Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
This month, Ben created our introductory story.  I knew he would come up with something interesting.  If you love food and gardening, this should be right down your alley.
With best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, on behalf of Ben, myself and the entire 8 member Mark's Choice Team.


"Under trees, the urban dweller might restore his troubled soul and find the blessing of a creative pause" - Walter Gropius, architect

The increasing pace of life is something we can't escape, as every year passes more quickly than the one before it. We become especially aware of this at the beginning of a new year, where we're standing back at the same place - looking back, making resolutions anew - and thinking how recently it feels like we were at this same place.

We hope that you took the opportunity over the holidays to take a pause. If you didn't, we would recommend that you stand at your window and do so - look upon your sleepy January yard and reimagine it full of colour and life. January is a good month to exercise the imagination, and imagination happens best when we stop and breathe.

Another great catalyst for the imagination is by taking the opportunity to read, and January is the time of year where we have most opportunity to pick up a book. If you don't already have your reading list laid out, let us make a couple of recommendations:

The Man Who Made Things out of Trees in an exploration of trees and wood by British author Robert Penn. As part of his story, Penn cuts down and Ash tree and remakes it into as many different useful products as he can - he comes up with 44. 
Along the way he provides a fascinating history of the various ways human history has been shaped by our relationship with trees.

The Hidden Life of Trees by German scientist, forester and tree-lover Peter Wohlleben is another fascinating deep dive into in of our favourite specimens: trees. 
This best-seller is rich with surprising facts and details the complex interconnectedness of trees to one another and their environments which was previously not understood.

PLANT LOVE by Alys Fowler is a relatively new book on caring for houseplants, which is something we turn more attention towards at this time of year. From Araceae to Zamioculcas zamiifolia ("ZZ Plant"), this book is rich with useful information and photographic inspiration to help you tend to your indoor jungle.

Harrowsmith Almanac is released this time of year and always chock full of useful information for the gardener. 
Just a hint, you might see some editorial from someone you recognize!  
January is also a very popular month for Canadians to travel in search of warmer climes. We have been advocating for travelers to check out lesser-known gardens and make a trip of seeking out green spaces when abroad. It is amazing how many of these gardens exist in places which are not otherwise known for their botanical pedigree.

One such place we discovered last winter, when in Sarasota, Florida, was "The Ringling". Located on the former estate of John Ringling, of "Ringling Brother's Circus" fame, there exists an art museum, a circus museum, a theatre and a 56-room mansion in addition to the 66 acres of "Bayfront Gardens" which features John's wife Mable's rose collection, a "dwarf garden", banyan trees, Secret Garden and more. 
Well worth a visit.

A lot of Canadians will also find themselves in Vegas over the winter months. 

The Botanical Gardens at Springs Preserve host the largest collection of Mojave Desert cacti and succulent plants in 110 acres of show gardens and naturalized feature gardens. 

A natural respite from The Strip and an opportunity to learn about local plants.

This week, Ben sets off to Morocco where he hopes to make time in Marrakech, the "Garden City". On that itinerary is Majorelle Garden, established in 1923 by French artist Jacques Majorelle. In 1980's, fashion designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased the garden for restoration, and today it is Saint-Laurent's resting place. Stay tuned for that one!
While it is not the best time of year for gardening, it is still a valuable time for gardeners - to pause. Reflect. Enjoy a book, or visit somewhere new to find inspirations and ignite your imagination for the year ahead.

One final note - as you hibernate this winter, be sure to check out @markcullengardening on Instagram. 
We are putting more of our photography there to keep you inspired throughout the seasons.

Mark and Ben
Merchants of beauty
Birdseed Mixes

We invest over $1,000 a year in large bags of bird food each year.  With 14 feeding stations, this is not hard.  In the past, we bought large quantities of black oil sunflower seed.  The birds just seem to love it.
However, not all birds love the black oil as much as the striped - or for that matter the safflower seeds (that squirrels hate, by the way).
So we have mixed them into a tasty combination of quality bird seed that appeals to the broadest possible pallet of bird taste buds.   
Mark's Choice Sunflower Plus is Exclusive to Home Hardware.
(Home Hardware item# 5453-365)
Also available in the Mark's Choice line of birdseed:
Bird Feast Songbird Blend - the  best-selling product in the entire line up of Mark's Choice quality products. (item# 5453-067 4kg, 5453-072 8kg)
Deluxe Blend with Berries and Nuts - Lots of protein for winter time bird feeding.   (item# 5453-362)
Nyjer Plus with Sunflower Chips - not just for finches and nuthatches, though, they love it too!  (item# 5453-364)
Finch Blend with Sunflower Chips - the perfect variety of seed for the perfect little winter time birds.   (item# 5453-363)
What we love about the Harrowsmith community is that it's ever-growing. With each issue, we connect with more faces and places that make our Canada one to be envied. 

This month, we were privy to an exclusive sneak peek into the kitchen of the luxurious Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa in Blair, Ontario, courtesy of Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson. Rachel shared her go-to Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti recipe with Harrowsmith along with a few holiday baking trade secrets. You have no excuses now!
If you want to connect with some of the best chefs, gardeners, travelers, writers and birders in this country, subscribe to Harrowsmith today!

Photo by Adeline K.
In the December issue of Gardening With Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of 'your pet in your garden'.  We were thrilled by the response to this contest.  Thank you to everyone who shared a photo.
The 2 winners, with the most 'likes' received a copy of the 2018 Harrowsmith Almanac + a copy of the winter issue of Harrowsmith magazine.  The #1 winner, with the most 'likes' of all, received a 2018 Harrowsmith Almanac + the winter issue of Harrowsmith magazine + a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.
Congratulations to: Adeline K. (grand prize winner), Gerry T. and Elizabeth B.
This month's contest will help us appreciate the beauty of winter.  Take a photo of the view from your window (or front door) right now. 

We are very curious to see what winter looks like across Canada.
Email one photo to
All photos will be posted on the  MarkCullenGardening Facebook page.
The 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win a signed copy of The New Canadian Garden.  Plus, the Grand Prize of a $50 Home Hardware gift card (to the photo with the most likes).
Deadline for entry is January 11, 2018.
Voting deadline is January 15, 2018
( Reminder: pot up an amaryllis bulb to make sure you're ready for my annual amaryllis contest.  Details in the February issue of Gardening With Mark and Ben.)

Enhance Your Winter Bird Feeding Experience 
with Project FeederWatch

Submit observations from your backyard!

If you feed birds in your yard, your hobby can support bird research and conservation. By joining Project FeederWatch and sharing information about the birds visiting your feeders between November and April, you can help scientists at Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track changes in bird numbers and movements.
The 31st season of Project FeederWatch runs from early November until early April. Taking part is easy! Just count the numbers and kinds of birds at your feeders, and enter the information on the FeederWatch website.

Photo by Gord Belyea

To register for Project FeederWatch, please call 1-888-448-2473, or visit our website to sign up online at The $35 Project FeederWatch enrollment fee includes a Bird Studies Canada membership and a one-year subscription to BirdWatch Canada magazine. You will also receive educational materials, including: a large full-colour poster of common feeder birds, a bird calendar, a comprehensive instruction and data booklet, a useful bird-feeding handbook, the latest FeederWatch results, articles on bird behaviour, answers to your bird questions, and more!
Contact for more information or visit

This message brought to you by 
Mark's Choice Bird Feast bird food,  exclusively at Home Hardware. 
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.

Healthy Gardening for Today's World

Applewood Garden Club 's annual special evening features three well-known gardeners: Mark Cullen, Frank Ferragine, and Denis Flanagan. The Three Amigos will look at how people around the world are making biodiversity work, and how you can grow flower and vegetable gardens that are beautiful as well as good for the planet. 
Mark Cullen will address biodiversity's importance around the world as well as in your garden.
Frank Ferragine, speaks on urban farming in your own backyard, as well as global efforts to increase food production in a sustainable way.
Denis Flanagan's topic is achieving beauty and diversity in ornamental gardens.
Date:         Tuesday,  January 23, 2018, 7 pm           
Location:    Great Hall, Unitarian Congregation, 84 South Service Road,
                    Mississauga, L5G 2R9. (just east of Hwy. 10)
Tickets: $20. Available after Dec 10 through Wendy Bell, 905-891-7884, and at Home Hardware, Applewood Plaza,
1077 North Service Rd., Mississauga.
Presented by the Applewood Garden Club, Mississauga
Proceeds to Highway of Heroes,
Stay in Touch 
Mark's Gardening Connections  

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Gardening Events
Event Schedule

My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter.  All event listings have moved to .
Event lists are organized by Province and accessible through these links:
Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote?  I would be happy to include your event listing on my website.

Send your info to with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.