Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

Nature is a writer
Springtime is a poet
Winter - dull but brilliant prose master
Summer, butterflies for apostrophes
Autumn an artist, colors with words implied...
~Terri Guillemets, "Nature's inkpen," 2014

In the fall, we put the garden "to bed". There is a melancholy around the whole concept and most of us don't get excited about the process, as we do in the spring.

So how about a celebration, of sorts. Something to look forward to and lift us up.
We think this is a good time to look at a venerable event like Canada Blooms a little differently.   Ben and I have come to an agreement with 'Blooms management to become the presenting sponsors of the 2019 edition of the festival.

And we could not be happier.
We feel a bit like new parents, for working with Canada's largest annual flower and garden festival presents endless possibilities.

First, the vision of the two owners of the event, Landscape Ontario and The Garden Club of Toronto, align with ours perfectly: to promote the benefits of the gardening experience to all Canadians.

What gets us up in the morning every day are the answers to these two questions:
What can we do to encourage more Canadians to experience the joys and benefits of gardening? 


What can we do today to encourage those who do garden to do it more?

Canada Blooms and their volunteer board of directors are committed to the very same mission. And they pull it off in spades.

Whether you have never been to Canada Blooms (March 9th to 18th, 2019 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto) or you make a habit of attending each year, you will find the following statistics interesting:

  - Over 160,000 paid admissions.
  - 7 feature gardens minimum 500 sq ft each
  - $6 million estimated value of the plants, design expertise, labour and materials in the feature gardens alone
  - Another 20 smaller "balcony and front door" gardens
  - Several acres of gardens, flowers
  - The only annual juried flower show in Canada
  - 200 hours of free gardening seminars, how-to demos and entertainment from three public stages.

The list goes on. Canada Blooms is a volunteer driven not-for-profit organization. Fact is, it is impossible to describe Canada Blooms precisely to someone who has never been. Mark recalls vividly meeting a group of women from Moncton New Brunswick who were laughing and kibitzing their way through the festival when they stopped him for a 'selfie'. 

Clearly, they were having a good time. And that was without wine.

People travel from all over the country to attend. Some, while they are here, enjoy the theatre and other attractions Toronto has to offer.

Secondly , Canada Blooms provides our best opportunity to align what we do with a major live event.

I mention this to you today as we just announced our new relationship last week and we want you to be among the first to know.

There will be much more to report between now and then. Keep your eyes on this newsletter for updates.

In the mean time, put Canada Blooms on your calendar, March 9 to 18th (oh, I guess I said that).

Finally , the Mark's Choice team are not simply purveyors of another line of products: we help to create a healthier world through increased physical activity, engagement with the natural world and the planting of more oxygen-producing machines, plants.

Is there is a higher calling for trade professionals anywhere?  If there is, we are not aware of it.

Well, there you have it.

Feel free to repeat the news to friends and family, far and wide.

The 24th anniversary edition of Canada Blooms features the theme, "Family".
I think that it is perfect that our family meet yours at the festival.
Nothing melancholy about that.
Mark and Ben
Merchants of beauty


  1. As the annual flowers fade, plant spring flowering Holland bulbs. Tulips, daffodils and the like.
  2. While you are out there 'filling in holes' where your tired petunias once stood plant some fall, frost hardy colour with asters, mums, rudbeckia, butterfly bush. Check out the selection at your local garden retailer.
  3. Thicken your lawn with Iron Plus 4-in-1 Lawn Recovery.  Do this ASAP to give the grass seed enough time to germinate before November.
  4. Compost. Dig out the finished compost that is in your bin or pile and put it on the surface of your garden where the earth worms will pull it down. Fill your bin with fallen leaves mixed with spent annual plants and tomato plants.
  5. Leaves. When they start to fall, rake them off your lawn with a Mark's Choice Leaf Rake, run them over with your lawn mower and rake them on to your garden. See the worm comment above. You will be amazed at how the worms consume leaves in tremendous quantities next spring.
  6. Harvest everything that is ready and go to local farmers markets for fresh food and a Halloween pumpkin.
  7. Wait until late October or early November (depending on where you live in this vast country) for the 'winterizing' jobs. We will cover this in the November newsletter.
  8. Gather fallen apples, black walnuts and other treasures using the new Mark's Choice Nut Gatherer.  You will be amazed how much fun it is to use.  Watch the video.

Smart Scoop Bird Feeder

Mark has 12 bird feeders on his property. This one is always the first to be emptied.
It is an amazing 2 in 1 feeder: a seed scoop and a feeder.

Adjustable port size to accommodate a range of seed types and attract a variety of birds.
Convenient and easy to use.
Drainage holes help prevent water buildup.
Easy to clean.
Exclusive to Home Hardware
Item# 5453-694


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 September.

The first two are a 'two part' series that originated with Ben's summer exploration of the local, fresh flower market.

The third column is a 'design' piece that will help you understand the staple of all great garden designs: the garden path. Just in time for autumn garden planning!

By Jody Allair 
Canada Jay
Back in July I wrote an article for this newsletter on my favourite backyard bird - the Tree Swallow. That article has fuelled a discussion with several of my birding acquaintances about favourite birds and why we even have to go so far as to label things as "favourites." Considering that I can find great things to say about almost any bird, should I stop elevating certain ones to this special category? Well, how about just one more ...the Canada Jay.

photo credit: May Haga

Formerly known as the Gray Jay, and also known as Wesakejack or Whisky Jack, the Canada Jay has always been one of my favourite birds. They are intelligent, adaptable, hardy, and incredibly endearing.
Canada Jays are year-round residents of the northern forests of Canada. Long after many of our warblers and thrushes have migrated south to warmer climes, the Canada Jay stays up north. They even nest in late winter, which to many people may seem foolhardy - but Canada Jays are survivors. After nesting, they stay together as a family group through the spring and summer months, actively searching for and storing food. They store this food in food caches spread across their territory, and it is these food caches that sustain them through the cold winter months. My first ever "research project" when I was a high school student growing up in Peterborough, Ontario was to study this food caching behaviour with the Canada Jays in Petroglyphs Provincial Park. It only took a few hours for me to become completely enamoured with this charming bird.
One of the attributes that make Canada Jays so popular with outdoor enthusiasts is their habit of approaching people to look for food. Not only will Canada Jays come and take food from your hand, they'll full-on steal food off your plate while you're having a picnic! What's amazing about this is that no one ever complains. The Canada Jay is a "spark bird" for many people because of its approachability, and for that reason alone it is solidified as one of my favourite birds. As long as you look like you might have food, this bird doesn't play favourites - and a close encounter with a Canada Jay is sure to leave you more connected to, and curious about, the natural world.

Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae angliae) 

In spite of it's name, this reliable flowering perennial is native to many parts of eastern Canada.  The predominant colours are white, purple and mauve.  It is virtually insect and disease free, requires very little care and reflowers for years.  

Mark has some that he planted in his wildflower meadow 13 years ago and they continue to perform reliably each autumn. 

Hardy aster begins to flower in late summer and continues to blooms into the late fall. 

Available where a broad selection of autumn flowering plants are sold.  They  look great in a pot at your front door!  Attract butterflies and native bees too. 

Ben and Mark and the gardening editors of the Harrowsmith's Almanac. Pick up a copy at Home Hardware or on news stands or subscribe online.

Jules Torti, editor-in-chief, has introduced a new feature in Harrowsmith called Cup of Coffee with a Local. It's an opportunity to eavesdrop on a community and learn about its secret spots, quirky parades, tiny museums and best places for sweet stuff.

In the 2019 Fall Almanac, (on newsstands now) Jules sat down with two residents of Selkirk, Ontario, who gave us an illuminating tour of their lakeside village and its legendary six-foot sturgeon. Check it out--this cup of coffee packs a punch!


This month, we encourage you to share a photo of your fall decor.  We are looking for inspiring ideas using pumpkins, corn stalks, ornamental kale, etc.

A visit to your local farmer's market is a wonderful way to shop for fall decorating accessories.
Email one photo to

We will post your photo on Mark's Facebook page

The 5 winners, who get the most 'likes' will receive a copy of the 2019 Harrowsmith Almanac and 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds ($28 value).

The Grand Prize winner will also receive a $50 Home Hardware Gift Card, courtesy of Mark's Choice Lawn and Garden products.

Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.
Deadline for entry, October 4, 2018
Deadline for voting, October 11, 2018
Enter today!


In the September issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of your favourite part of your garden.

Photo by Leslie Daniels
The photo with the most likes is the Grand Prize winner. Congratulations to Leslie Daniels. 

Leslie received a signed copy of Mark's book the New Canadian Garden, a copy of the 2019 Harrowsmith Almanac, 4 packs of Mark's Choice seeds and a $50 Home Hardware gift card.

The next 5 photos with the most likes each won a copy of the 2019 Harrowsmith Almanac and 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.

Congratulations to Susan, Marlene, Vicki, Pam and Diana.

You can view all of the photos here.

Stay in Touch 
Mark's Gardening Connections  

Toronto Star
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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.