November 2014
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
The Vimy Oaks
Flanders Poppy
Hugh Beaty
To Do This Month
Contest Winners
Bird Bio



Gardening Connections

Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
Join Our Mailing List

Remembrance Month


I know November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada and that it is considered disrespectful to wear a poppy after that day.  None the less, this edition of my monthly newsletter focuses on three short 'remembrance' stories of some significance.

First, the Vimy Oaks

It came as a wonderful surprise, one day last spring, when a message from my brother Tom landed in my 'inbox'.  

A message that, it turns out, would morph nicely into an exciting story that I shared with my newspaper readers, titled "Vimy Oaks".  

The property on which Tom's workplace is located [The Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church] in north/east Toronto, is home to five mature English oak trees.


These 100 year old beauties are Quercus robur, sourced by a Canadian soldier who served during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9th, 1917.  Leslie Miller picked up some acorns from the battle field that day and planted them on his family farm when he returned home 2 years later. 

This is only the beginning of the story.  You can get all of the details here, beginning November 7. 
Flanders Poppy

The second story is that of the Flanders poppy.  This icon of remembrance has roots that go back to the Napoleonic wars, when a correspondent noted that Flanders poppies grew on the graves of recent war dead.  

Our own John McCrae, who wrote the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' was taken by the sight of red poppies growing between the crosses in Belgium in much the same way as the French correspondent was impressed a century before. 


Some questions: why did poppies grow in France during the devastation of the First World War when no other plants thrived there?  Why do they not grow there now (in the same numbers)?  How are poppies significant at this time of remembrance?  All of these questions are answered in another article that I wrote and you can read here.

Hugh Beaty
Hugh Beatty Finally, one other Canadian war story that has touched me is that of a great Canadian, Hugh Beaty.  He is 96 years old, lives in the farmhouse where he was born (in Milton, Ontario) and is a veteran of the Canadian invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944.  

He is extraordinary for reasons that I do not have room to expand upon here. 


I went to Juno Beach with Hugh last year to mark the 69th anniversary of D-Day with him and 7 other Canadian vets.  To stand at his side while the band played Oh Canada, while General Rick Hillier gave a moving address and during the playing of the last post, was moving in the extreme.


What's more, I enjoyed the many stories that Hugh shared with me about his life experience, war stories included.   As the end of our trip grew near I pressed Hugh to let me interview him for a book about his life.  Alas, after much negotiation he agreed and the results are contained in a marvelous story titled, Extra Ordinary, the Hugh Beaty Story. 


I can say that getting to know Hugh through his story has enriched my life in ways that I could not have anticipated.  I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Second World War, as seen through the eyes and clear headed memories of one of the few Canadian service men alive today.  

I can also recommend it to people who enjoy a good non-fiction read that is rich in valuable reflections on a full life, well lived and focused on giving to others. 


You can purchase Hugh's biography by visiting the website of SHARE Agriculture Foundation. The cost is $20 and every penny is donated by Hugh to the charity that he helped to found 34 years ago.   

These are my 3 Remembrance Month stories.  I hope that you enjoy them and that Remembrance Day takes a deeper meaning for you as a result.

To Do This Month:

The garden beckons, as does the couch.  Winter for some readers is here (welcome to the Canadian Prairies and parts of Newfoundland!) and for others a slow, deliberate approach to winterizing the garden makes good sense (welcome B.C. lower main land and Vancouver Island!).  

For the rest of us, the thought of impending winter urges us on, off the couch.  The Grey Cup is our reward come November 30th.


-  Wrap evergreens with two layers of burlap, one to protect against the wind and another to protect against the weight of heavy, wet snow.

-  Winterize your roses with a 50 cm layer of triple mix or clean top soil.  Cut back tall roses that may topple over in the wind or break off at the bud union this winter.

-  Apply Wiltpruf to all broadleafed evergreens like boxwood and yews to prevent winter drying [desiccation] Rhododendrons also. 

-  Fertilize your lawn with CIL Golfgreen Fall Lawn Food.... The most important application of the year.

-  Cut your lawn one more time and then lubricate your power mower, clean the cutting deck and spray with oil to protect it from rusting over winter. 

-  Do not sanitize your garden by removing all of the fallen leaves: rake them onto your garden where they will provide protection to perennials over the winter and food for earthworms come spring.

-  Put your Halloween pumpkin on the compost or cut it up and dig it into your garden.  It is 99% water.  Don't throw it out!


Relax; enjoy the sounds of birds and the wind while you can.  The sound of the furnace pushing air throughout the house will dominate the months ahead, soon enough.


Go to Home Hardware and check out the many winterizing products that are designed to help keep your garden healthy over the winter. Spiral trunk guards for young trees, burlap, soil for roses and much more.  Watch my video.


Keep your knees dirty and remember that you can plant tulips right up until the hard ground frost of .... Whenever!


Mark Cullen

Merchant of Beauty

Photo Contest Winners

Last month I ran a contest and asked you to submit a photo of your favourite sign of fall.  


5 winners were chosen based on the 'most liked' photos. Thank you to everyone who submitted a photo.  And thank you to all who 'voted' for their favourite photo. 


These 5 winners will receive a copy of Harrowsmith's Almanac:

Alice Hebb

Pat Trerice

Bob V.

Elaine Fisher

Bonnie Sitter



Mark's Choice Product of the Month
Golfgreen Fall Lawn Fertilizer 

The most important application that you will make all year. And later is better.


Golfgreen is formulated to build up the natural sugars at the root zone of grass plants. You will get a faster green up come spring, less snow mold and a stronger, healthier lawn.


The later that you apply this in fall, the better. So the timing of application varies from region to region. Wait for a few 'killing frosts' which will slow down the metabolism of grass plants, creating the perfect conditions for application.


Golfgreen, for the record, is all that I use on my lawn. Why? It contains the most sophisticated form of slow release nitrogen in the business. It is safe ['apply and play'], lasts a long time and is great value for the money.

Stay in Touch 

Stay in touch with my gardening tips by visiting my:


Weekly blog post - From the Garden Shed - every Wednesday


Weekly audio tip - The Green File - every Wednesday


Daily Facebook page updates 


Daily Tweets 


And Weekly Canada AM segments, on Wednesdays 

Bird Bio 

The black-capped chickadee is one of the most commonly found birds in Canada and one of the most commonly seen birds at our feeders.  

They are also one of the first birds novice birders and kids are able to recognize: their pale underbellies contrast heavily with the black hat they seem to be wearing and the common name reflects their appearance.  Their song is easily identifiable with the squeaky short chirps and long, slow whistles. (Watch the video). 


Feeding chickadees is fairly simple: they eat almost anything from any feeder.  They're not picky at all.  Try the Mark's Choice Sunflower Plus blend to attract chickadees and a myriad of other winter feeding birds and consider a Squirrel Resistant feeder if squirrels are a problem in your neighbourhood.


Check out my latest blogs for some extra birding tips:

I am becoming a birder. 

Feed the birds.

Submit Your Event Listings 


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.


The Butchart Gardens-Greenhouse Tours
British Columbia

Greenhouse tours every Saturday and Sunday in November 10am, 12pm and 2pm.  

This is when we give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek into our greenhouses. 

More info.

Feed the Need in Durham


1st Annual Empty Bowls event


Date: November 7

Time: 11:30am-1:30pm

Location: Trinity Pentecostal Church, 900 King St. E, Oshawa, ON


Purchase a ticket and come out to this lunch of soup, fresh bread and sweets, all donated by local chefs and bakers.

Tickets: $25.  Call 905-571-3863

Manitoba Master Gardener Association
Coffee Morning

Date: November 8

Location: 400 Osborne Street, Winnipeg, MB

Interested in learning more about the Master Gardener program in Manitoba? Come and have a coffee (or tea!) on us! Master Gardeners and Master Gardeners-in-Training will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Great opportunity to share gardening information and learn about community volunteer projects.

 More info. 

Brandon Garden Club



Dressed for the Holidays


Date: November 19

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Don Glen Hall, 311 Park Ave. E., Brandon, MB


Hands On Workshop - requires pre-registration and payment

More info.

Bobcaygeon & District Horticultural Society


Date: November 20

Time: 6:30pm - Annual General Meeting

7:30pm - My Favourite Plants: Ana Mizyn

Location: Knox Presbyterian Church Hall. 

More info.

Aster Awards



Toronto Botanical Garden

Date: November 20

Time: 6:30pm - 9:00pm

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

Tickets: $125 per person


"Aster" is inspired by the Greek word for "star". Four of our Canadian stars, whose achievements in arts and science inspire us to preserve nature, will be honoured during the evening's cocktail reception ceremony. The event will be hosted by one of Canada's leading garden writers, Marjorie Harris, along with honourary chair renowned artist Charles Pachter.

More info.

Liveable Cities: NYC-Toronto Growing Green  




Public Lecture Series

Date: November 24

Time: 4-5 pm

Location: Room 140, University College University of Toronto.

Jeremy Barrick. Deputy Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources. NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.

New York City leads the way as one of North America's greenest cities, with a top-ranked urban forestry program, and one of the best park systems in the US.

Come learn how NYC Parks responds to major storm events like Hurricane Sandy and its strategies for building and sustaining a resilient city.

Register here 

Montreal Botanical Garden  




Bird Watching
Date: Every day (closed Mondays in winter)


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

More info.