All I really wanted to do yesterday was create. I had an idea in my mind to make a small wreath covered in small glass ornaments, bright red and white berries, and a couple succulent plants. I wanted to pack the wreath in a way so it would be colorful, festive and fun.
It really is amazing how long something like this can take to make by hand. In fact, I would start working on it but then had to stop to do an errand or get the other tasks around my property done, but all I really wanted to do was create.
I played holiday music from my Pandora holiday line up of Christmas music which I play every season this time of year. It started with listening to Micheal Buble’s “White Christmas” song and continues on from there to Elvis or Etta – You name it. Every song gets me into that holiday creation vibe, along with the pitter patter of birds or trees moving in the wind outdoors. In fact, a bird landed on the greenhouse roof to visit while I was in there. These moments make me pause while creating.
Yup, I did. I put on the holiday music playing from the tiny new Bluetooth speaker. So let’s see, holiday music on for the first time on Nov. 19th. I think that is my earliest yet. It does set the mood, along with warm sunshine casting upon me in my little heaven of a greenhouse, where I often create, if it is bearable outside for winter temps. Once it gets even colder, my hands get cold in my special greenhouse, kept at a low even temperature during the winter months. Sometimes it gets too cold to create in there, unless I’m bundled up from head to toe. But it is one of my preferred places to be.
After doing errands, I finally got back to making the trio set. One thing that really annoyed me was a sticker was on the bottom of the round hanging globe and it was stubborn. I was like, oh gosh, now I have to go up to the house to remove this sticker, as I don’t have a working “sink” in the greenhouse with hot water. I was thinking, just let me create – no more interruptions, which I found removing a stubborn sticker to be – an interruption. I had to find a spray adhesive removal product and finally was able to completely remove it.
After that, and getting back to my greenhouse and continuing on my creations, my stomach started growling and right then, my husband texted me he was on his way home from work. It was almost dinner time, and yet, I still wasn’t done. The sun would be going down soon, I thought. I need to wrap this up. I left everything there to ponder more for tomorrow, which is now today!
This little mouse, I knew would be adorable in the globe. I thought of the owl found in the Rockefeller tree in NY recently, as I placed my white little mouse ever so carefully in the center, being sure the tip of his red holiday hat with a tiny white pom-pom would point up to the top. I’m not sure why, but I can not get that owl out of my head. I thought, I wish I had an owl to put in here – it would be perfect, but I only had the mouse in the house. Imagine replicating the NY tree owl with that little brown blanket tucked around him and those big bulging adorable owl eyes. OMG! That would be irresistible.
Each of the three pieces have similar color themes and the red dotted ribbon. This would tie them together. Along with the mini brown pinecones with tiny red berries. If I’m not careful, anything could be damaged or not positioned just right, this is why it takes time. I would never rush them as it takes away that Zen of creating.
One thing I have found is in order to create, you need lots of various supplies and embellishments on hand. I just can’t do something totally cookie cutter, it would be like an artist having to limit their various colors of paints, which I think may occur out there, but I don’t want to limit myself when creating.
Because these each have live succulent plants in them, they need to be displayed indoors and near some sunlight or in a brightly lit room, although the succulent plants are very tolerant and may be moved into pots after the season of holiday decor is over. The globes have succulents which are very slow growing and are sturdy, so they won’t outgrow the globes for a very long time.
So that is what I did yesterday. And now I have this feeling I want to make another set. With another color theme. We will see. I will keep you posted!
I shared this photo yesterday, on a whim, on my personal Facebook page and received lots of comments. Most people wrote things like, “You look so happy!” or “This is a great photo.”
I have to say, I am THE most happy at the moment right then, right before I would be completely ready for my holiday workshops to begin for my annual wreaths and kissing balls attendees.
This photo, taken two years ago, was on a sparkling, yet brisk cold, December morning. I got up early before all the wonderful attendees arrive, working diligently with my helpful and happy husband to get all the beautiful fresh mixed greens on tables. All this work always took place right before the workshop was to start on the day off.
From fresh Balsam Firs, so traditional for the Christmas scents we are familiar with, to elegant florals such as Berried Eucalyptus. All would be carefully placed on rustic tables and shelves. Some bundles were placed in red plastic bins or galvanized rustic buckets in wheel barrels. Whatever we had on hand to make all the taking easy for everyone.
It would be so pretty when we were done setting all the greens up. I would be freezing cold at times with the tips of my fingers being numb even while wearing gloves, and feel like my eyes were tired (why the big sunglasses over my eye glasses in that photo), yet, I always took the time for photos to capture these moments just before guests would begin to arrive. Every minute, from our first sip of coffee that day till the start time of my holiday workshop was consumed with work for both me and my husband.
There have been many years where I was completely exhausted from all the organizing type stresses. Will my greens by okay? Will there be enough greens? Will I be able to handle a group of 35-40 very excited women ready to make wreaths?! Will the weather cooperate? Will it be windy? Usually all my anticipation would start to fill my mind, of course, as I laid my head on the pillow the evenings before the big workshop days.
The days or even weeks before the event, I would start to decorate here and there, adding holiday touches in my home, on my property, and in the staging area for the greens. I always wanted to make everything perfect, or as best as possible. It needed to be a cozy, organized, and a welcoming event.
We would stage all the fresh holiday greens, many varieties, in a beautiful wood shed, which my husband built for his wood. For many years, he sacrificed the space on one side for us, for this workshop event, for the ladies. What a man, Mr. KB Claus. He never once complained about that. This year, of course, it is all filled with his stacked wood. And he just happily stacked his wood this year without ever a mention of how he gave up the space all those years prior for my workshops.
It almost looked like a manger on my holiday workshop days, as one attendee stated one year. It wouldn’t be long before I learned, I need elf helpers because the large group took a lot of coordinated effort, and fortunately for me, I am blessed with three close friends who offered to help me and my hubby.
But this year is different, very different. My holiday offerings are different, our upcoming family and friend gatherings are different, and our holiday anticipation, in many ways, will be different. All due to COVID entering our worlds. Who would EVER imagine COVID would be here still in the month of November. Into, what eight months, since this all started in March? My goodness!
So this year, as I’ve noted, I am taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls, as well as offering fresh greens by the box. All the details are outlined on my site, http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. I have my holiday face mask ready to greet anyone coming by for orders, and my helpful and festive hubby already built a stand for safe zero contact porch-pick-ups. Well, it will be driveway pick-ups this year. The stand he built is from wood limbs of trees around our property, which make it rustic looking. I can’t wait to hang my custom wreaths and kissing balls on it for orders. I think it will look pretty. And this starts next week, immediately after Thanksgiving Day.
So who am I? Well, I guess this holiday season, I am still Mrs. KB Claus but in a different format. Not sure what my title will be but I do know, I thoroughly enjoy working with the beautiful fresh holiday greens creating and it will certainly help ease our COVID situations. Creating with greens is an amazing escape from any concerns we may have as we stay safe at home. And I’m sure my husband will tolerate all my antics along the way!
The start of November, as we await Thanksgiving Day, and move quickly into the Holiday mode, is what I feel is a transition zone.
I really don’t want to bombard people with what I will be offering for the holidays until a bit later in the month, but then again, many people plan ahead to decorate and get into the holiday spirit.
We also have a few days of decent weather coming up, so this is when we will wrap up our outdoor clean up for sure. For example, my husband is planning to clean up the gutters this weekend, and I will be removing last minute summer items into my garage or basement during the rest of this week between appointments and orders.
As far as transitioning, the following are some items I’ve been doing:
Updating my Galleries on SmugMug. Been creating a Holiday Folder to show custom orders and my holiday greens coming up.
Updating my 3 sites to be more current. Yes, I have 3. It is a long story but each is dedicated to my service offerings: WorkshopsCT.com, ContainerGardensCT.com, and this blog site, ContainerCrazyCT.com.
Ordering supplies for my upcoming custom holiday wreaths, kissing balls, and loose greens orders. Taking inventory, writing instructional documents, and more.
Taking any last minute orders – still – for handmade Succulent Topped Pumpkins which make beautiful centerpieces for the Thanksgiving decor and your table!
Making hanging succulent filled glass globes to add to the autumn decor for custom orders. Making terrariums with succulents and fall decor too.
Checking my greenhouse daily to ensure all systems are working property, looking over the plants moved in and making sure none have issues. Making sure the heat is working and all that jazz.
Cleaning the house! Yes, part of my fall transition zone. I’m so busy in spring with plants of course that I never have time to do the big clean in spring. It tends to happen in the fall or early winter.
Trying to decide on the Thanksgiving dinner plans. I think it will be just me and my honey this year, and that is the week I start making wreaths and kissing balls, so just as well be home. Just too risky to do large gatherings due to the COVID rises across our country.
Sorting my holiday home decor and donating the old or unneeded to free Facebook pages in my town.
And finally, taking walks in the brisk cool air as much as possible before it gets too cold out there – but then again, that just reminds me – get those snowshoes out so when it is colder, I can transition to that!
Happy Wednesday everyone. Hope you are okay while we wait to hear the results of the election, and transition through whatever they may be!
By now, most of you have probably stored or disassembled your container gardens and patio pots of tender outdoor plants. And, after talking about light frosts for over a month, I may officially say our hard frost will arrive tomorrow evening, Friday, 10/30/2020 on Halloween weekend! It is predicted to drop down to 23 degrees F here in my area of Connecticut.
Along with the seasonal changes comes planning ahead for the next holidays on the list – Thanksgiving and Christmas!
I’m still making custom Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces themed in fall (and/or Halloween decor) and all are arranged via Porch-Pick-ups in my area of Connecticut (Broad Brook/East Windsor). Thank you for your recent orders. I so enjoy making these for everyone! And there is still time to request an order: 860-977-9473 or see my site www.WorkshopsCT.com for more photos and details.
But next will be planning ahead for the Holidays, which will be so different this year. First, we all know we are concerned about COVID. Smaller safer gatherings will be required.
But, decorating, perhaps will be even more important than ever because we will be home staying safe. Decorating for the holidays is one of my passions and I know so many of my friends, customers, and family feel the same. The holidays are not the same without our personal decorating embellishments.
But, for the first time in 10 years, I am not offering my holiday workshops. It is a change I must accept due to our COVID world, but I will not let this stop me from offering the types of quality products and beautiful holiday greens I have in the past.
I am very excited to be taking custom orders for my hand-made evergreen filled wreaths and kissing balls starting by the end of November. I’m also offering loose greens this year. All of the details may be found on my site called, www.WorkshopsCT.com. All are made by hand and with love!
I saw a funny joke on Facebook recently saying, “It is snowing because of all the people putting up their Christmas decorations up in October.” It made me chuckle.
Usually, I have to start clearing out my workshop spaces now in time to prepare for December, but this has changed. In a way, I’m relieved to not have to do it – it was a major effort!
I also would start to decorate early as well in order to make my home as cheerful as possible for my workshop attendees. I’ve accepted this is the new normal for now and it doesn’t totally bum me out – I am, in fact, very excited to offer my products in a new way.
Again, the details are on www.WorkshopsCT.com. I’ve changed the title of that website page to reflect my name, as it isn’t all about my workshops anymore but more about my current offerings focused on combining nature with art.
Well, just a quick post today – brace yourself for the much needed rain we will get all day, and the snowflakes tomorrow! It has happened before in October, and it will again.
There are many tender tropical plants which I overwinter each year around this time of year in October. They are either dug up and packed up in a cool, dry, frost free place, moved into my home as a houseplant, or moved into my low-temperature greenhouse for the winter.
Today, I will share how I overwinter my newest favorite tropical plant, Alocasia macrorrhiza or Alocasia macrorrhizos (Jumbo Upright Elephant Ears).
Here is a photo of me standing by it around mid-September 2020. It is quite tall and an impressive specimen showcasing dark green huge leaves, big enough to serve as a patio umbrella.
Each leaf reached just slightly over 3 feet long from tip to the start of its rigid stalks, which were also 3 feet long. Thus, the plant towered over us at 6 feet tall total. The width of the leaves reached about 2-2.5 feet across.
This plant is not winter hardy here in Connecticut, so it must be removed from the planter to store the tubers (or rhizomes) for the winter. This may be done after the plants get touched by a light frost (which will damage the leaves and make them turn yellow) or immediately after a hard frost (which will completely kill the top parts of the plants and its foliage.)
I prefer to move them in before frost for two reasons: (1) It is not cold out and easier to work with the plants. And (2), sometimes if you leave the tubers in the soil too long, when they get cold and wet this time of year, rot may actually start on the tuber before you dig them out. The tuber will be soft if any rot has started. BTW, the tuber is referred to as a rhizome as well. For the sake of this post, I will use the term “tuber.”
While working this weekend to continue my overwintering chores, I asked my husband to take a photo of me with a single leaf to show the shear size of this dramatic foliage plant. I obtained the tubers in 2019. That year, the plant grew more clumps of leaves, but this year, in 2020, the plant grew much taller stalks and bigger leaves. I always tell my followers and customers, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant.
If the plant in your container or patio pot is small enough, you may bring it into your home for the winter, or even into a greenhouse. However, I typically choose to store them by digging up the tubers, after cutting off all the foliage, and storing them in my basement, which is unheated but does not freeze.
The location is key. You need to consider the place you are putting them. A cold closet in the home may work. You need to experiment the first time you do this and hope for the best. A garage (unless it is attached and gains some heat from the house), does not work. The tubers would freeze and die.
Okay, here are my steps:
(1) Chop off all the foliage. You may use either a sharp long kitchen knife or a machete, which I often use the machete when it is a very thick stalk or stump. Just be sure your tools are clean to not transmit any disease or insect problems. I usually start with removing each leaf stalk individually, then cut across the whole stump area if it happens to be large.
(2) Dig out the bottom part with the tuber from the soil. Do this by digging around the plant with your shovel or garden trowel and pushing down around in a circle. You should hear the roots snapping as you are cutting them during this process. Then lift the whole clump together out of the soil. Try to be sure you are not breaking the tuber below the stump area.
(3) Lay the bottom parts in the sun. The bottom part of the plant will either have a visible tuber, or not. Either way, lay them in the sun for a minimum of one day to dry (and/or cure, as they say). Sometimes, I let them sit in the sun for a few days but do not leave them out if you get a hard frost after digging them out. If the bottom piece you dug out is thick and fleshy, turn it upside down to allow the excess water to drain out. These plants hold lots of water. You may gently brush away any excess soil or use a garden hose to blast off the soil, but sometimes I prefer not to add any more moisture to them if I can help it.
(4) Snip off any long roots. Notice in this next photo how long the roots reached. Because the soil was fluffy and dry in my planters, I actually pulled the roots out of the soil because I wanted to see how long they were. They almost reached the bottom of the gray tall planters. The reason I snip off the roots is to eliminate as much fleshy material from the pieces. Fleshy, wet materials may rot in the storage box.
(5)Put the stumps (for lack of a better word) and or tubers into a storage box and cover it with peat moss. Sphagnum peat moss may be purchased in large square bales or in bags in smaller amounts. It is a natural and organic ingredient that absorbs moisture and aerates around the tubers in the box. Pour some of the peat moss in the box in the base, lay the tubers and stumps on it, and then pour dry peat moss over and around them. Do not over do this. You are only lightly covering them with the peat moss. BTW, the peat moss is reusable every year. It lasts a very long time.
(6)Place the box in a cool, dark, dry location that doesn’t get below freezing and is somewhat unheated. Such as my basement. If placing the box on a concrete floor, place a tray or something to elevate it a bit off the floor because as that floor gets cold in the winter, it may create condensation in the storage box. My basement does get some woodstove heat from time to time, but the woodstove is way at the opposite end of the basement from where I store my overwintering boxes. And the woodstove is not used all winter, just on some nights. So the area where I put all my overwintered plants in boxes stays colder. It has become my sweet spot for this process. It is okay to stack your boxes on top of each other. I use plastic bin type boxes with a lid. Do not use clear plastic boxes, use those that will eliminate any light. Sometimes I have drilled holes into the lids to allow some air to enter. The tubers tend to stay dry but just slightly moist by the peat around it – but not wet. Do not store them in a very wet state. This will lead to rot. If your basement is too hot and dry, they will dry up and shrivel and may just rot away to a dry state which is not usable. If your basement is super cold, the tubers might freeze and die.
(7)Label the box with a sharpie marker, date it, and note what you stored so you will remember in the spring. If the tubers make it, you may recognize them, but if they don’t, you will be wondering what you stored, at least I have, because I store many types of container garden plants over the winter months.
You have other storing or moving options as well. You could just move the pot with the plant into your basement and hope for the best, but you may not have the space, or the muscle power to move a big pot. And usually a big pot is too big for a home. But that is another option to mention. If you move the entire pot with the plant into your basement, you will need to monitor it for insects and add water to the plant, but at a very minimal fashion. You are not watering it like you would during the summer season.
In this above photo, the tuber on the left is covered in brown papery like material, which you leave on there. However, on the photo on the right, you really only see a stump. Storing either works for me.
This storing process allows the plant to go into a dormant state. They will not grow in the dark boxes and will usually do fine. When spring returns, you may bring them out of the darkness by starting them in smaller pots inside the home to awaken them. They should not be planted outdoors in your patio pots or container gardens again until all chances of spring frost has passed. These tender bulbs will bring back repeat performance year after year by following my steps above.
If you found this post helpful, please comment below or share my site with others.
Cathy Testa Owner of Container Crazy CT Broad Brook, CT 06016 860-977-9473 firstname.lastname@example.org Other sites: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and www.ContainerGardensCT.com Container Garden Designer, Plant Lover and a little “Crazy” about plantings in containers!
Currently taking orders for custom Succulent Topped Pumpkins. They are created with live succulent plants, fall or Halloween decor, and are amazing on real pumpkins. They are low maintenance, easy care, and last for months. Porch Pick-ups and some deliveries arranged. Inquire for current prices. 860-977-9473 texts are welcome.
In between designing these wonderful pumpkin creations, I’m trying to continue working on overwintering plants from my home container gardens as well as for clients.
We still have not hit our hard frost here in my area of CT, but it has been a busy fall season, and I guess you could say, “I’m pausing for pumpkins!”
Custom Orders for Succulent Topped Pumpkins
I have been making Succulent Topped Pumpkins for customer orders and it couldn’t be more fun! Now is the time to get one or make one yourself.
They are the perfect item to dress up your table (make it the centerpiece of an autumn inspired table scape at home) or give one as a hostess or teacher gift.
I arrange for “Zero-Contact” Porch Pick-ups of these from my Broad Brook, CT location or some deliveries are available based on your location.
They are created on any size pumpkin you desire, from a small (the size of a grapefruit) to, what I call, an XL! A pumpkin of larger proportions than well, let’s see, a basketball. Each pumpkin is unique and has a beautiful mix of live succulents with decor. You may request prices via text at 860-977-9473 or via email at email@example.com.
But, please order soon, as supplies will eventually run out and so will the pumpkins. I source the real pumpkins by visiting local farmers here in my area. Now is the time to request your order.
And, these wonderful and pretty Succulent Topped Pumpkins are very low-maintenance and easy care. Complete care instructions are provided with each order so you know how to make them last well beyond the autumn season.
No Holiday Workshops This Year
In addition to working on overwintering plants between pausing for pumpkins, I also made the big decision that I will not be holding my big Holiday workshop this year.
I can not thank everyone enough for being here every year for the past ten years on the special day of making wreaths and holiday kissing balls!
The memories will last forever and it will be missed, but due to COVID-19, this is the year I am retiring them. Yes, I used the word retire as I do not think I will hold them going forward.
However, as I retire my workshops, I am excited to be redesigning my services to offer WORKSHOP KITS.
If you wish to make an item at home, check out my WORKSHOPSCT.com site for the details which I’m announcing over the next few weeks.
Autumn Kits are currently available for the Succulent Pumpkins and holiday kits will be announced for the winter holiday season soon.
After all, if you have to stay safe at home, you might as well get into creating something wonderful with plants and decor for any season. Kits may be requested for groups as well. Get your friends together in small groups!
And I will be taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing ballsfor December. More details will be posted on that, but for now, as noted, I am pausing for pumpkins!
I’ve been sharing my methods and timing regarding when to bring in outdoor plants (in container gardens or patio pots) indoors during the fall season to prepare for the winter months here in my area of Connecticut (Broad Brook/East Windsor, Zones 6).
But how do you actually determine which plants to bring inside and when?
Sometimes other factors come into play besides the lower temperature drops that some plants will not tolerate.
For example, this kitchen herb garden, which I planted for a client on a balcony, is booming still. I visited the site just yesterday, and look how large these herbs are in September. Amazing! All of the herb plants are still thriving and not showing much stress yet from being exhausted from growing all summer in the heat nor from drops in evening temperatures recently.
It would be a sin to take these all down right now, don’t you agree? There still time to enjoy these wonderful, fresh, aromatic, and delicious herbs. Due to the full sun conditions and appropriate watering by my clients at their residence, their herbs are absolutely thriving.
I’m especially proud of these herb plants because many of the herbs in these planters were started from seed by me earlier in the season and planted as starter plants. I’m in love with how well they did and how amazing they taste. The clients are still enjoying every snip and harvest.
We decided to let them be for a while more. While my herbs at my home are dwindling, such as my basil (which prefers warmer temperatures than we get during our fall cooler temperatures), their herbs are still perfectly fine. They get more sun where they are located compared to my location.
Just look at these matchbox peppers, which I grew from seed earlier this year as well. They are booming with small hot peppers. They are tiny and super spicy. They completely cover this plant, which was described as compact. I’ve grown these in hanging baskets too and they are perfect for them. Of course, these can remain outdoors a couple more weeks until we get frosts.
Sometimes we get a few “light” frosts before a hard frost. Light frosts may occur as early as October 4th. A hard frost could be anywhere from mid-October to very early November, based on my experience and records. So, yes, you could decide to leave something like this herb garden growing a while longer to capitalize on the wonderful harvest. The key is to pay attention to the weather forecasts and your weather apps.
Here is another example of a plant related item which could stay outdoors a while longer. It is a terrarium I made a couple seasons ago. I created it around Halloween and used decoupage glue to adhere a skull print on fabric inside of it. I remember thinking it would look super cool with plants.
You will notice the white area, ironically resembling a mask, which is where the glue will get wet. It left a white area mark there – so my test of this fabric has a flaw, or does it? It looks super cool to me.
I could leave this terrarium outdoors for a few weeks more here in Connecticut. Before any frost would hit it. But I wanted to move it indoors into my greenhouse before it gets waterlogged with rain. We initially had rain predicted for this Friday by our weather forecasters, but that seems to have changed to “chances of rain” now. Anyhow, the plants are thriving, there are no insect issues, so why chance it? It is easy to take inside to keep growing another season.
The key thing is things change fast in regards to weather this time of year. You may be humming along, enjoying your outdoor plants, and thinking it is so beautiful outside. It is warm, some flowers are still blooming, and the fall air is just right where you feel comfortable working outdoors in the 70 degree range. And the next day, it will be 80 degrees F out. Like summer! What’s the rush, right?
But there will be that night where it gets cold fast, like this Saturday, predicted to be in the 40’s. Still not freezing, still safe for many plants, but it is coming.
Determining what to move indoors has the factors of weather, upcoming freezes, but also, some of that determination is based on how you use the plants (or how you enjoy their show). As in the example of the herbs – still very much usable. Or, it could be how beautiful the plant is at the moment.
Take for example, this dish garden, also at my clients’ site. Good Lord. Look at those hot pink Supertunia annual flowers. I gasped when I saw how much they grew from earlier this season to now in mid-September. Usually, I would take this dish garden away to take apart and store, but how could we? They are still amazing. And until they get hit by frost, might as well enjoy the show, right?
This dish garden also houses some amazing succulents. All look fabulousa. However, for succulents, I prefer to take special care with removing if you are taking them indoors. I prefer to move them before things get really damp and cold. With a drop in temperatures by the weekend at night, this could happen. Then tender succulent plants may start to suffer. If you are not taking them in, you may risk it and keep them outdoors. But most non-hardy tender succulents, in my opinion, should be moved in before it starts to get chilly consistently in the low 50’s and 40’s.
What happens this time of year is we get temp swings. All will humm along fine and then BAM! It will turn cold and you will be taking out your favorite sweatshirt. As for myself, getting some of this moving in container work done early may be a bummer because you want to enjoy the beautiful creations a while longer, however, I never regret getting some of it done ahead (before warm gloves, sweatshirts, and my warmer hiking boots are required.)
And another factor is the fall mums we have available around here in Connecticut this time of year. If you are going to display them, you might as well get them out soon so you may enjoy them throughout the fall season. There are tons of mums around to be had. Some places sell out of mums by mid-October, so you want to get them soon so you can enjoy them for a while before snow comes right?
Did I say snow, OMG, don’t even go there Cathy! LOL.
Don’t forget! Towards the end of September, it is succulent pumpkin creation time. I will have some succulent new stock available if locals are interested! I will post photos on my usual feeds. If interested in a custom made succulent topped pumpkin, now is the time to give me the order.
Here are 3 signs it is time to start thinking about moving your plants in:
You closed some windows in your house this morning because the chilly morning air is making your fingers cold as you type on your laptop in your home office or as you reach for your cup of coffee! (ME, this morning.)
You have a cat you allow outdoors, but he or she is screaming to come back in because the temps have dropped outdoors. (My Cat, this morning.)
Your nose is sniffling because the cool air gives you the some fall allergies. (Me! Yes, this morning. Where’s the Kleenex tissues?)
Well, those are definitely 3 signs for me. I feel the cool air this morning. It is 45 degrees F right now as I type this. It is chilly out there, but it won’t freeze your plants (yet). Your tropical plants can take it and so could some of your succulents, BUT, if we got rain with this type of chilly temp drops, it makes all go chilly and damp.
Damp, chilly, cold, and especially wet soils in container gardens or patio pots this time of year in Connecticut usually leads to issues when you move the pots inside the home for the winter.
This is something I’ve been repeating, I think because to me it is intuitive, and difficult to describe in scientific terms. If my hands are cold right now, so are my plants outdoors on my deck. In fact, if you went outside right now, and touched the side of a patio pot, it would feel cold. If they are cold, they are ready to start being moved in soon. But there’s still time.
Yesterday, I spent most of my day packing up items to use at a client’s site later today. I will be starting to disassemble their container gardens and I would rather work in good conditions, which it will be today, and also before all gets cold, wet, and damp. It is way more messy to work on the projects when it is in that colder situation, even though I’d work on container gardening anytime, anywhere. I have worked in rain, cold, wind, you name it. But, hopefully today, I will bask in the sun while I work this afternoon on beautiful container gardens which are now ready for phase two – autumn installs.
Yesterday, I only did a few small things at home for myself, my plants, that is. I decided to move in a small plant of my Upright Alocasia. It is one of the off sets from the bulbs I planted last season of this plant. Called Alocasia macrorrhiza or Upright Jumbo elephant ear. These gorgeous elephant ear plants are a favorite on my list.
Upright Elephant Ear Plants
The bulbs for the upright elephant ears are spring planted bulbs and they are tropical. They can not be left in the container gardens or patio pots outdoors for the winters here because the upcoming freezing temperatures would kill them. They are considered “tender bulbs” of tropical plants.
This time of year, these plants may stay out in the containers or patio pots until they are hit by frost (usually mid to late October) around here. If hit by frost, the foliage will droop, turn black, and die back. But that is okay if you are storing the bulbs inside over the winter. Since the tops of the plants will be cut off and tossed.
I usually take my tropical plants down (cut the tops off and remove the bulbs from the soil) either slightly before or right after a frost hits in our area of Connecticut. I store the bulbs in my unheated basement in various boxes. The place you pick to store the bulbs should never freeze and stay dry. And the place you pick to do this is very important.
For years, I selected a spot right next to the basement door in a corner. I put a 5 tiered shelf there and placed the storage boxes on each shelf. It was just perfect. They always make it and stay dry enough and cool enough there.
However, last fall, I decided to move all the boxes along the foundation wall in the basement, and it was under a big bench. I lost some of my bulbs. The area is only a few feet away from the shelving system, but the boxes were placed on the floor. The condensation created too much moisture in the boxes and some of the bulbs rotted by springtime. This year, they will be placed back in my “safe” storage spot on the shelves.
However, this plant below, is in a smaller pot. I know the chilly air will hit on and off during the evenings this month, and I thought, you know, I can manage to move this one on my own. As noted before, sometimes I ask for the assistance of my husband to move bigger plants.
I grabbed our handy dandy hand-truck to carefully rolled it to my greenhouse and put it in there for now. Usually, I dig these up and store the bulbs, but I am thinking maybe I will leave this one in this pot since the size is not super large like my other Alocasias for now anyhow. It is in a more protected location for the fall. I could work on it later if need be.
In my other two very large pots on my deck, I have more Upright Alocasias that are 6 feet tall right now. The leaves are gigantic (3 feet tall and wide). I will document my take down process and show it here for my followers when I take those bigger plants down from my container gardens. As noted, I can wait on those till mid October. By the way, these bulbs can not be left in the ground either through our winters. They would freeze and die.
I plant these types of tender bulbs in the spring in starter pots and place them in my greenhouse early to get them growing. They take a while to really kick in and get started. I plan to offer some next season. People have been asking, when they see how magnificent the plants have become with their tall upright growth, towering leaves of 3 feet in length and almost as wide, if I will have them for sale next season, and I think I will.
Other types of tender bulbs are Canna Lily, Begonia, Caladiums, Gladiolus, etc. They are planted in containers in the spring and keep growing and showing off right up till our CT frost. This has always been one of the reasons I adore tender bulb plants! They put on a show right to the very end of our growing container season. When we start putting our pumpkins outdoors, they are still showy. In fact, if you have ever attended the Big E (a huge multi-state exposition) near our area (which is sadly cancelled this year due to COVID), you will notice there are tons of Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, and Begonias in the planters areas around the fair grounds. They are so showy in September. I always noticed that when we attended the Big E this time of year.
Later this week or month, I will post lots of photos of my Upright Jumbo elephant ears to show you the size. The plant can reach up to 6 feet (which mine has this year) or 8 feet (probably next year). They like light shade and develop dark green leaves. I noticed on the smaller plants (which were off sets from last year’s bulbs), are a darker green than the larger plants.
I usually let them get hit by frost or take them down right before frost, but for the ones in smaller pots, I may move some into the greenhouse and see how they do (for now). If they appear to be suffering at all, I will dig them out later when I have time for those moved into the greenhouse.
On another note, check out another big plant – my mammoth magenta Celosia, grown from seeds. The first thing I find fascinating about these plants is how tiny the seeds are. They are like a speck, for lack of better wording. Yet they grow to massive sizes from one tiny speck of a seed.
My mammoth Celosia is finally blooming. These are another type of plant, an annual here, which provides a great late season bloom. It is called Celosia argentea var. cristata and shows off deep magenta blooms with green and orange foliage. It grows up to 5 feet tall, and mine is a bit taller than the leaves on my giant Ensete (red banana plant) in the same pot where the Celosia is planted. The stalks of the Celosia are super thick and strong. I have to look up to see the intense magenta blooms right now. It is very pretty.
Ensetes (red banana plants – see the burgundy red foliage to the right) are another plant I store each winter. I don’t move them into the house or greenhouse in tact. They are far too large, towering up to 10-12 feet each year usually. I’ve documented my storing process several times of my Ensete plants. Here are some links to prior posts on that:
My cousin asked me recently, how do you get that big red banana plant out of your huge cement planter? I responded with, “I climb up there into the planter (it is a huge cement planters) and dig it out with a shovel!” Yes, I do! LOL. Seems crazy but I love those plants so much, I use the little muscle power I have to get ‘er done.
Last year, I did a fast motion recording of my work on that particular large cement planter and removal of the Ensete plant and showed it to my followers. I may do that again. Will keep you posted.
As for now, I am going to sign off but I will be back showing as much as possible my various storing methods of my container gardens for those interested.
Note: I will be making custom Succulent Topped Pumpkins this year and will have various “new” succulents available at the end of this month. If local and interested, please reach out (860-977-9473) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos will be posted as usual.
For those of you who (or is it whom?) may be new visitors to my blog site, I thought I’d let you know that my recent posts are related to storing, overwintering, and moving container gardens and patio potted plants at my home from the outdoors to the indoors in preparation for autumn and winter.
I live in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor in Connecticut (Zone 6a/b). We usually get a light frost in early October and most of my plants in pots are not winter hardy in this area. Therefore, they must be overwintered before frost in order to save them to reuse next season. I have been sharing my methods of keeping these non-hardy, tender plants alive for years inside the home or in a greenhouse.
From the web: Covering most of the state is Zone 6, split into colder 6a and warmer 6b with average temperature minimums from -10 to -5 degrees and -5 to 0 degrees, respectively. Connecticut’s new zone, 7b with temperature minimums between 0 and 5 degrees, runs along the shoreline from New Haven westward to the New York state line.
I’m starting a bit earlier to move my plants in than is required (we have not hit any frosts yet here, which would kill my tender plants) but because I want to get a head-start on my container work, I am moving in some plants now during the mid-month of September.
For many years, most of my container plants were moved into my home for the fall and winter seasons, yet, I don’t have a big house. Eventually, I built a greenhouse and I keep it at a low temp in the winters (around 50-55 degrees F), and only some plants are able to tolerate lower temperatures and survive. It is very expensive to heat a greenhouse, so my most treasured prized babies (or I should say mamma plants) get moved in there for the winter season.
This past weekend, I moved the following plants in:
Agave ‘Kissho Kan’
The story behind this mamma, of about 20-22″ in diameter, is I acquired a few trays of them to sell at an event, of which I was part of putting together with a group of other women with their own small businesses, many years ago. I ended up keeping one of the plants and have owned this “mamma” for about 8 years. I’ve lost count. I’ve collected off sets from it before, and I keep the biggest two in my greenhouse in the winters.
Agave in the bedroom
For years, I put this agave in my bedroom by the glass window slider, which is at the southeast end of the house. It gets some light during the day but not full sun all day. It did fine there every winter, but I had to be mindful of those sharp spines at the ends of the leaves when I walked by it in the middle of the night. My brain would know to not bump into it even when I was half asleep.
Agaves can take lower temps and they will do well in a cool or warm room, as long as they get sufficient light during the winter months. I do not let my agaves be subject to frost outdoors, as most are not frost tolerant. It would ruin the plant, in my opinion.
In the case of my bedroom location, where it was put during winters for many years, it got just enough light to hang in there. Most agaves are hardy in zones 9-11, and we are zone 6. I’ve yet to meet one that would survive our winters outdoors, but if I find it, I will let you know. I believe there are some more winter hardy types out there, but I haven’t found or experienced those yet.
Anyhow, after years of taking care of this particular agave plant inside during the winters, I was finally able to utilize my greenhouse instead.
Moved into the greenhouse
For the past 3 or so years, it has been moved to my low-temp greenhouse during the winters. There it will receive plenty of light (when the sun is shining in the winter months as sometimes days are cloudy) which is better for the plant (the more light the better) but it is cooler than it was in my bedroom, of course. I keep the greenhouse temp to about 50-55 degrees F. As noted above, they are able to tolerate low winter temps if kept in a sunny location.
This mamma plant gave me plenty of off-sets over the years which will pop up around the mother rosette over time. I have never had a bad pest on any of my agave plants, except last year, I found an ant trail going to the soil of this plant when it was in the greenhouse in early spring, so I re-potted it before moving it outdoors. I wasn’t happy about having to do that because it was fully rooted in a new pot already from the prior season. Here is my blog posts on the ant incident and how I re-potted it prior and took off many off-set plants:
Yesterday, I used the hand-truck (a handy garden tool for container gardeners) to move it to my greenhouse. Actually, my husband helped me. I told him, “Be careful to not damage the spines,” as I walked beside him. He has probably heard me say that every time we have moved that plant! LOL. After 30 years of marriage (side bar: our wedding anniversary is tomorrow), he just doesn’t respond back. He knows how an*l I can be about my plants, but he seems to cherish them almost as much as I do too.
I hosed it all off with a harsh spray of water and looked it over and watched to see if any ants would come out of the bottom of the pot. No signs of that – so I let it sit outside for the evening and will move it in, maybe later today. It could stay outside all the way up to “before” frost but I’m moving it in early.
You may be thinking, oh she has a greenhouse, but remember, I was able to keep this plant inside for years during the winter months – just be sure you give it as much light as possible, and remember to reduce watering greatly.
I barely water this agave in the winter months. You should keep the soil in the pot very dry during the winter months. In fact, I probably give it about a coffee cup size of water maybe once or twice the whole entire winter, if that. And it does just fine. After all chances of frost in the spring time, back outside she goes. One day, I would love to see this agave flower, but that takes years before it occurs.
Ficus elastica (Rubber Tree)
The story behind these tall beauties shown below is I acquired a tray (sounds familiar?) of them when I was offering a container garden workshop focused on houseplants one season.
These rubber tree plants are hardy in zones 8/9-11 but in my zone, are not and must be overwintered indoors. If I had a huge house, I would put these in a nice spot by a window as a houseplant candidate, but there is no room for that in my home. They have grown rather tall.
This plant surprised me. First, if you put it into a bigger pot, it just gets bigger. They grew several feet each year. The one on the left is 5 ft tall from the soil line to the top of the plant and the one on the right is 4 feet tall. I need to learn how to propagate these. I know there is a method to do so via “air layering.” I will have to give this a try in the spring time.
This rubber tree plant has darker foliage, I believe it was called ‘Ruby’ for its cultivar name, but now I don’t remember, and I don’t feel like digging out my log book this morning, but will do so later for my readers. Running out of time is why, so free flow typing this morning!
The large oval deep burgundy leaves on it are just gorgeous and when it pushes out new growth, there is bright red tip from the tip of the stems, which is just lovely. I had no idea, to be honest, what a wonderful container plant these make in the summer time. They like part shade to part sun but I’ve seen them do well in full sun situations also.
Because the red pots would be top heavy with a tall plant like these, I did put a generous amount of gravel in the base. It has sufficient drain holes, but the gravel makes it a heavy pot to move, thus, my hubby helped me with the hand-truck again. I am getting to that age, I need that help! Thank you hubby!
Anyhow, it is just gorgeous. I hosed it all down with a very strong spray of water, and I inspected all the leaves, before moving these two pots in. I found a little round cluster of white tiny insect eggs on one leaf. I pulled that leaf off with a tug. (Note: Ficus trees release a white sap when you do this, pull a leaf off or nick the plant, so I just let it (the sap) run out and it is fine. It will make your hands sticky if you touch it and some people may be allergic to the white sap.)
Then, as a precaution, I decided to spray it with NEEM horticulture oil. Ficus trees can be prone to scale insects, so I thought, I will do this. The NEEM oil, by the way, makes the leaves all nice and shiny. I sprayed it till it runs off a bit and let it air dry before dragging these into the greenhouse. But as a whole, there were no signs of plant damage from insects or critters. The foliage on this plant is big and bold, and I love that, and now the plants are big and bold as well. I can only imagine what they will look like next season outdoors again.
I was superbly thrilled when I spotted two Mangave plants at a nursery because I wanted a show-stopper plant for my client’s site. And this is a new hybrid on the scene. It was expensive, but I grabbed the only two available.
Unfortunately, one of them, after being planted at the client site was suffering. I remembered the soil in the nursery pot being extremely wet when I potted into their container gardens, and even smelled rot, and thought, the nursery was possibly over-watering them. However, I thought, well, it is hot and sunny here, it should be fine. Turned out it was not.
When the plant showed issues later, I pulled it out and found round types of worms in the soil. They were probably eating the roots. I took it back home and put it into my tender care area, and it took a long time, but I revived it. It actually got moved into different areas, as I tested out its responses to more sun, less sun, and of course it was re-potted into fresh soil.
This plant is very sensitive to breakage when moved. The tips break or snap very easily if bumped into, so it was tricky moving it but we did so. This plant is new to me, and it will be the first year I test it out in the greenhouse during the winter. It has a rubbery feel to its leaves. It is a cross between agave and Manfreda. The cool spotted patterns on the leaves are from the Manfreda side of the plant. It is interesting and a new find, so I’m liking the whole process of testing it out in containers and will see how it does this winter.
I will treat it in the same manner I treated my treasured mamma agave noted above, such as no watering in winter, etc. I have an article about the person who hybridized this new interesting plant, but I would have to dig that out to add more here, maybe later, as I know I can’t be blogging all morning. I have work to do today. Plus, my computer crashed on me while typing earlier, so now I’m even more far behind.
The story about this plant, which is also one I was unfamiliar with, is one I found while in Maine two seasons ago when helping my older sister move into her new home. She had work work to do during the day, so one day, I ventured off in search of nurseries in her area of Maine. I remember, I drove a lot. I found a cool nursery and saw this shrub. I thought it was so pretty so I grabbed one.
It has super deep shiny green foliage and it produces white starred flowers from time to time. It has had no problems in the same pot, and I move it into the greenhouse for the winter months before frost. The only little downside is during the winter, it will drop leaves and it makes a mess, but each spring, I put it out on the outdoor deck and it turns beautiful again, deepening in a rich green color. People will ask me what it is as they admire the beautiful green richness to it and plus it is not common in our area. It is not hardy in CT but it is a keeper.
I also inspected this plant before hosing it down with water to wash away any dust or whatever, I also sprayed it with NEEM horticulture oil as a precaution, and top dressed the soil in the pot with fresh potting mix. The roots are starting to come out of the drain holes so it is ready for re-potting which I will do at a some point. During the winters, I water it lightly from time to time, mostly because it has outgrown its pot and isn’t holding on to moisture well.
So far, I’ve been focused on moving in agaves, succulents, cacti, non-hardy shrubs, and I still have more to do, of course. My Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, Banana Plants, will not be worked on until probably later this month. They may stay outdoors here until frost or after getting hit by frost, if you are planning to store the tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, only (the underground bulb like structures). If you want to keep the whole plant in tact, they should be moved before they get hit by frost. Keep your eye on the temperatures.
As I look at my weather app, I see temps from 48 to 39 (Sunday), so we are still safe, but it is always a good practice to watch the weather people on tv on the news. They will give us a heads-up when the temps will drop lower.
I also will be showing how I move in my Mandevilla plants. I am reluctant to do them yet cause they are so full and lovely, filled with flowers right now, but I also have to budget my time and do it before it becomes a rush.
I hope this information is useful. If you have questions, please feel free to comment or email me. And I apologize of any typo’s or grammatical errors, but I have to go, I don’t have time to edit. Time to get back outside working on my plants and saving them as best as possible.
I am not offering my workshops on Succulent Topped Pumpkins this year due to Covid, but I will have new succulent stock by end of September for Custom Orders and some succulents for sale. Stay Tuned! Thank you.Cathy T.
Around this time of year is when I start thinking about how I will save succulents plants which have been outdoors all summer.
I prefer moving them in before we get dips in temperatures during the evenings and before we get rain this time of year.
Yesterday (9/10/20), I moved a few Agave plants and succulents into my greenhouse.
Every time I prepare a container for its new residence indoors, I inspect it for insects, wash down the outside of the pot, remove debris, and cut off any damaged leaves. If necessary, plants are re-potted into fresh potting mix.
Three Amigo Agaves
Before moving these three smaller Agave plants into my greenhouse, I turned them upside down and shook the pots to dump out any small debris.
Because these are so tightly rooted in, it was easy to handle them by doing the shaking method. I also checked for insects, cut off one bad leaf, and dusted off the pots with a clean rag.
I also moved in this larger Agave into my greenhouse. Due to its larger size, I used a leaf blower to blow out any debris in the pot or stuck between the leaves of the plant. Because of the sharp spines on Agaves, this is a great method for cleaning it up before moving it in.
Succulent Hanging Baskets
I also moved in 4 succulent hanging baskets I had outdoors under the roof of my woodshed. The potting mix in these were dry, which is what I prefer, because wet soil invites critters this time of year when you move them in, and I knew I was going to take these apart anyhow. Although I could have left them in these hanging baskets all winter, these were perfect candidates for propagation.
Another container I moved in was this one above. A round bowl of large succulents (Echeverias mostly). However, in this case, the soil was super wet from rain fall and insufficient drainage holes. The weight of the pot was heavy from the soaking wet soil. This soil would not dry quickly indoors at this point and time of year.
Knowing overly wet soil would only invite critters, and also knowing the roots will not soak up this moisture like it would during the summer periods, I decided to disassemble this pot, removing the succulents in tact, or using some to propagate babies.
This pot did not have the proper drainage, as you will see in the next photo, which is my bad. I should have taken the time to drill more drain holes, but alas, I was probably busy this summer and skipped it. Always a reminder – add drain holes to your pots.
Reminder: See My “5-Must Do’s for Container Gardening” linked below, where I discuss the importance of drain holes in your pots.
After I dumped the soaking wet soil into an empty pot outdoors and washed this bowl pot to store, you can see that tiny drain hole was just not sufficient. This is why the soil was so wet. This leads to rot and lack of oxygen for the plant, especially this time of year as things cool down outdoors and the sun is not drying out the soil, in addition to the cooler temps at night slowing down the process.
And by the way, this bowl pot had a very long flower stem on one of the succulent plants. You can cut these off and put them in a vase of water and they will last a very long time. Might as well enjoy every bit of the plants possible as our Connecticut fall season approaches.
I also potted up a bunch of Gasterias, which were from my stock. Although the growth of many succulents slows down as things cool down, I put these all in fresh soil. They will eventually root in and make nice candidates for anyone interested.
More To Do Today
I kept very busy yesterday working on these small projects. These are just the tip of the ice berg on plant items I need to get ready to move indoors before things get chillier outdoors. However, there is still time to enjoy many plants.
My focus was on the succulents first, because my larger tropical, which I store the tubers and bulbs of, wait till we hit frost, such as this large upright Alocasia.
Check out these leaves! I measured them this morning and they are a full 3 feet long from the bottom of the leaf to the tip. The stalk is 3 feet too. They are so showy. I may enjoy them up thru the end of September and early October. We usually get a light frost by early October.
I’m keeping today’s post short because I have more work to do outdoors today, and want to get to it.
Every day, I will try to share what I’ve done to help those interested in following similar routines here in my area of Connecticut.