Arts and Crafts at a CT Nursery this Weekend

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The Gledhill nursery in West Hartford, CT is holding an Arts and Crafts fair this weekend on August 2 and 3, 2013 from 10 am to 4 pm. I happened to visit this nursery for the first time yesterday (as part of my goal to visit nurseries listed in the CT Garden & Landscape Trail.)

On my way to this place, I did run into some roadway construction coming from Bloomfield but it moved quickly and perhaps will be done by Saturday. But also be on the lookout for the entrance. It can be tricky to see the enter versus exit road. Look for the street sign. As you drive down it, you will feel as if you are entering a private residence. The driveway into the back parking area is very narrow and lined with beautiful plants and trees. This nursery has an immediate park like feel to it.

RoadA friendly nursery staff person greeted me immediately as I entered the grounds, admiring the small water gardens in particular. She apologized for the mix of plant areas as she explained they were organizing spaces for the 30 vendors participating in a crafts fair this weekend. It is held annually. So I thought I need to post this immediately to let everyone know about it.

The nursery staff person also told me their landscape department has a knack for water gardens as she noticed I was taking photos of them. This garden center has some small greenhouses, a nice gift shop, and displays such as a path leading to an arbor. If I were able to go this weekend to see the crafts show, I would but other commitments prevent it. If you decide to go, let me know what you think. Oh, I also noticed they had some organic products on their shelves for bugs and fertilizers.

Water gardens

The plant areas had little garden decor here and there too. It seems like a fun place to browse, plants very healthy all around, and I’m sure in the height of the season there’s more to enjoy. There’s lots of inspiration for those taking notice of all the details all around the premises.

Organically at Gledhill

The address is 650 Mountain Road, West Hartford, CT 06117. 860-233-5692.

Just be sure to drive carefully into the area. I suspect they will have additional parking during their event this weekend with all the vendors planned.


Their website is


Overall, park like, tranquil, and secluded. When I commented that folks from my area may not know about Gledhill, she replied, neither do some locals to West Hartford. Perhaps, now, they will.

written by, Cathy Testa

Water garden Gledhill

Miniatures Garden Workshop Coming Up


Miniatures Garden Workshop Coming Up

Come join the fun on August 8th, Thursday, from 6-8 pm to learn how to design, plant, and maintain a miniature garden. It is the next class offering on the Cathy T class series. And I’m excited our guest speaker, Rhonda (aka Rondi), of Gardening Inspirations will be our instructor.

I met Rondi several years ago when I took Master Gardening classes. She was our leader and coordinator. But she also has her own business now, specializing in miniatures. It started with inspiration she felt when she entered a shop in Florida filled from floor to ceiling with various type of miniatures. It clicked for her how fun and expressive these can be when making mini gardens. You can set a mini garden on your desk at work, then imagine it being an escape. There are several themes from beach to barn. The ideas and creativity are endless, and it is just plain fun to create. Just think party favor or center piece. Or how about creating one as a hostess gift?

Here’s the Class details:

Outdoor event. Aug 8th. (Rain date Aug 15th). 6 pm to 8 pm
Location: 72 Harrington Rd, Broad Brook, CT
Cost PP: $15.00. Includes potting medium, base sand or mulch, class instructions, glue pins and glue, drainage rocks, design and maintenance handouts, and light refreshments.
Miniature accessories, embellishments and plants are available for purchase. Many choices and themes, such as Beach, Garden, Farm, and Woodland will be available.

Other: Your creation is hands on and can be an indoor or outdoor type. We will go over plants suited for your vision and use. You may bring your own pot or container, or purchase at the class. Rondi recommends a minimum of 10-12″ in diameter.

To Sign Up: Call 860-977-9473 or email at Or post a ‘comment’ on this blog.

To learn more about Rondi, visit

Really looking forward to you joining us. It will be a fun evening of creating and learning. And you know my appetizers!! Thanks, Cathy Testa

See SCHEDULE for more information.

A Lamb’s Ear Perennial with a Different Look and Feel – Say Hello to ‘Hummelo’

Butterfly visits in Early July

Butterfly visits in Early July

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a perennial I spotted for the first time a couple seasons ago.  Because of its tall blooms, I decided to include it in a whiskey barrel container garden, and thought it worked well when going for a naturalistic theme because it has a soft color to its blooms and the stalks are tall, rising upwards like you would see in a meadow.

'Hummelo' in a Container Garden

‘Hummelo’ in a Container Garden

If you like the cottage garden look, or a perennial with the power to attract bees and butterflies for a long period of time, you need to say, “Hello” to ‘Hummelo’ – A lamb’s ear perennial with a different look and feel.

The color of the blooms, violet to a soft purple, and the shape of the two-lipped flowers, similar to the perennial, Catmint (Nepeta), have a welcoming appeal.

Because of this, I decided to plant two in front of my border by a Knockout Rose this year, and the plant’s habit and characteristics have impressed me since.

Despite our bouts of harsh weather this season in Connecticut, such as hail storms, strong winds, and heavy rainfalls, this plant has not bent, cracked, or toppled.

And the flowers, rising 18-24″ tall on strong, 4-angled stems above the low-growing clump of soft green wrinkled leaves, have been blooming continuously since early June.

It has a long season of bloom, expected to last to the end of August or early September, and it is a butterfly and bee magnet.

Lamb's Ear Perennial

Lamb’s Ear Perennial

However, what makes this lamb’s ear perennial different is the look and feel to the leaves, which are not like the typical species known to gardeners, Stachys byzantina, where the leaves are fuzzy and woolly, soft to the touch.

Foliage on Lamb's Ear

Foliage on Lamb’s Ear

‘Hummelo’ has wrinkled and wavy leaves.  The texture gives it some interest but I find the color of the leaves a little dull – just your basic plain, soft-green, so what you place near and around it should be considered.  You may want to find other perennials with a darker green foliage color, and pair up the beautiful violet blooms of ‘Hummelo’ with other monochromatic colors in the pink and purple tones, along with some contrasting coarse colors and textures.

Lamb's Ear Blooms

Lamb’s Ear Blooms

Some companion candidates for Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ are:

Baptisia australis (False Indigo) has tall darker purple blooms on tall flower spikes, as compared to Hummelo’s bloom color, and its foliage is a bit darker green.  It will end its bloom period around the time ‘Hummelo’ begins, but the dark seed pods will add interest later in the season.  Place it behind ‘Hummelo’ to add impact and height.  It can reach shrub size, and is great at the back of a border in full sun to part sun locations.  And it also has a “naturalized” look, similar to ‘Hummelo’ – plus it was the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year.

For a dramatic effect next to ‘Hummelo’, try a tropical Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ (Elephant Ear).  Its large, coarse and wide foliage with dark purple tones on the leaves and stems will be a great way to add contrast against the soft greens of ‘Hummelo.’  This gets large, so position it where it won’t eat (hide) the ‘Hummelo’ perennial, but pop near it.  The purple stems on this elephant ear will look great with the violet blooms of ‘Hummelo’ – and the soft green foliage of ‘Hummelo’ will pop against the dark tone of the elephant ear.

Supports Pollinators

Supports Pollinators

Incorporating some soft silvers in a more sunny location, such as Artemisia (Wormwood) is a good color to add.  I prefer Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’ with its soft airy foliage and dome shape, with lower stature than ‘Hummelo.’  This plant likes full sun and well-drained soils.

Another darker purple bloom color that would look great as a contrast to the softer violet blooms is Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’ (cornflower) with almost black-purple flowers blooming in July to August and reaching about 14″ tall.  The spidery like bloom structures is intriguing and would also pick up the darker purple colors of the Elephant Ear noted above.  It can take full to part sun locations.

Pronounced STAKE-IS (Click HERE to hear), Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a relatively unknown plant, great as an edger in garden borders, filler in container gardens, and provides a uniformed, sturdy look, and it is a “workhorse” because it has long-lasting blooms and strong upright stems.  And, it can survive under walnut trees.  This plant is a member of the mint family, so be aware it can spread, and often looks good massed or as a ground cover planting.  However, if used in a container garden, it is not a trouble marker, but a star – where you won’t have the spreading concern.

If you decide to use Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ as a ground cover, you may want to consider including some Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ for the foliage on this low perennial, also great as a ground cover, has soft pink and violet tones to it.  Put it in-front, and be aware it is mostly known as a shade to part-shade plant, but can take sun with moisture.

Lamb's Ear, Stachys monieri 'Hummelo'

Lamb’s Ear, Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a Zone 4-8 perennial, prefers Full Sun, and is a great addition to your gardens and container gardens.  Some references spell it monnieri with two n’s on the species name.  It is also known as Betony.  Click HERE to read a “Comparative Study of Cultivated Stachys,” by the Chicago Botanic Garden, where you can learn lots more technical details about this plant and its relatives.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473

Cultivating a Future Farmer at Local Farmers Markets

My Guest Booth at the EW Farmers Market

My Guest Booth at the EW Farmers Market

It happened to be a coincidence that I had my niece along with me on two recent trips to farmers markets.  She seems to enjoy the scene, taking photos, and taste-testing the treats as much as the rest of us.

Could we be cultivating a “future farmer” by way of taking kids along on our market journeys?  I certainly hope so.

We not only introduce them to information on how to grow plants, or make handcrafted products, we share good, healthy, non-GMO types of food at the same time, and may even enjoy dancing, as we did yesterday, to the Backtrax Band performing at the East Windsor Farmers Market.

Going to markets is fresh, fun, and festive.  From the fresh squeezed lemonades to the hand-made soaps, you get to enjoy locally made items and socialize with friends and family.

So the first market we hit up was the Wethersfield Farmers Market last Thursday. After babysitting a few hours, my sister asked if I wanted to go to the market with her – and of course, the answer was yes!  My niece was excited I was tagging along and jumped to get her favorite hat as we left the house.

The second market we attended was the new East Windsor Farmers Market, on their opening day, June 30, Sunday.  I was an invited as a guest vendor and volunteered to answer plant related questions.  Many people visited to ask various questions, and my niece listened intently to the answers.  I bet she could answer some herself – because she gardens along side her mom at home often, and has learned some horticultural related topics in school.

Wethersfield, CT Farmers Market

This market is held on Thursdays, 3 pm to 6 pm, which is a nice time slot for those unable to make a weekend market and convenient for getting fresh produce on the way home from work.  This market started on May 16th and runs through October 31st. You can find it on a nice lawn area called, “Solomon Welles House” lawn at 220 Hartford Avenue, Wethersfield, CT.  My sister told me it was a fairly small market, yet it was big on offerings.  There were fresh veggies at several vendors booths, tasty teas, knits, soaps, baked goods, and jewelry.


My favorite find was these big mason jars by Mamalicious with hand blown glass straws and a mushroom tea sample included to try later.  I could just picture an icy cold lemonade in them, and with a lid, there is a ‘no spill’ factor.  So I got two along with other items, such as purple radishes, from Bright Yellow Farm.

My niece was enjoying taking photos on her camera; I guess she likes seeing her Aunt do the same.  We both were clicking away and stocking up for the upcoming weekend with fresh goodies. She was the lucky recipient of beautiful gloves made with Alpaca yarn, to be stored until winter arrives, by Round Hill Alpacas, from Coventry, CT. The ladies at Round Hill said they would be at South Windsor’s market on Saturday, June 29th, but I didn’t get to that one (yet). Market vendors are making their rounds to several locations, which is great for us, if we can’t travel to one place, you are bound to find them at another or right in your home town.



The parking for this market is along the streets, and Old Wethersfield is nearby where you can visit Comstock Ferry & Co.  Click HERE for more about the seeds at Comstock.

Wethersfield Farmers Mkt.

Wethersfield Farmers Mkt.

Taking photos

Taking photos

East Windsor, CT Farmers Market

Then, only two days later, I spent the day at the East Windsor Farmers Market from 10 am to 1 pm on their opening day, June 30th. My mission was to not only support the markets grand opening day (since I live in East Windsor), but to help answer general plant questions as a guest vendor.

June is a time when we encounter plant problems, whether from bugs or due to the heat and heavy humidity we are experiencing this week.  There may be mold or fungus growing on your mulch, or the June bugs and Japanese beetles are most likely munching on some foliage of your favorite plants right now.

But the questions were not coming in on those specific subjects; instead I heard questions like:

  • How do I take care of my Mother-in-Law plant?  It stinks so bad and its smelling up my house!
  • Why did the trees blooms so strongly this year, and are we getting more maple seeds (samaras) than usual?  My mulch is covered with them.
  • Why are my tomato plants doing so badly?  They are barely growing.
  • What would cause leaf curl on my tomato plants?  My son noticed it and said something is wrong with my plants.

I think the most interesting was the “Mother-in-Law (Sanseveria trifoliate) plant with an awful, stinky smell.”  Hmm, I had to look that one up on my iPhone, and it turns out this plant does not like to be over-watered and will stink if done so from root rot.  She admitted she had over-watered her plant.  So I suggested she move it outside into shade under a patio umbrella, let the soil dry out, and don’t water it so much.  We also discussed how you can keep many houseplants outdoors during the summer, just be sure to transition them to shade first so you don’t burn the leaves as it is exposed to strong sunlight.  Just like people, it needs protection first.

On the questions regarding prolific tree blooms this season, and the maple samaras (technically a simple dry fruit) falling everywhere, my guess is the “mild” cool temperatures we experienced early in the season gave most of our flowering trees lots of additional time to plump up their buds, laying silently in the branches until the temps were warm enough to expand open.  It delayed the blossoms as well.  As soon as that warmth hit – BANG!  They exploded, and the flowers have been just spectacular this season. The dogwood trees, I’ve noticed, are so full around our neighborhoods right now.  So perhaps the early cool temps is the reason why we have a lot of samaras this year too, or at least that is my guess. Prior season’s weather and winter temperature affect the timing and patterns of growth too.

Cornus kousa

Cornus kousa

On the question regarding tomato plants not doing well…, the soil is remaining wet somewhat because, in addition to the heat and humidity, we are getting bouts of rainstorms, heavy rain, and the heat came, so it is possible the growth is being challenged by both of these factors.   She also could be lacking some nutrients in the soil, if the bottom leaves are turning light green to pale yellow, or if the fruit is small, this is a potential sign of lack of nitrogen.  During mid summer, veggies will grow faster and start to mature, so they need nitrogen in the soil.  A quick boost of fertilizer may help, which she actually suspected, and said would try to apply some and see how it goes.

On the leaf curl on a tomato plant (this one was in a container garden pot), this can be a sign of an insect setting in, or perhaps too much watering (from our rainfalls).  I referred to my book called, “What’s Wrong with My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?)” by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.  It offers a “visual guide to easy diagnosis and organic remedies,” however, I don’t always find plant problems ‘easy’ to diagnose, when it comes to the wide variety of problems.  Lots of things can damage a plant, but the book helps you to narrow down the signs on the plant.  If a leaf is distorted, bubbled, curled, or twisted, the books leads you to pages to further define the problem and finding the possible causes.  Sometimes for puckered or twisted leaves, the underside or inner of the leaf could have an insect feeding.  Or it could be caused by a virus.  And it can also be caused by “cool, wet rains,” which we have experienced earlier in the season. But to really diagnose plant problems well, you have to see the actual plant to inspect the signs and symptoms, and look at the owner’s habits too. I also brought along a reference book by Ortho, which I don’t use for the remedy recommendations, but to identify the plants’ problems.  It has excellent photos and descriptions, and I got mine via a used book search several years ago.  I find it handy.  Another method to determine a plant’s problem is to bring a sample to your local county extension center.  We have one located in Tolland, CT.  Master Gardeners will examine the plant and give you a report- and its FREE.



And another benefit of the East Windsor Farmers Market was enjoying the BACKTRAX BAND, special to me because my brother, Jimmy, is a member of the band along with TJ, Big Tom, Sammy, and on this day, a guest drummer, Smitty.  They will be playing for the market again in the future.  Having the background music playing while shopping the vendors and visiting with friends and family really makes it special and enjoyable.  Almost all markets have some type of music, it is great – you get a free intro to the band’s music and enjoy listening while you are chatting with friends, family, and new faces in town.  Bring a lawn chair, sit a while, and grab a bite to eat while you spend the day at the market.  The band members enjoy it – so you should too!

Whole Harmony

Whole Harmony


Before people began to arrive to the East Windsor Farmers Market, I visited each vendor myself.  Very impressed with the teas by Stacey Wood of Whole Harmony, and the fresh sprouts, lettuce, and other healthy products by Tara Tranguch of Serafina Says Farm, and of course sampled many others products.   Serafina’s sprouts are going to be amazing on my salad today! Stacey of Whole Harmony told me she is growing their herbs right here locally in the new East Windsor Community Garden located by the dog park and skateboard park on Reservoir Avenue.  So they are grown right here – that’s FRESH.  Love that connection.  It is so important to support these growers, so make sure you visit this market and others during prime time – now!

East Windsor Farmers Mkt.

East Windsor Farmers Mkt.

And don’t miss the freshly grown Shiitake Mushrooms by Donna Yurgel of New England Green Mushrooms.  She sells at other markets as well, such as the popular Ellington, CT farmers market.  I buy a box of these every time and find new ways to add them to my recipes.  She is now offering some of her favorite recipes for people new to using Shiitakes.  They are easy to cook.

Members of the band

Members of the band

Wethersfield Market is Closed for the 4th of July weekend, but East Windsors remains open.

By the way, the Wethersfield market is closed during the 4th holiday weekend, but this is not the case the East Windsor market.  The East Windsor market has relocated from their Opening Day location on Rt 140, 149 North Road, in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits and the Golden Gavel Auction, to the Trolley Museum at 58 North Road (also Rt 140).  The Trolley Museum has picnic tables, facilities, and antique trolleys of historical value inside and out of their buildings.  Take the kids along, enjoy a ride on the trolley, and get in some farmers markets action.  Click HERE to read more about the new location.  There’s plenty of parking available, and it is right off 91 North and South, take Exit 45 (Bridge Street) to Rt 140.

East Windsor Market Master:  

For questions, you may contact Janice Warren, the Market Master, at or at 860-292-1796.  It will be held up through October 6th, 2013.  Every Sunday, 10 am to 1 pm, and will grow just like the plants do.  They currently do not have a website, but can be found on Facebook and Patch.

East Windsor’s Farmers Market Vendors:

  • Broad Brook Brewing Company (New in town).  Check out their “Pink Dragon Wit,” a Belgium White Ale for Summer.
  • New England Green Mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms, Donna Yurgel
  • Sarafina Says Farms, Tara Tranguch, Farmer and Health Coach, Sprouts, Salads, etc.
  • Whole Harmony, Whole Being Heal Tea Company, Stacey Wood, Certified Herbal Practitioner
  • Shadow Valley Farms, Local Farm Fresh Milk and other dairy products
  • Sunshine & Flowers by Goldie, Dish Gardens
  • Naturally Clean, soap products, by Teresa Carey
  • Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, Cathy Testa, Container Gardens, Garden and Landscape Designs, Classes
  • BACKTRAX Band, Jimmy Fauteux and Members, Playing all kinds of events
  • Yummy CT, Distributor of CT Products

If interested in becoming a vendor, contact Janice Warren, Market Master, at or at 860-292-1796.

Here’s some more markets I saw listed in a garden magazine recently:

  • Farmington, Hill-Stead Museum,
  • Glastonbury, Hubbard Green,
  • Hartford, 156 Capitol Avenue, 2 Saturdays a month
  • Manchester, Manchester Community College, Wednesdays, 1-5 pm
  • South Windsor, 100 Market Square, Saturdays, 10 am – 1 pm
  • West Hartford, LaSalle Road public parking lot, Tuesdays & Saturdays
  • Coventry, Nathan Hale Homestead,
  • Ellington, Arbor Park,

…and you can find them in Fairfield Country, Middlesex Country, New Haven, New London, and maybe just drive around and spot the tents – Stop in if you see them.  Help those helping you get the CT products we enjoy fresh.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T

New England Green Mushrooms

New England Green Mushrooms