March 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
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We're #2!


Back in the 60's, when the Avis Rent a Car company found themselves in a solid #2 position in the marketplace behind Budget, they created an advertising campaign that made them famous, "We're #2 but we try harder!" 


The month of March marks the second largest gardening event of its' kind on the continent - Canada Blooms.  The Philadelphia Garden Show is #1 in terms of attendance. 


My hat is off to the good people in Philadelphia. They put on an event that is worthy of all the praise that is heaped on it.


But I would eat my hat for the organizers of Canada Blooms.

It is so Canadian for us to naturally compare ourselves to our American neighbours and to take the second row at the theatre, when, in fact, we deserve the front row in the Canadian theatre. 


We are a country of about 33 million people and we are spread widely across this vast piece of real estate.  Who would have thought that we could pull off a flower and garden festival of this magnitude and stature - for 19 years running?  Even the originators of Canada Blooms would not have predicted where we are now.  


Tony DiGiovanni and Kathy Dembroski had some good ideas 22 years ago when they hatched this festival.  They met endlessly with landscapers, members of the Garden Club in Toronto, advertisers, vendors, bureaucrats and politicians.  There were many times when it did not look like it would happen.

And Then It Did 

This year is special at Canada Blooms. And for readers who find the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto out of reach, for whatever reason, be sure to check out the event on line every day up to and during the festival.  March 13 to 22,  

You will see tonnes of pictures and descriptions of state of the art gardens, information that will help you get your gardening-heart beating again and inspiration that will take your mind to new places, "Ah ha!  So I can do THAT in my garden this year!" moments. 


Here are some highlights:


1.  New Hall Ambiance.  When you walk down the alley of giant palms towards to feature garden area you will be greeted with state of the art lighting that highlights the unique designs of the gardens. 

2.  Toronto Flower Show.  There is a show-within-a-show here.  While the entire area taken up by Canada Blooms is almost 6 acres, the Floral Hall is not to be missed.  It includes one of the top floral competitions in the world. 

3.  Fresh flowers.  Smell them, photograph them and, perhaps most importantly, buy them!  Pick Ontario has selected 10 of the best growers in Ontario to supply fresh cut flowers in their display. 

4.  Canada Blooms Promenade.  As you enter the festival through the main doors on the south side of the building, look for an alley of 50 Majesty Palm trees. 

5.  Landscape Ontario Otium Outdoor Exercise Garden.  Over 4,500 sq. ft. of space is devoted to showing how daily living can be incorporated into your outdoor living space. Note: Landscape Ontario always provides an inspiring feature garden experience.


6.  Chaise Lounge Art.  Don't Sit Here!  The top florists of Toronto are challenged to create works of floral art using chaise lounges which are featured in the entrance to the Floral Hall. 

7.  Kids.  Gardening and kids is a theme of this year's big event.  Check out the Bienenstock feature garden, which returns to Canada Blooms again this year and is always a huge hit. 

8.  Listen and Learn.  There are over 200 hours of lectures, demonstrations and entertainment at Blooms.  It is all about learning and having fun.  Look for Niki Jabbour, Tara Nolan and, of course, Frankie Flowers! 

9.  Questions? We have answers.  The Master gardeners are back to answer all of your gardening questions thoughtfully and accurately.  Each of these volunteers has devoted hundreds of hours to learning the ropes of horticulture and they are more than happy to share their knowledge with you. 

10. Feature Gardens.  Oh my, it is hard to find the words to describe the gardens at this year's edition of Blooms.  There are over 20 creations that have incorporated the theme 'Let's Play'


I will be at 'Blooms on the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th.  Drop by and say hi! 

Be sure to bring your camera, wear walking shoes and whatever time you have carved out of your schedule for your visit, double it.  The National Home Show is included with your ticket.


One more message for my out-of-town readers.  

'Blooms really is worth the drive or flight in, if you love great gardens, education, entertainment and an early spring.  If you don't, I recommend that you stay put.   

Food Gardening 

Announcing a special monthly version of the Mark Cullen electronic newsletter: 

Food Gardening will be sent to your inbox half way through each month beginning March 16th. 


We will focus on how to grow food of all kinds (fruit, veggies, herbs and berries) and we invite you to send us a recipe using seasonal garden-fresh food... 

I will provide you with the first recipe and readers will provide a favourite in future editions. We'll announce a contest in the mid-March newsletter.


Look for the Mark Cullen Food Gardening Newsletter mid March!  

Things To Do this month:


1. Start seeds late in the month of slow germinating veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and tomato) and flowers (petunias, geraniums, and impatiens).

2. Start your begonia tubers and dahlias indoors

3. Repot over grown indoor plants - they are about to put on their first flush of growth and a new pot and soil will make a huge difference!

4. Visit Home Hardware for your supply of new garden seeds and check out the Mark's Choice 8 varieties of vegetables (and one very special basil!)  I have tested all of these in my 10 acre garden and I recommend them highly for taste and garden performance.

5. IF you are snow free in your region this month apply the new Golfgreen Iron Plus lawn fertilizer.  It is the most sophisticated formula on the market.  It is all that I use on my lawn.  In time you will see dramatically fewer weeds and a much deeper green colour in your lawn.  Exclusive to Home Hardware.  Btw - a friend in Vancouver emailed me to say that he has already cut his lawn.  Ugggh. 

6. Clean used pots with a mild ammonia solution using a still brush to prepare them for planting this spring

7. Remember to celebrate the arrival of spring March 20th - look over your garden photos from last year, visit my web site to learn what is going on in the world of gardening, enjoy the special events that are organised by local garden clubs, horticultural societies and your Community In Blooms committee.


Have fun - spring is JUST around the corner.



Merchant of Beauty  

Contest #1


We're giving away tickets to Blooms!

This month I have 2 pairs of tickets for Canada Blooms to give away.  

I also have 1 one pair of tickets for the Morning Garden Tour at 8:15am on Thursday, March 19.


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. 

In 2015, Canada Blooms will be entering its fourth year of co-location with The National Home Show, which has 

created the largest Home and Garden Event in North America. 

Check out my photo album from Canada Blooms 2014.


To enter my contest, email your Mark's Choice product reviews to [email protected].  Tell me 'what you like', 'what improvements you would like to see', 'what is missing from the Mark's Choice line'. 

Our product development team is focused on finding unique and high-quality gardening tools and accessories.  Your feedback is extremely valuable in this process.


I will randomly select 3 winners from all entries.  Winners will be notified on March 9.

Enter today!

Deadline for contest entries is March 6, 2015.

Contest #2 
Vegetable seeds

I'm giving away 10 prizes of 4 packets of Mark's Choice vegetables garden seeds each.  ($8 value)


Are you planning to grow veggies this year?  Did you grow any veggies last year?  Submit a photo from your 2014 vegetable patch for a chance to win.  Send one photo to [email protected]


I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.  The winners will be the 5 photos with the most 'likes'.

Deadline for entry: March 6, 2015.  

Deadline for voting is March 9, 2015.

Product of the Month
New Mark's Choice Bypass Pruner & Sharpener 

A sneak peek at a new product you will see in stores this spring. 


I torture tested these hand pruners for a full season in my 10 acre garden before I gave my approval: now I am hooked.  Even better than the last incarnation of Mark's Choice hand pruners, this product is superior to any pair that I have ever used.  

I use less effort in my wrist due to the non-stick coating on the blade, which is made of super hard, high carbon steel to keep an edge; the grip is comfortable in my hand for long stretches; the aluminum construction is lightweight; and the blade sharpener means that I will never have to use a dull pair of hand pruners.

The sharpener includes a dabber of oil to lubricate the joint.  Incredible!  

A fabulous addition to the Mark's Choice lineup, exclusive to Home Hardware (item# 5067-225)

An Inspiring Letter to Share

Thank you to Linda Klepp for entering my Amaryllis Photo Contest last month. This letter accompanied her photo submission:


"Dear Mr. Cullen,

We are the kindergarten kids in room 112 at Montrose Public School.  We planted two amaryllises and we have been looking at them closely every day. One is an Apple Blossom and the other is a Dutch Belle.  We did a survey after they bloomed and more kids liked the Dutch Belle better.

We learned: They grow slowly!  They take many days to grow.

We saw white dots on them when they bloomed.

One wouldn't grow until Ms. Klepp took it home and put it in a sunnier window.

We needed to water them every time they dried out.

They like to tip over!  When they get tall they fall down.

The Dutch Belle is still blooming and has more buds.  The Apple Blossom is almost finished blooming.

We learned about different kinds of bulbs.  We planted daffodils in our outdoor classroom in the fall.  We also looked at garlic and onions.

Yours truly,

Room 112, Montrose Public School"


Note: You can view all photos entered in the contest here and the winning photos here.
Bird Food, Do's and Don'ts 

Too many of us don't put too much thought into what we're feeding our birds.  Unfortunately, many of the foods put out for our flighty friends are not really good for them.  Keep these tips in mind next time you're looking to fill some bird bellies.


Never put out your bread ends.  I get it, the ends of the bread loaf are not the best, but they should not be given to the birds. The nutritional value is almost nil and it is filling, causing birds to feel full without providing them any of those essential nutrients.


Know who you're feeding and give them what they like.  If you don't already know the birds in your area, check out these quick guides to Eastern and Western feeder birds.  Once you have an idea, check in with the Cornell Lab for the best seed choices. You'll have exponentially more luck feeding birds that already live nearby than attracting new ones using a certain type of food.


I use Mark's Choice Bird Feast in my feeders and the results are amazing!

Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest 2015

Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest lives up to the reputation that made Harrowsmith magazine so popular among avid gardeners.


220+ pages on vegetable growing, how to create spectacular lawns and gardens, great recipes, garden trials and more.


Whether you live in the city or country, this magazine will inspire backyard gardeners and those who measure their property in acres.


Click here to subscribe to Harrowsmith's Almanac and Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest, and you'll receive digital versions of these two issues FREE!



Harrowsmith's My Kind of Town and Harrowsmith's Homes. 

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 [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
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.

Montreal Botanical Garden


Butterflies Go Free


Step into the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, where a veritable ballet of softly shimmering colours awaits you. As you stroll through the space you can admire these splendid creatures - if you're lucky, one might even land on you. 


Youngsters are sure to have stars in their eyes as they follow the butterflies' aerial ballet, while their parents will enjoy observing them up close and admiring the intricate details of their scales.

More info.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia
Historic Gardens Winter Farmers Market

Dates: Saturday mornings 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.

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

The Port Credit Seed Lending Library


Grand Opening


Date: March 7

Time: 11am-2pm

Location: Port Credit Library. 210 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga

Come and help us to celebrate the unveiling of Mississauga's first seed library.

Sault Ste. Marie Seedy Saturday


Date: March 7

Time: 10am - 4pm

Location: Sault College, Essar Hall, M Wing. 443 Northern Avenue, Sault Ste. Marie


Admission by donation

More info.

London Middlesex Master Gardeners


8th Annual Seedy Saturday


Date: March 7

Time: 10am - 3pm

Location: Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre. 656 Elizabeth Street, London

$5 admission

Beat the winter blues and prepare for Gardening Season.

More info.

Investing in Your Garden   


Date: March 8

Time: 2-4pm

Location: Verona Lions Centre, 4504 Verona Sand Road, Verona


Speaker: Denis Flanagan.  

As seen on HGTV


An informative presentation on ideas, trends and new plants for 2015.  Denis will also be available to answer your gardening questions.

Admission is by advance ticket.  For tickets and information contact: [email protected]


Tickets can also be picked up at the following locations:

Asselstine Hardware 6826 38 Hwy, Verona, ON

Memory Lane Flowers & Gifts 4400 George St., Sydenham, ON

Harrowsmith Tiffany Gift Shop 4910 38 Hwy, Harrowsmith, ON

Revell Ford Lincoln 6715 38 Hwy, Verona, ON

Southern Frontenac Community Services 4419 George St., Sydenham, ON

Streetsville Horticultural Society


Date: March 10

Time: 7:30-9:30pm

Location: 2630 Inlake Crt. Community Centre

Please join us at our Monthly meeting.  Refreshments and draw prizes.

Guest speaker: Sid Baller

Topic: Spring pruning

More info.

Sherwood Public Library



Date: March 10

Time: 10:30am

Location: Sherwood Public Library. 467 Upper Ottawa Street, Hamilton

Do your Houseplants need help? Come to our Basic Houseplant Care program and learn "how to" care presented by our expert Neil, Greenhouse Supervisor for The City of Hamilton.

More info.

Savvy Gardening at Canada Blooms


Date: March 13

Time: noon

Niki Jabbour and Tara Nolan, who co-own, will be giving a talk: How Edibles and Ornamentals Can Play Nicely Together


Time: 3:00pm

Niki Jabbour will give a solo presentation at 3:00pm. "Groundbreaking Food Gardens: Fun Ideas for Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs"


More info.

Sherwood Public Library



Date: March 14

Time: 10:30am

Location: Sherwood Public Library. 467 Upper Ottawa St., Hamilton


Sherwood Library is keen to spread the word about birds and window collisions.  Our expert from FLAP will share info on how to protect the birds in your garden and in your neighbourhood.  Come and borrow books on how to create a bird friendly garden too!

More info.

Bus Trip to Canada Blooms


Date: March 17

Time: depart at 7:45am


Tourism Sarnia-Lambton is hosting a bus trip to Canada Blooms in partnership with the Sarnia Communities in Bloom Committee.

Bus will depart from 155 Venetian Boulevard, Point Edward.  It will return to Sarnia at 5:00pm.


Tickets are $75 per person and will grant admission into both the Canada Blooms Festival, as well as the National Home Show.  Attendees will receive a festival show guide, as well as a tour escort.

More info. 1-800-265-0316

Bus Tour to Canada Blooms


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 [email protected].

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.

Sarnia Horticultural Society



Date: March 18

Time: 7pm

Location: DeGroot's Nurseries Green Room

Guest Speaker: Lynn England Baarschers

Topic: Vegetable Gardening 101

Free admission

Everyone welcome

More info.

The Patrick Colgan Lecture


Date: March 19

Time: 7pm

Location: Royal Botanical Gardens Centre, Burlington


Ireland's Generous Nature: The Past and Present Uses of Plants in Ireland

Presented by Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, President, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri

Discover the rich history of the use of the indigenous biodiversity of Ireland, in the form of plants.  From food to medicines to drinks and textiles, building materials, and artisanal crafts, the creativity and skill of the people of Ireland transformed the resources around them into the stuff of both pleasure and sustenance, sometimes in surprising ways.

To reserve a spot, contact Joanne at 905-527-1158 ext.229

Brooklin Horticultural Society


Date: March 25

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Brooklin United Church. 19 Cassels Road, Brooklin


Brooklin Horticultural Society, together with Whitby in Bloom presents guest speaker Frank Kershaw.  His topic, Gardening on the Edge explores successful gardening with plants outside of the gardens hardiness zone.  This meeting will include our annual Seed Swap.  Come early for draw tickets and refreshments.  Guests are welcome.

More info.

Beaverton Horticultural Society


Date: March 26

Time: 7:30pm

Location: St. Paul's Anglican Church. 383 Osborn St, Beaverton

All are welcome, speaker to be announced.

Refreshments and prize table!

More info.

Green Living Show


Date: March 27-29

Location: Metro Toronto Convention centre.

Spring Clean your lifestyle at the Green Living Show.  Canada's largest consumer show dedicated to healthy, sustainable living.

More info.

Lindsay Master Gardeners Seedy Saturday



Date: March 28

Time: 9:30am to 3pm

Location: Queen Street United Church. 35 Lindsay St. N., Lindsay

Plants, seeds and many vendors as well as speakers, door prizes and yummy snacks.

More info. 705-277-2712

The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society


HBRose Society

Date: Sunday, March 29

Time: 2pm

Location: Royal Botanical Gardens Centre.  680 Plains Road West, Burlington.  Room 3 & 4

Speaker: Rene Schmitz (Palatine Fruit & Roses, Niagara-on-the-Lake)

Topic: New Things in Roses

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting.  No entrance fee.

More info.

Communities in Bloom Fundraiser

Napanee, Ontario


Date: April 11

Time: 3pm

Location: The Strathcona Paper Centre, Napanee

Speaker: Ed Lawrence