March 2014
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
British Flower Show
Not Just Any Potato
Our Own Celebration
Product of the Month
New Book
Rusty-Patched Bumblebee
Reno & Decor Magazine
Watching My Garden Grow



Gardening Connections

Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
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A New Day Dawning


As I write to you this fine morning it is plus 10 degrees C and a little bit cloudy.  I am in London, UK, not where the snow flies free as a bird and worms are still frozen a meter deep in Mother Earth. 


Alas, I am finally here to bring you an early spring.  Damn the ground hog and his shadow, there is hope out there and I am over here pocketing my share of it.  


Just for the record the 300,000 daffodils in Hyde Park are up and pushing colour, still a couple of weeks from their peak.  The jonquils or 'dwarf narcissus' are in full colour as are the primula, English daisies and hellebores.  Not that there are a lot of them, but there are enough to remind me that there is life lurking there, under the frozen ground back home.  


British Flower Show 


I attended the annual Royal Horticultural Society's Flower Show at the grand "Floral Hall" yesterday with my 'gardening daughter' Heather.  
It doesn't matter if you love gardens or not, attending this event is a cultural experience, above all.  The Brits, as you know, have been eating, drinking and living 'gardening' for over 400 years.  They are soaked in it. 


Their late winter is a celebration of what is to come each season and I can tell you that they come out in droves to an event like this to catch a slice of the great gardening season ahead.  They are nothing, if not enthusiastic.  There is, for instance, a sell out crowd for a lecture entitled 'The Secret Life of the Potato'.  Go figure.  


The theme of the entire show, which is squeezed into two large halls in the heart of London, is 'Potatoes'.  They have made 'potato arrangements' which are like flower arrangements only with tubers.  There is potato painting and Mr. Potato contests.  There is a display of over 150 varieties of them, offered by variety in half-bushels and available for sale for 40 cents Canadian per potato. 


Not Just Any Potato

Call me crazy but I bought a couple dozen potatoes to bring home.  Potatoes to Canada: coals to Newcastle.  No one ever accused me of being completely sane.  


I can hardly wait for the customs people to pull me over for questioning.  "Are these potatoes that you are bringing in?" 

"Um, yes officer.  English potatoes."

"And we don't have enough potatoes in Canada?"

"Well, not THESE kinds of potatoes.  I have British Queen and Arron Victory here, the latter so named as it was developed the year that the Second World War ended." 

Would any customs officer really care?  I am about to test that one.

Our Own Celebration

My annual trip back to the UK is a timely reminder that we have our own celebration of the season before us: Canada Blooms.  


Truth is, this is the one occasion when we actually out-gun the Brits [until the BIG show at Chelsea in May] in terms of numbers of attendees [over 200,000 last year], space devoted to 'feature gardens' [4 acres], numbers of plants on display [over 10,000] and showcase of professional garden design [21 feature gardens, each designed and installed by a different design/build team]. 


Rumour has it [as British singer Adele is fond of saying] ... we have over 9 million dollars worth of plants/materials/design expertise at Canada Blooms.


And the really good news is that it is less than 2 weeks away.  Less than 2 weeks!  For those of us with work to do in order to get ready for this 10 day event, the deadline is a bit daunting.  For the rest of us it is something to look forward to like we have never looked forward at the month of March ever before.  


That's because most of us have experienced the most severe winter in living memory.  Like a watch that has been wound too tight, we are ready to let loose on this spring. "Bring it on!  Bring it on!"  I hear you say.   If hosing down the driveway seems like a trip to Florida, a trip to 'Blooms will be a dream come true.  


All of the 2,000 volunteers who put Canada Blooms together will be there, waiting for you with answers to your gardening questions and about washrooms and where to eat [the #1 and #2 questions, after all]. 


The very best news is that I have tickets to the Flower and Garden Festival, Canada Blooms, right here.  Including a special pair of tickets for the early morning tour and the evening tour.  Read on, friends.  And be encouraged: the first real sign of spring starts March 14th at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. 


And yes, it is worth the drive/flight/train ride to the big city.  But then, you will only know that for sure if you come to see it for yourself.  Book your trip today, while the idea is fresh and you are still excited about it.  Call up a couple of gardening buddies and plan to make a day or two of it. 


For details go to


I hope to see you there.



Merchant of Beauty


p.s. I will at the festival Friday March 14, Saturday March 15, Monday March 17 and Wednesday March 19, on the Unilock Celebrity stage at 11am.


p.s.s.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, especially this month as I keep you up to date on Canada Blooms events and a trip that I have planned for El Salvador, where I will be monitoring the great work of SHARE Agricultural Foundation with my buddy Les Frayne.   


Contest! We're giving away tickets to Blooms! 

Last month I gave away 5 pairs of tickets to Canada Blooms.  Thank you to everyone who entered the contest.  Your feedback is extremely valuable to the Mark's Choice product development team.  We truly enjoy reading your comments.

Last month's winners were: Agnes Burroughs, Karla Luc, Sharleen Pratt, Nina de Wet, and Donald Millen.


From March 14-23, 2014, Canada Blooms returns to the Direct Energy Centre celebrating its 18th Anniversary as Canada's largest flower and garden festival.  In 2014, Canada Blooms will be entering its third year of co-location with The National Home Show, which has created the largest Home and Garden Event in North America.


This month I have 3 pairs of tickets to Canada Blooms ($40/pair).  I also have 1 pair of tickets for the Evening Garden Tour on Wednesday, March 19 ($110/pair) and 1 pair of tickets for the Morning Garden Tour on Saturday, March 22 ($80/pair).


To enter the contest we are asking you to complete this sentence: "When I win these tickets, what I look forward to most at Canada Blooms is... "


Email your answer to [email protected].  


Enter by March 9th, winners will be announced March 11th.  


Mark's Choice Product of the Month
Nylon Knee Pads

My common salutation is 'keep your knees dirty', and I mean it partly in jest.  I can't count the number of blue jeans that I have worn through at the knees. 


I've tried many knee pads without satisfaction, generally because they are too big and bulky, and they allow dirt in from the top.


The new Mark's Choice Nylon Knee Pads have been torture tested on my own knees for many hours. I recommend them for people who want to protect their knees from injury and their pants from wearing out prematurely. 


These pads don't have any excess padding because there is enough natural padding from the soil and the lawn. And, as requested, the top of the pad seals out dirt. They are light, easy to put on and take off while wearing gloves and they are washable!


Exclusive to Home Hardware.  (item# 1010-270)


New Book by Niki Jabbour 

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans that Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden will be released by Storey Publishing in March, 2014. 


"This book was incredibly fun to write and involved Niki chasing down some of her favourite garden writers, bloggers and experts who then created an edible garden plan for the book. 


The book includes a very wide assortment of garden plans - fruits, berries, veggies, herbs, edible flowers and much more. Contributors include Mark Cullen, Marjorie Harris, Liz Primeau, Jessica Walliser, Steven Biggs, Joe Lamp'l, Barbara Pleasant, Debra Prinzing, Amy Stewart and Susan Morrison, Amanda Thomson, Jeff Lowenfels, Jessi Bloom, Nan Sterman, Paul Zammit and many many more!"


More info:


Rusty-Patched Bumblebee, Bombus affinis

Canada's Endangered Species


The rusty-patched bumblebee is a newly listed endangered species in Canada and the first federally listed bee in North America.  


This species is on the brink of extinction throughout its large range.  In Canada, only three individuals have been found in the past 10 years with the only currently known population occurring at Pinery Provincial Park.


Wildlife Preservation Canada is working to find wild populations of Bombus affinis as part of their Pollinators-At-Risk Initiative.  To find out more and to be part of the solution visit


Reno & Decor Magazine

Canada's Home Idea Book 


Reno & Decor Magazine introduces their new Editorial Dream Team and 2014 Celebrity Line-Up.


Editorial Editor: Cobi Ladner

Renovation Editor: Jim Caruk

Garden Editor: Mark Cullen

Do-It-Yourself Editor: Vicky Sanderson

Home Improvement Expert: Steve Maxwell

Architecture/Design: Samantha Sannella

Design/Decor: Kimberley Seldon

Design/Decor: Glen Peloso


More info.


Watching My Garden Grow
A Gardener's Organizer


Journal cover

As you prepare for the gardening season, this is a great time to 'get organized'.


Check this out!  It's the perfect organizer! What makes this little organizer so different is that it has 7 pockets to store plant tags, pictures, warranties and receipts, and it also has a container section, grid map paper, cute little gardening quotes and is a two year planner.  


The cover is wipeable and spiral bound, which makes it user friendly!  No fighting to keep the book open at the right page.  There are sections for each area of your garden as well as for each season.


For more info. Visit


Submit  Your Event Listings

Event Schedule 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.

Send your info to [email protected] with the subject line 'Newsletter Event Listing'.  


Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.

Butchart Gardens 
Spring Prelude Indoor Garden

Experience an incredible, fragrance filled indoor garden with flagstone paths, flower cherries and witch hazels, and beds of daffodils and tulips. 


Breathe deeply, take in the beauty of this early spring display and, from a foot bridge, enjoy the Koi swimming serenely in a pond.


As you wander through this garden you'll be amazed at how our gardeners turn the Blue Poppy Restaurant into a dazzling spring display in fewer than seven days.


More info.


Winter Tree Identification Tour

With Mark Sherman, ISA Certified Arborist


Date: Saturday, March 1

Time:  1pm

Location: Trinity Bellwoods Park (meet inside Trinity Community Recreation Centre, 155 Crawford St. Toronto)


Pre-register at $5 donation recommended.


More info. 


Vaughan's Second "Seedy Saturday"

Where Good Food Takes Root!

Date: Saturday, March 1

Location: Vaughan City Hall, 2141 Major Mackenzie Drive W.

Time: 10am - 3pm


Seedy Saturdays provide an opportunity for all those interested in gardening, the environment and good food to dig in, start planning their gardening season and to play an integral role in the global food revolution!


While admission and all activities are free, donations to York Region Food Network (YRFN) are welcomed.


Regina Seedy Saturday 

Date: March 1

Location: St. Mary's Anglican Church, Regina, SK


Heritage seed vendors, gardening-related information booths, children's area, garden bistro.


Contact: St. Mary's Anglican Church

[email protected] (306-522-6052)

More info.


Royal Botanical Gardens Orchid Society

33rd Annual Spring Orchid Show & Sale


Date: March 1 and March 2

Times: Saturday, noon-5pm.  Sunday 10am-5pm

More info. 


Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society



Date: March 2

Time:  1:30-4pm

Location: The Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Ave. E.


Speaker:  Anna Leggatt, passionate gardener, ORG&HPS member

Topic: Water Feature Ideas with Plants for Our Gardens

Member's Showcase: Veronica Callinan "Berge and Burgen"

Jellitto seed sale


North American Native Plant Society


Dr. Barbara Fallis Memorial Lecture Series

Guest Speaker: Dr. Dawn Bazely, York University

Topic:  Controlling Garlic Mustard

Date: March 4

Time: 7pm

Location: York University, Keele Campus


Orangeville & District Horticultural Society


Guest Speaker: Julia Kron

Date: March 11

Time: 7-9pm

Topic: Mason bees

Location: Orangeville Seniors Centre, 26 Bythia Street


More info.


Go WILD this Year at Canada Blooms


Canada's largest flower and garden festival returns to the Direct Energy Centre March 14-23, 2014


Celebrate the scents, sights and sounds of spring with WILD, the theme of the 18th annual Canada Blooms flower and garden festival.


Highlights of 2014 Canada Blooms will include:

- Feature Gardens

- Floral Runway

- Toronto Flower Show

- Contests


Dates: Friday, March 14 to Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hours: 10am to 9pm (Monday to Saturday); 10am to 5pm (Sunday)

Venue: The Direct Energy Centre, Toronto, ON

More info.


Bobcaygeon and District Horticultural Society



Date: March 20

Time: 7pm

History of Gardening in Canada: David Jewell

Location: Knox Presbyterian Church Hall

More info.


Nepean Horticultural Society


Interested in Gardening?  Come and join us.  The Nepean Horticultural Society. 


Guest Speaker: Peter Knippel

Topic: Trees for City Lots

Date:  Thursday, March 20

Time:  7:30pm

Location:  City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue, Nepean

Everyone welcome.  Non-members $4. Light refreshments. 

More info: 613-721-2048


Applewood Garden Club


Guest speaker: Ed Lawrence


Topic: Getting the bugs out - Gardening without pesticides

Date: March 20

Time: 7pm

Location: Lakeview Golf Course, 1190 Dixie Road, Mississauga

Tickets: $15. To reserve, contact David Pavanel [email protected]


This is an Applewood Garden Club fund-raising evening with proceeds to Our Place Peel.


Scarborough Seedy Saturday and Green Fair

Biodiversity of the Community


Date: March 22

Time: 11-3pm

Location: Blessed Cardinal Newman High School, 100 Brimley Road S.


Learn how to live more sustainable, exchange seeds with other seed savers, buy heirloom and organic seeds or join a workshop on composting or growing food in small spaces.  Do you have a gardening question?  Stop by one of our local garden clubs' tables and ask an expert.

More info.


7th Annual Gardening Saturday Tradeshow


Date: March 29

Location: Canadian Mennonite University 500 Shaftesbury Blvd. Winnipeg, Manitoba


Gardener's day out at Gardening Saturday!  Come to Manitoba's largest gardening tradeshow and get ready for the gardening season!  


More than 80 exhibitors, floral displays, 1 hour gardening workshops, and a delicious Food Market.  All in one location.  Eat, learn, shop! 


FREE parking! Admission is $7 or free with workshop registration which is only $15. This is what gardeners have been waiting for!  Huge display of succulents and tropicals to choose from. 


Register online at