Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
by Mark Cullen

Answer to the question, "Tell me something important." from a 14-year-old to Don Posterski.
Answer: "Get good at something. Get good at something that brings you joy."

There are people we call "friends". They are the ones we enjoy seeing most any time.
There are people we call "good friends". I have a good friend, Garth, who always prefaces his stories with, "My good friend so and so." For him, the list of good friends is long. Garth is one of those gregarious people who could have run for politics but didn't. Instead he ran for president of his local Rotary club in Belleville and he got his wish. For a long time. Careful what you wish for!
But I digress.

My good friends are fewer in numbers. One quality of the relationship that distinguishes my good friends from run of the mill friends is mutual respect and enjoyment. I enjoy their company and they enjoy mine. We feed off each other.
There is a closeness in good-friendship that is special. You can test this by being away from a good friend for a while. When you finally reconnect, it is like no time passed between visits: you pick up the conversation quickly, where you last left off. You laugh easily together and maybe you poke fun at each other, not having to be concerned that you might offend.
And if you do, or if you are the offended, you talk openly about it.

I have been keenly aware of friendship lately as I lost a close friend to cancer just last week.
I have spent some time thinking about Don, often while in the garden weeding or finishing the last of my spring planting.

Don Posterski was a close friend whose acquaintance I had only made a few short years ago. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Bob Barrett, when we joined a charity, volunteer board.

Don warmed up quickly. He was just like that. He began by asking questions about where I live, my background as a gardener, a few laughs over our mutual friendship with Bob. I soon discovered that we had derived mutual pleasure by poking well meaning fun at Bob.

Then, a couple of golf games were shared, and we got to know each other better. More questions, more probing: what was my goal in choosing gardening and communications as a career?   Where did my retail experience fit in? How important were my professional relationships and how did I nurture them in my business career?
Funny thing about Don, as he listened he endured himself to me in a way that very seldom happens.

He was not only good at asking questions but listening to answers. And he answered my questions with honesty and thoughtfulness.

I realize, upon reflection, that very few people in this world have a keen interest in other people, a willingness to learn from others experience and an openness about their own weaknesses and failings. That was Don.
He learned as he went along.
Never waiting for learning opportunities but creating them by asking and listening. And then asking some more. Remembering details so that he could turn the discussion back again for a deeper dive.
Truth is, I did not know Don very well or for long.  
But he knew me.
Such are the qualities of a good friend.  Don Posterski

It is summer: a time to slow down the garden activity just a wee bit and take time to reflect. We hope you enjoy every minute of it.

Mark and Ben
Merchants of Beauty
Partners, gardeners
Father and son
Living the dream in the garden.

1. Stake tomatoes.  Double your crop.  I use the Marks' Choice  spiral tomato stakes

2. Apply bordo mixture to tomatoes to prevent early blight. Once every 2 weeks all summer.

3. Prune evergreens, especially cedars including cedar hedges.

4. Remove spent flowers from your peonies and other spring flowering plants.  It is true that if you remove spent lilac flowers, the plant will bloom more prolifically next year. 

5.  Fertilize your lawn.  After some good rain, go for it and use CIL Iron Plus .

6 .  Put out hummingbird feeders.  Clean the ones that you have.

7.  Feed container grown plants  like petunias and geraniums with  20-20-20 water soluble plant food every 10 days to 2 weeks.  All summer.

8.  Relax. Hammock time... read a good book.  I just picked up a copy of ' The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs' by Peter Wohlleben.  I enjoyed his previous book ' The Hidden Life of Trees' and I'm looking forward to reading this one.

What can you recommend that you have read lately?  Email us at  
9.  Please consider donating your Aeroplan miles to The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign. Until July 1, all donated miles will be matched by Aeroplan and Avis.  More details can be found near the bottom of this newsletter.
Root Waterer

Tired of watching water spill over the edge of containers when you hydrate them?  

Do you have plants on a slope that are just impossible to water without it running downhill?  
Try this. The new Mark's Choice  root waterer is better than sliced bread.

For one, it places water where it is needed - at the root zone.  Watch the video

Second, aluminum construction means it won't rust or wear out. Ever.
Attach to a water wand and save your back.
Made in Canada.

Yup. You read right.
Like I said. I like it. And I believe you will too.
Mark's Choice.   Only at Home Hardware.
Item# 5042-002 and 5042-003

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 columns we wrote in June:

By Jody Allair

Tree Swallow
At every event I attend or guided hike I lead, I am invariably asked: "What is your favourite bird"? For me, this is a tough one. I like so many different birds for different reasons, and could probably make the case that all birds are equally wonderful. I generally break it down by categories. For example, my favourite bird of prey is Bald Eagle because I spent six years studying them. And my favourite backyard bird? That's an easy one - it's the Tree Swallow.

Photo credit: Ron Ridout

One of six swallow species that nest in Canada, the Tree Swallow can be found from coast to coast across the country and as far north as Labrador, Yukon, and Northwest Territories. It's adorned with striking blue feathers on the upper side (which appear more brownish in females and young birds) and a crisp white underside. My favourite feature is the wing shape. This bird is 100% built to fly, with long wings that stretch out just beyond the tail tip. Tree Swallows have a beauty and grace in the air that is pure joy to watch. They are also endlessly entertaining around nest sites, especially when males deliver white fluffy feathers to the females as the final addition to the nest cup before the eggs are laid.
If you live in a rural area with a mix of grassland and fallow fields, or in a suburban area with a fairly open yard, you should have no trouble getting Tree Swallows to nest nearby by putting up an appropriately sized nest box. It may take a year or two to attract a Tree Swallow, but not to worry; this same nest box will work for Eastern Bluebirds, Black-capped Chickadees, and even House Wrens. Nest boxes are not only a great way to provide nesting habitat for species like Tree Swallows - they also provide a unique opportunity to watch and record the breeding successes, or failures, of birds. To learn some tips and tricks about Tree Swallow nest boxes, check out these videos from Mark Cullen and me: and .
You can become a Citizen Scientist and help organizations like Bird Studies Canada monitor the health of bird populations by taking part in Project Nestwatch this summer. Learn more about this fun and educational program by visiting: .
Good birding!
Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair

People, Plants and Pride... Growing Together
Communities in Bloom is so much more than flowers. We're about getting people involved in making their community a better place to live, work, and visit... and taking care of our backyards!
Show us your backyard and tell us why you are proud of it.
Enter by August 15 to win Home Hardware gift cards.
Contest entry form is available online

Our judges will select the best entry for the grand prize plus 5 finalists to win Home Hardware gift cards to purchase outdoor items, including Mark's Choice lawn and garden products.
Grand prize: $1,000 Home Hardware gift card
Finalists: $250 Home Hardware gift card

Help us find Toronto's most beautiful gardens! Nominate your garden, a neighbour's garden or any garden within Toronto. 

Prizes include Mark's Choice gardening supplies from Home Hardware and the winning gardens will be recognized at awards ceremonies.
July 9, 2018 is the deadline for entries.
More information


Date: July 11, 2018
Time: 1:00pm to 3:00pm

The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario presents "Maud's Garden Party".

Tickets: $40 

Location: At the historic Leaskdale Church, 11850 Durham Road 1, Leaskdale 

For more info. and to purchase tickets, visit:
There's nothing worse than being left out of the loop. When you sign up for Harrowsmith's free 3x/year newsletter, you'll be entered into a draw for one of 10 books from New Society Publishers.

We will be giving away 10 books each month about the stuff that's important to you: building chemical-free natural ponds, baking no-knead and sourdough bread or, how to design a light straw clay home. 

New Society Publisher titles are published in North America--never overseas. Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with low-VOC vegetable-based inks, the carbon neutral company is all around feel-good. 

Paired with our e-newsletter spotlighting gardening trends, kitchen hacks, cool tools and DIY ideas, we'll have you covered and informed!

Sign up today and be sure to tell your best friend. 
Photo by Arlene Cleland
In the June issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we asked you to share a photo of your favourite plant. 
Thank you to everyone who shared their photo.
The photo with the most 'likes' won the Grand Prize:
A signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds. Congratulations to Arlene Cleland.
The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' won: a copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds. Congratulations to Corinne Moody, Kevin Conway, Pam Budge, Veronica Blake and Beverlie Nelson.
You can view all of the photos here
This month, we encourage you to enter one of the contests listed above. 

Canada's Backyard Contest is open to gardeners across the country. 

The City of Toronto Garden Contest is open to gardeners in the City of Toronto.
Take a few photos of your garden this month and save them for our August contest. We want to see what your garden looks like. 
Stay tuned to the August newsletter for contest details.
Ben and Sam's allotment garden: The cool evenings have been good for getting ahead of the first flush of weeds. After a good mulching and the weekend's rain, the garden should be happy.

And we finally got the mulch in.

Royal Botanical Gardens: Ben was lucky enough to make it to the Royal Botanical Garden's grand-reopening of their rose garden in Burlington. The new garden features companion plantings and new disease-resistant varieties for a more sustainable take on the classic rose garden. This is the way of the future!

Ben even won a rose! Which ended up going to a more worthy winner (Judy).

Ben was in Trenton, Ontario last Thursday where Judy Muldoon won the rose growing contest. The prize was this Canadian Shield rose from Vineland's 49th Parallel Collection, which Ben picked up earlier that day from the Royal Botanical Gardens grand-reopening of its rose garden.

When in Trenton, Ben stopped by Dahlia Mayflower Farms to chat with farmer Melanie for an upcoming story about farmer-florists. You can see more pictures from Melanie's farm on Instagram @dahliamayflowerfarm

Another stop on Ben's tour of Trenton was to Quinte Botanical Gardens, as featured in our column last week. John and Deanna have been working hard to get things in order for their first season open to the public. Amazing what two passionate people can accomplish.


Mark visited the Trial Gardens at Landscape Ontario while the roses were at peak. An amazing display and a great way to determine what you might want to grow in your own garden.  

Icecap Shrub rose
Carefree Delight Shrub rose

A great day at Orillia Home Hardware to help them celebrate their 10th anniversary

Mark's Choice sponsored Through the Garden Gate, the largest public tour of private gardens in Canada.
Len McAuley, dealer of Pollocks Home Hardware on Roncesvalles Ave, High Park, was on hand with a pop-up retail store to support the event.

June 25 to July 1

A Special Way to Celebrate Canada Day
When honouring fallen soldiers at tree plantings, it makes it extra special to have their families involved. You can triple the impact of the miles you donate From June 25th to July 1st. During this time, AeroplanĀ® and AvisĀ® will match all miles donated to the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign (up to 500,000 miles each) to be used for fundraising purposes and to bring special representatives, regimental peers and families of the fallen to planting ceremonies.
Visit the Aeroplan page to learn more and donate your miles today! 

Thank you for your continued support!
Stay in Touch 
Mark'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.