Flashback Friday – Crocosmia Perennial with Fire Red Blooms in a Whiskey Barrel


Good Day Everyone!  

For this week’s Flashback Friday,’ where I select photos from a prior blog post, here is a perennial from the genus Crocosmia in full bloom in the middle of summer.


It was planted in a container garden the size of a whiskey barrel and placed behind a bench in a small garden area by my house. Shown here is the cultivar ‘Lucifer’, and it impressed me quite a bit during the summer of 2013.


“It will flower in the late summer with VIBRANT wands of scarlet and yellow pops of color.  When most annuals tend to fade away from the summer heat, this tall, spiky foliage perennial plant provides a big thrill , and it may be transplanted into your garden in the fall to reuse.” – CT


How could you not adore these vivid red and yellow flower buds and funnel shaped flowers?  They are really eye-catching. The bees and hummingbirds visited often that year, and it was fun to stop by to take photos of them. In addition, the plant’s sword-like foliage is really striking, tall, and makes a showy full thriller in a big container or patio pot.

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

Do you ever wonder if the bee sees the end of the camera and thinks, “please stop taking my photo! I’m busy.”


This perennial is truly grand and enjoys sun to part sun conditions. It makes a wonderful cut flower in floral design arrangements (re-cut the stems and use lukewarm water in a vase to keep the color intensity).

Additionally, this perennial is deer resistant – another bonus!


And best of all – it returned in my container for two straight years, but on the third year, it was hurting a little bit with reduced growth, which was a sign it required better growing conditions, refreshed soil – or a new home – into the ground.

As a perennial here, a Zone 5-9 plant, it will survive in a garden bed for years to come.


To see more details about this plant, visit my blog post complete with videos and reference links:

Crocosmia It will Rock On in your Container Gardens

TGIF Everyone, Cathy Testa


See the 2015 May Container Garden Workshops themed this year Perennials with Power in Container Gardens.



Situation Grim But Not Hopeless for Monarch Butterflies

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Most folks are familiar with the situation for Monarch Butterflies, and if not, here is a wonderful and informative post by “gardeninacity” complete with details, beautiful photos from his garden of flowers feeding these beautiful butterflies, and more. Enjoy! Cathy T


Scientists have just released this year’s report on the number of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico. Those numbers, measured in the amount of land occupied by Monarch colonies, vary from year to year. The last three years, however, have all been at historic lows.


There was an increase over last winter, from 0.67 to 1.13 hectares – compared to an average of 9.2 hectares from 1994 to 2004. (A hectare is about 2.5 acres.)

Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Sunflower. Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Sunflower.

From this we can take heart that Monarchs are not yet doomed, but we should not kid ourselves. Scientists tell us that a Monarch population this small is extremely fragile and vulnerable to extinction.

Monarch butterflies Monarch on Swamp Milkweed.

It’s frightening to think that the Monarch migration could be wiped out through the destruction of less than three acres of Mexican forest. Hard to believe as these were such a common butterfly…

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After This Blizzard – You will be ready for spring – Which Starts in February at the CT Flower and Garden Show


Back in October of 2011, we had a nasty nor’easter in Connecticut, and I made the mistake of ignoring the weather forecasters. I didn’t bother to get bottled water or fresh food to put in the fridge. In fact, I figured they were exaggerating about the anticipated conditions from the storm – after all – it was October.

Day One

Day One

Boy, was that a mistake! We ended up without power at my house for almost two weeks. Wires from the power lines by our driveway were ripped down by fallen trees, and access to our driveway was very dangerous because live wires laid on the ground awaiting repairs for several days.

There was no easy way of getting around town for the supplies I neglected to get in advance. Many roadways were impassable.

Luckily, we had area services offering hot shower facilities and local restaurants serving free hot food. I was so appreciative of these places because flushing the toilet with pool water or cooking by candlelight in a cold house was getting very tiring, believe me.

Never again, I thought.  I will not forgo getting some food and emergency supplies before the next predicted major storm.

Repeat Snow

Repeat Snowblowing by my hubby, Steve, after a major snowstorm in Connecticut.

So, this morning, my first priority – after my workout – was to go to the grocery store to stock up for Blizzard Colbie coming our way later tonight.

When I arrived to the grocery store parking lot at 9:30 am, I noticed an increase in the number of cars not typical for the early morning hours.

Once inside the store, the second thing I noticed was unfamiliar faces.  People were shopping outside of their normal routine – and, I wasn’t the only one getting the task done earlier than normal for me.

When I got to the milk shelves, I realized all of the low-fat milk cartons were gone.  Kind of odd, I thought, but I wasn’t going to stand there to ponder the situation like some other people were doing. I grabbed a container of whole milk, and moved on.

Winter shot of Steve's birdfeeders, loaded one year during a storm.

Winter shot of Steve’s birdfeeders, loaded one year during a storm.

When I got back home to unload my groceries, there was definitely a drop in temperatures and the winds seemed to be picking up.  So I loaded the wood stove with more wood then threw in a load of laundry, made lunch, and did other tasks such as refilling the heated bird water dish outside, and then I finally got back to my desk in my home office.

Daffodil buds about to open

Daffodil buds about to open in the spring – go to a flower show in February in Hartford, CT to see some during the winter months!  See the info below this photo on this blog for details.

The next thing on my mind was the spring calendar.

Yes, the calendar.

As I’ve recently mentioned, a lot of planning and preparing for the spring and summer season happens right now for people in the plant business.

Sitting here looking at the winter’s white landscape through my office window is the perfect time to note events on the calendar for the planting season.

“The Spirit of Spring” – One Way to Break the Winter Blues

One such activity important to note is happening next month –The 34th Annual Connecticut Garden and Flower Show, held in downtown Hartford at the CT Convention Center from Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22nd, 2015.

And the Number 1 reason for going is to break out of the winter blues especially following a blizzard.

The effects of Blizzard Colbie will be long gone by the time the show arrives (hopefully), but the winter chills and scenes will remain in our bones and thoughts for a while during the winter months in Connecticut, unless you decide to get into the spirit of spring by attending this year’s show next month.

Other Top Reasons You Should Go To the Flower Show

To See Trees and Flowers in Bloom

Many spring flowering trees, such as the Kwanzan Cherry tree with its beautiful double-pink flowers, are forced into bloom for the garden displays at the flower show. Not only trees are in bloom but many spring bulbs and perennials will be opening up just in time to be part of the show. As you browse the many landscape displays at the show, you get the sights of days to come with lots of color – unlike the white filled landscape outside your windows right now.  The show’s theme this year is, “The Spirit of Spring,” and it will get you into the spirit when you break away from the chills and enter the show to see all there is to offer.

Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan' bloom at the show

Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ bloom at the show last year – what a sight to see in February !!

See Old Favorites and New Trending Plants

As you walk and look around, you will be reminded of plants you already adore in your own gardens, or those you want to incorporate this upcoming season. And usually, at the show, there will be a new trend being shown – take for example, chicken coops at last year’s show – or vertical gardens, or a cake made of succulent plants – which I saw last year – All of it lets you experience the latest and greatest creativity in the gardening world.  One big trending theme continuing this year is “Grow your Own”– so you may see vegetable gardens to inspire you. Then when you return home to sit by a cozy fire with a glass of wine in your hand, you will know exactly what you wish to order from your seeds catalogs.

To Get a Little Houseplant

Additionally, there are many, many houseplants available for purchase at the show, along with spring bulbs, and things such as garden tools or supplies.  All the gardening things you need – yes, need, for your upcoming gardening season. Why not get them now so you are ready in the spring to garden and plant?  And why not pick up a houseplant to enjoy right now as you wait. Believe me, it is just another layer of getting rid of the winter blues. When you have a nice new plant sitting at your indoor window sill, it eases some of the pain of waiting for spring to arrive.

Preview Local Landscape Designers

If you are in need of a landscape installer or garden designer, or a specialist for a rock wall or pond garden for your home’s outdoor endeavors this season, this shows offers several to meet in person, often with an examples of their products or at least a book of photos of their work. People in the business of installing landscapes, plants, and gardens or hardscape elements are usually very busy with a packed schedule during the summer season, so this is your opportunity to hook up with them now – in the middle of winter – so they can ponder you design and give you more attention before spring arrives.  Get hooked up at the show before the rush begins later in the year.

Learn and Meet Gardening Experts

Seminars run during the show on the 2nd floor, above the main show floor at the convention center. The loud speaker announces the start times for each seminar – so pay attention, and preview the schedule in advance via the website. Some of the seminar rooms fill up quickly. The seminars are free as part of your entrance ticket, so don’t overlook the chance to learn from the gardening experts while you attend. It is a great opportunity to learn new gardening techniques.

General Show Layout

There are about 300 booths to browse showcasing everything from garden tools to plants in full bloom at the Convention Center in downtown Hartford, CT during the show every February. If you haven’t attended before, here’s a general idea of how it is all laid out:

Landscape Displays

As you enter the main entrance to the exhibits, beautiful landscape and garden displays are located to your right.  This is where I tend to start first – looking over all the wonderful display arrangements and plants, refreshing my memory of those which names have escaped me, and meeting local landscape designers or garden club members along the way.  Seeing this area first always gets my juices warmed up. I guess you could think of it as an appetizer to the rest of the show, or if you prefer, save it for last as a dessert to cap off your day visiting the show.

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Shopping, shopping, shopping

In the center rows of the show floor are various vendor booths selling plants and gardening art. That’s when trinket shopping fun begins – at least for me – for what is a visit to a garden show without a bag filled with fun gardening items to take home? Just remember to get your cash in advance for the vendor’s not accepting credit cards, and note there is an ATM on the premises by the show’s main entrance in case you forgot your checks or cash.


Spring container garden with little decor – find the decor like this at the flower show

Floral Art Galore

And to the far left of the show floor are the gorgeous floral art arrangements judged by committees every year, along with many handmade items in more booths, from paintings to garden gloves, jewelry or sachets of dried herbs and flowers – by the time you arrive to this area, your feet start to get a little tired, so you may want to rest a bit and get a snack, if you didn’t bring one along for the much needed energy.

Time for a Snack

Along the far back wall of the show floor is a café area where you may get some lunch, such as wrap sandwiches, salads, soda, bottled water, etc. Usually there are one or two small stand-up style booths on the show floor offering wine or beer too, scattered between the rows of the booths of various vendors.

Fans Visit Stephanie

Fans Visit Stephanie Cohen, coauthor of “The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer” at the Seminar Rooms.

Seminar Rooms

Above the exhibit floor are the seminar speaker rooms. This year, the Emmy-nominated TV Host, and best-selling author and America’s top Lifestyle Expert, Mar Jennings, headlines the show. To see when he is speaking, visit the seminar schedule posted on the show’s website, or check the show booklet available upon arrival, available for free at the main entrance.

Other Show-Going General Tips

Discounted Tickets:

Take the time to pick them up from your local garden center to save time so you don’t have to wait in the ticket line when you arrive, however, the line is usually not too bad, especially during the weekday. But you save a bit on the ticket by getting them early.  Two places which offer them are Revay’s Garden Center in East Windsor and The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, Connecticut.

1st Spring Display

1st Spring container garden – little birds and moss dress up the planter – find things like this at the show.

Traveling there:

It’s easy – Either way, traveling on I-91 North or South, all you have to remember is 29A (the exit to the Convention Center) and if traveling I-91 South, go: RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT. Seriously, you take the right exit, you stay in the right lane, take the first exit on the right (Columbus Boulevard), turn RIGHT onto Columbus Boulevard, and then the parking garage is on your, yes, RIGHT.  Same with I-91 North, except the only difference is the exit will be on your left, then do RIGHTS again.

Parking Garage

I always park in the adjacent parking garage to the convention center because I’m a weenie, and because, if possible, I’ll leave my coat in the car and walk very quickly to the main lobby entrance so I don’t have to carry my coat around all day at the show, but sometimes it may be too cold to do that – especially because the garage is kind of an odd setup – You feel like you are going through some kind of mouse maze as you follow the signs and painted floors leading you to the lowest level of the convention center, known as Level P1 of the parking garage.

You will probably see one or two buses lined up at the glass doors to the main entrance on this P1 Level – so, if you haven’t been there before – look for the buses at those glass doors. Walk thru the glass door entrances and go straight to proceed to the escalators on your right, which lead up to the show floor.

Ticket Booths on the Main Floor

There will be booths in front of you to purchase tickets, and there’s a big bathroom in the back corner if you need to go before entering the main doors after purchasing your tickets. There is no coat check unfortunately. Usually a couple small display tables have the show’s booklet listing the seminar speakers and showing the floor layout – so grab one before you enter.

Also, note, if you take the next set of escalators up from the show floor main entrance, you will arrive to the seminar area.  Bear right (again, those rights!), proceed down a hall to get to the seminar rooms on your left with windows to your right.  The seminars are free and part of the show’s ticket price, so just review your booklet for the schedule of speakers.

Take a bag – heck, take a small carry-on type suitcase

Another tip – before you hit the road in the first place, is bring some bags with handles with you to put your pamphlets and other small purchases into, or maybe even a small carry-on luggage with wheels. I took one holiday shopping with me this year and found it to be super handy as I rolled it behind me filled with gifts. The show also sells some of those wheeled carts, if you get desperate and finally decide to buy one.

Cool things you can find at flower show - this one by Puddingstone Farm

Cool things you can find at flower show – this one by Puddingstone Farm

Food or Restaurants

As I mentioned, there are options at the show for sandwiches and salads, but I suggest you also bring a bottle of water and maybe some light snacks for some energy, because if you want to see it all – you will need it, or just have a nice hearty breakfast before you leave for the show.

There are several nice restaurants in downtown Hartford, many of which I don’t go to often enough, but check out the list if you feel like having a sit down dinner after your do the show. Note that some of the restaurants may not open until later in the day if you are looking for a lunch option, check their hours first.

Arch Street Tavern

One restaurant we enjoy is located almost directly across from the convention center in an old brick building, called Arch Street Tavern. It’s the type of place where you can enjoy a good brew while sitting at a very long wooden bar. It also has plenty of booth seating. They serve great burgers, wraps, salads, and comfort type foods – all very yummy.

If you exit the convention center on the side where you entered the parking garage, just cross Columbus Boulevard to walk to Arch Street. There is a small parking area to the right side of the tavern, with limited spaces, so walking is a good choice. Or do what I did, ask your hubby to meet you there, which he was happy to oblige as he sipped some brews waiting for me to finish walking the flower show!


Blooms of Brunnera perennial

Blooms of Brunnera perennial

Photo Taking

I’ve tried capture photos with my iPhone or camera at the show, and it is always difficult to get the right lighting.  Some areas are dark or have lights beaming at specific areas, so I have found my iPad takes the best photos for an amateur, but you will see pro photographers clicking away. If interested in their shots, ask them for a business card.  Also, the temperature in the building fluctuates in my opinion, so dressing in layers is helpful – and wearing good shoes for the cement floor.

Review your Pamphlets

Every year, I fill my bag with pamphlets from the garden center booths, photographers, garden tour places, and any business card I grabbed – but a lot of times, I don’t look at those for a while, so I have to remind myself to do so!  Take the time to do that – visit a new garden center in season – one you discovered at the show, or remember to jot down some dates to do a garden tour – one you may have learned about at the show.  The vendors, exhibitors, and designers pay big bucks to showcase their products at the Connecticut Garden and Flower Show!  Help them make it worth their while.

Photo Attribution Below by FreeDigitalImages.net

Photo Attribution Below by FreeDigitalImages.net

Weather Alerts

One caution too – if there is winter weather, a snow storm, or something heavy duty like our blizzard! – check the weather alerts. One year, my parents attempted to go to the show, and said the line off the exit was very long due to poor weather conditions backing up highway traffic, and then the parking was full adjacent to the center, and so guess what? They gave up and went home!  But there are other options for parking and things have improved since then, but in inclement weather, it helps to look over the other parking options on the web site. Attending on a day with inclement weather is nice though – because it will be less crowded at the show usually – unless it is a blizzard – which hopefully we will only get one – the one heading here tonight!

Cathy Testa


“A Blog to share Container Garden Passions and Nature Combined with Art”

Why Attend This Show – Per the Show’s Website:

The show’s website lists the following reasons (or highlights) on why you should attend:

  • Over 300 booths filled with plants, flowers, fertilizers, garden tools, tractors & mowers, patio & lawn furniture and more!
  • Floral & garden related artisan section with one of a kind artwork, garden ornaments, jewelry, photography to name a few.
  • Non-profit and educational exhibits
  • Floral Arranging Demonstrations
  • Seed planting for children
  • Hours of educational seminars – Meet America’s Top Lifestyle Expert, Mar Jennings
  • Friday 10 AM – 3 PM Suffield High School Agriscience will make corsages free of charge for attendees
  • Soil Testing Booth # 413 & 415
  • http://www.ctflowershow.com/
Prunus tree - April Blooms

Prunus tree – April Blooms

Flashback Friday – Tree Frog in a Birdhouse

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Can you believe this photo is real?!!!  

Frog Home

Frog Home, Photo taken by Cathy Testa in Bloomfield, CT, 2009

This photo of a tree frog sitting comfortably in a birdhouse hanging in a tree was taken by me when I worked at a private garden nursery in Bloomfield, CT during the summers while I was taking courses at UCONN’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2009.

One day, the homeowner, who was also my boss at that time, a landscape designer, came up to me to say, “Come see a tree frog in our birdhouse.”

Well, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Just look at how the frog’s hands are crossed. Talk about enjoying his new residence. I wonder what the bird thought when he peaked inside.

I saw a lot of things at their nursery when I worked there. Their greenhouse and plants were setup behind their home, and one day, I saw a bear.

Well, to be accurate – the bear saw me. I didn’t have a chance to see him because when someone yelled out to say there was a bear approaching me, as I was working at a potting bench in the very back of the nursery, I ran so fast to my car, I didn’t take the time to turn around to see it.

The funny thing was usually I had a radio on to keep me company, but that day, it wasn’t on and only a slight breeze in the air was making sounds as the trees around the property were rustling in the wind.

In fact, I was really deep into the zone, potting up plants and arranging some container gardens for a client. That bear could have walked up to bite me in the rear, and I would have not seen it coming.

Another interesting creature, which visited their property regularly, was a very long black rat snake. The first time I saw it moving by some pots on the ground, it startled me – but it didn’t scare me like the bear did because snakes tend to move on quickly.

However, after that sighting – every time I saw a glimpse of a black hose on the ground for watering pots, I would hesitate to make sure it wasn’t that black rat snake again.

Coneflower Butterfly

Coneflower Butterfly – Photo take in 2009 by Cathy Testa in Bloomfield, CT

Dragon flies would dance around in the sky and butterflies would rest upon flowers. One day, I found a dead dragon fly and took a photo of it as I gently placed it on this leaf.

Dead Dragon Fly

Dead Dragon Fly, Deceased on a leaf – Bloomfield, CT – 2009 – Photo by Cathy Testa

Bee in Canna

Bee in Canna, Bloomfield, CT – 2009 – Photo by Cathy Testa

Even though I worked the grounds alone most days, because the landscape crew would leave after gathering up their plants and garden tools in the early mornings, I was never lacking company.

Another frog lived in the greenhouse in a pot filled with water plants under the benches. I remember reading once that frogs are territorial. He was there every day peering up at me as I walked by on my daily routines.

So, for this week’s Flashback Friday, I had to share the memories of working at a private garden nursery, and take a look back at that frog in the birdhouse.

Happy Friday Everyone,

Cathy Testa

What do Horticulture People do during January? Plan and Rest, or Rest and Plan!

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Around this time of year, I see people in the horticulture industry either vacationing somewhere tropical for a much needed rest before spring arrives, placing their plant orders, preparing calendars for the upcoming growing season, and attending conferences to keep learning more about growing, selling, and sharing their plant passions with garden enthusiasts.

Thus, in January, our minds are very busy with planning and hopefully taking some time to rest – because in the growing season, it is a busy time and non-stop.

Container Crazy CT’s 2015 Monthly Snapshot Calendar

A calendar depicting activity underway on my calendar for my clients and gardening friends has been posted on this blog, under the “Nature with Art Programs” drop-down menus. Or you can see it here:

ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar (2)


You will see, there are a lot of fun gardening shows and conferences underway. I’ve already ordered my plants from my local Connecticut grower for the upcoming spring season, specifically for Cathy T’s May Container Garden Workshops scheduled on “two” dates this year – May 16th and May 23rd.  SAVE THE DATES!  And for visits to local farmers markets.


In April, there is an Eclectic Wind Chimes Making Class – and we are very excited to have lined up a very special guest artist, Laura Sinsigallo, whom is originally from the Broad Brook / East Windsor, CT area. Click the links above to see the details. We already have sign-ups – it will be a fun way to kick off spring.

ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar (3)


The 2nd half of the 2015 year will bring on Garden Walk and Talk Tours, which were started up last year, and are FREE. Save the Dates – first will be an amazing vegetable garden in Willington, CT by another talented artist and garden lover. More details will be posted, but to learn more – visit the drop down menus on the top banner of this blog page.


In September, a Guided Tour of the Brimfield Antique Show is on the schedule as well – Yup, you can go with Cathy T – and let me tell you – this is such a fun event to attend, and at the end of the season is a good time to get the best bargains and try to haggle with the sellers – something I’ve learned to do over time.  Want to go? Save the Date, Click the above drop down menus for the details and contact forms.


If you are a local artist interested in showcasing your products and sharing your skills with a captivated audience, feel free to contact me. The theme is creating with Nature and Art.  Don’t be shy – reach out!  We’d love to hear from you.  Same goes for anyone interested in sharing their garden with us – it is really a great way to network, meet new friends, learn tips you have used in your own garden – big or small – we are in!

Email: containercathy@gmail.com or containercrazyct@gmail.com.

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

Flashback Friday – Golden Head Planter with a native Autumn Fern

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For this week’s Flashback Friday

Brilliance Autumn Fern in a Golden Head Planter

Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’
Zone 5-8/9; Perennial and Native

Head Planters ContainerCrazyCT_0001

In season, this fern’s upright fronds remain a dark green color, as shown in the photo above when it was growing in the container during the early 2012 summer. The beautiful golden face planter with splashes of black was a find from the Pottery Barn store. Knowing it would glimmer in the summer sun, there was no hesitation to get one. Placing a fern in it was a good choice because the planter did not have a drain hole, and this fern can take moist conditions. I did not want to risk cracking this pot so a drain hole was not drilled into the bottom, as typically done so the roots may breath and not rot from overly wet soils. However, ferns can withstand moist conditions with appropriate controlled watering in pots. If I felt the soil was too wet from a rainfall, I would tip the pot to let the excess water drain out.

Head Pots (1)

The fern’s name includes the word ‘Autumn.’ I’ve read this is because when the plant is young, it is a copper color, but it also takes on highlights of copper later in the summer season. Here it was moved to a shadier spot on my deck that season because this fern prefers dappled shade.  It was easy to grow in a container garden (or head planter). Some perennials will return in stored containers – which is a topic I will be teaching in detail in the 2015 season when two Container Garden Workshops are scheduled in May.

Head Pots (3)

The golden color of the head pot is really rich.  As it was sitting next to another container garden with mixed plantings, including the thriller – a dark leaved Colocasia (elephant ear or taro), which was the cultivar, ‘Diamond Head,’ the effect was gorgeous. Colocasias are plants I plan to include in my plant ordering list every year. I love foliage and love how the big leaves toss from side to side in the wind and the plant will last all the way into the fall season, up to the last frost date, plus they are easily stored over the winter for regrowing every season here in my Connecticut planting zones (5-6).  By the way, the plant with yellow and red leaves in-front of the elephant ear is called Amaranthus tricolor – it was noticed during a “Walk and Talk” Pond Garden Tour last summer in my friend’s planter near her three-tiered water gardens which everyone seemed to like it and asked what the plant was. It really stands out in the right situations and has a unique look to it.

This particular Colocasia cultivar was not too big for its pot, even though its leaves reached about 3-4′ tall, because it has a compact habit.  While the Autumn Fern is a semi-evergreen perennial (hardy to zones 5-9 – and native), the elephant ear is a tropical type plant (not hardy to CT), but hardy to zones 8/9-10.  The Colocasia is a sun to part sun/shade plant so the exposure was fine next to my beautiful and elegant golden head planter with faces all around it.

So, again, the two pots near each other in a shady spot on my deck was a good combo for they enjoyed the shady mornings and dappled sun later in the day.  By the way, Autumn Ferns are deer resistant – good for gardens with deer eating issues. Most ferns grow best with a high organic matter content in the soil when grown in the garden.

Head Pots (2)

The following year, I planted a succulent in my golden head pot, a Kalanchoe. But, because I was unable to drill a drain hole, I inserted the plastic pot it was in into the golden head pot so water could drain freely below it without creating a overly wet base.

Kalanchoe plants prefer the opposite exposure of ferns.  They enjoy sun and dry soils, able to withstand drought like conditions, within reason, in a small pot. Ironically, the leaves on this plant also highlighted some copper to red coloring on the edges. Matching plants to pots should not be exact matches (what I call matchy-matchy) but connect to the pot somehow perhaps in a subtle way – as done with this fern and succulent because the pot of golden to copper colors highlighted the copper tones of the plants used – it just worked – at least for me – I loved the look!

Why Use Head Planters?

Head pots make heads turn – When used in your gardens as art, or in special pots as decor elements in your outdoor spaces, and inside the home during the winter season.  And when you change up the plant in a pot – you change up the feeling, look, and affect of the pot or planter itself.  A big fern like plant gives it an exotic hairdo style, a smaller succulent may keep the head pot looking tidy and neat – it is fun to play with and – thus – I will share more in my ‘Flashback Friday’ posts about my head planters of other styles soon.

Happy Friday Everyone – T.G.I.F.

Cathy Testa

“A Blog to share Container Garden Passions and Nature Combined with Art”

For more information about this fern shown in my new Flashback Friday posts, see the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder.

Evolvulus glomeratus – One of the Blues in Nature with a Surprising Twist


Last November, I spoke to a group of Advance Master Gardeners at the Tolland County Extension Center about design compositions for container gardens and how to achieve growth success.

My session was broken up into 5 modules, which was certainly more than enough to cover two hours of talking, and it included information such as how to carry the elements of design learned with container gardening to small gardens, and methods to extend the growing season by utilizing sound gardening principles, as well as my own “5 Must-Do’s” for growth success in container gardens.

To begin my lecture, I wanted to share a story. The idea being, by sharing my story of a container garden installation I did for a wedding client over the summer, I could explain how many factors came into play to meet the bride’s requests.

Elements Circle - MG Class

My goal was to discuss the different elements required to meet a client’s needs in the container gardening world, such as plant knowledge, plant care, experience with various plants, and of course inspiration – for one requires inspiration most of all to succeed. Without inspiration, I told the audience, there is no passion behind your work and design compositions.

And, I also added the element of “experimentation.” This is certainly needed and gained over time. In the plant world, no matter which field you decide to work in, experimentation is an important element.

So, my story of assembling, caring for, and eventually delivering container gardens for my new bride client over the summer continued.

One of the first things the bride told me was her color theme when we discussed her desire to dress up her planned outdoor space with container gardens for their wedding celebration.

Color is of utmost importance for all weddings, but when she told me her three bloom color choices included cobalt blue, a little ping of concern went off in my head.

I was immediately concerned with this particular flower color because blue, in general, is uncommon in nature. Thus, I began to explain this to the bride, but also assured her we could incorporate some garden art and mesh ribbon to provide the punch of cobalt blue, as well as seek out cobalt blue pots. 


During my talk to the Advanced Master Gardeners, I put up this slide above.  The text within it is from the website called, mnn or mother nature network. As you can see, “there is no true blue pigment in plants.

Ways to Get the Blues

The bride was very understanding of the blue flower color dilemma when I explained to her plants in container gardens are unlike plants used for floral design. Floral design flowers are harvested, cut and stored in refrigerated facilities to be kept perfect up to the day of assembly.

Plants in container gardens are living, ever-changing, and would require care and attention up to her wedding celebration date which was the very end of August – just another factor to consider, for the weather in August in Connecticut could be hot and humid.

But as I said, the bride was very understanding and wished to proceed – and so did I for I certainly had the element of “inspiration” in my spirits and was extremely excited as well as honored to be hired to do the job of installing container gardens for her special upcoming event.

Having plant knowledge enabled me to easily decide on several blue toned flowering plants to use, as well as her other color choices, which were lime green and white.

Evolvulus glomeratus was just one of the blue blooming plants I decided to use – but this plant in particular was new to me – thus, it was an “experimentation.”

Evolvulus (4)

I spotted it at a local garden center. Its low-habit, pretty blue petals with white centers, and the fact it was noted to bloom from June to frost, made it a perfect candidate for my goals.

When asking a very young sales lady what she thought of this plant, she assured me it would bloom all throughout summer – which was of key, and one of the attributes I was looking for in this project’s plant candidates, because the wedding outdoor celebration was to be held on the very last day of the month in August.

So, although I knew very little about this plant, an annual in our Connecticut planting zones, I decided to take a few starter pots of them to get them growing into larger specimens over the summer months, and take a leap of faith that this new plant to me, Evolvulus glomeratus, would be a good performer for my purposes as a filler in the container gardens.

On top of not knowing much about the plant, it did not have a plant tag in its pots when I purchased them, but ironically, a friend planted one in her yard and I noticed it when visiting her – so she let me take a photo of her plant tags that day.

I always say, plant tags don’t come with warning labels, and there was something missing on this tag which affected my plans.

Evolvulus (5)Everything listed, such as “blooming til frost, no deadheading necessary, and easy care” fit the bill for my needs to meet the client’s expectations, but it had a habit which surprised me one day, as I browsed my stock to check for any insect problems or concerns.

Evolvulus (6)

Imagine my surprise when one afternoon I discovered the flowers were rolled up as tight as tiny cigars! Upon researching it via the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder website, a site I mentioned to the Advance Master Gardeners as a very useful resource for plant research, I saw it noted in black and white – Flowers usually close up at night and on cloudy days.

“Ack!” I thought. “Oh no, these are growing so well; their blue petals are so pretty and it’s low habit is perfect as a filler plant in the wedding container gardens, but now what?!”

I decided to email a hort friend, whom maintains gardens for several clients, asking if she ever used it, and her response was, “Yah, the tag said it would ‘blow my mind,’ but to be honest, it really didn’t. I didn’t like it as much as I expected.”

The moral of my story, that day as I spoke to the Advance Master Gardener group, is there are so many considerations required when putting container gardens together for client installations. I needed the plants to be long lasting, tough, have a bloom period at the end of the season, be resistant to insects or other plant related problems, and serve the correct role in my container gardens (thrilller, spiller, filler) for this special client. The “elements” spoken of earlier all came into play.

Evolvulus (7)

When I realized the flowers on this plant with blue blooms had the potential to close up on cloudy days or at night (and the wedding start time was late afternoon), I had to make a decision. And, my decision was to proceed with using them regardless. Risking the blooms rolling up would be something I would have to take. After all, there were many other reliable plants in the container gardens which met the bride’s color choices based on my knowledge of the plants. I knew the other plants used based on her other two flower color choices of lime green and white, along with other blue flower plants, would perform well. The show must go on – and Evolvulus glomeratus (noted as a non-vining morning glory like tender perennial, or referred to as “me-me’s” by the young lady at the nursery where I picked them up) ended up being the perfect filler.

Evolvulus (9)

After venting about it on Instagram, I proceed with my project of caring for all the plants until assembly and delivery time. After all the fretting, planning, caring, and obsessing, it was all worth it because I will never forget the reactions of the bride, groom, and mother of the groom, when I opened up my trailer filled with lush container gardens for their event. It was just like being on a reveal show. Their reactions being so positive, I felt I achieved my goals as best as I possibly could considering all the elements required to get the job done.

Evolvulus (8)

Cathy Testa
(860) 977-9473 (cell)
Broad Brook, CT

Evolvulus (10)

To learn more about Cathy Testa’s Container Garden Rental Services, see the menu bars above or click here.

Cathy T’s next speaking engagement is at the Farmington Garden Club on Monday, February 9th, at 11:30 am. Location: Farmington Main Library, 6 Montieth Drive, Farmington, CT. Topic: Incorporating Decorative Edibles in Mixed Container Gardens and Cathy T’s “5-Must Do’s for Growth Success”, along with Trending Talks.

Check back in to learn more about the other plants used in this design – They will be shared on this blog!

Thank you!

Flashback Friday – Coco Bowls with Succulents

Coconut Bowls Turned into Adorable Decor

Coconut Bowls Turned into Adorable Decor

Flashback Fridays – NEW!

It is fun to look back on memories, and thus, I thought – Why not share some of my prior photos of blog posts from earlier days. Some of my blog pages get buried (i.e., I don’t think everyone knows if you click on a menu bar’s title, such as Container Garden Services, a whole page appears of photos of my container gardens.)

Coco Bowls from The Big Island

For today’s ‘Flashback Friday,’ I selected the photos of coco bowls obtained in Hawaii a few years back. Little succulents, such as Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum), were carefully inserted into the coco bowls. A single hole was drilled into the bottom of each bowl to allow water to drain out.

Coco bowls with bling

Coco bowls with bling

See these cacti plants above – Well, guess what? – They are still growing in the coco bowls after, I think at least 4 years. For the life of me, I can’t recall the name of the plant – but I will come across it in my books in no time to share with you, but this plant has as sharp tips as you can imagine on the tips – Literally, it could be a weapon.

Update: I located the plant tag for the Agave in the two coco bowls shown above: Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’ — No wonder I couldn’t remember! That’s a long cultivar name. A century plant, and I do believe they could last a century.



At the show, this is how I displayed a grouping of them. They sold very well. And, I could not part with a few for myself. The bowls themselves are a treasured item because it is a natural material and from a place I visited on a special journey several years back, on the big island of Hawai’i.

Coco Portulaca

Coco Portulaca

Portulaca was put into one as well, but the hens and chick plants and other various succulents really fit better and looked better, in my opinion. You may wonder how I watered them due to the plants top portion eventually covering the top of the bowl, and basically all I do is hold the coco bowl under the faucet and position it so the water runs into the bowl as much as possible, then let the excess drain out.


The coco bowls are truly amazing pots; they don’t rot, last a long time, are adorable to show and even hold. I wrote about our entire adventure to the island and posted it on my original website at the time of putting these together. It is rewarding to look back at the memories, especially the “lava” boat story at the end of my e:Publication. Check out the photos – what a blast.

So, that’s it for my new ‘Flashback Fridays.’

Hey, fellow garden bloggers – Want to join me on this idea?  Share your Flashback – I’d love to see it.

Cathy Testa

Have you been to the Chicago Flower Show?


Got a question for my fellow garden and plant related bloggers out there –

Which Garden Shows have you been to, if you don’t mind sharing?  And have you ever attended the Chicago Garden Show held in March at the Navy Pier?

Reason I ask, is I read some not so pleasant reviews about the Chicago Flower Show – and just wondered, if you have attended, did you find it of value, could you rate it or give some insight to what it was like – and what to expect?

As far as flower shows go, I’ve been to:

Philadelphia Flower Show – HUGE – I spent two days each time attending, and stayed in an adjacent hotel – perfect!  This show is spectacular but tiring – on your feet for hours with thousands of people (so if you don’t like huge crowds, forget it), but a super treat if you don’t mind hours of viewing with tons of passionate fellow gardeners (check out the Man Cave at the show there if you go – rest your feet and watch t.v. guys!). My hubby took me to this show, and and we make it an adventure – taking the train from home, and visiting other local attractions in Philly. Fortunately, the train stops in a town next to us – so, we didn’t mind the journey from here to Philly at all – it was fun. The Philadelphia Flower Show entrance always amazes me – there are moments at that show I will never forget – huge, gigantic aw-inspiring displays and a HUGE wine tasting event – everything is absolutely grand at this one. To see my post in 2012 of my visit to this show, themed tropical and Hawaiian style, click HERE.

Love going to the Philadelphia Flower Show when I can!

Love going to the Philadelphia Flower Show when I can!  Photo from my 2011 Visit to the show.

The Hartford, CT show – known as the “CT Flower and Garden Show” – Of course, I can not miss this one – it is in my area, and I know some of the speakers, and take my gardening friends along.  It is very nice, and well-done, like it – but no where as big as Philly – one of the largest in the world I believe, so to compare the two – well, that’s not appropriate, but I would recommend this show to anyone.  It has speakers each show day on an upper level above the show floor exhibits – all free presentations, and very nice landscape displays with a balance of vendors.  So it is not too commercially oriented, and offers a great deal to see and enjoy in the middle of February. Many Connecticut nurseries showcase there, and there are restaurants in town to enjoy along with other features in Hartford, CT (e.g., The CT Science Center in downtown Hartford, CT). To see a post about my visit to this show, well, you know – click HERE.

Rhode Island Flower Show – It is held the same time period in February as the CT Flower and Garden Show – and that kind of irritates me!  Of course, you could do one and head to the other, but still, I just wish they weren’t on the same exact dates. Still haven’t been to this one. It’s on my list however.

Boston Flower Show – I’ve attended this one three times, once via bus with a group of CT hort people, and twice with a friend. It was loads of fun cause its held in a CITY and the food choices at nearby downtown restaurants are wonderful (if you go, check out Boston Legal Seafood “Harborside” where you can sit at tables facing the water – food is outstanding). The Boston Flower Show is bigger than Hartford’s show, and has a very nice balance of plant related displays as well as garden related vendors. It’s a keeper, especially when you can book a hotel room which is walking distance to the event so you can go back and forth to unload you fun gardening purchases. To see my post when I visited this show in 2013, click HERE.


Anyhow, my intent was to get some specific feedback on the Chicago show – If you have attended, what did you think of it – how would you compare it in regards to size, etc.?

Did it offer plenty of plant related displays and information, or was it more commercially oriented – like having things non-related to gardening and plants?

In the windy city – gosh, it can be very cold in winter – so to trek out there – for me would require a flight, hotel, and all that blues music in surrounding venues – thus, interested VERY MUCH in your feedback – Comment Away!! Thank you!

Cathy T of ContainerCrazyCT

P.S.  The show in Seattle, WA looks AMAZING, titled the Northwest Flowers & Garden Show.  I fell in love with their FB posts on it last year, their seminar topics were incredibly well done and seemed in sync with the current gardening trends and times, BUT talk about far for moi to travel to do that one — It is across the country for me from Connecticut, but heck – side trip to Hawaii??

Perhaps some day!! Wink-wink.

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.  Don't you just love the green vest!  Their display won awards, every year at this show!!

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer. Don’t you just love the green vest? Their display has won several awards. I love the big red banana plant in the left corner in a container garden (Ensete)!

Quick Monthly Pic of the 2014 Year


January – A visit to a garden center reveals a tray of lettuce growing happily in a warm greenhouse.

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT - Comstock Ferry

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT – Comstock Ferry

February – A walk on my father’s property in the bright winter sun, wearing a silly hat – just for fun!

Cathy Testa_0004

March – A beautiful Amaryllis burst open its white blooms. The scent of its presence fills the room.

One more shot

One more shot

April – Two lovely birds meet on a perch. The puffs of their feathers and little o’ chirps.


May – A photo was posted of an orchid cactus bloom. So vivid against the blue sky.

Goofing w Camera_0002

June – An attendee graciously poses with her pot – the May class was fun, we learned a lot!

An Attendees Creation at the 2014 Class!  Gorgeous!

An Attendees Creation at the 2014 Class! Gorgeous!

July – A group of us gathered to hear about a homeowner’s pond gardens. Walk and Talk Garden Tours first year.

Attendees Listening to Talk by Rhonda

Attendees Listening to Talk by Rhonda

August – A hummingbird moth visits a butterfly bush during another Walk and Talk Home Gardens Tour.

Sphinx Moth on Butterfly Bush Blooms

Sphinx Moth on Butterfly Bush Blooms

September – A shot taken mid summer in-front of some pots – being prepared for a special event.

Cathy Testa at Home

Cathy Testa at Home

October – A group of attendees getting into their mix as we learned how to make Hypertufas as part of the Nature with Art Programs offered by ContainerCrazyCT.

ContainerCrazyCT Hypertufa Making Class_0006

November – A view of my chicken coop covered with Kiwi vines and surrounded by mixed plantings.

Chicken Coop Pen at Cathy T's

Chicken Coop Pen at Cathy T’s

December – A winter container garden installed at a local business. One of many with fresh greens and decor.

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean's Hair Salon

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean’s Hair Salon

What will 2015 bring?  Check in to see…