This is unusual, to say the least. I enjoy tracking the weather across Canada and what has happened in most parts of the country in the last week or so is incredible. Warm, warm and warmer.
In southern Ontario, where I live, it is 14 degrees as I write this (on Thursday - in FEBRUARY) and it may go up to 18 degrees tomorrow in other parts of the province.
If I was a winter-hardy plant in a typical Canadian garden I would not know which way to look right now. Mind you, this is exactly why I wrapped my yews and cedars in burlap last fall.
The reflection of the sun on the snow is more intense than you can imagine: that is how 'snow burn' occurs. I am very happy that I took the trouble.
Warm Weather primer
Here is a 'warm weather' primer for worrying Canadians:
- If your soft wood shrubs and trees start to break bud and show colour or leaf, don't worry. Mother Nature has dealt with this before and your Pussy Willow is a survivor. Otherwise, it would be programmed to bud much later.
If your spring flowering bulbs like crocus and snow drops are peaking out of the soil when they really have no business doing so, don't worry. They have built-in anti-freeze. They will be fine.
Now is the best time of year to prune apples. Who knew? Now you. I pruned mine last weekend. So nice!!!
If it snows with one of those heavy, damp snowfalls, then you should start to worry. Of course your mother told you to never worry about things over which you have no control. In this case, she was right. Get outdoors with a broom and knock the heavy snow off your evergreens before it breaks them in half.
Since being inducted into the Order of Canada (see photos and details on Facebook and in my blog),
His Excellency presents the Member insignia of the Order of Canada to L. Mark Cullen.
Photo credit: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall
I jumped right into a privilege that comes with being a member of the Order: officiating at Citizenship ceremonies. I officiated at 3 ceremonies in Scarborough, Ontario on February 21 and I have to tell you that it was a most exhilarating experience.
You can only imagine the happiness in the room when up to 80 people from 24 countries raised their right hand and pledged an oath to our Queen and country. There were very few dry eyes.
If you get the chance to attend a citizenship ceremony, do it. (You can if you register in advance through Citizenship Canada.
) It is the best anti-depressant.
As a naturalized Canadian, I realize now how much I take for granted. To achieve citizenship you have to live here for 3 years full time, study from a handbook about our geography, politics and history, pass a test and wait about another year before you can become a citizen. For each recipient, 'membership' as a citizen of Canada is a privilege and an honour.
I was reminded of that in a big way.
And I wonder how many of us naturalized Canadians would pass the test. ??
Last month, I introduced you to my son Ben, who has joined me in the business. Thank you, from both of us, for your many, very kind, welcoming comments. He is off and running, with this message about Canada Blooms. Look for both of us when you come! We would be delighted to meet you.
Canada Blooms 2017 by Ben Cullen
Winter 2017 has proven yet again that Canadians just cannot count on the weather. I have sympathy for the snow-seekers who watched their weekend ski-trips melt away in (unprecedented) +17 degree heat, only to see the sun-worshipers sent scurrying back indoors when we are again plunged into freezing temperatures of rain or snow.
f there is one thing that Canadians can count on, it is that Canada Blooms will deliver just what we need, just when we need it: a heavy dose of floral colours and scents brought together in symphony by the best talent in the industry. Here are a few specifics that I am counting on:
A celebration of Canada's 150th Birthday including a wall of 1,000 flowering plants which will compose a living tribute to our major anniversary.
Further to this installation is artist Elaine Waisglass' exhibition featuring stunning photography which brings together gardening artifacts, fine ceramics and traditional flowers from the time of our country's Confederation.
Another area of interest to me will be the diminutive Small Space Gardens, each measuring no more than 250 sq. ft. - approximately the size of my urban lot. There are 10 of these gardens brimming with ideas for those who are up against the realities of gardening in Canada's ever-tighter urban environments - a trend we can count on to continue.
I also plan on spending time in The Secret Path feature garden. This garden incorporates lyrics from Gordon Downie Jr's album of the same name to tell the story of aboriginal Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 in Canada's north while escaping a residential school. We can count on the creative forces of Joe Genovese and the Tragically Hip front man will tell this powerful story in a compelling and immersive way.
takes place from March 10th - 19th at the Enercare Center.
I count on seeing you there!
Things To Do this Month 'in' the Garden:
- Knock heavy, wet snow off trees, evergreens and shrubs before it breaks limbs.
Prune apple trees (thin out the old, thick branches to open the tree up).
Prune your cedar hedge, if you like (you can do this 24/7/12 months of the year without harm). I like doing it this time of year as a good excuse for being outdoors in the garden.
Buy garden seeds. Seed racks are full and the 'hard to find' varieties are generally available. Check out seed catalogues for even more 'hard to find' seeds AND look for Mark's Choice premium seeds at Home Hardware. $1.99 a packet.
Yes, you will pay more but these are exceptional garden performers. I grow them all before I put my name on them.
Check out Harrowsmith 2017 Garden Digest and be sure to read 'Top 10 Native Plants' and 'How to Grow Your Own Bird Seed' by Mark Cullen (sound familiar?)
Canada Blooms..... plan on attending - it really is the 'Greatest Show IN Earth'
Check out my contest for chances to win veggie seeds, gift cards and copies of the new Harrowsmith Garden Guide. (details below)
See you at 'Blooms and if you can't be there, we know that you are in spirit!
As ever yours,
Merchant of Beauty
p.s. I am pleased to announce that my syndicated newspaper column is coming to The Sudbury Star.
Robins are among the most widely-distributed and best known of all birds in North America. They can be seen and heard in forests, parks, and gardens - often whistling their heartwarming song late into the spring evening, and well before morning's first light. If you are lucky, you may find a well-woven nest of grass, twigs and mud, cemented under an eaves or smack on top of a garage light.
Commonly seen on lawns eating worms and grubs, robins don't usually come to seed feeders. They may nibble on small fruits placed out, especially in cold weather. To that end, wild or ornamental cherry trees, as well as berry-yielding shrubs like dogwood, serviceberry, and highbush cranberry, are great food sources for robins and other fruit-eaters.
Although most robins migrate south for winter, many stay in southern Canada, retreating to ravines and other milder haunts. March and April see them return in great numbers. Canadians may wonder at the name 'American' Robin. This doesn't mean they are largely residents of the U.S., though they are widespread there, too. The name distinguishes 'our' robin from the unrelated bird of the same name found in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Because that species also has a burnt orange breast, early English settlers to North America simply called the new (yet somewhat familiar-looking) birds 'robins' - and the name stuck.
This message brought to you by
A veggie contest in March? Yes.
I'm giving away
10 prize packs (worth $45 each).
Each contains a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Spring Garden Guide + a $25 Home Hardware Gift card + 4 packets of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.
Are you planning to grow veggies this year? Did you grow any veggies last year? Submit a photo from your 2016 vegetable patch for a chance to win.
I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page. The winners will be the 10 photos with the most 'likes'.
Deadline for entry: March 5, 2017.
Deadline for voting is March 9, 2017.
In the February issue of Gardening with Mark, I invited you to share 'a photo of an amaryllis in bloom'. Thank you to all who entered their photos. It is always fun to see the many colours and sizes of amaryllis blooms.
The 5 photos with the most 'likes' each won their choice of prize. Winners had the choice of 2 tickets to Canada Blooms OR a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith's Almanac with a $25 Home Hardware gift card.
Congratulations to these Winners: Charlotte Rourke, Lois Bordowitz, Julia Dimakos, Lisa Ruck, and Maya Spengemann
You can view all of the photos here.
Note to winners:
if you have not heard from me, please email
with your mailing address and we will ship your prize ASAP.)
You can view the winning photos here.
Product of the Month
ark's Choice Mini Greenhouse Kit with Light Stand
This is a complete kit for the first-time seed grower.
It comes with a double thick standard 1020 tray and a tall humidity dome with adjustable air vents.
The 18" SunBlaster light can be used with the included stand or you can rest the light directly on the humidity dome.
The NanoTech reflector increases the amount of light reaching the seedlings.
What a great way to get started this gardening season.
Join Me for a Day of Golf
in Support of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute
Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017
Location: Port Hope Golf & Country Club
Mark Cullen and Dr. James Clubine host this golf tournament in support of The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute.
The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute
is planting 117,000 trees along the Highway of Heroes, one tree for each of Canada's war dead since Confederation. A living, breathing memorial.
Sign up today! Space is limited to 92 golfers.
Cost: $150/golfer includes: 18 holes of golf/cart, prize table & dinner
The debut of Harrowsmith's Spring 2017 issue
As restless gardeners don their wellies and survey their winter-weary yards, copies of Harrowsmith's
coveted spring issue are appearing on newsstands across Canada this week.
The magazine is a trusted
resource for both urban and rural Canadians with 192 pages of features on living sustainably and simply.
Embracing the sense of renewal that spring brings, Harrowsmith's 2017 spring issue is full of ideas about
repurposing, re-educating and rewiring your lifestyle.
You'll still find all the staples you love with a more inclusive approach to our content from farm to
"From our humble beginnings on James Lawrence's Camden East, Ontario kitchen table to becoming a
national brand, through various ups and downs and changes in ownership, Harrowsmith has survived
and thrived," says Publisher Yolanda Thornton. "We are delighted to share this special issue with you,
and our own truly Canadian perspective on inspired country living and things handmade."
Look for the Harrowsmith Spring issue on newsstands and available through subscriptions on harrowsmithmagazine.com.
Mark's Gardening Connections
My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter. All event listings have moved to
Event lists are organized by Province and accessible through these links:
Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote? I would be happy to include your event listing on my website.
Send your info to
with the subject line
'. Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.