Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

"It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw" - Emily Carr

Oh, Canada

The Canada Day Long Weekend is one of our favourites: it is usually one of the better weekends for being out in the garden AND it offers an opportunity to pause and reflect on what a great place we live in.

A highlight of the past month for us was having our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Minister of Veteran Affairs Lawrence MacAulay and MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes at our Highway of Heroes Living Tribute tree planting event at Intrepid Park on the Whitby/Oshawa border. 

A true Canadian moment - on the historic grounds of former "Camp X" with our highest civil servants in attendance to honour the sacrifices of our fallen with a tree planting ceremony. Many thanks to everyone who was in attendance.

Corporal Nick Kerr with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Another highlight of that day was long-time supporter and volunteer for the Living Tribute project, Corporal Nick Kerr, who was presented with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for outstanding dedication to volunteer work with the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign. 
Congratulations, Nick - we appreciate everything that you do.

Corporal Nick Kerr won these medals at the Warrior Games last week. Congratulations Nick!

Another Canadian-matter we have been thinking a lot about is the promotion of native plant species. Did you know that 90% of moths and butterflies have caterpillars that are host specific, which means they require specific species of plants to feed on? 

Entomologist Doug Tallamy finds that oak trees are most proficient at promoting native biodiversity, up to 557 different species of caterpillars which in turn feed birds and even foxes. With nearly half of Canada's wildlife species in decline, consider planting a native tree this Canada Day weekend. Heck, you can even plant a sugar maple if you're really feeling patriotic (you will find an image of the leaf on our flag).

A truly Canadian celebration of Canada Day might look like this: quietly planting, nurturing your garden while thinking about the glory of our home and native land.

Our fireworks display is in the garden. Ha!

With our best wishes,
Mark and Ben


It looks like the wet spring is finally behind us, and the heat has arrived:

- Prune evergreens, especially cedars and cedar hedges. Now is the time to do it.

- Clean up spent flowers , such as peonies that are all partied-out from their wild show late-June. Cleaning up fallen petals not just looks better, it prevents moisture and disease from propagating at the base of your plants. Removing spent lilacs will also help them bloom more prolifically next year.

- Give your lawn another kick of fertilizer, especially after a good rain. Another application, while there is still moisture in the ground, will help it cope through the droughts of late July and August when it will be unable to take up nutrients.

Clean your hummingbird feeders, and hang them out . A clean feeder is essential for the health of these remarkable birds.

- Kick back with a book . We always like to get into reading this time of year. Mark is reading a fiction book called The Overstory by Richard Powers, a Father's Day gift from Ben about 9 tree-advocates and Ben is reading The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation by David Johnston.

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 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.
We like it. And we 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 exciting gardening/environment columns we wrote in June.

BIRDS IN FOCUS: State of Canada's Birds
By Jody Allair
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) has just released a new report on the state of Canada's birds. It's the second comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of birdlife in Canada. The new report highlights the challenges of bird conservation as well as conservation success stories. It also draws attention to actions that all Canadians can take to help birds.
Bird Studies Canada is proud to have joined with NABCI partners in developing this important report. Bird Studies Canada's volunteers were a key part of this achievement; sixty-six percent of the species trends in this document came from programs that rely on skilled Citizen Science volunteers.
So how are our birds faring? Canadian breeding bird populations have changed since 1970, when effective monitoring began for most species. Some groups, such as grassland birds, aerial insectivores, and shorebirds, are showing major declines. In contrast, waterfowl and birds of prey have largely recovered from earlier declines as a result of careful harvest management, wetland restoration, and a ban on DDT use.

Barn Swallow
Photo credit: Peter Ferguson

One familiar example of an "aerial insectivore" is the Barn Swallow. Many people do not realize that the Barn Swallow has undergone an 80% population decline since 1970 across Canada, and is now listed as a Threatened species. The decline of this and many other species of aerial insectivores may be due to agricultural intensiļ¬cation, declining insect populations, and a changing climate. These birds are impacted by changes here in Canada and in other places they travel to throughout the year.
So where do we go from here? First, check out the 2019 State of Canada's Birds Report online at: To learn more about Barn Swallows and how you can be a Barn Swallow steward, visit:
Good birding!

Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Bird Studies Canada
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair

Get ready to dive in! Harrowsmith's Summer issue has arrived to celebrate all things water! From tips on how to build your own ecosystem pond, to delicious sea- and lake-inspired recipes, Harrowsmith explores the many ways you'll want to enjoy water this season. 

Read on for tips on building your very own swim raft, and find out why you should visit Kingston, Ontario, this summer. From fascinating interviews to advice on tending to your garden at home, there's plenty of inspiring reading for the beach, pool or porch.

We are pleased to be the gardening editors to Harrowsmith magazine.   Look for our columns, 'How To Incorporate Water Features in Your Garden', and 'How Ornamental Grasses are a Great Addition to Your Property'.  

Enjoy a great, productive summer in your garden.

July is prime time for touring gardens. It is inspiring to see what's going on in private gardens across the country. We would love to see how your garden is growing this summer.
This month, we're giving away a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality' to the 5 photos with the most 'likes'. The Grand Prize winner, with the most 'likes', will also receive a $50 gift card to Home Hardware.
Email one photo to We will post all photos on our Facebook page.
Encourage your friends and family to vote for your photo.
Deadline for submitting a photo is July 7, 2019
Deadline for voting is July 14, 2019
Enter today!

Photo by H. Louis

In the June issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to show us your favourite plant.
The photo with the most 'likes' won the Grand Prize: A signed copy of our book Escape to Reality + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + a pack of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds. Congratulations to H. Louis
The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' won: a copy of our book Escape to Reality + a pack of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds. Congratulations to: K. Allen, S. Bigness, C. Bauman, S. Rainville, and A. Phillips

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.