Of the many municipal services, we take for granted – garbage collection, waste water treatment, road works – trees are among those that can go unnoticed until they are gone. When grumbling about property taxes, it is easy to imagine how our communities look if toilets stopped flushing and garbage was left to pile up on our streets.

Recently, an 80-year-old maple was removed from the park by Ben’s house to make way for a new play structure. Neighbours agree that the gap left in its place has taken the shine off what should be an exciting new playground, but it is so often the tree that belongs to “everyone” which we neglect. (see below "ode")

Fortunately, there are good people who care for the trees. Tree Trust (www.treetrust.ca), for example, identifies trees in need of professional care that are outside municipal boundaries but still providing public good. The Guelph chapter recently invested in pruning the high crown of a massive silver maple which happens to shade the play area at Ben’s son Peter’s daycare. Volunteers of the Tree Trust raised the money for these services and planned an event to celebrate. Peter’s daycare class had their own party, singing Happy Birthday to the tree and making cards. 

Peter singing Happy Birthday to the daycare tree.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends (“GUFF”, https://guffguelph.ca/) is another volunteer-run organization celebrating urban trees through education and advocacy. One of their most successful programs is the Notable Trees of Guelph award, where residents can nominate their favourite trees based on the following criteria: ““A noble tree, cherished by the community for its heritage value and as a fine example of its species”. Notable Trees are celebrated with ceremony, marked with a nearby plaque, and added to the public list of notable trees which draws tree lovers from across the city for the admiration these noble trees deserve. This year Ben nominated the mammoth black walnut in the same nearby park. The black walnut is believed to be a “mother tree” to the many black walnuts which characterize the neighbourhood and will be celebrated in the coming month. 

Another Notable Tree of Guelph is a Dawn Redwood planted in 1948 by Len Cullen’s mentor John Weall from seeds collected by Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

Working together is the best way to celebrate and care for the trees we share, and we encourage you to find a group in your community that shares a passion for this valued feature of community life. 

Mark and Ben Cullen

Merchants of Beans and Beauty




Ode to The Downed Sugar Maple in my Park

Much as trees are worth celebrating, it is also worth mourning their loss. Below is an ode to the Maple Tree of Sunny Acres written by Ben’s neighbour Tom Ewart:

Truth be told, you were never my favorite. After all, your neighbourly cousins are veritable giants, here since before Guelph was Guelph. You possessed neither their stature, nor their reach. You, leaderless, weren't even as tall as you should have been.

And yet I still loved you. I can't even begin to imagine how many others did too – not just today, but going back the perhaps 100 years you lived.

How many children, like mine, found refuge from the rays under your arms; hid behind you from seekers; watered you in a pinch; swung at piñatas you generously dangled?

How many more could have done so but will have to wait patiently until perhaps their grandchildren finally see your successors absorb sufficient carbon from the atmosphere to replace your canopy?

If only we had known of the plans to cut your life short. Was doing so really necessary? Perhaps we may have been able to intervene--not only for you but for all those generations of children, past, present, future.

I wonder what the forester wielding the saw was thinking when they downed you... what the city staff directing the action considered… how often this happens in our parks and public lands... how the mayor and councillors representing the families of all those children feel about the efficacy of their policies and strategies on community engagement, urban canopy, climate adaptation, etc…

One thing is certain: I will deeply miss you, dear Sugar Maple. 

Cullen’s Foods

The prolonged wet weather in Southern Ontario this fall has led to a unique set of challenges for the kidney bean, navy bean, and black bean harvests. Despite now five years of learning and our strongest ever slate of growers, mud and mold have proven unavoidable.

A new processor in Petrolia, Field Farms Marketing, is doing an excellent job of accepting this high-moisture, dirt and weed ridden crop off the field and cleaning it into a saleable product using a brand new cleaning line that includes various sorting screens and an optical sorter which can pick out off-grade beans with outstanding accuracy.

From Saskatchewan we saw a decent yield of chickpeas for the first time in three years, with a truck arriving today, and not a day too soon as we just went out of stock on the old product. 

A big silver maple at Cullen’s Foods grower Mike Holzworth’s farm.


I hope you enjoy this podcast, created by a couple of local friends including Nilesh Hathi who was my boss (well, one of them!) during my time at Canada AM. We had a lot of fun recording this.  

You watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com

or listen to the podcast here: spotify.com



If you are looking for some early Christmas gifts for less than $20, we recommend that you buy amaryllis bulbs (with pot/soil) in support of Huntington Society Canada. We buy a couple of cases each year and have found the quality is excellent and they often sell out by early December. Just saying!


Our team at Trees for Life has been busy this fall with 8 planting events. We are thankful for the support from our many volunteers who donate their time and enthusiasm to help us plant trees where we live, work and play..

To learn more about Trees for Life, please visit treesforlife.ca


Winterize your roses. Hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and miniatures all need to be mounded up with fresh triple mix about 60 to 80 cm high. A rose collar helps to mound the soil high enough to do the job very well. 

No need to mound winter hardy shrub roses and climbers that are planted next to the wall of your home. Climbers growing against a fence should be mounded to be on the safe side. Leave this job until hard frost has hit the ground and before it pushes deep.

Spiral wrap around fruit tree trunks. Prevent rodent damage and sun scald. Non- fruiting fruit trees like purple leafed plum, crabapples and flowering cherry fall into this category too.

Wrap burlap around cedars, yews, boxwood and all broadleaf evergreens. Two layers is best: one to buffer wind and the other to insulate from the drying and burning effects of the sun, reflecting off snow.

Empty your compost. Spread the finished 'good' stuff on your garden. No need to turn it under, though you can if you want to. Earthworms will do the job come spring.

Fill your compost. (Does this sound like the job that never ends? Empty, fill, empty, fill... this is why gardeners live longer: our work never stops). Dump your fallen leaves and spent annuals and tomato plants in the compost bin.

Harvest. Many veggies taste best after some frost. Leaks, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and the like are ready for harvest. Carrots are sweetest now: dig what is left in your garden and store them in buckets of dry sand in your garage.

Water. You will soon shut off the outdoor faucets to prevent freezing, but before you do, be sure that established plants in your yard are well watered. We have had reasonable amounts of rain this fall, but the evergreens and shrubs under the eve and soffit of your home are protected from most rain. Be sure to soak all permanent plants deeply before the freeze up. Truth is, being frozen in ice is better insulation than dry soil.


It's time to help the birds you love!

By: Jody Allair

Your observations of birds out your window can really help the conservation of Canada’s birds. Project FeederWatch is a North America wide winter survey of backyard birds. You don’t have to be an expert to participate and you don’t even have to go outside. Observe the birds at a local green space or out your window while you have your morning coffee – warmed by the knowledge that you’re contributing to the monitoring of the birds that you spend so much time enjoying.

Last year, more than 30,000 people across North America watched the birds in their backyards or local green space and turned their observations into scientific discoveries. Now in its 37th year, FeederWatch has long term trend data that just keeps getting better with every year. We can see which birds are doing well and which ones need our conservation attention. Drawing attention to those in trouble can only help to protect these birds. Whether you see one American Robin in your backyard or a dozen Pine Siskins, it is really valuable information as it helps us build a picture of how our birds are doing from one year to the next.

Hairy Woodpecker

Photo credit: Jody Allair

The FeederWatch season starts November 1st. Taking part in Project FeederWatch is really easy. You don’t need a feeder and you don’t need to be an expert to participate! Participants just need to sign up, count the birds outside, and submit results online or by using the Project FeederWatch mobile app.

In Canada, participants make a donation of any amount to Birds Canada at birdscanada.org/feederwatch then can sign up online, or call toll-free: 888-448-2473.


Good Birding!


Jody Allair

Director, Community Engagement

Birds Canada

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram at: @JodyAllair


Mark visited these remarkable trees on a recent trip to London.

A magnificent Plane tree

The oldest tree in Kew Gardens, London UK. Japanese pagoda tree. 1740

Harrowsmith’s PEI Potato Chocolate Cake

We know the title of this recipe sounds a little crazy but trust us, this is one of those decadent, tender-crumbed cakes that are soooooo singular in its deep chocolatiness, you will be coming back to this recipe again and again.

For more gooey, chocolatey goodness, pick up a copy of the new Winter issue of Harrowsmith magazine on newsstands November 13th. Inside you will find all the essential gardening, cooking, sustainable living and DIY tips that Harrowsmith as been known for since 1976. (We're guessing some of you will be especially found of Mark and Ben's column of how to bring your outdoor plants inside for the season....!))

P.S. Harrowsmith's 2024 Almanac is also on newsstands until February 2024. It features a year's worth of easy potluck recipes, seasonal weather forecasts, night sky charts, home repair tips, monthly garden to-do lists, and so much more! Subscribe now and never miss an issue www.harrowsmithmag.com/subscribe.