Gardener Mark Cullen wearing his Order of Canada pin.

Gardener Mark Cullen wearing his Order of Canada pin.

Garden columnist Mark Cullen, who has his writing featured in The Pioneer and 30 other newspapers across Canada, has recently been announced as one of this years recipients of the Order of Canada, one of the countrys highest civilian honours.

Mr. Cullen is being appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada to recognize his contributions to promoting and developing horticulture education in Canada and for his ability to explain how Canadians can protect the environment, said the office of Governor General David Johnston.

For Mr. Cullen, his life has always been one with gardening. Born into the third generation of a family business of gardeners, he grew up working in the family retail business where his love for providing people with information about gardening blossomed.

I loved meeting people in the retail environment and being asked questions that challenged me to go and find the answers, he said. I knew from a very early age that I really enjoyed the engagement with the public around the topic of gardening. I loved it, before I even loved gardening.

Eventually that thirst for knowledge about gardening developed into another passion in broadcast and writing as Mr. Cullen earned his first radio opportunity for his expertise in gardening in 1982 before purchasing the family company in 1988. Since then, Mr. Cullen has become the president of his company, Marks Choice Ltd., becoming a household name while acting as an expert for television and radio stations across the country.

He cites the attitude of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky as his inspiration for his persistence to pursue a career in what he loved.

During the intermission of Gretzkys final game in 1999, he was asked a simple question about why he chose to play in Edmonton of all places to start his career.

What Wayne said, Ill never forget, Mr. Cullen said.

Gretzky explained that he knew people from the Oilers organization and, at the end of the day, it was about playing for the love of the game and having faith that the money would come later.

I think in those words is a tremendous life lesson for anyone whos looking for something meaningful in their work, he said. Find something you love and turn that into your passion and the work will come. Whatever that is. I just discovered that I had a passion for gardening and communicating the gardening message and the environmental benefits of gardening and I just never stopped doing that.

It was this relentless passion towards his profession, he said, that ultimately made him as successful as he is today. In 2003, Mr. Cullen was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal for his Plant a Row, Grow a Row program in support of Canadas food bank community, and he is the founding chair of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute, the goal of which is to plant 117,000 trees on the Highway of Heroes to honour Canadas fallen in war since the First World War.

Even with his impressive resume, he said that he was surprised when he received the call earlier this year while in Jasper, Alberta that he was going to become a member of the Order of Canada.

I was in shock, he said. I said, Youre kidding, right. And she said no Im not kidding. Then she went on to explain the procedure and what I did to qualify and said congratulations of course, so I was in total shock.

Mr. Cullen, his wife Mary and three of his four children are invited to go to Ottawa for one of the investiture dates as new Order Members in the next year. While he expects it to be an emotional ceremony, he said hes not ready to retire from his life-long passion just yet.

I dont understand retirement, he said. I dont understand what it means to me, Mark Cullen, because people say retirement is doing what you love. Im playing for the love of the game now, Im not doing it for the money. Im doing it because I love doing it, Im on a roll and Canadians seem to want more.