Petasites japonicus (butterbur) – Awakens in a Pot every Spring

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Did you know that some plants are big time troublemakers in the garden (invasive, prolific spreaders, aggressive) but they are amazing STARS in patio pots and container gardens?

My blog page titled “Troublemakers Turned Stars” talks about which troublemaker garden plants you may use in container gardens. And, it starts with this plant:

Petasites japonicus (butterbur)

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Its key feature: HUGE ruffled green leaves reaching 32″ wide.  It prefers shade and may be used in water gardening because it likes moisture – lots of it. In fact, in a container garden, you need to provide it with a nice long watering to soak the soil well daily in the heat of hot summers.

Why it’s a star in container gardens and patio pots:  Because of its huge leaves.  I like lush foliage, so this one is a keeper. And because you can overwinter it very easily in a big container garden or patio pot just by moving it into a sheltered location after the season is over towards the end of Autumn.

My storage location for this plant growing in large patio pots is my little shed or unheated garage. I’ve been moving pots with Petasites in it for 3+ years now at the end of the season to store them over the winter.  It is best to cut back all the foliage after it gets hit by a light frost in Autumn.

In the Spring, roll it back out, position it somewhere to show the big leaves off which follow its flowering cycle. This plant is interesting. It shoots out flower buds first and leaves start coming out in various places in the pot after.

Here is a photo below taken this month of the flower pods rising. Once you have this pot outdoors, be sure to cut off the flower heads before they start to set seed because you do not want it to be carried by wind to your landscape to take hold because in the ground, this baby spreads like wildfire and is hard to control. You don’t want it in places where it will take over the landscape unless you know how to control it very carefully. And one way to control a plant like this is to use it in container gardens and patio pots.

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Why it’s a troublemaker:  This plant has rhizomes at the base, and they grow rapidly via a spreading habit.  In the garden, they would easily take over an area and invade. They can be a problem to remove.  In fact, in a container garden, sometimes the roots will creep up to the top of the pot or out of the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes.  They are ambitious. One way to provide extra reinforcement is to sit the pot on top of another as shown here.

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Caution:  If you decide to use this plant in a container garden, be aware when it flowers, the seeds can self-sow in the garden. Sometimes, I’ve kept mine raised above the ground on an elevated deck, so this has not been an issue. Or again, as shown above, situate it on top of another pot filled with soil so if the roots escape, they will go into the soil in the pot below it.

At the end of the season, rolling these back into a sheltered location such as a garage, shed, or other space is plenty of protection to keep it alive in a dormant state until the climate and conditions are favorable for reappearance each spring.

This is why I love using perennials which return every year in pots – they save you money – and become treasured specimens.  In many cases, troublemaker perennial plants are great candidates for container gardening.

To see more about Petasites japonicus, click HERE.  It is a blog posting I wrote a couple years back with more photos of the plant’s flowers, root structure, and habit.

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

The leaves on this plant grow to dish plate size which make them very showy. When you put them away at the end of the season, it is helpful to moisten the soil so there is a bit of moisture, and visit it maybe once during the winter to put some snow on top to melt into the soil – this is what has worked for me.

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Here’s a variegated Petasites I scored last year from The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, CT. I’m glad to see the variegation on the leaves returning right now in my blue pot. After a few years, this pot may require a refresh of new potting soil – and a division of the plants.

Perennials like this are wonderful candidates in container gardens, and reasons why perennials will be discussed at this year’s Container Garden Workshops on May 16th and May 23rd, 2015. To learn more about the workshops in Broad Brook, CT, see HERE.

Detailed information about the plant and characteristics can be located HERE at the Missouri Botanical Garden website.

Stay tune for more about “Troublemakers Turned Star” plants for container gardens and patio pots.

Cathy Testa

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ContainerCrazyCT Visits the Boston Flower and Garden Show 2015

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Here are some highlights of the Boston Flower and Garden Show this year. I thoroughly enjoyed attending with a good friend, Rhonda. She invited me along and I am thankful we attended. The show was a little less packed this year in regards to displays and vendors – and it was not a surprise to learn why – apparently the huge amounts of snow fall in Boston this winter prevented some landscapers to load up supplies, like large boulders to frame displays, because all was buried under mounds of snow. We can’t blame them – it has been a rough winter especially for Boston folks.

Attending a flower show in a city like Boston is much fun, especially if you are able to spend an overnight by the Boston Waterfront, which we did. The hotel I like is the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel located at 606 Congress Street. It is only about a block? away from the flower show’s location at the Seaport World Trade Center. We found our stay there very enjoyable. Staff and valet guys were friendly and helpful, the restaurant in the hotel served a wonderful breakfast, and you are literally minutes from over 18+ restaurants.

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel - Seconds from the Show!

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel – Seconds from the Show!

RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS

My favorites so far from my visits to this show this year and the past are:

Rosa Meixcano, 155 Seaport Blvd – directly across the street (a bit to the right) when you exit the Seaport World Trade Center – amazing! Yumm. (rosamexicano.com)

Legal – Harborside, 270 Northern Avenue – take a right out of the hotel, take your first right, and cross the street – amazing seafood – truly! And if you want to go for dinner, make reservations ahead.

And we also tried Salvatore’s at 225 Northern Avenue for a night cap and appetizer. We sat at the bar, had a nice meal, and lots of activity was going on there on a Friday evening. It is truly convenient as well from the hotel noted above.

THINGS TO DO AT THE SHOW

Every year is different, but my kudos go to Cass Flowers & School of Floral Design. They offered mini-workshops all day at the show, and when my friend, Rhonda, suggested we sign up for the session on making fascinators, I didn’t hesitate to reply, “Yes!”

Cathy T and Rhonda Striking a Pose

Cathy T and Rhonda Striking a Pose at the Boston Flower & Garden Show 2015

I didn’t know of the term “Fascinators” until that moment – what fun it was making these and even more fun wearing them all weekend. Every where we went at the show and when dining out in the area restaurants, we wore them – and all we got in return was big smiles from people who saw us. I picked up the special florist glue used to make these at their booth because I definitely want to give these a try again, and perhaps offer a workshop on making fascinators as part of my “Nature with Art Class Programs” – Thank you Cass for hosting this event at the show.

Scene from Rosa Mexicano at 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA

Scene from Rosa Mexicano at 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA

The reason we decided to hit up Rosa Mexicano’s for our last meal before returning home was due to a vendor, selling lamps with leaf imprints on them at the show, recommending this place to us, and it was the perfect cap to a great weekend with a great friend.

SOME FAVORITE FINDS

Hudson Valley Seed Library – Love their artist created seed packaging! (www.seedlibrary.org)

Of Earth and Ocean – Handcrafted jewelry from Wellfleet studio on Cape Cod

Best Bees – Beekeeping Services – Rhonda attended their talk on bee keeping – she is going to do it!!

Nature’s Creations – Jewelry for the seasons, made from real leaves and cast (www.leafpin.com)

Rachel Paxton – Really pretty bird art and more (www.rachelpaxton.com)

Pink Cloud – I got a iPhone holder and thermometer – cat, dog, colorful themes – birds – check them out (www.pinkcloud.com)

Wooden Expression – Gorgeous Copper Roof Birdhouses out of North Attleboro, MA (www.woodenexpressions.com)

Green Mountain Glass – Crystal hangers for windows (I got 3!)

By Green Mountain Glass

By Green Mountain Glass

Sunny Window – Soaps and Lavender products (www.sunnywindow.com)

And of course…

Cass School of Floral Design, 531 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, MA 02472 (www.cassflowers.com)

The Boston Flower & Garden Show is held annually. This year’s theme was “Season of Enchantment” and it is held at the Seaport World Trade Center in early or mid March. For more information, visit http://www.BostonFlowerShow.com.

Cathy Testa

 

 

 

Elizabeth Park Offers A Spring Greenhouse Show

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Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!

Spring arrives today in about 9 hours from the time I’m typing this post – However, the clouds in East Windsor right now sure don’t match our date on the calendar. We may get another frosting of snow today – let’s hope it is the last for the season.

It is chilly and gloomy, so I thought I’d share just a few snapshots from my visit to the Elizabeth Park Conservancy (located at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Asylum Avenue on the Hartford-West Hartford Line) to cheer you up as you deal with today’s weather.

I attended the show yesterday. Fortunately, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the warmth of the greenhouse was a refreshing change from the cold temps still lingering outdoors.

(Address for GPS: 1561 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT).

Burst of Spring Colors

Burst of Spring Colors

The first thing I noticed was the smell of Hyacinth, which looks similar to the purple Muscari shown in the photo above but is much bigger – and everyone knows of them – Hyacinth bulbous flowering plants are very popular during Easter. They have an intense strong scent so it is no wonder the blooms of many filled my nose the minute I opened the door to the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.

Row of Happiness

Row of Happiness

I arrived at 9:45 am figuring it would be best for parking. Taking 91S to 84W, and the exit for Asylum Street, turn right, go straight for about 1.5 miles, and the park entrance is on your left.

First thing I saw was a big fallen tree on the ground which fell over from the force of the 40-60 mph winds the day before. It was near the entrance area. A tree working crew was just showing up to clean that up.

Proceeding down the lane to the greenhouses, I planned to park adjacent to a nice cafe, called the Pond House, they have at the site – but the parking spaces were already full. This really surprised me, so I exited and took a right, circled back, and re-entered the park again. By this time, the tree crew moved to another part of the road and they were all looking up at a limb hanging above. Because the road is one-way, I parked on the roadside near the rose garden beds and took a brisk walk to the greenhouses. I really didn’t mind the walk because it was blue skies and very sunny. Others were walking the park for exercise too.

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

I absolutely adore yellow roses and tulips – and I enjoy taking close up shots of flowers. So, with my handy iPad, I started to lean in to take shots. The greenhouse was quiet – only 4 other people were inside chatting and admiring the plants. I found out later the crowded parking lot was due to seminars and classes being held in the cafe.

Amaryllis Blooms

Amaryllis Blooms

Fascinated by the internal structures of flowers, I leaned closer to a beautiful Amaryllis flower to take photos. Many are blooming in the greenhouse. I love how the sun placed shadows of the stamen and pistil parts of the flower on the petals. To know those tiny pollen molecules move from the anthers of the stamen to the stigma female portion is incredible. So many things happen in plants, if only we could zoom in closer or see the insides operating.

Anyhow! The pink flower petals of the Amaryllis were sparkling in the sun which was truly glorious on a sunny bright winter’s day in their greenhouse. I was fortunate and happy I took the time to visit.

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Visiting the greenhouse early in the morning hours was a good call. The sun was shining through and hitting the blooms everywhere. This tulip has frilly edges to its flower petals – making it all the more elegant in soft yellow.

This Spring Greenhouse Show at Elizabeth Park runs from March 14th to March 27th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. The various spring bulbs will definitely cheer you up if you decide to go.

Middle Row Filled

Middle Row Filled

As I snapped away, one of the workers came inside to tend to plants, so I took the opportunity to ask him how the greenhouse is heated. The structures here are ancient and historic – In fact, Elizabeth Park is on the national register of historic places. There are three greenhouses on the property – only one is part of the showcase at this time. The worker was very kind and told me it is heated by large pipes which run directly under the benches, which of course, I didn’t notice or see because the benches are fully covered with flowers and plants. The temperature in the greenhouse was 60 degrees during the time of my visit, and he told me at night they keep it between 45-50, and the sun is what rose the temp to 60 at that time. I surely was enjoying it!

Splashes of Red and Orange

Splashes of Red and Orange

If you are a photographer, there are plenty of photo-opps here! One of the visitors in the greenhouse was a pro – he had this big tube which he held up at the end of his camera lens, and he didn’t take long to capture his photos. I was sure to not interrupt him – taking pictures of plants is a form of therapy while you go from one to the other in a old beautiful greenhouse when the sun is shining. The only thing you hear are the six fans circulating away at the top of the structure and some mumbles of plant admirers in the greenhouse.

For more information – Visit the Park’s Website

Cathy Testa

Powerful Perennials in Container Gardens – An Intro to May’s Hands-On Workshop

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The Theme – Powerful Perennials

Perennials, which return year after year in your gardens (or more technically stated, are a plant that normally survives for three or more seasons), are excellent candidates in container gardens and patio pots.

However, they are often overlooked for this use and many people do not understand their amazing benefits in container gardens or know which to select to achieve stunning combinations to make your container gardens look amazing in your outdoor surroundings!

This year’s Container Garden Workshops hosted by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT in Broad Brook, CT will focus on perennials which perform beautifully in container gardens and patio pots, and how and why you should use them to your advantage.

Container Garden with Mix of Perennials and Annuals

Container Garden with Mix of Perennials and Annuals Upon Planting!

Burst of “Dynamic” Color Periods

We all love color – and know many annual plants provide constant color in your container gardens, but so do perennials. Many perennials bloom at specific times during the season so they add a dynamic element to your containers. Some are short bloomers for a period of weeks, while other are long lasting for several months – It is a matter of knowing which perform best to maximize their show in your container gardens. Think of perennials as providing a burst of color at the right times to compliment the other mix of plants in your container gardens and patio pots.

Perennial: Agastache 'Blue Fortune' blooms all summer long

Perennial: Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ blooms all summer long

For example, a blue flowering perennial, called Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, which also goes by the common name of anise hyssop, has a very long lasting soft blue flowers in summer. The blooms start in July and continue blooming all the way into September. Not only is that long-lasting, if you find the blooms look tired towards the end of the summer, you only have to snip them off from the tall stems of the plant, and guess what? Within two weeks, you will see new fresh buds forming and opening up on your plant in the container garden.

Perennials Don’t Get Exhausted

Perennials don’t peter out as quickly as annuals because most do not profusely bloom during the entire summer which takes lots of energy, and they have reserves from previous year’s growth, unlike annuals, such as a petunias. Petunias, as an example, usually look tired or worn out by the end of August. I’m not saying annuals don’t rock in container gardens because they do and they are a must have – but people often overlook the values and bonuses of using perennials in container gardens and only consider them for the gardens of the ground.

Are Stars in Containers

Some perennials are aggressive spreaders in gardens, but when used in container gardens, they turn into stars. An example is the perennial, Ajuga reptans, also by the common name of bugleweed. You may know this one too. In the spring time, this low growing, ground cover looking perennial spikes up tons of purple flowers in May; they are noticeable.  However, they also have a habit of spreading in lawns – which is a nuisance.  This perennial actually travels from one spot to the next underground – so folks who desire perfect lawns dislike this plant.

Ajuga in a small pot

Ajuga reptans in a small pot packs a lot of punch – Just Adorable!!

In a container garden, however, the spreading issue of Ajuga is eliminated and controlled.  Because it is a tenacious plant, it will return in a container garden for several years however – the problem aspect is now a solution in container gardens and patio pots; it shines during the growing season with various foliage colors and tidy habit serving as an exception filler in container gardens with other mixed arrangements.

Ajuga reptans

Image: Wikipedia/EnLorax – Ajuga in the ground – shows the blooms, which are so pretty in a container!

Ajuga reptans is just one of the many examples of perennials which can be vigorous or quick spreaders in the ground, but is not a problem in a container. The flush of purple color from its blooms is beautiful in a container especially when combined with other spring colored plants like the soft yellow of daffodils or pinks of tulips. Or it can serve as a very long lasting foliage feature in your container gardens, and this perennial doesn’t get lots of problems.

For this upcoming Container Garden Workshop in May 2015, two cultivars of Ajuga reptans: ‘Burgundy Glow’ and Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ will be available for purchase along with many other wonderful perennial plants. Both of these cultivars I have used in containers and patio pots with wonderful results.

‘Burgundy Glow’ has white, pink and purple variegation on its leaves with 6” spikes of blue flowers in May, and ‘Chocolate Chip’ has intense violet-blue spikes rising 3” above miniature, vibrant, chocolate-hued foliage in May through June. One year, I used ‘Chocolate Chip’ in a little container and it was so pretty, and this one can take shady conditions too.

Ornamental Grasses or Grass-like Perennials

You may not think of ornamental grasses or grass like perennials as container garden plants but two of these which I can name right off the bat are Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and its counter opposite in regards to color is Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' on right

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ on right – Similar to ‘All Gold’ but All Gold  is well – all gold!

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ is one of many hakon grasses I selected for this workshop because it has stunning gold blades of foliage that grows in graceful clumps and the color is intense and vivid. Take that intense vivid color and put it next to the right color bloom of another perennial – and voila – you have eye magic or eye candy.

Then there’s Lirope muscari ‘Big Blue’, the polar opposite in color compared to the hakon grass – it has a dark green long strap-like leaves – and it is not an ornamental grass but a perennial, so it, like ornamental grasses, it returns year after year and is tough too.

Lily turf is Lirope’s common name, and it can be used to cover lots of turf – because it does spread – so this one fits my “Troublemaker Turned Star” scenarios for container gardens. It is a strong grower which is a problem in landscape situations, but it makes a wonderful low height type thriller with 15-18” long leaves with violet flower spikes in late summer in containers and patio pots! I’ve used Lirope in containers and it comes back every single year – it’s tough! This enables me to reuse it and just add new supporting candidates with it in the pot every season.

Container Garden with Perennials: Heuchera, Hellebore, Bellis, Euphorbia.

Container Garden with Perennials: Heuchera, Hellebore, Bellis perennis, Euphorbia in early Spring!

Other Perennial Benefits

There are other wonderful benefits to using perennials in your pots – Again, they return, as mentioned above, for at least three or more years – so this saves you money; they may be transplanted into your gardens or yard after the summer season is over in the fall, so you will enjoy them for years to come; and they give a dynamic bloom period or show at specific times in your container gardens. This gives your container a living interest because suddenly, in the midst of summer, a burst of a new color opens in the blooms of a perennial in the container, or perhaps it is an early spring bloomer or late bloomer in the fall – either way, it adds a new interest for you to enjoy and view. It is the ta-da of container gardening.

Perennial Purposes

Perennials also serve lots of other wonderful purposes. They have fragrant foliage and flowers, many can be used as a cut flower for your vases, and they attract butterflies and bees – and others have medicinal purposes too.

Bee enjoys a Perennial (Turtlehead)

Bee enjoys a perennial (Turtlehead) – A late season bloomer and very showy plant in containers!

There will be varieties for sun and shade available at these two workshops in May 2015. A total of 120 perennial plants have been ordered, 6 each of 23 species. Learning their features and how to use them with other plants in the containers will be part of this workshops offerings.

Red Banana Leaves with Various Elephant Ears

Red Banana Leaves with Various Elephant Ears – The Type of Tropical Plants Available at the May Workshops!

Tropical Additions

Tropical plants with large lush foliage features will be part of the Container Garden Workshops this year as well – because they are a passion and, like perennials, they have great benefits – the ability to reuse them year after year when appropriately stored over the winter, their dramatic and showy role due to their ability to grow fast, and adaptability to warm climates, which is what we have here in CT during the summer months. Many tropical will last all the way into October with no signs of stress, giving you a real show until the first frost of fall arrives.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015 shows the thriller of Colocasias (Elephant Ears) – Available for Purchase at the Workshops!

Every year, elephant ears (Colocasia), banana plants (Ensete and Musa), and some other unique tropical plants are offered as part of this workshop. Pairing up a dark toned elephant ear, such as Colocasia ‘Maui Magic’ with a vivid bloom of a perennial has dramatic effects in containers, and in this workshop you will see how it’s done.

A total of 185 tropical plants have been ordered, 8 each of 21 species, and learning their features and how to use them with other plants in the containers will be part of this workshops offerings.

Pinboards – Perennials with Power for Container Gardens

Start visiting my pinboard titled, Perennials with Power for Container Gardens, to get a glimpse of what the featured perennials and tropical plants will be at the Container Garden Workshops scheduled on May 16th and May 23rd, 2015. I will be adding photos up until the workshop dates. This will give you an idea of what will be featured, and some are shown in container gardens and patio pots too.

Two Workshop Date Options

This year, the workshop is being offered on two dates. There are some considerations beyond your calendar’s availability on which date you may want to select. Both sessions will have the same topics and materials available.  More details of what is included in the class is listed on www.ContainerCrazyCT.com, click MAY CLASS (BIG CONTAINER GARDEN) under the Nature with Art Programs menu.

May 16, Saturday – Session No. 1:

The May 16th date is after our typical spring frost date but we won’t know until we hit April. Experts say we are “almost guaranteed” to not get frost from May 10th through September 26th, but after our winter and global changes – do we trust weather guarantees anymore?

This means if you elect to attend session no. 1 on May 16th, your containers may require protection if we get an overnight frost. Frost is not as harsh to perennials, but will affect tropicals. If you are okay with moving your pot or covering it with a light sheet if forcasters say we will get a frosting, then May 16th is for you.

May 23, Saturday – Session No. 2:

The May 23rd date will be safe – however, it is Memorial Day weekend, and schedules tend to be busy – but with that said, nothing is better than placing your newly arranged container garden out on your deck or patio just in time for the festivities.

Registration one of 3 ways:

  1. Visit the Facebook page for Container Crazy CT and click on EVENTS to join.
  2. Complete the Contact Form found at the bottom of the class pages from the top-menu bars of http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com.
  3. Email containercathy@gmail.com or call (860) 977-9473

Payment:

$15 per person + cost of plants purchased at the class. Payment of class fee of $15 is required by mail one month prior to the class date. Payment is non-refundable for any cancellations one week prior to the class date. Sales tax is applicable on all plant purchases during the class.

Send to: Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, 72 Harrington Road, Broad Brook, CT 06016

For a PDF version of this text: Container Garden Workshops Intro 2015

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa is a container garden designer in Broad Brook, CT. Her work has been featured on the television program, CT Style, and in several gardening publications. She offers classes year round where nature is combined with art and is available for container garden installations.

Succulents ContainerCrazyCT_0010For a Calendar of All Events and Workshops, click HERE.

 

Wasabi Coleus with Vivid Lime Green Coloring is a Top Performer

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When it comes to a wide array of foliage colors, coleus plants are one of the best to use. It is no wonder the National Garden Bureau has declared 2015 the Year of the Coleus. Just look at this image below, downloaded from the bureau’s website (www.ngb.org/downloads). The variegation is speckled, trimmed on the edges, and splashy! And this plant is so easy to grow. Coleus plants are known for being tough and are quite recognizable by plant lovers.

Mix of Coleus - Photo from National Garden Bureau

Mix of Coleus – Photo from National Garden Bureau

Last year, I used Wasabi coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wasabi’) in several container gardens for a wedding client. The bride wanted lime green along with cobalt blue and white colors in her décor for the wedding. Lime green was an easy plant color to obtain. There are many plants with lime green or chartreuse colors, and I immediately had several pop into my head, such as:

  • Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantel) – ruffled foliage, lime green foliage and flowers (filler)
  • Canna ‘Pretoria’ – tropical fast grower, lime green foliage (thriller)
  • Heuchera ‘Citronella’ or ‘Lime Rickey’ (coral bells) – foliage lime green, many Heucheras offer it
  • Iris ensata ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese iris) – sword like foliage with half lime green stripes
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Anne Greenway’ (dead nettle) – spiller with lime green and white foliage
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (golden creeping Jenny) – great spiller with lime green foliage
  • Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (sedum) – great filler or spiller, tough for hot sun containers
  • Tradescantia andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ (spiderwort) – strap like vivid lime green with blue-purple flowers

These are just examples of perennials in that color, but many annuals, ornamental grasses, and a few shrubs also show off lime green or chartreuse colors. The plant list could go on and on, but it was important for me to have strong performers and those which would last towards the end of the summer.

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Two easy plant choices, which I knew from experience would last, were the annual plants, Wasabi coleus and Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine). Both plants have bright yellow to lime green foliage and really stand out in container gardens.

Close up of Wasabi Coleus

Close up of Wasabi Coleus – Heavily Serrated Leaf Edges

Wasabi Coleus

One of the aspects I adore about how Wasabi coleus worked in the container gardens is how its lime green coloring was highlighted or intensified as it sat near the dark toned elephant ear plants in the pots.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants - Photo by Patrick C.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants – Photo by Patrick C.

For the elephant ears, two varieties were used, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and C. esculenta ‘Black Diamond’. The coleus was so vivid and intense next to the darker toned elephant ears making each plant all the more dramatic.

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ has to be one of my all time favorite dark toned elephant ears. It has amazing downward facing heart or ear shaped leaves rising from tall plum to purple-black stems and grows to about three to six feet tall. The reason I find them great tropical performers is because the stems cluster and rise in a nice full batch from the center, and they stay tidy but are very lush and full, serving a the main thriller plant in the container gardens.

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT - Wedding Pots

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT – Wedding Pots

Coleus has strong stems which helps it to stand upright in the container as a filler plant next to the elephant ears. However, those strong stems may break in windy situations or if bumped up against. But, the good news is with a quick snip to any damaged stems, regrowth bounces back nicely.

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi coleus does not tend to send out blooms, so I did not have to deal with cleaning them up. From the time I planted them in the containers until the point it was time to tear them out, there was not a flower in sight which to me was a good thing because I prefer the foliage colors and textures of coleus plants – the flowers are not that intriguing to me.

Wasabi Coleus ContainerCrazyCT_0023-001

In fact, I experienced no problems with Wasabi coleus. No blemishes, no spots, thus no worries. It was an excellent specimen from beginning to end.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015

The lime green to chartreuse color of this annual plant served to meet the client’s desired colors, and provided a nice texture with its heavily serrated edges, plus it grew upright and tall, filling in nicely alongside of the other plants in the container. However, there were a couple other plants incorporated into the pots with similar lime-green coloring.

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Duranta – Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’

Another plant, which is not a perennial but annual in our CT planting zones with lime green appeal, is Duranta serratifolia (Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’).

Duranta Gold Edge  -- Photo by Cathy T

Duranta Gold Edge — Photo by Cathy T

This species is a shrub and its vivid lime green to bright yellow foliage with green centers is extremely electric. The coloring is very bright and the plant is tough. The only concern is handling it because stems have sharp spines, but otherwise, it definitely adds flare to the containers. As noted above, cobalt blue was another color requested, and this plant made the blue to purple flowers in the pots pop.

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Marguerite Sweet Potato Vine

You don’t even need to say or mention why sweet potato vines are excellent for container gardens. They trail, grow relatively fast, and are showy in pots. Pretty much everyone into gardening knows of them – similar to how gardeners are aware of coleus plants. This is why the ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine was used as the spiller, a plant which trails off the sides in the container gardens. It has a nearly perfect lime green color and grows quickly.

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

The sweet potato vine plant eventually grew so long, I had to pick them up in my arms when moving the pots into my trailer for delivery. It felt like I was holding the train of a wedding gown. Ipomoeas are sun to part shade annuals. They are very versatile in any type of container gardens from hanging baskets to window boxes. Sweet potato vines could be considered the staple of spillers because they cascade so nicely and keep growing.

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

The container gardens at the wedding event served more purposes than just dressing up the space, they were great for protecting guests from tripping over the tent cords. And the bright lime to yellow green of the three plants (Wasabi coleus, Marguerite sweet potato vine, and Sky Flower) seemed to glow at dusk as the wedding day progressed which turned out to be beneficial.

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

After the container gardens were returned to my nursery, because they were obtained as rentals by the bride and groom, they continued to show their beauty until the early days of fall. When the season was over, I piled the stalks and cuttings of the plants into a garden cart to compost. Even here, you can see how amazing the bright lime greens showed up in the pile of mixed plants removed from the containers.

Garden Cart at Take Down

Garden Cart at Take Down

By the way, many people view coleus as a shade plant, but it can take part sun or dappled sun. Coleus ‘Wasabi’ was a great filler in these container gardens, but many other varieties tend to cascade downwards, serving as what I’ve titled as a “sprawler”. Sprawlers are similar to spillers, except they reach out a bit like arms coming down or reaching out of a pot. Also, big plants, like the elephant ears used in this combination, provide some shade over the lower growing coleus plants.

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

One sprawler which comes in mind is Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’. It has a red wine color. One year when I used it in a container garden, it gently moved its way outward and downward from the pot. And…well, I could go on and on about coleus plants, so I should stop here.

At the Wedding Event - Pot staged in different places by hammock in a small garden bed - Photo by Patrick C.

At the Wedding Event – Pot staged in different places. Here by hammock in a small garden bed – Photo by Patrick C. (A family member of the groom and bride!)

Saying “The Year of 2015” is the “Year of Coleus” seems a little silly because it has always been a yearly choice for me.

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

For more details about how to grow and care for coleus, visit the National Garden Bureau page.

Cathy Testa

P.S. Only 15 days until spring!

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball

Frozen Niagara Falls – 2015

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Cathy Testa:

Think it is chilly and icy in Connecticut? Think again! Check out these amazing winter scene photos of Niagara Falls in NY by “Garden Walk Garden Talk.” This blogger created her blog to “celebrate the natural beauty and creativity found in Niagara Falls, New York. She loves to photograph, paint and draw; design and create; and pass along tips and ideas that may inspire.” And I’m glad I found and follow this blog. Cathy T

Originally posted on Garden Walk Garden Talk:

Falls2-17-15View from the observation deck.

Who was frozen was me, not the Falls. It was -6° F in the image above. Below, it was a balmy 35°F.

View original 74 more words

CT Flower and Garden Show Photos – In Case You Didn’t Go Last Week

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Hello Fellow Blog Visitors,

In case you didn’t make it to the CT Flower and Garden show last week in Hartford, here are the photos I quickly snapped from my iPhone. The funny thing is I thought I may not take as many photos as usual – but it didn’t take long for me to do so – There were so many wonderful photos to capture of landscape displays, garden art, handcrafted items, and more.

First Landscape Display Seen at the Show

First Landscape Display Seen at the Show

VARIOUS LANDSCAPE DISPLAYS BY LOCAL DESIGNERS

The first landscape display we saw was by “Supreme Landscapes.” I enjoyed the wooden structure, the clever fountain made with an old rusty re-purposed gardening item, and the large boulders edging the beds, which I reached down to touch to see if they were real – and they were. Amazing what they truck in and place at these displays.

'Sango-Kaku' Japanese maple in a display

‘Sango-Kaku’ Japanese maple in a display

Supreme Landscapes began their landscape written description with the words, “…a staircase jumps out inviting you to go up to the rustic hideaway…”

And I couldn’t agree more. The staircase led your eyes up to a little wooden cabin, a place you surely would want to visit if you found it surrounded by flowering plants and gentle sounds of water falling from a nearby fountain. It was a wonderful scene to greet you as you entered the main landscape area at the show.

Landscape Display Aquascapes of CT

Landscape Display Aqua Scapes of CT

Around the bend, we came across “Aqua Scapes of CT” – Talk about a pagoda!

The main features at this display were all about water scenes, waterfalls, ponds, koi fish, and copper water features.

Here we were greeted by Mark Zinni of WFSB Channel 3; he noticed my small suitcase, and asked if I was coming from the airport.

When I explained I brought a suitcase along to pack my garden nick-knacks to be purchased at the show, he interviewed me along with my friend, Linda. It was aired later that evening.

And I loved what my friend, Linda, stated, “We need it, we need it to have a boost-because it is the light at the end of the tunnel…spring is around the corner.

Aquascapes Garden Art - Blue Bottles

Aqua Scapes’ Display – Copper Garden Art among the Tulips and Daffs

Encore Landscaping Display

Encore Landscaping Display

The next display which caught my eye – and was my favorite of the landscape displays – was by “Encore Landscaping.”

As I approached this display, it was the special touches which impressed me most – The window frame with decor, container gardens situated just perfectly to frame areas, a little sitting area with table and chairs, etc.

But as I browsed more of the various features, I could not find the sign to indicate which designer it was. Linda looked it up for me in the garden show book, and it was a pleasure to discover all was designed by a friend, Diane of “Encore Landscaping.” She and I have chatted about design in the past.

Encore Landscaping described their landscape display as a “…sunny and warm day in spring, with the promise of even warmer days soon to come.

Encore Landscaping

Encore Landscaping

Encore Landscaping

Encore Landscaping

Encore Landscaping - Love those mushrooms

Encore Landscaping – Love those mushrooms

And who could not fall in love with the next landscape display by “Creative Contour Landscape Design.”

The greenroof, dining table with running water spilling down the ends, and the water features were spectacular.

Creative Contours

Creative Contour

Creative Contour Landscape Design

Creative Contour Landscape Design

Creative Contour Landscape Design

Creative Contour Landscape Design

If I remember correctly, this was the far right part of their design – but you see so much, as I browse the photos – I have to rethink – but pretty sure it was. Loved the big pots here and there, the sitting area, etc.

When I spoke to the designer, Jennifer Noyes, she quickly asked if I would like to be on her consultation list – and I thought – “Yah-right -would I?! But it is not in my budget this year.”

Who wouldn’t love that scene above tho – I would dine at that table every night during the summer – even if I was eating alone.

Creative Contour described their display as, “...cascading waterfalls into a “Spring” fed reflection pool…

Wood Edges

Wood Edges

Again – it is hard to remember exactly which display this was above, but I like the wood log sections and how they carefully placed them as a border’s edge.

Display at the CT Flower and Garden Show 2015

Display at the CT Flower and Garden Show 2015

I apologize for not noting the name of this display – but wow – they think of everything!

PLANTS FOR SALE BY GREENHOUSE GROWERS ASSOC.

Greenhouse Growers Assoc. Area

Greenhouse Growers Assoc. Area

Hellebore at Greenhouse Growers Assoc.

Hellebore at Greenhouse Growers Assoc.

Mentioned previously in a blog post about the upcoming show, there are plants galore you may purchase at the show. One area showcases several florists and this is where I got a close up photo of an early blooming perennial, Hellebore. This will be the first one to show its blooms and foliage after our abundance of snow melts in the spring – sometimes this perennial pops up while there is some snow left standing on the ground too.

The CT Greenhouse Growers Association is a trade organization representing the interests of this state’s 150-plus greenhouse growers.

MANY MINIATURE GARDEN EXHIBITORS AT THE SHOW

Miniatures

Miniatures

Here comes the Mini’s! There were so many booths showcasing and offering miniature garden decor – I visited at least 3 at the show – it is a popular activity in the gardening world, even some landscape displays had miniature scenes arranged within the garden beds.

FlowerShow 2015 ContainerCrazyCT_0021-001

Natureworks is a very popular garden center in CT, and they had many minis along with other garden art.

Natureworks

Natureworks

Natureworks

Natureworks

Natureworks' booth

Natureworks’ booth

Natureworks' booth - Mini Displays

Natureworks’ booth – Mini Displays

Natureworks Miniature Gardens

Natureworks Miniature Gardens

Natureworks Garden Decor on Witch Hazel branch

Natureworks Garden Decor on Witch Hazel branch

FlowerShow 2015 ContainerCrazyCT_0032 FlowerShow 2015 ContainerCrazyCT_0034-001

I wish I could remember who’s booth the following photos of the mini barn and vivid mini arrangements were from – because they had adorable miniature garden embellishments as well.

More Minis at the Show

More Minis at the Show

More Minis at the Show - Cute Barn Display

More Minis at the Show – Cute Barn Display

Love the vivid colors

Love the vivid colors

Great themes of the Minis

Great themes of the Minis

Every year at the show – I am sure to pick up a few bars of handmade soaps – who can resist the wonderful scents?

Thompson Street Farm of South Glastonbury, CT

Thompson Street Farm of South Glastonbury, CT

Thompson Street Farm - Bars displayed

Thompson Street Farm – Bars displayed

Thompson Street Farm had an great display of their soaps – I loved how Brenda Sullivan, the owner, showed huge uncut bars of the soap – and she told me that one time an online shopper thought her soaps were fudge – No wonder, they are scrumptious to look at as well as smell. She is located at 49 Thompson Street in South Glastonbury, CT, and offers more than handcrafted herbal and floral soaps, she has some leafy greens and veggies/herbs per her business card. Her soaps were a definite purchase and added to my suitcase of goodies as I shopped more at the show.

ORGANIC FERTILIZER PRODUCTS

EarthWorm Technologies

EarthWorm Technologies

Steven Devloo, Founder and CEO of Earthworm Technologies, impressed us with his colorful display and talk about his eco-friendly products utilizing earthworms and vermicomposted food scraps to create fertilizer boosts for potted plants. Visit his website to check out his small capsules of pill like shaped fertilizers which are inserted into the soil for indoor and outdoor plants, and for use in vases to feed freshly cut flowers. He’s onto something here! Earthworm Technologies are based in Stamford, CT.

SEA GREEN ORGANICS – LIQUID SEAWEED FERTILIZER

Another organic product I saw was by Sea Green Organics, but I didn’t get a photo of it – However, I did purchase a bottle of their liquid seaweed fertilizer which I will be trying out this summer. As noted on their bottle, “Our Liquid Seaweed fertilizer is radically different than anything that you have tried before. This product was developed over many years at the University of Connecticut by a team trying to solve some of the big problems our planet faces. Specifically, it reduces drought stress, and nitrogen runoff which has become a major water pollution issue.”

Sea Green Organic’s liquid fertilizer may be used as a root drench, foliar feed or as a soil injection. It is mixed in water for application. I’ll let you know about the results this summer.

FLORAL ART DESIGN COMPETITION

THE FEDERATED GARDEN CLUBS OF CT, Inc. had several design competitions, in themes such as, “Ship Ahoy, Cruising Around the World, Seven Blue Seas, and Tour the World.”

Beautiful Delphiniums with White Flowers

Beautiful Delphiniums with White Flowers

And, I decided to save the best photo for last – beautiful Delphiniums with white flowers in this gorgeous floral arrangement showcased at the design competition. I fell in love with this one and the other photo shown below of the autumn colors in another display – just wonderful to see these colors this year especially during our very snow filled winter.

Floral Competition - Flower Show - Hartford, CT

Floral Competition – Flower Show – Hartford, CT

Floral Design Competition - CT Flower and Garden Show - 2015

Floral Design Competition – CT Flower and Garden Show – 2015

The CT Flower and Garden Show is held every February at the Connecticut Convention Center in downtown Hartford.

This year was the 34th annual – and themed, “The Spirit of Spring.”

BACK TO MY SUITCASE

As for my suitcase which I brought along to load up with goodies – by the end of the day, it was filled with gardening pamphlets, a bottle of Sea Green Organic fertilizer, several decorative wrought-iron hooks for hanging baskets by Garden Iron of Covington, KY, several bars of handcrafted soaps by Thompson Street Farm, zinc-plated plant markers from Ironwood Tools, a birdhouse (yup, it fit), along with a small box of decorative greeting cards with bird photos on them, and sachets of lavender. Things were smelling good in there by the time I arrived home in the spirit for spring and less focused on winter.

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa today 2015

Cathy Testa of ContainerCrazyCT

Cathy Testa, owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT, completed the Master Gardener Program in September of 2010.  She holds an Associates of Applied Science degree in Horticulture with a concentration in Floriculture from the University of Connecticut.  During her studies, she managed a private nursery for a design install business in Bloomfield, CT.  Upon graduation, Cathy was employed at the Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, CT for two years before starting her own business, which she has been operating for eight years.  She served on the Board of the Connecticut Horticulture Society for two years on a volunteer basis, and continued her studies via programs such as the UCONN Perennial Conference. Her current business services include container gardening design and installations for homes and retail business store fronts, small garden design consultations, blog writing which includes freelance writing for local farmers market blogs, and she offers regular hands-on classes on topics pertaining to combining nature with art from her classroom located in Broad Brook, CT.  Her attention to plant details, growth requirements, and steps for success with container gardening, along with a passion for plants and their ornamental beauty, has contributed to her reputation of being “container crazy” in her area of services.  Cathy has also appeared on the CT Style television program, participated on the CT Food & Farm podcast, and regularly speaks at Garden Clubs.

To see a history of Cathy Testa’s horticultural activity the past few years, click on the ABOUT link.

Thank you for visiting Cathy Testa on ContainerCrazyCT

Cathy T’s Container Gardening Services – What I Do for You

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Good morning everyone,

It always surprises me when someone isn’t aware of what I offer as part of my small business called, “Cathy T’s Landscape Designs”, and under the umbrella of, “Container Crazy CT.”

This situation just happened the other day. I was chatting with someone I’ve known for several years, and she asked if I was into banana plants?

This question was a surprise to hear because I’ve blogged about them, sold them, and especially like tropical plants.

Before I could answer, she started to tell me how she was growing some in her home for a garden club event.

As soon as I started to tell her about the big red banana plant I grew in a large planter a couple years back, she paused to listen.

This discussion reminded me of how I once told a garden center owner that many of my friends were not aware their store existed. He kind of listened but I don’t think he believe me – because they are well established.

Funny how that happens.

So, today I’m sharing what I shared at my last garden talk – some quick highlights of what I do. Hopefully you will join me this season for any of the following:

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa

First – A little bit about my style. I tend to like showy foliage plants, and big tropical plants because they are exciting and grow fast in container gardens. I enjoy storing tropical plants over the winter months so they may be reused each season as well, so as part of my classes and talks, I often share how to do so – store tender plants.

Taking Down a P

Taking Down a big Red Banana Plant – All Steps are On my Blog!!

Storing tender plants (or tropical plants) is something I enjoy. On my blog — this blog, you will find prior posts which show how I do this – The photo above, from a prior blog post, shows me holding a 7 foot long leaf of a red banana plant (Ensete) and the trunk after it was chopped down following an October frost two years ago. It was amazing how this plant grew that particular year in a very large cement planter.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (1)

As you can see, in these two photos above – the red banana plant grew to about 12′ – 14′ feet tall! I was so in love with how lush and tropical it looked, I kept taking photos of it. So, my style is kind of like that above; I like to create outdoor oasis like places in my surroundings, where you escape to a feeling of the tropics. And I tend to enjoy using unusual plants, like cool looking edibles in container gardens. I spoke about edibles quite a bit last season at garden clubs and farmers markets.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (3)Container gardening or arranging plants in patio pots is my favorite thing to do and offer as part of my services offerings. I’m a small business located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT.

Barrels in-front of Joe's Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

Barrels in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

Store front seasonal container arrangements, such as various plants in spring, summer, and fall – and then changing them out for winter displays with fresh evergreens, and even fun off-season decor for the holidays is what I offer to local store front type businesses. This dresses up the store front, welcomes customers, and even encourages friendly communications with your visiting clients. For referrals or more information about the container garden installations, feel free to contact me or complete the Contact Form at the bottom of this blog post. Or click on Testimonials above on this blog’s menu bar.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (4)

I also offer container garden installations at homes. And for special outdoor events, such as weddings, graduations, or any type of special celebrations at your home. The container gardens filled with lush plants are available for purchase or rent. To read about my Container Garden Services, click HERE.

Evolvulus (10)

Consider this alternative of enhancing your outdoor space with container gardens filled with beautiful plants the next time you are throwing a special party or event. After all, container gardens are enjoyed for months to follow in season, and are long-lasting compared to other outdoor decor which is there just for the day – and never to be seen again. Containers make wonderful gifts and decor for events. For more information, contact me or fill out the Contact Form at the bottom of this blog. It is important to plan early and in advance for special events.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (5)

Fun gatherings where attendees learn hands-on is another service offering by my business. It started with offering classes in the winter months, and transitioned to workshops on container gardening and other classes related to combining Nature with Art. Last fall, we had a special guest speaker come in to teach us how to make hypertufa pots, and this spring, we will be making eclectic windchimes. The topics vary but they all focus on combining nature with art. The 2015 class schedule is posted above – via the menu bars – on this blog. Click on CALENDAR to see the upcoming events by month.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (7)

First on the 2015 list is an April class on making eclectic windchimes. And every May, a Container Garden Workshop is offered. This year’s theme is, “Powerful Perennials in Container Gardens.” To see the complete class listings, please click on the menu bars of this blog and look over the drop down menus by month. Sign up is via the contact forms on the blog pages.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (6)

The workshops are held in Broad Brook, CT. They are convenient, educational, and a great way to network with other gardening friends. But most of all, they are fun! Last year, we held two sessions on Miniature Gardens with special guest speaker, Rondi Niles of Gardening Inspirations – it was held twice because everyone enjoyed them. This year, the Container Garden Workshops will be held twice as well. I hope you will join us and share the events with your gardening friends.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (8)

In the warm season months, classes are held outdoors. During the winter, inside a classroom. Every December, I offer a class on working with evergreen plants to create amazing holiday decor, such as evergreen kissing balls, wreaths, and candle centerpieces. It fills up fast and is an event everyone enjoys as well – organizing groups is one of my passions – and is a great way to network and meet new gardening friends, or those who enjoy creating and making items for their home’s outdoor surroundings.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (9)

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (10)

And last year, a new activity was added to the Cathy T’s offerings – Walk and Talk Home Gardens tours – Very informal, fun, and the hosts are homeowners willing to share what they have done in their gardens – with the rule that there “are no rules!” It can be informal, messy, or amazing – it is a way to share and learn from each other. Last year, we toured a pond garden in Enfield, an urban veggie garden in Wethersfield, and a sunny hillside garden in East Granby.

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (11)

Edibles Container Gardening 2015 (12)The Walk and Talk Home Garden Tours for 2015 are underway. We have two lined up so far for 2015. Again, see the menu bar with drop down menus of all the activity. If you are interested in sharing your home garden, please reach out – it is a great way to exchange gardening tips, meet new gardening friends, and share what you know, how you have created a garden in your special spaces, and it doesn’t matter if your garden is big or small, perfect or imperfect – we want to hear from you! To contact me about a tour, e-mail containercathy@gmail.com or fill out the Contact Form at the end of this post.

Evolvulus (8)

So there you have it – in a nutshell: Container Garden installs for homes, businesses, and special events. Lots of nature and plant related classes which are all DIY and include taking home your creation – and educational! And Garden Talks at Garden Clubs, appearances at farmers markets (Ellington and East Windsor again in 2015), Garden Tours at People’s Homes, and more.

My business is based on 8+ years of growing from my inspiration and passion of plants and container gardens, experimentation which lead to knowledge and taking courses over the years, and knowing the right way to care for plants in container gardens and patio pots, circling back to more experience. It starts with having a passion and inspiration! Let’s meet to share the passion together.

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

To learn more about Cathy Testa, see her BIO.

Flashback Friday – My Little Perennial Garden with Echinacea purpurea

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This was my very first little perennial garden in my backyard.

Focal Point

Marigolds fill a golden pot in a carefree perennial garden – Photo taken in Year 2009 by C. Testa

My first perennial garden was framed with a tiny white picket fence, the type you push into the ground.

The small garden space was filled with a mix of tall blooming perennials, such as Echinacea purpurea (coneflower), which you see on the right – a perfect perennial plant for a carefree setting.

Their blooms lasted all summer long in the garden’s full sun location, which is why I had selected this spot for a garden – and because it was visible from almost every direction in my backyard.

As you can see, it had a small golden container.
Perched up on a chair, simple, filled with bright and vivid Marigolds.

My dear departed cat, Ruby, hides near Ajuga reptans and a Jack and The Pulpit plant

My dear departed cat, Ruby, hides near Ajuga reptans and a jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In the photo above, my dear departed cat, Ruby, is seen sitting by Ajuga reptans (bugleweed). She visited this area to play. When she passed, we buried her in this garden.

The jack-in-the-pulpit plant (Arisaema triphyllum) was found in my woodlands near this area, and transplanted here. It grew well for many years in this spot.

The jack-in-the pulpit plant was the first plant introduced to us in an herbaceous ornamentals’ class at UCONN by our professor. I remember he was surprised when many of us were familiar with it. Discovering a stand of this plant growing naturally in my woodlands was a thrill.

******

Interesting & Healthy Facts about Echinacea

The center of the plant has hard spines shaped like a sea urchin.

The greek word, echino, means “sea urchin.”

When taken as an extract, Echinacea helps with colds or flu, boosts the immune system, and may increase red blood cell production and oxygen intake.

It is one of the most popular plants in the perennial garden because they are so easy to grow and are drought-tolerant.

Echinacea plants work extremely well as “thrillers” in container gardens and patio pots because they are long lasting, very tall growers, and easy!

*************

ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar
Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Don’t forget – the CT Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT is next week, starting on Thursday, February 19th.

 ********************************

"Valentine's Day, Greeting Card, Illustration" by kraifreedom curtosey of FreeDigitalImages.net

“Valentine’s Day, Greeting Card, Illustration” by kraifreedom courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

TGIF Everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day,

Cathy Testa

The 3 Worst Jobs I had as a Teen, and the Toughest as an Adult

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Cartoon Mushroom Image by MisterGC of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cartoon Mushroom Image by MisterGC of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

WORST JOB #1: The mushroom factory

I worked at the mushroom factory on Newberry Road in East Windsor, Connecticut, when I was a kid.  I think I was like 13 or 14 years old – and the only reason I worked there was because my eager sister, Lisa, wanted to make some money, so I tagged along with her to apply for a summer job there.

I didn’t like the job very much.  We went into dark rooms where large mushroom beds were stacked up like bunk beds from floor to ceiling.  It was pitch black in there because, as most people know, mushrooms grow in the dark.

We were required to wear yellow hardhats with headlamps attached on them, and carried large plastic bins to our designed mushroom beds. The planting beds had rolling ladders attached to them. Climbing to each level, I would reach in to pick the mushrooms, roll to the next spot, and toss mushrooms into the bin.

Not liking the job much wasn’t due to the working conditions. We were picking the mushrooms out of soil amended with manure, but it didn’t smell awful at all.  The soil was healthy composted soil, and only the scent filling the air was the scent of fresh mushrooms. I just found the job to be monotonous.

Unlike my sister, I had no motivation to exceed my daily picking quota. This is all she could think about – pick more, get paid more per load. Each bin fully loaded was weighed by our supervisor. My sister was, and still is, an accounting head. She always picked more than I did.

As for myself, on the other hand, I goofed off a lot at that job.  I remember one day chucking mushrooms at another friend working there, trying to hit her hardhat when she wasn’t looking, and when the supervisors weren’t paying attention.

You would think as a plant person I would dig this job because it was plant related – but to me it was the pits.

Wedding Gown photo by Rosen Georgie of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wedding Gown photo by Rosen Georgie of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

WORST JOB #2:  The box factory

How the heck I ever ended up working in an old brick building located in Warehouse Point, Connecticut, assembling cardboard boxes, mostly for wedding gown storage, is beyond me.  I think it was my older sister again who told me about the job and dragged me along.

There was an assembly room in the back of the warehouse with rickety devices that looked like something your grandpa made from pieces of wood.  You would take the flat boxes, fold the edges, and apply smelly glue, then use the old wooden tools to hold them in place to dry.  I also remember attaching the clear front window panes to the top of the cardboard box for viewing the eventual wedding gown to be placed in there by a happy bride someday.

This job was so lame.  There was no one else in the warehouse building working when we were there.  Just a couple of teens in the back assembling boxes by hand.  The rest of the building was filled with stuff, but now, I can’t remember what it was, machinery or parts, something of that nature.

When I told the supervisor I was leaving for a job in a pizza restaurant, this I remember – she responded with, “I knew you wouldn’t last.”

Pls Take Your Order by Stockimages

Pls Take Your Order by Stockimages

WORST JOB #3: The pizza kitchen

I was moving up in the world.

I applied and got a job working at a local pizza restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut, which is still in operation today. Sofia’s pizzeria on route 5 in town. But, not as a waitress. I worked in the kitchen preparing grinders and pizzas.

One day, when a customer came to pick up an order of two pizzas, I grabbed the two stacked pizza boxes from the top of the ovens.  Moving my hands a little too quickly, the smaller pizza box on the top of the bigger pizza box slid right off and dropped to the floor, flipping over as it traveled down.

Without a second thought, I picked it up, turned it right side up, placed it on top of the other pizza box, and handed it to the customer.

When the customer walked away carrying their pizzas, the lead gal in the kitchen said to me, “What are you nuts?  That pizza has to be sticking to the cover!”

I was clueless.  The customer was too.

Another day, I got frustrated because the head chef from the back kitchen area picked me one too many times mop the floor at the end of the day.  This totally pissed me off because I felt I was asked to do this chore often.  Plus, mopping was the last chore of the day, so everyone leaves and you are there alone to finish up the final cleaning requirements.

After I was done, I loudly stomped to the storage closet, threw my apron, mop, and other stuff down a stairwell, and made the only person still there, the back kitchen supervisor, know by my actions I was displeased with being asked to mop the floor again.

He came out to speak to me, and waved a spatula in my face, as he said, “You are good worker.  Don’t get mad.”

My response was – “Why am I being asked to do the cleanup all the time?!”

Then I huffed out the front door of the restaurant.

When returning to work the next day, he walked up to me and said, “Today, you are going to work in the back kitchen.”

This was a special honor.  The back kitchen was reserved for the cooks making the sauces and pizza dough.  I learned the techniques used and got to participate in making some recipes.

However, when I returned to the front kitchen later that day, I was relentlessly teased by my coworkers. They were chanting, “Cathy and Joey up in the tree, K-I-S-S—I N G.”

I think these were probably my worst three jobs I had as a young teen.  The first two as a tween actually, and the later when I was about the age to get my driver’s license.

Eventually, I got a real job working in corporate America where I stayed for a long time, until I escaped to switch careers in the plant world in my mid 30’s.

Girl by Africa curtosey of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Girl by Africa curtosey of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Toughest as an Adult:

This is when I experienced the toughest, not the worst, but the toughest job I had as an adult.  I got my first job working in a large and popular garden center located in Vernon, Connecticut, after completing my first horticulture courses at UCONN.

Immediately on the job, I was hit up with every single type of plant and gardening related question you could imagine by customers shopping at the store.

Questions like, “What is this bug, how do I treat my lawn, what is this disease on my plant, how do I prune this tree, what is the height of this tree, what plants bloom in spring, why can’t this grow right, Is this a weed?”  It was endless.

Oh, and the classic was when they wanted me to identify a plant and they did not bring a sample of it. When I asked them to describe it, they always started with this statement, “Well, the leaves are green.”

The customer questions went on and on every day, and being fresh in my new field – of course, I did not know all the answers, even with a degree.  And because I was a bit older, some customers assumed I was a long-time worker, but I was new in the field of plants.

A couple reference books were placed on a stand by me so I could at least look up a disease or insect problems since this was probably my weakest point.  There are so many kinds!  But seeing the plant problems hands on and learning what types of questions customers had was very rewarding because every day presented a new challenge. Every day was a new experience.

Daily, there would be some kind of body ache too.  My shoulders would ache from reaching for hanging baskets time after time, my feet would hurt from being on them all day, and spring rain would make me cold one day in the outdoor areas, where summer heat would make me hot and tired the next.  Advil became a best friend.

One day, my neck seized up so badly, I had to refuse putting hanging baskets on the lines in the greenhouses, and go see the chiropractor. And, I probably lifted one too many heavy things in a hurry like a small B&B shrub when one of the younger nursery guys were not available due to helping another customer or unloading a delivery of plants.

In this job, I was no longer a teen, but a middle-aged woman.  All the same, determination and motivation kept me there.

Not only was there a plethora of questions, many customers were overly anxious for answers.  Some days, I’m not exaggerating, customers would wait in line to speak to me.  On the busiest of days, like Mother’s Day or other holidays, the store was packed.

You really see what nursery staff is all about on those days, and they work hard during a fast moving season to help the customers. They do it because they love plants.  Why else would they endure the physical and mental demands of this type of job?

I could tell you so many stories, from a girl crying because she did not achieve the dream garden bed she wanted “just like in a gardening magazine.”  And another time, when a priest was shopping for a shrub for his church, asked me for help. He pointed to a particular shrub to ask me what it was – and no lie, he was pointing to a shrub called, Physocarpus opulifolis ‘Diablo.’  The look on his face was priceless when I told him the shrub’s name. He hurriedly walked away.

The owner of the nursery told me one day, in a firm tone, “Stop asking me that.”  I was bugging him about wanting to work in the perennials section, stating, “I think I would be better placed there for my daily responsibilities.”  Perennials were my passion at that time.

He responded with, “We already have a perennial’s manager.” I suspect this is why he assigned me to the trees and shrubs area in the outdoor nursery area.  Maybe he didn’t know yet where I fit in, and to be frank, neither did I.  But I was so willing to learn and try. I wasn’t going to complain. I was thrilled to be working in my first plant related job.

I asked him for the plant order list of all the trees and shrubs at the nursery so I could review and study them.  And, every time I had a customer interested in shrubs or trees, after my review, I would then say, “Let’s go to the perennial’s section and find a great candidate to go with these shrubs.”

After one of my customers checked out, the cashier said to me, “That was a great combination.”  I think she wanted me to help her next.  It was turning out my assignment by my boss was forcing me to see the bigger picture of design combinations and plants.  Maybe intentional.  Maybe not.

Eventually, the owner walked up to me one day, when I was watering a bench of plants to say, “You are going to learn and do landscape design.” As he abruptly walked away, the floor got watered instead of the plants because I was in shock as I stood there holding my watering wand, wondering what just happened. Upstairs I went to learn about how they did designs.

The challenges increased from there.  Juggling several factors such as learning a new design program, laying out designs for customers, visiting their homes for onsite assessments, pricing quotes for install jobs, etc.  I was doing all of this while still providing customer support every day on the nursery floor. Sometimes I felt like I had to be in two places at the same time.

The reason this job was the toughest though was because of the combinations of factors; having to know so much because the questions never ended and enduring the physical demands each day.  Not to mention the working environment was polar opposite of where I came from – a cubicle in corporate America.  Plus, I worked the weekends too.

Yet there was never a boring day.   Never a stale moment.  Never a question not to be answered.  And never ever a time of not learning something new.  I was inspired constantly.

Everyone would say how lucky I was when they learned I was working in a nursery garden center.  And I was lucky.  I was finally working in a field where I have a true passion.

As for those terrible teen jobs – well, you know, when you’re a kid, you’ll work anywhere!

Cathy Testa