Showing Progress on Plant Growth in Pots

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It is a big thrill for me when a container gardening workshop attendee shoots over a photo of how their container garden is doing since assembly at Container Crazy CT’s May Workshops.

Sometimes, they will post a picture on Facebook for me, or I may happen to be visiting them at their home this summer, which was the case with friend and relative, Renee, on Saturday for her 4th of July event.

The very first thing I saw was her big pot on her driveway situated between the garage doors, and it looks amazing!

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Texture, texture, texture

Just look at how all the textures and contrasts are working in this arrangement – I love this type of look. It is dramatic, lush, and showy.

I was especially happy to see it doing so well because on her way home from the workshop, she texted me to say she made it almost all the way home, but took a corner and her pot fell over in her car!

“Oh No,” I thought! “This can’t happen.”

Of course, mental note – make sure every attendee secures their big pot in the future before they head out the driveway. We don’t want that to ever happen again.

Although I offered some replacements, Renee decided to take the ‘wait and see’ approach – and well, it paid off!

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Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)

First of all, her Cardoon plant, well, just look at it! It is doing very well – and this plant isn’t always easy to grow. It is a plant hardy to Zones 7-11 and loves full sun, and because the foliage is serrated and has silver to gray green prickly stems, it adds that amazing texture.

I grew one of these in a urn by itself one year, and it was dramatic because it arched over the edges and stood tall at the same time. So it does well solo too.

This plant will sometimes move its leaves up in a praying motion at night. It can grow to six feet tall. Imaging it praying in the evenings.

I am very happy Renee did well with it – and she noted, the prickly stems have gotten her from time to time when watering. She did watch the plant and saw insects at one point, but she kept on it with organic pray and it was resolved.

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Pennisetum ‘First Knight’ (Fountain Grass)

This fountain grass, hardy to Zones 8-11, is one of the darkest around, and largest. It grows up to 54″ tall, but what I really really love is how it contrasts with the Cardoon’s silvery ghost like color and texture.

Fine next to coarse, remember that rule, attendees?! Great example. Renee picked the right type of candidates to go together. This fountain grass is a full sun to part sun lover and deer resistant should you have deer in your yard, which I doubt would here but it is good to know. I’m glad I had these offered at the May Workshops on Container Gardening.

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Perilla (Chinese Basil)

I always like to add new candidates to the plant list for the workshops, and this one was new to me. Selected because of its dark color – useful for designs and adding contrast – but also because it seemed interesting for flavor – and has aromatic foliage. It grows quickly, but one gardener warned me, it can pop-up in your garden beds if used in the garden – which I did not know. It is native to the Himalayas to Southeast Asia and a relative to Basil and Coleus. When you see how large the leaves grow – it doesn’t surprise me it is related to Coleus. But what this plant accomplished in Renee’s design is the repeating and echoing of a dark tones from the fountain grass. Well-done.

Pelargonium (Scented Geraniums)

Tucked in the right corner showing some of the green colors is a scented Geranium, called ‘Lemon Fizz’ – and it is amazing when you touch the leaves, it really gives off a lemon scent. It will bloom pretty pink flowers soon. Because our workshop included edibles and medicinal plants – this was a nice touch – because, in my opinion, anytime you smell a wonderful scent – it IS therapeutic.

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Also, another attendee, Joyce, sent a photo (above) and said she loves her pot and all was going well, along with Kathy, who sent a photo of her face next to a red banana leaf with a photo of her pot as well. Love seeing when the plants are looking healthy with no issues.

Joyce kept saying at the workshop – “I don’t know what I’m doing.” – Well, I think she did cause just look at it. I remember insisting she add “slow release fertilizer” because she wanted to skip this step at first even though we had discussed the whys during my presentation, but I bet she is glad now she did that step. She also included the Pennisetum ‘First Knight’ – I like how it intermingles between the other plants in her big pot.

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Both of them used the red banana plant (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’) for Zones 9-10 which is very showy. By the end of summer, it will be probably 3 times the size it is now! And these plants may be overwintered to reuse each season, shown in my fall workshop (see list below). Kathy, shown above, is very happy with her red banana plant, and she also purchased a couple Bajoo (green) banana plants and put them in her front bed – she said all are doing very well. Kathy is an experienced gardener and has that “green thumb” in my opinion – I am not surprised she is taking good care of her candidates at home.

Some Plant Issues

However, there were some people with some plant issues. Unfortunately, the Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco) with star like deep purple flowers, got a particular bug problem on a few people’s plants, so I advised them to cut it down completely leaving just the base – and I witnessed one attendee’s a few weeks after this cutting back – it grew back beautifully, so that worked, however, I think I’ll skip that plant in the future. It tended to topple a bit as it got larger in addition to getting an insect problem on some. Plus, the flowers when spent, stick to the plant and requiring a bit of grooming.

Also, some people had concerns with their red banana plant. We did have cool nights there for a while which these tropical plants don’t enjoy cool that much, and I thought, this could be why they didn’t perform well in some cases, but I am not totally sure.

It also could be watering routines (over or under watering) – or even winds – which it is natural for a banana plant leaves to tear in wind. This happens in the tropics during rainstorms, etc. If the plant was neglected from not enough watering, it can get stressed and not recovery quickly. I usually don’t experience many problems with the red bananas however, so I was a little stumped as to why some did very well, and others struggled. Always something to learn about and investigate.

The leaves of the red banana plants should not be fully yellow or suffering too much now with our warm temps. I recommend, if you are still having an issue with this plant, give it a boost of liquid fertilizer. Call me with questions if you have concerns. We can go over what to do next, but I am hopefully they are doing better by now.

Other than these two plants of the many we had available at the workshops, I think everyone seems happy, so that is great news. I care on how your plants do – so let me know, or send a pic!

Additionally, it is not uncommon to see aphids or other troublesome insects this time of year – so scout your plants, look at the under sides of the leaves too if you see any holes or damage, or even tap the leaves, to see if any bugs fall out. This is a way to check them.

East Windsor Farmers Market, Sunday, July 1oth

Up next is the East Windsor Farmers Market at the Trolley Museum off Rt. 140. This market is growing – try to pop in. As usual, I plan to give a free talk on container gardening tips. I will have lots of elephant ears (Colocasias ‘Blue Hawaii’, ‘Diamond Head’, ‘Maui Magic’, and ‘Black Magic’ cultivars), succulents (Hens and Chicks), Delospermas, and still have beautiful herbs, such as Greek Oregano. The prices will be reduced as well. Additionally, I plan to bring my beautiful hanging baskets of Begonias (‘Gryphon’ and ‘Dragon Wing Pink’). Hope to see you there on Sunday.

Windsor Locks Farmers Market, Tuesday, July 12th

I attended this market for the first time – and wow, I met some wonderful local people – so I will be back on Tuesday of next week. This market is held on a weekday which is a nice option. Many people pop in after work to get some fresh veggies for dinner. It is held in the back area of the town’s library off Main Street. If you see a dancing carrot – That is the market master waving people over. You won’t see the tents from the road, so drive into the library, and look for us by the back parking lot. Last week, free yoga was offered – how nice! They have fresh veggies, nice candle products with oils, local honey, and more.

New Workshops Coming Up

We have 3 new workshops on the horizon. The Glass Garden Art Workshop with Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie – We will be using wine bottles! Then after this – we are offering a Succulent Arrangement Workshop in October, followed by a new workshop on Growing Nutritious Soil Spouts in early November! Be sure to check them all out via our new blogsite called, www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, where you may register online if interested and will find all the details. We hope you will join us.

Workshop Flyer July 2016 Latest

Summer, Summer, Summer

Everyone is kicked into summer activities by now – including me – Don’t let it slip away without making sure to enjoy every moment possible. I know this – I enjoy summer more “BECAUSE OF” my plants and container gardens on my deck.

I love sitting among my potted plants and admiring all as I read a mag after taking a dip in the pool, or hanging with friends. Watering is even more critical now because of our heat wave this week, and because – well, it is summer.

Tomatoe plants drink a lot of water, so if you potted some up in May, be sure to check them in the afternoon after watering in the mornings. If dry, give them more! Also, remember, let soil dry a bit between watering. Don’t water-log your containers, but watch the plants. If they are limpy looking by day’s end – they may be crying for moisture.

My ‘Patio Snacker’ Cucumber plant, which all sold in May at my workshops and farmers market offerings, is doing fantastic in my big pot (22″ in diameter) on the deck. Of course, I kept one plant for myself – It grows a new cucumber every other day or so now – LOVE it. It is perfect for pots – and I think that will be a keeper on my plant ordering list.

Also, my tomato plant in a pot is going gangbusters. I planted the ‘Juliet’ which small plum shaped tomatoes in clusters on the branches. There are lots of tomatoes on it  right now in the green stages – I can’t wait to see them ripen. I sold several varieties of tomato plants in May, and I hope your’s is doing well also. If want to see photos of these, search Container Crazy CT on Facebook to find me or click the links on this blog to your right.

Enjoy your week everyone!

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

P.S. See my Pinterest boards on Plant Care – Important this time of year, there are many tips there.

 

 

Cool nights, Ants, and Plant Care Updates

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Updates on workshops, some plant care tips – and ants!

Floral Design Workshop Cancelled this Month:

First, the Floral Design Workshop for this month (June 25th) has been cancelled. We had low sign-ups and needed a minimum to proceed. However, we will offer this workshop again in February 2017 as the Valentine’s Day option because that was very popular this past February. See our workshops blogsite, WORKSHOPSCT.com, for more information.

Mini Workshop on Hanging Succulent Balls tomorrow:

Second, I am offering a mini first time workshop on making a “Hanging Succulent Ball” tomorrow at 5 pm, June 7th. If interested, contact me on cost and details. We have beautiful Chick Charm succulents, more perennial cacti-like and succulents for this creative project, and hanging dripping succulents, such as Delospermas which look beautiful on these balls.

While many places will make these balls using strictly moss balls (with no soil) which need to be misted regularly to keep the succulents alive, I don’t feel this would keep the plants growing over the long haul, so we are making ours with soil filled in fiber balls and contained in hanging wire baskets. It is not an easy project, but we have all the steps and parts prepared for anyone willing to give this project a try for the first time here at Container Crazy CT’s.

We will show our results too. Again, if interested, contact me soon at 860-977-9473 (text or call) or email containercathy@gmail.com.

Plants Available Here for You:

Third, if you are local and still in need of plants, feel free to contact me as well. I have a few goodies left in my stock, such as lemon thyme, red and green banana plants, elephant ears, pepper plants, succulents, greek oregano, basil, chives, fuschia, creeping Jenny, more perennials, etc. There are a few blueberry dwarf shrubs available, go-ji berry shrubs, and Sambucas elderberry (great for jam making).

Also, I will be at the East Windsor Farmers Market on July 10th. It is located at the Trolley Museum grounds, off Rt 140. Their opening day is at the end of the month on June 26th.

Ants in Pots

I potted up two huge container gardens this past weekend and the next day, noticed tiny ants in one of the pots. They found it fast.

Hmmm, I thought – “What brought them here?” – I believe they were in the ground (area is very dry where I put one pot) and they found the moisture. Tiny little ants were running around the top of the soil. It was my niece who was here this weekend whom noticed them first – and pointed it out to me.

Ants don’t harm your plants per se, but we don’t like them crawling around much either, especially if in a potted house plant. No need to have those ants in the house.

Also, ants are friends with aphids and hang around them due to their desirable honey dew which is secreted from their aphid butts! If you see ants in your container gardens, check for aphids which are sucking insects themselves, but they suck the life from your plants and are not a good thing/bug. Many are green and visible if you look closely and they come in other colors too!

Investigate to see if you see any of the tiny aphids on your plants (and especially check the underside of leaves) to make sure that is not the reason ants are hanging around.

I use insecticidal soap by Garden Safe if I see aphids on a plant, and it takes care of the problem immediately. It is important to resolve the bad bugs right away, and when you water your plants, that is a good time to be Inspector Clouseau and look at them closely for any harmful bugs.

Another option, if you see aphids on a part of a plant, is to just cut that part of the plant off if doable with clean pruners, and toss it away somewhere far from your container gardens.

At first I thought maybe the compost I used in the soilless mix was the culprit for these tiny ants appearing, but it was not the case as I used the same compost in another huge pots – no ants there.

You can ignore the ants if you wish or there are several methods to take care of them. Here’s one article with ideas from Gardening Know How:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/insects/ants-in-flower-pots.htm

Cool Nights Slows Growth of Tropicals

Have you noticed the recent cool nights we have experienced? It is a welcome feeling through our windows and enjoyable during the evenings when we are sleeping, but this will slow down the growth of tropical lovers just a bit, such as the elephant ears (Colocasias).

A couple people have commented on this (the elephant ears not being big yet) – be patient, after a few warm temperature days over the course of a couple weeks, your Colocasias will take off. You probably have seen how large they grew in my photos of past container gardens, but remember, this was after a few weeks of summer as well.

For example, I noticed my plants of Begonias really pop recently in my pots, while the elephant ears are slowly pushing out new leaves, taking longer. You can sense when a plant has taken root, it perks up and you can see it expand in size if you pay attention.

Elephant ears and other tropical plants need warm evenings too – so we will see them really rise fast when our summer fully kicks in, and the soil is warm at night.

Also, a couple people said they were concerned about yellow leaves on their banana plant – this can be a sign of over watering – especially if the yellowing is on the lower leaves. Just cut them off with a clean pair of scissors or pruners. New leaves arise from the center of the plants, so taking one or two off the bottom is not harmful. And reduce your watering if you see yellowing leaves on the lower part of your plants.

Red Banana Plant Care Info:

Red banana plants sometimes have brown on their leaves. There are several causes for this – I believe it is when moisture is trapped in the center of its thick trunk like stalk called a pseudostem (this is the trunk basically that is very fleshy and contains moisture in between each new leaf), and it can make a brown spot there as it unrolls from the center if it stays too wet. Usually, this is temporary and as summer gets the plant going, this minor symptom disappears. If you have well-draining soil, you won’t see this problem much, why soil draining is critical in most container gardening situations.

As I’ve discussed during my workshops this May, watering your plants is a balancing act, and too much can cause problems as well as too little. Water logging the soil is not a good thing either – You should allow moist soil to dry out between watering somewhat so the roots get the oxygen needed to survive. The type of plant matters as well as the type of pot but once you get familiar with their needs and create this balance, all is perfect.

Also, if you move your plants from a greenhouse or from inside the home into the sun immediately, that will cause sunburn on the leaves (white patches usually), as also reviewed in our May Container Gardening workshops. Most of you know to move your finished container garden into the shade first before transitioning it to full sun if you potted up sun lovers for plants which were not hardened off previously at home or by your nursery sources.

Red banana plants (Ensete genus) seem to do great in dappled shade (when under over head tall trees or a patio umbrella) as it casts some shade but they are getting sun. However, they are okay in full sun, but you have to water more often, etc. So if you see your leaves suffering, change the position of the pot if possible to more shade for this plant if you feel it may be getting too much sun.

Lastly, the cool damp temps and returns back to full hot sun and heat will sometimes stress tropical plants which may create brown areas on red banana plants leaves – and that is what we had the past few days for weather patterns.

See this Banana Plant Care link for more information. Overall, I feel these plants are easy to care for, grow quickly, and in most cases, don’t show problems, but it is worthy to note here if you have any concerns. Don’t panick, think about the weather patterns, watering patterns and exposure first. Or contact me and send me a photo.

Otherwise, all seems to be progressing well based on emails and comments from attendees. Many have written to say they are happy with their container gardens and beautiful plants, and are enjoying them – all good news.:) And many have been going container crazy, like me. Welcome to the club!😉

Please Share Your Container Photos

I would absolutely love to see the progress of your plants, so if you can shoot me a photo, please do so. I will be sharing mine, as always on Instagram and Facebook.

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

http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.CONTAINERGARDENSCT.com

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Ellington Farmers Market invites Container Crazy Cathy T

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Good Morning Everyone!

We had wonderful warmth and sun yesterday, and a nice rainfall is happening today which is providing everyone the perfect “setup” for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend – when many people start to plant their vegetable plants in their gardens – and of course, in container gardens and patio pots!

Most gardeners follow the rule of planting on Memorial Day because we are finally safe from frost and the soil is warmed up for our warm loving plants. This is especially true this year because of the our cool spring. Everyone is anxious – including our plants.

EFM Black Pepper Better Image

BEAUTIFUL BLACK PEARL PEPPER PLANTS – WONDERFUL IN MIXED CONTAINER GARDENS

Edibles and Fruiting Shrubs in Container Gardens

Thus – This weekend’s free talk on “Edibles and Fruiting Shrubs” in Container Gardens at Ellington Farmers Market is perfect timing. I will be at the big “square” gazebo (there are two gazebos on the site) from 9:00 am to Noon – and the talk will begin at 10:00 am.

I plan to go over tips on how to use fruiting shrubs in patio pots and also planting mixed container gardens with herbs and other wonderful various plants.

Thyme, pepper plants, tomatoes plants, banana plants, mint, fennel, oregano, rhubarb, Goji shrubs, blueberry shrubs, Sambucas Elderberries, cucumber, and many more will be available for purchase too. Will have select tropical thrillers and some flowering perennials and even succulents.

Don’t miss out – now is the time to grab them while they are hot.

EFF Blueberry Pot

Location of Ellington Farmers Market:

Arbor Park
Arbor Park is located Main Street in the heart of town. Arbor Park offers a safe area to walk. The Farmer’s Market is held in the park on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to Noon.

EFM Lemon Thyme

HEALTHY AND HAPPY LEMON THYME – FILLERS IN POTS – AND SNIP AWAY!

DIRECTIONS

1-84. Get off exit 66; proceed up the road towards rt. 30; turn right onto rt. 30; take immediate left onto west road (Vernon police dept. on your left).  Follow past Garden Barn, Walgreens, and Big Y.  Turn left onto Main Street (Light where Kloter Farms and Valero are located) Arbor Park is about 1/2 mile down the road on the right.
From Broad Brook Area – Take 140 to Ellington Center, get to Main Street and you will see the park on your left before Kloter Farms. There are signs indicating where to go for parking which is located in the back area of the market grounds. The big square gazebo is on the street side where the talk will begin promptly at 10 am.
Hope to see you there! 
Cathy Testa
Check Out Cathy T’s Feature in GoLocal’s May Issue
EFM Pepper Flowers

Pepper Plants in Flower – Ready to plant and produce for you!

Strong Family Farm Hosts Today’s Workshop

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How much fun can a gal have?! I have the wonderful opportunity to teach at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT today and I would like to thank Nancy Strong in advance for her support of local businesses such as myself.

“Strong Family Farm provides a historic agricultural education center where children, individuals, families, and community groups can experience an authentic family farm environment.”

This above statement is from their website. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. It is an “authentic family farm” and historic. It reminds me of my childhood. Seeing the cow barn, where today’s Container Gardening Workshop will be held, brought back memories of being in my father’s barn and the scents, sounds, as well as the sun streaming through the cracks of the barn’s wall are all reminiscent of experiences I had growing up on a farm.

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Today’s Container Gardening Workshop

May 21, 2016 – Saturday
9:00 am to Noon
274 West St, Vernon, CT 06066

Lecture from 9:00-10:30 followed by potting up your containers.
Pre-registered attendees get first dibs on plants.
Walk-in’s for Plant Sales Welcome at 11:30 am.

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The Plants

Where do I begin? We have beautiful “Chick Charm” Hens and Chicks (Sempervivums), Cucumber plants, various Pepper plants, Tomatoes, Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Stevia, Strawberry, Rhubarb, etc. We also have specialty shrubs perfect for containers, such as Blueberry and Goji Berry. And others for the fun of it – such as Sambucas (Elderberry). And of course, hot tropicals such as red banana plants (Ensete), Elephant Ears (Colocasia), and Cynara (Cardoon). Then there’s the annuals from beautiful Begonias to a mix of Coleus and much more.

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The Timing

I think this weekend is absolutely perfect timing too – We had a cool spring but looks like the warm up and sun is officially here! These plants are going to take off in the container gardens or in your gardens should you grab a few today at Strong Family Farm.

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The Prep

I wish I could video tape myself setting up and then do one of those speed up versions. Running from here to there to get hand-selected plants from “local CT growers only!” And running around setting up workshops – lifting tables, lifting big bags of potting mix, pushing a wheel barrel, bending up and down constantly – phew, but the exercise is great – cause you know, Gardening is GREAT for the body and soul.

The Fretting

They call me Container “Crazy” for a reason. The highs are high and the lows can be low – like when I lost two trays of basil – Why? – even with my grow room, our cool spring fluxes didn’t make them happy. But then a high again – a tree frog watching me work one day and chirping, or when the birds swoops overhead as I walk by, or seeing my first butterfly of the season visiting my honeysuckle shrub.

The Dedication is for Attendees

I do this all for my attendee and because I have a strong passion for dressing up outdoor spaces with mixed container garden plantings and patio pots. Caring for the plants, nurturing them – and yes, even talking to them – all takes place behind the scenes. Yup, crazy alright.

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After the Workshop – Attendees Get Details

After my workshops, I email each attendee individually to give them tips about the plants they selected. It may be information about how to prune a plant, its bloom cycle, habit or care. Anything I think will be useful to them. I am here to answer their questions after my workshops on plants in their container gardens or in their gardens at home too. It is one of the benefits of being on the NEWBIE or NON-NEWBIE Cathy T’s Workshops. I’ve been hosting these workshops for over 8 years – so there’s a lot to share.

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Upcoming – Ellington Farmer’s Market (5/28)

So, today will be another fun filled busy day. Then the following weekend, you will find me at the Ellington Farmer’s Market at their square gazebo (there are two gazebos on the site) where I will be offering a free talk and of course, offering more plants for sale. Pop in to say hello. The market is excellent. We bring a cooler and my husband walks around to fill it with fresh veggies, fruits, and fish while there – then we have a feast when we get home. Yumm. Taking clippings from my herbs for the grill cooking tops it off.

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Hope to See You

After today, the hammock in my backyard has my name written on it. You can find me there. But I hope to see you before, after, or later – Keep Checking In.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 – Feel Free to Text Me
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

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Container Garden Design Winner

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It is the day after Container Crazy CT’s first container gardening workshop of the season and I’m excited to announced our Container Design Challenge Winner.

Congratulations to Stacey!

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There are several reasons why Stacey’s design was selected as the prize winner.

First, she used a different technique to structure her design than the typical T-S-F discussed in class, where she put her big Ensete (red banana plant) thriller to the back side rather in the center of the pot.

Second, she correctly divided a perennial which had a densely packed root system, as we also discussed during our presentation on things you should do with plants which are girdled or densely packed before planting them into your container gardens.

Additionally, she selected varied heights of her plants for balance, such as the perennial which will also bloom later in the season, and she incorporated different textures.

Stacey also added what I would say fits the “chiller” plant category also discussed in our workshop – The Oscularia deltoides. This new succulent definitely captures visual interest and has the additional advantage of serving as a ‘spiller’ when it will reach out over the pot’s edge as it grows.

Also, the chiller echoes the colors of the Coleus via it’s stems, AND echoes the colors of the base of her pot.

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Back side of Stacey’s Container Garden

And another bonus – Stacey’s pot was the “perfect size” – large enough based on my recommendations on sizes, and also beautiful.

She mentioned to me how she drilled her drainage holes in other pots at home and even gave me a tip on how to handle urns which can be tricky to add drainage holes to.

As I’ve said before – My attendees become experts and I start getting jealous of them – Great job Stacey!

Your prize is a terrarium – Contact me for pick-up! You may select one with a cow, rabbit, or cat decor. They are a $40 dollar value.

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Colorful Bunny in a Terrarium

A Close Second

Everyone does amazing jobs with their selections of plants for their container gardens – but we want to mention Ashley’s herb drawer. She was on a mission to create an herbal mix – and she added creative touches into her adorable herbal drawer. She brought along kitchen utensils and marked the herbs’ names on them and inserted them into the soil.

 By the way, my assistant, Amelie, whispered to me, “Ashley’s Mom is going to win.” – because her Mom, Wendy, incorporated butterfly decor in her pots, so Wendy, just want to let you know, Amelie was voting for you.

Speaking of assistants, I’d like to thank my husband, Steve. He worked in the yard before everyone arrived, then he assisted with carrying bags of soils, pots, and handled drilling. He went above and beyond – would you believe after everyone left – he had the energy to put away all the tables, chairs, and patio umbrellas which he also had put out early in the morning. Not sure where he got all that gusto but I can tell you this – he passed out on the couch the minute he put his feet up.

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Steve advises Joyce on the checkout procedure.

Upcoming Plant Care

Apparently, we may have a dip in temps – AGAIN! Wow, this spring is an odd one – so my advice is watch the weather forecast, and if it gets low, down to the low 4o’s or below – either move the pot to a sheltered place if possible, or very carefully cover the plants with a “light” bed type sheet – use poles to create a tee-pee if necessary. Remove the sheet as soon as the sun is up the next day. This is important for the tropicals in particular. Perennials are fine, and some annuals, but use caution. I hope after this last dip – we can relax and let our container gardens grow. Also, everyone was told to water in their containers as soon as they got home.

Thank you – Cathy Testa

Terrariums for Mother’s Day

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OK, I’m just gonna say it – This week’s weather was crapola! 10 degrees below normal, low clouds ALL week, cool, damp, raw, and wet. We are so looking forward to when the sun comes out to play – which is hopefully today.

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Terrariums for Mother’s Day

Today, from 10 am to noon, I will be offering terrariums for sale at Book Club Bookstore & More for Mother’s Day. When you consider this week’s weather, this actually turns out to be an excellent gift option for Moms because it is too cold to put some plants outside right now. It makes a wonderful centerpiece and is easy to care for – requiring very little watering, and with the unique decor of colorful barn animals, I think they came out just adorable.

Colorful Bunny in a Terrarium

Colorful Bunny in a Terrarium

Each one is layered like a cake with pea-sized gravel for drainage, activated horticulture charcoal to help improve drainage and keep the soil healthy, and well draining soil. Added are slow release prills to feed the plants for months, and of course the adorable, colorful animals as this go-around’s theme. I really enjoyed assembling them for this Pop-Up Event today.

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While in New Orleans for vacation, I spotted colorful wooden hand-painted animals at the French Market held on Sundays in the Quarter. I had to pick out a few with my terrariums in mind. They are so colorful and pop next to the mini-sized plants in the glass terrariums of different sizes – but note, supplies are limited, so if you would like one, come in to see us today at
100 Main Street, Broad Brook, CT 06016.

I’m happy the bookstore invited me again, as well as some other artsy vendors to participate – it is a fun way to spend the morning. There will be candles, other wine related art (can’t wait to see what it is), adult coloring books, and a featured author, etc. It may look like a small bookstore but it is packed with great books and I think I’ll bring a terrarium book along with me to show folks interested in this information.

Cute Cow in a Terrarium

Cute Cow in a Terrarium

Tulips

Last fall, I decided to plant 50 tulip bulbs in to my large cement planter which is a planter I like to do different things with and try out plants. They are purple (tall) and pink (short). They popped up before I went to NOLA and I thought, “Ooh darn! I hope I don’t miss the blooms.”

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Well, there are things I didn’t realize about tulips because I haven’t really planted them before to be honest – they last a LONG time, they enjoy the cool weather (which we had all week), and they close a bit every evening. I am IN LOVE with them.

They pop color from so many views (from my bathroom window, when I exit my basement, when I’m in the yard and can see them from a distance). They have been the sunshine during this cloudy week – the color is so vivid.

The only downfall was the darn squirrels. One day, I saw them with their heads buried into the soil and I yelled, “Hey GET AWAY from my tulips!! Arrr!”

To help reduce their munching visits, I scatted some hot pepper on the soil and that kept them away for a little while anyways. Next year, chicken wire will be laid over them to avoid that scenario, cause now I’m hooked. By the way, I dump my left over soil from the prior year’s container gardens into this cement planter – this why you see perlite in it, etc.

Go Local Magazine

It is finally issued and out in local stores – and friends have been spotting it. I’d like to thank Go Local for featuring me and other local artisans and small business owners. It was great meeting them and having their writer visit before I took off to New Orleans for the Jazz Fest weekend.

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Also, I want to point out – We made an error on the photos of me – The wrong photographer is noted. It was Karen Ladany of Debut Camera Co. who took the pro photos of me on my deck and by my red table shown in the magazine. I think my rush before vacation with lots of emails back and forth, and sharing several photographer’s work, caused an email mix up with the publisher and we both feel badly about that. Other photos in the issue were taken by their photographer as well.

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Debut Camera Co.

Karen’s photography style is one I absolutely love. She captured up-close flowers and the essence of many of my container gardens in a way is hard for me to describe, but my eyes see it. I have some of her photos on my www.WORKSHOPSCTS.com blog site as well – She took photos of my flowers, planters, containers, and even a wild turkey that decided to quickly strut by us as we were doing the photo shoot that day – and it was the hottest day of that summer. We were sweating but she was getting ready to move, and so I had to grab her services before she took off. She’s excellent.

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Enjoy Your Mother’s Day!!!

Cathy Testa

860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

“All About Container Gardening and Combining Nature with Art”

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General Updates for Upcoming Items!

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Hi Everyone!

I thought it is a good day to provide some general updates on upcoming activity!

Thank you:

First – special thank you to the friends and family, as well as new faces, visiting my booth at the Spring Bazaar at Holy Family Church in Enfield, CT last Saturday. Wow, 17 of my friends came by – that made me feel so special and thank you for purchasing items. Imagine my Father’s face when I told him lots of his birdhouses sold. He’s getting popular. My special terrarium themed “Faith” was purchased as well, and it kind of got me into this groove of doing “custom” terrariums in large glass globes. If interested, holler!

May 7th – Bookstore Visit

Next on the list is a visit with the local bookstore in Broad Brook, CT on May 7th. The store’s owner has invited me back and I plan to have special Mother’s Day items on this date for sale. See Book Club Bookstore and More on 100 Main Street. I hope you will be able to pop by. They were recently featured on Better CT television and have a wonderful selection of books and hold regular book discussions, including kid’s book discussion sessions. How sweet.

May 14 and May 21st – Container Gardening Workshops

These are the two dates for the Container Gardening Workshops. All the details may be found on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. The first one, May 14th, is being held in Broad Brook, CT and the 2nd one at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT on West Street on May 21st. There is still plenty of time to register if you are interested.

Once registered, attendees are emailed complete Workshop Details. Here’s a sneak peek of the agenda and two of the fruiting plants planned, along with many more tropicals, annuals, herbs, veggies! We hope you will join us.

agenda 2016

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Bluberry Jelly Bean

May 28th – Ellington Farmers Market

I will be at the gazebo again offering a free talk and selling plants. I love attending this market – everyone there – is super friendly and well, happy! Who wouldn’t be as you browse the selection of the market’s offerings and enjoy a beautiful day?

EMFLogo_SloganLine

East Windsor Farmers Market

On July 10th, I will be offering a slide presentation on Container Gardening at the East Windsor Farmers Market held at the Trolley Museum on Rt. 140. Look for me in the main building. This market is growing – don’t overlook it this summer!

East Windsor Market Open

Look for me in the Main Building for a Free Presentation this year.

Later in Summer and Into Fall

After the May rush, we are offering several more workshops – One is on Floral Design with JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design (featuring a 4th of July theme) in June, another is a Glass Garden Art Workshop with Timefliesbylauralie on September 10th, and then we have a workshop on Succulent Arranging in the Fall. Check out WORSKHOPSCT.com for all the information on each. Registration is easy with Eventbrite on the site.

New Topic- Soil Sprouts!

I’m been obsessed with growing soil sprouts which are full of vitamins and soooo tasty. My favorite so far in my trials are radish sprouts – spicy and wonderful in sandwiches, soups, salads, or just fresh pop in the mouth snack. I also like mung bean sprouts and broccoli sprouts but I am doing trials with many types right now, seeing how they grow and taste.

Soil sprouts are not like micro-greens. Soil sprouts take a lot less time to grow – between 4 and 7 days, so with the routine set up – you are eating them EVERY day. Micro-greens take a lot longer, something like 21 days.

Anyhow, the other beauty about these are they can be done in any space, without special equipment or lights, and ALL year round. They fit the container gardening scenario indoors perfectly. Indoor gardening is another trend on the rise, but that is not exactly why I started growing sprouts. I’ve always loved eating them and now I can daily.

There is a simple process with specific steps and things needed but it is not complicated. I will be offering a workshop on this and I’m also thinking of offering a kit if you prefer to read and do it yourself. What do you think? Do you enjoy fresh sprouts too?

GoLocal Magazine

A new mag on the scene contacted me as a feature for their May issue – and I am flattered to be featured in a magazine that is hip, new and in tune with today’s local movement.

To top it off, this will be their first issue for the East Windsor, CT region. They are currently issuing in Agawam, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, and Hampden in Massachusetts, and in Suffield, Enfield, Somers, and Stafford Springs in Connecticut too.

I read their January 2016 issue and spotted some local artist people I see on Facebook from time to time – and also spotted new businesses and restaurants I didn’t know about yet.

I really like the VIBE of this mag – and if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to look for it at local establishments. Many of their advertisers receive copies for distribution. Or go to www.golocalmagazines.com for their online issues – where you will find me in May!

That’s all for now for some General Updates. Enjoy the rest of your week and the beautiful weather we have been having, well, except today is a bit cloudy – but wow, last weekend and the days before were so summer like out there – I hope you can catch some of those rays.

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

 

Succulents for Weddings – How to Care for Them

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Have you noticed how wedding flowers are transitioning to include succulents or herbs in decorative small containers as wedding favors, table centerpieces, boutonnieres and embellishments on a bride’s wedding gown?

No longer are there strict rules on wedding traditions – Many brides are incorporating their own unique style or taste into their choices of arrangements. They may even put flowers on their dog walking down the aisle if they are a dog lover! Or use vegetables as a table centerpieces. I envy the brides of today – so many interesting ways to celebrate and the trends are expanding.

See HUFFPOST WEDDINGS article, dated January 21st, 2016, titled “14 Out of the Box Wedding Trends You’ll Soon Be Seeing Everywhere.

So, when a professional blogger by the name of Meredith of Bride169 contacted me to ask questions about how to care for succulents should you receive them as a wedding favor – I was not surprised at all to receive this question and very happy to reply.

I’ve been seeing succulents (among other choices) via Instagram and Pinterest being used in floral arrangements and as wedding favors. They are absolutely beautiful and unique. Plus, the other big bonus is they are living plants which last a long time after the wedding reception is over – maybe even years – thus, it is a great option for your wedding guests.

About Bride169

Bride169 focuses on “Celebrating all things Connecticut weddings. From proposal to honeymoon and beyond, Bride169 is your go-to source for all things bridal in CT.”

To read her blog post, click the link below:

How to Care for Your Wedding Succulents by Bride169

 

Starting Seeds – A Few Tips

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Seed Starting

I was asked by a farmer’s market recently if I would like to teach a class on seed starting, but since it is not my “specialty” (not yet anyways), I turned down the offer, but I do play around with seeds this time of year. It is a great way to feel the plant scene around you before we are able to put plants outside.

Seed starting is fairly simple, but some things can go wrong. Before you get discouraged, remember that sometimes (although this doesn’t happen often), seeds can be bad, especially if you purchased them at a store where they were ridiculously cheap and perhaps very old or were damaged which caused deterioration of the seeds.

Another reason for failure is using the wrong kind of soil mix. Seedling mix is very fine and should be used. But, with that said, I’ve been using coconut coir to start seeds as well, and it is going along well.

Results of my coir tests will be discussed at my first free container gardening talk at the end of the month on March 26th, Saturday, at our local book store on Main Street in Broad Brook and at my workshops this season.

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Peat Based Potting Mix on Left. Coconut Coir Mix on Right.

Seed Trays

3-in pots, seed pans, or small plastic seed trays may be used to start your seeds, or any container that has good drainage holes. Grocery store items like plastic containers previously containing cherry tomatoes are fun to use, especially because many have air holes in the covers attached, serving as a mini greenhouse. They are fun for kids, and may be used for tiny seeds projects and then transplanted. For other seed starting projects, I use large Styrofoam seedling trays with many partitions or cells which are not detachable. They are reusable year after year and long lasting. Look for them by the name of “Speedling” trays; they are great if doing many seeds at a time. You need a tool to remove the seedlings from each cell however. And of course, there are many kits available for seed starting which include a catch tray and clear plastic covering.

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Grocery Store Containers – Fun – Good Idea for Kids!

Sprinkle or Scatter Method

My favorite method of sowing seeds is sprinkling them on top of the soil seedling mix in hanging baskets or medium to large sized pots depending on the seed/plant type. And then taking some of the soil mix in my hands and very gently sprinkling it over the top to lightly and thinly cover the seeds. This has worked out nicely for for plants like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, parsley, and basil – and it is so easy. Remember, to sprinkle the seeds as uniformly as you can, as to not over crowd the seeds, but you don’t have to over think it with the leafy vegetable types.

I will start larger sized seeds in small 2-3” pots. I’m giving it a go with Canna seeds this spring, which are as hard as marbles (see black seeds in photo below). I collected some from a plant outdoors last October. They are tricky to get going though. They must be soaked 24 hours (and some references indicate to boil the water), or scratched so water may enter their very hard seed coats. Now, imagine me trying to file seeds the size of jelly beans with a filing tool from my husband’s garage. It was not easy as they kept popping out of my fingertips like black bullets. Sand paper is another way to accomplish this process, known as scarification. We will see if my seeds germinate. If they do – I will jump for joy.

Castor bean seeds are another type I collected last fall. They are large sized, similar to kidney beans. I collected the prickly pods from my plants. Each pod contains 4 seeds, but I discovered as I opened them up, the seeds caved into themselves and were not viable. They became overly dry somehow and there was nothing to them. I collected seeds from some of my perennials too. I test them out to see how well they do, and take it from there. And, by the way, I re-purpose prescription pill bottles to store my seeds over the winter.

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Soaking Canna Seeds (Left Photo). Castor Bean Seeds (Right Photo).

To moisten the seed mixture after the seeds have been sown, I always make sure to use a very gentle watering can to shower it softly, and tend to move the watering can back and forth over the soil mixture. A mister bottle is another method for moistening the soil mix. Just be careful to not pour water from a fully open spout because light mix will float or move the seeds about, disturbing them.

Labeling

I label all, no matter what is used, because I will be sure to forget later. My favorite labels are white plastic, waterproof, and easily written on with a sharpie. I take a second step of noting the type of seeds sown on a calendar which I keep in my grow room. It helps to refer back if they don’t come up in a few weeks and determine how many days have gone by.

Covering

Your seeds will germinate faster if you cover the top of the pot or trays with a clear tray, or use those types of trays which come with a clear cover. It definitely helps to keep the mixture evenly moist – but you have to watch for when the seedlings start to shoot up and touch the top of the cover. If there is lots of condensation on the top cover, tilt it to the side to allow air in or remove excess water from the cover, or take it off completely for a couple hours. When condensation hits the tender new leaves (baby leaves known as cotyledons), this can rot them so it is good to keep watch over the trays from time to time as they germinate and begin growing.

Temperature

Seeds require warm temperatures – at least 65 degrees F to germinate. The tender types need even more warmth so if you are trying to start seeds in a cold room, and they don’t come up – this is another potential reason why – if it is not warm enough, you may require a heat mat to place under your seed trays. A friend gave me one, and it gently warms up the trays of soil. Some people will place their seed trays on the top of heating units in their home if they have the style to do so – and this can work as a heat mat. Either way, warmer soil definitely gets them going faster. The mats are easy to plug into an outlet and use. Search for them online.

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Swiss Chard pulled from a pot – Was growing over the winter months.

Timing 

Always look at the seed packages for the weeks or days needed til germination and work backwards on your calendar. This is what I did with my Canna seeds. I wrote down the date I wanted to get them started with hopes they will be ready by spring time. If your seeds are not coming up, take a look at the time required (days until germination) on your seed packets, and if it is a challenging seed, it is worth to wait a bit longer if you don’t see them come up – you may find they are late bloomers (no pun intended). But one thing is for sure, there is something super rewarding when you see them come up from the soil to greet you.

Pricking Out

This is a real term used in horticulture. When you see the first two to four seed leaves appearing on each, they are ready to be moved (or pricked) out. Transfer the seedlings to small pots with multi-purpose mix. This does not have to be done with seedlings like lettuce in hanging baskets. The leafy vegetables continue to grow great in pots. I love doing Swiss chard in medium to large sized pots. They grow so beautifully and full that sometimes I don’t want to harvest them. Smaller sized window boxes are another type I use to start seeds for lettuce and herbs. Mix lettuce packages are lovely to look at and eat.

Grow Lights

Seeds need water, light (but not strong sun), air and warm temperature to germinate. If you do not have a well-lit area, many people will purchase grow light systems. After you transplant your new seedlings to bigger pots, do not put them into harsh full sun, because that can be too hard on them. They should be protected from direct sun. I sometimes use shade cloth around my new seedlings. And remember, all new plants require hardening off. Transition them carefully and good luck!

For a version of this post in a Newsletter format, click this link:

Spring 2016 Newsletter

Upcoming Workshops

We are excited for the upcoming workshops planned. Two dates are available for the May workshops on Container Gardening featuring edible plants – and of course, all the showy tropicals and exotics we include each season. Sign-up’s have begun, so don’t delay!

Note: Strong Family Farm is hosting one of our workshops – They are located in Vernon, CT on West St. If you can’t make Workshop No 1 on May 14th in Broad Brook, the Strong’s session will be an excellent option, and you may visit the farm’s large pen filled with chickens too. It’s a great farm with lots of activity happening every year.

Registration is available online via our new sister blog site: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

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

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

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Happy St. Patty’s Day (Containers Dressed Up for a Business Client – Couple Seasons Ago!)

Up Next: Garden Presentation on 3/26

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Hello Everyone,

As you know, spring is just around the corner – one week away on March 20th.

If you want to get prepared early – Join us for this FREE presentation on the 5 Must Do’s for Growth Success with Container Gardens (and Patio Pots).

Swing by the Book Club Bookstore & More at 100 Main Street in Broad Brook on Saturday morning, March 26th, 2016 at 10:30 am.

March 26 Flyer

This slide show style presentation will go over each of the keys to success, and dig into (no pun intended) as to why they are critical for growing healthy and lush plants in your container gardens and patio pots.

Additionally, we will go over some new items (or maybe not so new – but new to you) which will help you to make determinations on which soil media to use in your patio pots. Today the options are endless for organics and fertilizers – If you need help in figuring out what to use, this presentation will give you some tips.

If you haven’t heard me speak before, this is your opportunity – and its FREE. Come in for an hour of a nice talk and visit the bookstore’s offerings at the same time. We will have some gardening items for sale ready to dress up your Easter table, like fishbowl sized terrariums and ceramic bunny plant scenes.

We hope to see you -and if you can’t make it – please don’t forget to check out our workshops for 2016 at this special new workshop blog site called:

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Thank you,

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

ContainerCrazyCT is all about sharing the passion of enhancing your outdoor surroundings with container gardens and art inspired by nature. We offer workshops year round where you learn, have fun, and take home your creations. See our new workshop site above for more information, and don’t forget to save the dates. Cu soon.

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Store front of the bookstore in Broad Brook!
We like to support local small businesses in our community.