Mark Cullen's newsletter

Non-gardeners often have a two-dimensional view of our work.  They see the flowers and trees all right but often they miss the ancillaries.  The finer points of the thing.

Recently, I was reminded just how blind I am to much of the bird activity in my garden when biologist Jody Allair, scientist and educator with Bird Studies Canada came over to my  10 acre garden for a visit, a tour and to shoot some 'birding' videos.
The guy is fascinating to watch.  Every bird-sound and movement seems to have meaning to Jody.

Here are three outstanding features of our time together:

1. Hummingbirds are nesting in my garden.  I had no idea!  He figured this out by observing an adult female hummer aggressively buzz a chickadee in the face.  Like a hockey player snows a goalie: she was saying 'get away!' as only a new mother would.  "Away from what?" I asked.  "There is a baby fledgling somewhere in your garden, learning to fly and Mom does not want any trouble from a pesky chickadee." 

2.  We have baby cardinals.   They don't look much like the adults, brown/grey without the distinct tuft at the back of their head, but sure enough, Mom was there for them as soon as Jody pointed the babies out to me.

Photo credit 
Alan Schmierer
3. We have Baltimore Orioles.   Three times, during his visit, he stopped and said, "listen, you have an oriole in that tree!" pointing to a large linden on the south side of our house.  I haven't seen an oriole in our garden in over 2 months.  He coached me to look for the distinct nest of the Oriole after the leaves on my deciduous trees fall.  It looks like a small tennis ball hanging in a sock from a high branch.  "I will Jody.  Really, I will."

Jody has a rare gift that springs from many natural talents, not the least of which is a keen ear and many years of devotion to his study of birds.  It is a pleasure and a constant education to be around him.

Like a hummingbird dancing in full flight in the face of a chickadee, events in the garden are often not as simple as they appear. 

For many gardeners, September is their favourite month of the year.  Evenings are cooler, morning dew is heavy (great for starting grass seed), the sun still has significant strength and the veggie harvest is in full swing. 

What is not to like? 
If you are taking kids back to school after a busy summer with them, September-in-the-garden is your reward. 

Merchant of Beauty

My partnership with Ben as my side-kick in the communications world is expanding and is becoming more fun with each passing day.  

We are featured every two weeks on the national edition of Global News at about 9:15am eastern time. 
Please tune us in, with Carolyn McKenzie.

Sept. 6th - Mark, "How gardening can be your reward for sending the kids back to school." Plants that work this time of year.

Sept. 20th - Ben, "Tools of the trade." The top 5 tools needed to produce a great looking and productive garden.

Oct. 4th - Mark "Thanksgiving special" over 80% of Canadians garden. What are we thankful for?  You are going to help me with this one!  Look for the October newsletter and Facebook postings.

Harvest your garlic.  Ideally, you would have done this 2 weeks ago, but no harm.  Dig it, dry it in the sun for 10 days and store it in cool, dry place until you are ready to use it.

Sow grass seed or lay sod.  Use Mark's Choice quality Lawn Soil (weed free!).  Grass is a 'cool season' crop and loves our lower evening temperatures, shorter days and heavy morning dew.  Apply Golfgreen Iron Plus, the most sophisticated lawn fertilizer on the Canadian market, to your established lawn now.  Apply Fall fertilizer in late October or early November.


Plant fall flowering sedum, asters, mums, Japanese anemone, rudbeckia (well, it has been blooming for a few weeks now).  Check out the selection at your local garden retailer.  Many Home Hardware stores feature fall flowering plants for sale.

Plant Holland bulbs!  Not all bulbs are from Holland, but most of the spring flowering bulbs that we plant now are.  And note that Holland is not a country, it is a province within the Netherlands. Who knew.  Well, the Dutch enjoy telling me this one.


Cut back early flowering perennials like Shasta daisies, veronica etc.  Who knows, they might flower again before the snow flies!

Harvest your tomatoes.

Watch for the zucchini fairy.  That would be you.  My daughter Emma, who lives in London, UK reminded me of this one yesterday. Using a sharp knife, carve the name of a kid in a small zucchini and come back in a week or so.  The name will have grown and the kid the zucchini is named after will be thrilled.  Take a picture of this moment.  After all, the zucchini fairy does not visit every day!   


The zucchini fairy visited my yellow, Mark's Choice zucchini!
Talk to you September 15, when I send you 'Food Gardening with Mark'.
Yours as ever,

September 27 (a Wednesday) is National Tree Day.  Provide an enhanced life for future generations and plant a tree.  

Y ou will clean the air, produce oxygen, filter toxins out of rain water and have some living woody tissue that your grandchildren can hang a rope and a tire on.
If you can't plant a tree on your own property, consider having one planted on the Highway of Heroes by making a donation.  We are planting 117,000 on the 401 right of way, one for each of Canada's war dead since Confederation.  

Details at

Cedar Waxwing
Not all yard birds are attracted to your bird feeder. Some are more interested in your berry- or fruit- producing trees and shrubs. Meet the Cedar Waxwing, arguably one of the most elegant birds found in Canada, and one that will feed on fruiting trees throughout the southern parts of the country during the fall and winter. Overall, Cedar Waxwings have a smooth, polished, light-brown plumage, with grayish wings, pale bellies and undertail feathers. Bright yellow tips on the tail, black mask, a stylish crest on the head - and of course, the trademark red waxy tips on the wing coverts - give them some added flair. You should also keep an ear open for their thin, high-pitched trills which are often given in flight.

Photo credit: Ron Ridout

Few birds are as captivating to watch in your neighbourhood as Cedar Waxwings. Their fascinating behaviours include occasional intoxication from eating fermented berries, and males courting females with gifts of flower petals.
How do you attract these sleek-looking songbirds to your yard? Fruit-producing trees such as Serviceberry, Mountain Ash, Crabapple, and even cedars will appeal to Cedar Waxwings. And they won't just cruise by for some good eats; they may also stick around to nest. I often find them nesting in larger tree saplings, such as the Sugar Maple sapling in my neighbour's yard, which they've claimed for the past three years.
Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair

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

Stainless Steel Digging Tools

I believe that Mark's Choice stainless steel digging tools are the best in the business.  The manufacturer applies the stringent 'British' rules to their manufacturing process.  Check out the whole range of shovels, spades, bow rake and my new, narrow head, 8 tine hard rake.  Perfect for cultivating soil in small gardens. Or raking a gravel driveway!   Home Hardware exclusives. 
Great gifts, perfect for a ceremonial tree planting (they are all that we use on the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute and they put in a very good day's work.
Note that, my stainless steel digging tools are 100% guaranteed. However, they have limits, as do all tools.  I do not recommend them for levering out or moving rocks or for grubbing tree roots.

In our Get Happy! themed summer issue we had the opportunity to chat with former Harrowsmith columnist and pastoral bon vivant Dan Needles. Sit back with a tall iced coffee this morning and enjoy an exclusive link to the interview here: Country Guy

Be sure to look for Needles in the haystack in our upcoming debut of a magazine-sized PRINT copy of the Winter 2017-18 issue. If you subscribe now (or send a subscription to a friend), you'll be automatically entered in a draw for a chance to win a copy of Dan's latest book True Confessions of the Ninth Concession: The Harrowsmith Years (title released August 26, 2017). 

Photo by A.M. Hutton
In the August issue of Gardening With Mark, I invited you to share a photo of your favourite mid-season flowering plant.  

Thank you to everyone who shared a photo.  It was great fun!
The photo with the most likes won 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.

Congratulations to A.M. Hutton.
This is a photo of my favourite part of my garden.  ( Watch the video to learn why). 
This month, I'm inviting you to submit a photo of your favourite part of your garden.  

Email one photo to and tell me why it is the favourite part of your garden.
I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.
The 5 winners, who get the most 'likes' will receive a signed copy of my book ' The New Canadian Garden'.
Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.
(Deadline for entry is September 11, 2017.  Voting closes September 17, 2017)
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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.