Anchoring Holiday Evergreens in Your Patio Pots


This morning I read a post about collecting evergreens for container garden decorations, and it reminded me of how I once got yelled at for taking cuttings of wild berried shrubs by a roadside. Long story short, check with homeowners, even if the property looks abandoned or vacant!

winter jun

Winter Evergreens Touched by Snow and Ice 

However, seeing the post referenced above, and considering the many times I’ve put fresh evergreen cuttings and stems into patio pots and container gardens this time of year for holiday decorations, I thought I’d share the following quick tips on the how to anchor the stems, cuttings, and branches into your pots or container gardens:

Use Last Year’s Soil

Mentioned many times at my workshops and container gardening classes, leave the soil mix in the pots when you disassemble your containers in the fall season. It makes the perfect anchor for inserting your greens in winter. It is a great way to extend the life of your soil.


Boil Some Water

If the soil mix in the pot is frozen or a bit hard from a frost the night before, pour very hot (almost boiling water if possible) into the soil or over the top. It will soften it up just enough to insert your greens. This can be a bit of a pain, but it works! This is when the soil was moist prior from rainfall or plants, but if the soil is new or dry, the opposite is needed – If you poured fresh dry mix into a pot, you will want to moisten it because it will freeze later and hold in your newly inserted evergreens and stems very well during the winter months.

Spray Foam or Florist Foam

I have not attempted this idea, but saw it last night when browsing Pinterest – and thought, ‘Hmm, perhaps useful.’ Spray foam (the type used for construction gaps and cracks in walls available in spray cans) was used in a pot to insert stems and branches. A test of this will be done – but my initial reaction was, “Will the foam come out after, so the pot may be reused again next season?”

Another technique is using green florist foam blocks in a pot as the anchor base (the type of foam used to create floral arrangements). However, I find this to be an expensive option, and reusing soil mix from the prior season works just as well.

Custom Order

Weight the Bottom

There have been cases when a very tall and narrow pot has the potential to topple over from winter winds. I happened to have some old weights from a weight set sitting in my garage, so I put a round iron disk 3 or 5 pound weight plate in the base of the pot before filling it with soil. It makes the pot very heavy, but let me tell you – it won’t budge during a winter storm. The same could be done by reusing old bricks or stones in the base, however, you will want to remove them come next season if you use the pot for plants as it may clog the drain holes, but in winter, no problem.

Snowman in Pot by Cathy T

Tiki Stakes

Attach Tiki torch stakes at the base of birch branches, thick stems, or poles and insert into the soil to attach a holiday themed decor on the top of the pole or branch. They are available in places like the big box stores, hardware stores, and online – It really helps to anchor and insert heavier items. (Note: It might be a little harder to find them in stores during the winter – get them during the summer months.)

Cathy T Winter Pot

Pot Types

And last but not least, remember not all pots can remain outside – they must be tough enough or made of material to withstand the winter conditions (e.g., cast iron, double sided pots, wood, hypertufa, tin, metal, or frost free pots). See my Page on Pot Types.

Cathy Testa

Don’t forget – Container Crazy CT has Holiday Gift Cards Available!
Email us today to get your’s in time for the Holidays.

Got My Christmas Groove On Early!


Do you like to start decorating early for the holidays, like I do?

Maybe you have gotten your tree already – or are planning to do so over the long Thanksgiving weekend?

Perhaps you dusted off your holiday outdoor lights and started untangling them?

If it wasn’t for my Holiday Workshops in early December, where we make kissing balls, wreaths and candle centerpieces with fresh evergreens, I am not sure if I would be as motivated to start “this” early, but because I am excited for the upcoming class – I have started much of my holiday decorating endeavors early.

I’m getting my Christmas Groove On!

I’m proud that I setup most of the holiday outdoor lights on my own, with ladder and all – and even set them up on timers!

And my kitchen, bathroom, craft workshop, and even my bedroom spaces are adorned in some kind of holiday cheer or theme.

Last week, I made my first candy cane wreath to test out the steps as this is a new feature in my class this year.

Every day, I am thinking of what I should do next?

Cathy T with Cofee

When my hubby, Steve, comes home from work – he looks around and says, “It’s Christmas here already!” but I don’t think he minds.
He gets into the spirit as much as I do.

Reasons to do things early

Sometimes I tell myself I should stop decorating or I will have a boat load of un-decorating to do after the holiday season comes to a close, but there are some advantages of doing things early.


You will have more patience for that string of lights you put up on an arbor in a risky situation, like standing on a ladder which isn’t level, and then the lights won’t work after you are all done. Even though you tested them just a half hour before. Ack. More time equals more patience. At least for me.


You feel the sun on your face and the warmer temperatures than you may experience if you waited til mid-December to do outdoor decorations. The fingers are not as frozen and cheeks not as red – it can be a great time to get decorating done before our first snow fall arrives.


You get the house cleaning, which you were suppose to do in spring, done now and discover you have more dust bunnies than imaginable. So now you have a head start and it doesn’t feel as taxing to clean, clean, clean. Especially the dreaded shower glass.

wrapping paper

It also allows you to dream a bit of Christmases of the past, while searching for left over wrapping paper you thought you had, which is something I thought of just today – because I have a big prize to wrap for my upcoming holiday workshop. Guess now I have to go out to get some – doing things early can sometimes enable dealing with less crowds at the stores too.


Doing things early also gives me time to consider what type of festive libation to offer – Should it be pomegranate or cranberry based? After all-it must be red to match the theme, right?

My mind starts to get carried away as I consider rimming the drink glasses with green or red coated sugar, or contemplating how to make big decorative chunks of ice with my jelly molds.

Where does this early planning and dreaming end?

Don’t forget “Pinterest!”


We start browsing pinboards of holiday ideas and next thing you know we are attempting a new crafting idea.

It just never ends, and somehow, that is okay because being festive is sharing the love of enjoying the holidays together – and for many of us, decorating our special spaces indoors and outdoors is a big part of that.

Thanksgiving at Present

However, Thanksgiving is only 2 days away. Soon, we will be with our family and friends enjoying a big meal. Probably most of us are thinking about grocery shopping and our recipe lists. Today, I’m making my cranberry relish from scratch which is popular with my family. We all have our favorites.

Tday Hat

It is time I get back to the present. The reality that we are to enjoy Thanksgiving this weekend first and foremost!
A time where we are thankful for all that we have – and for all our blessings.
A time for being with family and eating an abundant meal.
The Santa hat will just have to wait.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’m thankful for all of you!

Cathy Testa

Container Crazy CT

Container Crazy CT is located in Broad Brook, CT



Search Terms – A Look at Last Week’s


I thought it would be fun to share some of the search terms which were received last week on Container Crazy CT’s blog. Search terms are words or phrases people use on search engines like Google to find posts on my blog. The terms are not visible to the general public but can be seen via stats and such on the blog’s background pages by the blog owner only. I would never reveal anything private and luckily all of the searches are directly related to plants and, as you can see, decorating for the holidays which is appropriate for this time of year.

Banner 1-002

People are definitely searching for holiday decorating ideas, and many are asking about how to use mesh ribbon. Then there are the plant related searches, and last week, people were looking for information on Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ and Petasites japonicus, for example.

Some were looking for information on gardening techniques, such as “how to dismantle a garden” or “where to find Gingko trees in Connecticut” and information about “overwintering plants in the basement.”

Hopefully, they found what they were looking for, but if not, I thought I’d add some additional information here on some of their specific search terms:

Mesh Ribbon Projects_0002

The “mesh ribbon” search

As you can see, many folks are looking for information and ideas on how to use mesh ribbon.

Mesh ribbon has become super popular for its ease of use in the decorating world. It can be used to make a big, puffy, large show on a variety of crafting projects. With a couple of twists and turns, mesh ribbon makes quite the festive creation as it is added to wreaths, arches, and anything you can think of. I love using it.

I think the only downfall with mesh ribbon is when exposed to sunlight over a long period of time it fades. Otherwise, it is perfect and reusable each year so it doesn’t get wasted or tossed out – it can be disassembled as easily as it can be assembled and stores well in boxes after the holiday season is over.

Mesh ribbon comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns and can be found practically anywhere. It comes in every color imaginable. I’ve used it on the Fourth of July, Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day – it is easily attached to container gardens to add some bling.

4th of July Succulents ContainerCrazyCT_0001

One person searched the question on “if you can cut mesh ribbon?” And yes, you certainly can but be sure to use a very sharp pair of scissors.

For assembly to wreaths, I use zip ties to gather and pinch sections of the mesh ribbon together or you may use green florist wire. You may see how I did this on the following posts:

Three Easy Ways to Use Mesh Ribbon

This post above has been viewed quite a lot this month. People new to mesh ribbons are searching on how to use it, how to attach it, and looking for creative ideas.

You should also check out how I use zip ties to attach mesh ribbon to various crafting projects. Remember to use green or a dark colored zip tie so it doesn’t show between your decor, etc.

Using Zip Ties to Attach Mesh Ribbon

This post shows how I attached the ribbon on wreaths and other holiday decorative items. I find gathering it in spaces between each puff is easily attached when using zip ties. They are so handy on crafting projects and I attempted to show what I mean in the post above.

Snip Roots

The “overwintering plants in basement” search

I hope the person looking for this information was able to locate it on my blog because I’ve written and spoken about how to store tender tropical plants many times, but I think maybe the general nature of the search term words used implied they may be looking for what is needed in a basement to keep your plants there over the winter?

For starters, most basements are dark with very little natural light, so for plants that go dormant naturally in pots, a basement is a well suited location to move your plants in the winter. Canna and Colocasia (elephant ear plants) may be allowed to go dormant in their pots, and may be moved to the basement if your basement is frost free, stays cool, and you have some space to put them.

If you have plants which require a period of dormancy in order to bloom, along with some darkness and reduced watering, such as Clivia (which comes to mind because a nurseryman gave me one recently) or Amaryllis (Hippeastrum species) which is sold around this time of year and forced into bloom in time for the holidays, the basement is a good place to place them for their resting/dormancy period.

In addition, some bulbs, corms, tubers store well in dark, dry areas of the basement. It is important to note some underground storage organs like conditions a bit on the damp side, while others like it dry. Look up your type of storage organ (Dahlias, Canna, etc.) for which you are storing in the basement to determine which they like – dry and dark, or damp and dark.

By the way, Amaryllis do not technically require a resting period in order to bloom, but to control the blooming, many people will bring the plant inside after the summer season and store them in the basement. The plant should not be watered, as is with the case of Clivia, for a period of time before you bring it back out into a warm sunlight area in your home. So basements are perfect for plants like these two examples.

Basements typically remain cool but do not go below freezing which is another reason why they are so handy for plant storage. I put my boxed up Canna rhizomes by the basement door corner area on shelves and they seem to like this spot best (the sweet spot). Also, if you heat your home with a woodstove which is located in the basement, this can make the basement too warm for storing conditions, so bare this in mind. Or keep the boxed up underground storage organs far away from where your woodstove is located.

In the fall, I showed my workshop attendees exactly where I stored my boxed up storage organs so they got a feel of what I mean – each home is different, so you need to determine what you have and work with that (such as a cool basement, a cool closet or room in the home that is not heated fully in winter, a sunroom that is not heated, maybe your garage, garden shed, etc.). They need to be a place where it does not go below frost but is not too warm for growth.


The “how to winter a maurelli abyssinian banana” search

Oh gosh, I hope the person searching this topic found what they were looking for on my blog because I’ve documented the steps I’ve used which have been successful for many years on storing the Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ plant (red banana). Here are the links where you may find this information:

Storing My Big Red Banana Plant

This post above has the step by step process with photos. Storing takes place in late October or early November.

Overwintering Red Banana Plants

Red Banana Plant Revived Again

What should I do with my Container Gardens and Patio Pots?

In the fall season, workshops on the ‘how to’s’ are offered in my area of East Windsor, Connecticut. Each steps is demonstrated and step-by-steps workshop handouts are provided, especially useful for the attendees of my May Container Garden Workshops as a follow-up when the season comes to a close.

Plant Searches

It was interesting that Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ showed up twice in the same week. I’ll have to look around to see if the nurseries are offering it right now – This could be why there has been an interest in learning more about this plant known as a paddle plant. This variety has a fantastic coloring pattern to it of light green, creamy off white, and pink. Maybe folks are seeking it out because it is so pretty inside the home, and this plant makes a nice houseplant because of its look, easy care, and light watering routines, especially this time of year in winter.

Other plant searches were on Petasites japonicus, which is one I’ve written about due to its huge round leaves which are very showy in container gardens, and by the way, it can be overwintered in a shed. I’ve done it many times by moving the pot with a Petasites in it into the unheated shed before winter with success. This is a perfect plant for container gardens because they are a nuisance in the ground – aggressive spreaders. So in containers they are contained and controlled, plus their tough nature makes them easy to overwinter – they make it in an unheated shed every year. See Troublemakers Turned Stars post for more about aggressive plants which are stars in containers and patio pots.

The other plant searched for was a Salix (willow) which I don’t believe I’ve written extensively about on this blog – looks like it is time to do.

Of course, as I mentioned above, I would not share any searches which seemed private in nature. There was one odd one, and let’s just say, I’m glad it was not about me! It had the words: Crazy + Cathy. I’m crazy alright but only crazy about plants, container gardens, art, and of course – holiday décor this time of year. It is time to deck the halls…

Enjoy your week everyone,

Cathy Testa

The Complete Search List from Last Week as typed by the searcher:

  • How to transport a tree in a pickup
  • Salix purpurea ssp. Lambertiana
  • Cans recycle garden
  • How to use mesh ribbon
  • Meshribbonrubanemaille
  • Dismantling a garden
  • Christmas decorating with mesh ribbon
  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora fantastic
  • Can you cut mesh ribbon
  • Uses for buffalo snow
  • Christmas mailbox swags
  • How to assemble a fresh herb wreath
  • How to decorate with mesh
  • How to decorate a Christmas wreath
  • Instead of a traditional Christmas wreath
  • Overwintering plants in basement
  • How to make barbed wire wreaths
  • Fantastic kalanchoe
  • How to winter a maurelli abysinnian banana
  • Decorating with mesh
  • Nurseries in CT that sell ginko trees
  • Petasites japonicas
  • 20 facts about the coneflowers
  • What is the herbal plant that can cure
  • Decorating with wide ribbon
  • Petasites japonicas

Holiday Gift Cards and New Workshops

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Gift Cards and New Workshops

Hello everyone,

‘Tis the Season’ to get started for your upcoming holiday fun – So, here’s a heads-up on new items and activities I am super excited to share with you today. Container Crazy CT has new workshops being offered in 2016, gift cards available for the holidays, and more.

New Gift Cards

Container Crazy CT has new “Gift Cards” available for purchase. They are redeemable towards workshops, onsite consultations, container garden gifts, or seasonal plants. Perfect for the friends and family members in your life who enjoy DIY classes, plants, gardens, containers and art fun. The card has a beautiful holiday theme cover with a colorful container garden photo.

Greet Card Gift Card

A beautiful card with container garden photo

Returning Guest Artist

Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie is returning as a guest speaker in 2016. We had such a wonderful time learning how to make her unique and eclectic wind chimes the last time she was here and she enjoyed teaching our group. As you know, Laura Sinsigallo has many talents from paintings to cute figurines for special holidays – she is a very creative person. Her program will be in April 2016 and the special Art Work to be made in class will be announced very soon.

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting - Out guest artist in April

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting – Out guest artist in April

Floral Design – New!

Mandy Mayer of will be our new speaker at our 2016 workshops. I am so excited to have her join our list of guest artists. She designs beautiful bouquets and floral arrangements for weddings and special events. Her business is called “JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design” located in Stafford Springs, and you won’t want to miss this workshop. We plan to have her program offered in February 2016. Stay tuned for details.

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer located in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

Kissing Ball Class

The first class is full, the supplies are ordered, and the workshop space is being adorned! So excited to have NEW and REPEAT attendees coming. If you were unable to sign up for this class, mini workshops are offered during the week following the first workshop date of 12/5. And don’t forget to bring your own florist wire and decor to adorn your balls, wreaths, etc. Looking forward to seeing you!

Special Orders for Wreaths or Kissing Balls

If you would like a handmade wreath or kissing ball, please don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t forget to visit my Pinboards and Instagram pages for inspirational ideas. It’s time to get your jingle on.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa
Enhance Your Outdoor Surroundings…

A Walk in the Garden – A Blog to Follow


John Viccellio from Stallings, North Carolina is the author of a blog titled, “A Walk in the Garden.” I never met John in person, but I’ve been enjoying his blog posts for quite some time.

He regularly posts photos of cut flowers collected from his gardens which are arranged in vases. Actually, I believe his wife is behind the vase selection and arrangements. He refers to her as his Arranger, and she does a wonderful job.

In addition to the various vase photos on his blog, John writes about plants growing in his North Carolina gardens. From time to time, I’ve admired the plants he is growing which I wish I could grow here in my Connecticut yard.

However, John’s planting zone is a tad bit warmer than mine. He is in a zone 7 area, and I reside in 6a. But not is all lost, as some of the plants he can grow easily in his area are candidates for container gardens or patio pots in mine if they are not winter hardy here.

Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree)

One day, I spotted a gorgeous photo of a chaste tree growing in John’s gardens via his blog posting. He had them ‘arranged’ in a vase and the soft blue to violet colors of this plant, along with its long narrow blue-green leaves situated like fingers from a central point, caught my attention and admiration. I don’t know why, but plant lovers just fall in love with certain plants, and this is one I’ve always liked.

I don’t see this plant (technically a deciduous shrub which can grow to the size of a small tree) offered for sale here in Connecticut often. They are hardy to planting zones 6 to 9 (or zones 5-9 depending on which plant reference you look up), so they are considered, what I call semi-hardy in our planting areas because they do not hold up well during harsh winters.

If the winter is not harsh, I guess your chances are better. Also, where they are planted matters in regards to the soil and exposure because they prefer full sun and well-drained soils. Bottom line is the plant will die back (dies to the ground) in severe winters. Its roots may survive to regrow the following season if all goes well.

Chaste Tree Cuttings by A Walk in the Garden blog

Chaste Tree Cuttings by A Walk in the Garden blog

The only other time I’ve seen a beautiful specimen of the chaste tree was when I toured a Connecticut garden via the Connecticut Horticultural Society’s programs. It was growing in Steve Silk’s amazing gardens amongst other trees and shrubs on his property in Farmington, Connecticut. Steve is a former newspaper photographer, travel writer and was managing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. He held the role of President for the society for several years.

Steve also has cool tropical plants in container gardens staged in various areas on his property, which is why I was happy to be seeing his gardens that day during the tour. But as I walked his yard, I remembered spotting the chaste tree and running my fingers along the plant’s foliage, again thinking how I wish I had one of these trees. I should have asked Steve how he managed to keep one growing in his garden due to it being a bit sensitive to our winter climate.

Of course, an alternative option, when desiring a specimen that is not totally cold hardy here is growing them for enjoyment in your container gardens during our summers and then overwintering them if possible in frost free places in the fall and winter. Many times semi-hardy plants will survive this way.

I can envision this chaste tree right now growing in a large container garden, and would pair it up with other plants showing off soft color tones, like pink, soft yellow, or other blue to violet flowering plants. If you browse John’s blog, A Walk in the Garden, you will see the other color of flowering plants he put near his chaste tree in his garden, some were hot pinks which worked well.

This deciduous shrub is a long summer bloomer, and as John noted on his blog post, it can be deadheaded for re-bloom later in the season, which he has done for twenty years on his plant. It was a grown from a second generation cutting from its parent at his Aunt Martha’s home in Chatham, VA.

Muhlenbergia capillaris (pink Muhly grass)

Then there was another day when John posted the pink Muhly grass photo from his gardens. Oh my God, I thought. I just LOVE that grass, and wish I had one here. The photo was especially beautiful because of how the sunlight captured the bright to soft pink colors of this fine textured ornamental grass in his garden, and I especially like how delicate this perennial ornamental grass looks and feels. Again, depending on which source you look up this grass, it is hardy to zone 6 or zone 5.

A Walk in the Garden muhly grass light

John noted that its a native, so his climate is ideal for its growth.”In October it was glorious,” he wrote, “…as the sun seemed to ignite its pink seed clusters.” I couldn’t agree more, it is electric – Just look at his photos!

Photo by John Viccellio

Photo by John Viccellio

Ah, I thought as I read his words and admired the photos he posted, I can imagine this vision on a fall day. Selecting a spot where the sun would hit it would be ideal in the landscape or garden, or again – in a container garden or patio pot. I can envision it in a cobalt blue pot, can’t you?

One day, on a day which some bloggers call, “Wordless Wednesday” – John posted two photos of his pink Muhly grass with no words or text because, it was “wordless” Wednesday, and it was enough to see just the photos, let me tell you – this grass is captivating.

A Walk in the Garden blog shares beautiful photos of the grass growing in their gardens.

A Walk in the Garden blog shares beautiful photos of the grass growing in their gardens.

John has been kind to follow my blog, and I follow his – but I really don’t remember who discovered whose blog first. So, recently I asked him to answer these following questions as a fellow follower – and wanted to share his blog site with my readers so they may enjoy his gardens too.

Why do you blog?

“I started the blog almost two years ago coincident with my self-publishing of my first (?) garden book (Guess What’s in My Garden!) in hopes that it would spur sales of the book. Over time, however, I began to respond to a number of garden memes out there (and photography), and that has been pretty much the direction I have been going. It is fun, and am getting to know folks all over the world. I have been thinking a lot about how I can get more info about the book into the posts and perhaps spur a few more sales. I have spoken at several garden clubs this past year, and that has gained me some blog followers and a few sales. I love the involvement I have now with fellow gardeners and fellow bloggers around the world.”

What attracted you to Container Crazy CT’s blog?

“I was attracted to your blog for several reasons. I realize you are using it as a vehicle to support your business, and I have enjoyed seeing your business related posts. It’s just a bit far for me to sign up for some of your workshops. I also have liked your hands on posts (e.g., pot arranging, etc.). Your warm personality shines through what you write and present…I can sense your smiling.”

What is your favorite plant or way of gardening?

“I have lots of favorite plants…particularly iris, peonies and azaleas…but my favorite way of gardening (because of our soil) is raised beds. I also very much enjoy creating things for the garden…stone walls, trellises and clematis poles that I have designed and constructed.”

Thank You for Your Service

And by the way, John Viccellio is a retired U.S. Navy Veteran – so, in addition to thanking him for his online contributions, gardening style, and demeanor expressed on his blog regularly, I’d like to pass on a sincere thank you to John for his service to our country in honor of Veteran’s Day which was two days ago on Wednesday.

Cathy Testa


Be Thankful. Be Creative. Be Colorful, and Just Be! Giving Thanks.


Thank You to All Followers

November is the month of being “thankful” for all we have in our lives. I would like to express here my heartfelt thanks to you, my fellow followers. To the friends and family who inspired me to follow my dreams, to the bloggers out there reading and liking my posts and sharing their passions, to the mysterious rocks stars (fake or not) taking an interest in little ol’ me, and to the people in the plant world providing me with great networking opportunities, and to the artists offering their talents as guest speakers, and to many, many more, I say today, Thank you. Thank you also for posting your reviews and testimonials.

Current Followers

This morning I was looking over my stats on my blog. Currently, I have 73 WordPress followers, a total of 522 Facebook Friends liking my pages, 60 email followers, and 197 Twitter followers. It wouldn’t be right to say I have a total of 852 followers because some are the same people on one or the other platform, but roughly its somewhere about 600+ people.

I’ve always said too, it’s not the number of, but the passion of the followers which truly counts – and people who follow this site enjoy container gardening, art, and plants probably as much as I do. Each and every one of them is important to me because of their similar passions and interests.

Followers of this blog receive an update in their WordPress Reader (which is a special background page for WordPress users), via email, or both depending on their settings each time a new post is added. For social media, they are notified of posts in their feeds.

Getting new content quickly (as it is posted) is beneficial, especially for hot topics and new workshops on the horizon being offered by Container Crazy CT.

wordpress-logoWordPress Followers

WordPress followers have a blog of their own on WordPress, as opposed to followers which may be from Facebook or Twitter. As noted above, they get notified in their “reader” when they follow another WP site.

Sharing is caring in the world of bloggers and blogging, so one of my goals is to share posts by my fellow WP followers on this blog on a routine basis to spread the love and the information, as they share similar knowledge, ideas, interests, tips, and more. Thank you WordPress Followers – I’m following you too!

Facebook Followers

For my connected social networking services (such as Facebook or Twitter) through my blog’s publicize feature, it shows that I have 301 followers on my Facebook page for Cathy T’s Landscape Designs page, which means there have been a total of 301 Page Likes for it.

Cathy T’s Landscape Designs’ page is where I originally started my business about container gardening and garden designs, among other services. It is the official name of my business, but over the years, my services focused on all things container gardening and exotic tropical plants, and a bit less on landscape designs.

This is why I also have a Container Crazy CT Facebook page, which more suits what I currently offer in the world of container gardening and hands-on workshops. This page has a total of 221 Page Likes as of this writing, and seems to be growing.

If I could only merge the two Facebook pages together for a total of 522 Page Likes! Some are the same people, but no matter, it is all good – and it warms my Facebook soul to have them participate on my posts with their comments about their container gardening passions too.

Thank you Facebook Friends – Love hearing from you and seeing you every day.

Email Followers

Currently, my Container Crazy CT site has 60 email followers. These primarily consist of clients, workshop attendees, artists or bloggers, networking contacts, and anyone else out on the web that came across my blog and decided they wanted to keep in touch by receiving a post each time it is published.

If you want to receive instant notifications as they are posted, this is a great way to not miss a thing, especially upcoming speaking engagements at garden clubs and the workshops offered related to combining nature with art or container gardening.

Thank you email friends – I know how email can pile up – and I hope you enjoy receiving the updates regularly!

a-cute-twitter-logoTwitter Followers

As of today, I have 197 followers on Twitter. A big thrill was when Martha Stewart started following my Twitter feed last winter. And, recently, Dr. Allan Armitage started following me too. Both are rocks stars in their field of work and study.

While it may not be the “real” Martha, and maybe Dr. Allan Armitage has a helper for his social media feeds, it is cool to me – especially because Martha is in the world of all things fun for design and crafts, and the Dr. Allan Armitage is a Horticultural specialist. These two facets are what I love in my world of business offerings, that is combining nature with art.

If it isn’t really them, I still will enjoy fantasizing that it is. If it is really them – Thanks!!!!

ContainerCrazyCT Autumn_0001


Cathy Testa

To see more reasons why you should follow this blog, check out this former posts on “Five Reasons Why You Should Click Like, Share or Comment.

Oh and Don’t forget my Instagram and Pinterest pages. More on these later!

Repurposing Prescription Pill Bottles as Seed Containers


Recently, I decided to use the plastic pill bottles provided by my pharmacy for our prescriptions as small storage containers for my collected seeds. The pill bottles are small enough, have a label on them already which I can write the plant and date on with a sharpie marker, and the amber color of the plastic pill bottles are dark enough to prevent light exposure.

Pharmacy containers are made from light resistant plastic and meet USP light standards for light transmission and USP tight standards to protect the contents from contamination for pills, so I figure they must offer the same protection for seeds. Plus, it feels great to repurpose these pharmacy pill bottles rather than tossing them into the recycle bin.


Before taking seeds from plants that you want to try sowing next year, it is important to know that several changes take place in seeds as they mature and ripen on plants. Sometimes, you may notice the outer parts covering the seeds start to become dry and brittle. Eventually, as it dries, the seeds fall naturally from the plant or the coverings crack open to reveal the tiny seeds held inside.

Seed Coat Colors and Moisture Content

The colors of the seed coats will change as well as they mature. They may change from a light color to a dark color such as brown or black. But what you may not realize, since it is not visible to the naked eye, is the moisture content in the seeds reduce during their maturation process.

Some seeds need to retain moisture while others can tolerate a higher percentage of moisture loss as they naturally dry. It depends on the species of plant. Each is different. Fortunately, we can leave the moisture content percentages to the professionals as they know when to harvest their seeds for optimal germination.

Seeds may dry some more after harvest and/or before you store them in a container. If the seeds become too dry, they may not germinate the following year.

It is difficult to determine what is going on with the moisture content, but it is helpful to know because many people get frustrated when they sow a whole tray of harvested seeds – only to find out they won’t germinate. Feeling frustrated, they think they lack a green thumb, but it could be just the reality the seeds have gone bad because they did not mature fully on the plant before harvest, or because they were stored inappropriately.

Seed Collecting_0001

Seed Collecting_0002

You may notice seeds or their outer coverings are hard on some species of plants. A good example, which comes to mind because I just collected them, are Canna seeds. They are as hard as rocks or marbles. They need to be chipped in order for water to enter the seed when sowing them.

How Seeds Travel

In nature, animals will eat seeds and carry them to different places, the first being their digestive tract which will soften the seed coats as its pass through their gut. When released to the ground, the seeds will most likely germinate if the environmental conditions are right (light, temperature, water, oxygen, etc.).

Other seeds have interesting spines which become attached to animal fur, and our clothing when we do gardening work. This is another way in which plants modify their parts to make sure they are successful at getting off the plant and into the ground to grow.


An example of seed coverings that are spiny are the seed pods of Castor bean plants. When broken open, you see the seeds within but the outer parts are covered in spines. Another modification to seeds are the wings we see on maple tree seeds which make them fly. They are called ‘Samaras’ and are on ash and elm trees too.

Then there is the method of moving seeds by water – think coconuts. Even explosions are used by plants to burst seed coats open which shoot seeds out and about to disperse. Clever those plants are in their strategies. No high speed WiFi needed for them.


As noted above, if seeds are taken off plants too soon, they may not be fully developed. They may still germinate but the plant may not be of good quality or short-lived. Additionally, if seeds are not stored appropriately, they may loose their ability to germinate.

Storing Seeds at Low Temperatures

Seeds should be stored at low temperatures and low-humidity. You may have heard about how seeds can remain good for many, many years, even up to 75 years. This is true, but usually it is with the case of seeds with very hard seed coats. They will not germinate unless the seed coat is nicked, scratched, or chipped so it can take in water. Fires are another way in which hard seed coats are broken or damaged. Nature always finds a way.

Some people will keep their seeds in their refrigerators to keep them long term which works, but if the seeds have too much moisture content at time of harvest, the moisture inside the seeds may freeze. Moisture proof containers help this situation.

As for myself, I haven’t done much seed collecting over the years, just a bit here or there. I’ve stored them in envelopes before but this new method of using the pill bottles is handy and convenient. So far, it has worked.

Just a little tip!

Cathy Testa




Recycle Potting Mixes – A Quick Tip


Potting mixes used in containers and patio pots doesn’t have to go to waste. When dismantling your pots in Autumn, save it to put in the bottom 1/3 of your big pots next spring and top it off with FRESH soilless mix or potting mix. Or transfer the soil to your garden beds to be recycled that way. It doesn’t have to go to waste! Just a tip for the day. Enjoy your fall weekend everyone, Cathy T.


Cathy Testa

Getting Red, Orange, and Yellow in Your Fall Landscape


The fall colors we have been experiencing as the trees’ leaves changed to red, orange, and yellow this year in Connecticut have been so spectacular, well – it is nearly impossible to put into words.

There have been moments when driving where you may have been blindsided by a turning in a curve when you see the beauty of it all. A street that is ordinary in your hometown has suddenly turned into a light show of vibrant eye candy, and you may have pulled over to take photos, but many times, those photos do not capture what you see through your eyes or through your polarized sunglasses against the clear blue skies and bright sun.

However, this month, a friend posted a photo which blew me away. Not only were the trees covered in the mixed colors of fall, but the ground was as well. Vibrant reds from low growing wild blueberry bushes provided an affect one doesn’t often see – unless you live in Maine, which is where my friend resides.

PJ Walter Photography

This friend, PJ Walter, is a person I met many years ago when my husband and I stayed at his inn which he co-owns with his partner, Frank. When we met PJ and Frank, the bond was instantaneous – Let’s just say, they are great people with a wonderful inn located in Rockland, Maine, called the LimeRock Inn. Check their place out – Steve and I highly recommend it for visits in that region, which we have done many times when attending the North Atlantic Blues Fest in summer.

During our first time staying at the LimeRock Inn, PJ did something special for us. He knew Steve and I were taking a sail boat ride in the afternoon, so he hiked out to one of his viewing spots and took a photo of us on the boat as it was sailing by. We didn’t know he was there, so when we arrived to our room that evening, the photo was already printed and matted for us sitting on our bedroom side table – what a surprise and gesture by PJ.

This is how we were introduced to PJ Walter Photography, and many of his works are hanging in the hallways of the LimeRock Inn for their guests to enjoy. PJ has the skill of capturing the magic of mid-coast Maine. He was posting photos this month of various Maine landscapes, and stating along the way how Maine’s fall colors were incredible and probably the best around New England.

One day, I responded by posting, “The colors are not too shabby in Connecticut either.”

But then on October 16th – PJ posted this brilliant photo below. It blew my mind.

It also blew the minds of many of his followers and friends. Comments were posted, such as:

“Looks like an impressionist painting.”


“That hill is on fire, yo!”

“Interesting that the colors are in the ground cover as well as the trees.
Do you know what gives it the red color?”

PJ responded to the question by providing a link explaining why the ground color is painted in red (see Wild About Blueberries blog), and also gave a hint of the location, posting it as: Route 1 just north of Bucksport. 

His photo was shared over 55 times and a local television station in Maine shared it one evening. One may argue he should have kept it so well guarded to avoid a non-credit situation, but how can one not share such a beautiful sight? We are so glad he posted this photo and many others this season which has been particularly colorful from here to Maine. To see more of his professional photography – be sure to visit his website, PJ Walter Photography.

Low Growing Reds

As PJ pointed out to his fellow followers, the reds on the ground are wild low-growing blueberry bushes. Many people desire the red color in their fall landscape, and for years, the burning bush shrub (Euonymus alatus) was recommended for its bright scarlet color in autumn, but this plant is invasive. It spreads aggressively in the woodlands (where it stays green in coloring due to mostly shade situations) and overtakes areas, out competing local native plants. Blueberry bushes are the perfect alternative – giving your fruit in summer, and as you can see from PJ’s photo, the bonus of providing a powerhouse of red to scarlet coloring in the fall season, especially this year. While these shrubs are wild and low in Maine’s natural landscape – many blueberry shrubs can be purchased here in Connecticut which grow taller, from 3-6 feet. There are highbush, lowbush, and rabbiteye blueberries – and as long as you plant them in acidic soil they desire, blueberries are rewarding. Ask your local nurseries about them next time you visit to browse their offerings.

Taller Growing Reds

Another good option is planting a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) to get red color in your fall landscape. There are many varieties, heights, and styles to choose from, but what you may not notice is the red coloring of Japanese maple leaves intensify in the late fall, turning to a glowing red. Some cultivars you may be familiar with are the ‘Bloodgood’ maple which grows to about 15′ in 15 years, or ‘Crimson Queen’ with a more delicate, weeping form, and many more. Ask your local nursery staff to point them out to you next spring so you can capture some of that red in your landscape in time for next fall season. Japanese Maples like partial sun or filtered sun locations in moist, fertile, well-drained soil, and range in heights from six to twenty feet, so if you want a high level of red, plant one of these along with some blueberry bushes, and you are in business. And don’t forget, many smaller Japanese Maples are gorgeous in containers on your deck, they serve as elegant focal points, and may be protected in the winter months in garages to be returned outside the following season – something I did for several years with one of my smaller maples until I decided to plant it permanently in the landscape.

Another Red – Sourwood Trees

Another red tree, which I just have to mention because I find them beautiful, is the Sourwood tree (also called Sorrel Tree, Oxydendrum arboreum). It grows long drooping clusters of bell-shaped white tiny flowers in summer, which I think are splendid, and in the fall, the leaves turn a plum-red color. You can see the remnants of the white flowers against the red when you observe the tree up-close. It is a slow-growing tree, reaching about 20′ tall, requires a infertile soil, and likes full sun. I don’t see them often in landscapes, but when I do, and it is in the fall – the color is striking on the finely textured foliage. There is one located in Northampton, MA by a walkway which I took photos of this summer and Instagramed by Cathy T – I will track down those photos for you soon to post here later.

Oranges and Golds of the Sugar Maples

Sugar Maple spotted in Wethersfield, CT.

Sugar Maple spotted in Wethersfield, CT.

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One afternoon while babysitting my niece, I drove past this maple on my sister’s street in Wethersfield, CT. My gosh, I had to walk to it to take photos. Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) make an impact when in full golden color – and this year in Connecticut, they have been breathtaking.

Close Up of Golden Leaves on a Maple Tree

Close Up of Golden Leaves on a Maple Tree

When my sister arrived home from work, I told her immediately, “I went down the street to take photos of that maple – its glowing.” She excitedly responded with, “I am so glad you said that; when driving down the hill, as the sun hits it – it is absolutely beautiful every year.” The tone in her response was as if she way saying, gosh, you noticed it too – that emotion you feel when you see a colorful autumn tree highlighted by the sun.

It is moments like that when you embrace fall. It helps to prepare for the oncoming winter by providing a sense of transition – and the Sugar Maple is one to have for oranges and golden yellows in your landscape. It prefers full sun and moist, fertile, well-drained soil and can grow up to 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Although this one was located by a sidewalk, these trees do not like poor soil or road salt and do best away from those scenarios. They require a lot of space since they are big trees.

Ginkgo for Yellow

Another yellow to be had in the landscape is by way of the Ginkgo biloba (a deciduous conifer), which most people are familiar with due to its unique fan-shaped leaves and its medicinal benefits – however, did you know it turns a yellow color in the fall? Additionally, it is very tough, can take difficult locations, and the yellow leave color in the fall is lovely – until all the leaves drop which can happen quickly – as in one day when frost hits it – but it is worth it up til that point, plus you may choose to collect the fallen leaves for crafts. Ginkgo trees do not have serious pest issues. They tolerate road salt and drought, unlike the sugar maples. Oh, and if you go buy a Ginkgo at the nursery, remember to ask for only male trees (‘Shangri-La’ or ‘Autumn Gold’ are examples) because they do not produce fruit – the fruit on the female trees are stinky and people find the scent unbearable.

Pumpkins in Broad Brook, CT

Pumpkins in Broad Brook, CT

One afternoon, sitting inside by my kitchen slider, I was mesmerized by the colors of the trees in my own backyard – our carved pumpkins were a nice orange, and I thought, “Gosh, I wish I could capture those tree background colors in a photo.” This photo above was my ridiculous lame attempt with my iPhone. I guess the autumn colors will be sealed in our minds, or if we are lucky enough – captured by people, like PJ Walter, to be viewed forever. Here’s another one of his shots. Thank you PJ for the permission to post and show your photos.

Photo by PJ Walter Photography

Photo by PJ Walter Photography; FB Page in Mid-Coast Maine, 2015

Cathy Testa