June 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue



Gardening Connections

Join Our Mailing List

June is for Kids (in the garden)


I was the most surprised guy in town; the town of Wellesley, Ontario.  (It is the place that made apple butter famous.)  I was there last weekend for a 'fish fry', which might lead you to suspect that there is a large body of water nearby.  Not so.  But there must be a great fish monger as over 350 people showed up to sample the best fish I had tasted in some time.  Plus a Wellesley baked potato (don't tell me if it was an import... please!) and all of the trimmings.

The surprise was the next morning, between breakfast with 20 of the local Home Hardware staff and my 'store appearance'.


I wandered down to a cool home in town with the most extraordinary garden at the invitation of the owner, Shauna Leis.  I was invited to view the family garden, which is designed almost exclusively for kids.  Check out these photos and you will see what I mean.


As I entered through the back, just beyond the garage, I was greeted by a fort, shaped like a pirate ship. A pirate ship!   The kids, Erik (5 years old) and Megan (8 years old) designed it themselves, with some help from their Daddy, Kirk Bergey, no doubt.  To suggest that this is the dream of any youngster might be an understatement.  Here, on their own ship, they act out their fantasies with neighbours and friends through creative play.



The ship was the beginning: just beyond it was a 'grotto' where hobbits live (they say) and when the hobbits don't inhabit the hobbit house, Megan and Erik do.  The door is just over a meter high, so most adults are discouraged to climb in.  Buried, as it is, under several feet of soil, the Hobbit house is cool in summer and fun year round.


Both Erik and Megan have their own veggie gardens.  Erik's peas are WAY ahead of mine because he planted at precisely the right time - about 6 weeks ago. 


The garden includes a fire pit, for marshmallow roasts (and sing-alongs), a nature trail (down to the river) and a 'flat' where everyone in the family plays soccer and badminton in the summer and hockey on the home-made rink in the winter.


Managed Disrepair

To suggest that Erik and Megan are lucky is to discount the contribution that they both make to designing their outdoor 'nature/garden' space and the time that they take to maintain it in a special state of managed disrepair (my word).   You see, if you want the fox to trot through your garden, the rabbits to munch on your dandelions and the frogs to jump into the puddles, you have to know one thing about Mother Nature - a 'perfect' environment doesn't work so well.  It has to be just a bit messy; intentionally messy.

Anyone who has read the book 'Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv, knows the term 'nature deficit disorder'.  This is what happens when children grow up without a connection to the natural world around them.  


When square walls, electrical outlets and (dare I say it) computers dominate a child's life they become disconnected from nature.  Chances are, if a child is not introduced to the wonders of nature they won't likely discover it as they mature into adults.  Worms are 'icky', bugs are 'bad' and dirt is, well, dirty.  Kids that make their own mud pies and watch the chrysalis from a caterpillar blossom into a monarch butterfly know differently. 


Kids who know nature, enjoy a form of wealth that travels with them for the rest of their lives.  It is a different form of wealth: one that has nothing to do with money.


It is my opinion that we are reversing that curve as more parents engage their children in outdoor play.  The local park, conservation area, lakes, rivers and indeed -the backyard garden - provide a host of opportunities for us to enlighten and engage young people in an experience that cannot be replicated indoors. 


The rewards, short and long term, are enormous. 


I hope you enjoy the pictures and this story about Megan and Erik.

Ride to Conquer Cancer


I am on the home stretch and SO excited to be riding with two of my kids in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  


The big event (200 km in two days: Toronto to Niagara) is only a couple of weeks away and I would be delighted if you would sponsor me.  Should you choose to do so, I will send you a copy of my book 'Lawn and Garden Secrets' for a minimum $25 donation.  Make it $50 or more and I will send you 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds.  Please let Brenda know if you would like my 'thank you' gifts at [email protected].


My good friend Bryce Hunter died of brain cancer one year ago.  He was treated at Princess Margaret.  I remember him telling me how impressed he was by the care that he received there.


My own Dad passed away after a fight with pancreatic cancer.


And I am a 'cancer survivor', having experienced prostate surgery 2 years ago this month. 


I believe in this cause and thank you in advance (or again, if you have already donated) for your generosity.


Click here to sponsor.  

To Do in the garden in June


As I write this, much of central Canada is in the midst of a drought.  Odd, really. May is supposed to be a wet month.  

I am watering to beat the band (using some fabulous Mark's Choice lawn and garden sprinklers).  

Everything that I have planted this past month gets regular, if not, daily attention.  As your garden requires water consider this:

-  Use water from a rain barrel to water your containers: it is oxygen-charged and always warm.  Plants love it. 

-  Water infrequently: rather than watering each day for a short while, apply lots of water less frequently and let the soil become dry about 3 cm below the surface between applications. Your plants will perform better, you will use less water and you will do less work.

-  Weed.  Hoe them down while they are young and save yourself a tonne of work this summer when the pigweed and thistles become 'trees'.  uggh.


-  Mulch.  Reduce up to 90% of weeding and 70% of watering by spreading a 6 to 8 cm layer of natural cedar or pine bark mulch over the soil.  I do this around roses, perennials, young shrubs and trees.  It works like magic and maximizes my 'hammock' time.

-  Plant.  There was a time when almost all planting took place in April and May.  With the containerization of plants we now plant all summer long.  The selection at your favourite local retailer is still impressive, but wears down as each day passes in June.  The earlier you get out there, the better.

-  Fertilize your lawn with the new Golfgreen Iron Plus... truly the most sophisticated lawn fertilizer on the Canadian market.  I received an e mail from one happy customer who told me that her lawn never looked more green and that she was not renewing the contract with her lawn maintenance company.  An exclusive formula to Home Hardware.  Watch the video 
-  June is 'rose month', 'peony month' and 'iris month'.  Choose your favourite and plant many.  Water in well and use quality soil and the new Bio Max cattle/steer manure (which is certified by the Composting Council of Canada).


-  If your cedars look hungry (and many do after a severe winter) fertilize with Plant Prod Smartcote Evergreen & Shrub fertilizer.  It lasts the entire season and provides a dilute form of fertilizer every time you water or it rains.  Like magic. 


-  Enjoy some 'hammock time' as you have earned it.

-  Check out my weekly newspaper column on my website.  Or buy the Toronto Star on Saturday (Homes and Condos section) or one of the 24 papers that I syndicate my column to. 

-  Contest! See below.  Brenda keeps coming up with great ways to give away cool prizes.  She is special.

-  I have a weekly blog at www.markcullen.com that is worth a look too.... Let me know what you think.

-  Look over my events for June.  I am in the west and looking forward to meeting you at these Home Hardware events. Introduce yourself!  See you in British Columbia and Alberta.  See details below.

-  Do a rain dance.  I would be eternally grateful.


Keep your knees dirty,



Merchant of Beauty


10,000 gardening questions. answered.  

Toronto Botanical Garden

We're giving away 4 pairs of tickets to Through the Garden Gate.


This is one of Canada's largest private garden tours.  On Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14: 19 residential gardens in Lawrence Park will open their gates.


For more info visit www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca.


I had the privilege of attending a sneak preview of this fantastic garden tour.  If you would like a chance to win a pair of tickets, identify the plant in this photo.  


Email your answer to [email protected].  


I will randomly select the winners from the correct answers.


Deadline to enter: June 5, 2015

Products of the Month 

Stainless Steel Hose Hanger

Simple, effective, space saving, and very well built. It works like a charm when mounted on a screw or over your outdoor faucet. Stainless steel construction for extra long-life. I just may leave mine outdoors all winter. Watch the video.

Home Hardware # 5042-057


Giant Tomato Cage

Our tomato supports are really tomato castles that have very little in common with the flimsy wire cages of the past. They are solid and stable, and will double your tomato crop by getting all of the plant off the ground, right to the end of the season and long after the traditional cages have fallen over under the weight of the plant. 

The Mark's Choice tomato castles stack for easy storage and are rust proof. Strong, stable, and long lasting - they're an investment, not just another purchase.

Home Hardware # 5093-491

Garden Days, June 19 to 21, 2015

An initiative of the Canadian Garden Council, is Canada's coast-to-coast, three-day celebration of the role of gardens in our communities and in our lives.  

It's an opportunity for Canadians to shop at local garden centres, visit favourite public gardens, travel to a garden destination, and enjoy home gardening.


Whatever you decide to do, we invite you to register your activity on www.gardendays.ca.  It's as simple as clicking on 'Register Your Acitivity' button and inputting your Garden Days activity information.


Enter the 'Canada's Garden Street' Contest


If you live on Canada's prettiest Garden Street - we want to know all about it. Click on the 'Garden Street Contest' button and tell us how gardens, be they public or private, contribute to the quality of life on your street and in your neighbourhood.


You could win $1,000 worth of Mark's Choice Lawn and Garden Products from Home Hardware and of course the 'bragging rights' for your street to be named Canada's Garden Street for 2015.  

Birding, Birding, and More Birding 

The Great Canadian Birdathon is over.  This annual event that takes place for the month of May gets birders from all walks of life into the streets, yards, parks, and forests to count birds.  All the while raising funds for a number of great Bird Studies Canada initiatives.


The counting of birds may be over but the fundraising certainly is not.  Bird Studies Canada is about half way to their goal of $200,000. Consider making a pledge to the birds by sponsoring friend and fellow birder, Steven Price.  You can visit his personal page here.


Did you miss the Birdathon this year?  Not to worry! Your chance to get out and spot the birds is not confined to the month of May. Bird Studies Canada has numerous resources to help you get started if you're a birding newbie. And, of course, many Volunteer Programs if you want to be more proactive about it.

Where is Mark this month?


June 2 - Invermere Home Hardware, BC. Ladies Night. 7-9pm.


June 3 - B & M Home Hardware Building Centre, Olds, AB. Ladies' night. 6:30-9pm.


June 4 -Three Hills Home Hardware Building Centre, AB.  1-3pm.


June 6 - Lamont Home Hardware, AB. 10am-noon.

Top Reasons Toronto Gardeners Should Check Out Their Library 


Toronto Public Library has launched its "100 Reasons to Check Out TPL" campaign (#TPL100) to share its diverse services with Torontonians. The campaign encourages residents to obtain and use their own library card to avail themselves of countless programs and materials including those related to gardening. The Reasons include some especially for gardeners, such as:

The Ask an Expert Master Gardeners Workshop Series: Trained horticulturalists lead sessions on container garden, community gardens, organic gardening, small-space garden design and more.

Seed Library Workshop and Exchange: Gardeners can borrow and exchange seeds, and children learn to plant seeds and understand the importance of seed preservation through this Toronto Public Library partner program at the North York Central and Yorkville libraries, May 30 and June 13.

100 in 1 Day: Gardening. A day to beautify Fairview Library Gardens. People are asked to bring shovels, spades and/or gloves, if they can, and participate in the fun on Saturday, June 06, 2015 at the Fairview Library.


More info.

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.


Events from West Coast to East Coast :

The Butchart Gardens
Brentwood Bay, BC

Dates: June 19-21

Come and Celebrate Canada's Garden Days with us.


Garden Days is an opportunity for those living in the greater Victoria area to enjoy their own garden visit or take part in their favourite garden experience, get inspired at their local favourite garden or travel to a nearby destination to enjoy their favourite garden. The Butchart Gardens is pleased to support Canada's Garden Days.


More info.
VanDusen Botanical Garden - Bird Walk
Vancouver, BC

Date: June 27

Time: 10 a.m.

Meet in the Visitor Centre Atrium.  Join Jeremy Gordon for a guided birding exploration in the Garden.  Rain or shine.  Free for Members or with Garden admission.

More info.

The Victoria Lily Society 

Victoria, BC


Flower show, Plant sale & Tea


Date: June 27

Time: 10am-4pm

Location: Salvation Army Citadel Gymnasium.  4030 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC

Admission by donation.  Wheelchair and walker accessible.  Lots of parking.

Muttart Conservatory - Amour de Paris

Edmonton, AB


Muttart Conservatory

Dates: until June 21

Feel the romance as you enter the City of Love.  The pyramid will feature the Eiffel Tower accented with a collection of geraniums.  Love in Paris is the perfect place for any wedding or special photos.  Couples can tie the knot or celebrate relationships in the pyramids and create a unique experience to remember and cherish forever.

More info.

Shaw Guild Garden Tour


Date: June 6

Time: 10am-4pm

Tickets: $25

This annual fundraising garden tour, organized by the Shaw Guild, showcases magnificent secret gardens in the lovely Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Join us for the 10th annual garden tour.  We are lining up a special selection of gardens to celebrate a decade of beautiful gardens.


More info.
Canadian Peony Society - Annual Show
Ottawa, ON 

Date: June 6 and 7

Location: Ottawa City Hall in Jean Pigott Place.

The show is open free to the public.  Gardeners are invited to enter some of their favourite garden peony flowers in the judged competition.

More info. 
Applewood Garden Club - Plant Sale
Mississauga, ON 



Date: June 6

Time: 10am-2pm

Location: St. Luke's Anglican Church. 1513 Dixie Road

More info


Friends of the Central Experimental Farm 

Ottawa, ON

Date: June 6. Isabella Preston Lilac Tour 2pm. Take a guided tour of the Isabella Preston Lilac Collection with the Friends' Lilac Team. Learn about her contribution to Canada-hardy hybrids.


Date: June 13. Peony Tour 9am to 12pm. Guided tour of the CEF Peony Beds with the Friends' Peony Team. Tips on what works best and ways of keeping your peonies happily blooming.


Date: June 14. C.E.F. & Explorer Rose Workshop from 1 to 3pm. Rose expert Edythe Falconer will present a workshop on roses, pests and diseases, and self-guided tour with handout.


Date: June 20 & 21 "Books for Blooms" Used Book Sale from 10am to 4pm. Literally the best used book sale in Ottawa, an Official 'Garden Days' Activity.


Date: June 23 to 25 "Three Gardens in Three Days" Bus Tour. Visit 3 magnificent gardens in three days on both sides of the border.

More info.

The Cabbagetown Preservation Association

Toronto, ON  

Hidden Gardens & Private Spaces Tour

Date: June 7

Time: 10am-3pm

Tickets: $15

Stroll along picturesque streets, view historic architecture, and gaze at award-winning front gardens in the Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District of Toronto's oldest neighbourhood, while touring ten charming, creative back gardens.

More info.

Orangeville and District Horticultural Society


Gardening from a Hammock

Date: June 9

Time: 7-9:30pm

Location: Orangeville Seniors Centre. 26 Bythia Street, Orangeville

Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'

Topic: Low-maintenance Gardening

Contact: Donna McAvoy. 519-941-4641

Streetsville Horticultural Society

Mississauga, ON 


Monthly Meeting

Date: June 9

Time: 7-9pm

Location: Community Centre, 2630 Inlake Court. Mississauga, ON

Speaker: Edel Schmidt on "All About Hydrangeas" plus special presentation, spectacular flower show, free admission, great refreshments and draw prizes.

More info.

Burlington Horticultural Society



General Meeting and Flower Show

Date: June 10

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Burlington Seniors' Centre. 2285 New St. at Drury Lane

Speaker: Kevin Beagle of Weir's Lane lavender and Apiary

Strawberry social and draw.  All welcome.

More info.

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony House & Garden Tour of Note


Date: June 13

Time: 10am-4pm

Tickets: $30

Visit six exceptional properties in Waterloo, Kitchener and Wellesley Township.  A spring treat not to be missed, showcasing a variety of architectural styles and d�cor!  There will be musicians from the KW Symphony and the KW Youth Orchestra to entertain you at two of the homes. 

More info. 

LEAF - Leslieville Tree Festival


Date: June 13

Time: 12-4pm

Location: Leslie Grove Park.  1158 Queen Street East

This is a free community celebration for the whole family!  Featuring green groups and vendors, exciting live performances, a kids' zone, local artists, a ceremonial tree planting and tasty local food.

More info.

Ennismore & District Horticultural Society



Date: June 13

Coach bus trip to Toronto Botanical Gardens - guided tour of Edwards Garden at the Toronto Botanical Garden, Music Garden with audio and Allen Garden.

Leaving Ennismore at 8am and returning early evening, before 8pm.

Will be a fabulous day of garden tours. 

Contact [email protected] for tickets and more info.

Georgetown Horticultural Society



Garden Tour

Date: June 14

Time: 10am-4pm

Through the Garden Gate Garden Tour of delightful Georgetown homes as well as the Old Seed House Garden. 

Tickets: $10 in advance at Foodstuffs on Main St. or on day of the tour at 189 Barber Dr.

More info.

Kids' Run for Nature

Toronto, ON

Date: June 14

Location: Withrow Park, Toronto

Jasmine and Jett have created the Kids' Run for Nature because they care about the earth and want to get kids and their families involved in their great natural community.

They want to support their environment and all the amazing species it holds while getting their bodies active and healthy and they think having a run in their local park with tons of friends and family is a great place to start!

Proceeds from the run will help World Wildlife Fund Canada protect species at risk and the spaces they call home.  Jasmine and Jett are focusing their energy on animals like Polar Bears and Caribou who are threatened or endangered in Canada .


More info.

The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society


Rose Society

57th Annual Rose Show 

Date: June 20

Time: 1:30-5pm

Location: The Royal Botanical Gardens Centre. 680 Plains Road West, Burlington

57th Annual Rose Show: An exhibition of a cut garden rose and floral design.

Everyone is welcome to exhibit with a $3 fee no matter number of blooms.  Floral vases supplied.

Rose Show admission free with RBG admission.

More info.

Bluffs Gates Open Home & Garden Tour

Scarborough, ON


Date: June 20

Time: 10am-4pm

Again this year the tour will feature an exquisite variety of homes of Toronto East uniquely perched along the Scarborough Bluffs with a breathtaking view of Lake Ontario. Stroll through magnificent gardens and be inspired by the beautifully appointed interiors of Toronto's best-kept secret neighbourhood.

More info.

Artists in the Garden Tour


Date: June 20

Tickets: $20/person in advance. $25/person at the garden gates.

Join us as we tour beautiful gardens in Durham Region, while taking in the sights and sounds of local artists and musicians.  All fund raised support Durham Region's only cancer support centre, Hearth Place in Oshawa.

More info. 

Woodbridge Garden Tour


Date: June 20

Time: 10am-3pm.  Rain or shine.

Tickets: $10

Hosted by the Woodbridge Horticultural Society.

More info.

Kemptville Horticultural Society


Bud to Blooms Garden Tour

Date: June 20

Time: 10am-4pm

There are 8 stops on this tour.  Price is $15 per ticket including afternoon tea at Maplewood Hall in Oxford Mills.  All proceeds of this tour go toward the KHS Annual Bursaries awarded to Students of the University of Guelph Horticultural Program.

More info.

Schomberg Horticultural Society



Annual Garden Tour

Date: June 28

Time: 10am-4pm

Tickets: $10

9 beautiful, very diverse gardens and country estates in and around King Township are on display.

More info. 

Montreal Botanical Garden



Every Saturday and Sunday all summer long, the Garden will be filled with the sound of music.  Stroll along the paths and relax amongst the flowers, let your eye be drawn by the colours and your ear by the melodious strains of a series of intimate recitals and two large concerts.

More info.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

Nova Scotia

Historic Gardens

Spring Dinner & Auction

The world class Historic Gardens is a 17 acre horticultural paradise located in historic Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the first permanent European settlement in North America.

The historically based core gardens are linked by paths through many other display areas featuring plant collections, garden art, water features and natural areas.

More info.