Common Dog-violet.

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Learn the art of photography of botanical by attending a Cathy T class on Thursday, May 9th, 2013. We will be meeting at The Garden Barn in Vernon, CT at 9:00 am. A professional photographer local to Ellington, Ct is my guest speaker. And we’ll be talking plants too. Interested, click CLASSES above to register now! Cathy T

The Wilden Marsh Blog

Sunrise 05.40 am   Sunset: 08.33 pm

IMG_657827TH APRIL 2013

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Where can I find rare or unusual plants in Connecticut?

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The Entrance Sign

The Entrance Sign

One of my goals this year is to visit nurseries I usually don’t have the time to do, but I’m making time.  Last Friday, I picked up a tube leaf Ginkgo tree from Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT. I’ve always wanted a Ginkgo, and this one has unusual leaves where some are fused, so they look a bit rolled up.  Latin name is Ginkgo biloba ‘Tubiformis’ and it will be fun to see once the leaves begin to expand.

This nursery, located about an hour from my home town, has some of the more rare or unusual plants that you won’t find in traditional nurseries. Many plants are propagated by the nursery. So if you are a plant collector, or looking for unique varieties or cultivars, an hour’s drive makes the visit to Broken Arrow worth it.  Unique conifers, trees, and shrubs are available at their site and via their well organized mail-order website.

As I drove down the winding roads lined with old stone walls to their retail location, it reminded me of trips to another nursery, a wholesale one, called Sunny Border in Kensington, CT.  Like Sunny Border, this place, Broken Arrow, is tucked within a nicely woodland landscaped area in a private section, where you get the sense it may have been started right out of the home.  It is not on a main highway or roadway, and you would not really even know it was there unless someone told you.

Upon my arrival, I recognized their symbol of a broken arrow with an tree.  This is the place, I thought.  And I knew right away, I was going to enjoy my visit when I saw deciduous and evergreen trees dug into the soil where you could see how they were growing here, rather than lined up in a field.  However, they had plenty of plants lined up for sale too, with good signage detailing the important information about the plants.

Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis'

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’

They have unusual conifers, such as this one called Dragon’s Eye.  It is a variegated form of Japanese Red Pine.  Latin name is Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis.” Yellow bands across the long needles give it a little something different to look at.  It would be stunning in a garden of perhaps bright yellows as a theme, and you just don’t commonly see these in typical landscapes.

A happy and helpful staff member

A happy and helpful staff member

Or how about this Whip Cord Western Arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’).  Andrew Summers, one of the welcoming staff members, took the time to discuss this plant with me along with other unique plants on the premises.  His energy was inviting and he didn’t mind at all when I asked him to hold the plant for a quick photo for my blog.  This plant is interesting looking and would look great in a rock garden or in a container garden.  First thing that comes to mind is a big “face” pot, so the whipcord acts like hair!

We discussed how it must be so difficult to work at Broken Arrow because of the temptation to buy many of the plants available. One could go broke here, especially if you have a passion for the rare.  Andrew was quick to explain key features of several plants, which I truly appreciated.  It is not often you find two people “ooohing” over the shape of a leaf, but we both were – it is just one of those plant geek things I guess – or for plant enthusiasts.

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

As I continued through the nursery, I took a lot of photos for my research of plant materials – especially because this location is a bit far for me, I wanted to remember the plants I saw in person.

Sparkling Arrows

Sparkling Arrows

Take for example a form of an Alaskan Cedar with creamy white coloring with the green.  Darn, I thought. I just bought one of these last week, and I like this one better – because it is different.

Magnolias at Broken Arrow

Magnolias at Broken Arrow

There were some perennials, but not a huge amount (at least not yet).  This place is a destination for trees, shrubs, and conifers.  If you like Magnolias, they had at least nine different cultivars to pick from on the premises, and offer many more via their website and catalog.

There were many full sized weeping Japanese maple trees and some compact dwarf sizes.  For example, take a look at the yellow foliage of a Japanese Maple Tree shown below of a dwarf type.  The foliage greens up in summer on ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’. The leaves are packed tightly on its branches, and it is just stunning in a container or perhaps in a Japanese garden.  It caught my eye immediately.

Many evergreen and deciduous shrubs, some really pretty Viburnums, Stewartias, Dogwoods, Witch Hazel, and more.  Many of the plants are just beginning to awaken to the spring air and sun so flowers were not out, but I can imagine how this place looks when a bit warmer out.

Many beautiful Japanese maple trees at Broken Arrow

Many beautiful Japanese maple trees at Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow is located 13 Broken Arrow Road in Hamden, Connecticut and is also listed in the new “Passport” being made available by CT’s Garden and Landscape Trail organization (see http://www.CTGardenTrail.com).  You can get your Passport book stamped as you visit sites, and when you reach 10 sites, you can enter to win a $10,000 dream landscape – so I made sure to remember to bring my Passport with me.  And by the way, Broken Arrow offers some really nice classes, and has a “thing for shade-loving perennials” per their catalog too.  I didn’t make it to their tree farm section at another location nearby, perhaps I will save that for a fall or winter trip.

Bee busy on a winterhazel

Bee busy on a winterhazel

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

Beautiful day, beautiful plants, and beautiful people

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IMG_6341Yesterday was the perfect sunny day for my guided tour with the East Haddam Garden Club at the The Garden Barn Nursery and Landscape in Vernon, CT.

As I drove to the nursery to meet my group, I felt very cheerful because the sun was shining, there was no wind, and the birds were chirping.

When I arrived, my group was waiting for me in the garden center with big smiles.  I immediately felt their excitement of getting their planned insider’s tour of the Garden Barn for their first time.

Many times, when I do my design reviews with clients, they will ask me where to shop for the plants.  I always answer this question by telling them what I think are the best attributes of the local nurseries in our areas.  And, I have to say, one of the big benefits of The Garden Barn is they have it all.  What I mean is they have the “Greenhouses + Garden Center + Nursery + Growing Facilities + A Pond Garden + Gift Shop.”  This equals to me, everything you’d expect, which is one of their mottos at The Garden Barn.

We started our tour by taking a look at their gift shop – I like that they have a gift shop where many centers do not.  It was filled with bird features, seeds, and dried florals, and much more.  One of the garden club members walking this tour noticed a beautiful glass bird bath, and at the end of the tour, she carried it right to the register. It is nice when you are out shopping for plants to have the option to buy a gift at the same time if needed for yourself – or for someone else.

Bird on Tree

Bird on Tree

As part of this tour – this group got a bit of the “insider’s info” as I told them about my experiences working there in 2006.  And the owners, Kathy and Dennis, shared their history, experience, and talked about the new areas of The Garden Barn with the tour group as well.

We walked through the back warehouse, not visible to regular customers, and as I was walking and talking, Kathy came to greet us.  Her name is Kathy too (with a K).  This prompted me to tell the group the reason I called my business Cathy “T’s” Landscape Designs is because when I worked there – my name was confusing at times.  If someone called out Cathy on the walkie-talkie, they may have meant Kathy, the owner, not Cathy the staff member, so we decided to use Cathy T and it just stuck with me.

The Garden Barn

The Garden Barn

Kathy shared her experience, history and details about the operations at their nursery.  And then we continued through the greenhouse looking at the annuals being put out on the tables.  There were some beautiful, healthy new guinea impatiens sitting there just waiting for their new owners.  These are not infected with the blight experienced last year, which many people encountered.  Kathy gave advice on what do it “if” they had the blight on their plants, but the good news is their new stock is free from it.

The Garden Barn was established in 1980, and it started as a small “road-side stand.”  It is incredible to see how much they have grown into a 13 acre facility, with a new addition in 2010-2011 of an open-air pavilion of 11,000 square feet.

As I walked the group outside to see the new addition, I told them the old one was wooden and made a lot of noise on windy days when I worked there.  Sometimes people would look up and wonder – will a panel fall off?!  Now it is a beautiful structure filled below with shrubs and trees.

There are several new growing facilities now too.  A head-house and poly houses, along the back side of the property.  Kathy told us to go visit Dennis, that he was expecting us.  She referred to the new facility as his retirement home, cause he always in there.

But when we arrived, Dennis told us his name for the new dwellings – The Rehab.  I can see why; it is warm, beautiful, quiet and relaxing – and FILLED CHUCK FULL with beautiful plants and hanging baskets.  It was a special treat to enter an “employee’s only” section of the nursery – which you didn’t want to leave because it is tranquil in there and just has a certain feel – at least for plant lovers!  Dennis told us anytime he calls out on the speaker, “Who wants to work in the Rehab today?” he is not short on volunteers from his crew and staff.  They run at the chance.

New Facilities

New Facilities

The new facility is on 3 quarters of an acre, but you know what? Dennis said, he would have bought more property if he could.  I joked, “Hey how about a Garden Barn restaurant?!” He replied with, “More like growing grapes.” Hmmm, even better I thought. Either way – there would be wine (hee-hee).

After we toured the new growing areas, we went back to the large areas of trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, and more.  I’m just in awe of how a couple and their children have made The Garden Barn a show-stopper, and worth a trip – even all the way from East Haddam.  This garden club did not regret hitting the road for the day to see a nursery outside of their town.

The best part of the day was seeing the abundant plants lined out and being hardened off for spring – and the sizes and quality, in my plant eyes, are outstanding (as usual for The Garden Barn).  This is another benefit about The Garden Barn – they have full plants and they stand behind their plant warranties.  They are also part of CNLA, the Connecticut Garden Trail (ask them about this), ANLA, and the Tolland Chamber of Commerce.

The Garden Barn in Vernon, CT was a great place for me to learn when I started in my career change several years back.  It takes hard work and a true passion to maintain and grow a place like The Garden Barn.  Overall, the day was beautiful, filled with beautiful plants (and I’m not kidding about the birds, they were chirping around us as we walked), and the group from East Haddam was a beautiful group of ladies who truly enjoyed the special treatment and guided tour.

And P.S.: I made it out of there without buying anything – but I really wanted one tree in particular I saw there – and I’m thinking of calling today to order it.  I can’t stop thinking about it.

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

New Line Out Area

New Line Out Area

How should I transport my plant from the garden center to my home?

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My sister called me yesterday afternoon to ask about a new magnolia she purchased at a nursery.  She was planning to pick it up today, and wanted to know how to handle the transportation in her mini-van.  This was an excellent question to ask.  The last thing you want to do is damage your new plant purchase, so here are a few tips and reminders on what to do when you move your plant from the garden center to your home.

Balled and Burlapped B&B) tree example

Balled and Burlapped B&B) tree example

GET OUT THE BED LINENS

It may sound funny, but you may want to grab a couple old pillows and a thick blanket, or a tarp along with some bungee cords or rope, before you head to the garden center. The main thing you want to do for trees is protect its bark and foliage during travel. Bark is like your skin, overlaying the veins in your body.  On trees, bark protects the cambium layer responsible for transporting water and nutrients in the tree, much like how veins move blood in our bodies.

If the bark gets rubbed, broken, bruised, or nicked, it can prohibit the passage of nutrients and create a perfect place for insects and diseases to settle into your tree. When you place or lay your tree in a van, car (which I’ve seen done for small trees), or inside the back of your pickup truck, be careful to not nick the bark.  Don’t allow the tree to roll around in the vehicle, hitting something like tools, or your seats.  Damage on the bark, or the trunk for that matter, is a leading cause of death in trees.  Sometimes wounds will heal but it can make the tree’s appearance not as lovely as you had imagined.

GIVE THE FOLIAGE A HAIR NET

As for the foliage on the top of the tree, it should not be exposed to wind as you drive home.  If you put the tree in the back of your pickup truck, be sure to protect the foliage somehow.  A light bed sheet works well, wrapped like a hair net – or the nursery may have some type of light material to offer you to protect the foliage.  Wind will shred the leaves and dry them out.  Even if you drive carefully and slowly like Grandma.  This is also true with evergreen shrubs susceptible to drying winds.  It is best to cover the foliage on its journey to your home in a vehicle if exposed.

Container Grown Tree Example

Container Grown Tree Example

PERENNIALS IN POTS

If you are bringing home perennials or annuals in pots, grab a cardboard box or plastic milk crate to insert the pots into your vehicle as you travel so they won’t topple over in your car.  Most nurseries offer a plastic liner to protect your car seats from the wet base of pots, but you may want to bring along a sheet as well if you have one on hand.  They can be handy.  Inside the vehicle, perennials and annuals are protected from strong winds, unless you drive a convertible, so they will be okay.  And in the back of a pickup truck, sometimes this is okay because they are lower than the top of the pickup truck’s bed.  But if you stop somewhere on your travels, and plants are inside your vehicle, don’t let them sit in the heat for too long.

VENTILATE YOUR CAR IF YOU STOP SOMEWHERE

Mostly likely, if you are out and about shopping for plants, you will also be stopping somewhere for another errand or to have  lunch.  If you have your tree, perennials, or annuals “in the car” – and plan to stop for a while, open up your windows slightly to allow some ventilation in the car.  Although many plants like the warmth, scolding hot temperatures will stress out the plants, and dry out the soil in the pot.  Overheating your plants is like overheating a dog in the car, it can lead to suffering and even death! Remember this for plants you may have put in the trunk of your car too.  If stopping for more than 15 minutes on a hot day, I wouldn’t leave them baking in the car’s trunk like an oven.  They will get weak and withered, and potentially at a permanent wilting point – unable to recover.  You may not either, once you learned you fried your investment.

Pick it up

Pick it up

USE A HAND TRUCK OR WHEEL BARREL TO MOVE YOUR PLANTS

You should not lift a tree by its trunk at the base or mid-way on the trunk.  You might not only hurt the tree, but hurt yourself too, especially if the tree is balled and burlapped.  B&B trees are dug up from the field with the soil base around the roots. They are very heavy compared to container grown trees.  With a B&B tree, you probably will need help to load and transport the tree, and unload it at home.  Big B&B trees are often better planted by an expert – and many nurseries offer this service.

If a container grown tree, it is much better to lift it by the container, and then place it carefully on a hand truck or in a wheel barrel to move the tree to its holding location or planting location in your yard.  Don’t leave your new tree or perennials in the wrong place if you don’t plan to plant it in the ground right away.  There are two things you must remember.  Some trees and shrubs will be top heavy if grown in a container, and the wind can topple it over.  And the second thing, is they can dry out in pots, so you must also remember to water them.

Last year, one of my clients took home two beautiful Kwanzan cherry trees for a park installation.  She placed the trees by her picnic table to wait until she could go plant them.  The next day happened to be a very windy day.  While she was at work, the wind had tossed one of the trees against the table repeatedly, rubbing away the bark and creating a good sized wound.  We decided to plant the tree anyways, and hope for the best.  Looking it over this spring, the wound is healing nicely, but you can visibly see the damage done, plus the tree doesn’t match the other one as a result.

A good tip is to insert the container into another bigger and heavier empty pot or box at home to stabilize the tree until you are ready to plant it in the ground.  Or put some weighted object, like large rocks or cement blocks around the outside of the pot base to keep it in place in the event of a windy gust.  Also, put the plant where there is a bit of shade to protect it from harsh sun until you are ready to plant it.  And also very important – don’t forget to water it from time to time if you don’t plant it right away, especially if you placed it on pavement where the pot can get hot quickly.

On your planting day, if you have several trees or plants to plant, line them out into their permanent positions in your landscape, but don’t remove them from their pots until you are ready to place them into the planting holes.  Leaving exposed roots could potentially dry out the roots too.

Once planted, another good reminder is to be careful when mowing your lawn or weed whacking nearby so you don’t nick the bark once you have successfully planted it in your landscape.  Something I have to remind my husband every year when he breaks out the mower!

So follow these guidelines, turn up the tunes while traveling home from the nursery, and rest assured all will be safe when you arrive home!

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