Mark Cullen's newsletter
"Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while." ~Kin Hubbard

It is August.  We are at the half way mark through the gardening season, more or less.

My late father, a wonderful gardener and inspiration to me, often said, "The garden looks best the first two weeks of August."

I mention this not to make you feel guilty, should you be vacationing at the cottage or cabin for the next couple of weeks.  But rather, to focus your attention on something that may pass by your gaze otherwise: there are plants that look better now than they ever will.  At least until next year at this time.

My garden has highlights right now that I would like to share with you.


The honey bees (more than 100,000 of them) on our property have discovered the yellow flowering ligularia.  So have the many native bees that call our neighbourhood home.  

I love this plant: it is reliably winter hardy in my zone 5 garden (up to zone 4) and it blooms for up to 6 weeks.  When the blooms are finished, I cut them down as the foliage looks great on it's own but the spent flower stalks are ugly.  Needs sunshine to perform. 


Who thinks of hostas as a flowering plant? Well, pollinating insects do.  I see hummingbirds in my hosta flowers right now and I love them.  I want to hug them.

There are tonnes of hostas that thrive up to zone 2 (Edmonton) and blooms at various times of the year.  If you are planting some this season, why not consider staggering the blossom periods over the season when you are making your selections.  
Shade tolerant, east is best location.


There are now more hydrangea varieties on the market than there are disposable diapers (or so it seems).  I recently replaced my age old Annabelle (introduced 1880) with Lime Light.  And my snow ball with Incrediball.  

I've added some blue and pink varieties too.  They are much more winter hardy than before (which varies variety to variety) and the colour is easier to obtain. 
They are at their peak now and will last for many more weeks in full and glorious bloom.

Bee Balm [monarda]

Speaking of hummingbirds and wanting to hug them, my Bee Balm is the most popular plant in the garden right now for my hummers.  
Go figure, they are bright red, nectar rich, winter hardy, they multiply each year (sometimes too much) and you can cut them to bring indoors.  Hardy to zone 4.  

They are edible too... make great tea.  Earl Grey sure thought so, as he put Bee Balm in his original blend. 


Send me a photo of your favourite mid-season flowering plant and I might just send you a $50 Home Hardware gift card, 8 packs of Mark's Choice veggie seeds and a copy of my latest book The New Canadian Garden

Email ONE photo to  We will post your photo on my Facebook page.  The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize.

Deadline for entry, August 8, 2017
Deadline for voting, August 14, 2017

Enter today!

I am very pleased to report that my son Ben and I will be featured on the national edition of Global News every two weeks beginning Friday, July 28th with gardening and environmental tips. 

Here is a schedule of our appearances and topics for August:
August 8 -  Veggie harvesting.  The first 'crop' is in and we are now eating our own tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn etc. 
August 22 -  Late season spruce up. Your garden is past it's peak (for colour) but the best is yet to come for food harvest and the fall colours... and your lawn will look its best since May with proper care now.

We look forward to working with Global TV news anchors Carolyn MacKenzie and Jeff McArthur.

Cut back finished flowers of early season perennial plants.  I am cutting my veronica down now... just the finished flowers.  Roses too.
They will rebloom in a month or two.

Last fertilizer application   will be this weekend for all winter-hardy plants.  After this, let them take care of themselves and prepare for the long journey towards winter. 

Apply Bordo mixture as a spray to all tomato plants.  Prevents early and late blight.  I apply it every two weeks all summer.

Keep fertilizing.... Tomatoes, annuals.  All of the plants that will die this fall benefit from regular feeding through the balance of the season.  I use Plant Prod 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer on my container plants every couple of weeks.
Weed.  If you followed my advice and kept on top of your weeding in June and early July you will have noticed that they are slowing down.  So can you!  Weed when they raise their ugly heads but otherwise read a good book and enjoy a cool drink.

Sow your last carrots, leaf lettuce, mesclun mix, radishes, bush beans and beets for a late fall harvest.

Put some stakes on.  Support your tall growing perennials like the giant rudbeckias, coneflowers, hydrangea (with their heavy flowering heads), etc.  I recommend 'link stakes' (a Mark's Choice product at Home Hardware) to make the job easy, invisible and re-useable for many years.

Plant.  Yes, you can plant in the heat of summer: perennials, shrubs, evergreens... virtually all of the plants that you plant in spring are available now (though the selection is not the same) but you do need to water more frequently.  I found a great deal on perennials that had reached their peak at a local Home Hardware garden centre (a Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre!)   Chances are good that you will find discounted plants at your local garden retailer right now.

Relax.  I am not going to make anything up just so you have a long list of stuff to do. Truth is you have worked hard for this break.  August is the month that gardeners take extra time to relax, sit back, read, enjoy a drink and a visit with your favourite family and friends.....and observe the changes taking place right before your eyes.

Keep your knees dirty,

This month, Ben and I had a great time shooting new videos in the garden.

Introducing 4 new gardening videos that will inform and entertain you. 
(and we fixed the sound problem! Now you can hear everything we say!)
Check them out:
How-To Deadhead Annuals and Perennials 

And let me know what you think. 

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches are common backyard birds. They can be found in spring and summer from coast to coast across southern Canada. During the winter months, they regularly visit feeders in southern British Columbia, and from southern Ontario east through the Maritimes. These lovely feeder birds (sometimes mistakenly referred to as 'wild canaries') are especially attracted to nyjer seed and black oil sunflower seed. They will happily nest in small trees and shrubs right in your own yard.
American Goldfinch
Photo credit: May Haga

If you've noticed repeated "potato-chip...potato-chip" chirping overhead, you've heard American Goldfinch flight calls. Vibrant males in breeding plumage are eye-catching, with bright yellow body feathers, black wings with white wing bars, and black foreheads. Females and young of the year are more drab yellow below, and olive-coloured on their backs. Like many songbirds , American Goldfinches moult (or change their feathers) twice a year. During the fall, the males transform from vivid yellow to subtle grey-brown plumage, retaining some hints of yellow around the throat. They remain very attractive birds in the winter, despite their more muted hues. It's definitely worth taking a closer look at finch feeders in the winter time, especially if you're only familiar with how these birds look in their spring or breeding plumage.
American Goldfinch
Photo credit: Missy Mandel

American Goldfinches feed on plants such as thistles, asters, and sunflowers (a group known as composite plants, Family Asteraceae). They have evolved shortened legs, which makes it much easier for them to perch on small flowers and eat their seeds. If you're interested in attracting American Goldfinches to your yard, consider planting a variety of shrubs and small trees for nesting, and allow areas for 'weedy growth' to flourish.
Jody Allair
Biologist and Science Educator

This message brought to you by 
Mark's Choice Bird Feast bird food,  exclusively at Home Hardware. 
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.


When I first discovered this tool I thought it was a joke.  Who needs a tool that works like a guillotine to cut large branches? Turns out I do. And when I used it for the first time I was hooked.  The action of this tool makes quick and clean work of a tough job - cutting up to 2 inches or 5 cm. of green wood: like a hot knife through butter.
If you have ever used a pair of pruners on a piece of wood that twists as you cut, you will understand how this tool has been engineered with a cutting action that guides the coated cutting edge up and down without moving from side to side.
No twisting of the blade.
Only a sharp, clean cut.
Just keep your fingers out of its way.
Exclusive to Home Hardware

Show us your backyard and tell us why you are proud of it! Amongst all entries, we will draw five (5) $100 Home Hardware gift certificates to help you purchase Mark's Choice products, lawn and garden products and other outdoor living products. Our judges will also select the best entry to win a trip* for 2 to the 2017 Communities in Bloom National & International Symposium and Awards Ceremonies in Ottawa/Gatineau from September 13-16, 2017.
More info

(deadline: August 30th, 2017)

The Harrowsmith team is looking for trade secrets! We will be reintroducing "Over the Fence," a page dedicated to tips and advice in the kitchen, garden and workshop.
Whether it's spraying PAM on furnace intake filters to increase efficiency, using Frito corn chips as fire starters or how to cool down an accidentally over-spiced chili, we'd love to hear your ideas.
Please send your submissions by August 1, 2017 to with "Over the Fence" in the subject line. Our favourite entries will receive a copy of Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs cookbook or Mark Cullen's latest, The New Canadian Garden.

Photo by Marianne Hansen
In the July issue of Gardening With Mark, I invited you to share a photo of your garden.
The photo with the most likes won a $50 Home Hardware gift card and a signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden.  Congratulations to Marianne Hansen.
The next 5 photos with the most likes each won a signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden.
Congratulations to: Ann Boyd, Carmen Cassivi, Katie West, Nourjahan Avan, and Lynn Goulet-Smith.

Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing onboard Queen Mary 2 and Vision Exclusive Garden Tour
May, 2018

My good friend Denis Flanagan is hosting a tour in Europe that I know you will enjoy.  It features history, fabulous scenery, culture and ... well, Denis.  Let's just say that this is an enhanced offering. 
Experience tells me that Denis improves every occasion with his Irish charm, warm personality and sense of humour. 
Above all, Denis will ensure that you have fun.
Think about it and sign up.
I would if he wasn't leaving in the height of my busy season.

A special Cunard Crossing from New York to Southampton plus a Vision Exclusive Garden Tour including the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
  • Hosted by Vision Travel's Betty Shukster with Special Guest, Denis Flanagan
  • 7 day cruise onboard Queen Mary 2
  • Entrance to the Chelsea Flower Show
  • Private entrance to local gardens
  • Experience London and the English Countryside
For more information or to book please contact:
Betty Shukster
September 16, 2017
Join us for an evening of culinary delights and fabulous entertainment in support of the programs and services provided by WindReach Farm.  Back by popular demand, A Night at WindReach Farm with Next Generation Leahy is a night not to be missed!
Presenting sponsor: Mark's Choice
More info
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Event Schedule

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 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.