Leucothoe axillaris – Five Great Reasons to Plant it this Spring

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The genus name, Leucothoe (lew-KOE-thoe-ee), is one many folks are usually confused on how to pronounce, and I probably mispronounce it too.  But it’s a great evergreen shrub to use in the landscape or in container gardens.  If you haven’t been introduced to it yet, here are five great reasons to plant it this spring:

#1 – It blooms in spring and can take shade

I think this plant’s growing habit is best described as floppy or arching, but its technically spreading and low growing.  The white urn-shaped flowers bloom in clusters along the stems near the base of the leaves in April and May.  They are very pretty, resembling heather or perhaps the blooms of Pieris, and are mildly fragrant.  This evergreen shrub is made for shady locations, preferring partial to full shade, so it is a great solution for shady spots in your yards.

See Photo Attribution Below

See Photo Attribution Below

#2 – It puts on a second show in the fall season

The dark green leaves on this broadleaf evergreen shrub are narrow, pointed, leathery and shiny. In autumn, the leaves turn a wine plum color which is very showy.  The photo below is a scan of a pressed stem of the leaves.  While not very pretty here because the color faded in the pressed sample – it shows you the ovate to oblong shape of the leaves.  This shrub is definitely a beauty in person. The fall plum color is a useful seasonal feature, offering a darker contrasting color next to other evergreen plants in your landscape.  Having alternative colors in the landscape on shrubs during the fall season adds a pop of color when we need it most.

Pressed Sample by C. Testa

Pressed Sample by C. Testa

#3 – It holds onto its leaves in winter and pairs well with Rhodies

This shrub is a nice candidate in rock gardens, borders, or on slopes.  It can also be used as a foundation plant or as a hedge in mass to create a screening. In my opinion, Leucothoe shrubs look more like deciduous cane-like shrubs, but it holds onto its leaves during the winter months.  It is an evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub reaching a height of 2 to 4 feet and spread of 3 to 5 feet with a slow growth rate, so the size is just about right.  It won’t take over a space quickly.  It goes well with other evergreens such as azaleas and rhododendrons, and has a different shape so it makes a nice mix in foundation plantings.  The leaves can look a little less full in the winter months but they still look amazing as their color goes bronze to plum.  In deep shade, the color may be a little less intense.

See Photo Attribution Below, Rhododendron

See Photo Attribution Below, Rhododendron

#4 – It can be used in container gardens and patio pots

Check out my pinboard of evergreens recently started where you can see photos of this plant in the ground and in containers.  This plant looks amazing in container gardens and patio pots.  Imagine the dark plum color being combined with warm fall colored plants and pumpkins or gourds during October.  Because the wine plum coloring transition happens during the fall season, it is a wonderful contrast element in mixed compositions.  By the way, sometimes when you see these shrubs in the nursery in early spring – they still have the plum color on them from the prior season but it will go back to green over the summer, and to plum in the fall.  Using shrubs in containers and patio pots also offers the additional benefit of being reusable each season so you don’t have to spend more on a new plant and many shrubs can stay in the pots outdoors over the winter, unlike annuals or tropical plants.  This shrub’s habit makes a nice spiller because it arches and will drape over the sides of your pots.

#5 – It is deer resistant and doesn’t need pruning

This woodland shrub does not have serious issues in regards to insects or disease problems, and deer rarely dine on them (see Rutger’s link below on Deer Resistant Landscape Plants).  This is a big plus for many gardeners with deer eating issues in their landscapes. Leucothoe axillaris doesn’t require regular pruning either – another plus.  It can be left alone for some time unless there are some weak stems requiring attention, which can be pruned off after the plant is finished blooming for the season.

See Photo Attributions Below

See Photo Attributions Below

Three Side Notes:

About the only three points to consider of importance are:

  1. Leucothoe axillaris prefers acidic (pH 4.5 to 6.0) organic fertile soil.
  2. It is hardy to zone 6 and the “warmer” zone 5 areas, meaning it is best to plant it in a protected location away from winds or cold micro-climate spots in your yard if your planting zone is closer to 5 than 6.
  3. It does not take doughty locations and if in the sun, the soil must stay moist.

Common names:

Coast Leucothoe, Dog-hobble

Cultivars:
‘Compacta’ a dwarf, ‘Dodd’s Variegated’ creamy white leaves, ‘Greensprite’ common, bigger up to 6’, ‘Sarah’s Choice’ low mounded, ‘Rainbow’ molted rosy pink and creamy yellow new leaves.  L. fontanesiana (Drooping Leucothoe) is a similar species. See Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Girard’s Rainbow’ for a variegated option; ‘Scarlet’ is a dwarf, ‘Rainbow’ has mottled yellow leaves.

Useful Links:
http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/ (Rutgers; Landscape Plants Deer Resistance)

Photo Attribution:
GFDL, Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.1 Japan License.  Photo by KENPEI from Wikipedia.
Deer Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net, by anankkml, “Sika Deer Fawn”
Rhododendron Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net by Tom Curtis

For other shrubs written about on this blog:

Written by Cathy Testa

www.cathytesta.com
ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

May 3rd Garden Talk – Incorporating Edibles in Mixed Container Gardens

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Comstock Purple

Shiny Hot Black Pepper

Have you ever considered that vegetables and fruits are not only edible, but very functional as a design element in mixed container gardens?

They can be included as amazing and unexpected design features – and why not, right?

They serve an additional purpose – providing you food, snacks, and garnishes all season long!

From unique peppers to weird tomatoes, figs to papayas, the list of edibles is endless.

Why not stop in next Saturday morning to hear more – and see a new building completely refurbished in downtown Broad Brook too?

The Speaker

Cathy Testa of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs will be speaking on this topic on May 3rd, Saturday at the Pride Fitness Building in downtown Broad Brook, CT from 10:00- 11:00 am.

You can’t miss the building – it’s historic with brick exterior, adjacent to the small book store and breakfast restaurant facing the Broad Brook Pond from Main Street.

The Topics

The Amazing Ornamental Qualities of Edibles and Why You Should Notice

How to Use 3 Design Techniques to Create Interesting Combinations with Vegetables and Other Plants

A Review of the Hottest and Latest Edible Trends in the Gardening World

The Flyer

GARDEN PRESENTATION May 3rd Edibles Flyer

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Cathy Testa
http://www.cathytesta.com
ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473

WALK & TALK HOME GARDENS GROUP – New!

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Photo Attribution Below

Photo Attribution Below

Hi Everyone,

It occurred to me one day as I was walking around my yard with my sister in law how many little tidbits we shared with each other about plants and gardening just in general conversation. The same situation occurred when I was at my sister’s house recently checking out how she was starting her vegetable garden again for the season.  And of course, walking and talking about plants happens when visiting friends’ homes too.

So many of us, whether new to gardening or experienced, have ideas and tips to share when we feel open to do so and are having spontaneous conversations about what we have done in our yards and with our gardens or container gardens.

So this spring season of 2014, I’m kicking off an “informal, no pressure” type of group for anyone interested to “Walk & Talk Home Gardens.”

And I’m happy to report, two volunteers have already offered to have an hour at their home, which I’m internally grateful!

The Kickoff Dates:

  • First date is June 7, Saturday, 2:30 pm (Wethersfield, CT)
  • Second date is July 26, Saturday, 10:00 am (Enfield, CT)
  • Third date — to be announced — the theme will be “A Shady Nook”.
  • See Garden Club Talks for information on these two kickoff dates.

The Ground Rules:

We want to keep this simple and no pressure – so we are instituting some ground rules, and here they are:

#1 – Perfect or Pathetic

We truly don’t care if you have a showcase garden or one that is small and untidy – SERIOUSLY.

There are way too many times when I’ve met homeowners, gardeners, or professional gardeners, where people instinctively criticize their gardens.  It is a gardener’s bad habit.  They see a little fault and point it out. I do it too!

So please, if you have even the smallest of space, don’t hesitate to offer an hour at your home.  And if you have an exceptional garden, don’t think you have to spruce it up – which is what I’ve seen done so many times for professional garden tours, when in my opinion, their gardens are already perfect.

“This group is not a garden tour – it is a walk & talk chat opportunity.”

Maybe you have a recommendation on where to get seeds you have tried in your garden, perhaps you came up with some trick in the garden no one has seen before, or you tried a new plant.

We all have techniques we’ve tried out – and it is fun to talk about it. So much can be learned in one statement of something said while walking around with no pressure!!

Oh by the way, this group is for any type of gardening and of course, container gardening too.

Maybe you had some recent work done to your yard.

For example, last year a friend told me how she removed huge boulders with the help of her uncle and they totally cleared her yard which is now open.  Some of the cool things they did was create stone furniture with the salvaged boulders – and she had such an experience to share because she worked on the project with her hired help.  Any type of situation is doable for this group – even those “under construction” or not finished.  And if you do have an amazing wonderful garden, these are on the list too.

#2 – Only One Hour

As a host – you only need to commit one hour of time – and we are even going to go as far to say, if you have an emergency, a scheduling dilemma, or whatever – you have the right to change or cancel your hour.  Of course, we want to avoid changes to the schedule because there are only 5.5 months of gardening to enjoy – but we want this to be flexible and no pressure.  We all have very busy schedules and understand that sometimes things come up we can not control.

#3 – No Food Required

If you are a host – you do not need to put out lemonade or anything during your hour – we don’t want any pressure on your part – you are already showing us a part of your world and that is enough.  Let’s keep this informal and simple. No work on your part – I know how hard this is to do because I like to put out goodies when I have people at my home, but we don’t want any kind of expense on your part, or pressure. It’s optional.

#5 – Confidentiality & Respect

A confidentiality form will be signed by attendees – Just Kidding!  But because this is for enjoyment, not for “expertise” or “judgement,” we ask that you respect the homeowner’s property and keep in mind these walk and talks are not about someone showing you a perfect situation, but to have a nice time and see some tips.

To Attend:

There are no fees, but we would like to know a count of who plans to attend.

So to sign up:

Once you have indicated you would like to join the hour, the Walk & Talk home address will be sent to you.

To Volunteer:

Call me at 860-977-9473 and I can explain more – please do not hesitate to do so.

It’s a great way to meet friends and share for fun.

Thank you so much,

Cathy Testa
www.cathytesta.com
ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Photo Attribution:  “Garden Gate with Flowers” by debspoons, courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

 

 

Questionnaire for the Tween Considering Horticulture and Plants as a Future Career

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I provide small garden designs for homeowners, container gardens installs for homes and businesses, and offer garden talks and classes at various locations on horticulture topics, and sometimes sell plants, garden art, and container gardens at farmer’s markets. It’s a job I love to do and feel very lucky to enjoy, especially this time of year when May arrives. So, I thought why not share a questionnaire I completed for a Career Day at a middle school.  I attended the event along with other small business people to share what and how we do our jobs. If you are a tween or young student considering the world of horticulture as a future career – this may be of interest to you, or if you are a teacher wanting additional information about this career choice for your students, here it is.  Feel free to ask for more details.

Questionnaire

Be Respectful

How do you deal with difficult customers? – The rule stands!  The Customer is Always Right.  NO customer is difficult –they are presenting you with a challenge, make it fun and solve what it is they need; ask more questions to clarify; and also show them your knowledge and expertise, and they will learn to calm down if they are nervous or difficult when they see you have the experience and knowledge behind what you do.

If you supervise/manage people, what additional skills do you need?  — To be a leader, you must have excellent personality skills and organizational skills, sometimes people are born with these traits, and some styles cannot be learned.  To motivate your staff is key and the key is to also know what drives them — and each person has different ways they want to be rewarded. It could be pay, praise, or other things like that.

What makes a place a great place to work? – When you feel valued as an employee, are listened to, can contribute your knowledge and skills, – and anytime you do something that is like a HOBBY for a job – you will feel like every day is “not work”, but fun!  I love what I do, it is not work most times because I enjoy it so much. Think about something you do today as a hobby, and think if it could be a career.

Be Responsible

What can happen should you make a mistake?  — Easy, correct it immediately as soon as you know, apologize, learn from it and move forward.

What happens if you don’t work the hours you are expected to work?  — You get fired or let go.  You can’t treat a job like it is a game.., it is your responsibility to follow whatever guidelines a business establishes for their employees.  Basically failing to show equals failure.  Never forget, there is always someone else in line that can do the job you are taking advantage of – so if you don’t show up – someone else will.  If you like your job, respect the rules.

Be Productive

What education/job training do you need for your position?  –– See my handout – definitely horticulture, botany, knowing the plants are a must in the field of horticulture.  And learning or having a natural artistic ability is very important for design – it is a science plus an art.  I knew I had to learn the plants, how they grow, nutrients, soil, and the plants themselves – you cannot talk about plants if you don’t know their botanical facts and features.

What skills do you need for your job?  — Organizational skills, the hort world is fast paced, short season, in winter it is inactive or at rest, so you must be on-top of your game during the busy seasons, or you lose out on making money in the seasonal time frame. Business and financial management is also key if you want to start your own business.  And personal/interpersonal skills, plants are usually planted “by people” and thus you have to deal with people.  Introverts are not usually good designers for landscapes, you need to be able to talk with and understand your customers and clients.  You also need to use technology, applications, and take the time to read new materials or reference information about plants, marketing of plants, and any new news on things out there – say an invasive bug is out there on trees, you have to know to help solve clients problems with their plants as part of the job.  You need to know how to answer questions – because when designing, it isn’t just about the design, it includes the health of the plants, how they grow, etc.  Knowing how to do taxes and setting up your business legally is another skill you have to learn.

How are you measured on your productivity?  — I have my own business, so my productivity is based on results, how much I sell and also I tend to stay focused every day, and don’t let home distractions get in the way of my daily work for my business.

How frequently do you go for additional training?  – Probably every quarter – taking classes via things like Uconn conferences every winter, reading A LOT on my own via design books and plant references, reading a lot of blogs and college resource/reference databases on plants.  There are so many plants out there – you could learn one every single day and still not know them all by the time you die!  Seriously, it is almost like being a doctor having to know about all the diseases out there – the list is endless.  I took a 2-year Horticulture degree first, then gained good experience at nurseries, then went off on my own to do designs, then took the MASTER GARDENER program and I attend a lot of sessions at The CT Horticultural Society (FREE TO STUDENTS, CHECK IT OUT: WWW.CTHORT.ORG) and through other hort organizations and go to lots of big garden shows.

What skills do you use in your job that would surprise people? – This is a tough one to answer, I guess for me, surprising is that I had to learn how to hitch a big trailer to my big truck and how to unload materials from it and as a woman, some of my friends are surprised when they see me show up using equipment or power tools – this field of horticulture is expanding in the woman world, lots of women run big equipment for install jobs now, where years ago, it was mostly men contractors out there.  So if you are female, do not let that stop you!  It is an equal opportunity hort world!

What am I learning now that will be helpful for me in this career field?  –– Technology.  There are so many new gadgets coming out – all the apps now for iPhones really help to quickly reference information about plants, bugs on plants, diseases on plants, and tools like the color wheel app that may be used to select beautiful color combinations for your garden designs, I believe you – the younger generation of students – will be the ones teaching us older hort people because you are faster at learning the technology than we are!  Landscape programs are really useful too.  I just loaded the Square Up program in seconds the other night to accept credit cards when I sell plants at farmers markets for example, the technology moves at warp speeds, keeping up with it is the latest new thing I’m learning.

Be Safe

What can happen should you make a mistake?  — Harmful plants such as invasive can be a big problem if planted in someone’s yard, you have to know if a plant can creep and literally take over the whole landscape – that could be a big issue.  Also, Call Before You Dig, warning clients of proper procedures before they plant is critical.  Knowing your limitations and expertise, knowing how to direct clients to specialists in certain aspects of landscaping, such as hardscapes, paver, building materials, for example.  If you make a mistake, someone can get hurt so do your research first and advise appropriate to your clients.  Design does have risks, especially if there are building materials, ground problems in the area, water runoff to rivers is critical, you have to know if you could pollute a water source with fertilizers or underground pipes, stuff like that.

Do you have any security/safety measures in place?  — I don’t handle installations so my risk is limited.  If I had a crew, I would get the appropriate insurance and licensing.  It is critical to protect yourself in the event someone gets hurt on the job, etc.

Handouts

 

Slide1 Slide3 Slide2

Presentation

Cathy Testa Career Fair Hort and Plant World PDF File.  For the complete presentation, contact Cathy Testa at containercathy@gmail.com or 860-977-9473.   Written by Cathy Testa

Upcoming Events:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

Top Photo Attribution: “Student icons set” By digitalart, published on 24 July 2011 (Stock Image – image ID: 10051001)

Happy Easter Everyone – Hope It’s Hopping!

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 Photo by Cathy Testa

Photo by Cathy Testa

Isn’t this bunny adorable?!!  I spotted him (or her?) at the Ellington Farmers Market last summer and snapped this picture – too cute.

Easter weekend is almost here and many of us are excited to spend time with our families, so this post is to say, “Enjoy Your Easter Weekend” — and let it warm up so we can sit outside during the weekend’s activities.

Our April is coming to a close soon, and May will be here – when we will be busy as bunnies in our gardens!

 Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

Cathy Testa
ContainerCrazyCT.com
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Five Ways to Protect the Tender Plants You Put Outdoors Too Early

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Photo Attribution Below

Photo Attribution Below

You know you should have waited to put out tender plants or seedlings, but you got anxious and planted them outdoors anyways.  Whether in a container garden or a garden of the ground, they are now subject to the upcoming chills expected during the overnight hours this week as predicted by our local forecasters.

It’s not too difficult to understand why you tried to cheat the planting dates – after all, we had temperatures in the 70’s last weekend here in Connecticut.  It got our gardening juices flowing, and you may have impulsively planted tender seedlings in your gardens, such as tomatoes or peppers, or have potted up some summer like annuals in your mixed container gardens and patio pots.  Perhaps you even put a few of your houseplants outdoors for some fresh air and sun exposure for the first time this season.

But as of today, we have rain, strong winds, and a drop in temperatures coming.  It is expected to be in the low 30’ for the next three evenings.

So, you may be wondering what you should do now to protect the tender plants you put outdoors too early.

Here are five suggestions you can try – some may be better than others – due to the rainfall and winds occurring today:

#1 Cover them with a light-weight bed sheet

Protect the plants by carefully placing a light-weight bed sheet over the garden bed where you put them in or over the container garden or patio pot.  Use some stakes to tent the cloth up so the now wet tender plants will not get bent or be pushed down by the weight of the sheet or blanket.  Use rocks or bricks to hold the sheet down if necessary.  However, this may be difficult to do tonight especially because we will have rain overnight, and some areas in Connecticut may get sleet (Litchfield).  Ugh, but this trick does work well to protect tender plants from late spring frosts – so take note, or avoid the situation next time by doing Option #2, setting up temporary plastic tunnels.

#2 Use temporary plastic tunnels

If you planned ahead and ordered, you can use low tunnels made specifically for plant protection like those available from GardenersEdge.com.  They are easy to use, expand like an accordion over your plants, and come with curved hoops made of bamboo used to brace the tunnel in the ground.  Push the hoops into the soil and you should be all set.  This is a great way to protect plants, but you are not going to be enjoying doing this now with the downpours.  Another reminder of why we should wait for the tender plants, or plan ahead.

#3 Roll out floating fabric row covers

Similar to temporary tunnels noted above, fabric cloths or frost blankets specially made to protect plants are available from many garden supply manufacturers or at your local nursery.  They will hold in the warmth and protect any new plants without damaging them.  As with a light blanket, you may need to pin down the edges so it won’t be blown away by the wind.  Again, there’s wind tonight – Sorry!  Such is the way of gardening in the Northeast.  But these are handy in other situations, such as use for the last spring frost.

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

#4 Move the container garden back inside

Move your patio pot or container garden potted up with tender plants inside to a warmer place or sheltered location, such as your garage or shed, for the cold evenings.  A hand-truck works great for this process.  Also, if you put any small seedlings or your houseplants that were kept inside during the winter out on tables because you thought the plants should enjoy the warm weather last weekend, you should have moved those back indoors, especially now with the overnight low temperatures coming.  As noted in my Spring e:Pub, tropical plants, cacti like plants, and many houseplants must wait to go outdoors when things have warmed up after the last spring frost date.

#5 Be patient and wait a little longer

Most reputable nurseries put out only those plants which can take the cooler temperatures of the early spring, while tender plants are kept inside their large greenhouses for warmth and protection until warmer temperatures arrive.  Just watch out for stores that don’t follow the rules – and we tend to know which they are.  Usually their plants look injured a day or two following exposures to low or freezing overnight temperatures.  Wait a bit longer to put out the tender plants, and remember to watch for our last frost date of the spring season.  Otherwise, you risk damaging the plants’ foliage and flowers, or the plant will die and ruin your ambition and expenses.  Be patient and wait a tad bit longer.

Other Interesting Ideas

Christmas Lights on Fruit trees – I’ve heard you can string large styled Christmas lights around apple trees limbs near the buds to help keep them warm.  Buds can get damaged or killed if they freeze, so this is one holiday styled technique. Interesting!

Make a Camp Fire – Just kidding!  But some nursery growers of fruit trees actually light small fires under fruit trees.  Hey, anything to save those buds from frost, right?  However, not recommended or needed in home garden environments typically.

Water Fruit Trees – This may sound contradictory – but growers will water fruit and citrus trees, and some nurseries will water (sprinkle) specific plants, as a shield from the morning’s sun following a frost or freeze.  It serves an insulator for the growing buds and foliage – but it gets more technical which I will not expand on this topic here because of “timing” of this post.  However, if you’re interested, check out the “frost protection fundamentals” by FOA Corporate Document Repository where they explain it isn’t the cold temperatures per say that affect the plants, but how the plant tissue are injured via dehydration.

Water the Soil – Your outdoor plants (including the trees and perennials) are being watered right now by the natural rainfall, which is good for the plant’s roots because dry soil tends to pull moisture from the roots during frost or freeze periods.  Wet foliage however is not a good thing; when the foliage and stems of tender plants get wet and cold, this may lead to rot, flopping over, and general damage.  Antidessicants may be used on evergreens (rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, boxwood, etc.) to help reduce dehydration of the foliage.  A commonly type is called Wilt Pruf, and it is organic and biodegradable and primarily applied in the fall.

photo (24)

First and Last Freeze/Frost Dates by Zip Codes

Go to Dave’s Garden website to enter your zip code for a first and last freeze/frost dates for your area based on averages.  For Broad Brook, here are the results received via this site:

  • Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from October 9 through April 26.
  • Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from October 22 through April 11.
  • You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from May 10 through September 26.
  • Your frost-free growing season is around 166 days.

Overall, it is best to plant the cold-tolerant veggies, plants like pansies, and your typical spring bulbs like hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils.  For the rest, hang in there. It won’t be long until we can enjoy all – I promise.

Written by Cathy Testa

Lady's Mantel Leaves Pop Up on April 15th, 2014

Lady’s Mantel Leaves Pop Up on April 15th, 2014

Upcoming Events:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

Photo attribution:  “Weather Icon” by bandrat; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Slow Warm-up for Spring – But Time to Get your Tropical Bulbs Reawakened

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Good Morning Everyone,

Last spring, we were concerned about planting too early because we had over-chilly temperatures around this time of year – but it was colder, whereas this year, it is taking longer for the cold to leave.

There is no doubt every single year brings an interesting challenge for gardeners when it comes to the weather, and often times we must have the endurance to patiently wait for the conditions to be favorable for our planting adventures.

But, as we know – “Good things come to those who wait.”  And, patience is a true virtue in the gardening world.  When things are not favorable to work in your gardens outdoors, take the opportunity to prepare other gardening tasks and plants for when the temperatures and conditions are perfect.

Here is my latest e:Pub for Spring 2014, which refers to our slow spring warm up and things you can do now with any stored summer or tropical bulbs to give them an early start as we wait for temperatures to creep up higher in Connecticut.

Spring 2014 – e:Pub Newsletter – “A Slow Warm-Up

A new page has been added to this blog from the top menu where this e:Publication is posted, and more will follow.

Click on ABOUT, then 2014 MENU, to see a drop down menu called e:Pub Newsletters.

I started writing e:Pubs many years ago, and there are prior versions on my website, www.cathytesta.com.  It is interesting to look back and read some of the prior versions, at least for me.

One year I wrote a poem about all the rain we had in June which seemed like it would never end – that was in 2009.  But fortunately, today, the weather is warming up – we may even reach the 70’s.  Can this be true? We sure hope so.

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!

Cathy Testa

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

Please share or join this blog by entering your email on the sidebar, you will get updates via email and special offers or coupons of upcoming classes as a Cathy T blog follower!

 

Chicken Coop Infographics – Tips for The Chicks’ New Home!

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Hi Everyone,

If you have ever considered building your first chicken coop – below is a great Infographic to help you get started.

I made some errors the first go around when we built our first chicken coop and outdoor access pen.  Probably the funniest error made was we used the wrong chicken wire size for the outdoor pen, and when I excitedly put my new baby chickens into the outdoor pen, they immediately walked out through the spaces of the wire because it was too large!  Duh!  My brother, who helped me build it, stood there laughing with me as we witnessed our obvious mistake in action.  I remember saying to him, “Well, don’t we have egg on our faces right now?”

Predators Abound in Our Yard

I’ve tried two rounds of raising chickens at my home, but free ranging resulted in another error – the untimely death of my chickens over time by wild predators.  My backyard is quiet, wooded, and has a river behind it so the predators seem to hang out there. They would wait for the chickens to return to roost in the coop at sunset and bang, get taken.  Not good. And sometimes during the day, hawks would swoop down to get them.  Amazing how they spotted them so quickly in our yard.

There was another time when we came home from dinner, and one of our chickens was perched on the railing by our house door. They had never done this before, so we thought – what is this about?  My husband carried her carefully back to the coop only to discover a pile of feathers.  A predator had been there – and the smart chicken waited at our door until we got home – and they say, chicken’s aren’t smart?  

And, I swear, another time, when I was tending to some plants along side the outdoor pen, I sensed something watching me.  Not saying I’m psychic, but I remember turning around to look in the woods.  Were there predator eyes on me? Could it have been a fox or even a bobcat (we saw one once) waiting for me to leave for another opportunity of a tasty evening meal?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps it was just my vivid imagination.

Anyhow, the bottom line is, the new chickens will have to stay in the pen and coop this go around. Our outdoor pen is plenty large for them to roam. Once you let them out – they never forget their experience of checking out every area in the yard, including my neighbor’s gardens (another story for another time).  It is kind of like when cats have wet food.  Do they ever forget how great it is? Nope.  Neither do the chickens.

New Chickens for 2014

This year, 2014, I’m in round three of trying again to have chickens at my home with some new rules and changes.  I’ve updated my coop based on my learning experiences, won’t allow free ranging (they will have a big outdoor pen and a chicken wagon planned on the agenda for protected roaming outside the coop and pen), and a better equipped coop.  Our coop, by the way, is a small standard shed we purchased and modified.  We put a door on a hinge in one of the side walls for them to exit everyday; and the door locks at night, and we made roosting boxes out of old antique veggie shipping crates. We added a pole as a perch in the shed too.

Chicken Coop Infographics

I plan to share photos of all later, but for now, I wanted to share a great Infographic on the do’s and don’t with a check list so you don’t have to redo it again, like we have.  It shows 46 ideas to help build the best chicken coop.

New Baby Chicks

Below is a photo of my four Rhode Island Red baby chicks being held in a warming coop by my brother until they are a bit bigger to transition to my chicken coop in about a month or so.  I can’t wait to have them home soon.  

In the meantime, I’m accessorizing the coop – and adding more plants on the outside of the outdoor pen area, which by the way, grow well there because of the organic fertilizer (chickens poop droppings in the soil from my prior chickens).  I have a couple boxwood shrubs growing there, some Helleborus, Epimedium, Daffodils (which are coming up now), Azalea, and some container gardens are added here and there too.

Contest to Name My New Chickens

Right now, there is a Facebook contest on potential names for my new chicks.  One friend posted, “Kiev”, “Parm”, “Francais”, and “Wings”. I think he was hungry, and of course, being silly, at the time.

We will see – We will have to check out the chickens’ personalities first — and they do have personalities, believe me.

New Baby Chicks 2014

New Baby Chicks 2014

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

 

New Domain Name for Container Crazy Cathy T

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Hi there!

I just wanted to let you know that I have set up a new domain name for this blog, containercrazyct.com, as the primary domain.

You will see it displayed in the browser’s address bar as such, and it is easier to remember, just think my initials CT or think Connecticut (CT) at the end of containercrazy, and that’s it.

This new domain name change occurred this morning, but it can take as long as 72 hours before it is evident to all internet service providers, so if you don’t see it right away, you will in a couple days.

I selected the title of this blog as Container Crazy Cathy T years ago – and it continues for now.  Please feel free to share it with your gardening friends and container gardening enthusiasts.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

Goofing Around with My Camera (Birds, Wild Turkeys, and More)

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Yesterday was a gorgeous early spring day, and I decided it was a perfect day to get some outdoor activities done.  I brought along my Nikon Coolpix L120 camera to take photos, and decided this morning to post some shots.

March Photos_0001

When I turned on my camera, I discovered some photos taken prior still remaining on the memory card.  I spotted this big momma of a praying mantis on a rock in a garden bed last year.  The shadows on the rock from her body are neat — and that look she gave me as I approached with the camera lens as I zoomed in closer, oh my!  I can see why my friend fears these small but mighty insects.

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Here are some photos of wild turkeys in my yard. I’m pretty sure these were taken Tuesday, as you can see, the snow was beginning to melt away from the unexpected storm on Monday of this week.

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The tom turkeys were getting very showy as they were doing their thing. The red and blue coloring on their faces was really intense that day – not sure if related to being angry or mating.  It is like a nature channel around here.  A week before, they were having battles in the yard – and I posted a video of that on Facebook.

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A shot of their butts as they strut their stuff.  See the turkey on the right corner of this photo – she noticed me – they have great vision – and I guess never need eyeglasses – unlike me!  I took some of these turkey photos through my house windows because they also hear very well and bolt when I open the door.

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Ah yes, aren’t you beautiful?!  He is workin’ it!!

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I wish you could hear the birds in my yard – it is a symphony right now as they bop around and move into the various birdhouses. I got this shot of a bird on my galvanized buckets.  The Angelica Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelica’) is a bronzey color right now as it awakens from winter.  This perennial is tough and enjoys full sun, coming back year after year. It doesn’t need lots of water and grows close to the ground – making it a useful ground cover.  And it grows relatively fast but doesn’t take over.  It makes a great container plant too.  It will plump up soon and eventually turn a bright yellow color as the season warms up.

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The galvanized buckets are located below this new birdhouse we put in last year.  I blogged about our process of using a rigid electrical conduit as the pole.  You can see the steps here.

The two birds setting up their home in this birdhouse above are adorable.  I love how they perch on the birdhouse and fly in and out – they are very happy right now.

However, this next bird is driving me nuts.  We had gutter covers installed, and they move into the ends of the gutters – ugh. They are noisy too.  They have done this on the garage and the house.  In fact, I can hear a rattling noise as they go in and out of the gutter by my home office windows.  We have to do something this weekend to prevent them from using our gutters as a home.  I don’t know what these birds are called, do you?

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We put a blackberry plant below another birdhouse in the backyard, and the birds love to use the plant’s vine as a perch.  This birdhouse is getting a little old but still very useful for our feathered friends.

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When walking past my gold Arborvitae shrub (Thuja plicata ‘4Ever’), I spotted another praying mantis egg case!  That lady at the top of this post was doing a lot of egg laying last season.  I guess I will have lots of praying mantises in the yard this year – see my blog post about where baby praying mantis come from.

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After goofing around, taking general photos for fun, I went to do a container install for a client at the entrance of his store. It was so sunny out, thus the perfect time to work outside.  One customer entering the store called me, “The Martha Stewart of the Package Store,” because this store is a package (a.k.a., liquor) store.  Her statement made me laugh – I liked it – yup, dressing up a liquor store – is fun!!  And the patrons of this store seem to enjoy the changing up of the theme every season – they always comment as they walk by.  It makes me happy. This is what I ended up creating for the Easter season theme this year.

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A friend I know from a gardening event we planned about three years ago came up to chat with me, and she asked, “How do you assemble these?”  Well, I got creative, making a large round disk out of recycled wood and drilled a hole in the center for a post.  Some of the items are attached to the post, and some on the disk below.  When I came up with the idea, I kind of felt like a cake decorator – trying to figure out how to put it together and transport most of it.  More decor is added while on site to finish up the installation.  Because the outdoor location can get windy, all items on the arrangement must be secured. I’m looking forward to installing plants in these barrels next time, after the Easter holiday.  Plants are my favorite to do in these big barrels.

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Most of the non-living decor is felt or made of other materials able to withstand the effects of outdoor winds, dirt, and bright sun.  Sometimes I have used tinsel, but it fades after a few week from the sun.  To see more of the ideas I’ve come up with, see my collages here.  By the way, I’m for hire to do container installs for businesses or homes – so just call me if interested.  It is a great way to welcome your visitors and customers.

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When I got home, after finishing the containers at the store and going to the grocery store, I took a black and white photo of my plus-size cat, Kiwi.  She’s actually been on a diet but it doesn’t seem to show yet. Anyhow, she likes to look through the deck railings at the birds moving around here.  I took a few minutes to get my Vitamin D on the deck before making dinner. In fact, I peeled carrots while sitting on a deck chair – my first deck activity for spring.  Nothing like letting carrot peels fly outdoors.  An easy cleanup by the raccoons tonight, I thought.

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This birdhouse has an interesting story – Steve, my hubby, spotted it at Comstock Ferre & Co in Old Wethersfield, CT, and bought it on the spot.  When we got home, we read the paper provided with the birdhouse about its maker and the materials he used to make it.  Well, low and behold, the slate on the top was salvaged from Broad Brook – the town where we live.  A few months later, I met the birdhouse maker at an art show.  I showed him my pictures of it with blackeyed susan vine flowers twining up, all the way to the top, from last summer.  I can’t wait to put a climbing plant on it again this year.

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Morning hours seems to be a great time to try to capture photos, as I did here this morning.  I’m not a pro photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I just goof around and click for fun.  Maybe someday I’ll take a class so I can figure out how to do it right, but I still think these photos of the birds are just adorable.  I love having all the wildlife in our yard.

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My hands tend to move a bit when I try to zoom and some pics come out blurry – ugh.  But can you see this little guy looking out of the birdhouse?  Too cute!

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I cropped it here to get a closer view.

Happy Friday Everyone!  Let’s hope for more sunny days to come.

Written by Cathy Testa

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Don’t forget to check out Cathy T’s Container Gardening Class on May 24, 2014 in Broad Brook, CT.  See also Cathy T’s Garden Talks.

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