Time was, people thought that plants were like people. Jerry Baker, perhaps the most famous of all American garden broadcasters/writers, made the term “Plants are like People” popular with a book by the same name, published in 1971 and a TV series.

Today we propose a change to the concept of our connections to plants: plants ARE people.

Of course, this is not true in the literal sense, but new science tells us a different story. 

Take trees for instance. In his landmark book The Hidden Life of Trees, what they feel and how they communicate, by Peter Wohlleben, we learn that trees talk to one another: they feel, hear, and think. Through scientific research, and grand story telling (which is why this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year) Wohlleben teaches us that trees are social beings. 

With more space, and if you had more time, we would provide details of this evidence here, but for now, lets concentrate on the communication that goes on in every forest and, to some degree, between street trees in your hometown and the trees in your yard. Through mycorrhiza, a complex network of naturally occurring fungi underground, trees send messages to one another.  A “mother tree” will send nutrients to a hungry youngster: her way of nurturing her babies. A tree experiencing an insect infestation will send messages to neighbours who will produce a toxin to the insects (see what we did there? use of the word “who”?)

Have you ever been digging in your garden and found fine, whitish filaments under the soil? Those are mycorrhiza and they are plentiful in healthy soil. When you see them, pat yourself on the back as you have accomplished something special by nurturing them in your garden.   they thrive in undisturbed, microbe rich soil.  And do not make plans to do any “double digging” as that age old process just kills mycorrhiza.

And yes, Mark actually recommended double digging in one of his earlier books (35 years ago) which proves that even old dogs… well you know.

We digress.  

Two carrots that think they are human and fell in love!

Plants are people in the context of their behaviour. A finished flower produces seed, which takes energy from the plant which otherwise would produce leaves and stems, or more flowers. This is why we recommend that you cut back your roses after the first flush of blossoms in June. NOT letting the rose plant produce rose hips, which contain seeds, preserves energy that is used to produce more flowers.   

We need to rest after a busy day in the garden to build up muscle and strength for another day.  Deadheading is to plants what a couch is to humans.

This is also why we recommend you pick your bush beans when they are young, as this encourages the plant to flower more and produce more beans.   It is a form of channeling energy.

We recommend that you not overwater your plants, indoors this time of year and outdoors, during the growing season also. Why? By allowing the soil to dry at least a few centimetres down, the roots of a plant are encouraged to reach deep into the soil in search for moisture.   Deeper roots = greater drought resistance. They become tougher.  Fewer disease and insect problems too.

Kind of like overeating or drinking: there is no long-term gain in it. We train our bodies by the choices we make. 

Don’t over water or overfertilize or allow weeds to compete…. There are a lot of dos and don’ts in this business. 

The bottom line is that when we think of plants as people, that is, when we use the same logic in caring for them as we do for ourselves, the language of plant care comes to life. And your success score increases.

This cucumber in Mark's garden would like a dance… 

Which brings us to “success”.

Isn’t it great that we can sow seeds, grow young plants, plant out and nurture through to maturity without fearing that a dead plant will mark us for life? There is no exam at the end of the season, only a level of satisfaction that you feel from the experience. 

And that feeling of satisfaction is, at least in part, a measure of the expectations that you had in the first place: in February, before the gardening season officially got underway. 

Set your sights high: shoot for the stars. This is our advice.

And don’t forget that there is no such thing as failure in the garden, only composting opportunities. 😊

Have a wonderful Valentines Day and remember that no gift, even a diamond, equals the timeless gift of nature that we call “fresh flowers”. Why? Cause they only last so long… their gift of beauty is fleeting. 

A diamond? Well, we all know that a diamond is forever. And who needs that.

Mark and Ben Cullen

Merchants of Beans and Beauty


Buy new dahlia bulbs. They will arrive at your local garden retailer any day soon and you should get them while the selection is at its best. Plant in one-gallon sized containers in March.

Start petunia seeds in February. Most others wait until March or April.

Feed the birds. Use a quality seed mix so that it does not get wasted and you attract quality birds.

Participate in Project FeederWatch.

Buy seeds. Whether you choose to shop the seed catalogues or peruse the seed racks at your local garden centre, be sure to do it soon. First, you are only going to get busier as the gardening season approaches. Secondly, the selection is at its best.

Once an amaryllis' flowers fade, cut the flower stalk back to about 2” height.

Allow the leaves to grow and water when the soil feels dry. This will allow the leaves to produce energy which the bulb will store for future blooms. Keep it in a sunny window and, in the spring, plant the amaryllis in your garden. Let the long leaves mature and turn yellow. In late September, cut the foliage back and store the bulb in a cool, dry, dark place. In early December, repot the bulb in fresh potting mix and start the cycle again.


Pileated Woodpecker

By: Jody Allair

Few birds make everyone stop in their tracks. The Pileated Woodpecker is one of them. The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest, and arguably loudest, of Canada’s woodpecker species. It is found year-round in forested areas from the Maritimes west to Vancouver Island.

Identifying Pileated Woodpeckers is relatively straightforward – they are crow-sized, and mostly black, with a red cap, white stripes on their neck, and a white patch on their underwings, which is quite visible during flight. With reasonable views you can separate males from females. Male Pileated Woodpeckers have a red moustache and females have a black moustache.

Pileated woodpecker

Photo credit: Jody Allair

Pileated Woodpeckers require large, intact, mature forests. They will build a large oblong nest cavity into either a mature deciduous or coniferous tree, and are generally quite territorial, with pairs sticking together year-round within a large forest block. They feed on a variety of invertebrates, but they especially like carpenter ants.

For those fortunate folks who live adjacent to a large forest, you may be lucky enough to glimpse a Pileated Woodpecker at your feeders – especially if you have good quantities of suet on offer. Over the past few months a female Pileated Woodpecker has been visiting our feeders. She only sticks around for a few minutes at a time, but luckily I managed to snap a couple of nice photos back in November. I’ve included my favourite one here.

Good Birding!


Jody Allair

Director, Community Engagement

Birds Canada

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram at: @JodyAllair

Harrowsmith’s Ginger Peach Chocolate Victoria Creams

Tiny Treats

Rich, creamy and smothered in chocolate, Chef ILona Daniel's Victoria Creams make the perfect homemade Valentine's Day gift. 

In the latter part of the 19th century, Charles (Candy) Rogers opened a grocer in Victoria, where he sold many sundry items, but it was his confections that were the most popular. Rogers is responsible for the creation of the chocolate-coated fondant crèmes known as Victoria Creams. The Rogers’ Victoria Creams are iconically wrapped in pink gingham parchment and come in a variety of flavours. We thought it would be fun to play with peaches and ginger in this humble iteration of the B.C. classic.

For this recipe (and more), as well as expert advice from Gardening Editors Mark and Ben head to Ginger Peach Chocolate Victoria Creams or

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