January 2014
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
Gardening is a Sport
Time to Think
We Socialize
We Organize
Things To Do
December Contests
New Contests
Product of the Month
Featured Plant of the Month



Gardening Connections

Mark's Choice   
Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
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Down Time Before Up Time


"In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy." ~William Blake


Say 'good morning' to your time off. 


Gardeners are very fortunate, as hobbyists go.  Philatelists [stamp collectors], model railroaders, knitters and water colour painters have the entire year to indulge their special interests. 


Come to think of it, so do gardeners.  Only we 'garden' differently in January and February.  We do it in our heads.  Here is my 4 point refresher for 'winter gardeners':

#1 Gardening is an active sport. 
I know, you don't think of it as a sport, per se, but look at it this way: according to the ultimate authority, Wikipedia, the word sport comes from "the old French desport meaning "leisure", with the oldest definition in English from around 1300 being "Anything humans find amusing or entertaining."   
Based strictly on this definition gardening is as much a sport as hunting or fishing.  Maybe a more civilized one at that, after all we are not killing our play-things but rather planting and nurturing them, for the most part.  And yes, at the end of the day, we can eat the spoils of our sport too.  In this regard gardening is the ultimate outdoor sport.  Gardeners need winter to recharge, like any other sport-people.   


#2 Time to Think.

It is hard for the non-gardener to appreciate the creative juices that are invested in the efforts of gardening.  It is, after all, not like we just wander out to the yard some Saturday morning and start digging.  There is an enormous amount of planning that goes into this endeavor.  


We have to know, in our minds eye, what the garden will look like each year, what vegetables and fruits it will produce, where the kitchen herbs will be planted and above all, where we are going to sling the hammock.  You think that this stuff just 'happens'?  If you do, I will take that as a compliment.  


As my late father Len would say, "The mark of a professional is one who makes their work look easy." 


Winter is not just 'down time' [while it is that] it is also a time when the urgency is gone.  There are no weeds begging for their heads to be chopped off or beans that need picking on this very day.   


Gardeners are afforded the luxury of researching ideas that might work for us in our own garden: we read everything that we can to stimulate our thought process [including the stack of gardening magazines that we didn't get to earlier in the year] and we order seeds from catalogues.

#3 We Socialize. 

Gardening is a bit like writing: it is a solitary experience, when we are actually doing it.  However that does not mean that we are not social people.  Very much the opposite.  


There is nothing we love more than getting together to compare notes, pictures, gardening travel stories and to brag about the size of our tomato crop. 


Winter is our time to get together.  Garden Clubs, Horticultural Societies, courses on every aspect of gardening and casual, thrown-together meetings occur with tremendous frequency when the snow is piled high. 


In this regard I contend that gardening cures shyness.  I have frequently seen otherwise shy, retiring people open up and offer an opinion or reflect on an experience where gardening is concerned.  It is the ultimate motivator for the tight lipped.


#4 We Organize.

Remember all of those pictures that you took of your garden this past season?  Now is the time to file them according to date, get them 'right side up' and delete the duds.  


I find that organising my photos is a great reminder that they even exist.  I am one snap happy shooter during the gardening season.  But my mind is pre occupied with 'getting it over with' so that I can get to the real task at hand: weeding, sowing, harvesting etc.  


For this reason I often forget that I actually captured a moment with a monarda: butterfly, flower and all. 

Photos are not all that we organise.  We organise the images in our head too. 


And finally, there is the amazing garden of tomorrow: the one that does not exist yet in reality but does in our brain.   Winter is our time to think about the changes that we are going to make to our garden.


I am planning a new 'green roof' on top of my fire wood shed, a couple more pergolas in the back garden and I am making a list of the veggies that I am going to grow.   I am negotiating with the cook in our house [that would be my wife] and Ted, the deli owner down the street.  He makes the best tomato sauce in the world, using my organic, free range, grass fed San Marano tomatoes [I made up the part about 'grass fed'].


Yes, gardeners dream while the snow piles high.  Others may ski or play hockey or trap muskrats in the muskeg.  It is not that we can't do these things too: we often do.  But don't be fooled by a gardener who busies himself snowshoeing through the drifts.  He may bear all of the appearances of loving the experience, but in reality he is killing time, waiting for the frost to bid us goodbye. 



Mark Cullen

Merchant of Beauty



Things To Do this Month   

1.  Plan.  As per my story [above] review the digital photos on your computer, order your seed catalogues, look over the new offering of seeds at your favourite retailer and think about the changes that you would like to make to your garden this season.


2.  Read.  See that stack of gardening magazines in the corner?  The ones that you didn't get around to reading during the 'season'?  Have a good, winter-time review of them and pass them on to friends and family.


3.  Meet and be social.  Join your local horticultural society, take a course on gardening/garden design/garden architecture at your local botanical garden [if you have one] and check out the nigh school courses at your local school and/or garden centre.


4.  Grow an amaryllis.  They are soooo easy to grow and a lot of fun, especially during the long cold days.  Who knows, maybe this time round you will win the Mark Cullen Best Amaryllis contest!  See details below.


5.  Repot tropicals.  Roots growing out the drainage hole?  Roots growing through the surface of the soil?  Time to repot: use a pot one size larger, use fresh potting soil and push the soil aggressively down between the roots and the wall of the new clay pot. And yes, I do prefer clay pots to plastic as they breathe.  


Watch my new video (and see Clark help me repot a tropical plant).


December Contests 


I would like to say 'Thank you' to everyone who visited the new www.markcullen.com website.


The response to my new website has been overwhelmingly positive.  I appreciate all of the feedback I have received. 


My December contest was a great success.  Each Friday in December I selected a winner from all successful entries.  (To enter the contest you simply had to email the topic of my blog for that week.)  


Congratulations to the winners: Norma Hubbard, Lyle Opseth, Deb Baker, and Dorothy Griffith.   Each winner received a $100 Home Hardware gift card.


I have more contests planned for 2014.  Check out www.markcullen.com and my Facebook page regularly for contest details.  And don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


New Contests for the New Year


Contest #1: Amaryllis Contest

If you are growing an amaryllis, I encourage you to enter my annual photo contest.


Once your amaryllis blooms, take a photo.  Submit your photo to my contest for a chance to win a Home Hardware gift card.


First place prize, a $50 Home Hardware gift card, will be awarded to the amaryllis with the most blooms.


Second place prize, a $25 Home Hardware gift card, will be awarded to the largest single bloom.


Third place prize, a signed copy of my gardening book The Canadian Garden Primer, will be awarded to a winner selected randomly from all other entries.


Email your photo entry to groundskeeper@markcullen.com.  Please use the subject line 'amaryllis contest'.


Deadline for contest entries is February 28, 2014.


Contest #2


Daily Chance to win a pair of amaryllis stakes.

'Like' my facebook page for a chance to win a pair of Mark's Choice amaryllis stakes.  


I will select one winner each day in January.  


Winner's names will be posted on my facebook page.  I will also include the list of winners in my February newsletter.


Simply click 'Like' and your name will be entered in this contest.  


Good Luck!


Mark's Choice Product of the Month
Sunflower Plus Bird Seed Mix 
 Sunflower Plus

I have spent a lot of money on large bags of black oil sunflower seed over the years. The birds in my yard just seem to love it. 


However, not all birds love the black oil as much as the striped - or for that matter the safflower seeds (that squirrels hate, by the way). 


So we have mixed them into a tasty combination of quality bird seed that appeals to the broadest possible pallet of bird taste buds.   Exclusive to Home Hardware.


(Home Hardware item# 5453-365)


Also available in the Mark's Choice line of birdseed:

Bird Feast Songbird Blend 

(item# 5453-067 4kg, 5453-072 8kg)

Deluxe Blend with Berries and Nuts (item# 5453-362)

Nyjer Plus with Sunflower Chips (item# 5453-364)

Finch Blend with Sunflower Chips (item# 5453-363)



Featured Plant of the Month 
'Silver Mist' lavender

Lavandula 'Silver Mist'


Fragrant from spring through fall.  The leaves of 'Silver Mist' have a pleasant balsamic scent, while the flowers release lavender's iconic scent.  


The flowers are pure sky-blue and continue over an especially long season.  Compact, well-branched, and marvelously fragrant in bloom and leaf, it's a must-have for the sunny garden and fine containers.  


Deer resistant, drought tolerant, heat tolerant and pest resistant.  Grows 45-60cm (18-24") tall and wide.  Hardy to zone 5.


Source: Garden Inspiration, 2013 www.landscapeontario.com


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 groundskeeper@markcullen.com with the subject line 'Newsletter Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.

Butchart Gardens

January, 2014


Experience our incredible Spring Prelude indoor garden and Historical Display.


For more info visit www.butchartgardens.com

Organic Master Gardener Program
Multicultural Heritage Centre

Stony Plain, Alberta


Under the umbrella of the Multicultural Heritage Centre, the program is geared to adult learners of all levels of gardening experience.  Students study in the evenings about three times a month from February to October.  


The first class for 2014 will be on Wednesday, February 5, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Half of the 25 (3 hour) courses are from the Gaia College curriculum www.gaiacollege.ca and the other half are locally developed courses for our regional soils and growing season. Students receive no tests or exams, but are asked to compile a portfolio of assignments throughout the year. 


For a detailed syllabus, go to www.multicentre.org, go to the "Program" tab and pull down to Organic Master Gardener to see the 2014 brochure. Registration for the 2014 program is currently underway. An information evening is planned for Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at the Multicultural Heritage Centre. 


For information or directions, contact judyk@multicentre.org


The Riverwood Conservancy

Birds of a Feather: Nature & Art Together


Riverwood Conservancy


Dates: January 2 and 3


Bundle up the family, and head to Riverwood as The Riverwood Conservancy and Visual Arts Mississauga present a morning of nautral wonder and artistic inspiration.


Call 905-279-5878 or email info@theriverwoodconservancy.org


Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society



Date: January 12, 2014

Time: 1-4pm


Topic: Smaller Trees and Shrubs for Today's Gardens


Speaker: Darren Heimbecker


Location: Toronto Botanical Garden


North American Native Plant Society


Fall tour

Promoting Biodiversity in the Urban Landscape


Date: January 22, 2014

Time: 7:00pm


Speaker: Scott Torrance, Landscape Architect


Location: Toronto Botanical Garden, 700 Lawrence Ave. East



2014 Guelph Organic Conference & Trade Expo


January 30 to February 2


Now heading into its 33rd year on the Guelph campus, "Catching The Wave" will bring forth many issues which are top-of-mind for active growers and marketers: organic crops, livestock & pastures; permaculture, pollination & biodiversity; software, marketing & urban ag; plus organic meets foodservice & how to inform the consumer with accurate information.


Location: Guelph University Centre


Southern Ontario Orchid Society

35th Anniversary Orchid Show


Dates: February 8 & 9, 2014


Location: Toronto Botanical Garden


The sights and scents of a tropical rainforest full of blooming orchids will fill the TBG and enchant every visitor.

Proceeds from the show support conservation of orchid habitat both in Canada and in the tropics.


More info: www.soos.ca 


2014 Stratford Garden Festival

"Beyond the Garden Gate"


Explore nine imaginative and beautiful display gardens offering a kaleidoscope of floral colour and the heady fragrance of blooming flowers and mulch.  


Shop the Festival Marketplace and learn from top garden gurus as part of the Horizon Pro Resp Speaker Series.


The Stratford Garden Festival, now in its 14th year, is a wonderful taste of Spring as well as an important fundraiser in the fight against lung disease.


Dates: February 27 - March 2, 2014

Location: Stratford Rotary Complex, 353 McCarthy Rd., Stratford ON

Canada Blooms Opening Night Party

A Wild Night!


Thursday March 13, 2014

6:00 pm - 8:30 pm


The Canada Blooms Opening Night Party is back and it promises to be a fun and fabulous cocktail party, like nothing you have seen before.


Delicious nibbles and wine.  Amazing martini bar sponsored by Iceberg Vodka.


Proceeds from the "A Night in the Wild!" event will support the Garden Club of Toronto project with the Toronto Botanical Garden.


So buy your tickets now online for A Night in the Wild! and don't miss the Wildest event that Toronto will see in 2014!!