Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Frost is on the Pumpkins

Well the frost is on the pumpkins now…. The girl at the gas station said that they are calling for snow in Ottawa.
Note to self: contact brother Peter in Kanata and give him a hard time.

Our home in Stouffville Ontario (about one hour north of Toronto) is not immune from the ravages of an early winter.

Snow may be cold and it may remind us of Christmas, but for gardeners it is a great motivator to get those things done that we have been putting off.

The good news is that the first few snow falls generally don’t last. Thank goodness for temperatures above freezing. This is the redemption that nature sends our way after reminding us that winter is coming.

I had been putting off planting the rest of my spring flowering bulbs….. Tulips and crocus are finally put to bed. I would recommend that you do the same, even though technically you can wait with the tulip planting until Christmas. This is only true if you can dig a hole. If the ground is frozen, my experience tells me that you will have trouble.

This is a great week to wrap your upright evergreens. Junipers will benefit from a double layer –one to prevent sun burn (which usually occurs at the end of winter) another to break the wind. No, not that wind. The north and west wind that dries out the foliage and turns it brown. Check out the new Mark’s Choice ‘Mummie Wrap’ for this purpose at Home Hardware (item #5094-519). We improved on the original product by making the width broader.

Broad Leafed Plants.

Same advice for yews and (if you are lucky enough to have any) rhododendrons.
Apply a coat of ‘Wilt-Pruf’ (sorry for the spelling but it is an American product so we don’t need to take credit for some marketing person attempting to be clever here in Canada). This stuff really does work by insulating the moisture inside of the foliage of evergreens while still allowing the foliage to breathe. Wilt-Pruf is effective on boxwood too. And it makes a great Christmas tree preservative. Available at independent garden centres and Home Hardware (item #5097-806).

Fruit trees are very susceptible to rodent damage over winter. Think rats, mice and rabbits primarily. The best deterrent (and easiest to deal with) is to wrap a spiral plastic trunk protector from the bottom up. When you buy these get the biggest ones as the snow can mound deep and rabbits can stand on their hind legs if they really want to make a meal of your fruit tree bark.

Fruit trees only need rodent protection for the first 5 to 7 years or until the circumference of the trunk is about 8 to 10 cm thick. They are not interested in mature bark, just the young stuff.

I know that I have reminded you recently that this is the most important time of year for applying a good quality lawn fertilizer but it IS important. So, this is another reminder.

Indoors I wish to note that the new amaryllis crop is in. Yes, you can find all kinds of great looking amaryllis at garden centres and of course some hardware stores.
The best way to tell if you are buying a good quality amaryllis bulb is to look at the measure of its circumference. If the package indicates that it is smaller than a 26 cm bulb you are buying a small one and you will get small results. Fewer blooms, smaller blooms.

A ‘top sized’ amaryllis bulb is 27cm or bigger. More blooms: bigger blooms. Look for the new top sized Mark’s Choice Amaryllis at Home Hardware (item# 5029-303 red, 5029-304 striped). And yes, you can buy cheaper amaryllis elsewhere: that is not the point. Our competition who sell the undersized bulbs do not have customers sending them pictures of 3 stem plants loaded with up to 12 blooms…. I do.
Keep in mind that there some excellent varieties of amaryllis that are worthy of growing that are small by nature. Look them over and note that many of them are quite expensive (a really large amaryllis or one that is rare can run you $15 to $25).

If you are looking for a broad selection of truly exotic amaryllis go to and look over Dugald Cameron’s offerings. His bulbs always inspire me.

Christmas Presents!

I buy about 20 amaryllis this time of year and pot them up in new clay pots. I then put them in the basement and water them. It is cool down there and they are slow to grow. Which is what I want as most of them will end up as Christmas gifts. Great for a house warming and much longer lasting than a bottle of wine (though less intoxicating). Your hosts will think of you all winter; mostly in a good way as the show lasts for up to 6 weeks. Late in the winter a lazy gardener may wish that you would just show up and take it away as the leaves are not the most attractive thing. But that is a minor point.

For the ambitious reader I will tell you how to re-bloom your amaryllis in a later blog. Stay tuned.

Much ,much more to come. Gardening is the song that never ends… the tune just keeps changing.

Keep your knees dirty and remember that it ain’t over yet out of doors…even for Prairie gardeners.