Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
If we could fly, could we touch the sky?
With apologies to Ronan Keating who sings a song using similar lyrics, the answer is 'no' .

However, there is one place where you can come close: Canada Blooms. The largest garden and flower festival in Canada, runs Friday, March 13 until Sunday, March 22nd.

The theme this year is "Birds of a Feather". Each of the 40 feature gardens, including the balcony/small yard creations, will feature birds and birding.   We are really looking forward to this, the 24th edition of 'Blooms to see how the creative minds in our profession pull this off.

The whole affair is almost 6 acres, not including the National Home Show, which is bigger still and co-located with 'Blooms at the Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. The space is devoted to the best the gardening profession offers. Not to mention the volunteers from the Garden Club of Toronto who host the largest juried flower show in Canada. Contestants from 10 countries will be featured, plus many other local participants.

Speaking of volunteers, Master Gardeners will once again be on hand to answer your gardening questions.  Look for their booth in the main aisle of the festival.

We (Ben and Mark) share the Outdoor DIY Centre with Home Show experts each day to explain how to prune permanent plants in your garden, plant a sustainable veggie and herb garden, upcycling pallets into cool gardens, installing landscape lighting, and more. 

While the festival attracts over 150,000 visitors each year, people are mostly attracted to the professionally installed feature gardens.  The festival is presented by two not-for-profit organizations: Landscape Ontario and The Garden Club of Toronto

For fun, we have painted a Gnome for the Toronto Garden Club and added our contribution to the Gilda's Club Gnome Garden.  

You can bid on any one of 20 clay garden gnomes, painted by local celebrities and artists. They will be planted in the garden, and ready for bidding on in a silent auction. Each one has been treated to withstand the out of doors.  All the proceeds go directly to Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto, a place for people who are living with cancer.

In addition, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds is back with an extraordinary natural playground.  Amazing what you can do with dead trees and re-used materials!

Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds

When you plan your visit, be sure to bring some money or a credit/debit card.  With over 100 exhibitors in the Marketplace, there are just too many vendors with interesting stuff for sale to resist.  We have tried walking through the Marketplace with our hands in our pockets.  It doesn't work. 


The Unilock Celebrity Stage is where you will find almost back-to-back presentations featuring names you will know and others you will be glad to hear. 

Lorraine Johnson, Emma & Steven Biggs, Kate Seaver, Marjorie Mason, Frank Ferragini, Sean James, Carson Arthur and of course Ben and Mark Cullen will provide information that you will find useful this gardening season AND entertaining.   All for the price of admission. 

Unless you get in for free. Which will happen for 200 of our newsletter readers (see Contest below). 
Canada Blooms is presented by our company, Mark's Choice, exclusive to Home Hardware. Look for us in the James Garfield Thompson garden and around the 10 special Tiny Homes exhibits.

We make this investment as we believe in this profession and the future of gardening in Canada. 'Blooms is the best place to witness this phenomenon and to leave inspired.
You won't go home having learned how to fly, but your garden will perform on the next level as a result of your experience there.

View the full schedule of Speakers  here.
We are giving away 100 pairs of tickets to Canada Blooms.   
Yes.  100 pairs. 
Value $40 each pair.
To enter, send us an email and let us know 'Who would you take with you to Canada Blooms'.  You MUST include your mailing address.
We will randomly select 100 winners.
Email us at [email protected]
Enter today!
Deadline for contest entries is March 4, 2020.
Winners will be chosen (and tickets mailed) on March 5, 2020.

Please consider signing this petition to protect an important woodland in the town of Port Hope.  

There is a campaign to save 8 acres of virgin forest from development.  Ben and I support this campaign and hope that you will join us.

We will be speaking most days at Canada Blooms and signing our new book Escape to Reality. Retail $23.95. We will be selling signed copies of our book for $20 and will throw in a 2020 Harrowsmith Almanac (value $8) and a packet of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds.
A $30 value for $20.

Escape to Reality is our latest book. It features stories that reflect on the future of gardening in Canada that will amuse, inform and at moments entertain you. We think you will love this book, if you enjoy gardening or just looking at gardens.
We appreciate that not all readers will be available to attend Canada Blooms. However, regardless of where you live, we urge you to log on to the 'Blooms website and follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram. You will find up to date info about the festival and lots of inspiring pictures both leading up to the event and during.

Looking forward to meeting many of you there!
Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty

p.s. Canada Blooms is the 2nd largest annual garden and flower show on the continent. Philadelphia holds the largest . And Ben will be there this weekend! Watch our Facebook and Instagram for pictures of his visit to the Philadelphia Flower Show

Backhoe (mini, mid-size, and full-size)

The Backhoe is a multi-function weeding tool. You can pop large, deeply rooted weeds out of the ground by dropping the sharp, pointy end of the head into the soil behind the weed. Give it a tug and out pops the weed.
This is the first weeding tool that you will purchase that does not need sharpening when you bring it home. It is pre-sharpened.   It features a stainless-steel head, serrated back-side for combing chickweed and moss out of the garden and a 59" solid ash handle. We love this tool.
This run-away sensation also has a brother and sister. One is the same long handled tool with a head that is 2/3 the size of the original model. It is great for use in tightly planted gardens and small, urban spaces.
There is also a short-handled 'mini' backhoe. It features the same stainless steel, pre-sharpened 2/3 sized head on a shorter, 16-inch solid ash handle. Perfect for weeding and planting raised beds or while working in a crouch position.
Home Hardware # 5036-415 (original), 5036-414 (medium), 5036-413 (mini)


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 February.

Here's why they call him the rock star of gardening

Our top 10 tips for starting your seedlings

Where do you find your wild child?

BIRDS IN FOCUS: Red-breasted Nuthatch
By Jody Allair
I have always had a great fondness for Red-breasted Nuthatches ever since I was a young birder attempting to hand feed them at my local park. And what's not to like? Their calls sound like tiny horns honking, they spend a lot of time hoping around tree trunks - often upside down and in zig zag patterns, they have a sharp looking blue, rusty and black plumage with a stylish eye line and they are often very approachable.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are found year-round in forested regions right across Canada, with a preference for coniferous dominated forests. They will regularly irrupt, or migrate, in large numbers in search of food which consists of insects, seeds and especially Spruce Budworms. Red-breasted Nuthatches will often concentrate in very large numbers during Spruce Budworm outbreaks in the Boreal Forest.

Photo credit: Jody Allair

We have two species of nuthatches in Canada. Red-breasted Nuthatches are rusty coloured below with a dark eye-line, short tail, a large bill and seemingly no neck. Females are very similar but are often a paler rust colour below with a less distinct dark cap and eye line. These features along with their smaller size separate the Red-breasted Nuthatch from the much larger White-breasted Nuthatch.
If you want to attract Red-breasted Nuthatches to your yard consider planting some coniferous tress like pines or spruces, and make sure to plant species that are native to your area. During the cooler months, providing suet, peanuts and sunflower seeds should help increase your chances at getting these feisty and personality-filled birds to visit your yard.
Good Birding!
Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair


Photo by G. Pope
In the February issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo your amaryllis in bloom. This was a great contest with over 100 entries! Thank you to everyone who entered.
The winners had a choice of 2 tickets to Canada Blooms OR a signed copy of our book.

Congratulations to: D. Filion, T. Noseworthy, H. Porteous, P. Stiles, M. Weilandt, B. Leahy, A. May, C. Lindsay, S. Fink, K. Jones, B. Riley and H. Maclean.
The grand prize winner also received a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.  Congratulations to: G. Pope
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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 [email protected] with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.