Questionnaire for the Tween Considering Horticulture and Plants as a Future Career

Leave a comment

I provide small garden designs for homeowners, container gardens installs for homes and businesses, and offer garden talks and classes at various locations on horticulture topics, and sometimes sell plants, garden art, and container gardens at farmer’s markets. It’s a job I love to do and feel very lucky to enjoy, especially this time of year when May arrives. So, I thought why not share a questionnaire I completed for a Career Day at a middle school.  I attended the event along with other small business people to share what and how we do our jobs. If you are a tween or young student considering the world of horticulture as a future career – this may be of interest to you, or if you are a teacher wanting additional information about this career choice for your students, here it is.  Feel free to ask for more details.


Be Respectful

How do you deal with difficult customers? – The rule stands!  The Customer is Always Right.  NO customer is difficult –they are presenting you with a challenge, make it fun and solve what it is they need; ask more questions to clarify; and also show them your knowledge and expertise, and they will learn to calm down if they are nervous or difficult when they see you have the experience and knowledge behind what you do.

If you supervise/manage people, what additional skills do you need?  – To be a leader, you must have excellent personality skills and organizational skills, sometimes people are born with these traits, and some styles cannot be learned.  To motivate your staff is key and the key is to also know what drives them — and each person has different ways they want to be rewarded. It could be pay, praise, or other things like that.

What makes a place a great place to work? – When you feel valued as an employee, are listened to, can contribute your knowledge and skills, – and anytime you do something that is like a HOBBY for a job – you will feel like every day is “not work”, but fun!  I love what I do, it is not work most times because I enjoy it so much. Think about something you do today as a hobby, and think if it could be a career.

Be Responsible

What can happen should you make a mistake?  — Easy, correct it immediately as soon as you know, apologize, learn from it and move forward.

What happens if you don’t work the hours you are expected to work?  — You get fired or let go.  You can’t treat a job like it is a game.., it is your responsibility to follow whatever guidelines a business establishes for their employees.  Basically failing to show equals failure.  Never forget, there is always someone else in line that can do the job you are taking advantage of – so if you don’t show up – someone else will.  If you like your job, respect the rules.

Be Productive

What education/job training do you need for your position?  -- See my handout – definitely horticulture, botany, knowing the plants are a must in the field of horticulture.  And learning or having a natural artistic ability is very important for design – it is a science plus an art.  I knew I had to learn the plants, how they grow, nutrients, soil, and the plants themselves – you cannot talk about plants if you don’t know their botanical facts and features.

What skills do you need for your job?  — Organizational skills, the hort world is fast paced, short season, in winter it is inactive or at rest, so you must be on-top of your game during the busy seasons, or you lose out on making money in the seasonal time frame. Business and financial management is also key if you want to start your own business.  And personal/interpersonal skills, plants are usually planted “by people” and thus you have to deal with people.  Introverts are not usually good designers for landscapes, you need to be able to talk with and understand your customers and clients.  You also need to use technology, applications, and take the time to read new materials or reference information about plants, marketing of plants, and any new news on things out there – say an invasive bug is out there on trees, you have to know to help solve clients problems with their plants as part of the job.  You need to know how to answer questions – because when designing, it isn’t just about the design, it includes the health of the plants, how they grow, etc.  Knowing how to do taxes and setting up your business legally is another skill you have to learn.

How are you measured on your productivity?  – I have my own business, so my productivity is based on results, how much I sell and also I tend to stay focused every day, and don’t let home distractions get in the way of my daily work for my business.

How frequently do you go for additional training?  - Probably every quarter – taking classes via things like Uconn conferences every winter, reading A LOT on my own via design books and plant references, reading a lot of blogs and college resource/reference databases on plants.  There are so many plants out there – you could learn one every single day and still not know them all by the time you die!  Seriously, it is almost like being a doctor having to know about all the diseases out there – the list is endless.  I took a 2-year Horticulture degree first, then gained good experience at nurseries, then went off on my own to do designs, then took the MASTER GARDENER program and I attend a lot of sessions at The CT Horticultural Society (FREE TO STUDENTS, CHECK IT OUT: WWW.CTHORT.ORG) and through other hort organizations and go to lots of big garden shows.

What skills do you use in your job that would surprise people? – This is a tough one to answer, I guess for me, surprising is that I had to learn how to hitch a big trailer to my big truck and how to unload materials from it and as a woman, some of my friends are surprised when they see me show up using equipment or power tools – this field of horticulture is expanding in the woman world, lots of women run big equipment for install jobs now, where years ago, it was mostly men contractors out there.  So if you are female, do not let that stop you!  It is an equal opportunity hort world!

What am I learning now that will be helpful for me in this career field?  -- Technology.  There are so many new gadgets coming out – all the apps now for iPhones really help to quickly reference information about plants, bugs on plants, diseases on plants, and tools like the color wheel app that may be used to select beautiful color combinations for your garden designs, I believe you – the younger generation of students – will be the ones teaching us older hort people because you are faster at learning the technology than we are!  Landscape programs are really useful too.  I just loaded the Square Up program in seconds the other night to accept credit cards when I sell plants at farmers markets for example, the technology moves at warp speeds, keeping up with it is the latest new thing I’m learning.

Be Safe

What can happen should you make a mistake?  – Harmful plants such as invasive can be a big problem if planted in someone’s yard, you have to know if a plant can creep and literally take over the whole landscape – that could be a big issue.  Also, Call Before You Dig, warning clients of proper procedures before they plant is critical.  Knowing your limitations and expertise, knowing how to direct clients to specialists in certain aspects of landscaping, such as hardscapes, paver, building materials, for example.  If you make a mistake, someone can get hurt so do your research first and advise appropriate to your clients.  Design does have risks, especially if there are building materials, ground problems in the area, water runoff to rivers is critical, you have to know if you could pollute a water source with fertilizers or underground pipes, stuff like that.

Do you have any security/safety measures in place?  – I don’t handle installations so my risk is limited.  If I had a crew, I would get the appropriate insurance and licensing.  It is critical to protect yourself in the event someone gets hurt on the job, etc.



Slide1 Slide3 Slide2


Cathy Testa Career Fair Hort and Plant World PDF File.  For the complete presentation, contact Cathy Testa at or 860-977-9473.   Written by Cathy Testa

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!

Top Photo Attribution: “Student icons set” By digitalart, published on 24 July 2011 (Stock Image – image ID: 10051001)

Happy Easter Everyone – Hope It’s Hopping!

Leave a comment

 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

Photo Courtesy of

Cathy Testa

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

Leave a comment
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  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;

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

Leave a comment

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,  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


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!


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

Leave a comment

Hi there!

I just wanted to let you know that I have set up a new domain name for this blog,, 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)


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


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

Leave a comment

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.


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!

Leave a comment

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.

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:

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.

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


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.


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:



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


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.



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.



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


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.


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 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.


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.



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: (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


Photo Attributions:

Photo of Hummingbird flying away from Crocosmia:

Brocken Inaglory [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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