Ten Years of Kissing Ball Workshops

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Wow, ten years since I started these holiday workshops. These workshops began because I felt inspired by the holiday round greenery kissing balls I’d see when visiting relatives’ homes in Canada. Then, one day, a cousin asked me to help her making kissing balls and I did.

We spent all day making them. I said, “Hey, this would be a fun class to teach.” She agreed. We drove to a place where I get all my supplies a few days later, and said, “We can split all the expenses and do this.” Yet, she responded with, “No.” She said it was “my thing and that she didn’t want to participate in teaching it.”

So, there you have it – this is how it all started, and me being a plant person, this workshop was a perfect fit for me to add to my workshop offerings as part of my small business. I could teach about the greens and create a wonderful holiday decor item.

From that spark of a suggestion, my annual kissing ball workshops evolved over the years. I started to learn how to make wreaths myself, improved the KB making technique with new ideas, and then I added new creative items, which attendees may elect to make at the workshops, such as, the candy cane wreath, horse head wreath, square wreath, cross wreath, and more. Each year, it became more and more creative. And it grew with holiday spirit and in attendance.

The KB workshops kicks off everyone’s season – so they tell me. The “regulars” tell me it is the thing that makes them get into the holiday mood. This makes me so happy. Not to get mushy, but I didn’t have any children, and you know, I have always, always missed that part of what it must be like to have kids getting up on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents. Somehow, this event has filled that void for me during the holidays. The KB workshop is my highlight of the holiday season.

In my case, the holiday spirit starts taking hold in early November. Every single year, I start cleaning the messes in my workshop space to get things ready. I’m alone and working in the cold because the wood stove isn’t running yet. I start sorting holiday items, taking count of stock, cleaning, dusting, moving items to make space, and then comes moving in the tables and chairs, etc.

All of this pre-work to setup the workshop space takes time but it has become a good ritual for me. As I work on the various aspects, I start to think about the laughter, the smells of freshly cut balsam and all the fresh greens which the attendees cut at the workshop, and the images of the past ten years pop into my mind. I usually put on some holiday music as I do my thing setting up. This helps the holiday magic fill the air.

As my mind starts to wander, I even smile sometimes as I clean due to the memories. I may even laugh when I start thinking about something in particular that happened, or whatever. I just start thinking about all the attendees in this space every December. I think about the chaos of it all – usually, it is good chaos. Everyone is excited and getting into the holiday decorating zone. But sometimes, it is other chaos of just getting all the holiday ducks in a row.

The memories are good and so is the setup but it also reminds me that some people, though, sadly, I’ve learned over the years, are struggling at that time of year – but not showing it. Maybe something recent happened in their life and they feel down or alone. But, they still show up here for the KB workshop regardless, pull up their big holiday panties, and realize, hey, I can hopefully break out of my doldrums by being here at Cathy T’s KB Workshop. And they tend to feel better afterward the workshop. This makes me happy too.

Ten years. I never thought I’d be offering this workshop for ten years. How can it be even ten years already? I remember joking once, I’ll be a little old lady with gray hairs doing this workshop – but can I make it that long? I even feel I put on weight this time of year in preparation for being Mrs. Cathy Clause at the KB workshop. Seriously!

I’ve stressed out on so many aspects to set up this event. Like, will there be enough greens, will it snow, will my truck get a flat, how am I going to stage all of this first thing in the morning, what if it rains, what if we get a blizzard, and, what if this, what if that? I’m a big what iffer! But this can be good for planning. Thank Goodness I have Mr. Steve Clause to help me. And he does. Every year – he is part of the spirit too. I believe he loves this event as well. He would miss it if I didn’t do it. He says to me – you always do the what if, but it always is fine. He’s right.

There have been so many “behind the scenes” things I’ve dealt with which no one has any idea. I thought, I should jot down some of the interesting things that happened to me as a result or at this workshop. I started to do so today. And here they are…

The Mystery Coat:

A black mid-length winter coat was left by the fire pit outside on the workshop day. After everyone leaves, I usually sit outdoors by the fire pit with Steve to relax and talk about the day. When I put out word via emails and Facebook posts to the attendees the day after the workshop that someone left their black coat here, no one from the workshops ever claimed it. The coat fits me PERFECTLY. I needed a new coat at that time and it is larger than my usual coat size, yet, somehow it fitted just right. Was it the Christmas spirits who left it here? Still a mystery. There was a small red ball ornament in the pocket.

Almost Arrested for Taking Berries:

I got yelled at by a guy driving past a road side area where I had pulled over to cut “red berries” from wild shrubs for a KB workshop. It was a remote, nowhere area. He pulled up quickly out of nowhere too, with tires coming to a halting screech. He busted out of his car, came stomping over with a note pad in hand, and said he was going to REPORT ME for stealing red berries from a property. I remember feeling so annoyed because I was finally “in a moment” of having fun. I apologized profusely and explained I had no idea this was private property. Then he asked me, “Well, why do you want those anyways?” When I explained to him it was for the holiday workshop and that I teach about plants too, he calmed down and let me go. I didn’t dare mention the words: Kissing Balls.

The Old Rusty Wreath Frame

As mentioned above, a ritual of cleaning takes place every year in the workshop space. Well, one year, I saw something tucked behind my big black oil tank in my basement. What is that, I wondered. I pulled and tugged at it and out it came with a force. It was an “old, rusty wreath frame of a very large size.” Seriously, folks. This was not put there by me. I didn’t even make big wreaths yet. Was it left behind from whomever owned this house over 30 years ago? Or did Santa leave it there? Now, if that is not weird, what is? I won’t toss out that wreath frame. It hangs in the workshop space. I find it would be bad luck to remove it.

The Big Balls

Okay, we have, over the years, made the biggest balls of them all. Every year, I have to remind all the ladies that if they make them too big, they will fall off the hooks. We keep to measurement guidelines now, but one friend did tell me, she saw her kissing ball rolling down her street on a very snowy and windy day from her kitchen window. She made her kissing ball too big, and thus, it was too heavy and fell off the hook. We don’t make them “monster” sizes anymore but they do come out larger and better, in my opinion, than what you see in retail. OK, so big balls it is! But I did have to enforce no more monster balls, after all, this isn’t Halloween, it is Christmas! LOL.

The Dark

Every year, I offer one or two day time workshops. And a week night workshop. This year, I decided to skip the weeknight offering. It is just too dark and cold outside. The greens are outdoors but we hold the workshops indoors. To lug all the greens to the indoors in the dark was becoming too much for me. One year, after everyone left, I switched on a spot light pointing outdoors to finish up some work on some items outside in the dark, and when I clicked on the spot light, there – standing right in-front of me was a deer. I was like, OMG! It startled me. I said out loud, “You stay away from my greens!” And right then, his nose glowed red. Then I heard the jingle bells of a sleigh take off.

The High

No, we don’t get high here but the smell of the greens is so over powering in the workshop space, we may get that tinsel type high from the wonderful aromas of the fresh greens. But the natural high I get from the workshop event lasts well after everyone leaves from the workshop. In the first few years, the workshop would run all day, even into the night. I had so much adrenaline after it was over that I often sat in my kitchen trying to deflate. Mr. Santa Steve is asleep in bed by then. But I can’t fall asleep, even though I’m usually exhausted, so I start looking at all the wonderful photos of everyone from the day’s activities on my iPhone. The wreaths, kissing balls, and all the smiling attendees’ faces. In more recent years, the ladies have made a day of their events. My workshop is their number one stop, and after, some will go to lunch out, or even attend another holiday event somewhere. My event transitioned into a day of activities for the attendees, not just a few hours. Pretty cool.

The Weather

Knock on those wooden ornaments, I have been very lucky with the weather. We always make the next day a backup date should we get a big snowy storm, but in 10 years, that has never happened. One year, it was so warm out, we had t-shirts on – yup, global warming does exist. Santa is very good to me. He waits to bring on the snow storms after my holiday workshops. This year, I have a feeling it will be cold however, which means me working outside in the cold. Much of my preparation is done very close to the workshop date because I like things fresh. I like quality. And some of the preparation is done far in advance like now, including getting sign-ups, picking up hard good supplies, and what have you.

Well, I know there is more storytelling to tell but I can’t think of it now. I know when I work today, some of those stories will pop into my head again. If they do I will share them. In the meantime – You too could become part of the KB story. Sign-up for our workshop on Saturday, December 7th. There are still seats available. Ho, Ho, Ho…

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Cathy T Holding Large Wreath

Me holding a Large Custom Wreath and Wearing that Mysterious Black Coat

 

Thank you to all at the Crafts Fair

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It was a gorgeous sunny (yet very chilly outdoors) type of day at the fall craft’s fair on Saturday in Stafford, but now- for me anyways, it is planning and sign-up time for the Holiday Workshops! Here we go!

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Two Lovely Ladies with Wreath and KB Made at an Evening Workshop last year!

I’m offering 3 sessions this year and seats are limited in each, so it is again, just a friendly reminder – Sign up early before it is sold out. To sign up – visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and you will see 3 separate posts for each type of workshop.

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Beautiful Candle Centerpiece Example Made in Last Year’s Workshop

This year, in particular, it is a shorter month than usual. Why I’m offering my first workshop on 11/30/19, and then a week later is the next workshop on 12/7/19. I know folks sometimes don’t like hearing about holidays now, but alas, I have to plan ahead for everyone who wishes to attend.

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Two KB Examples

I also take custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls the first weeks in December.

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Extra Large Custom Wreath made by C. Testa

Just a heads-up to all – And again, thanks to everyone who visited me at my vendor table last Saturday – so fun meeting you all!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

 

Getting into The Spirit of Fall

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Everywhere you go in the retail stores, you will see a bit of both these days – fall and holiday decorations and supplies. A month ago, I saw so much holiday decor in a store, I told myself – don’t look that way and stay focused on fall.

I love both seasons, of course, and I also have lots of activities surrounding both in my world of offering workshops and seasonal plant related gifts.

For example, in October, my succulent topped pumpkin workshops and custom orders kick it off. Then, as October comes to an end, a craft fair or holiday event pops up, which quickly leads to my holiday workshops in early December where we make kissing balls and wreaths.

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As I worked in my greenhouse yesterday preparing for a fall craft fair coming up next weekend (as noted above), I was totally in the mood for fall. I know the holidays are right around the corner, but fall is still in the air. The fallen tree leaves crunched under my hiking boots as I walked the path to my greenhouse, and the cold brisk morning temperatures were just chilly enough to require a vest to keep warm, but not a jacket.

These environmental elements are what gets my mood into a particular seasonal theme. In fact, I went to a couple fall themed events last Saturday with Steve, my husband. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm – and I was feeling like taking a break and enjoying the fall scenes, while they last, because it won’t be long before fall moves by quickly.

We drove to a pumpkin event in Coventry, CT at a church, which turned out to be directly across the street (practically) to a restaurant we enjoy there. The pumpkins were being sold at a church and the money is donated to various causes, one of which is a Navajo Indian farm. Since it was a nice area, we picked this as our first stop on Saturday.

The pumpkins were quite large and so were the gourds of various colors which I had not seen these colors before. I thought how wonderful some of these would have been for my succulent topped pumpkin workshops in October, but no matter, I still was there to enjoy them for carving or other projects.

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I picked out this one for myself. This gourd weighs a lot but I just may make something creative with it this week. I had never seen this orange and white pattern on a gourd before. It is not a candidate for carving because it is so thick, but I couldn’t resist it.

Because the sun was brightly shining on this little journey of our’s, and the color of the shrubs next to the church were so intensely red, I used the opportunity to have Steve take a photo of me. As you can see, we were in the pumpkin and fall mood for sure.

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I absolutely love that Steve enjoys fall adventures like this as much as I do. He is a kid at heart when it comes to carving pumpkins (and me too). He picked out a large tall one for his carving plans the next day.

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After we visited this church and had lunch nearby, we drove back roads over to Manchester, CT and it turned out to be a spontaneous beautiful ride with some foliage colors still to be enjoyed. Steve commented how wonderful these roads would be on the motorcycle. He was starting to appreciate that we decided to take the day to have some fall fun.

In Manchester, we visited some small shops on Main Street during a Halloween Candy event, which even if you don’t have kids (we do not), you might enjoy. Seeing all the creative costumes and the smiles on the children’s faces is another way to get into the spirit of the fall season. Plus, they have a couple breweries in that area and we stopped at one which Steve also appreciated.

All of this activity got my spirit into creating plant related gift items and decor themed in fall colors, but I am still making some fun holiday items too. One of the fall items are large glass globes filled with live succulents and decor of orange and yellow fall colors. These will be available at this weekend’s Fall Craft Fair at the Stafford Fire Department’s event on Saturday, November 2nd which runs from 9 am to 2 pm.

 

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I was debating whether I should create holiday items or fall themes for this craft show. As I got into making items, I let the fall spirit nature guide me. The natural cones and lotus pods of warm vibes as well as some vivid and bright orange and yellow fall decor let me go into that decorating mode. I think our Saturday adventure helped me get into that mode too, which was perhaps another reason why we got out there for some fall events.

This fall fair is expected to have various craft vendors, some of which are hand-made pottery and other items. I’m sure it will be a fun day for me – and you too if you decided to stop by! I always love meeting other vendors and adventuring to a new place, as you never know what kind of inspiration you will get from it – like we did this past weekend. Stafford is also another nearby town to be appreciated in all seasons. They have a local cidery and gift shops. They have a lot to offer and it is not far from the fire house.

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Here are the details, again, of the location and event:

2019 Annual Fall Craft Fair at Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary
Saturday, November 2nd, 9 am to 2 pm
27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Fire Dept Building

Hope you will have the opportunity to swing by this weekend!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Every Plant Picture Has A Story

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Fall is a time to capture the sun’s beautiful rays on the last days of the gardening year when our plants and gardens are at their final stages before frost.

Last week, I posted about two tall planters at my home that had upright elephant ears and a couple beautiful annuals.

I truly enjoyed looking at them all year, but in the fall, the sun is different. The sun gives the plants a backdrop of bright yellow and shimmering red fall foliage – and it feels special.

Thus, I asked a professional photographer friend to take photos of my planters before they were dissembled for storage.

Here is just one of those photos:

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Is this not a stunning photo above?!

I love the way this photographer uses color and light. To me a photo like this is heaven. It is eye candy. It makes me say, “Ahhh.”

The wonderful photographer who took this photo of my planters (and many others to be blogged about soon) is Jackie and her site is called JMS Art & Photo.

I met Jackie when my workshops were featured in a magazine called, “Go Local.” I loved the photos she took then as well for that article. Many of them were from inside my greenhouse. I knew at the moment I saw her photos, I liked her style of photography.

Jackie has vibrant red hair, the friendliest smile, and is also a very creative art teacher in Stafford. She is passionate about what she does in all facets of her life from what I can tell. I will say this – I wish I had her as my art teacher when I was a kid. When I see her class related photos, I just love how she uses colors in a very vivid way. She also has that color talent (which I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it) of the photos she takes at musical fests and shows – and of my plants now! Go visit her site, you will see what I mean.

I find that every plant photo has a story and every photographer does as well. I’ve met 4 professional photographers (each women), and hired each of them to come here to take photos of my plants at some point in my gardening life.

One photographer moved away, and I remember being sad because I just loved her style too. Each photographer is different and each definitely has their own unique style and method – all wonderful. I splurge from time to time to have one take pro photos of my plants here. It is fun for me and a treat.

I want to share many of the photos Jackie of JMS Art & Photo took for me here at my home of my plants this fall. This is on my blogging to do list. And, hopefully, by the winter months, I will be able to do so.

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly share just a couple of these photos with you today.

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I’m lucky to have met special people, such as Jackie, who have a passion for their art  – and other photographers I have mentioned on this blog in prior posts. Thankfully, they never think I’m a cuckoo for my passion of plants! As they clicked away with their cameras here, I feel like my plants are on the red carpet. And I’m happy they are willing to entertain my passion thru their lenses.

Ironically, I’ve met photographers at craft shows as well. And I happen to have one coming up. In the same town that Jackie teaches. It is a Fall Craft Fair, scheduled in a week, on November 2nd, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm at the Stafford Fire Department house located on 27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT.

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You can find out all the details on their Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Facebook page. Approximately 30 vendors are scheduled to participate. My items will be focused on plant gifts related to Christmas themes as well as some fall themes. I hear they make soup in their onsite kitchen at the fire house – and I think I will be enjoying some of that myself! Swing by if you can. And don’t forget to shop the local businesses nearby in the center of Stafford Springs on Main Street. There is a beautiful artisan shop in town and a local cidery, both worth the drop by before or after.

In the meantime, be sure to capture and take in the last moments of fall whether with your own photos of your plants or when you are out and about attending shows. The leaves were stunning this year in Connecticut but many have fallen now onto the ground. Don’t miss out on the last days of these plant photo opportunities.

Have a great weekend!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

 

 

Overwintering Plants 2019

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Hi all,

I spent a good deal of this past weekend overwintering my tropical plants from patio pots and container gardens, with the help of my husband, Steve.

First, I walked around our yard with Steve and asked, “If you can move this or that – it would help me a great deal?” He was very happy to do so.

As he worked on “this or that,” which consisted of various pots with Canna lilies and such, I worked on taking apart some plants from a couple large and tall patio pots on my deck and disassembling my large tropical garden filled with a elephant ears, perennials, and a huge red banana plant (Ensete). I posted photos and videos of the process on my Container Crazy CT Facebook page.

The weather was fantastic both Saturday and Sunday, which helped a great deal, but it was cold out – I needed to wear warm gloves. We had two “light frosts” this month so far (one on the 20th and one prior in the month) but we still haven’t had a hard frost which would kill and blacken the foliage of my tropical plants that I was focused upon.

When I say tropical plants, I’m referring to the red banana plants, canna lilies, elephant ears, and mandevillas – plants which will not tolerate the frost here in CT.

I document my storing process every year usually so if you need information on it, use the red search bar on this site (right-hand side of the screen, scroll down to locate) and enter ‘red banana plant,’ or ‘overwintering’, or ‘ensete’, ‘canna’, etc – and you should be able to locate the prior detailed articles I have posted.

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This year, I planted Upright Jumbo Elephant Ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza) in two new pots I acquired. The tall pots are about 5 feet tall or maybe a little less, and are very nice, BUT the spiller plants in the pots grew so well, they actually hid the beautiful pots.

By the way, the spillers were Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ and Plectranthus coleoides ‘White Surf.’ Both were amazing. I especially love the plum color of the Alternanthera, and the Plectranthus (with green leaves serrated with white edges), both of which are always great spiller performers in container gardens. They can take full sun and part sun. And both are vigorous growers as annual plants here in our CT zones.

The tubers of the upright elephant ears were shipped to me in early April and I planted them in nursery starter pots, first in my greenhouse and then moved them out to my new patio pots later after all chances of spring frost, usually around the same time we plant out our tomato and pepper plants (around Memorial Day in late May).

I had visions of these upright elephant ears growing super huge and tall, but they didn’t reach the 6 to 8 feet height described by the producer of the tubers. However, they reached about 3 ft high in the first year – I expect it to be taller next season. And I will probably start them in the nursery pots sooner in the greenhouse to get the growth going earlier, which helps get that big show I was looking for.

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Removed Leaves

The leaves were on average about 20″ long, but what impressed me the most about this variety were the clumps they formed. One tuber shot up about 15 stalks per tuber, or tubers, which reproduce on the side, as they grow in summer. As seen here:

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Original Tuber on Left (new growth on right)

The original tuber is on the left. When it arrived in the mail in April, it had a dry papery brown covering and was big and solid. As you can see on the right, it grew another plant after I planted them in the patio pots outdoors, and this is what I love about tubers from tropical plants – you get more plants at the end of the season to replant next spring. In fact, as seen here, I got LOTS of new plants for next year:

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There are 12 stalks in this photo – all from one original tuber. After I removed them from the big patio pots, I cut the stalks down to about 4-5″ from the base of the tuber area (root end) and I will store these in a cool, dark, dry place (my basement which is unheated but it does not freeze there).

You may cut back all the foliage before or after frost before you dig up and store the tubers. I prefer doing it before frost because it is less messy. After frost, the foliage turns black and mushy.

After I dig out the tubers from the patio pots, I usually lay them out for 2 days in the sun to dry a bit. After that, they get placed in plastic rubber maid type boxes (low height containers) with peat moss covering them and a lid on the box. I sometimes drill small pin holes in the lid to allow some air exchange in the boxes/containers. Again, all of this is documented in detail in prior posts on this site too. Do not store them in too deep of containers or boxes as this increases the chances of rot. And I also recommend you only lightly cover them with the peat.

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Pots empty and ready to cover for winter

When I posted this process with videos last weekend, a few people asked some questions – one of which was, “Do you keep the soil in these pots for next year?”

Traditionally, I do not keep soil in patio pots after a year’s use – UNLESS they are really big pots like these. Potting mixes lose their ability to retain water well in smaller to medium sized pots after a year or two’s use.

I am a big believer in using the best potting mix possible – fresh every year in your containers, and to use reputable sources. I really need to do a long post on potting mixes – one of these days soon.

But for really big pots, I do keep the soil mix in there for a couple years. Sometimes with smaller patio pots, I use the “old” soil as filler only in the base of big pots. Or it goes to compost areas or garden areas as filler at the end of the season. To me it is so worth it to have quality potting mix for your plants because they thrive and put on a wonderful show of growth when you do.

I put these two big heavy patio pots on trays with wheels so we could push them to a more sheltered location on my deck and I will cover each of them with thick tarps. I sometimes put a board over the top of the openings and then cover it. This seems to work well with my bigger pots in my yard – none of them have ever cracked, thankfully.

These upright elephant ears made me happy despite not getting super tall. The sun rose behind them every morning and lit up the leaves. I enjoyed looking at them from my bedroom sliders. These plants could be over-wintered as a houseplant IF you owned a a large home, but alas, I do not, but I would if I could. However, what I love about these is how you may store the tubers in a compact way to reuse them again and again every season. And it may look like lots of work or effort, but it was relatively quick to get it done. It doesn’t take too much muscle strength to get them dug out of pots either, as compared to the ground, where the roots extend further into ground soils.

You may also allow these plants to go dormant and store them in their growing container or pots but that also means having the space to do so. When I started these in the spring, the original tubers were planted about 4″ deep in my nursery starter pots. It was the waiting game that was difficult – waiting to see how they would grow, but when they did, many weeks of viewing was enjoyed in summer till almost the end of October. Tropical plants last well beyond annuals in most cases. Another reason I continue to enjoy them.

Also, these plants very rarely get insect problems. The upright elephant ears’ leaves are slick, shiny, glossy, and dark green. They’d make great candidates for making leaf bird baths the hypertufa style way! But who has time for that? I have to get ready for my holiday workshops now – and speaking of – I have to mention them:

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Holiday Workshops – December 7, 2019 – For Beginners and Advanced Attendees

Registrations ARE happening now for my December 7th, 2019 holiday workshop and if you are interested, I encourage you to sign-up early. The start time is 11 am to whenever you like, we have fun in these workshops making kissing balls, wreaths, or candle centerpieces with beautiful fresh greens. For as long as I can offer them, you should be taking these workshops – cause, I dare say, they are wonderful! Will I ever loose steam to do them, like I do all these pots in fall? Hmm, only time can tell. Hint: Don’t Miss Out! Sign-up now!

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Red Banana Plant Stumps (Ensete)

Lastly, I also took down my two big red banana plants in other big pots in my yard. Here’s a photo of the stumps (technically pseudo stems) that get stored in BIG plastic bins, of course. I posted some time lapse videos of the process on my page noted above as well. Like the tubers of the upright elephant ears, I let them sit out in the sun to dry and drain because these big stumps hold excess water. I also clean the soil off the roots with a soft brush. Today, they will be laid to rest for the winter in the big bins in my basement.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
Located in Broad Brook, CT (East Windsor)
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

Next Workshop – This Sat, Oct 12 – Succulent Pumpkins

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Hello visitors!

We had a great time last Saturday making amazing succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces and we are offering a 2nd workshop this Sat, Oct. 12, 2019, at 1 – 3 pm. Now is your chance to sign-up! Location is Broad Brook, CT.

TIME CHANGE: Please note the time for the 10/12 workshop has been changed to 10:30 am to Noon to better suit current attendees. If interested in attending, please text Cathy T at 860-977-9473. Thank you!

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The creations last week were amazing. I love, love, love how people come up with their own versions and twists of creativity. It is so therapeutic to create, and to take home a centerpiece to showcase in your home is a great feeling.

And we don’t just make pumpkin arrangements. As seen above, attendees may bring their own container if they wish – like this really cool skull pot made by an attendee. I say she gets “first place” in creativity for skulls! Wow.

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And you may make a big or small centerpiece. I tell my attendees, you can pick a pumpkin as small as a baseball or as large as a basketball. It is up to you. The small ones are adorable, nice in groups on a table, or as table setting decor. The large ones are wonderful on large dining tables or on a stand in the home.

Succ Pumpkin Workshops by C Testa Copywrite_0003

You can pack them with succulents or go with a minimalist look. It is up to you! Everyone received some surprise free decor in the workshop. You will notice the little glitter dots are one of them. I just love how people used them – coming up with their own ideas. Grouping them, some glued them on the fake sparkly spiders, and one attendee used them to dress up a single gourd. I loved that – that gourd is a nice accent piece next to the succulent pumpkin centerpiece.

Succ Pumpkin Workshops by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Yesterday, I made this little guy below. I picked up the painted pumpkin at Strong Family Farm, a place where I offer workshops from time to time, in Vernon, CT. They are selling “painted pumpkins” and I thought, gosh, how cute would this be dressed up with my succulents?! The thing is – you can get more and more creative with these fall arrangements. I think I’ll bring this one to my presentation this week as a sample.

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We had a large group of attendees last Sat. I only wish I had more time to take more photos but I was busy. We went over propagation steps, the types of succulents to use on pumpkins, and then got right into crafting and making the centerpieces. Again, the pumpkins are NOT cut open – there is no rot issue. These last for months!

Now is the time to come make one this Saturday, October 12, 2019, from 1 to 3 pm! And by the way, I also make custom orders, like this one recently purchased. If interested, contact me anytime. Tis the Pumpkin Season.

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Thank you – Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Container Crazy CT offers workshops where we combine plants with art. We also install container gardens, patio gardens and sell plants in spring time for the tomato/pepper season. Soon it will be the holiday season. Be sure to visit our workshops site to sign-up early. Those fill up fast!

Succulent Pumpkins – This Saturday, 10/5

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Flyer Succ Pump This Sat

Last weekend, I held a Mini Succulent Pumpkin session at the Ellington Farmers Market and it was so much fun. Moms and their kids participated and the whole process is rewarding. To see the smiling faces of the kids walking away with their little pumpkin in hand was too adorable.

But, this weekend, it all about making Succulent Pumpkins of any size. Large, small, many mini sizes – it is up to the attendees. I am offering my first workshop of the Autumn season this Saturday, 10/5/19 from 10 am to Noon. Attendees bring their own pumpkins! Why? Because everyone has their own style and color preferences, and there are so many to choose from out there from local farmers and other places. I don’t much believe in offering workshops that are cookie cutter where everyone makes the same exact thing – people are so creative when they get into creating their centerpiece and this makes it all the more exciting. You have choices at my workshops.

By the way, lots of people assume the pumpkins are cut open – and they are not – this would rot the pumpkin – so come learn the how to’s here at my workshop on Saturday. The process is explained in detail, we teach you how to care for the succulents, and even how to continue them on after the pumpkin decorating season is over later in the year.

There is still time to sign up. Just either visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site or text me at 860-977-9473 if interested. We have some seats available. You pay a registration fee which includes the mechanics and instruction, but you must bring your own pumpkin and glue gun with glue sticks. We have some other misc glue available for attendees to use but the glue guns work best.

Also, here at Container Crazy CT’s in Broad Brook, I have the succulents of many styles and sizes waiting for you to pick from. You buy the succulents at the workshop and thus, you can make a huge pumpkin or many smalls – whatever you desire. That is the fun of it – if you ask me. I work hard to provide quality succulents and care for them for especially for my workshop attendees. They are fresh and happy succulents. They are waiting for you.

In addition, we are going to have a Propagation Station where you learn the steps on how to make succulent babies. And complete, detailed handouts are provided. We also will have some light autumn snacks. Hope you will consider attending as there are only 2 offerings of this workshop this month! The first one is only 4 days away.

And after the workshop, a few months later, attendees are invited to a free Facebook live where we show you what to do with your centerpiece after the autumn season is over to keep your succulents growing till spring time.

Thank you, Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

containercathy@gmail.com
860-977-9473
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

 

Persian Shield is Purplelicious

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If you haven’t been introduced or seen the annual, Persian Shield, you are missing out on one of the most amazing purple colored foliage plants to use in container gardens.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) enjoys full to part sun and will grow to about 18-36″ tall. It has an upright habit, makes an excellent filler, and is an annual plant except for zones 9-11. In CT, we are zone 6.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0007

In a part sun situation, under patio umbrellas, these plants performed beautifully this season for me at home. However, I also have installed them in full sun situations at client sites (photos on those later) this year, and they performed equally well because they are heat tolerant too. I guess you could say, this plant is very versatile.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0002

As a container garden installer, sometimes I will have some left over plants and assemble them at home in random fashion. Thus, this year, I put together 3 plants you may not consider would “work well” together for design purposes, but they did. They were a darker variety of rubber plant, Persian Shield, and mint.

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The mint served as a cascading spiller (and was handy to cut from for summer cocktails), the rubber plant served as the large and tall thrillers, and the Persian Shield was the filler (and is of a perfect height with the rubber plant which grew taller).

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I tend to enjoy foliage plants over flowering. Foliage lasts a long time (still going strong right now in mid-September) and adds a great deal of texture. In the case of Persian Shield, it has the narrow shaped leaves with pointy ends and the leaf veins and the somewhat ruffle texture on the leaf itself gives it a sense of ambiance.

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These two patio pots with Persian Shield graced the steps leading to the top level of my deck. When friends came by, they always stopped to not only comment on the Persian Shield’s coloring and beauty, but they also would reach down to touch the leaves with their finger tips. This is a true sign of a plant that is captivating.

The rubber plant’s darker toned and larger sized leaves gave the Persian Shield’s coloring a bit more impact but this plant also pairs well with softer colors, like pinks or softer purples, which is a combination I put together at a client’s full sun patio site this season (and will show photos of that combo later).

I have found the coloring of Persian Shield is best in the part-sun situations, but I would never limit it to only part sun. It tolerates the full sun situations. I watered these two pots regularly and the soil remained moist most times, although one should always be sure to not over water anything to the point of soggy. The nice thing about Persian Shield is it can take low water use as well. Again, easy and versatile.

This plant may be overwintered as a house plant, which I have not done myself, or you may take tip cuttings to root in water and hopefully keep it going to replant next season, or just run to the nursery in the spring time to get some more because Persian Shield is worth it.

In a future post, I will share more photos of how I used this plant and post about the rubber plants used in these combinations soon. They have an interesting story to go with them. 

In the meantime, enjoy the purplelicious nature of this wonderful primarily foliage plant (Note: It does bloom light purple flowers eventually but they are not very showy).

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

P.S. The beautiful photos in this post were taken by JMSArtandPhoto

Mini Succulent Pumpkins at the Market

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Banner of Workshops for FB Page Oct 2019

Hi all,

The recent fall weather changes of cool evenings signals Succulent Pumpkin time which is a favorite of mine for autumn decorating. They have been all the rage for a few years now and I very much enjoy creating these and offering workshops and demo’s on them this time of year. Here’s what’s coming up!

EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

You have several choices to learn the how-to’s or to participate hands-on with Container Crazy CT:

September 28, 2019 – Saturday
Ellington Farmers Market
Mini Succulent Pumpkins
9 am to 12 pm
Arbor Park

Look for me in the big white gazebo where I will be providing tips on how to create gorgeous succulent topped pumpkins. Bring your own mini pumpkin and we will help you get started! Various types of succulents will be available for purchase from me to finish your design at home. (Note: This is not a full “hands-on event.” It is set up to show you each step and help get you started to finish DIY style at home.)

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Bring a Mini Pumpkin like this one!

October 5, 2019 – Saturday (10 am to 12 pm)
October 12, 2019 – Saturday (1 pm to 3 pm)
Container Crazy CT’s
Workshops in Broad Brook, CT

These are two full hands-on workshop where you make your own succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. All the details are outlined on our site: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. Bring your own pumpkin(s) – real or faux. We supply the class, tools, moss, propagation info, autumn snacks, and more. You purchase the succulents you wish to use at the workshop – and we have varied styles and especially prepared succulent for you. What does this mean? There are advanced steps required for success with preparing succulents which Cathy T does for you before the workshop. This is part of the reason why we offer choices and we also tell you the secrets on the how to’s. An additional bonus is attendees are invited to free Facebook Live sessions after to keep learning about succulents, how to deal with them later in the season, and offer over-wintering care details. These two workshops have registration fees and pre-registration is required. One workshop is offered during the morning hours, and the other is held in the early afternoon. It is a fun day with a friend, mom/daughter, or solo – Come join our autumn fun.

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Large Succulent Pumpkin

October 10th, 2019 – Thursday (1 pm – 2 pm)
West Hartford Garden Club
Succulent Topped Pumpkin Demonstration

I will be speaking at the wonderful West Hartford Garden Club on a Thursday – during the day hours. If you are free during the day and wish to learn how to make a Succulent Topped Pumpkin, come on by. The club starts their day with a lunch at 12:00 noon followed by their business meeting, and then my presentation at 1 pm. Take note their location recently moved to St. John’s Episcopal Church at 679 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, CT. (Note: This is not a hands-on session, but a demonstration. Contact the club for details about attendance.)

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A Wooden Faux Pumpkin – The Creations from Mini, Medium, to Large are endless!

OTHER HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS

Stay tuned for the annual Holiday workshops. The registrations will be opening very soon. Visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and note the dates: November 30th for the Invite Only KB 10th year Celebration and Workshop and the December 7th Open Workshop for the Beginner and Advanced attendees. We make kissing balls, wreaths, and candle table centerpieces with fresh holiday greens at these workshops – an annual event not to be missed.

HAPPENING NOW – Autumn Cleanup of Containers

As noted above, I am already starting to disassemble some of my own plants to get a head-start. However, many of my container gardens may stay out till the first frost of October (such as the Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants) and then I store the tubers, corms, rhizomes, etc. Most of this has been previously documented on this blog. Just search by plant name and you should be able to find my overwintering posts.

I also started taking down my Morning Glory vines – they became quite messy – and grew into my garage light fixtures – the leaves were tattered and worn so out they went yesterday. I also took apart most of my tomato plants in containers, which by now, still had some fruit but most of the plants were exhausted. The soil will be tossed for these as some had plant disease issues and thus the soil is not reusable, and the pots will be thoroughly washed in soapy water with a bit of bleach before storing away the pots.

Today, I will tackle more of the tomato pots and some of my deck plants. I already moved in some houseplants to the house – and showed some tips recently on this. It is important to inspect all plants for any insects, removed any damaged leaves, wash the outside of pots if moving in with same pots, and avoid the cold chills of the evenings now for “some” houseplants. And I find it is best to move them in when the soil is dry. Some of my plants were under patio umbrellas so they were not soaked from recent rainfalls.

I always like to move in my succulents before cold wet rains which soak the soil and the soil tends to not dry out much this time of year, so I have been moving my succulent dish gardens into sun on my driveway to dry out any overly wet soil. This week is a good week to do this – we are having some great weather this week. However, I usually do this before we get chilly evenings but fell behind due to a vacation. My biggest tip is move those dish gardens with succulents in before the soaking wet soil happens and it stays cool out in the evening – because this invites insects when you move them in. Cold wet soils are not the best situation for succulents. If possible, move those succulent dish gardens in while the soil is dry. Succulent tend to rot if the soil stays really wet at the base of the plants too. There are other ways and methods to deal with extending your succulents from containers and dish gardens, and part of this is propagation steps which I go over in my October workshops.

As for the hanging basket attendees from this past spring, I showed some steps recently of propagating the succs and you may refer to your handouts too – which is one way to keep the succulent hanging baskets going. You may also just remove them individually from the hanging basket arrangement and pot them into new individual pots with fresh potting mix. Put them by a sunny window in your home.

Thanks for tuning in,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

We offer plant related workshops, container gardening and balcony garden installs, garden club talks, and occasionally sell plants and offer demo’s at markets. It is fall and winter time – and new workshops are coming up – hope you will join us.

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Workshop Dates Updated

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To learn about the latest Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

We have posted our annual “Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops” dates in October and also noted the dates of the 10th annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshops.

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Pre-registrations for the Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops are open as of today. Visit the page above to find all details, register and join us! We are offering two Saturday dates in early October.

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Dish Garden for the Raffle next Wed, 8/21, 4-6 pm @ Joe’s!

I also have a few other events coming up, one of which is NEXT week, on August 21st, 2019 at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits in East Windsor, CT. Come try some wine at their Wine Tasting and Sip while learning about my succulents from 4-6 pm! A succulent dish garden (above photo) AND bottle of wine will be raffled off that evening – free to attend all. Would love to see you all there – even if you have only a bit of time to swing in.

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The KB & Wreath Making Workshops for 2019 are a special celebration year – it is my 10th year offering this annual workshop. The Celebration Date, which will be by invite only, is scheduled on November 30, 2019. This will be for the regulars who’ve been here every year! The 2nd workshop date is December 7, 2019 for the Advance and Beginner Workshop. Take your pen and calendars out (or your iPhones) and note the dates now. More details will be provided in early September on the KB events – stay tuned. It will be a fun and busy holiday season and it is just a tad bit early to think about winter, but now is the time to note the dates if you are interested.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com