Tag Archives: Mark Cullen

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Video: Wrapping Evergreens

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Video: Wrapping Evergreens

Wrapping Evergreens Everything You Need to Know with Mark and Ben

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Garden Expert: Tree Of Life

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Garden Expert: Tree Of Life

Highway of Heroes Living Tribute

During the war in Afghanistan, Canada lost 159 men and women in the conflict. Once repatriated at CFB Trenton, their bodies were driven to the coroner’s office in Toronto.

A very Canadian thing happened during those years: hundreds of people turned out to stand on bridges at points along Highway 401 to quietly reflect on the meaning of this sacrifice, hold flags and salute the fallen heroes passing by in hearses. This was a very personal experience for all. Since then, the 170-km route has been known as the Highway of Heroes.

As the volunteer Chair of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute, I am passionate about a living tribute to our fallen, and those who volunteered to serve during times of war.

A TRIBUTE TO CANADIAN COURAGE

We are planting 2,000,000 trees between Trenton and Toronto, one tree for every Canadian that has served during times of conflict since Confederation and including the war of 1812. 117,000 of the most prominent trees will be planted along and near the stretch of the 401 known as the Highway of Heroes, one tree for every life lost while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and protecting our country.

This tribute offers an opportunity to tell the story of those that have served in the Armed Forces, and remind travellers along the highway of the great debt we owe these courageous Canadians. It will also provide a myriad of environmental benefits for generations to come. Here at the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign, we are grateful for every Canadian who has supported our efforts to plant a tree for each of Canada’s war dead.

PROGRESS REPORT

In the spring of 2018, we completed the first planting season of the year and we are happy to report that we planted over 3,000 trees on the Highway of Heroes, bringing us that much closer to our goal. We now have over 17,000 in the ground on the highway and over 100,000 planted just off the highway. We are currently preparing and planting at sites that will ultimately be home for up to another 15,000 trees this autumn.

And these are still the “early days” with many more tree-plantings to come beyond this year.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

Volunteer-planting events near the highway educate Canadians about the benefits of reforestation, the importance of native trees, and why, as a nation, we need to embrace measures that protect our environment from the impacts of climate change.

As Canadians, we’re proud of our values that guide us to respect green spaces and wilderness, yet too few of us realize we have the highest carbon footprint per capita in the world. We can and will do better. Those who serve in our military protect our land and our freedom. I feel that we have a responsibility to protect the land that many Canadians have defended over generations.

FUNDRAISING GOALS

The goal of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign is to raise $10 million by 2020. To date, nearly one-third of that has been raised or about $3.2 million. Hitting this goal will ensure that our final trees are planted by 2022.

As we approach Remembrance Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, let us ensure that we never forget the many courageous Canadians who enlisted to serve during this time. During the First World War, over 600,000 Canadians would join the battle overseas and over 66,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice. For a young nation of just under eight million people, this contribution is nothing short of remarkable.

Please consider making a donation to ensure that a living tribute can be built to honour these brave Canadians who helped pave the way for us to live in this great country we share today.

Details and free monthly newsletter at hohtribute.ca

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com

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Video: Ornamental grasses in the fall garden

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Video: Ornamental grasses in the fall garden

What not to do in the fall garden. Don’t cut down your ornamental grasses.

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In The Garden: National Tree Day

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In The Garden: National Tree Day

Plant a tree on September 26th

After much debate, a bill was passed in the House of Commons in 2011 to create a National Tree Day each year, which falls on the last Wednesday in the month of September. This year, that day is September 26th. Tree advocates everywhere can now breathe a breath of fresh air.

The Right Time

September is the best time of year to plant. You may choose to do so on National Tree Day, or any other day in the near future. However, I urge you to plant – more than one tree – and soon. The cool evening temperatures slow the growth on the top of the trees, while the warmth of summer still radiates in the soil and encourages young feeding roots to develop. The development of autumn-planted trees usually outgrow those that are planted in the spring. Come spring, your results will be nothing short of spectacular.

In addition, most retailers are clearing out their inventory at this time of year, so there’s an extra incentive to select the trees that you really want at a fraction of the cost – fruit trees, shade trees, ornamental flowering trees, native trees and shrubs.

Plant Native

Whenever, and wherever, you can plant native trees – it just makes sense. For the most part, native trees adapt well to our urban environment, they self propagate, and are disease and insect resistant. In addition, they attract nesting song birds. LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, and enhancement, of the urban forest. Visit yourleaf.org for programs and advice on making the right choice for your environment.

I recommend starting with a nursery-grown native plant. They are properly cared for while developing – after all, they are called nurseries. A field-grown tree will be root pruned before being lifted out of the ground. A container-grown tree will have all of its roots intact at the time of planting. As a result, you’ll be pleased with your investment, because it should be a seamless transition between the nursery and its new home.

Deciduous Dedications

A country-wide tree day could not exist without official tree plantings. Visit treecanada.ca for listings and events going on in your area. Or, better yet, create your own event and register it on the site.

On September 26th do something for yourself, for your grandchildren, for your community and for the environment. Plant a tree on National Tree Day, and celebrate the great work that they do – without complaints or many demands. And, celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we can.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book
The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Facebook and on
Twitter @MarkCullen4. MarkCullen.com

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Video: Mark Cullen – How to Plant in Containers

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Video: Mark Cullen – How to Plant in Containers

Tips for container gardening

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Garden Expert: Gardening Does A 180

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Garden Expert: Gardening Does A 180

Current trends embrace nature for a more eco-conscious world

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.

Back in the day, as recently as 20 years ago, there was a lot of ‘snipping’ going on. And control. Mother Nature was to be tamed, not partnered with. My father was a leader of this pack. Why else, at the age of 14, did he send me out to prune a juniper into the shape of a chicken?

Dad was having fun, of course, and I do not mean to make fun of him.

Things have changed significantly in the Canadian garden in recent years and it is worth noting some of these changes.

Here’s how:

1 BRING ON THE INSECTS. Take tent caterpillars for instance. My Dad would cut a larvae-laden limb out of a crab-apple tree and burn the colony to get rid of it. I am sure this gave him much satisfaction.

A few years ago, I decided to just leave the tent caterpillars alone in my row of 25 crabapples. I observed that many of the trees in the native forest along Hwy 400, between Toronto and North Bay, provide habitat to caterpillars and no one takes them out or burns them. And now I realize that they serve a useful purpose in the natural scheme of things. They are food for many foraging birds including insectivores, many of which are in decline. They need all of the help we can give them, so why not ignore the tent caterpillars and let nature take its course? I decided to do this and it took two years for the birds to discover that I was no longer removing them from tree limbs before they did the job for me. Voilà! Less work for me, better for the birds.

We do not kill insects to the same extent that we once did. Native insects (vs. imported, invasive ones like the Emerald Ash Borer) are part of the natural web. Apart from our general distaste for wasps in our soft drinks and ants in our patio, we are gradually learning to live and let live.

2 KILLING WEEDS. Just a few years ago we pulled milkweed from our gardens. It is a ‘weed,’ after all it is in the name, right? Now we pay good money for milkweed seeds to provide habitat and food for migratory monarch butterflies.

3 ROT AND DECAY ARE OUR FRIENDS. Remember when we blew our fallen leaves into piles and stuffed them into brown paper bags, dragged them to the curb for the municipality to haul them away? In the spring, we drove to a depot to pick up ‘free’ compost or worse, some municipalities offered the compost for sale back to the taxpayers who gave them the raw material in the first place. Back in the day we really weren’t too smart. Now we rake (not blow) the leaves off the lawn and on to the garden.

Over the spring months, those leaves disappear as foraging worms pull them into the soil to convert them into nitrogen-rich earthworm castings. Better for your garden, less work, saves the municipality money. Oh, some of us still do it the old-fashioned way. Okay, this one is a work in progress.

4 WILDLIFE HABITAT. With over 800 species of native Canadian bees, we are indeed blessed with a host of natural pollinators, many of which are in decline. Many are more effective at pollination than honeybees, which are a European import.

Now we provide habitat for our dear wildlife: mason bee houses, insect hotels, toad homes, water features that breed frogs, toads, salamanders, dragon flies and newts.

We are getting much better at this but have a way to go. I predict that we will have as many insect-enhancing devices in our backyards in 20 years as we have bird feeders now. Stay tuned.

I recently asked a friend, who is a father to a 15-year-old boy, what he thought the world will look like a generation from now. He looked at me with a worried frown, “I hate to think.”

And yet, all of the aforementioned changes in our thinking with respect to the Canadian garden are a result of young people speaking up in defence of a new, greener, cleaner world.

And sometimes they don’t speak up.

They just do it.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com

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In The Garden: Head For Cover

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In The Garden: Head For Cover

While we were worshiping to the sun gods back in February, some of us may now be getting fed up with the heat. With high temperatures come increased UV rays, so it makes sense to seek out shady spots that provide some reprieve.

It’s under the shade of a leafy tree where we’ll experience temperatures that are five to 12 degrees cooler. The moisture it evaporates provides a cooling effect, so it’s no wonder we naturally migrate to these prime locations to have a picnic, read a book or take a nap.

A Shady Deal | It’s a good time to consider options for a shade garden, especially for under those trees on the north side of your house. I have a short list of favourites that are ideal for dappled shade – plants that prefer a sun/shade mix, but don’t like the hot/dry sun of mid afternoon.

Astilbe

Astilbe | Also known as False Spirea and Feather Flower, this plant injects a burst of colour for a prolonged stretch of time – from late spring and throughout the summer. The brightly coloured blossoms are electrifying in intensity, and grow from 30 to 80 centimetres high. They prefer an open, peaty soil, but once they dry out, it’s difficult to rehydrate them. To prevent them from doing so, be sure to mulch with five centimetres of shredded cedar bark.

Rhododendron

Rhododendrons | ‘Rhodies’, as they are affectionately known in the business, hold a special place in the shade garden – but there are some secrets. For one, they love an acid soil, which is opposite to the alkaline stuff most of us put up with in the GTA. Always plant your rhododendrons in an open, sandy soil, mixed with finely ground pine bark – about 30 per cent by volume. Add about four tablespoons of garden sulphur (to help to acidify the soil) about every six weeks throughout the summer and into the early fall. Keep in mind that you’re not fertilizing them, per se, you’re changing the pH of the soil. For a foolproof garden performance, I recommend the winter tough ‘PJM’ varieties – purple flowers, with early spring blooms that are hardy to zone 4 (Ottawa).

Boxwood | Buxus is a broad-leafed evergreen that performs very well in all areas, up to zone 4. Boxwood is an evergreen, so treat it with a humusbased soil of peat or compost, and fertilize every few weeks with an evergreen food, like 30-10-10, until the middle of the summer. There have been many amazing boxwood hybrids that have been introduced over the years, which provide a deeper colour and a more finely textured foliage, versus the original version of Korean Boxwood.

Oregon Grape Mahonia Aquifolium

Oregon Grape | Native to British Columbia, the Mahonia Aquifolium grows quite well in zone 5 and 6 gardens (including Barrie). This plant features holly-like leaves that remain on the plant throughout the winter, and are then replaced as new growth occurs each spring. They have a delightful yellow flower in the spring, and a dense, shrubby growth habit. Oregon Grape matures to about one metre high, and equally as wide. I like it best when planted on the fringe of a hardwood bush, or under the shade of shrubs or a tall deciduous tree.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @MarkCullen4. MarkCullen.com

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Garden Expert: Bye-Bye Butterfly

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Garden Expert: Bye-Bye Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is in decline. It has been for some time and Canadian Wildlife magazine reports that it still is. So what? Let’s just say that the monarch is to the world of nature, what an economic indicator is to our economy. When inflation goes through the roof, or interest rates take off, or the Canadian dollar drops like a stone, people take notice.

We notice things that impact our pocketbook.

So, we should also take notice when a plant pollinator like the monarch butterfly population is in steep decline. About one-third of our food is pollinated by insects, including the monarch. If one-third of our food stream were to disappear, all of us would notice.

What you can do to nurture nature’s miracle

THE MIRACLE

There is another reason why we should pay attention to the monarch. Without a healthy population of monarchs, the story of their annual migration would be relegated to children’s books and history. It is a story about a miracle.

The Canadian Wildlife organization tells it this way, “For any given year, these butterflies represent the final cohort in a four- or five-generation annual cycle of monarch reproduction and migration.” Say what? Four or five generations of butterflies are produced in one trip from Mexico to Canada each spring?

Late in the winter, the overwintering population in Mexico flies to Texas, and other southern climes, where they lay eggs on milkweed plants before the adult monarch dies. Then they begin their migration north. “The caterpillar offspring, which feed exclusively on milkweed, spend several weeks growing before they pupate, become adult monarchs and continue the migration farther north before reproducing in kind.”

The process repeats until late summer and early fall, often here in Canada, when the monarchs that are alive at that time fly back to the Mexican pine and oyamel forests. The journey to Canada is like a relay of eggs, pupae, caterpillar and butterfly, times four or five.

Think about this for a moment. Four or five generations of monarch butterflies are produced while the whole flock (do butterflies flock?) moves north between 3,000 and 5,000 kilometres, over the span of several months from early spring until early fall.

How does each new generation know which direction to fly? And how does the last annual generation know when to stop, turn around and head south again? Not to mention the knowledge they must possess that tells them to stop making babies for a spell.

This is the miracle.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

While there are a myriad of organizations like Canadian Wildlife, government agencies and concerned individuals giving this issue attention, there is a lot that you can do. Even if your only outdoor access is a condo or apartment balcony, you can nurture flowering plants that attract and feed monarchs.

It is not too late in the season to pick up milkweed seeds and sow them directly in your garden. This is a perennial plant that will grow this summer and flower next. Native milkweed is the exclusive food and habitat of monarch butterfly larvae.

Other nectar-rich plants include Butterfly Weed [asclepias], Catmint [nepeta], Bugleweed [ajuga], Coneflower [Echinacea], Cranesbill [geranium], some Coreopsis, False Sunflower [heliopsis], False Indigo [baptista], Yarrow, Sedum, Hollyhock, Lavender and my favourite Joe Pye Weed [eupatorium, which is related to milkweed]. These plants are available at garden retailers this time of year and are ready to plant.

WATER

All wildlife needs water to survive and butterflies are no different. But they are not like birds that dip into the bird bath for a drink. Butterflies have very short legs and are top-heavy with wings. They prefer lily pads and mud to access water. That is why you often find butterflies hanging out at the beach (go to Sandbanks Provincial park for a good show).

RUSTY PATCHED BUMBLEBEE

The monarch is not the only primary pollinator that is at risk. The Rusty Patched Bumblebee was Ontario’s fourth most common species as recently as the 1980s. Today, it is only found in abundance in Pinery Provincial Park. There is much speculation of why this species has all but disappeared: loss of habitat, neonic-based pesticides and genetically engineered farm crops are highly suspect.

But, once again, you can help by providing habitat, food and shelter for all native bees by growing many of the same plants that I have listed for butterflies. There are over 700 native bee species in Canada, and all of them deserve our attention and thanks for their hard work.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com

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In The Garden: Ground-Hugging Plants

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In The Garden: Ground-Hugging Plants

If I could come back to earth as a plant, I would be a ground cover – a useful one, of course. I love rich, organic soil, so by being a ground-hugging plant I could feel the rhythms of the earth, as well as the movement of the life giving earthworms beneath my roots.

Ever since I had my first garden, I’ve been experimenting with ground covers, and have learned a great deal about their benefits, as well as their limitations.

DON’T TRY SO HARD

One of the most often-asked questions is how to grow grass under the shade of a mature maple. Without trying to be sarcastic, I usually respond by asking why they would want to. It’s a sincere question by an interested gardener, because there are few things that are more challenging than trying to produce a great looking lawn under a well developed tree. Grass loves the sun, so it’s not just the shade that limits it’s growing potential, but the grass is also in competition for moisture and soil-borne nutrients. The best answer; don’t try. Instead, grow a great looking substitute for a lawn. At the top of my list for zone 5 (GTA) is pachysandra. I’d recommend this fabulous perennial without hesitation, and have enjoyed personal successes with this ground cover. At our last home, we enjoyed the shade of 17 mature hardwood trees, but our growing choices were very limited. Pachysandra not only thrives under dense shade, but it also manages to grow nicely despite the dry soil. It’s an evergreen, so it also looks great in the middle of the winter when everything else is brown. Plant one rooted transplant every 15 centimetres square, and within two years they will have filled in quite nicely.

COOL YOUR FEET

Don’t think of ground covers just as a substitute for a lawn. There are many areas that lend themselves to a little cooling down. Paths and walkways, as well as the frost crack in the pavement around your pool, are all viable options. It doesn’t take much soil to sustain the life of some types of moss or creeping thyme.

Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus)

Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) provides the added benefit of producing a pleasant scent when you walk on it. When you step on the Wooly Thyme, the essential oils in its leaves are released, filling the air around you.

Green Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)

Green Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) and lime-green Scotch moss (Sagina subulata) look amazing in areas where they receive some morning sun. Direct afternoon, and mid-day, sun will burn them. When planting, keep in mind that moss likes consistent moisture and an acidic soil. To help acidify the soil, dust with a garden sulphur every couple of months.

SLOPE-HUGGERS

A steep slope in a sunny location can prove to be a challenge. Named for its bright, deep burgundy flowers that bloom in the late spring, a mass planting of Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop (Sedum spurium) is the perfect solution. As it matures, this beauty knits so closely together that weeds have a tough time pushing through. Because the leaves are tough and fleshy, they don’t require much water once they are established – another bonus for the slope-grower.

Check out other potential earthhugger options in the perennial department of your local garden retailer. Depending upon your application, there are those that are suitable for green roofs, containers, perennial borders and rock gardens.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @MarkCullen4. MarkCullen.com

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Garden Expert: Get Planting

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Garden Expert: Get Planting

The importance of planting the right tree in the right place

A new gardening season is ahead of us: a fresh chapter in the book of life with nature. I recommend that we make the best of it and plant some trees. It is important to plant the right tree in the right place. Here are some considerations when planting trees and my top recommendations:

1 SMALL TREES THAT FLOWER AND FRUIT

Small lots and densely populated urban areas are no longer suitable places for large-growing shade trees. Here are my favourite trees that will grow no higher than seven metres and will flower and/or fruit:

DWARF APPLE TREES There are dozens of varieties of dwarf apple trees available. My favourite apple for vigour and strength is Cortland. The tree grows relatively quickly and produces lots of great mid-season eating apples.

PEARS The lowest-maintenance fruit tree out there. No need to look for ‘dwarf’ pears as a standard pear generally grows to about six or seven metres, given enough time.

CHERRIES Sour or sweet, cherries grow reliably in Toronto (zone 6). ‘Stella’ is a great choice for a sweet cherry as no partner is required to cross-pollinate, otherwise you will need two. Sour cherries are self-fruitful.

CRAB APPLE An unfortunate name for a versatile and winterhardy tree. ‘Dolgo’ produces red fruit in the fall that is suitable for canning. Otherwise, plant crab apples for their spring colour and small- to medium-stature.

2 SHADE: WHAT KIND?

For filtered shade, which will provide the cooling effect of a deciduous tree (one that drops its leaves each fall) without cutting out all of the sunshine, look for these winners:

LOCUST ‘Shademaster’ is hardy to zone 4 (Ottawa). This variety features horizontal branching, while ‘Skyline’ Honey locust produces a more upright, vase-shaped structure. Both are disease- and insectresistant and grow to a medium height of about 12 to 15 metres.

BIRCH A long-time favourite. They produce filtered shade and the lovely white bark stands out in the winter garden. Look for native birch, like Paper Birch [Betula papyrifera], as they are resistant to the dreaded bronze birch borer, which has wreaked havoc with the European birch species in recent years.

3 EARLY SHADE/DENSE SHADE

Not all deciduous trees leaf out at the same time. Birch, willow and maples are among the earliest (early May), and Catalpa and Rose of Sharon are among the latest (mid-June). For early leaf cover that lasts late into the season, consider:

MAPLE [ACER] Native sugar maples leaf out in early May and drop leaves in mid-to late October. Norway Maple, while deemed an invasive species, does leaf out marginally earlier and drops in early November. Both produce bright yellow colour come fall.

CHESTNUT [AESCULUS] A member of the orchid family. Have a close look at the flowers come early June and note that the upright panicle or ‘candelabra’ features dozens of gorgeous orchid-like flowerets. I love Chestnut trees but they are susceptible to blight, which may not kill them but creates brown-hued leaves that are not very attractive come late summer.

4 MY FAVOURITE ALL-ROUND TREES

There are some trees that do not fit neatly into a single classification but are amazing for their own reasons. Here are my favourites:

LINDEN [TILIA CORDATA] related to native Basswood. Provide lovely, cool, dense shade. Produce fragrant (green) flowers that attract pollinators (and make great tea). Lindens are winter hardy and disease-resistant. They feature a formal ace-shaped structure that fits neatly into relatively tight spaces. There is a promenade of Lindens on the east side of the Royal Conservatory, and west side of the Art Gallery of Ontario, that will sell you on this species, if nothing else will.

JAPANESE TREE LILAC ‘IVORY SILK’ [SYRINGA RETICULATA ‘IVORY SILK’] Ivory Silk is an oval- shaped, compact tree (great for smaller lots and spaces) that blooms reliably each Father’s Day in mid-June. ‘Ivory Silk’ is winter hardy and resistant to disease and insect problems.

OAK Any oak is a great oak, but I like native Red Oak [Quercus rubra] and Pin Oak [Quercus palustris] best. Red Oak (so named as the wood is red) grows into a large 18-metre giant. There are heritage Red Oaks in High Park that are amazing. Pin Oak is narrower and more suitable for the tight spaces of urban life.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com

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