Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
"There is nothing permanent except change" - Heraclitus
It has been three years since Ben joined Mark in "the business".
We are lucky that we do not have to take a very business-like approach to what we do. Most days involve a Dad and son doing the things we enjoy, often together, and talking about it to people. Pretty amazing! 

There has been some significant transformation since we started working together. Media as we know it transforms year over year, it is easily three-times changed since we started. Retail is changing, the environment is changing, and gardeners are changing as always - personally, Ben has become a husband to Sam and Mark a grandfather three more times since our first "team meeting".
Now we are looking ahead to the change that gardeners anticipate most - spring. We are just over a month from Canada Blooms, spring's "official launch", and we are anticipating another great year of change in 2020.
Blooms will be different this year by a bit of a "re-think" to the past format. Expect to see a "Tiny Home Village" to reflect changes in the way people live - cleverly and compactly. Big gardens will fill the space as well, centered around the theme "Birds of a Feather". This year promises to be unlike years past.
Cullen's Foods has changed, too. This is the food business Ben launched in 2019 to bring organic, local kidney beans, navy beans and black beans to market. 

We are in the midst of rolling out a line of canned beans to meet consumer needs with the same promise: 100% Ontario grown, certified organic, and traceable back to the farm. Keep an eye out for that and follow along @cullensfoods on social media.
With only four weeks of 2020 behind us, we are sure that there will be plenty more change ahead. What will not change is that we will keep enjoying what we do and sharing it with you here, hoping to inspire you into the garden when the big season of change - spring - arrives soon.


- Kick back with some seed catalogues! You still have plenty of time to explore new varieties and start planning for your 2020 garden. End of February is not too soon to start your cool crops such as cabbage, onion, leeks, leafy greens, chives and parsley - we will be coming in with more seed starting tips next month.

- Build a cold frame to get a jump on spring. We encourage resourcefulness in the design process - scrap lumber and an old window on hinges should suffice. Take a look at a few of the cold frames Mark has put together over the years. 

- Feed the birds. There is not much you can do to improve the view into your backyard at this stage in the season, unless you were to add some birds perched to the dormant shrubbery. Start with quality bird seed as always, and consider a heated bird path to create some respite for our feathered friends - it's like a trip to the hot-spring spa Scandinave for birds.

Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty

Mini Greenhouse Kit with Light Stand
What a great way to start seeds this season! 
We've enjoyed using this product for the last few years, with great results. 

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.
Home Hardware # 5121-577


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 January.

Top 5 winter projects for your garden

Where and how we live will get greener says a new trend report

Could you grow your own table?

BIRDS IN FOCUS: Help Birds by counting the ones in your backyard or community
By Jody Allair

Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count February 14-17
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a fantastic opportunity for you to enjoy the outdoors and contribute to Citizen Science, no matter where you are at home or travelling abroad. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a 4 day annual event that provides a snap shot of where birds are around the world. Last year there were 6,699 species recorded and 204,921 checklists submitted! It is taking place 14-17 February, 2020.
Snow Buntings by Michel Laquerre, Quebec 2019 GBBC

We've lost 1 in 4 birds in North America since the 1970s - but people can help by participating in bird counts like the Great Backyard Bird Count to help monitor birds.  We ask people to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird populations on a massive scale. Birds Canada is proud to be the Canadian partner in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
Visit  to learn more about how to participate and please share the information with anyone else who may enjoy participating.
Good birding!
Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair


A reminder that Canada Blooms, the largest garden festival in the country, opens Friday, March 13th and runs until Sunday, March 22nd.  The National Home Show occurs under the same roof at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto and your ticket gets you into both events. 

Ben and/or Mark will be speaking on the Main stage each morning.  You will find the full schedule of Speakers here.

For decades Harrowsmith Magazine has shared great stories about Canadians who have lived simply, respected the environment and have learned to make, reuse and recycle rather than add to waste. 

Now, Harrowsmith Radio is telling those great stories a new way - via podcasts that put those stories right between your ears.

We were happy to be interviewed for Harrowsmith Radio.  You can listen to our 'Tips for Feeding Winter Birds'  on the Harrowsmith website .
This is our most popular contest each year. In fact, photos started arriving in our Inbox last month. We are thrilled to launch the 9th edition of our Amaryllis Photo Contest.

We invite you to submit a photo of your amaryllis blooms.
Email one photo to

We will post all of the photos on the Mark Cullen Gardening Facebook page.
Winners will be determined by the number of 'likes' a photo receives. 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 10, you may choose between a pair of tickets to Canada Blooms ($40 value) OR a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality' with four packs of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds.

The Grand Prize winner, with the most likes, will receive a $50 Home Hardware gift card plus a choice of 2 tickets for Canada Blooms or 4 packets of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds and a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality'.

'Escape to Reality' - How the world is changing gardening, and gardening is changing the world.
Why do we garden? Why should we? How is gardening changing the world?
These are just some of the philosophical gardening questions pondered in this heartfelt and gorgeously designed book.  this is the best book EVER on this topic.
Proceeds benefit the  Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign.
Includes original illustrations.
Available at Indigo, Home Hardware, and independent book stores.

Please let us know which prize you prefer and include your mailing address. We want to make sure tickets arrive in time for Canada Blooms (March 13-22).

Deadline for contest entries is February 9, 2020.
Deadline for voting is February 16, 2020.
Enter today!


Photo by Lisa D.
In the January issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of the view from your window (or front door) right now.
The winners received a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality'. Congratulations to Denise F, Linda L, Norm D, Lyndsey W, and Barb D.
The grand prize winner also received a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.
Congratulations to: Lisa D.

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