Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’ is for the non-green thumb gardener

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Julia followed Clara into her kitchen before they were to have dinner with their husbands that evening. “Look, here’s the plant you gave me,” said Clara, as she held up a very sickly looking plant with a smile on her face.  She didn’t realize the plant was hurting.

“I told Mark to re-pot that immediately when I gave it to him for you,” replied Julia.  “This plant really needs well-draining soil.”

It was clear the plant was suffering and had barely grown since last summer when Julia gave it to him to replace a plant Clara had killed. And Mark, Clara’s husband, did not follow Julia’s instructions at all, which surprised Julia because he is an amazing outdoor gardener; he understands the requirements of plants.

But apparently, Mark just placed it on Clara’s windowsill that day to sit beside her many other houseplants.  He knew the fact he didn’t repot it would not be noticed by Clara, or perhaps he felt it was her job.  It is not that Clara does not adore her many houseplants, or that she doesn’t take some time to care for them, but she just doesn’t seem to understand or see the importance of the soil environment.  She overlooks the essential ingredients needed for the plants to thrive.

Clara could tell Julia was irritated by the thought of the plant looking sad, so she told Julia they would repot it after dinner, but she first gave her an enthusiastic tour of her other plants in their dining room.

Julia recognized them all – aloes, jades, African violets, Philodendrons, and Begonias – and every single one of them were growing in dry, poor, overrun soil and in small pots, some without drainage holes.  The white crusty edges on the soil’s surface representing a salt buildup from hard water or fertilizer not leached through was visible in every pot. Many were reaching for light sources and had stretchy growth, but rather than lecture her good friend, Clara, who obviously is a non-green thumb gardener, she took another sip of her Pinot Noir and listened with interest to everything Clara told her about her treasured plants.

Burgundy Ice Dyckia

Burgundy Ice Dyckia

LACKING A GREEN THUMB

Do you lack a green thumb like Clara?  If yes, a succulent, like Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ is an option for you.  Succulents store moisture in their leaves, one factor which helps the non-green thumb gardener because it enables the plant to withstand drought.  Dyckia is actually in the Bromeliad family, and it doesn’t store moisture in its leaves like typical succulents, but it is tough all the same and you can refer to it as a succulent in general.

It is accustom to growing on rocks or rough rocky soils and in areas lacking rainfall, so naturally it developed the ability to go dormant to survive dry periods of time.  This is the number one reason why it is perfect for non-green thumb gardeners, because of their practice of forgetting to water their plants.  When it finally gets some water, it pops back to life quickly so you will be relieved you didn’t kill it.

Dyckias also have ability to take cold temperatures, so if you keep the heat low in the house during the winter, it will adjust accordingly.

Heat tolerance is another bonus about these plants.  You can put them out in a hot part of your landscape or outdoor sitting area in the summer months, and pretty much ignore them, but you should remember to give them more watering attention (low to moderate), especially deserving after accommodating all your non-green thumb traits during a long winter.

FOLIAGE FEATURES

When you look at the rosette style leaves of this Dyckia hybrid, it looks similar to the top of a pineapple (and pineapples are in the Bromeliad family too), but ‘Burgundy Ice’ has a beautiful and useful dark rich burgundy color with white spines, making it a wonderful candidate to contrast with other tough drought-tolerant type plants in container gardens or smaller pots.

You can find lots of succulents or cacti with spines, stripes and patterns, but not many with a rich darker almost black coloring, making it a little more dramatic and alluring. The rosette shape allows the plant to collect moisture and funnel it towards its roots, and this form gives it an architectural interest too.  Its physical attributes contributes to the visual appeal from a design perspective.

Incorporating this plant into a combination of succulents or drought tolerant perennials or annuals with a lighter or brighter color will give you a great visual contrast situation.

In the photo above, it is growing with a Portulacaria afra (dwarf jade plant or elephant bush/food).  If you look closely, the stems of Portulacaria afra are the same color as Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ so it “echoes” the color of the focal plant in this glazed blue pot. Additionally, P. afra has a spiller-type habit and smaller rounded leaves. This feature helps to soften the edge of the pot and provides a textural difference in this combination. Always think about mixing the textures; the softer texture will make the bolder texture even more noticeable.

The Dyckia leaves tend to rise up a bit and curve downward at the tips.  Notice the tips sitting above the Portulacaria afra.  This makes the burgundy color more apparent because the lighter color is filled in behind it. Another spiller plant that would work well with this is something like the temperennial called, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’.  It grows long thin stems with soft silvery fuzzy leaves; a silver contrast to the ‘Burgundy Ice’, or try something like, Helichrysum petiolare (Licorice Plant) with similar coloring, both cascading downward.  Delosperma cooperi or D. floribundum (Ice Plants), a perennial with fleshy shiny leaves is another example of smaller foliage with characteristics to make ‘Burgundy Falls’ stand out.  It has a trailing habit and produces daisy like flowers in midsummer.  Pick a Delosperma cultivar that has a flower color that will pop against the burgundy color of ‘Burgundy Ice.’

Dyckia‘ Burgundy Ice’ is a full sun to part shade plant, so when used outdoors in your container gardens, a full sun location is best because the rosette’s color will intensify. When you move it inside for the winter months, it can take a reduction in light but it will green up more.  Because we tend to get dreary, cloudy days during the winter, placing them by the sunniest window in your home is recommended, so they at least get some sun on the good days.

For the non-green thumb gardener

For the non-green thumb gardener

HOW TO SAY IT

DY-kee-uh, DIK ee uh, or DICK’ea are three ways.  Just let it roll off your tongue, it doesn’t really matter how perfectly you pronounce it.  If you are a non-green thumb gardener, say it quickly and with confidence and no one will know the difference.  You can just call it ‘my tough succulent’ too if you want.  But because this plant was named after a Prince, you may want to give it a nickname, the “Prince”.  Whatever you name it doesn’t really matter, as long as you continue to enjoy it.

THE TECHNICAL STUFF

Habit: Clumping.  Blooms:  Mostly for foliage.  Size: 6-12″.  Hardiness/Zones 9-11:  It is treated as an annual here in CT.  Water:  Dry to normal, okay to let go through some periods of drought.  Light:  Full sun to part shade; okay to have low-light in house during winter. Care Level:  Easy – Perfect for the non-green thumb gardener.  Offered by:  Proven Selections.

GREAT REFERENCE INFORMATION

Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
(860) 977-9473

P.S.  Clara did take Julia into her basement after an amazing dinner, where her potting bench and many broken pots were laid out.  Julia’s face had to be kept straight as Clara pulled out old dusty bags of potting soil, none filled with soil able to hold water anymore – they were very old and dried out.  Julia told her, “Those won’t do.”  So Clara held up a bag of African violet mix, and said, ‘How about this?”  Julia took another sip of wine, and replied with a sigh, “What the heck, give it to me.” 🙂

 

 

 

32nd Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show

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'Kwanzan' Cherry tree bloom at the flower show

‘Kwanzan’ Cherry tree bloom at the flower show

The CT Flower and Garden Show is underway at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford this weekend.  It opened on Thursday, February 21 and continues through Sunday, February 24, 2013.

I attended yesterday with three friends, and we bought more garden goodies than we could have imagined.  One friend bought 60 lily bulbs because she had success with them every year in her gardens, so she returns to the same woman from Maplecrest Lilies (booth 427) at the show to purchase batches for her friends and family.

This year’s theme is “Love in Bloom” and there were blooms a plenty.  You can expect to see everything from landscape displays, florist competitions, garden supplies and tools, greenhouses, solar panels, sun rooms, ponds, clothing, furniture, photography, scarfs, and even some things I felt were a little out of place, such as beds – as in ‘sleeping’ beds, not garden beds.  Who knows on that one, perhaps if they lined them with floral bed sheets or those made from bamboo, it may have made a little more sense, but all the same, it is fun.  I would have liked to rest on the bed when my feet got tired!

I took a photo of a ‘Kwanzan’ Cherry tree in bloom at one of the landscape displays. Nothing welcomes spring more than spring blooming trees, and this one surely creates a seasonal accent in your yard.  It has outstanding features, such as puffy pink flowers, bronzy leaves that turn an orange-bronze color in fall, and shiny, smooth bark offering some winter appeal.  Plant one in a full sun location with moist, well-drained soil and protect it from harsh winds.  It is a great specimen or patio tree.  Or come enjoy its beauty at the show.  One of the great benefits of attending the show is seeing many trees, shrubs, and perennials in the landscape displays so you get a feel of how they look before you give them a try in your landscape, plus you can ask plant questions at the show.

Terra Cotta Pots, Glass and Wire Vases by Puddingstone Farm

Medieval Watering Pot at the show

Medieval Watering Pot at the show

I almost purchased one of these medieval watering pots for $15.  They were something I found neat – but then I thought, “Don’t be silly – you have way too many container gardens to use this.”  But at the same time, it is an artistic piece and I love the natural clay used by the maker.

This artist also had tiny wired bottles used to create miniature bouquets with “snippets of fresh flowers.”  This vendor’s clean labels, clear and simple packaging, and tiny unique works of art, were sweet and well-made.  As tiny as they were, each was perfect and professional looking.

All of us bought a few of the miniature vases, and I already put mine on the windowsill.

The terra-cotta pots and bird houses were natural looking, so I also purchased a birdhouse made of terra-cotta.  It will be used very soon by a lucky bird this spring.

Puddingstone Farms by Cleave Hayes/Josie Fowler are located at booth 1050 at the show.

Shoes are popular this season

We saw shoes of all styles at the show used as plant pots, and they were cute, but one note of caution, check if they have drain holes.  When I was checking out this silvery bling pair, I said out loud, “But they don’t have a drain hole,” and then a woman next to me said, “Yah, but it is filled with succulents and they don’t require lots of water.”

Well, have to just say here, this doesn’t matter.  Without a drain hole, these have the potential to rot over time, and if you look closely, there is also moss on the top of the soil, which will stay wet. I love these shoes, but a power drill would have easily solved the problem, just saying.  Check for the drain holes and encourage the maker to create them going forward as they make more – because they are cute and fun.

Silver Shoes with Succulents

Silver Shoes with Succulents

And although there are hundreds of great gardening finds at the flower show, I don’t want to list them all here and give away the surprises you can enjoy, but I also wanted to mention the works created by Shauna Shane of Fenton River, located in Storrs, CT.  She had the cutest fairy dolls, and works made with clay that were so natural.  Her leaf prints were earthy and she had sculptures with succulent dresses.  Her fine art and whimsy are available to enjoy and purchase at the show.  And she offers classes, demonstrations, and workshops at her business location in Storrs.  Her website is noted as http://www.shaunashane.com but I couldn’t get the link to work this morning, so to reach her, try 860-429-3646 or fentonriver@yahoo.com

A Fairy Doll by Shauna Shane, Artist

A Fairy Doll by Shauna Shane, Artist

So get out there – take a drive to downtown Hartford, CT to see the show.  The weather will be fine most of today, so you don’t have to worry about poor driving conditions until later this evening.

Some Tips:

Discounted Tickets:  Check with your local nursery, some are selling discounted tickets ($2 off the regular admission price.)

Bring a Bag:  Bring a light weight bag or two to put your literature and garden goodies into as you walk around.

Light clothing, good shoes:  The floors are cement so wear good walking shoes, and wear something that you can feel comfortable in for little temp changes.  Sometimes it feels cool, other times a little warmer as the temperature in the building seems to change from time to time.

Lunch and Beverages:  There is wine sold at the show, but we decided to have appetizers after in a downtown restaurant.  The croissant sandwiches are very good at the show’s cafe.

Camera:  It can be difficult to get good photos at flower shows due to lighting and shadows, but bring your camera or smart phone along to take shots, and try to take a photo of the vendor’s sign or business cards, so later, you will remember who you bought what from.

Hand stamp:  If you leave the main show floor, get your hand stamped so you can return back in, and don’t overlook the speakers on the upper floors, included in the entrance price.

Parking:  Remember where you parked your car in the garage, it is kind of like a maze getting around the garage.

Passport:  Visit the CT Garden & Landscape Trail booth, get a pamphlet called a “Passport” and take it with you this season as you visit all the CT Garden Destinations.  The garden facilities participating will apply a sticker to their listing in the “Passport” as you visit them, and you can send the completed Passport in by the end of 2013 to be entered in a drawing to win at $10,000 landscape installation.  The winner will be drawn at the CT Flower & Garden Show next year, on February 23, 2014.  (Cool, another reason to return next winter.)

Show’s website and telephone no.:  www.ctflowershow.com, 860-844-8461

Show’s Hours: Saturday: 10 am to 8 pm / Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm – This weekend.

Thanks for visiting,

Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473

Butterfly Conservatory Breaks the Winter Blues

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If you suffer from a seasonal disorder in the winter, where you need to get out to break from the winter blues, may I suggest a visit to the “Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens” located on 281 Greenfield Road in South Deerfield, MA?  It will be a place of warmth, sunshine, and lots of color.  I visited yesterday with my sister and niece, and here are the photos I took along the way.

Favorite shot

Favorite shot

I think this one is my favorite photos of the day.  If I am reading the butterfly id chart correctly, which I purchased for $1.00 at the entrance ticket booth, this is a Brown Clipper, Parthenos sylvia.  I don’t know much about butterflies other than they are beautiful in the garden – serving as nature’s living art – so hopefully I have the right names written with the photos I took yesterday.

Tithorea tarricina

Tithorea tarricina

Again, not sure but this one looks like Tithorea.  Love the long antennae and legs.

Japanese Lantern

Japanese Lantern

There are many tropical plants at the conservatory and this one was probably my favorite of the lot.  A Hibiscus schizopetalus, Japanese Lantern bloom with a long stamen dripping down in such an elegant fashion.  Just love the look of this bloom and the next butterfly photo is a perfect color comparison.

Hey Mr. Postman

Hey Mr. Postman

One of the things I noticed was many of the butterflies did have some wing tears, which made me a little sad.  This one is Postman, Heliconius melpomene.  He matches the Hibiscus photo above in coloring.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

My niece asked me what this plant was, and of course, it is a type of pitcher plant.  I didn’t see many plant labels at the conservatory, and it would be nice for them to offer a plant identification key like they offer for the butterflies.  These types of plants are found in tropical rain forests, and many know they get their nutrition by capturing insects in their pitcher.  I saw a television show recently that also indicated a new discovery of some larger species luring small rodent-like animals, and they go for the nectar while on top of the pitcher, and guess what drops out the animal’s back end into the pitcher?  Yup, their poop – another source of energy to the plant.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plant

This is a plant I’ve grown in my container gardens.  Pachystachys lutea.  There were many of these at the conservatory for the butterflies to enjoy.  You can see why it is called a golden shrimp plant as the common name.  The flowers are not the yellow parts you see here; these are the bracts.  The white flowers extend from these, and in my container garden, the hummingbirds loved them.

Justicia

Justicia

There were a few Justicia plants, the common name for this one is shrimp plant too.  It is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, and I adore the style of the flowers.  Very exotic, and this one had a deep hot pink color, but the one I used in a container garden was a softer pink – both are spectacular, and loved by hummingbirds and butterflies.

Justicia carnea

Justicia carnea

This photo was taken of my container garden in early September about two years ago. The large pot is combined with a Coleus, Ajuga, Delosperma, Alternanthera, and Sambucus.  The container on the table has a Sedum in it with a Creeping Jenny trailing below.  Justicia carnea (shrimp plant) in the large pot bloomed during the summer and into fall, and paired up perfectly with the Sedum blooming around the same time.

Ow Butterflies

Ow Butterflies

Here’s two owl butterflies, Caligo eurilochus, were having a little mating fun.  And it is obvious why they call them “owl” butterflies, used to deter predators.  This is the type that landed on my shoulder for quite some time later, see video below.

Name this plant

Name this plant

Okay, I know I’ve seen this plant before – but I can’t remember the name?  Help me out tropical bloggers – what is this called?  It is so beautiful and the plants at the conservatory trailed all the way up to the ceiling.  I would have loved to capture a butterfly on it but no luck.

Morpho peleides

Morpho peleides

I did have luck capturing this Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Got to thank iPhones for the quick clicks.  I had to reach up a bit to get the shot, but was so glad he was in a rest state and didn’t fly away.

Purple Passion

Purple Passion

There were mostly tropical plants at the conservatory, which I enjoyed because they are one of my passions – yet, later when I got home, I thought it was sad they didn’t have natives for the butterflies to enjoy – and to showcase.  We have many in CT and MA that would suit the feeders.  Also, I noticed outside, they had a border along the front of the building enclosed in posts, and it was all old evergreen shrubs, the soil didn’t look too healthy, and I thought, later – when I got home, how wonderful it would be to fill that bed with some native plants.  Too bad I don’t work there – LOL.

More help please?

More help please?

More help please.  What is this plant?  It looks like a Peregrina bloom?  But not sure, the foliage is soft and fuzzy, but the orange flowers are my main attraction.

Sculpture

Sculpture

Just a shot of the sculpture in the gardens at the conservatory.

Arch

Arch

There was an arch/trellis at the entrance, and if you look closely, you can see a butterfly flying right in the center.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to capture the hundreds of butterflies circling your head.  As I stood here, taking some photos, one landed right on my shoulder.  I used the rotating feature on my iPhone to get a video of it.  Here it is…

And one more butterfly shot to share, this one is Cairns Birdwing (male), I think.  Love the florescent coloring.

Cairns Birdwing

Cairns Birdwing

Some tips if you decide to visit this place:

Recommendation:  If you happen to be visiting MA or CT, this is a fun trip with kids, or if you are into photography.  There is food sold at the sight, but I enjoyed the restaurant at Yankee Candle right down the road.  Go early, as if it is school vacation season, it will get busy quickly.

Special Occasion:  If you have an engagement to announce, this could be a great place to go with a photographer for some fun shots, but be prepared to get hot – it is humid and warm in the conservatory.  Wear light clothing.

Location:  281 Greenfield Rd. (Rt 5 & 10) off of 91.  If traveling north, take the exit 24 noted for Yankee Candle.  If traveling south, take Exit 25.  South Deerfield, MA.

Hours:  Per their pamphlet, they are open year round 7 days a week.  Summer: 9 am to 6 pm.  Fall/Winter/Spring: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on some holidays.

Website:  www.MagicWings.com

Name of place:  Magic Wings

Cost: $14/Adults, $10/Kids

Butterfly Key:  I recommend you pay the $1 for the key, my niece immediately wanted to use it as we strolled along.  She had a big desire to identify all the butterflies.  I wish they had a key for the plants, but I don’t think they did – or perhaps I missed it somehow.

Camera:  Bring your camera of course.

And last but not least, when you enter the exhibit, you first enter a room of insects in tanks.  They reminded me of “Indiana Jones” bugs, large and yucky.  And to finish off this informal quick post, here’s a photo of “Hissing Cockroaches”….Yuck.  But fun still for the kids!

Container Crazy Cathy T

Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing Cockroaches

Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ has alluring powers…

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Can a plant possess alluring powers, so insatiable, the yearning for more overwhelms your ability to resist?

“I want some more,” says Claudia, the fictional character in the movie, “Interview with the Vampire.”  She is completely seduced from her first taste of blood offered by the devious vampire, Lestat.  And although his immortal companion, Louis, witnesses the transition with regret, he does nothing to stop Claudia’s unthinkable awakening.

Maui Magic Front Ear

Yes, a plant can also possess similar powers that lure you into its plan of seduction. And…, “Of course, you want some more.” After you have experienced its offerings, your senses awaken, the desire to achieve the same feeling or response is sought out, and you ultimately thirst for more of the same, as much as a vampire thirsts for blood.

This is how I felt about Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ last season as I witnessed this plant grow long stems and big leaves as rapidly as Claudia’s hair grew right before she opened her eyes.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’

This tropical plant, commonly referred to as an elephant ear or elephant’s ears, drew me into its clutches deceptively, then captured my desire to always want more as it grew into an impressive size while maintaining its beautiful attributes from the beginning of spring to early autumn.  If I didn’t decide to order it last minute, I may have missed out on its powers to grow quickly, create a climactic effect in a container garden, and arouse with its dark-sided hues.  It started with admiring its abundant ornamental leaves, followed by adoring its long stems.  Each held their ears up like a trophy on their tips, making it stand out in the container garden.

August photo; back of 'Maui Magic' leaf

August photo; back of ‘Maui Magic’ leaf

Dressed in a cloak

The heart-shaped leaves of ‘Maui Magic’ snuck-up out of the soil like a vampire appearing from the dark alleys of the streets.  Before I knew it, the leaves grew to two feet long and about half as wide in the center.  The leaves wavy-edged margins are soft and subtle, and provide an elusive cloaking effect as it gently moves by the wind.  The leaf stems, or more appropriately stated, the petioles, grew to three feet tall, lending to an upright exotic thriller bobbing above the container garden’s companion plants.  The mid-ribs were very visible on the backside of the leaves.  By the time August arrived, this plant, started from a small plant in mid-May, was substantial enough to draw me into a complete trance, and kept me there. I couldn’t keep my eyes or hands off it.

Rain drops on the leaves

Rain drops on the leaves

An unnatural pale complexion 

The plant’s foliage coloring starts off as a dark plum-purple, and then fades into an olive green with purple tones.  Having less color is not a sign of ill health as with a vampire, but a transition to maturity.  This did not create a lack of appreciation; the color was still stunning. The leaf stems carried a deep purple tone all the way down to the base of the plant throughout the season.  The look was visually stimulating, but you also wanted to touch the stems.  It sounds weird, but there is a soft texture to the plant, making it smooth to the touch.  I found this irresistible, charming, and as I said, “alluring.”  Taking it down for the fall was as difficult as chopping the head off a vampire in rest, but it had to be done and with good timing.

Yard Stick with Ears

Not harmed by the sun

Unlike vampires, the exposure to sun does not harm this cultivar, so long as you keep it well-watered.  Water to this plant is like blood to vampires; it thrives as it receives more.  But for my container garden, I decided to place it in a shady location, on the north side of my house, where it received more shade than sun.  However, this did not deter it from growing large and showy.  The plant can take either exposure. The leaf stems extended as if reaching towards the edges of the steps in search for the afternoon sun, adding more drama to its presence.  This shady exposure also helped to keep the soil moist, appreciated by many types of elephant ears.  Birds perched on it occassionally, and it never failed to produce new leaves.  When the wind caused some movement, it startled me from time to time because it was as tall as a person and could be seen from inside the house.

The lure of wanting more

The lure of wanting more

Its mysterious origin

As many ponder the true origin of vampires, you may ponder the growth habit of this plant. Whatever you choose to call the base of this plant, a corm, cormel, bulb, tuber, rhizome, or root, the leaf stems arise from the base of a root-like structure.  Even its circumference amazed me, as it reached a good size and produced potential divisions or cormels from the mother plant.  This plant is treated like a tropical in Connecticut; it is not hardy to our zone and requires storage in a cool, dark place, like the coffin of a vampire.  So get out your tools of destruction, chop of its heads, clean of the base, and create its resting place for a return next season when you certainly will “vant some more.”  If handled appropriately and according to specific procedures, this plant will have immortal life in your container gardens.

Tubers at base of stems

Tubers at base of stems

Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473

Pronounced:  Koal-oh-KAY-see-uh  ess-kyou-LENT-uh; sounds like some weird vampire language.

Zones:  9-11, tropical and subtropical tuberous perennial.  Used as a tropical plant and stored for winter in CT Zones.  Can be used as an aquatic plant in containers.

Size:  3-4′ tall, rounded form up to 6′ size all together under warm growing conditions. Big, tall, showy, and overpowering.

Exposure:  Full Sun, part sun, part shade – flexible.  Easy to grow, and grows quickly.

Introduction: 2008 by John Cho and the University of Hawaii breeding program.  Propagation is prohibited.

Color combinations:  Try this plant with contrasting vibrant colors since the plant’s tones are on the darkside.  Use different leaf textures, from fine to medium against this coarse and bold statement in your container or garden.  (Shown in this post are a Coleus, Astilbe, and Rodgersia for a shade combination.)  For a sun combination, try Canna with bright, golden yellow, or chartreuse leaf colors, add a blooming annual, like Zinnia or Verbena, for some pops of color.  Select a bright colored spiller, like Lysimachia nummelaria ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny) or Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato Vine) annuals.

Container/pot size:  Be sure to use a very large container or pot for this elephant ear due to its size, and to provide adequate soil volume, helping to retain moisture, and nutrients.  And don’t overlook – this plant can make a wonderful statement in the garden too.

After Care:  To learn how to overwinter tropicals, sign up for Cathy T’s fall class, which is hands-on, and held on a dark, gloomy evening with a full moon – just kidding.

Cats are the true admirers of my plants and gardens

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Mini with My Plants

Mini with My Plants

Lisa, my older sister, asked I take in a stray cat. This was many years ago, when she was living next door to my parents.  I said, “Oh no, you know I’m not a cat person.”

Her insistence continued with, “You can bring it back here if it doesn’t work out.  This cat needs a home.”

It paid off.  Zorro came home with us.  I remember calling my sister to tell her Zorro was following me around the house.  Her smile could be heard over the phone.  “Cats like to be around people,” she responded.

This was the event that transitioned me from joking about cats to falling in love with them.

Today, we have 3 cats.  I never thought I’d have one in my house.  I always hated when I saw cat or dog hair in people’s homes, and now my couch is covered in white hair from Kiwi, my plus-size cat. I curse every time I clean it off, but I still put up with it.

Kiwi on Couch

Our cats follow us around outside.  They like to lay down by the base of my container garden pots on my deck when they want to cool off in the summer.  They use the gardens and big plants as hiding places when they are sneaking up on the birds.  And they investigate anything new in their surroundings, like most cats do.  One of Kiwi’s favorite spots is in a white chair located in my yard where it is quiet and restful.  It is a little hideout, and she uses it more than I do.

Kiwi defines relaxation

Kiwi defines relaxation

Mini, the smallest of my 3 cats, likes to jump up to rest on top of my hobby-like greenhouses, which I line up along the edge of my driveway in early spring to transition small plants.  I always think, “Please don’t stick your claws into the plastic covering.” But I never scold her cause she is too darn cute, and puts up with Kiwi always giving her a hard time, so she deserves a break.

Favorite spot to hang out

Favorite spot to hang out

Mini is my favorite.  She is very smart.  She’s the type of cat that will try to push on the door handle to be let it.  I saw her once try to slide the kitchen slider open, like she knew, “Paw goes here, and push to the left.”  She likes to sit in bowls or anything that fits her little size.  She’s grown since we took her home, but she still remains small.  She must have been the runt of the family.

Just the right fit

Just the right fit

Mini in Hanger

Small places rock

Small places rock

I found Mini during a walk with my walking partner.  We were strolling along when we heard a loud meow through the brush.  Two black kittens, in the middle of nowhere, abandoned by the roadside.  “A common dumping ground,” my friend told me. The smallest of the two kittens started to follow our feet as we continued walking.  At first, I tried to not look because I knew I would cave.  I swear to God,  I heard her (Mini) say, “Don’t leave me here, please.” She was not going to give up, meowing louder and running faster behind us.  Later, the vet told me, “She picked you.”

Mini looking at Kiwi, or Kiwi looking at Mini.

Mini looking at Kiwi, or Kiwi looking at Mini.

Waiting for Mini to return inside.

Waiting for Mini to return inside.

Kiwi never got use to Mini.  She constantly harasses her. Whenever she can, she finds a hiding spot to sneak up on Mini.  Mini, the cutie that she is, doesn’t fight back much.  I have to keep them separated all the time. Kiwi is kind of bratty, or I guess you could consider her a cat-bully.  She even tries to bully me from time to time, but guess who wins? (And yes, she is chubby; and no, she is not pregnant – she’s just got special needs.)

Kiwi always grabs the best seat on the deck.

Kiwi always grabs the best seat on the deck.

All three of my cats are indoor and outdoor.  Kiwi sticks close to the house – and despite her weight problem, she has never been attacked by the woodland animals.  She can run when she wants to; especially when chasing Mini.  Once, I saw her lying on the driveway on her back, howling cat cries, as another stray cat was doing his hissing over her face.  This was a funny sight.  It was hysterical actually.  I broke them up. She is so lazy, she even fights on her back.  She can’t jump up to high places, so Mini uses this to her advantage.

Easy does it, Kiwi !

Easy does it, Kiwi !

But I guess because of her size, Kiwi tends to win.  My suspicion is they think she is a big meany.  She can be a little naive, and approach things she shouldn’t.  Like a turtle revisiting our yard every year to lay her eggs by the pool side.  Luckily, Kiwi did not get snapped at.  Even the turtle backed down.  Kiwi also likes to jump on and play with my small ornamental bunny grasses, as if they are toys.

Getting well and strong

Getting well and strong

Mini, on the other hand, had a very bad attack earlier this year.  She came home one afternoon, looking up from the base of our stairs outside, and wouldn’t come to the top. We picked her up – and long story short, she got grabbed by a wild animal.  Her back end was badly hurt and we rushed her to the vet.  Broken pelvis and puncture wounds. Our vet told us, a small animal, had grabbed her.  Later, we discovered a photo on a motion censored outdoor camera of a bobcat in our woodlands behind our house.  We believe this was the culprit.  It was a rough road, but with lots of care and attention, Mini made it.  And she caught a mouse (in my house!) during her recovery – which is amazing.  Kiwi and Hunter didn’t even see it, and were not impaired. Friends said, “Mini is showing her appreciation.”

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Hunter, our long haired black cat, is cat number 3.  He is Mini’s brother, the other cat saved from the roadside.  Hunter is tough and stubborn.  We are only allowed to pet him on the head.  Don’t even think of moving your hand further along his back, or whack – you get swiped.  I told the vet this once, and she said, don’t worry I know how to handle these types.  She returned from the backroom with a scratch on her hand.

Hunter also likes to jump up on my garden ornaments.  One summer, he jumped up on a birdbath which tumbled over on him.  This resulted in a nose job.  It was scary, but he handled it well.  He snooped slowly around the repaired birdbath later, sniffing the base.  Easy Hunter!  Don’t you know to stay away from that? Hunter likes to chase the wild turkeys in our yard, and chased our free range chickens the day he was brought home.  This is why he’s named, “Hunter.”

Hunters Stitches

All of my cats all enjoy my plants and surrounding wildlife in our yard.  Sadly, sometimes they get injured.  We don’t allow them out in the evenings anymore, which is a challenge with Hunter.  Mini is more understanding; not surprising after she re-cooped from her injuries under our daily care.  For weeks, she was hand-carried, fed, and kept in a hospital like setup.  Nowadays, she only has to watch out for Kiwi, around every corner in the house.  They all have more restrictions but still get to play during recess like hours, and only during the day.

Kiwi on constant watch

Kiwi on constant watch

Hunter likes to stroll on the edge of the deck railings to investigate the tips of the plants nearby, or watch the scenery below as if he’s the king of the jungle.  If Kiwi chooses to annoy him, he gives her a look and walks away.  Often Kiwi will follow behind him at a safe two feet distance.  As for Mini and Hunter, they touch noses from time to time.  They still watch each other’s backs.

From my office window, the two enjoy the birds feeding.

From my office window, the two enjoy the birds feeding.

In my experience of doing designs for homeowners’ yards, I never really got too many complaints about cats in their gardens.  Cats mostly use the plants and garden spaces as places to relax, like we do.  I find cats are the true admirers of my plants and gardens.  I can’t imagine not allowing them outdoors – at least during the day – to enjoy the scenery as much as we do.

P.S.  I can’t find the photo of the bobcat, but had posted it on my Facebook page at the time.  If I find it, I will re-post!

Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473

3 years ago, when I rescued them from the street

3 years ago, when I rescued them from the street

Gardens and Social Media face the Same Challenges

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Recently, my email account got hacked.  A friend told me, “Don’t sweat it, it happens to everyone.”

I contacted my e-mail service provider, changed my password, and thanked Facebook friends for alerting me.

Right after that, I discovered one of my clients responded to the hacker’s e-mail, writing she didn’t believe they were Cathy T.

They sent her a reply, a very convincing one, insisting it was me.  And continued with how they desperately needed money for a cousin’s kidney transplant.  I was supposedly in Belgium.

That’s it, I thought.  I’m terminating this account right now.

Was the termination a bit drastic?  Yes, it was.  From what I’ve read, there’s no need to kill your e-mail id, but I wanted to eliminate this problem because I didn’t want anyone to fall prey to a scam.

This whole situation got me thinking about how gardens and social media face the same challenges. Both are grown in open and linked environments subject to threats and invasions.  You can do lots to deter them, but many will break their way through when you let your guard down.

So, what can you do to reduce the occurrence of painful incidents by hackers or pests?

From cutting to a monster friend in the garden

From cutting to a monster friend in the garden

No. 1)  Don’t accept “every” friend or plant

A gardening friend stops by to offer you a freebie plant from their garden.  It may be a cutting, division, or seeds from a flower. Before you accept their donation, think of it just as you would for a request of a “new friend” in Facebook.  Ask yourself, “What’s the story behind this plant?  Does it have a nice personality or an aggressive one?  Why are they offering it up?” You may be surprised to find out; donations or requests for acceptance usually come from a plant posing a problem in your friend’s garden. It could be invasive, it might be an aggressive spreader via underground suckers, or it is a prolific seed-producer. Think of plants like bamboo, mint, willow, or datura – all pretty or unique, but some species take over fast, thus become a nuisance.  Bottomline, don’t accept it right away without asking about its history, behavior, and characteristics. Same goes for friends on blogging sites, Facebook, and Twitter.  Do a little bit of research before you click accept.

No. 2)  Don’t overcrowd your garden spaces or sites

Ever feel like you have so many friends on Facebook, you don’t even know who they are anymore, and it would take forever to sort them out?  Same thing with e-mail; your inbox is so over loaded, you don’t recognize some of the senders.  Overcrowding can invite problems; create hiding places for stalkers, and ends up in chaos. Too many plants in a gardening space reduce air circulation around your plants; if the foliage remains wet, they get diseases.  Plants requiring sunlight may receive too much shade, limiting their ability to thrive.  Nutrient competition will arise as well.  And “you” might not be able to even enter your garden for routine maintenance.  A full and flush garden is spectacular, and a full inbox may make you feel popular, but keep in mind, it provides the phisher with opportunities just like it gives a critter a chance to pass through without notice.

Bugleweed, a spreader and seed producer.

Bugleweed, a spreader and seed producer.

No. 3) Be Inspector Clouseau when buying a plant in person, or on-line

Get out your reading glasses and open your eyes.  Inspect your plant before purchasing it from a garden center, especially if they are on a sale rack.  Just as you would look over a new app for your smart phone, carefully look it over first before clicking install.  Look for any bad signs.  On perennials, look for unusual spots, insect holes or trails on leaves, shriveled or blotched tissue, and partially eaten foliage.  Check woody plants for tears or cracks in the bark.  Any wounds in the bark can negatively affect the flow of water in the plant.  You may even want to shake the plant to see if insects fly away from it; whiteflies are tiny feeding insects on the undersides of leaves. Look at the top and undersides of the leaves, and if possible tap it out of the pot to inspect the roots.  Healthy roots have white tips; they are not dark brown and mushy. If the potting mix smells of rot – this is a clue.  A white powdery substance on the leaves could be disease, known as powdery mildew caused by a fungus.  Or it could be hairs on the plant’s leaves, which is normal.  The point is – check it before you succumb to the temptation of the flashy dings and whistles.  Some problems on plants are treatable or may be minor; others are an invitation to future problems in your gardens.  For on-line plant purchases, do a little research to find out their reputation.  Read about how they ship their plants, what to expect when they arrive in the mail, and how to care for them upon arrival.  Make sure they are legit.  You don’t want to be buying from Mr. Belgium.

Damaged bark areas, how long has it been in this whittle pot?

Damaged bark areas, how long has it been in this whittle pot?

No. 4) Keep your garden tools and links sterilized

Some gardeners don’t realize they are spreading invisible problems with unclean garden tools. A malicious link, hyperlink, or shortlink in an email will do the same.  With a quick click, it will move the vector just as a infected garden pruner, shovel, or weeding knife will spread a disease, insect, or viruses from one place to another.  And in this case, you are helping to transport them on their adventure.  Wash your tools with soap and water, or soak in a bleach to water ratio.  Heating your tools is another method, but that is something I haven’t tried.  At the end of each season and beginning of spring, take the time to clean tools before using them.  Remember, operator error is often the number one cause for the problem getting into your scenario.  In our midst of excitement or wanting to get it done now, we forgo the process of cleaning our tools. Clean up old debris around you garden too.  Insect pests may spend the winter in the debris to come alive in spring.  And pause before clicking on links from friends.  If they are not showing a visible sign of why they sent you the link, their implement of transportation is executed without you knowing – at first.

If you can, do not use or use correctly.

If you can, do not use or use correctly.

No. 4) Use the correct “…..-cide” and anti-virus software

A common habit of an anxious gardener is to assume one insecticide, pesticide, or herbicide fits all.  You are wasting your money and time if you do not read the label and follow directions exactly for the plant you are trying to cure of a pest or plant you are trying to rid in the garden.  Harming the environment unnecessarily comes into play as well, and we don’t want to do that as gardeners.  Remember, a pesticide is a “chemical” used to kill an organism considered a pest.  There are organic methods believed to be safer, but either way, use the correct type suited for the plant.  If you spray too much, more than required, or sometimes apply on a hot day or in direct sun, you can harm the plant more than the pest or insect has. When it comes to anti-virus software, consult your tech support expert.  That is where my advice is weak.  I probably have made the same assumptions with anti-malware as a gardener does with a pesticide.  Please read the label first before application or installation of either.  With anti-virus software, it is important to stay up to date. Too late, the culprit breaks in.  Timing is important when treating pest insects as well.  They have a pattern and stages, so pay attention to their life cycle because they populate according to specific seasons.  Exact timing is key.  If the insect is not doing major harm, planning a short stay, avoid using a chemical all together.  Remove it by hand instead.  And continue to follow Number 1, 2, and 3 above.

Red and bright, should I fight?

Red and bright, should I fight?

No. 5) Take a hiatus or terminate

Just the other evening, a news station reported statistics indicating people are taking temporary breaks from their Facebook activity.  The demands for attention are starting to exceed the pleasure.  We become obsessive, realizing we have spent the majority of our day browsing pages.  Same can happen with our gardening addictions. Unable to let go of your dream vision of a perfect garden, spotted in the latest garden magazine or favorite blog site, you become engrossed.  You spend every available minute worrying why it didn’t come out exactly as planned, even though you did everything right up front.  You picked the right place in your yard for your plant, you tested the soil and amended it appropriately with nutrients and organic matter, you nurtured it with water, and selected resistant cultivars, but alas, that deer jumped the barrier, the insect found a tasty treat, or a critter burrowed below creating new pathways to enter and destroy.  So what are you to do in your moment of peril?  Cry by the garden’s edge, consider hiring a deer hunter, or reach for the wrong pesticide?  As a last resort, you might do the impulsive thing – like I did with my hacked e-mail.  Rip it all out, terminate.  Yet, I wouldn’t recommend that.  Fix the immediate problem, and then take a Hiatus – preferably one where you aren’t weeding and tweeting.

Cathy T on a Hiatus

Cathy T on a Hiatus

Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473
New email: To be posted

Want to win a $10,000 Dream Landscape?

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You do?  Wouldn’t that be the bomb?  Winning a landscape worth $10,000!

Just click on the link below to take a look at the information on the CT Garden and Landscape Trail page.  I happen to stumble upon it today as I was filing my copy of their trail map.  A map that I plan to follow this year – another goal for 2013 – go visit these places more!

The information indicates you may pick up your PASSPORT for this 2013 offer at the upcoming CT Flower & Garden Show.  The show starts on Thursday, February 21, 2013 this year in Hartford, CT.  The last day of the flower show is February 24th, Sunday.

Welcome to the Connecticut Garden & Landscape Trail!.

Last year, I organized a “To the Flower Show We Go” group ride starting with breakfast, and it was much fun.  Thinking of doing something similar for this year’s show.

I’ll keep ya’s posted here on my blog.  If you think you may like to join me, e-me soon!

Container Crazy Cathy T

Cathy T and Hubby Steve the morning of last year's CT Flower show.

Cathy T and Hubby Steve the morning of last year’s CT Flower show.

Spray painting plants? I think NOT.

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Plants To Dye For – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture.

Check out this article above written by The Grumpy Gardener.

I couldn’t agree more.  There is such a thing as “Bling Your Spring“… which I did last spring at the farmer’s market by adding a bit of gems here and there to my containers and pots filled with plants.  But I would NEVER spray paint a plant to sell it – oh gosh.

This process can prohibit the plant’s ability to breath.  Talk about choking off a life.  “Nature lovers don’t want to choke off life – They want to give it life.  They want to honor it.”

The only thing I tried, and this was not remotely close to spray painting a plant, was putting a couple half plastic gems on one succulent’s leaves…and even that made me think, is this right?  Should I try this?  What will it do to the plant?   But ! .., it was a very tough skinned succulent and I used only a few gems.  My temptation allowed this creative experimentation and only on a small scale.  The rest of the bling was on the pots and containers exterior, or dangling from the stem of a plant from twine or string.

BUT spray-painting a plant – oh gosh – it is a crime.  Would you want to be spray painted all over?  With a smelly toxic like substance?  Art should not kill.  I think things like this are tried to create something new – but the science part should be tested out first, that is for sure.  If it was spray paint that helped it grow – well, maybe?  But only under the “do no harm first” policy.

I, too, witnessed some spray painted plants last season.  They (who exactly, I don’t know?) spray painted the victims with “glitter” paint, no less.  The poor plants looked horrible.  Glitter paint is more suited as a herbicide than decor.  The poor plants ended up on the deep discount clearance rack.  And it is no wonder why.  They did not last long and ended up in a mutilated state.  I took a photo, then deleted it later in disgust.  I almost blogged about it.  Glad now to see The Grumpy Gardener did.

Seriously people?  Who allowed this to happen to these plants?  And what was the result?  Death, and perhaps murder.

Some things are just NOT worth trying.

BTW, I don’t really care for the blue orchids – and I hear the blue doesn’t come true on new blooms.  Let’s stick with hybridization.  And let the experts who study botany and horticulture do it.

Candleabra

Coco bowls with bling

Flat Tire Flowerpots

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Flat Tire Flowerpots.

Checkout this link above! Flowerpots made from recycled tire pieces.  How neat. From the site: flattireflowerpots.com.  For $9.99, you can order up a kit for your kid.  This is a great children’s project and educational, and of course, getting junk rubber off the streets is always a good thing for our environment.

A Cathy T Tip: Make sure to use plants that can tolerate heat and stay relatively small. These containers will absorb heat when placed in full sun due to their black color.  I would use small succulents (like Hens n Chicks) or drought tolerant types (like Sedums or Lavenders).  Something (i.e., chemistry?) tells me edibles shouldn’t be placed in this type of material because of its potential heat absorption power.  I’m not sure of the impact of the material’s core content.  Does anything escape in that heating process, who knows?

Small Succulent

Small Succulent