Ask Mark: Newspaper column

A Living Christmas

Published in the Toronto Star – December 16, 2017 What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of Christmas?  For many of us, it is the smell.  Temporal lobes are one of largest portions of our brain and they are devoted to smell and taste. This is a good reason to preserve…

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Christmas, Au Naturel

Published in the Toronto Star – December 9, 2017 Christmas is a couple of weeks away and it is highly likely that you are decorating out of doors for the season. If you like the natural look, versus icicle lights or blown up Santa’s and reindeer, we have some advice for you that will look great…

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The Hidden Gardens

Published in the Toronto Star – December 2, 2017   We are big advocates for seeking out gardens in our travel.  “Big Name Gardens” like Kew Gardens in London, UK, or the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York City are astonishing and worth the trip. We have found over the years that garden inspiration takes many…

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An Indoor Fix

Published in the Toronto Star – November 25, 2017 We’re not quite ready to admit that the Canadian gardening season is “over”. In fact, we belong to a growing number of gardeners who are getting their plant fix indoors. We have been maintaining plants indoors for as long as there has been indoor space to put…

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What We are Doing in the Garden Now

Published in the Toronto Star – November 18, 2017 Gardeners everywhere are girding themselves for the long winter ahead.  We use the word ‘long’ as a preface to ‘winter’ intentionally.  In recent years, we have experienced unusually mild winters with little snow fall and generally mild temperatures. No matter.  For gardeners, every Canadian winter is long.  Spring…

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Your Local Garden Superhero

Published in the Toronto Star – November 11, 2017 Many people pursue a professional designation to advance or secure a career. Others seek a special designation to enhance their knowledge in the volunteer sector. Most often, in volunteer organisations, a small, dedicated group is unrecognized for the passion, energy and talents they contribute. In the Canadian…

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Plant Blindness

Published in the Toronto Star – November 4, 2017   Anyone would be impressed.  Standing in front of the skeleton of a Blue whale has a jaw-dropping effect.  It is hard to imagine a mammal THAT big.  We were at the Royal Ontario Museum, enjoying a special birthday treat with family, which is about as rare…

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A Soldier Becomes a Gardener

Published in the Toronto Star – October 28, 2017 He was a career gardener with the ‘City of East York’, before Toronto amalgamated.  Our Uncle Tom Cullen was a one of a kind.  For 5 years, we shot a TV show with CBC in his two acres backyard garden.  Often, when there was a discussion on…

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No Panic

Published in the Toronto Star – October 21, 2017 It is late October and this is no time to panic: there is lots of time for that.  But there are a few jobs around the garden that could use your attention.  While there is some strength in the sun and being out of doors still feels…

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Training for the Newest Trends in Horticulture

Published in the Toronto Star – October 14, 2017   It’s the time of year when senior high school students across Canada are thinking about plans for next year. Applications for College and University programs are around the corner.  The experience can be both exciting and daunting. Ben is quick to point out the many ways…

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How To Be a Successful Gardener

Published in the Toronto Star – October 7, 2017 We get a lot of gardening questions.  Most of them are specific references to a plant, bug or design challenge.  Just yesterday we were asked what those leafy perennial plants are… “You know the ones?” he said.  We looked at each other, “You mean hosta?”  Bingo! We…

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Me to We

Published in the Toronto Star – September 30, 2017 With apologies to my friends Marc and Craig Kielburger [https://www.metowe.com/], I will no longer be writing this weekly column exclusively as my son Ben has joined me ‘in the business’: it has evolved from me to we.  I am delighted. Now you will hear a new,…

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Ageless Gardens

Published in the Toronto Star – September 23, 2017 Kids take their lead where they find it.  Sometimes parents steer kids in one direction, their experiences at school in another. When it comes to food there is little doubt that every child, for better or worse, develops eating habits from a very early age.  After all,…

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How To Plant a Tree

Published in the Toronto Star – September 16, 2017  I was hiking in Killarney Provincial Park, with my son Ben, this summer, when it hit me: all my attempts to plant trees cannot compete with Mother Nature. There she was, growing birch and cedars out of sheer rock at an 80 degree angle.  How on earth…

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The Best Month for Grass

Published in the Toronto Star – September 9, 2017   “In September you can lay sod upside-down and it will still grow.”  My late father, great Canadian gardener that he was, used to say this quite frequently.  He should have known: he laid a lot of sod in his early days in the landscaping business.  Soaking wet,…

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Celebrating Back to School

Published in the Toronto Star – September 2, 2017 You made it.  After a summer of juggling schedules around a variety of kids’ (grand kids?) activities and, perhaps, your own work schedule, the summer is ‘over’.  The kids head back to school this Tuesday.  Don’t you think you deserve a reward?  I think that you do. Many…

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Powering Through

Published in the Toronto Star – August 26, 2017   Regular readers of my column know that I have a beef with two-cycle garden-power equipment, especially leaf blowers and weed whackers.  In my opinion, the noise levels and exhaust fumes of these powerful machines is excessive for the job that they do.  Their use in the…

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Plants as Gifts

Published in the Toronto Star – August 19, 2017   There is an abundance of early autumn birthdays in our family, mostly on my wife’s side. We like to joke that her parents avoided New Year’s Eve parties and celebrated on their own.  Ha! Celebration ‘season’ seems to be with us year-round.  As a close friend…

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What Canadian Gardeners can Learn from the Brits

Published in the Toronto Star – August 12, 2017 For a Canadian to understand the passionate obsession that the Brits feel for their gardens, just look at how passionate we feel about hockey.   I travel to the U.K. a couple times a year and love their gardens and their passion for the gardening experience Hockey…

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Gardening Does a 180

Published in the Toronto Star – August 5, 2017   Not long ago, the typical image of a Canadian garden consisted of a broad sweep of impatiens across the front of the house, a solid mass of unbroken colour that knocked your eyes out.  This, framing a manicured, weed-free lawn trimmed neat and clean, just…

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