My son Ben joined me in the business January 2nd. This is not an announcement, but it is a piece of information that I want you, dear reader, to enjoy first. That is how much I value your time and attention.
Some of you have been reading this newsletter since it's inception, about 8 years ago. My readers are fiercely loyal and the 'open rate' of this newsletter is over the top (according to people who study these things). Which is why I respect you so much.
My son Ben is special. Well, all of our kids are, but I mention Ben because you will be hearing more from him in future, just not right now. He has some catching up to do. Despite attending 'osmosis University' (he was brought up in a 3rd generation family of gardeners) and the fact that he earned a formal education in agriculture (U of Guelph, Ridgetown) and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Dalhousie University, he wants to 'round out' his horticultural experience.
Ben will be working this spring at one of the best Home Hardware locations in the country: Orillia, Ontario. Home Hardware dealer John Locke, his son Chris and their partner Bill Ecklund, have grown a fabulous lawn and garden establishment that includes extensive greenhouses, plant displays and a highly qualified staff (led by MJ - ask for her!). Ben will learn a lot during his tenure there.
He has signed up to earn his Master Gardeners certificate also. You will find him observing and learning from the best at Canada Blooms, between March 10 and 19th (more details below).
And perhaps more to the point, you will see his messages creeping into my blog, online videos and other 'communications' work as time passes. Mostly, you will see him in my Facebook and other electronic communications.
I am very much looking forward to working side by side with Ben and introducing you to him.
Stay tuned for more.
Garden Club of Toronto 70th Anniversary
It was my distinct pleasure to attend the celebration party of the 70th anniversary of the Garden Club of Toronto, just this week.
Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell gave a wonderful speech in which she acknowledged the tremendous contribution that the Garden Club has provided to Toronto through their philanthropy and other good works.
More than that, her Honour pointed out the connection between 'gardens' and the real, natural world around us. She reminded us that the word 'kindergarten' is derived from two German words that mean 'Garden for the children'. Isn't it amazing how the inherent benefits of gardening are woven into our understanding of what is most important in life. And what is more important than our children education?
The largest and by far the most exciting pre-season gardening event of the year is only 5 weeks away. Are you ready? Prepare yourself for Canada Blooms, the Flower and Garden Festival in Toronto March 10 to 19th. Go on line to www.canadablooms.com for all of the details.
Note that the theme this year is 'Canada 150'. You will enjoy 17 feature gardens that reflect this theme in plants, water gardens, art and the latest in garden design. Also, a new rose will be introduced 'Canadian Shield', there are over 200 hours of garden demos, education, flower contests and entertainment lined up during the 10 days of the festival.
Plus, the largest annual juried flower show and much more.
I will be there Friday the 10th, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday with my buddy Denis Flanagan. We open the festival on these days at 11 a.m. from the Unilock Celebrity Stage.
Tickets are $17 at the door or you can buy them online.
If you live out of town, as many of my readers do, consider organizing a visit with some friends and come on down! I have met groups of people from the Maritimes and the Prairies while at 'Blooms. These are people who know that this is an event that should be on every gardener's calendar in the country.
Keep your eye on the Toronto Star and my website for updates leading up to the festival.
See my 'amaryllis' photo contest below for details on how you can win tickets to Canada Blooms.
Things To Do:
Remember that I gave you the month of January off. What did you do with all of your spare time? Some suggestions that will get your gardening season off to an early and fine start:
Feed the birds. Use a quality seed mix so that it does not get wasted and you attract quality birds. I recommend Mark's Choice Bird Feast (and the other products in my line up) exclusive to Home Hardware.
You will pay more for my bird seed. And you will get more birds.
Customer testimonials tell me so.
2. Enjoy your amaryllis
. And enter my contest (details below). As the blooms finish, cut them off, stem included. But keep the long, strap-like leaves in tact as they are the 'food factory' of the bulb, converting energy in the sun into plant sugars that beef up the bulb so that it will bloom again next winter. Isn't Mother Nature amazing?
3. Buy seeds
. Whether you choose to shop the seed catalogues (of which we have many. Ontario Seed and Veseys in PEI are my favourites) or peruse the seed racks at your local Home Hardware (where you will find 8 premium seed varieties in the Mark's Choice line up) be sure to do it soon.
First, you are only going to get busier as the gardening season approaches and this job does not get easier when you are time-stressed.
Secondly, the selection is at its best. Don't be disappointed.
4. Don't start seeds.
Unless you are growing geraniums or impatiens (do people still grow impatiens?) which should be started later this month. I will talk more about seed starting next month.
Check out my weekly blog, YouTube videos, weekly newspaper column, Radio Green File and more at
to keep up to date around the world of gardening.
Keep your calendar open as I am planning on lots of travel this spring across the country. Next month, I will share some dates for Trail BC, Castlegar BC, Meadow Lake Saskatchewan, Cobourg, Cornwall, Parry Sound Ontario and more.
Stay well and if the frost isn't too deep, keep your knees dirty.
Merchant of Beauty
p.s. I am pleased to announce that my syndicated newspaper column is coming to The Leader Post online in Regina Saskatchewan and Burnaby Now in Burnaby, BC.
p.s.s. Project FeederWatch is a joint program of Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. At regular intervals from November 12 to April 7, thousands of FeederWatchers count the kinds and numbers of birds at their feeders, then submit their observations. This information helps scientists study winter bird populations. Visit birdscanada.org/ for more details.
The Black-capped Chickadee is perhaps the most popular and widely encountered feeder bird in Canada. Suitably named for their 'chick-a-dee-dee-dee' call, they may sometimes say only 'dee-dee-dee' or their slower, two-toned, descending song 'fee-bee'. Small but dynamic, and dapper in their crisp black caps and bibs, they seem determined and punctual, visiting feeders at regular intervals from dawn to dusk.
Photo credit Missy Mandel
Sunflower seeds, suet cakes and nut pieces are magnets for chickadees. Unlike some other feeder birds, which sit on perches and platforms while gorging, chickadees prefer to sneak in from the cover of a nearby shrub or tree, snatch a single seed, and retreat on a bouncing flight path to a branch, where they crack and devour their find or cache it for a snowy day. Curious and somewhat fearless, chickadees will eventually, if you're still and patient, perch on your hand to get seed - no one is ever the same person after that exciting moment!
Photo credit Nick Saunders
They are the 'gateway' bird for so many beginning nature lovers, and have set more people on the course of enjoying and conserving nature than probably any other species.
This message brought to you by
Introducing The Urban Forestry Radio Show
Broadcast live on the last Tuesday of every month at 1pm EST on internet-based RealityRadio101.com.
Covering Fruit Trees, Food Forests, Arboriculture and so much more.
The host is Susan Poizner, a BBC trained radio producer, filmmaker and urban orchardist and the author of the award-winning fruit tree care book "Growing Urban Orchards" (
Susan is also the creator of the award-winning online course in Beginner Fruit Tree Care at
where she trains arborists, master gardeners and also people who are new to gardening and growing fruit trees.
During the live show, Susan encourages listeners to email in questions for amazing expert guests.
After the live broadcast, Susan posts the recording (podcast) on
where people can listen and also subscribe to the iTunes feed.
The program is brought to you by the fruit tree care training and education website
6th Annual Amaryllis Photo Contest
Are you growing an amaryllis? I'm growing 6 bulbs this year. Four of the bulbs came from my cold storage and 2 bulbs are new Mark's Choice kits (red and striped). I look forward to the blooms brightening my office every February.
For this month's contest, I'm inviting you to submit a photo of your amaryllis blooms.
Winners will be determined by the number of 'likes' a photo receives on my facebook page. Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.
You have a choice of prizes this month. If your photo is one of the Top 5, you may choose between
a pair of tickets to Canada Blooms ($34 value)
OR a copy of the
2017 Harrowsmith Almanac with a $25 gift card for Home Hardware. I
suggest you use your gift card to buy quality Mark's Choice gardening and birding products at Home Hardware.
Deadline for contest entries is February 13, 2017.
Deadline for voting is February 19, 2017.
In the January issue of Gardening with Mark, I invited you to share 'a photo of the view from your front door/window'. Thank you to all who entered their photos. It was great to see what winter looks like across the country.
The 5 photos with the most 'likes' each won a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith's Almanac. The top photo with the most 'likes' also won a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.
Congratulations to these Winners: Gerry Dust, Colin Weldon, Marlene Millar, Nourjahan Avan, Betty Quaiff, and Joe Calzonetti (grand prize winner)
You can view all of the photos here.
Product of the Month
ark's Choice Terrarium Kit
When you can't grow outdoors, create an indoor garden that fits on a tabletop.
Terrariums invite you in for a closer look and provide a perfect tropical escape for plants and herbs.
Terrariums are easy to care for and don't require any special skills for success.
- Spring bulbs
- Succulents (hen & chicks)
- African Violets
- Jade plants
- Venus Flytraps
Clay pot and saucer with recycled glass cover
Welcome to 2017.
The Year of Canada's 150th Birthday.
Here's Your Chance to Give a Birthday Gift to Canada
One of the most-asked questions of us is, "how much is the cost of a tree on the Highway of Heroes?" The answer is $150 which includes extensive soil remediation (remember that it is a highway), mulching, planting, 5 years of maintenance and of course the cost of the tree itself.
Become a Champion by making a $150 donation to buy a "Hero Tree", one of the 117,000 that will be planted along the Highway of Heroes.
Buy a tree, get a tree
For every $150 donation, you will receive a "150Tree Kit" that includes a small '150Tree', a HOHLT t-shirt and an official certificate to commemorate your gift to Canada. Certificates will be delivered upon donation and your t-shirt and '150Tree' will arrive in the spring, for you to plant in the location that means the most to you!
Encourage others to join the movement
Inspire others to do the same and join you in becoming a Champion. Take a picture, make a short video help make this go viral! On social media, share the news of where YOU will be planting YOUR '150Tree' and WHY using the hashtag #150Tree. For $150 you will receive a tax deductible receipt, a certificate worthy of framing, a limited edition t-shirt and, in the spring, we will send you a tree of your own, to plant where you please, in memory of someone or all of the people who gave us everything so that we can enjoy most anything. Including next year's garden.
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.