Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
"How did it get so late so soon?" - Dr. Seuss
In many ways, the holiday season is remarkably well timed.
After barely making it through November, with its dramatic winter arrival, it would be easy to feel gloomy as we sit down for dinner each night against a backdrop of bare trees and darkness. And that's when dinner is 6 o'clock sharp.
Thankfully, we have the cultural wisdom to get together during these times. Holiday parties and fairs are when we, as social animals, are at our best. In the company of others.
December came particularly hard and fast for Ben. He and his wife Sam took a belated honeymoon to South America where they missed out on the winter-blast that hardened the rest of us. Don't let any images of sunshine and beaches get into your head - they started out in Patagonia, where spring is just arriving. 

In Punta Arenas, near the bottom tip of South America, they saw spring bulbs in bloom before they bussed three hours north to Torres Del Paine for a 4-day "W-trek" up mountains and along glaciers. Temperatures averaged 8-15 degrees C on the trail, which was by comparison to home quite balmy.

After the trek Ben negotiated a migration to the more temperate climate of Buenos Aires, Argentina for the week that concluded their trip. There they enjoyed the jacaranda trees in bloom, and bright bougainvilleas that seem to grow out of the sidewalk.

Ben and Sam are glad to be back from their trip and doing what we do in December - togetherness, with the rest of us and their dog Ruby (who was dearly missed).

We wish you a holiday and Christmas season full of hope, peace and joy.
We look forward to touching base with you just in time for the new year, just as "garden planning" season opens!
With our thanks for your kindness and loyalty,

Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty

Amaryllis Kits
We truly believe the Mark's Choice amaryllis is the ideal hostess gift. And don't forget to buy one for yourself. We give away 60 of them to friends and family each Christmas season (want to be our friend?).
The Mark's Choice amaryllis kit is available at Home Hardware ($24.99). 
The premium-sized (30-32 cm) bulbs support so many blossoms and flowering stems that many people have reported 3 or 4 stems with 4 flowers on each stem.

The soil, pot and bulb are all included in the gift box.   We believe the Mark's Choice amaryllis kit offers the highest quality and value.
And don't forget to pick up a Mark's Choice Amaryllis Stake.

We use an amaryllis stake for every amaryllis we grow. Install the stake early, before the leaves are too large.   If you are growing a premium-sized amaryllis bulb (like the Mark's Choice kits) the flower stalks will have multiple blooms.
The stalks will need support to make sure they don't fold under the weight of blooms.
Home Hardware item# 5093-711
Reminder: Start your amaryllis bulbs now and take photos of the blooms. You will be ready for our 9th annual amaryllis contest in February.


We write a weekly column for the New In Homes & Condos section of the Saturday Toronto Star.
In case you missed it, these are the exciting gardening/environment columns we wrote in November.

By Jody Allair

A Birding Tradition - the Christmas Bird Count
You could argue that any time of year is a good time to go birding. But there is something special that happens each December, no not the arrival of presents under a tree, I'm talking about Christmas Bird Count season. The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is an annual winter birding tradition that began in 1900, making it North America's longest-running Citizen Science project. Participating is a fun way to experience winter birding and socialize with fellow birders in your community!
Photo credit Todd Hagedorn

Each year, volunteer groups complete over 2000 counts across the Western Hemisphere. Each count takes place on a day from December 14 to January 5. Last year in Canada alone, 14,000 participants counted 2.8 million individual birds in almost 500 counts across the country. Many CBCs have been run by volunteer groups for decades, contributing valuable data on local, regional, and national trends and distributions of winter bird populations. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world's largest sets of wildlife survey data. The results are used frequently by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds.
If you would like to join a CBC flock, visit Bird Studies Canada's website at: to find a count near you.
The Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids) shares the fun of the traditional CBC with new generations of young birders across North America. Coordinated nationally by Bird Studies Canada, CBC4Kids events are hosted by naturalist groups across the country as an exciting way for youth to explore winter birds, build identification and monitoring skills, and connect with local birding communities. Last season, 142 bird species were reported from 58 CBC4Kids events across Canada!
You can find all of the information you need to join or host a CBC4Kids event or bird walk on our  CBC4Kids webpage.
Good Birding!
Jody Allair
Birds Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair


Recently, Mark had the opportunity to join the new Landscape Ontario podcast to discuss the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign. 

During the show, Mark shared how the campaign started, the challenges it has overcome along the way as well as exciting plans for 2020. 

The Landscape Ontario podcast launches December 2, 2019. 

It's getting cold outside, but you can warm up with the latest Winter issue of Harrowsmith magazine! Check out tips from us, Mark and Ben, on growing and drying hot peppers. 

Meet Quebec homesteaders, see how photography is preserving the past in rural Ontario, and check out delicious recipes for your next winter feast. 
Plus, tips on winter camping, attracting birds to your property through the season, electric floor heating and more! 

It's all in the Winter issue of Harrowsmith, on sale November 18.  
Great Holidays Gifts - Subscribe now.   
(Hint: our prizes make great holiday gifts)
This month, we would like to know what is on your holiday wish list and/or what you plan on gifting to the gardeners on your list. No need to use Mark's Choice products, though that is not a bad idea (exclusive to Home Hardware)
Holiday gifts

Email your gift idea to [email protected].  
Please include your mailing address to help us ship your prize.
We will randomly select 5 winners from all entries.
Each winner will receive a copy of the winter edition of Harrowsmith magazine and a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality'

The grand prize winner, chosen at random, will also receive a $50 Home Hardware gift card, just in time for the holidays.
Deadline for entry, December 8, 2019
Winners will be notified on December 9, 2019.
Enter today!


Photo by Nancy T.

In the November issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to submit a photo of your yard/garden today.
The 10 winners, with the most 'likes' received a copy of the 2020 Harrowsmith Almanac and a pack of Liberation75 tulips. Congratulations to: Clara, Denise P., Gail M., Goretti B., Eveline, Louis & Betty R., Jennifer W., Norma K., Judy W., and Rita S.
The Grand Prize winner also received a $50 Home Hardware Gift Card  and a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality'.  Congratulations to Nancy T.

Stay in Touch 
Mark and Ben's Gardening Connections  

Toronto Star
Home Hardware

Gardening Events
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 [email protected] with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.