February 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
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Career Change?


How is work going?

How is retirement going?

If you are young and in school, how is that going?


They say that we spend more time in our life at work during our waking hours than doing anything else.  Yet, the stats say that many people are not happy doing what they do for a living.


Could I let you in on a little secret?  The vast majority of people that I meet in the gardening world are happy with their work.  I know that this stat is strictly anecdotal and therefore not a 'stat' at all.  But it is true.



Ask anyone who works with plants for a living and you will more than likely get the same response: horticulture provides a very satisfying occupation.


Oh, there is a down side (or two).  It is not always the highest paying job out there. If you are working out of doors you have to take the good with the bad. And then there is the issue of winter work.  Some jobs provide gainful employment over the winter months, others pay you through the winter by smoothing out your pay over 52 weeks, while you work plenty of overtime in the spring and summer and take a couple of months off in winter.


But, if it is true that we generally gain our greatest job-satisfaction from the type of work that we do: feeling responsible for our productivity, working in an environment where we feel comfortable, with people with whom we share a common interest, then it only makes sense that 'gardeners' have a very high rate of job satisfaction.

If you are happy and you know it 

According to Gardeners' World magazine, in the U.K., 80 percent of gardeners reported being happy and satisfied with their lives, verses 67 percent of non-gardeners.


This finding has far reaching effects on other aspects of your health as well.  Having a cheerful temperament can significantly reduce your odds of suffering a heart attack and sudden cardiac death.


If you, or someone you know, thought about a career change, or if there is a young person in your life who is lost in the quagmire of career choices,  if you are you middle aged (or know someone who is) and looking for a change in lifestyle as it relates to your paid work, then why not consider gardening as a career choice. 

If you are about to retire and  you are looking for something to fill the gap between this period of able mind and body-ness and true 'retirement' then there is very likely a job for you as close as your local garden retailer, lawn maintenance company or landscaper. 

The Proposition 

The world of horticultural employment is vast and complex.  

According to Landscape Ontario, the horticultural trades association in that province, employment opportunities are great and they are supported by the following facts:

  1. The horticultural industry generates over 7 billion dollars of economic activity.
  2. Horticulture provides employment for over 70,000 full time people in the private sector and almost as many in the public sector for a total of about 130,000 full time jobs.
  3. The farm gate value of horticulture as an agricultural crop is greater than a billion dollars annually in Ontario.
  4. There are 12 post secondary institutions in Ontario that provide education in the field of horticulture.

Horticulture, as an industry, does not receive a recognizable amount of support from any level of government, with a few exceptions like research in Vineland, Ontario. This industry is a net tax payer by a very large margin.


If the topic interests you, I recommend that you visit the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association website and follow the links to the horticultural association in your province.  For Landscape Ontario, go to www.landscapeontario.com.


For more detail on this subject follow my three part series in the Toronto Star starting Saturday, Feb. 7th  at The Star.com.


Let me know how you do.  

Thinking of getting an education in horticulture?  Consider applying to any one of 12 post-secondary institutions in Ontario and you could qualify for a scholarship of up to $4,000.  

The industry trade association, Landscape Ontario, has just announced that they are doubling their scholarship program for this year! More info   

Things To Do this month:


February is the month of romance.

This is partly true as there is really not much else going on.  No wonder there are so many Scorpios out there (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21). 


I recommend that you consider some long stem, fresh cut roses for your sweetheart this Valentines.  Not very original, I know. But safe.  And a great way to say what you really mean on this special occasion.  Who doesn't enjoy the fresh fragrance and all that is insinuated by a bouquet full of roses?


Keep in mind that flowers speak their own language: they are products of Mother Nature.  The sun, fresh water and the miracle of their own genetic makeup has created them so that you can let them do the talking. 


Note that the language of carnations and chrysanthemums is not the language that you want to use on this occasion, not with your sweetie anyhow.  They are cheap, last a lonnnng time and have no fragrance. 

Other Things To Do 'In the Garden':


1.  Read everything that you can about garden design, new garden plant intros, gardening as you can relate to it (e.g. food gardening, water gardening, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds etc.)  

I recommend that you pick up the latest copy of Garden Making - a truly outstanding Canadian publication.


2.  Go to my website weekly for regular updates, my weekly blog, access to my newspaper column and podcasts.  www.markcullen.com


3.  Write down ideas for your new garden this season: how would you like to change it up?


4.  Review photos that you took last year of your garden.  Study them and look for cues for change in 2015.


5.  Attend garden events: garden clubs, horticultural societies and local libraries provide many opportunities in most communities to meet other gardeners, learn from them and make friends.


6.  Cut off your amaryllis stem after the flowers are finished but leave the leaves intact for the sun to beat down on them.  Remove leaves when they turn yellow in early spring.


7.  Repot indoor plants that require it.  If roots are growing through the surface of the soil and out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot, go for it. Pot up only one size larger.


8.  Order seeds from your favourite seed catalogues.


9.  Plan on attending Canada Blooms in Toronto March 13 to 22nd.  More than 200,000 people are expected to attend.  I will be there with my buddy Denis Flanagan (more on this in next month's newsletter). Details at www.canadablooms.com.


Enjoy some time off from weeding, etc.  As much as we like these activities, living in Canada provides a wonderful opportunity for us to recharge and re focus during our down time.


Keep your knees dirty,



Merchant of Beauty 


p.s. check out my new Mark's Choice two-wheeled wheelbarrow, below: the best of its' kind in the business, made in Canada and available at Home Hardware (like all Mark's Choice product).  A gift for your Valentine?  Just saying. 

Amaryllis Photo Contest #2
We're giving away tickets to Canada Blooms! 

This month I have 5 pairs of tickets for Canada Blooms to give away.


From March 13-22, 2015, Canada Blooms returns to the Direct Energy Centre celebrating its 19th Anniversary as Canada's largest flower and garden festival.


To enter my contest, email one photo of your amaryllis to groundskeeper@markcullen.com.

Please use the subject line 'amaryllis contest'.

I will post all photos on my facebook page.  

The 5 photos which receive the most 'likes' will be the winners.  Each winner will receive a pair of tickets to Canada Blooms (value $34).


Enter today!


Deadline for contest entries is February 13, 2015.  Deadline for voting is February 18, 2015.

Product of the Month
New Mark's Choice Wheelbarrow 

A look at a new product for 2015 (available now).


Is there a 'perfect' wheelbarrow?  One that is light, so everyone can use it; balanced, so that a load is stable and easy to dump; rugged but not too heavy; one that can accommodate long handled garden tools; has an enormous 7 cu.ft. capacity; and two drink holders?  Yes, there is!


THIS describes the new Mark's Choice wheelbarrow.  Plus, it's made in Canada and designed by a Canadian.  Perfect!


Home Hardware item# 5160-296

National Bird Project

The beaver, the Canadian horse, the maple tree, hockey, lacrosse..


This seemingly random list is actually a list of official Canadian symbols. Who knew we had our own horse?


Canadian Geographic wants to add a new symbol to the list. Through the National Bird Project, Canadian Geographic wants to know what you think Canada's official bird should be.


And they make it very simple. Their website allows you to read about the 40 contending birds before casting your vote. So not only are you getting your say in our national bird, you are learning at the same time.  During the voting process, you can also submit your own short essay which could be featured on the website. Read here about a truly misunderstood bird.


Cast your votes today and have your voice heard by submitting an essay. We're about to make avian history in Canada.

2015 is the Year of the Coleus 

With the continued emphasis on foliage in our gardens, the wide and exciting range of coleus varieties available should nicely augment one's planting palette.


Chosen as the annual for the National Garden Bureau's 2015 program, coleus is a durable plant with very significant gardening potential for almost all gardeners and their situations.


The consideration of easy-to-grow coleus in the landscape is prudent for all gardeners as they consider the potential merits of this plant in the mixed border and container.  Low-maintenance coleus can make a huge impact in the garden and the wide range of available selections assures a promising future for this popular plant during 2015, the Year of the Coleus, and well beyond!


~Source: National Garden Bureau

Ancient Trees

Woman spends 17 years photographing world's oldest trees


Beth Moon, a photographer based in San Francisco, has been searching for the world's oldest trees for the past 14 years. She has traveled all around the globe to capture the most magnificent trees that grow in remote locations and look as old as the world itself.


"Standing as the earth's largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment" writes Moon in her artist statement.


Sixty of Beth Moon's duotone photos were published in a book titled "Ancient Trees: Portraits Of Time". Here you can have a sneak preview of the book, full of strangest and most magnificent trees ever.


Source: http://www.boredpanda.com/ancient-tree-photography-beth-moon/

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 

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 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.


The Butchart Gardens
British Columbia

Spring Prelude - Daily in the Blue Poppy

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

More info. www.butchartgardens.com

Montreal Botanical Garden - Birdwatching



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.


Northern species such as chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, cardinals and goldfinches like to visit our feeding stations to stock up on corn, sunflower seeds, millet, nyjer seed, and suet, while the crabapple trees provide food and shelter for waxwings and grosbeaks.

Please note that the Botanical Garden is closed on Mondays during the winter.


* Binoculars and a birdwatching guide can be borrowed from the Frédéric Back Tree Pavilion, open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from February 1 to May 14, and every day from from May 15 to October 31, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More info. 

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia
Historic Gardens Winter Farmers Market

Dates: Saturday morning Until May 9, 2015

Time: 9am-12noon

Join us at the Historic Gardens every Saturday morning for the Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market season.

Coffee, baked goods, fish, meat, produce, preserves, and the list goes on!

More info.

Muttart Conservatory

Edmonton, Alberta


Evening of Love

Date: February 12, 2015               

Time: 6-8:30pm

Cost: Regular Admission


Celebrate Valentine's Day at the Muttart Conservatory. Make an evening out of it - dinner at Culina's, followed by a stroll around the pyramids with your sweetheart taking in ambient lighting, relaxing music and activities. For Culina Muttart reservations, please call: 780-466-1181.


More info.

Great Backyard Bird Count


Dates: February 13 to 16


Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).


The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.  Anyone in the world can count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.birdcount.org.


The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird populations on a massive scale.  The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.


To learn more about how to join the count visit www.birdcount.org.

Southern Ontario Orchid Society - Orchid Show

Dated: February 14 and 15

Times: 11am - 5pm


This year, the Southern Ontario Orchid Society is celebrating their 50th year with their 35th Orchid show.


6,000 sq. ft. of Orchids.  Artistic Displays. Orchid Plants For Sale

Gift Items. Art & Photography Displays. Guided Tours & Free Seminars


Location: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue West

Admission: $12

More info. 

VanDusen Botanical Garden   

 Vancouver, British Columbia



Valentine's Day in the Garden


Treat your Valentine to a Picnic at VanDusen Garden!

Date: February 14

Time: 10am - 4pm


Take a romantic stroll through the beautiful 55 acres at VanDusen Botanical Garden, enjoy classic tunes, snap a sweet selfie and dine al fresco amongst the trees or overlooking one of our picturesque lakes! This package includes garden admission for 2 people and a delicious picnic basket from Truffles Café filled with 2 gourmet sandwiches, 2 cold drinks and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert! 

The event runs rain or shine and there are a limited number of tables and chairs under tents throughout the garden.  BYOBB - Please bring your own basket and blanket.

Cost: $40

Click here to reserve your space today! 

Nepean Horticultural Society




Date: February 19

Time: 7:30pm

Non-members $4.00


Interested in Gardening? Come and Join Us!  The Nepean Horticultural Society! 

Guest speaker: Doug King, Make it Green Garden Centre

Topic: Propagation and Planting.

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

Everyone welcome.  Light refreshments.

More info.  613-721-2048

Chefs for Change



Dates: February 20 and 27

Time: 6:30pm

25 of Canada's most creative chefs will be gathering at Propeller Coffee Roastery (50 Wade Avenue, Toronto) to cook together in support of Community Food Centres Canada and their mission of providing good, healthy food for all.

More info.

Get the Jump on Spring



Date: February 21

Time: 10am to 4pm

Location: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue West, Toronto


Beat the winter blues at our annual open house for the horticultural community with live displays, free gardening advice, talks, demonstrations and floral design competition. Enjoy lunch in the Jump Café and browse specialty vendors, artisans and the Garden Shop.



More info.

Organic by Choice



Date: February 21

Time: 9am-5pm

Location: University of Toronto Conference Centre. 89 Chestnut St.


Canadian Organic Growers 9th annual organic conference.  We've got a great roster of speakers covering relevant, current topics from bee health to nano technology to are we eating biosynthetic food.  Our keynote speaker is Elaine Ingham, recognized around the world as the leader in soil microbiology.


Cost: $65 ($85 after February 10); COG members, seniors and students $55 ($65 after February 10)

Organic lunch included.

Click here to register.

North York Garden Club



Date: February 23

Time: 7:30pm - 8:30pm

Location: St. Lukes Lutheran Church. 3200 Bayview Avenue

Topic: Dwarf Conifers

Speaker: Darren Heimbecker.  Darren worked at a nursery for 18 years as a propagator, shipper and field manager before branching out on his own.  Whistling Gardens got its official start in 2006.  Since then, he has attracted garden savvy plant collectors from across Canada and the United States.

Stratford Garden Festival



Dates: March 5-8, 2015

The Stratford Garden Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and it is still "Blooming Beautiful".


Explore imaginative gardens teeming with spring colour and shop the Marketplace for the latest "must haves" for the gardener.   Learn from garden gurus as part of the ongoing Speaker Series.

A fundraiser to support The Lung Association.

Speaker schedule, special event information and directions to the Stratford Rotary Complex at www.stratfordgardenfestival.com.

Bus Tour  



Plant sale

Pine Ridge Garden Club is going to Canada Blooms on March 18th.  

We leave from Nestleton at 8:30am and Port Perry at 8:50am.  Cost of bus, admittance to Canada Blooms and the Toronto Home Show is $45.


Please contact Dianne Slute 905-985-0778 or dianneslute@powergate.com.

Canada Blooms  



Dates: March 13 to 22

Location: Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto


"Canada Blooms has grown to be one of Toronto's most successful events, drawing volunteers, visitors and participants from all across Canada and the United States. Already a popular destination with tour groups, gardeners from Bermuda, France, the United Kingdom and the United States now rank Canada Blooms as being one of the top five shows of its kind.


We rely on our dedicated team of volunteers, staff and board of directors to make our events a success. Our volunteers share an unmatched passion and love for gardening, while our staff and board of directors are committed to creating the most stunning and spectacular floral and garden show you have ever seen!

Don't miss this year's brilliant spectacle - visit Canada Blooms!"


Find me on the main stage at 11:00am on March 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18.

My daughter, Heather, joins me for a presentation at 1:00pm on March 13.

I will also be on the Harrowsmith stage at 1:30pm on March 16 and 17.