October 2015
Gardening with Mark
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The Dutch Miracle
It is hard to imagine a more perfectly packaged all-natural product.  Perhaps an oyster.  Dutch bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and the like, are planted now.  

They sleep under the ground in your garden all winter and announce the arrival of spring in full and glorious colour. 

You may feel that I am putting too fine a point on a rather garden variety topic but I would argue that spring flowering bulbs are like the tourist attractions that exist in our neighbourhoods that we never go to see.  As long as the CN Tower exists, mostly no one in Toronto is compelled to go to see it.  We can do that most anytime, right?  Just because we don't go does not diminish the actual value.  
Think about it...
I want to encourage you to think about bulbs a little differently.  Perhaps a trip to Holland in spring would change your mind on the subject, as it did mine.  

This past spring, Mary and I toured the 'bulb growing region' of The Netherlands (including Holland - which is a province and not a country) during the second week of April.  It was magnificent.  We arrived a week too early for the tulips but just in time to see the hyacinths in full bloom and perfume (they are the most fragrant of all bulb species). 

As we flew into Schiphol Airport we circled round huge swaths of real estate on our approach.  As the jet banked we were able to see patch a work quilt of square fields that jumped with primary hues of blue, magenta, white and yellow.  Hyacinths and early flowering narcissus were greeting us on the ground. 
Our trip to Keukenhof Gardens was the highlight of the week.  About 17 acres of parkland are landscaped with the most dramatic use of spring flowering bulbs that you can possibly imagine.  
Large beds were blanketed with the things while a special greenhouse featured artistic displays of amaryllis, tulips, daffodils and you name it - including hydrangea flowers!  

And yes, it is true that they replace beds of flowering plants with fresh ones as each variety finishes flowering in the greenhouse.  This is how they keep the place looking top notch every day of the 8 week festival.
Is it any wonder that Keukenhof is the most popular tourist attraction in the Netherlands, second only to the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam.
Some Bulb Facts:

As you wade into your garden retailer to check out the bulbs, keep these few tips in mind:

1. Always plant bulbs in well-drained soil.  Wet, heavy soil is the enemy and will cause bulbs to rot.

2. Plant a bulb three times as deep as the bulb is thick (measured from top to bottom) and always plant with the pointy side up (though, with some of the minor bulbs, like crocus and scilla, I just dump them in a shallow hole and spread them smooth with the palm of my gloved hand, leaving a small space between each bulb).

3. For fragrance, plant hyacinths (though there are some wonderful narcissus/daffodils that are fragrant also: the package will tell you what you need to know).
4. To prevent mole traffic in your garden, plant fritillaria, but plant them on their side to allow water to drain away from the cupped formation at the top of the bulb.  This will prevent them from rotting.

5.  For kids: to see the embryo of a flower, take a hyacinth bulb and gently carve away the layers, like an onion, until you reach the centre.  Be very careful as you approach the centre not to cut the hyacinth off with your Mark's Choice garden knife.  The job is a sticky one but worth the 75 cents or so that you will invest in the bulb just to teach the lesson.  Inside every bulbs IS next year's bloom!
6.  Narcissus and daffodils are mildly poisonous and are not the least bit attractive to deer, mice, squirrels or any other rodent. 

7.  Look for the words, 'suitable for naturalizing' on the package.  This means that these varieties of bulbs will grow and improve each year forever (almost), forming a large clump of richly coloured flowers each spring without digging them up and dividing every few years, as we have to do with so many other varieties.  I have over 20,000 bulbs growing on my property and ALL of them are 'naturalizing' bulbs.  I planted them once and that is that.

8.  While most bulbs are sold under the 'Holland Bulb' brand many are grown outside of the country.  Most narcissus are grown in the U.K.  Most popular daffodils sold in Canada are grown in British Columbia.  Just thought you would like to know. 
I am not sure that oysters are as perfect as spring flowering bulbs.  The oyster is great to eat and does not require shrink wrapping or bubble packing, but how do you recycle the shell?  
I am told that they can be used as an aggregate in asphalt.  Sounds like a lot of trouble to me.  Holland bulbs, on the other hand, do not produce any waste at all.  Even the finished flowers and foliage will die down come late spring and become incorporated into the soil. 
And finally, check out 'egg crate gardening'.  I have worked with the good people in the Netherlands to create a pre-planted container of spring flowering bulbs in an 'egg crate' (see photo). 

They work amazing well.  You buy the selection of bulbs that suit you, including a fragrant theme, a Canadian theme and a naturalizing theme.  Take them home, dig a hole and fill to the appropriate depth with quality Mark's Choice flower and vegetable soil, place the 'egg crate' full of bulbs in the hole, cover it up with more soil and water it in. 
Voila.  Next spring your garden looks amazing. 
Jeff Hutcheson of Canada AM was duly impressed!  Check out this 4 minute video of our work.
There is change afoot in the pick-your-own apple business. 
Just up the road from where we live there is an excellent u-pick apple farm, Applewood  Farm Winery (McCowan Rd).  I don't go there as we have lots of apple trees on our property, but I have friends that do.  Seems that they charge a cover fee to get in and charge for what you pick on top of that. 
One couple told us that they paid $35 for a half bushel of fresh apples. 
Now that could be viewed as 'expensive' or a 'bargain' depending on your point of view.  Compared to an equal quantity of apples purchased at the local farmers market, it is pricey.  But if it is the experience that you are going for, where are you going to get family entertainment like this for any less?
My opinion is that farmers work hard, do not get rich on the harvest of their labours and deserve all of the money that they make.  If a farmer creates a multi dimensional entertainment experience that helps all of us, children especially, understand and appreciate where our food comes from, they have made a great contribution to society.
What are your thoughts? Email [email protected] to share your opinion.
This is Thanksgiving month... enjoy it.  

I am thankful, among other things, for you and the valuable time that you take twice a month to read my work here.  Thank you for your trust and support.
Fruitfully yours,
Merchant of Beauty

What are you planting this fall?

This month, I'm inviting you to share 'What are you planting this fall'.  

I like planting now and generally I have more success with September and October planting than I do with spring planting. With the cool temperatures of fall the 'top growth' of winter-hardy woody perennials slows and hardens off.  At the same time the roots are busy putting down young feeding roots which will provide support for substantial growth come spring.

This is a great time of year to plant perennials, shrubs, trees, bulbs, and more!  Email one photo to [email protected].   I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.

The 5 winners, who get the most 'likes' will receive a 2016 Harrowsmith Almanac.

Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.

(deadline for entry is October 4, 2015.  Voting closes October 8, 2015)
Contest Winners
Last month 5 winners received a Mark's Choice Garden Knife and a copy of the Harrowsmith Gardening Digest.

I asked you to submit a photo of the favourite part of your garden. 
Congratulations to these winners whose photos received the most 'likes' on my Facebook page:

Julia Chau
Cathy Nolan
Julie J. Dowdle
Erin Netzke
Lilac Chow
Thank you to everyone who shared a photo.  This contest was fun and I enjoyed seeing all your favourite flowers.  You can view the winning photos here 

 You can view all photos in the contest here.
Product of the Month 
Mark's Choice Mixed Seed Feeder

I have 12 feeding stations around my garden that feature different food sources to attract a variety of birds.  The Mark Choice Mixed Seed Feeder attracts many species.  

I fill the large-capacity hopper with Mark's Choice Bird Feast.  The suet baskets hold a full suet cake on each end of the feeder.  

The solid cedar construction holds up to 3 lbs. of seed.  It is made in Canada (by Mennonites in St Jacobs, Ontario) and made from solid cedar for long and productive use.
Home Hardware # 5453-647
Stay in Touch 
Check out Mark Cullen Gardening on YouTube for 'How To' videos to help with your lawn & garden.

Watch my weekly segment on CTV Canada AM with Jeff.  Every Wednesday, between 8:30 and 9:00am.  If you miss a segment, watch them online.

My weekly newspaper column can be found online at The Toronto Star or read in more than 20 other papers across the country.  
Follow my daily Tweets on Twitter (@MarkCullen4)
Listen to my weekly gardening tip 'The Green File'.  I post a new audio clip every Wednesday.
Follow my daily postings on my Facebook page.
I encourage you to visit My Library to search for great gardening information.

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

Date: month of October
Nature serves up a palette of deep, rich hues.
Hours change to: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. (All day)
More info.
A Spirited Affair
A Celebration of Food, Drink & Fashion
Toronto, ON

Date: October 3
Time: 7pm
Location: Black Creek Pioneer Village. 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto

Travel back in time to the 1860s with games, food and drink.  Swing into the 1940s with trivia, dancing, food and drinks!
Dance the night away with our Big Band dance band and check out our amazing Silent Auction.
More info. 
NeighbourWoods on the Grand
Fergus, ON
Growing Nut Trees in Fergus
Date: October 7
Time: 7:30-9pm
Location: Elora Centre for the Arts in the Harris Room

Come and find out about the Jewels under the Kilt, the Fergus nut farm that grows and roasts an astonishing variety of nuts thanks to the hard work and vision of farmers, Elisabeth Burrow and Mitch Kosir.
More info.
Streetsville Horticultural Society
Mississauga, ON
Monthly meeting and 'Friends Day'

Date: October 13
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Community Center. 2630 Inlake Court, Mississauga.
Speaker: Heinke Theissen
Topic: Made or Shade
Special presentation, spectacular flower show, free admission, refreshments and draw prizes.
More info. 
Burlington Horticultural Society
Burlington, ON
General Meeting and Flower Show
Date: October 14
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Burlington Seniors' Centre, 2285 New St at Drury Lane
Topic: Wolf Bonham, landscape, will speak about "Night Lighting"
More info.
Right Tree in the Right Place Workshop
Toronto, ON
Date: October 14
Time: 7-9pm
Location: St. Matthew's Clubhouse. 450 Broadview Avenue located in Riverdale Park East at Langley Ave.
Presenter: Michael Marcucci, ISA Certified Arborist, LEAF

Looking to spruce up your yard? Join us to learn how to select the right trees for your property, considering a variety of factors such as soil type, sun exposure, available space, aesthetic preferences and energy conservation benefits.
Registration recommended
More info.
Soupalicious Ottawa
Ottawa, ON
Presented by Debra Dynes Family House & Plant a Row. Grow a Row

Date: October 18
Time: 4:30-7:30pm
Location: Carleton Heights Community Centre, 1665 Apeldoorn Avenue
Sip, Slurp and Savour your way through Soupalicious Ottawa
A not-to-be-missed culinary experience! Enjoy a medley of soups from local restaurants, created with the freshest of locally grown ingredients and a passion for our community.
Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society
Toronto, ON 

Members' Plant Sale
Date: October 18
Time: 12:30-4:30pm
Location: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue East.

Bring your mug and a friend.  Enjoy the plant sale.  Think about bringing a plant to donate!
Presentation: Chaos in the Rock Garden: Putting Theory into Practice
Speaker: David Sellars
More info. 
Restaurants for Change 
Across Canada
An Initiative of Community Food Centres Canada
1 night. 13 cities. 50+ restaurants. 1 goal
Supporting the right to healthy food for all Canadians.

Date: October 21

Restaurants for Change is an annual fundraising event that brings together some of Canada's best restaurants to create change in our food system.  On October 21, 50+ of Canada's best restaurants will donate all or part proceeds from their dinner service to support healthy food access and empowering food programs in low-income communities across Canada, and push for a fairer and healthier food system.
Join in and show your support by making a reservation at a participating restaurant in your city. See you on October 21!
More info.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Burlington, ON  

The Great Pumpkin Trail

Date: October 22 and 23
It's a magical evening on the Pumpkin Trail! Hundreds of jack-o-lanterns light your way along our garden and woodland trail.  Enjoy live entertainment, face painting and pumpkin-themed activities.

You must pre-register for a timeslot to this event.
More info. 
Montreal Botanical Garden
Montreal, QC  
Pumpkin Decorating Contest

Orange, green, striped, speckled, small, big, long, flattened... have fun learning about the amazing Cucurbitaceae family when you enter our pumpkin-decorating contest.  Turn you pumpkin into a witch, a funny character, an animal... Let your imagination run wild!
Dates: October 2 - 12
More info.
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia  
Historic Gardens
A Top 5 North American Garden Worth Travelling For!

ESCAPE from the hectic pace of everyday life with a visit to Annapolis Royal's beautiful Historic Gardens!
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 (1605).
Historically themed areas tell the story of Nova Scotia settlement from an agricultural and horticultural perspective, showcasing gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than four hundred years of local history.

More info.