For a Wall of Flowers, Use Mandevilla Tropical Plants in Container Gardens

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Mandevillas are amazing flowering tropical plants for full sun locations in the summer in container gardens and planters, and I always enjoyed looking at them, but for some reason, I didn’t plant them very much at my own home location, until a couple years ago, when a clients’ needs to cover a wall with flowers lead me to paying attention more to mandevillas.

Perfect for walls, trellises, arbors and more…

If you have an area to grow a beautiful flowering plant upwards, such as a wall, trellis, lamp post, arbor, stair railing, fence, mailbox, or in a pot with a support trellis, these plants are perfect candidates. In Connecticut, mandevillas will bloom profusely on upward growing vines with big dark greens leaves when provided enough sun and heat, and appropriate growing conditions. They work very well in containers, planters, patio pots, and don’t even require super huge pots to thrive.

Mandevilla at a Client’s Home

Above is an example of a wall located below an upper deck. The white blooming mandevilla vines were very lush and full, growing from a planter about 24″ diameter and just as deep. It was facing the sun most of the day, and it looked absolutely fabulous, reaching the top of their deck that year. These plants will twine fairly quickly onto supports with many funnel formed flowers opening over the course of the summer to fall season in Connecticut. They must be taken in before fall frosts or overwintered immediately after being touched by frost. See my “Overwintering” posts for more information on that aspect.

Cathy Testa with two Mandevillas at her home in Broad Brook

In the next photo, here I am in between two plants in blue pots at my home. The base plants (serving as fillers) are Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Queen’ (annuals in CT). I put really tall trellises in each pot along this wrought iron fence, which is on the driveway where the plants got full sun all day and my watering hose was easily accessed. You will see they were growing taller than me and if the trellises were higher, they would keep growing up and up and up.

In a Pot Growing Up a Staircase Railing

And I wanted to grow one up my stair case railing to reach the overhead arch, it almost made it to the top. It helps to use garden twine to guide it along and give the vines something to reach and attach to as it twines up. The purple pot below used for it is probably about 2 feet deep, but you may grow these plants in even smaller pots. More on that later.

Side View on the Driveway
Cathy Testa standing in front of a Wall Planted with Mandevilla Plants

And here is a photo of me with the mask on, primarily because I wanted to show the timing of this photo, of a wall I just planted. It wouldn’t be long for the plants to produce more blooms. It does help if you start with taller plants if you are looking to gain the affect of covering up something like the wall in this city photo. They will grow as high as the support system they can attach to. If I had a higher wall here, it would keep growing up all summer. They don’t grow as fast as morning glories, as an example. The growing pace is moderate, so if you want to get one to really show off, get the taller specimens to start with. They may be a pricy but so worth the display and enjoyment you will get by using one or more in your outdoors spaces.

Reaching for the Heavens
Gorgeous Pink Blooms against dense foliage
Stunning Against Blue Skies!

Moderate climbers that keep on growing up…

Mandevilla vines will reach to the heavens, if you allow them to – they seem to never stop wanting to reach up into the skies. If you are able to acquire taller specimens to begin with, it is worth it in my book. They come in white, pinks, and reds for bloom colors. I haven’t grown the red ones yet, maybe this year will be the year.

Funnel Shaped Flowers
Masses of Pink Blooms

Inspecting the leaves

Some of the varieties have glossier leaves than others. The leaves on the white blooming one, in my photos, were about 4-6″ long. A good tip is to inspect the foliage when you are looking for one during out Connecticut container gardening growing season, and although you might experienced a stressed leaf or two based on when they arrived in Connecticut (cause most of them are shipped here from warmer states), they usually bounce back quickly when potted up and provided the right soil environment and sunny conditions in your planters. It is not to say they don’t suffer some minor issues, but a good tip, again, is to inspect your plants. See a healthy tall one – don’t hesitate to grab it.

Now that is a HEALTHY A** LEAF!

Sometimes I admire foliage of plants more than flowers, especially when they look almost perfect. Not always achievable because we are not plant Gods, but the leaves on this plant that year, wow, so shiny and healthy. To achieve good results, be sure to have well draining soil, use pots with drain holes (see my 5-Must Do’s for Container Gardening), and inspect the plant from time to time. Sometimes, during inspections, I may discover nice insect visitors, like bees, lady bugs, butterflies, and moths.

A very WELCOMED visitor – Lady Bugs are great for eating any bad bugs!
Bumble Bee Heading in for a Landing
Bee Deep in the Tunnel Funnel

Moth – Awakening from His Night Visit

Not damaged by serious pests, but bothered if conditions are not right…

So far, I have not encountered serious pest (bag bug) problems on mandevilla plants, but I do think they don’t like “inappropriate environmental stress” and things like too cold of temps, or too much wind, or neglect from not watering regularly. Those aspects will weaken them, and you should also avoid areas with high salt (maybe road side). Do not plant them in containers or your patio pots in Connecticut outdoors till well after all chances of spring frosts. So, you would plant them around the same time as you put out your warm season vegetables, like tomato plants.

Heat, sun, and well-draining soils…

The plants want heat and sun, well-draining soils, and appropriate watering. These are tropical vining plants and they don’t like the cold, so remember that on your timing in spring time. They want warmer temps at night so even if the an early spring day feels okay, the cold temps at night are not good for them in early spring before frosts. Also, for more blooms, get some bloom booster liquid or water soluble fertilizer and fertilize a couple times a month in the summer after the plants are established if you feel there are not enough blooms being produced on your plant. It is a good idea, like most tropical plants or plants indoors over the winter, to acclimate them to outdoor summer conditions.

Acclimating a Stock on My Driveway
The In and Out Year

One year, I had to pick up my mandevillas orders earlier than normal, so I literally moved them in and out of my greenhouse during the later part of April into mid-May before planting them at a location. I didn’t want to subject the plants to cold temperatures of the evenings, but I also wanted to give them natural sunlight during the days (on good early spring days). It was a “Mandevilla Workout!” As noted above, do not plant them until around Memorial Day in our area of Connecticut (Zone 6b). They are from areas of warmth, sunshine, and moisture – so remember these 3 environmental conditions for your mandevilla plants. If temperatures drop or if you put them out too early, your plant will experience stress, leaf drop, and potential diseases later, so be sure to protect them from the cold in early spring before frosts if you pick any up early in the container gardening season in Connecticut. An occasional drop in temps in the summer is fine however if we get some freak cold (like we did last year in 2021 on Memorial Day weekend!), they should bounce back from the heat of summer, which mine did that year.

Pretty with the Ornamental Grass nearby

Of course, you may plant them into the ground but I typically do not do that. In this photo above, the pink mandevilla is in a pot below my driveway climbing up and an ornamental grass is in the background, which I thought looked lovely together as a combination.

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

As you can see, mandevillas make me happy. I love planting them and watching them grow all summer long. They turned into a plant I barely gave a second glance to, to one I can’t stop admiring now. I hope you will admire them too.

Pots don’t have to be really big…

And I noted you really don’t need big pots. Sources will say keeping them in smaller pots will force the plant into growing the top part of the plant more rather than focusing on growing roots for Mandevilla. In my experiences, I’ve done both, repotting into a 22″-24″ diameter planter or inserted the nursery pots into a larger planter, but be sure to allow draining in either scenario from the base of the pots. And the soil is best on a organic side. I have amended the soil with aged compost in pots with potting mix. I tend to space them right next to each other when creating walls in big planters. However, in gardens, it is recommended to space them apart by 8″. Probably the best maintenance tip is to water them regularly and not let them dry out too much. They have thick chunky root systems, so if the pots is smaller, you may see the nursery growing pot expand as the roots are trying to move around, pushing against the sides. In those cases, I’ve used a razor knife to cut the pot off the root base before planting them.

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b
All photos are taken by Cathy Testa
See also:
www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
P.S. I plan to get more mandevillas this year, if local, e-me!

Morning Glory Bloom Photos

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I’ll be honest, the main reason I wanted to write this post is to share the photos of my beautiful morning glory blooms from a couple of summers back. I usually don’t grow morning glories, but I spotted a seed packet of blue and white ones at a local hardware store which attracted me so I grabbed one packet for the heck of it.

Easy to Sow

Morning Glory seeds are easy to sow and seeds are not super small, so the seeds are easy to handle as well (tip for gardening children sowing), but it is recommended, for better results, to soak the seeds in lukewarm water for 24 to 48 hours before planting the seeds. I can’t recall if I did that, but I remember I started them indoors and planted them in a couple planters by my garage and under some of my birdhouses situated on tall poles.

Morning Glory Flying Saucers

Don’t you agree? These blue and white morning glory blooms are fantastic. Here’s one of the photos I snapped as they started opening up. Blue colors are sometimes hard to find in blooms, thus this one really showed off a gorgeous deep blue – almost like a Caribbean ocean blue, against the pure white. And they were fairly large blooms, about 3-4″ across.

Morning Glory Flying Saucers

Look – at – that – blue!

It is ironic that I accidentally captured a photo with my iPhone where the flower looks like it is flying on it’s own and hovering in space. Notice the stem became unfocused in this shot. Ironic because they are called ‘Flying Saucers’ on the seed packet.

Morning Glory Crimson Rambler

It is a good idea to take a photo with the seed packet so you remember the name of it! These photos are from 2018. I grew these Crimson Rambler Morning Glories as well the same year. The foliage is heart shaped and the blooms are smaller than the Flying Saucers’ blooms.

Crimson Ramble Morning Glory Climbing up Garage

My idea was they would climb up to the gutters of my garage and I would arch them over the doors using twine to guide them along. They were getting there but I found morning glories to be a bit messy. I didn’t like how they twined around other plants in my container gardens, but I did like how they twined up poles to my birdhouses in my yard.

Bird House on a Pole in a Planter

The Crimson Ramble Morning Glories really looked lovely against this old white birdhouse. This birdhouse is in a planter. I wished a bird would have moved in, but none did – probably because this birdhouse is more a decorative type. But I have other birdhouses in my landscape on tall poles, which my husband setup for us here and there, that the birds love. I wrote about our process to setup the birdhouses on tall poles on a prior blog post called, “A Unique Way to Install a Birdhouse,” which is rather popular post based on views.

Morning Glory Climbing Up a Pole to Birdhouse

The morning glory plants grew all the way to the top of a pole for this birdhouse (photo above) and I just loved the look. Birds move into this birdhouse every year. They seem to like it’s location (faces southeast). It is fun to watch them peek out especially with the beautiful rosy flowers all around. To the right of the birdhouse you may notice I have a Hydrangea called ‘Quick Fire’ and the blooms start off white and turn pink and get a darker pink over the course of its bloom cycle. They made a nice combo in this little bed by my driveway.

Glows

It is always fun to take photos of blooms like these with the white centers and deep colors as the center feels like it is glowing sometimes at the right time of day. Sometimes I check to see if any insects are resting inside the funnel of the blooms.

Morning Glory Flying Saucers

Climbs and Grows up Tall

Morning Glories may reach 10 to 15 feet in height and the Flying Saucers did. If you want a climber, these are quick to climb and will bloom in late summer to fall. They should be planted outdoors after all dangers of our last spring frost date here in Connecticut.

Facing the Sun

Southern Exposure and Full Sun

I would check them out in the mornings to see if any insects were perched inside the fluted throats of these blooms. Both situations where I grew them faced east on the south side of my yard, so they received the morning sun and sun continued up until mid day. It is recommended for best continuous blooming to provide a southern exposure per the seed packets. I don’t think it much matters with morning glories because they almost grow like a weed, and they are easy to grow in dry sandy soils.

Just about to open

They are also very pretty in form when they are just about to open in the mornings, or maybe this photo was taken when they were closing up for the evenings. Morning glories, as you probably already know, open in the mornings to face the sun.

Flying Saucers Morning Glory

For the most part, the Flying Saucers were a true blue and vivid white, almost reminded me of a pinwheel, but there were a few blooms with a more faded blue color.

A Bit Messy

And even though I did like the morning glories, they were a bit messy. You can even see in this photo, some of the leaves were yellowing. They started to choke some of the stems of my other plants in the same container and I wasn’t too thrilled about how mangled or unruly they grew over time. I thought, I don’t think I’ll use them in planter combinations again, but I would use them on the birdhouse poles.

Crimson Rambler

May Self-Sow Following Year

Morning glories may self-sow in planters and areas where they were planted the following year, I’ve seen this happen before, as I noted above, they are almost like weeds, but in my case, not a weed – because a weed is a plant out of place. I guess it was out of place in-front of my garage for the reasons noted above, but not out of place on the birdhouse poles.

Thanks for visiting, and please if you have any questions or comments, scroll to the top of this post, look for the red comment box on the top right to leave your thoughts (or on iPhones, look for the “Leave a Reply” link.) I appreciate hearing from other gardening enthusiasts and plant lovers.

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
Container Gardener
Zone 6B
Broad Brook, CT
Please see also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

A Cottage Country Garden in Containers

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A mix of elegant pastel colored blooms and pops of bright vivid flower colors offers the feel of a cottage style country garden in several container garden planters.

Container Gardens by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

When I look at this photo above of several planters I designed and assembled for a customer a couple years ago, I think it feels like a cottage country garden. There is a wonderful mix of pastel bloom colors and splashes of deep reds and bright cheerful yellows to capture attention. I could envision butterflies and bees visiting the blooms all summer long.

Yellow Zinnias, Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ Fountain Grass, Plectranthus, Portulaca, Canna Lily, and Vinca

The Plectranthus (plant with white edges on leaves) is a heat lover and cascades over the rim of the pot (spiller) creating a bit of softness. And the Pennisetum grass in the back adds that bit of wispy texture and a dark contrasting color. There is a Canna Lily off-center which would grow tall and have yellow blooms and the Zinnias with big chunky bright yellow flower heads gave structure to this pot, but there were 7 more pots to complement these plants.

Placed in the customer’s front Landscape Beds

The planters were placed in a south facing landscape bed which receives full sun most of the day starting probably around noon time. The idea was all of the pots would be placed in various locations in the front of the customer’s home, of which are visible from the street and also from inside the home from a large picture window. The goal was blooms and color.

Bright Yellow Zinnias popping against the darker tones of the Canna Lily plant and the Pennisetum grass.

I used yellow blooming Zinnia plants in some pots and pink blooming Zinnias in others. The Zinnias provided the big pops of color I was looking for and the plants grown locally were extremely healthy, plus many people adore Zinnias because they are a traditional charming blooming summer plants. When I picked them up, I knew the customer would love them. On the back side of the planter, tucked in were little red blooming Vinca plants to echo the tones of the darker tones of the foliage of the Canna Lily and the ornamental grass. Always looking to repeat colors and provide contrast is key (dark colors against lighter colors).

Pink Zinnias, Purple Million Bells Calibrachoa, and Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ – By Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

The hot pink blooming Zinnias were irresistible as well. There were lots of closed buds on the plants which is awesome, more flowers to come all summer long. Also, the Zinnia flowers were really big and full plus the foliage looked fantastic. I added some purple Calibrachoa, and I had to add one of my favorite foliage fillers, Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’. Alternanthera plants prefers full sun to part sun and are easy-care plants. I’ve used the cultivar, ‘Plum Dandy’ before, a few times, in various container gardens at my own home and other sites, and I feel it is a nice staple foliage filler with a darker tone. The tone, a deep rich purple-like color, worked well with the pinks in these planters.

Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ with Pink Zinnia Flowers

The purple foliage of Alternanthera is alluring to me. I love how rich and solid it looks. This plant doesn’t produce showy flowers, in fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any blooms form, so it is not used for that aspect, but incorporated into the plants to provide a nice deep contrasting filler color against the green foliage of the Zinnias.

Check it out Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ in my own tall planters I have on my deck used the same year as in these pots for my customer on this prior blog post: Overwintering Plants. You will see it in the pot extremely full and lush by the end of the season. Coincidentally, the Plectranthus is also in the same prior blog post (white edges to leaves). Both of these are superb full sun foliage fillers. They grow fast in the appropriate conditions and require little maintenance.

Red Zinnias with Canna Lily and Yellow Blooming Lantana

A yellow blooming Lantana was added to the planters with red Zinnias and Canna Lily plants. Lantanas are very reliable plants and are drought tolerant. They do well in hanging baskets especially if you are not good with watering. This one, shown above, is called Lantana camara ‘Luscious Bananarama’ – Wow, that’s a flashy tradename! It is able to tolerate dry soils and loves heat. It will attract butterflies as well, along with the other bloomers in these planters.

Loading them into the garden cart

You will notice in the photo above, with the two pots in a cart, the pot on the right has an Elephants Ears (Colocasia) plant as the thriller. For the fillers, there is a Gomphrena pulchella Truffula Pink plant (annual as well) with pink ball like flowers and the taller bloomer, Verbena ‘Media Shower’ annual with lavender flowers. Both of these plants are so pretty. They both have very thin stems and grow tall with the round flower balls at the tips, and while sturdy, they have very delicate and wispy looks to them. The Verbena grows taller than the Gomphrena so it adds a bit of change in heights to the planters – also an important design aspect.

When planted at my home, I noticed little white butterflies visited the blooms mid-summer often on the Gomphrena pulchella plant. To see it in my planter at home, see this post: Aqua Blue Planter. I used them there and just loved them.

I partnered the Gomphrena with a blue Salvias (almost purple) in the customer’s planters. The whole goal was to provide lots of flower colors for the customer that would bloom all summer and all of these annuals in the planters would do so, plus they were all very healthy plants to use at the start, which is very important. The Canna Lily and Elephants Ears plants were to be the big showy tropical thrillers in the centers or off-center. They would grow much larger over the course of the summer.

Loading them Up to Deliver – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa

I remember as I started to load up all the planters into my truck, with the help of my husband, thinking how the plants all together looked so lovely and reminded me, again, of a cottage style country garden. Sometimes we are able to create a desired garden look by using various containers with a mix of whatever goal you desire.

In the customer’s landscape front of home upon delivery – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa
Loading them up in a garden cart (so pretty with the pink blooming Mandevilla in the background!)
Pink blooming Begonias, Pink Hypoestes (pink and green leaves), and Colocasia (Elephants Ears) and Canna Lily.
Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ up close
Canna Lily with burgundy darker foliage – to repeat the color of the Alternanthera

In the end, the pots were all bloomers adding a bit of charm similar to cottage country gardens. It was a pleasure to look back at these photos, especially during the winter. I hope you enjoy them too.

Container Gardening Tips with this Post:

  • Always purchase healthy plants to start (weaker plants are more susceptible to insects and diseases)
  • Use varying heights in your arrangements to guide the eye and try to not over crowd plants
  • Focus on contrasting colors (dark colors next to light colors) to make colors more visible to the eye
  • Use various structures and leaf sizes (wispy straps of ornamental grasses next to chunky leaves of Canna Lily)
  • Incorporate some spiller type plants to soften the edges of your pots (Plectranthus as an example) to draw the eye downwards
  • Get plants with lots of buds to open if possible

Enjoy and thank you for visiting. Please share your comments!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Container Garden Designer
containercathy at gmail.com
Location: Broad Brook, CT
Zone: 6b

See also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Trailing Red Small Daisy Flowers that can Take it Rough

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I am always in search of tough (as in tolerant) plants for container gardens and patio pots for full sun locations due to having a few clients with these environmental conditions at their outdoor settings. In fact, I often refer to the location as “full on sun” when I talk to my husband about it, and he jokes about that term to this day. It is a hot location with lots of heat in the midst of summer with limited water sources outdoors. Thus, I like plants to be drought tolerant if possible.

Last year, I happen to notice an annual plant at a local nursery with light green and white succulent like foliage, and thought this may be a candidate for my full sun project because the succulent foliage led me to believe it probably is similar to a succulent plants (able to retain water in its leaves and are drought tolerant) but I wasn’t sure.

However, despite not knowing the plant’s requirements as of yet, I also noticed it blooms small red flowers and I was in search a red and yellow combinations for a theme I was planning on this site that year. I looked at the label, of course, and thought it over and decided to give this annual plant a try.

‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ is the Tradename

A Spiller in Habit

In addition to having the succulent like foliage, the hot red colored blooms are what I was searching for, and having a bit of an unusual variegated foliage coloring, it also would work as a spiller plant (plants which trail or hang down in planters and pots). I grabbed a couple to add to my selections to plant in some large long planters. And, also, it has a lighter tone of a foliage color, making good contrast to darker plants.

‘Mezoo Trailing Red’

It is known as ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ as the tradename, but upon some research, I discovered it’s botanical name is, Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. Try pronouncing that one! So, I will just refer to it as “trailing red” or “Mezoo” in this post. It is a tender perennial that is winter hardy to planting zones 9-10, but here in Connecticut, it is treated as a annual plant and is not hardy in our CT zones. I’m in Zone 6b.

Easy to Root

However, I discovered yet another benefit about this plant, it is easy to root from a tip cutting by placing it in a jar of water and letting roots form from the stem end tip. I did that after the summer with some cuttings and managed to start a couple smaller plant to keep in the house over the winter.

Great with Darker Contrasts nearby (dark greens), and also looks nice with soft blues!

Blue Green Coloring

There are different types of green and the foliage green on ‘trailing red’ is a bit of a blue green with hues of white to creamy white edges on the leaves. I thought how it seemed to click in color with a few blue Senecio plants I had to plant as well, which I used a little fillers to tuck in next to the Mezoo trailing red plant. However, by the end of the summer, Mezoo took over the area in the center of this tall and long planter. The Senecio got crowded out quickly. I didn’t mind, however, because Mezoo turned out to be just beautiful and full to the max.

Abundant Growth

The amount of growth that occurred in one summer in the planters really shocked me when I returned later in the season to take a look at the plants. The Mezoo was lush, full, and trailing over the edge down to the middle of a 5-6 foot tall square planter. There were no signs of insects and about the only issue I had with it was as some of the leaves dried up here and there (just a bit), the dried up papery residue of the leaves stuck to the outside of the planter under the plant’s hanging foliage and blooms. I washed that up later off the planter, when I took the Mezoo out of the planter, before fall arrived, by using some mild soapy dish type water. I was glad the planter’s outside covering was not damaged.

Drought Tolerant

This is the type of plant that tolerates some dry periods as well, which is a bonus. It is low maintenance and takes somewhat dry to medium moisture. Well-drained soil is preferred by it, and I had placed between two dark green globe shaped shrubs and thus, the plant was somewhat protected, but I don’t think it needed any extra protection. It grew massive and was impressive. It dripped over both sides of the planter, to about half-way down. I was impressed. Take note, it doesn’t like to stay completely dry and fortunately, we had good rainfall to get some moisture into the soil in the planter that year.

Overflowing Abundance

Like a Waterfall

Just look at this photo above. It is very apparent this plant was thriving. It was full, lush, bursting with foliage and flowing thru the two side shrubs like a waterfall. When I saw this abundance of growth, I said an, “Oooohh, so nice!” comment out loud to myself, which is typical of me. I surprise myself sometimes. LOL. I was pleased.

When I got back to my greenhouse, from digging it out at the site, I decided to take a few cuttings (as noted above) and showed it to my plant followers, and immediately a friend and plant enthusiast chimed in to say she has one as well and loves how well it performs in her hanging baskets at home. She also takes tip cuttings to root as a method to save some over the winter months here in Connecticut.

Sometimes its worth a shot to try out a plant you are unfamiliar with and often they will give you clues to their habit and tolerance. This one I would definitely recommend for sunny locations in containers and patio pots. It handled the heat, wind, sun, limited watering, and crowding between two other plants pretty well. It has a lower habit (doesn’t grow upwards), so if you don’t want to block the view behind it, which we didn’t want to block the skyline, it worked very well and I experienced no insect issues on it all summer long. I will say, we did have more moisture than usual that summer and maybe that helped, but overall, it can take it rough.

Mezoo used on a Succulent Pumpkin Centerpiece by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

Blooms are Small but Long Lasting

It also blooms many daisy red small flowers from about June up to October. The flowers do not fall off so no worries about a mess on the ground area and also no worries about deadheading. I do wish the flowers were larger however.

Later in the autumn season, I ended up tucking some of those cuttings I took on top of my succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. I guess the bonus list continued onward. It just hit me how they would look pretty on my pumpkins.

Dripping over the edge of a long square planter

Benefits Reviewed

  • Dry to medium moisture (somewhat drought tolerant; don’t allow soil to completely dry out)
  • Likes heat and can take the heat
  • A spiller that cascades over pots (but has a low mat forming habit)
  • Easy to take tip cuttings to root in water
  • Full sun lover
  • Low maintenance, no deadheading required
  • Can take average well-draining soils
  • Makes a decent winter houseplant
  • Pairs well with succulents
  • Not a high feeder
  • And well, lastly, I liked using the cuttings on my pumpkins as noted above!

Thank you for visiting!

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b
Container Garden Designer
Posted: 1/18/2022

Side View – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT in Broad Brook, Connecticut

Hot Pinks for Full Sun in Containers

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Here’s a combination I created last summer for a client. I loved the way these plants thrived. Despite some troubling weather set-backs we had in 2021 at the start of the container season, they performed beautifully all summer into early fall. These plants tolerate full sun, drought, and wind fairly well.

Hot Pinks For Full Sun – Upon Planting Photo of Dipladenia, Calibrachoa, and Sedum stonecrop

The beautiful fluted hot pink flowers of the tropical plant in the center, called Dipladenia vine, was a perfect candidate. These plants continuously bloom and hold on to their blooms pretty well in windy conditions. It does not vine upwards, like Mandevilla vines do, but spread out more as it grows. The flowers are just gorgeous, and sometimes towards the end of the summer, they may fade a bit to a softer pink but overall they retain their form and color beautifully in containers.

Paired with Calibrachoa (left lower plant) – An annual in CT

I paired up the Dipladenia (thriller plant in the center) with a annual plant, Calibrachoa. The Calibrachoa has small Petunia like blooms on trailing stems which would eventually cascade over the rim of the pot (serving as a spiller) in this combination. It also is a sun lover and prefers well-drained soil kept evenly moist. The reason I selected the Calibrachoa, an annual plant here in Connecticut, is because of the coloring and form of the flowers. It has an outer pink to lavender color with a ring of a darker toned pink in the centers of its blooms. It was one color I had not see before for this annual, and thought of how well it would pair with the hot pink Dipladenia. It repeats the form of the larger hot pink flowers of the Dipladenia, and shares the same coloring in the pink hues.

Calibrachoa spilled over the edges

Also tucked in the corner is a Sedum (stonecrop) (see top photo on right) which is a perennial. It is called ‘Firecracker’ of the Sunsparkler series. Again, using another sun lover which tolerates periods of drought. The Sedum is hardy in Connecticut as a zone 4-9 plant, and blooms from late summer into early fall, however, it ended up getting hidden by the plants next to it by the end of the season. You couldn’t see it later in the season which is unfortunate, because I loved how the burgundy shiny succulent foliage gave a darker contrasting color to the hot and soft pinks in the combination. Sedum stonecrop plants makes nice groundcover in hot full sun landscapes, and again, I tend to use perennials in pots here and there as the anchors or foliage (filler) plants. They are good performers and easy care plants in either situation.

Full by mid-Summer into Fall

To the right of the planter with the hot pinks, I planted a large leaved perennial, a Lamb’s Ears perennial plant with a hardiness up to Zone 4. It is a hardy plant in Connecticut, typically used in sunny landscape beds, but I enjoy using perennials in my container gardens as well for adding the foliage power. I knew the soft, silvery, woolly leaves would look beautiful with the hot and soft pinks nearby. These plants are very easy care and again, love the hot sun, and can take drought. This Lamb’s Ears is called ‘Big Ears’ (Stachyz byzantina) because the leaves are huge, and the plant caught my attention right away. Bigger than the typical varieties of this plant, it was a perfect candidate for the tall planters. Another benefit of this plant is it is not preferred by deer, which is not an concern at this location but good to know for use in landscape beds. I also find, if planted in full sun, it doesn’t get any insect issues. If you try to plant it in shade or part sun, it won’t perform as well, and may even rot if in a damp location. And of course, it is soft and fluffy, and one of those plants you like to touch which makes it a fun candidate in outdoor areas on patios, decks, and wherever you may reach out to touch it. It grew at least two times bigger by the end of the summer season in its planter.

Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ (Perennial, Hot Full Sun, Zone 4 Plant)
Evolvulus pilosus ‘Blue Daze’ annual

In the smallest of the trio of tall planters, I planted a plant with soft blue flowers which are also sun lovers, or part sun. These bloom all season and tolerated the conditions at this site well (hot sun, windy, periods of drought). However, by the end of the year, while the plant grew huge, it didn’t have as many flowers as I expected, but the foliage stayed lovely. I had written about this plant before. I used it in wedding container gardens for a client. Blues is a tough color to find in blooms and thus, this is one of the blues available. It doesn’t drop its flowers nor require deadheading, which was a bonus. And no insect issues encountered. I only wished it was more prolific with blooms. I loved the way it looked with the other two planters, soft delicate foliage, and easy care. And as noted in my prior blog post about using these years ago, I learned the blooms close during cloudy conditions and or in the evenings, as you can see in this photo below.

Late Summer

But what you may also see is all the plants were extremely full, lush, and healthy all the way into early fall as shown in the photo above. You can even see a bloom that formed on the Lamb’s Ears on the far right. It was a shame to take all the plants out when I replanted for the fall season, but at the same time, it was a pleasure to know this combination performed well. The perennials may be salvaged at the end of the season by replanting them in your landscape beds. See more photos below. And, thank you for visiting my blog!

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer
See also:
www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
Located in Broad Brook section of E. Windsor, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy at gmail.com

Upon planting – before Memorial Day
‘Big Ears’ Stachys byzantina – Perennial
Sedum stonecrop – perennial
Mid Summer Photo

Flowering Tropical Plants for Decks in Connecticut

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Are you new to Connecticut and have no idea what flowering plants you should grow in containers or patio pots on your deck this summer?

I saw this question asked by a CT newbie on a gardening group on Facebook recently, and thought, hmmm, that is a GREAT question.

So to start to answer the question above, I will share some of my suggestions. Let’s start with tropical plants:

Flowering Tropical Plants

If you are new to Connecticut, you may not be aware of the wonderful tropical style plants which showcase beautiful flowers and are perfect to grow in container gardens and patio pots on your deck this summer. The key thing to know about tropical plants is that you should not put them outdoors until after frost in the spring here in CT (known as the last frost date) because tropical plants can not tolerate frost conditions. Thus, the key timing is to put them out around Memorial Day as a guide. Frost usually occurs around mid-May and it changes slightly year to year but mid-May is a good all around watching point, check the weather forecasts, etc. Once we are past frost, many tropical plants do wonderfully during our summers here in Connecticut in pots, planters, and container gardens.

Blooms all summer

Another cool thing about using tropical plants is many tend to bloom all summer into the fall season, usually into September and October, without fading or wearing out as with other annuals type plants. They usually showcase long lasting flowers. And just as with spring timing, you have to take them in before the frost which occurs in the fall in Connecticut. I blog a lot about storing underground tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc. here on this site which you may search for in the fall on this blog by using the search word “overwintering” for more details on when you should take them in and steps to store them over the winter to reuse each season.

Hot Pink Canna Lily Flowers

Canna Lily Plants

Canna lily plants are not hardy in Connecticut, at least they used to not be hardy, but if grown in the ground, they sometimes come back (due to global warming). That’s another story, as the focus of my blog site and this post is about growing them in pots.

In pots, you may plant them using plants you would pick up from a local nursery (or from me if local to my area – see below). Or you may start them by purchasing the rhizomes and planting them in one gallon size nursery pots indoors with potting mix to give them an early start, in March. They will start to grow from the rhizomes inside the house, and then you may transplant them outdoors after our spring frost in Connecticut by the end of May typically.

Love full sun, grow really tall, not a lot of problems

Canna lily plants love full sun but they are also okay in part sun or even part-shade. Many grow really tall and others species or cultivars are dwarf sized. Anywhere from 4 feet to 8 feet or taller. Their flowers attract hummingbirds and the plants are easy care. Flowers are pink, red, yellows, peach, orange, and some have dark burgundy colored leaves.

Speckled with red on yellow flowers

I usually do not encounter insect problems with Canna lily plants, other than the Japanese beetles that come out one time a year in the summer, they may eat some of the leaves and you may see some holes, but the beetles don’t stay out all summer so I usually just cut the damaged leaves off and tolerate them for a month. This occurs in July or August on one or two plants. Sometimes they only bother one of my plants and leave the rest alone, so I don’t find them to be a nuisance.

How to plant them…

As far as planting them, use a good quality potting mix and add some compost. I typically add slow-release fertilizer to all my container gardens and patio pots as well. See my prior blog post, called the 5-Must Do’s for more information. I typically don’t regularly fertilize my Canna lily plantings on a monthly schedule, with liquid plant food as often recommended, unless I have the watering can with me and I’m fertilizing other plants, than maybe. But, in general, they are very easy to grow. They tend to be low-maintenance plants, other than the part about storing them over the winter, that is a bit of maintenance in the autumn season, but worth it if you wish to reuse them each season. And of course, as with all container gardens and patio pots, you must water them in the summer as needed.

Very Tall Canna (dark foliage) in a large square planter on my deck 2020

Can be top heavy…

One thing to note about Canna lily plants is that they do grow tall and their stems are usually thick enough to stand on their own, so staking is not required at all, but I typically grow them in large pots of 22″ in diameter at a minimum and about as deep. They tend to multiply and produce more shoots so a good clump can form over the summer. As a bigger clump of stems form, it can be top heavy in a pot, and if a small pot is used, they may toppled over from the wind at times. The rhizomes from which they grow are usually about 6 inches deep in the soil, so when you are ready to take them out by digging up the tubers in the autumn season, you will find them there in the soil below. And if you are growing a really tall variety, be aware a very windy location could tilt them, but I don’t encounter that here at my house on the deck. I’m talking if you grew them on a high rise or place where it is unprotected with super strong winds.

These toppled over from wind at times last year (pot was really not stable enough for the tall varieties)

Make More Plants!

Another great benefit to using Canna Lily plants is they tend to grow bigger rhizomes each season. You may dig up the rhizomes in the autumn season, and divide them into pieces and store them from late fall and over the winter in a cool basement, dark place, and where it will not freeze (where it will not drop below 32 degrees F). You get more plants over time with this process.

Thriller in Arrangements

As I’ve noted before, a good balance of plants in container gardens is having a thriller (tall center plant), spiller (drapes over the edges of pots and hangs down), and fillers (self-explanatory). Canna lily plants make excellent thrillers. They give height to your container and planters, and bloom all summer into fall, non stop. As flowers fade, just remove them if you wish, keep the plant cleaned up as desired, and enjoy them all summer on your deck. And best of all is seeing hummingbirds zoom up to the flowers while you sit and enjoy their show.

Pair Them Up With..

Practically anything. As you see in the photo above, I have succulents in the base of the planter with those tall Canna lilies and various annuals. They are great with practically any warm season loving plants that enjoy full to part sun. On this post, about my Aqua Blue Planter on my deck from 2020, you will see a list of the plants I used as fillers and spillers below the tall Canna lilies. Many larger leaved foliage type plants do well with Canna lilies as well, such as Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia), which are also tropical plants. They do flower but usually only one or two blooms. However, for a tropical look, I just love using the big ears of Colocasias with my Canna Lily plants and other topical plants with fantastic foliage. Because many succulents enjoy summer hot weather, they pair well as fillers too.

I will continue blog about other tropical plants great on decks in the summer in Connecticut.

Stay tuned or follow this blog to receive an email when each new post is published here.

Thanks for visiting,

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer and Installer
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b

Tomato Seed Sowing and Planning

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Tomato Plants 2021
Tomato Pots Deck 2021

These photos motivate me to sow and grow again in 2022. I know we experienced some rough wet summer weather (as noted in my prior post) last year, but photos are what prompt me to grow again. Let’s hope we have a good growing season this year!

Goldie Tomato – an Heirloom

Nothing pleases me more than when a person who purchased a starter plant from me sends or texts me a photo as they start their harvest, such as in this photo above, sent by Shannon. Doesn’t that plate of fresh Goldie tomatoes make your mouth water?! I am planning to grow these golden delicious heirlooms again in 2022.

I also add a new tomato or two to my sowing and growing list for each season and will be providing that list to my regulars or post it on www.WorkshopsCT.com soon.

Paul Robeson Tomato – 2021

This photo of a tomato, with a bit of a purple hue, sliced up on a white plate was taken by me last summer. It is the Paul Robeson tomato with orange, green, and purple hues. It produces large sized fruit and the fruit resists cracking. I plan to sow some of these seeds as well this year. Another keeper on my list. And I pray for better weather so I can eat more of these this summer!

Basil 2021

An an absolute must to repeat sowing again are the basils. OMG, how can one have a fresh home-grown tomato sliced up on a plate without fresh basil leaves? I can smell it now – almost!

So in January, as I write this, on 1/13/2022, I have decided on which I will sow again and have ordered my new varieties for sowing. Check! Seed ordering done!

Cathy Testa
Zone 6b Connecticut
Container Crazy CT
WorkshopsCT
Container Gardens CT

Turning on the Lights

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On winter days like today, with soft white fresh snow falling, many of us start daydreaming about the seeds we will sow in a few months, and perhaps start planning out our key sowing dates, as well as ordering various supplies for starting our seeds.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors is something I’ve been doing for a few years now for warm season vegetables (tomatoes, hot peppers, and some herbs), and every year, I like to try new varieties or heirlooms. I’ve been successful with using my greenhouse to grow my seeds indoors, along with using appropriate supplies and soil mixes, and providing care (watering, monitoring, etc.) without the use of grow lights, however, this year, I think I’m ready to take the plunge and experiment with supplemental lighting.

Types of Lights

This post will not explain what you need, what type of lights you should get, or any of that, because I will be in the midst of researching and starting with just testing out one system of lights above some trays of seeds in a couple months in my greenhouse, however, I can tell you why I feel I should turn on the lights over my trays of seedlings for the first time this year.

Because it will improve the results – I think…

With a greenhouse, you have lots of advantages, such as space, heat, and “natural” sunlight. However, many winter days are cloudy and cold, with not much sunlight at all in the months of February and March (March is usually about when I start my warm season vegetable seeds). Cloudy days limit growing progress, but it won’t stop progress. I have been able to grow my seedlings fairly well but it does slow things down not having sufficient sunlight every day.

Heating Mats, Nursery Pots, Soil Mixes, and Labels…

I thought, because I’ve invested so much already by investing in using the heat mats for seedling trays and everything else, not to mention the cost to heat a greenhouse, why keep on spending? But, in the world of gardening, you always seem to be getting another item to improve your growing processes. I decided I would purchase one of the fluorescent lights sets to hang over the trays during germination and help the plants once they start to grow. My thought is I will only use the lights when the days are cloudy. On sunny days, I’ll allow the sun to warm up the greenhouse and provide the natural sunlight for the plants.

Seeing Lights in Greenhouses

I remember walking into a very large nursery up north once, and they had lights all hanging above, and thinking, hmmm, they use supplemental lights. From what I’ve been reading, the lights should be placed about 3-6″ above the seedling trays once they germinate, but you have to watch you don’t burn anything when you move them this close to the trays. I will be doing so and monitoring how the plants look. There are signs to pay attention to if the lights are too close, which I will know, because I’m accustom to monitoring plants.

Baskets of Herbs I Grew without Supplemental Lights

Are Lights Needed to Succeed?

Some people will argue that you most definitely need artificial supplemental lights to succeed with growing seedlings indoors, but I’ve always argued that is not 100% true. I’ll let you know what I think after my first season trial with supplemental lights for my seedlings. But, I have done it without supplemental lights for years, so you can do it, but using the lights will improve the seedlings health overall. I’ve used heat mats to help keep the soil warm in the greenhouse, and adding lights may give the seedlings an extra boost. It may take them from normal to champion status. Kind of like training an athlete. Improving each time.

Types of Lights

There are fancier and more modern light options out there beyond the fluorescent types, but I’ve decided I will take baby steps this year. I want simplicity, ease of hanging them, plug in style to an outlet, and give the lights a try. I’ve just ordered the system, and some more nursery pots because I know I’ll go thru them light crazy. Then I decided I need more labels, and the supplies list begins!

Light to Germinate

Most of the seeds I grow require light to germinate (some seeds require darkness), and they need light to grow well once they have germinated in order to grow strongly. Using a greenhouse really helps of course, and/or using the fluorescent lights will improve the results – but if you use both a greenhouse and supplemental lights – it should be awesome, I hope. As long as all other factors are done appropriately along the way, such as using good seedling mix, accurate timing of starting seeds before the frost dates, and monitoring. I usually check my seedlings every day once they germinate.

Plants Produce Their Own Food

Plants use light to produce their own food. If light is not available after they germinate, they are slower growing, they may be stretchy looking from reaching for sunlight, but once natural sunlight is provided on sunny days, if they experienced a day or two of clouds, they tend to rebound very quickly in a greenhouse setting. Plus a greenhouse gets very warm on sunny days! Once I use the new supplemental lights on the cloudy days, I should see them be stronger than ever before. Stay tuned as I share my progress.

Cathy Testa
containercathy at gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b Area

How I start to Plan in the New Year

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Happy (or is it?) New Year 2022!

After waking up from the foggy mind, after our confusing holidays, I start to pull out my calendars from last year, which includes two (if not 3) wall style calendars, notebooks with key dates, reviewing my own blog posts from the past year for key dates, and going thru client binders to get my new 2022 calendars started.

Yes, I have all those various sources to track activity by dates. I want to remember the odd things that happened because it helps me to be prepared, or to try to plan ahead, and to remember, in the gardening world, lots of variables come into play (timing, weather, pandemics, etc.).

Unexpected Snow Fall in April?

For example, do you remember when we had a snow fall in April of 2021? I do. I purposely took a photo of the date scratched into the top of my fire pit cover, and I also noted the date on my 2021 wall calendars. The notations are reminders of things that can happen when you least expect it, or we should be expecting it, cause it probably happened the year before, or it may again…

Cold Rains on Memorial Day?

Like for example, do you remember the cold temperatures and crazy rain we had on Memorial Day weekend last year? It traumatized me because I literally finished planting a site the week before! I was so worried about the plants and how they would be impacted by the freak cold rain we got the whole weekend after I finished my job site. I went silent. My husband even asked me why I was so quiet as we drove out for a weekend at that time, and I told him, “I’m super disappointed in the weather we had over Memorial Day.” Then I stayed silent for the rest of the drive.

Flooding of Summer Fields…

Also, what about the floods we had in farmers’ fields in 2021 during the summer months – which impacted the availability and quality of pumpkins I use when I make succulent pumpkins in October, and of course the rain during the summer that messed up the ripening of our tomatoes?! Need I say more…?

And dare I say it, Ugh, COVID. As my friend posted recently, “We all want to say bye-bye to Covid!”

The darn Covid world. It is everywhere it feels like. We never thought it would last this long or rebound, right? How many challenges must we face? Let’s not get into how it impacted everything, shipping, staff, uncertainty, availability, etc. And the very sad and depressing things, such as many people getting sick, hospitals overwhelmed, it just seems hard to rise up again. My blood pressure has risen. From the stress (or too many sweets over the holidays.)

In the world of gardening, you do face challenges. I told a grower once, “Every single year, it is different.” They agreed. It was very hard to plan and predict in our usual manner.

Global warming impacts us too. We see lots of changes in weather. It is so unpredictable. Thus, my calendaring routine is even more critical. Or is it? Because sometimes, its been difficult to take a deep breath at times, and start again. But alas, it is January, and I must start again.

Today, is January 6th, 2022. It will be sunny (thankfully, because I have to take down some outdoor holiday decor) and it will snow tomorrow, but then be clear on Saturday (unless that changes). I’ve started to come out of my holiday brain fog and started looking at key gardening and planning ahead dates.

Sowing Information

I remember that last year, around this time, people started searching about sowing information for their seeds. So I’m going to re-share the link below where shared some tips from last year around this time:

Last Year’s Post in January 2021 above

I have to admit, I’m still not done reviewing things, but I’ve started, and it reminds me of this: January is about “planning” and probably early ordering (at least for me), February is “ramp up” month, March is “sowing” month, and April is “growing month” which goes into May. And hopefully this year’s end of May will bring better weather when we are ready to put all plants outdoors for our vegetables gardens and tropical plants, etc.

I know this post is a little choppy, but I needed to get it out there to let you know, I’m here and I guess I will take on the unexpected challenges yet again. Because when I’m in my greenhouse on sunny days in the winter, it revives me. I see the plants not giving up, despite being on the temperatures cool side in the winters, and some plants will even bloom. I’ve been witnessing, in fact, my Mangave plant blooming. It shot up a 10 ft tall stalk and the buds finally opened. They are still opening. The very top of the stalk is almost touching the roof. I have to step up on a ladder to get photos or look up as I did this this photo below taken a few days ago.

Mangave buds opening into 2022

In the meantime, I hope this post is not too blah, because besides all the gardening challenges of last year, I still encounter enthusiastic plant lovers and I still am very passionate about plants – and it makes it all worth it. I think I’ll be ready to go at it again. Stay tuned.

Cathy Testa
Container Gardens, Plants, Plant Gifts, Seeds, and More!
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy at gmail.com
See also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (you are here now).

Grab-n-Go Holiday Gifts

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Alas, we are two weeks till Christmas! I’ve been so happy to create for everyone and I can’t thank you enough for your small business support of my Cathy T Custom Work of my holiday kissing balls, wreaths, garlands, variety of holiday greens in boxes, swags, and holiday installations of planters and sites.

My hands have been a little sore and my back a little achy but I love what I do so much, I continue to move forward. Each detail is important to me and now, with the last two weeks of planning underway before Christmas Day, please keep me in mind if you are looking for any last minute Grab-n-Go Gifts. Some are made with plants and some without. I usually post as I create so you see how they are made and what is being made minute by minute.

Also, if you have any last minute greenery decorating needs, I have some beautiful cedar available in bunches while they last. Almost all my greens are used, which makes me happy! This means planning worked out and no-waste of the beautiful fresh greens! Limited supply on the greens now as of this writing (12/13/21). Thank you again for ordering from me this season. Now its Plant Gift time…

In regards to the Holiday Plant Gifts, please give me a day ahead to make it and then swing by to Grab-n-Go on your daily last minute shopping adventures. Just text me your questions or interests. 860-977-9473.

Details are also shown on http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. Some items available: Terrariums or Terrarium Kits (great gift idea!), Holiday Moss Trees with Succulents, Hanging Small Globes with Holiday Themes, and other perfect hostess holiday themed gifts. See my Facebook Pages or Instagram under Container Crazy CT for the latest daily holiday creations.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
860-977-9473
Today’s Date: 12/13/21
See also www.ContainerGardensCT.com for Holiday Installs
See also www.WorkshopsCT.com for Custom Creations

2021-12-25T06:49:00

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Days Till Xmas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Customer Comment:
Thank you again, it is just the perfect size and even more beautiful in person. I can really see your creative talent in your work. I especially like the two hanging zip ties added for height option. Also, the extra ornaments and matching ribbon. Nice little added details that you think of. It smells soooo good too! – Wreath Purchaser, L. Mickey, 2021

Champagne Colored Ornaments
Top Made to Match Homeowners Theme with Elves fun colors, and Bottom Wreath was Created to be Natural with Burlap Bow