Summer 2021 is off to a sweltering start. With record setting temperatures in the west, and crushing humidity in the east, we are feeling a little tired despite barely having started.

Thankfully, we have access to the great outdoors, including shade.
Ah – a place in the shade to reflect on the world.

Among the many things on our minds, we have been reflecting on the growing interest in gardening since March of last year, the beginning of the pandemic (you heard about it, right?). It seems that more Canadians are turning to their yards for recreation, relaxation, and diversion.  

The garden opens our minds to the natural world that surrounds us.
The gardening experience brings families together, feeds us and nourishes our souls. 

According to PC (as in President's Choice) Lawn and Garden, an Omnibus Survey of Canadians this year highlights the degree to which we are engaged with our gardens.

80% of Canadians with an outdoor space currently take part in activities such and growing food, flowers, container planting and lawn care. Of those 80%:
57% agree that their interest in gardening has increased over the past year.

Another 57% (magic number?) report that their interest in growing food has increased in the past year.

58% of Canadians agree that gardening is important to their mental health and 69% agree that gardening helps to reduce stress. 

Overwhelmingly the respondents to the survey say that they are eating more healthy food because of growing their own and that their outdoor spaces are a retreat during times when they cannot travel.

We know that we are preaching to the choir, but the numbers tell us that our work, that is, this communication, our podcasts, newspaper columns etc., are more important than ever.

How can we help you succeed with your garden? 
Are you receiving information from us that is helpful? 
Are there ways in which we can improve our messages?

We would be pleased to hear from you by just replying to this newsletter/e mail or go to and click on the “contact us” link. We will personally reply to everyone who writes us.
In other news, we continue to sing the praises of trees (speaking of choirs).
We support efforts to save the old growth forests of British Columbia. A full-page ad in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago featured the names of “prominent” 120 Canadians who urge Premier Horgan to keep his election promise and save the last 3% of old growth that is not protected. Mark was privileged to be asked to join the signatories.
For more information go to
Many of you have supported the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign, our collective effort to plant a tree for each Canadian lost at war and almost 2 million who volunteered for military service during times of war. 

The $10 million goal has been realized and now we work hard to plant the more than 2 million trees, as promised. 

While these efforts continue, the board and patrons of HoH Trees have created a new concept for increasing the urban tree canopy across the country: Canadian Trees For Life

We are working with individual Canadians, conservation authorities, municipalities: virtually anyone who wants help planting trees. The Ministry of Natural Resources are supporting our efforts with a $2 million grant. We have pledged to raise an equal amount of money for a total of $4 million. We are off to a great start, with more than a million dollars pledged or donated already.
To help us reach our goal by raising the final million dollars, all donations are being matched. 
Not a bad start for a newbie organization (with heart). 

The town council of Whitby, Ontario recently passed a motion to conditionally approve a new park that will provide the centre point of the Highway of Heroes Tree campaign. 

The five-acre site on Victoria Street has been planted with 3,596 trees, one for each Canadian lost at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. 

The Park will feature educational kiosks and paths that depict and explain the battle and the meaning behind the planting of more than 2 million trees on the Highway of Heroes. 

More details to come.
And finally, a picture of a prostrate tree in Richmond Park, London, UK. Note how this tree will not give up. Felled by an act of nature many years ago, it just keeps going. 
We thank our daughter/sister Emma who lives in London for this image. She walks by it frequently. Emma taught us to coin the phrase “Canada Day Month” in reference to one of our favourite holidays. 

Ha! Emma, we miss you and love you. 
Happy Canada Day month to you and yours.

Ben and Mark Cullen
“Where beans and good gardening grow together”  
Stake tomatoes. Double your crop. We use spiral tomato stakes.

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

Prune evergreens, especially cedars including cedar hedges.

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.

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

Relax. Hammock time... read a good book. Mark recently read Douglas Tallamy’s The Nature of Oaks…. What an amazing tree! The oak in your yard is among the most important trees in the world from an environmental point of view. They live a long time too. 
Also, by Douglas Tallamy, Nature’s Best Hope. An amazing, eye opening treatise on the impact of residential gardens and the potential they have to help solve climate change challenges.
This week on Green File we are talking with Steve Barnhart, incoming President of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects and Senior Director at Niagara Parks.

Steve tells us more about the profession of Landscape Architecture, and helps give us a new appreciation for our public spaces.

Tune in - on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.
We (Ben and Mark) were delighted to host the 10 part video series for Canada Blooms, the country’s premier flower and garden show that was, of course, put on hold this year and last. 

It remains a viable, active entity and the short videos help to illustrate and inspire with images and a message that will get you thinking differently about your own outdoor space.

Each video is about 2 minutes long: not a big time commitment for something that might change your life.

We had fun doing this and we hope that comes through in our work. 

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: American Goldfinch
By: Jody Allair
The American Goldfinch is one of the most recognizable songbirds across southern Canada. With the males bright yellow body feathers, black cap, and black flight feathers, it’s hard to dispute that the American Goldfinch is one of the best looking birds that live in our backyards, and local green spaces. It should be noted however, that the more subtle olive and yellow plumaged female is as attractive as the male in my humble opinion.
There are so many fascinating aspects of the life history of the American Goldfinch that you could write a whole book about them. Since I do not have that kind of space, I will just list off a few of my favourite facts.
American Goldfinches are the only finch species in North American to completely moult their body feathers twice a year. Going from retina-burning yellow, spring through summer, to a more subtle gray/ olive plumage for the fall and winter.
American Goldfinch
Photo credit: Yousif Attia
They have shockingly short legs, and very strong feet which enables them to balance on the ends of flowers (like thistles) in order to feed on seeds and collect seed fluff to use as nesting material. And speaking of nests, American Goldfinches build one of my favourite looking nests. They are usually found in shrubs and are very dense and soft, often made with seed fluff from a variety of plants – including Milkweed, and are often sewn together using spider silk.
The flight call of the American Goldfinch (“potato-chip…potato chip…”) can be easily learned and has one of the best mnemonics of any bird call.
To attract these amazing little birds to your yard, consider planting some native shrubs like Chokecherry or Dogwood. American Goldfinches are exclusively seed eaters and can also be attracted by putting out bird feeders with Nyjer seed or Black Oil Sunflower seeds. And as always, please clean your feeders regularly and try to maintain a safe feeding environment for your feathered friends.
Good Birding!

Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair
What's in Mark & Ben's Tool Shed?
A sneak peek inside our tool shed.

So, what is in our garden shed and what purpose does each of these tools serve? Click here for our prioritized list.
From bird feeding to insect hotels to beetle buckets. Yes, this is a thing. 

Thanks to the Brits, who have recently learned that they have over 4,000 native beetles that wish to protect and grow. none of them sing in a rock band, btw. 

This short video explains it all and gives us an idea for a fun project to do with the kids. 

Mark and Ben.
p.s. Ben has a new little 8 pound beetle who will someday appreciate this. 
Go Peter Mark!