTV. 



Mark's Choice Product of the Month 
Revisiting my Bulb Collections

It has come to my attention that the planting instructions were not included in the new Mark's Choice  Bulb Collections at Home Hardware.  


Please accept my apologies.  Our incredible bulb supplier has provided me with the instruction sheets which should have been inside the boxes.   It won't happen again!   


You can view them by clicking on each link:


Deer & Squirrel Resistant Bulbs - Planting Instructions 

Canadian Tulip Garden Bulbs - Planting Instructions 

Daffodil & Crocus Bulbs - Planting Instructions 

Featured Plant of the Month
Wild Swan Anemone


Anemone hybrid 'Macane 001'


This lovely anemone hybrid has been bred to be a large, vigorous bloomer, flowering continuously from mid June until mid November, much longer than Japanese anemone hybrids.  


Large, pure-white faced flowers, a circle of crisp chartreuse yellow stamens, with rich bluish-violet banding on the reverse of the sepals.  The flowers are held well above the foliage, having a nodding habit in the early morning and evening, showing off the attractive blue characteristic.  


In 2011, Anemone Wild Swan was awarded Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year.


Source: Garden Inspiration 2013,

Submit Your Local 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 before publication.

Send your info to with the subject line 'Newsletter Event listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.


Brandon Garden Club

Dressed for the Holidays 


Hands on workshop $10.

Accessorizing your poinsettia - includes poinsettia and accessories.


Date: Wednesday, November 20

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Don Glen Hall.  The North Hall of Seniors for Seniors.  311 Park Ave. East, Brandon, Manitoba


Applewood Garden Club

Talk on Low-Maintenance Gardening  Gardening from a Hammock  


Date: November 21

Time: 7-9:30pm

Location: 1513 Dixie Road South, Mississauga, ON


Guest Speaker: Dan Copper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'

Everyone welcome.

Contact: 416-669-4386

Bobcaygeon & District Horticultural Society

Bobcaygeon Annual meeting and potluck supper

Date: November 21

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Knox Presbyterian Church, Bobcaygeon, ON

Light Up the Hills Festival of Lights

The Dominion Garden Park in Georgetown (Halton Hills) is a wonderland of 50,000 LED lights and displays from December 1, 2013 to January 3, 2014 from 5pm until 11pm every evening.


The park is located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Guelph Street in Georgetown.

More info:

Butchart Gardens, BC
Winter in the Gardens

"Many think spring and summer are the only times to visit-they're missing out. With our temperate climate, winter is an ideal time to experience the subtle beauty of our shrubs and trees, along with such flowers as dainty snowdrops, lush hellebore, and more. 


For much of winter you can explore our Historical Display and stroll through the Spring Prelude indoor garden."

More info:


Toronto Botanical Garden

Organic Farmers' Market


Now open all-year round.

Organic farmers, local produce, bread, meat, cheese, honey, prepared food, and more.



Time: 3 to 7pm

More details


Annapolis Royal

Winter Farmers' Market 

Historic Gardens  

Dates: Every Saturday through May 10

Time: 9am to noon


5th season of the Winter Farmers Market at the Historic Gardens.


More than a dozen vendors will be on hand all winter long to ensure we have access to local food products: meat, fish, veggies & fruit, eggs, locally roasted coffee, baked goods, jams & jellies, and lots more.

More info


Canada Blooms 2014

Canada Blooms is excited to announce that WILD will be the theme for the 2014 festival.  I will be there (details of my appearances to come).   


Artistic director, Colomba Fuller tells us "Wild is a word rooted in a fantastic plethora of other words: natural, untamed, fantastic, outlandish, extravagant, sensational, unrestrained, fanciful, fabulous, primitive, lush, and luxuriant, just to name a few.


Given the diversity of the meanings of WILD we are waiting with much enthusiasm to see how the talented garden designers, builders and floral superstars will interpret the theme to create their stunning showcases."


Dates: March 14 to 23, 2014

Location: Direct Energy Centre, Toronto, ON

More info.