Happy Easter Everyone – Hope It’s Hopping!

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 Photo by Cathy Testa

Photo by Cathy Testa

Isn’t this bunny adorable?!!  I spotted him (or her?) at the Ellington Farmers Market last summer and snapped this picture – too cute.

Easter weekend is almost here and many of us are excited to spend time with our families, so this post is to say, “Enjoy Your Easter Weekend” – and let it warm up so we can sit outside during the weekend’s activities.

Our April is coming to a close soon, and May will be here – when we will be busy as bunnies in our gardens!

 Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

Cathy Testa
ContainerCrazyCT.com
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Five Ways to Protect the Tender Plants You Put Outdoors Too Early

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Photo Attribution Below

Photo Attribution Below

You know you should have waited to put out tender plants or seedlings, but you got anxious and planted them outdoors anyways.  Whether in a container garden or a garden of the ground, they are now subject to the upcoming chills expected during the overnight hours this week as predicted by our local forecasters.

It’s not too difficult to understand why you tried to cheat the planting dates – after all, we had temperatures in the 70’s last weekend here in Connecticut.  It got our gardening juices flowing, and you may have impulsively planted tender seedlings in your gardens, such as tomatoes or peppers, or have potted up some summer like annuals in your mixed container gardens and patio pots.  Perhaps you even put a few of your houseplants outdoors for some fresh air and sun exposure for the first time this season.

But as of today, we have rain, strong winds, and a drop in temperatures coming.  It is expected to be in the low 30’ for the next three evenings.

So, you may be wondering what you should do now to protect the tender plants you put outdoors too early.

Here are five suggestions you can try – some may be better than others – due to the rainfall and winds occurring today:

#1 Cover them with a light-weight bed sheet

Protect the plants by carefully placing a light-weight bed sheet over the garden bed where you put them in or over the container garden or patio pot.  Use some stakes to tent the cloth up so the now wet tender plants will not get bent or be pushed down by the weight of the sheet or blanket.  Use rocks or bricks to hold the sheet down if necessary.  However, this may be difficult to do tonight especially because we will have rain overnight, and some areas in Connecticut may get sleet (Litchfield).  Ugh, but this trick does work well to protect tender plants from late spring frosts – so take note, or avoid the situation next time by doing Option #2, setting up temporary plastic tunnels.

#2 Use temporary plastic tunnels

If you planned ahead and ordered, you can use low tunnels made specifically for plant protection like those available from GardenersEdge.com.  They are easy to use, expand like an accordion over your plants, and come with curved hoops made of bamboo used to brace the tunnel in the ground.  Push the hoops into the soil and you should be all set.  This is a great way to protect plants, but you are not going to be enjoying doing this now with the downpours.  Another reminder of why we should wait for the tender plants, or plan ahead.

#3 Roll out floating fabric row covers

Similar to temporary tunnels noted above, fabric cloths or frost blankets specially made to protect plants are available from many garden supply manufacturers or at your local nursery.  They will hold in the warmth and protect any new plants without damaging them.  As with a light blanket, you may need to pin down the edges so it won’t be blown away by the wind.  Again, there’s wind tonight – Sorry!  Such is the way of gardening in the Northeast.  But these are handy in other situations, such as use for the last spring frost.

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

#4 Move the container garden back inside

Move your patio pot or container garden potted up with tender plants inside to a warmer place or sheltered location, such as your garage or shed, for the cold evenings.  A hand-truck works great for this process.  Also, if you put any small seedlings or your houseplants that were kept inside during the winter out on tables because you thought the plants should enjoy the warm weather last weekend, you should have moved those back indoors, especially now with the overnight low temperatures coming.  As noted in my Spring e:Pub, tropical plants, cacti like plants, and many houseplants must wait to go outdoors when things have warmed up after the last spring frost date.

#5 Be patient and wait a little longer

Most reputable nurseries put out only those plants which can take the cooler temperatures of the early spring, while tender plants are kept inside their large greenhouses for warmth and protection until warmer temperatures arrive.  Just watch out for stores that don’t follow the rules – and we tend to know which they are.  Usually their plants look injured a day or two following exposures to low or freezing overnight temperatures.  Wait a bit longer to put out the tender plants, and remember to watch for our last frost date of the spring season.  Otherwise, you risk damaging the plants’ foliage and flowers, or the plant will die and ruin your ambition and expenses.  Be patient and wait a tad bit longer.

Other Interesting Ideas

Christmas Lights on Fruit trees – I’ve heard you can string large styled Christmas lights around apple trees limbs near the buds to help keep them warm.  Buds can get damaged or killed if they freeze, so this is one holiday styled technique. Interesting!

Make a Camp Fire – Just kidding!  But some nursery growers of fruit trees actually light small fires under fruit trees.  Hey, anything to save those buds from frost, right?  However, not recommended or needed in home garden environments typically.

Water Fruit Trees – This may sound contradictory – but growers will water fruit and citrus trees, and some nurseries will water (sprinkle) specific plants, as a shield from the morning’s sun following a frost or freeze.  It serves an insulator for the growing buds and foliage – but it gets more technical which I will not expand on this topic here because of “timing” of this post.  However, if you’re interested, check out the “frost protection fundamentals” by FOA Corporate Document Repository where they explain it isn’t the cold temperatures per say that affect the plants, but how the plant tissue are injured via dehydration.

Water the Soil – Your outdoor plants (including the trees and perennials) are being watered right now by the natural rainfall, which is good for the plant’s roots because dry soil tends to pull moisture from the roots during frost or freeze periods.  Wet foliage however is not a good thing; when the foliage and stems of tender plants get wet and cold, this may lead to rot, flopping over, and general damage.  Antidessicants may be used on evergreens (rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, boxwood, etc.) to help reduce dehydration of the foliage.  A commonly type is called Wilt Pruf, and it is organic and biodegradable and primarily applied in the fall.

photo (24)

First and Last Freeze/Frost Dates by Zip Codes

Go to Dave’s Garden website to enter your zip code for a first and last freeze/frost dates for your area based on averages.  For Broad Brook, here are the results received via this site:

  • Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from October 9 through April 26.
  • Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from October 22 through April 11.
  • You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from May 10 through September 26.
  • Your frost-free growing season is around 166 days.

Overall, it is best to plant the cold-tolerant veggies, plants like pansies, and your typical spring bulbs like hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils.  For the rest, hang in there. It won’t be long until we can enjoy all – I promise.

Written by Cathy Testa

Lady's Mantel Leaves Pop Up on April 15th, 2014

Lady’s Mantel Leaves Pop Up on April 15th, 2014

Upcoming Events:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

Photo attribution:  “Weather Icon” by bandrat; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Slow Warm-up for Spring – But Time to Get your Tropical Bulbs Reawakened

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Good Morning Everyone,

Last spring, we were concerned about planting too early because we had over-chilly temperatures around this time of year – but it was colder, whereas this year, it is taking longer for the cold to leave.

There is no doubt every single year brings an interesting challenge for gardeners when it comes to the weather, and often times we must have the endurance to patiently wait for the conditions to be favorable for our planting adventures.

But, as we know – “Good things come to those who wait.”  And, patience is a true virtue in the gardening world.  When things are not favorable to work in your gardens outdoors, take the opportunity to prepare other gardening tasks and plants for when the temperatures and conditions are perfect.

Here is my latest e:Pub for Spring 2014, which refers to our slow spring warm up and things you can do now with any stored summer or tropical bulbs to give them an early start as we wait for temperatures to creep up higher in Connecticut.

Spring 2014 – e:Pub Newsletter – “A Slow Warm-Up

A new page has been added to this blog from the top menu where this e:Publication is posted, and more will follow.

Click on ABOUT, then 2014 MENU, to see a drop down menu called e:Pub Newsletters.

I started writing e:Pubs many years ago, and there are prior versions on my website, www.cathytesta.com.  It is interesting to look back and read some of the prior versions, at least for me.

One year I wrote a poem about all the rain we had in June which seemed like it would never end – that was in 2009.  But fortunately, today, the weather is warming up – we may even reach the 70′s.  Can this be true? We sure hope so.

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!

Cathy Testa

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

 

Chicken Coop Infographics – Tips for The Chicks’ New Home!

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Hi Everyone,

If you have ever considered building your first chicken coop – below is a great Infographic to help you get started.

I made some errors the first go around when we built our first chicken coop and outdoor access pen.  Probably the funniest error made was we used the wrong chicken wire size for the outdoor pen, and when I excitedly put my new baby chickens into the outdoor pen, they immediately walked out through the spaces of the wire because it was too large!  Duh!  My brother, who helped me build it, stood there laughing with me as we witnessed our obvious mistake in action.  I remember saying to him, “Well, don’t we have egg on our faces right now?”

Predators Abound in Our Yard

I’ve tried two rounds of raising chickens at my home, but free ranging resulted in another error – the untimely death of my chickens over time by wild predators.  My backyard is quiet, wooded, and has a river behind it so the predators seem to hang out there. They would wait for the chickens to return to roost in the coop at sunset and bang, get taken.  Not good. And sometimes during the day, hawks would swoop down to get them.  Amazing how they spotted them so quickly in our yard.

There was another time when we came home from dinner, and one of our chickens was perched on the railing by our house door. They had never done this before, so we thought – what is this about?  My husband carried her carefully back to the coop only to discover a pile of feathers.  A predator had been there – and the smart chicken waited at our door until we got home – and they say, chicken’s aren’t smart?  

And, I swear, another time, when I was tending to some plants along side the outdoor pen, I sensed something watching me.  Not saying I’m psychic, but I remember turning around to look in the woods.  Were there predator eyes on me? Could it have been a fox or even a bobcat (we saw one once) waiting for me to leave for another opportunity of a tasty evening meal?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps it was just my vivid imagination.

Anyhow, the bottom line is, the new chickens will have to stay in the pen and coop this go around. Our outdoor pen is plenty large for them to roam. Once you let them out – they never forget their experience of checking out every area in the yard, including my neighbor’s gardens (another story for another time).  It is kind of like when cats have wet food.  Do they ever forget how great it is? Nope.  Neither do the chickens.

New Chickens for 2014

This year, 2014, I’m in round three of trying again to have chickens at my home with some new rules and changes.  I’ve updated my coop based on my learning experiences, won’t allow free ranging (they will have a big outdoor pen and a chicken wagon planned on the agenda for protected roaming outside the coop and pen), and a better equipped coop.  Our coop, by the way, is a small standard shed we purchased and modified.  We put a door on a hinge in one of the side walls for them to exit everyday; and the door locks at night, and we made roosting boxes out of old antique veggie shipping crates. We added a pole as a perch in the shed too.

Chicken Coop Infographics

I plan to share photos of all later, but for now, I wanted to share a great Infographic on the do’s and don’t with a check list so you don’t have to redo it again, like we have.  It shows 46 ideas to help build the best chicken coop.

New Baby Chicks

Below is a photo of my four Rhode Island Red baby chicks being held in a warming coop by my brother until they are a bit bigger to transition to my chicken coop in about a month or so.  I can’t wait to have them home soon.  

In the meantime, I’m accessorizing the coop – and adding more plants on the outside of the outdoor pen area, which by the way, grow well there because of the organic fertilizer (chickens poop droppings in the soil from my prior chickens).  I have a couple boxwood shrubs growing there, some Helleborus, Epimedium, Daffodils (which are coming up now), Azalea, and some container gardens are added here and there too.

Contest to Name My New Chickens

Right now, there is a Facebook contest on potential names for my new chicks.  One friend posted, “Kiev”, “Parm”, “Francais”, and “Wings”. I think he was hungry, and of course, being silly, at the time.

We will see – We will have to check out the chickens’ personalities first — and they do have personalities, believe me.

New Baby Chicks 2014

New Baby Chicks 2014

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

 

New Domain Name for Container Crazy Cathy T

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Hi there!

I just wanted to let you know that I have set up a new domain name for this blog, containercrazyct.com, as the primary domain.

You will see it displayed in the browser’s address bar as such, and it is easier to remember, just think my initials CT or think Connecticut (CT) at the end of containercrazy, and that’s it.

This new domain name change occurred this morning, but it can take as long as 72 hours before it is evident to all internet service providers, so if you don’t see it right away, you will in a couple days.

I selected the title of this blog as Container Crazy Cathy T years ago – and it continues for now.  Please feel free to share it with your gardening friends and container gardening enthusiasts.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

Goofing Around with My Camera (Birds, Wild Turkeys, and More)

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Yesterday was a gorgeous early spring day, and I decided it was a perfect day to get some outdoor activities done.  I brought along my Nikon Coolpix L120 camera to take photos, and decided this morning to post some shots.

March Photos_0001

When I turned on my camera, I discovered some photos taken prior still remaining on the memory card.  I spotted this big momma of a praying mantis on a rock in a garden bed last year.  The shadows on the rock from her body are neat – and that look she gave me as I approached with the camera lens as I zoomed in closer, oh my!  I can see why my friend fears these small but mighty insects.

March Photos_0002

Here are some photos of wild turkeys in my yard. I’m pretty sure these were taken Tuesday, as you can see, the snow was beginning to melt away from the unexpected storm on Monday of this week.

March Photos_0003

The tom turkeys were getting very showy as they were doing their thing. The red and blue coloring on their faces was really intense that day – not sure if related to being angry or mating.  It is like a nature channel around here.  A week before, they were having battles in the yard – and I posted a video of that on Facebook.

March Photos_0004

A shot of their butts as they strut their stuff.  See the turkey on the right corner of this photo - she noticed me – they have great vision – and I guess never need eyeglasses – unlike me!  I took some of these turkey photos through my house windows because they also hear very well and bolt when I open the door.

March Photos_0005

Ah yes, aren’t you beautiful?!  He is workin’ it!!

March Photos_0006

I wish you could hear the birds in my yard – it is a symphony right now as they bop around and move into the various birdhouses. I got this shot of a bird on my galvanized buckets.  The Angelica Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelica’) is a bronzey color right now as it awakens from winter.  This perennial is tough and enjoys full sun, coming back year after year. It doesn’t need lots of water and grows close to the ground – making it a useful ground cover.  And it grows relatively fast but doesn’t take over.  It makes a great container plant too.  It will plump up soon and eventually turn a bright yellow color as the season warms up.

March Photos_0007

The galvanized buckets are located below this new birdhouse we put in last year.  I blogged about our process of using a rigid electrical conduit as the pole.  You can see the steps here.

The two birds setting up their home in this birdhouse above are adorable.  I love how they perch on the birdhouse and fly in and out – they are very happy right now.

However, this next bird is driving me nuts.  We had gutter covers installed, and they move into the ends of the gutters – ugh. They are noisy too.  They have done this on the garage and the house.  In fact, I can hear a rattling noise as they go in and out of the gutter by my home office windows.  We have to do something this weekend to prevent them from using our gutters as a home.  I don’t know what these birds are called, do you?

March Photos_0008

We put a blackberry plant below another birdhouse in the backyard, and the birds love to use the plant’s vine as a perch.  This birdhouse is getting a little old but still very useful for our feathered friends.

March Photos_0009

When walking past my gold Arborvitae shrub (Thuja plicata ’4Ever’), I spotted another praying mantis egg case!  That lady at the top of this post was doing a lot of egg laying last season.  I guess I will have lots of praying mantises in the yard this year – see my blog post about where baby praying mantis come from.

March Photos_0010

After goofing around, taking general photos for fun, I went to do a container install for a client at the entrance of his store. It was so sunny out, thus the perfect time to work outside.  One customer entering the store called me, “The Martha Stewart of the Package Store,” because this store is a package (a.k.a., liquor) store.  Her statement made me laugh – I liked it – yup, dressing up a liquor store – is fun!!  And the patrons of this store seem to enjoy the changing up of the theme every season – they always comment as they walk by.  It makes me happy. This is what I ended up creating for the Easter season theme this year.

March Photos_0011

A friend I know from a gardening event we planned about three years ago came up to chat with me, and she asked, “How do you assemble these?”  Well, I got creative, making a large round disk out of recycled wood and drilled a hole in the center for a post.  Some of the items are attached to the post, and some on the disk below.  When I came up with the idea, I kind of felt like a cake decorator – trying to figure out how to put it together and transport most of it.  More decor is added while on site to finish up the installation.  Because the outdoor location can get windy, all items on the arrangement must be secured. I’m looking forward to installing plants in these barrels next time, after the Easter holiday.  Plants are my favorite to do in these big barrels.

March Photos_0012

March Photos_0013

Most of the non-living decor is felt or made of other materials able to withstand the effects of outdoor winds, dirt, and bright sun.  Sometimes I have used tinsel, but it fades after a few week from the sun.  To see more of the ideas I’ve come up with, see my collages here.  By the way, I’m for hire to do container installs for businesses or homes – so just call me if interested.  It is a great way to welcome your visitors and customers.

March Photos_0014

When I got home, after finishing the containers at the store and going to the grocery store, I took a black and white photo of my plus-size cat, Kiwi.  She’s actually been on a diet but it doesn’t seem to show yet. Anyhow, she likes to look through the deck railings at the birds moving around here.  I took a few minutes to get my Vitamin D on the deck before making dinner. In fact, I peeled carrots while sitting on a deck chair – my first deck activity for spring.  Nothing like letting carrot peels fly outdoors.  An easy cleanup by the raccoons tonight, I thought.

March Photos_0016

This birdhouse has an interesting story – Steve, my hubby, spotted it at Comstock Ferre & Co in Old Wethersfield, CT, and bought it on the spot.  When we got home, we read the paper provided with the birdhouse about its maker and the materials he used to make it.  Well, low and behold, the slate on the top was salvaged from Broad Brook – the town where we live.  A few months later, I met the birdhouse maker at an art show.  I showed him my pictures of it with blackeyed susan vine flowers twining up, all the way to the top, from last summer.  I can’t wait to put a climbing plant on it again this year.

March Photos_0017

Morning hours seems to be a great time to try to capture photos, as I did here this morning.  I’m not a pro photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I just goof around and click for fun.  Maybe someday I’ll take a class so I can figure out how to do it right, but I still think these photos of the birds are just adorable.  I love having all the wildlife in our yard.

March Photos_0018

My hands tend to move a bit when I try to zoom and some pics come out blurry – ugh.  But can you see this little guy looking out of the birdhouse?  Too cute!

March Photos_0019

I cropped it here to get a closer view.

Happy Friday Everyone!  Let’s hope for more sunny days to come.

Written by Cathy Testa

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

 

 

Landscape Design Infographic – A Visual to help Guide You

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Hello Everyone,

Today’s post is to show an Infographic I found on the web while looking at other Infographics.  I love these visual depictions used to present data or information.  They are helpful, easy to read, useful and quick.  So, I had to share this one in particular recently spotted on Landscaping.  You will see they show “focal points” (#3) — and you know me – Container Gardens serve this purpose very well in gardens, outdoor spaces, and more.  On my Pinterest Boards, you will see more helpful finds of various Infographics.  In fact, last night there was a spike in the views of my Pinterest site, and it appears people were viewing lots of the Infographics I had pinned.  To see one on why pot smokers are skinny, go check it out – hey, I love the look of pot plants (they are pretty cool looking) – and when they are legal – you know I will have one in a container garden some day!  After all, it is kind of unfair we can’t enjoy the beauty of the plant for its visual features only. Also, there is a Pinterest board called, “Containers in the Garden,” on my Pinterest site, showing many examples of where I’ve spotted good photos of containers in gardens.  Enjoy!  Cathy T

Your Field of Dreams

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

Upcoming Cathy T Class – Lots of Succulents to Play With!

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Click the link below, (when it opens, close the ad to bypass it), and you will see a quick slide deck of an upcoming class by Cathy T on May 24th, 2014, Saturday.  Don’t miss out – there will be lots and lots of different succulents to choose from as you learn and design your fun, unique, interesting, and creative container garden.

http://www.haikudeck.com/cathy-t-events-presentation-DH801Lgowx

To get some inspiration and ideas of the type of container gardens we are talking about, check out Cathy T’s “Succulent Sensations” PinBoard.  The ideas are “endless” – got a cute rustic toy truck, a hot shoe, a broken bird bath, a sink or tub? Many of these items can be made into a container garden stuffed with a variety of succulents in this class!

To learn more (because there IS more, from tropical plants for sale at the class too and a mini-slide presentation) and sign up, go to Cathy T’s Classes pages on the top menu bar of this blog, or click here:

http://cathytesta.wordpress.com/schedule/may-class/

Current attendee count:

We currently have 11 attendees, so don’t delay to express you interest to join us.  A complete detailed document will be emailed to signed-up attendees by the end of this week on the cost, types of succulents on the list, and what to expect – so if you want to express an interest to be part of the gang to hold your seat, email or fill the contact form below today.

containercathy@gmail.com

Please share this class with local friends interested.  Thank you – Cathy T

 

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ – It will ‘Rock On’ in Your Container Garden Over and Over Again

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Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ was a plant included in a mixed container garden one summer as I prepared many for sale at a farmers market.  I liked the plant’s sword like foliage, and admired the photos of its exotic vivid red blooms, but this perennial was somewhat new to me.

IMG_8236

Because the container was being offered for sale during Father’s Day weekend, and it contained large and showy plants along with the Crocosmia, the container was given the name of, “The Big Daddy.”  Each plant in the arrangement was described as follows:

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THE BIG DADDY

Only $145 (w/tax included)

 This “Big Daddy” Planter will give the Dad, Father, or Hubby in your life a show fit for a king!

7 Big Daddy Plants with fertilizer, compost, and water reducer amendment already added.

Red Banana Thriller – In the center – Ensete ‘Maurelii’ red banana will go bananas fast, showing off big and wide leaves with tropical red coloration!  It can reach 6 to even 12 feet tall in one season, wow.  You can’t beat this THRILLER.

CrocosmiaA perennial that will flower in the late summer with VIBRANT wands of scarlet, red, orange, yellow pops of color.  When most annuals tend to fade away from the summer heat, this tall, spiky foliage plant also gives another big thrill to this combo, and can be transplanted into your garden in the fall.

Leonotis – Lion’s Ears, don’t see it?  You will by the end of summer. It will display the most amazing whorls of bright orange flowers, to give a last big blast of show in this container.  This plant is is a sub-shrub from Africa.  Very UNIQUE.

Farfugium japonicum – Leopard Plant.  The glossy leaves dotted with yellow and gold are soon to expand to 6 inches across.  This plant adds a FASCINATING filler to your thrillers.  Large, daisy like flowers bloom in early summer.

Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ – Blooming now thru the end of September, this black eye Susan with a green eye is the NON-STOP show in your Big Daddy Container.  Snip off a couple for the vases inside and out too.

Gerber Daisy – A spot of more yellow to complement the design of bright intense colors, and will shoot up new SHOWY flowers continuously.  Look how the center echo other colors.

Cathy T

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It turned out that no one bought the amazing “Big Daddy” container garden filled with large perennials, annuals, and tropical plants, even though many visitors came by to see it. There were some tentative buyers, but none the less, it remained unsold by the end of the market’s day.

Crocosmia_0008

EXOTIC VIVID RED FUNNEL SHAPED FLOWERS

During Crocosmia’s bloom period in the summer, the individual funnel shaped flower buds are held on each side of an arching flowering stem, held up like jewels above the spiky foliage.  The buds open up sequentially, and in my opinion, the closed buds are just as pretty as the open ones.

The show it put on for two seasons, with the expectation it will repeat its rock-star like performance again this summer, has stayed etched in my mind.  Not only will the plant look good from the beginning of spring when the foliage arrives, but it will start to display a fireworks show of red brilliant buds and blooms starting in late June or early July.  And the show continues into early September.

Crocosmia_0002

ATTRACTS HUMMINGBIRDS AND OTHER POLLINATORS

A friend referred to Crocosmia as a hummingbird plant, because she feels the buds resemble hummingbirds, plus the opened blooms attract them regularly. I totally agree on both points. Hummingbirds visited it often during its blooming period, and bees dove into the funnel shaped flowers regularly on their nectar seeking journeys.

The bright red flower color of this exotic looking perennial does not go dull either, as with some plants’ blooms. Against its dark-green sword like tall and erect foliage, which is also a bold texture in the mixed planting of the container, the red flower coloring is intensified.

See Below for Photo Attribution

See Below for Photo Attribution

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

ECHOING THE COLORS

Another aspect I really enjoy is how the colors within the Crocosmia were echoed here and there by the adjoining red banana plant’s foliage, and even a bit of yellow in the buds or center of blooms, was echoed by the bright yellow daisy blooms of the Rubeckia perennial also in the container garden arrangement.

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

The red banana plant (Ensete), the key thriller in the center, reached about seven to nine feet tall by the end of summer.  And the Rudbeckia was about three to four feet, with the Crocosmia blooms hovering over its foliage at the same approximate height as the Rudbeckia.  They were in sync and created a nice balance.

The yellow blooms colors of the perennial Rudbeckia complemented the whole arrangement as well.  It was another warm and bright contrasting color in the container garden. These warm colors can be seen from afar, or up close if you are like me examining plants as they bloom open, which is something you will want to do because the Crocosmia blooms are alluring, attracting pollinators and admirers.

STORING OVER THE WINTER AS A CONTAINER GARDEN

After a full summer season of enjoying all of the plants in the Big Daddy, the container garden was moved into the garage for protection. I removed the growing structures of the tropical plants, such as the root base of the red banana plant, but the Crocosmia perennial remained in the pot with the soil as it was put to rest in a shelter for the winter.

The following spring when things began to warm, the growth of Crocosmia started to pop out of the container garden’s soil. The Big Daddy was rolled outside with my trusty hand-trucked to a new location by a bench in a small garden space by my driveway.

The blooms were even more showy this past year as this perennial grew into a larger clump. Eventually it will need to be dug out to be divided (see video below for a demonstration of the process) or the cormels (small corms growing near the side of a large corm) can be removed to be stored over the winter, similar to the process for Canna rhizomes and Colocasia (elephant ear) bulbs.

Crocosmia_0001

 

Crocosmia_0005

IN THE GARDEN

Crocosmia is known to not always return in the garden if not well-protected with a thick layer of mulch or leaves during the winter (and if there was no snow cover to offer insulation), but in a container garden that risk of non-repeat performances is minimized, if not eliminated.  It is not a picky perennial but it can be short-lived.

IN A CONTAINER

All you have to do is move the container with the plant into a garage, shed, or even your basement for the winter and then roll it back out in early spring – and Crocosmia is sure to return – as it did for me last summer.  It will ‘rock on’ for a long time in a container garden or patio pot for many years to come.

Crocosmia_0004

DIVIDING THE CLUMP AND/OR CORMELS

And one more note, the plant grows in a clump and from corms.  The clump may need to be divided after 3 or 4 years if it outgrows your container or pot.  Or you can divide the actual cormels as they reproduce below the soil overtime, providing more plants for you.  For a video on how-to do this, see below.

Written by Cathy Testa

Other Information:

  • Native to South Africa
  • Prefers moist, rich soil, full sun or light shade
  • Tolerates sand and heavy clay
  • Makes a long-lasting cut flower
  • Divide clumps every couple years (2-3 years) as needed or separate cormels
  • Foliage lastS from spring until fall
  • Flowers last mid-summer to early September
  • 2 to 4 ft. Height; 1 to 2 ft. Width for ‘Lucifer’ cultivar
  • Not bothered by serious pests
  • Zones 5-7 (Zones 1-4 store like Canna)
  • Other cultivar colors: Fiery yellow‚ orange‚ red and tan
  • Pronounce something like this: Crow-Cause-Mia (Crocosmia)

Useful Links:

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=b461 (Missouri Botanical Garden, Rubeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’)

How to Videos:

For an informational video about varieties, how to plant them in the garden, autumn care, plant partners to use with it, and how to propagate Crocosmia, see this video by Trecanna.

To see how to separate the small cormels, and for tips on how to plant in a garden bed, see Yolanda Vanveen of HowToGardenVideos.com:

 

Photo Attributions:

Photo of Hummingbird flying away from Crocosmia:

Brocken Inaglory [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

UPCOMING CLASS:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers of upcoming classes as a blog follower!

Happy Saturday Everyone…

Photo by C. Testa (Rudbeckia blooms)

Photo by C. Testa (Rudbeckia blooms)

Black-Eyed Susan ‘Prairie Sun’
Rudbeckia hirta (perennial)
Sun to partial sun
Midsummer to early fall blooms
Well-drained soil moisture
8-36″ in height
Zone 4-9
Daisy-like flowers bloom yellow.
2003 All-American Selections Winner
Attract butterflies
Excellent cutting flower

Amaryllis Blooms are a Great Distraction

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During the Dreary Days of Winter

If you read my blog, you saw I potted up two Amaryllis bulbs in early February.  As the days moved along, I took several photos of the blooms, especially the white one, called Athene, because it grew far better than the red one.  The red one was not at fault however.  I put the red one by a north window which I knew wasn’t really warm enough and wouldn’t provide the sun it needed to really take off.  It did grow and bloomed, but was not nearly as nice as the white one.

Red Amaryllis, Red Lion, in Box

Red Amaryllis, Red Lion, in Box

When I bought the two bulbs on sale, they were already sprouting in the box, so they bloomed in about 3 weeks (rather than the typical 6 weeks) after planting.  To see how I planted the red one in a glass vase with stones and water, see this post.

Red Lion in Glass Face by North Window

Red Lion in Glass Vase by North Window

When the red blooming (Red Lion) Amaryllis was reaching the end of its blooming period, I decided to pull apart one of its trumpet shaped flowers, and remove the pistil (shown in photo below – right side) and stamens (6 shown sitting to the side of the pistil) because it was just a curiosity thing.  Each was attached at the base of a petal and it was a good photo opportunity.  The pistil is the female part of the flower and the stamens are the male parts (a bisexual flower structure).  The pistil is made up of a stigma (tip), style, and ovary (the ovary you can’t see in the one I removed because it hasn’t formed yet but it is usually found at the base of the female parts in the flower). Each stamen is made up of an anther (located at the tip) and filament, which is the stem like portion holding the anther at its tip.

End of Bloom

End of Bloom

The white blooming Amaryllis Athene is shown in next photo below next to a vase of cut flowers (Alstroemeria).  The flowers of Amaryllis are borne in groups at the tips of each tall stem. As the big bud opened, individual flower buds expanded outward. There were four (or six) at the tip of each hollow stem.  When completely opened, the group of flowers formed a beautiful big white ball of funnel like flowers which were large and showy. (BTW, I included photos of the cut flowers because they were pretty and a good way to cheer up the dreary days of late winter as well. I recommend you buy a bunch for yourself and put in a vase, it makes things warm up a bit inside!)

White Blooming Amaryllis in Terracotta Pot

White Blooming Amaryllis in Terracotta Pot

As you can see in the photo above, the white Amaryllis Athene was potted up in a small terracotta pot.  As directions stated, about 2/3ths of the potting mix is below the bulb and the top 1/3 of the bulb remains exposed (uncovered by the potting mix) so it sits above the soil line a bit.  It is best to place them in a warm sunny location and this one found its home by my south window. Watering lightly is key, you don’t want the soil to be soggy or wet, and it should drain well.  The soil should be moist but not so much so that the bulb is in a wet and soggy situation where it can rot.  And the pot should be fairly small as the roots like some restriction. A good gauge is if you can fit your thumb or two fingers between the edge of the bulb and edge of your pot, you have enough space and it is comfy. Additionally, if you skip a day or two of watering, this plant usually can take it well. It doesn’t need constant attention and is usually very easy to grow and take care of once you know how to do so.

Back side of Flowers

Back side of Flowers

In the early mornings, as the sun cast through my southern facing slider window, I would take some more photos.  I love the way the backside of the flower petals sparkled when you looked up close.  It certainly was a nice distraction from the colder temperatures outdoors. It beat looking at the snow.

Rising and Opening

Rising and Opening

There were two stems, which are hollow, topped with several buds at the top.  As they began to pop open, I decided to add some decorative glass stones and sparkly sticks to the pot.  Just one of those things, playing around with it – since it was becoming so pretty.  I thought about how pretty these would be in groups or as a centerpiece for a special occasion in the winter. You can see the leaves starting to come out of the base. After the flowers go by, the leaves will grow quickly, and should remain on the plant to store energy in the bulb during the summer months.

Stigma in Center

Pistil made up of Stigma and Style in the Center Photo above

In the center photo above, you can see the pistil (female part). When looking closely in the next photo, you can see pollen sticking to it from the anthers. The anthers are on the right and are the pollen bearing flower parts of the stamen, positioned at the top of individual filaments.  In this case, you can see six filaments extending out. Filaments are the stalks that bears the anthers in a stamen (male part).  Why you need six stamens for one pistil? Well, you know how males can be! LOL. The pollen will make its way down the pollen tube (part of the stigma structure) to the internal ovary in the base of the flower structure. It always amazes me how a tiny pollen grain can move down a pollen tube to continue the cycle of life in flowering plants.

Internal Parts

Internal Parts

To me, the internal parts of a flower are just as beautiful as the flower buds and petals. With Amaryllis blooms, you can see them clearly should you want to examine them or use them as a teaching opportunity for kids.  And if you want to learn how to pollinate your own Amaryllis by hand which is done to create hybrids (crossing with another variety) or to ensure pollination for seeds, see directions here by Amaryllisbulbs.org. There are some close up photos of how you can apply the pollen from the anthers to the stigma at the “right” romantic time.  See also the video at the bottom of this post for more on how to pollinate Amaryllis.

Blooms Opening

Blooms Opening

Soon enough, I was taking photos from every direction as all the flowers at the end of the two stalks started to completely open all around.  With two stalks, topped with 4-6 buds, it was turning into a globe of white beauty. There was 8 fully open flowers at the end of its show. At one point, I swear there were more flowers, like 12 but not sure now, and should have actually counted. Let’s just say it was magnificent.  The plant was about 20 inches tall and became a spectacular show in white.  I rotated the pot occasionally so the stems would not lean in one direction towards the sun.  It ended up being a very straight and tall specimen to enjoy through mid-February to mid-March.  It was a great distraction during the dreary days of late winter.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous Topped Blooms of a White Amaryllis

I started to post photos of it on Facebook and Pinterest to share.  It was really taking the edge off of winter for me during the month of March.  By the third week of March, the blooms began to fade, so I knew it would be time to say goodbye to quite a show.

One more shot

One more shot

Here’s one more shot from the top.  I wish I could have taken some professional photos of it because it was so pretty! The spot where this Amaryllis plant sat is near my sitting area for coffee in the mornings, which I love because the eastern sun rises and it starts to shine through the southern facing slider door window. I actually removed my kitchen table from this small area in my home to make it a cozy nook to enjoy when sipping coffee, reading, or just watching the birds on our feeders outside. We have a small kitchen island we use as our dining place now, and I can’t tell you how much more utilize the former dining space now that it is a sitting area. In summer, we tend to eat outside on our deck.

Sunlight

Sunlight

After all the flowers faded, I cut them off leaving the leaves and part of the hollow stems to continue growing. (FYI, if you want to try pollination, don’t cut them off and watch for the right time to move pollen from the anthers to the stigma; see the video below for more).  See also the website noted above for information on pollination or video below.)

Green centers of white petals

Green centers of white petals

In Summer:

I will move both plants outdoors in summer and let the long strap like leaves remaining on the plant enjoy the warm sun to increase in strength as they produce food by photosynthesis and store it in the bulb.   If the leaves are so long they flop over, you can use a stick or bamboo pole in the center and put a piece of twine around to hold them up while outdoors during the summer months (or late spring after any danger of frost). At the end of summer, they will be returned indoors and be allowed to dry completely (no watering) and stored in a cool dry place (basement) to stay in a dormant state and rest until I feel the need to return them to warm temperatures again – probably next February when I will be needing some indoor inspiration again.  Note:  The plant doesn’t need to be re-potted for a long time because it enjoys restricted root system.

Cathy Testa

Useful Links:

http://www.clemson.edu/psapublishing/pages/HORT/HORTLF63.PDF (Clemons Extension Horticulture)

http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/faqs/AmaryllisBloom.html (The United States National Arboretum)

http://www.saga.co.uk/lifestyle/gardening/masterclass/growing-and-caring-for-hippeastrum.aspx (Saga)

Video of How to Pollinate Amaryllis by Mr. Brown Thumb:

Sun casting thru

Sun casting thru

Other Info:

Amaryllis are bulbs of the genus Hippeastrum that are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas.  In Connecticut, they are popular around the Christmas holidays or during late-winter to force indoors as a houseplant.  They are easy to grow and can remain in the same pot for years as they cycle through their growth and bloom periods. And they are guaranteed to add some cheer during the holidays or dreary days of late winter. You usually can find them on sale in February, after the holiday season has passed.  Enjoy!