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.

Christmas carols on the radio. Christmas carols in TV commercials.

So, Christmas is in the air. And it is time to think of the gardeners on your Christmas list.
If you are a non gardener, have no fear. I am here to help guide you through the quagmire of gardeners’ gifts.
If you think of yourself as a gardener, I can give you some suggestions that will help you help the gift givers that are after you for your list.

First of all, let me help you do some thinking for yourself: when it comes to gardening gizmos: tools, equipment, supplies etc. you want to think about stuff that is not only useful but that:

A. lasts i.e. quality (because you want the receiver to be thinking good things about you while using the gift)

B. is useful (vs. say, a popular gardening tool like the Gold Digger, which often hangs in the tool shed until it ends up in a garage sale somewhere)

C. is of a certain nature that the gardener receiving it would not have purchased it themselves (e.g. a digital camera).

The digital camera is not such a bad idea, even for the person who already has one. I am thinking of the less expensive kind: a camera that is dedicated to garden use more-or-less exclusively. You would store this camera in your garage or even your tool shed (assuming that the roof doesn’t leak). It would be there for the ‘impulse shots’, just a few steps away from the rose that is flowering at its peak, the rare looking bird that just arrived on the feeder and (most importantly!) the light that is perfect – but only for a moment.
A gardener will put these photos into a special place, if only in a special ‘garden’ file on their computer, where they will think of you every time that they visit it.

Nothing gets more practical than a pair of hand pruners. Here, high quality goes a long way. Any gardener can tell you that using a cheap pair of pruners is hard on the hands: often they do not spring back into position after a cut, the blades will separate under moderate pressure and they will not hold an edge for long as the blade metal is cheap, just like the rest of it.

True, I have my own pair under the Mark’s Choice brand which is made by Corona: they have a reputation for excellent quality and a cutting edge that holds for a long time. But they, frankly, are second best. The very best hand pruners on the market are still made in Switzerland by Felco. When I had a nursery farm and 30 field workers, we outfitted every one of them with Felcos because they never (almost never) let us down.

Felco hand pruners are twice the price of Corona pruners. About $30 vs. $60 to $80. You are comparing the cost of a good quality garden tool that is designed and manufactured for the passionate gardener (Corona/Mark’s Choice) vs. the professional grade (Felco). Now you can make an intelligent choice. Visit to view the Mark’s Choice/Corona pruners.
If you are looking for the $10 stocking stuffer for a gardener, I have a little secret: every gardener is human and as such, forgets what she planted where. Answer: aluminum plant markers.
I have about 300 of these on the go in my garden at any one time. Use a permanent nursery marker or a Sharpie to permanently mark perennials, roses and shrubs. You can stand on these things and the worst that will happen is you will bend them. If that happens, pull them out of the soil and bend them back with your gloved hands. I find that the names of my plants need to be re-written every two years or they do fade. This is a good thing as I have forgotten the plant name by then anyway and writing it down yet again reinforces the name in my forgetful mind. When I am through with the marker (i.e. the plant dies or I pull it out) I simply put the marker on my wire wheel in the shop and rub the printing out. Or you can use a solvent to do the same thing.

For anyone that loves gardens and trees: The Toronto Tree Portraits desktop Calendar.

Many of my blog readers are not from the Toronto region: I appreciate that. However, this calendar is unique and it celebrates the green spaces and heritage trees in one of the greatest cities in the world (arguably). You will love it.

You can order on line at

Book: A Sandbox of a Different Kind.
Personal reflections on the Canadian garden experience.
My 17th book, but my first ‘story book’. 52 short gardening stories based on the many Canadian gardeners that I have met, my own gardening experiences and some reflections on the stories told to me by my Dad. This book is light, refreshing and fun. And my kids say that if you read it you will sleep like a baby. Nice kids.

Available at Chapters/Indigo, independent book sellers and Home Hardware.

I’ll bring you some more Christmas gift suggestions in the coming weeks, but in the mean time, some reminders about your garden:

- It is not too late to protect valuable young fruit trees with a plastic spiral. This will prevent potential mice, rat and rabbit damage.

- Be sure to secure upright junipers and cedars with burlap. I find the ‘tensor’ type of burlap easiest to apply. In other words, you don’t have to invite a few friends over to help you wrap up your evergreen when you do this job.

- Water the plants under your house eve. All plants enjoy going into winter with moisture at their root zone.

Indoors: this is a great time to start an amaryllis bulb. Get it potted up now and in a sunny window and it will be in bud for Christmas. Maybe, with some luck, it will be in full flower for early in the New Year.

Keep your knees dirty!