Coco Coir – A New Potting Media

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Some people may say coco coir (made from the husks of coconuts) is relatively new on the scene while others may state it has been here for a while – but one thing is for sure – it is an alternative for potting up your plants or starting seeds, and it is growing in popularity.

When I spotted some coir blocks being showcased at the CT Flower and Garden Show last weekend by FibreDust LLC, I was sure to step up and hear what the young gentleman was saying about it.

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As he continued to talk about coir and how to use it to my friend, I noticed another person walked up and was observing. My senses told me, this person is the owner of this product, so I walked up immediately and shook his hand to introduce myself.

There was probably an air of excitement in my voice because I want to learn more about coir. It is being added to potting mixes (as an alternative to peat moss). You may also use coir in its straight form, sold in compressed blocks which are soaked in water to expand for use as a potting media. Once expanded, it looks almost exactly like peat (as shown above in the photo taken at the garden show).

During my garden presentations on container gardening, I highlight some of the new options for potting mixes on the scene, and there are many to choose from – it can feel overwhelming at times, but it is all good news because many new potting mixes are geared towards sustainability and incorporating organic materials, and coco coir is one of them.

As I discussed the benefits of coir with the distributor of the coir product, Sam Ahilan, President of FibreDust LLC, decided to invite me to see how they process their coir product at his facility in Cromwell, Connecticut. And of course, I responded immediately with a yes to his generous invite.

Facility Tour

This is what I saw yesterday at their facility located in Cromwell:

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Shredded coir bundled up for distribution to customers were first on the tour list. There were many ready to go sitting on pallets awaiting the skid loader. These are processed via a large production machine, shown below, where coco blocks are shredded and water is added.

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Here it is nice and fluffy for bundling up in the bales above. Sam was kind enough to have the machine turned on by his crew to show me how this is done in their production facility. I have to say, being a container gardening lover, it was difficult to not reach my hand in to feel the coir – it is very light, fluffy, airy, and soft – and it looks very similar to peat.

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Sam is working with a local grower of tomatoes to grow tomatoes in his coir cubes. Here they are lining up their cubes and getting them set for irrigation and planting soon. Fortunately, for me, the sun was shining so it was a moment of “ah” in a greenhouse. Nutrients are added to the coir later in the process as the plants grow. The grower told me he has people taste the tomatoes along side of homegrown tomatoes in the garden, and many can not distinguish the difference. I wanted to tell him, I would have to do a taste test with my father’s home grown tomatoes, but I believed him. Why not? They are being grown in the warm sun of a greenhouse with correct temperatures and in a growing medium which has the similar qualities of peat.

In another larger warehouse space are miles of coconut fibre based products – from mats for landscaping or basket lining purposes to cubes for potted plants. Coir is used in many fashions, and not sold just in blocks or cubes. There are small round disks available to start seeds, which if you are into seed growing, I’m sure you have seen before.

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I asked Sam to hold a sample of a coarse form of the coconut husks which may be used as to increase pore space per Sam. I took many more photos, but I plan to share those at my garden talks and workshops this summer, so I’m saving some for my attendees. This is just a sneak peek!

More About Coir

As I noted above, coir is becoming popular because it can be used as a substitute or alternative for all peat moss based soils, reducing the use of valuable wetlands where sphagnum peat moss is usually harvested and used as a base in many potting mixes. Peat moss is more porous than coco coir and has been used for centuries in the gardening industry for its stability and consistency for growing plants.

However, I wish to note that I don’t think using peat moss is totally all bad and why I feel this way is discussed during my garden presentations – I believe the key is finding a balance, trying out new products which are more sustainable, and testing how they work for your gardening needs to see the results for yourself.

Coir also has attributes such as a good water to air ratio, which is needed in container gardens and patio pots especially because oxygen is required in the root zone for plants to grow. Healthy roots are a result of a balance of water and air, another topic highlighted in my garden presentations.

And speaking of water, coir holds water well, which may be good for reducing watering routines in patio pots – but as I mentioned, I prefer to test it out because it drains and dries out slower too. I will see how coco coir works for me with my container gardens, and share my findings with you along the way. This is one of my goals this year in particular.

Per my readings about the coir products on the scene, the pH is usually neutral, but because the source of the product varies, it should be checked, at least for high production scenarios. Also, nutrients must be added to this product as your plants advance in growing. Unlike some potting mixes for container gardening which often have a pre-charged slow fertilizer added to the soilless mix for you.

One really cool thing about using coir, is they are taking a waste product from the production of other coconut based products, such as doormats and brushes, and reusing it in a new way. It is always a good thing and a bonus when we accomplish the goal of renewing a resource. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

And because coir is compressed to reduce shipping costs, and is easily restored to a fluffy consistency, it saves on shipping expenses, thus reducing more waste. Additionally, it stores well for a long time and all it takes is some water to expand it into a huge portion for use in your pots – if not as a straight growing mix, but maybe as a filler, again something I’m testing out this year. It is great for starting seeds too.

One thing I also like about the coco blocks used as a potting soil (called Sponge Ease) is how easily they are to carry, store, and use. They come in 7 x 7″ blocks (small enough to fit in a purse!), but expand to an amount substantial enough to fill a small to medium sized pot (10 quarts) by putting the block in a bag and filling it with 3 quarts of water. Plus they are packaged with biodegradable labeling, again reducing waste like the big plastic bags which are used for soilless mixes.

You will most likely see these coco coir products in garden supply magazines, some nurseries, even perhaps your grocery store – and of course, for sale at my workshops on container gardening and patio pots, where I will demo the whole process and how to use this potting soil. If you would like to purchase some, feel free to contact me (email is below).

Oh, and by the way, coco coir is used with hydroponics growing systems (growing plants in liquid – sometimes with some soil media and sometimes without) – which is another whole subject I’m exploring – Why? Because hydroponics is a hot topic today too, but it is a bit complicated or requires some solid knowledge of the how to’s.

Bottom line – It was a real treat to see the coco coir production process, various growing coco coir products, and meet the President of FibreDust LLC. I appreciate Sam giving me the tour yesterday, and will share more all with you this spring and summer. Stay tuned.

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

 

 

CT Flower and Garden Show – Spoiler Alert

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Good Morning Everyone,

I’m sharing some of my iPhone quick pics from yesterday’s visit to the CT Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT.

But fair warning – If you are the type that doesn’t want to see anything revealed before you attend, this is your spoiler alert!

What I found that was different this year:

  • Some “new” booths/vendors – New faces, antiques, roses, coir, etc. It was nice to see new vendors and visit with them. Especially friendly was Helen at Yoga Unfettered (she may do a workshop for me this year), Valerie at Garden Guardians (amazing head face pots – love them and was very tempted to buy another as I have purchased her pots before), Sam at FibreDust showing coir as a potting soil (I will be showcasing this product at my workshops and discussing them at my garden talks.)
  • Enhanced food court sitting area – Nicely organized with a long bar area, couches, more tables for sitting and relaxing (located by the landscape display areas). It is larger this year, well situated, and relaxing between walking the show floor. Just be careful, if you sit on one of the cozy couches, you may not want to get back up.
  • Rearranged vendor spots– While its helpful to be able to locate your favorite vendors in their usual locations on the show floor, there were some vendors located in new spots which made it feel changed up a bit to me. I liked that.

Show Location:

Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT 06103

phone: 860-249-6000
fax: 860-249-6161

Show Hours:

Runs thru Sunday, Feb 21st. Opens at 10 am each day. Tip: Go early, parking in the garage tends to fill up quickly.

Photo Highlights:

In the back row area – Always enjoy the display by Snug Habor – lots of small hand-made hypertufa pots – adorable, small and unique items.

Plant sales by University of CT (left). If you didn’t know, they sell plants from their greenhouses on North Eagleville Road in Storrs by the campus. The photos on the right are from an area at the show on the back right beyond the landscape displays. They have tons of flowering plants and all in full color right now – I believe this is a group of growers that put these out for sale. All healthy.

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If you like staghorn ferns – wow – look at this show stopper – was in the back area by Snug Harbor’s booth. Beautiful and tempting.

Over in the far left area is the floral and plant competition space. Look at these amazing cacti and the shoe! There were pieces of significance and really enjoyed browsing this area. Be sure to check out the jewelry pieces made with seeds, plant parts, and earthy finds.

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Because of my passion for patio pots and container gardens, I especially enjoyed this piece of art – LOVE how the creator inserted a small pot of a dripping down spiller style plant.

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In fact I spotted this plant in the back area in hanging baskets – what are they called again? I’m having a blank moment, but they are adorable, beaded like plants and fun to use in container gardens – as noted above.

Globes, globes, globes are everywhere. Almost every plant related booth had some. They are hot – hot – hot this year and the admiration of these seems to be growing every year. These above are from Natureworks (middle photo) with the adorable bird’s nest with eggs, and Balleck’s on the left and right. We especially liked the thick glass container (left photo) from Balleck’s – a little different, thicker, heavier.

If you are looking for color – it is not in short supply at the flower show. Art and beautiful plants show them off – just look at this moss basket by Balleck’s – Wow, I “almost” purchased that one – it is popping with oranges and yellows.

And I probably shouldn’t have – but I got some of these yummy cookies by Savor. The ladies standing next to me purchasing some told me they enjoy these cookies and return every year to buy some more. They are a small sized cookie which justifies the guilt of eating the extra calories.

And that is all I will post today – as I don’t want to spoil it for you. You should head there today or this weekend. We are lucky this year – no snow to deal with and the sun is shining today. Go check it out – you will enjoy the show.

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

P.S. Lots more photos on my Instagram feed.

BOOK CLUB Bookstore and More – Saturday

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Good Morning Everyone,

Tomorrow, Mandy Mayer from JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design and I (from you know where) will be at the small bookstore located on 100 Main Street in Broad Brook from 10 am to 1 pm for the store’s special event.

She and I have been invited to attend their “Artisans and Authors” day, and we both will have some special items available for purchase and information for you about our upcoming events. There will be flower bouquets, individually stemmed roses, mini succulent cone bouquets, garden journals, and of course – many books and other vendors.

BOOK STORE LOCATION

BOOK CLUB Bookstore and More” is located across from the Broad Brook pond (where a rare goose was sighted recently – don’t know the name of the goose, but pro photographers with very large camera lenses and tri-pod stands were gathered by the pond recently trying to capture a shot of it). It also is situated next door to the “At The Dam” restaurant.

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We are pleased to be participating and hope you will pop in to visit, despite the frightening cold weather the forecasters are predicting for tomorrow. A great game plan would be to bundle up, go have breakfast or lunch next door, and visit us.

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Mandy will be offering her beautiful floral arrangements – perfect for any one you wish to honor on Valentine’s Day – which is Sunday, but take note – she has a limited supply so don’t delay. She will have stemmed roses and other flowers for sale also.

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I will be selling adorable mini succulent bouquets, garden journals, and “Bert’s Birdhouses” which are made by my father with reclaimed wood. They are sturdy and made with care, and will help our feathered friends now and in spring time.

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WOODPECKER GETS ATTACHED TO ME

Speaking of birds, an interesting thing happened to me yesterday. I was heading home, and I, of course, looked at my iPhone (when at a stop light!), and saw an alert for a woman out in the cold with no coat. She walked away from Park Hill in Broad Brook which is a living center and the East Windsor police noted she has Alzheimer’s disease.

Instead of pulling into my driveway, I drove around town looking. Around the back of the church, down again towards Main Street, I glanced to see if there were foot prints in the snow and then I saw the East Windsor Police walking out of “At the Dam” restaurant, so I pulled in and thought, I’ll snap photos of the bookstore while here and I was relieved to see they were going place to place in search of the missing woman.

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When I got home, I saw a woodpecker sitting on the snow by my kitchen door slider outside. As I opened the door, my cat jumped out – but I picked her back up, put her inside, and got my iPhone.

It was a photo opp because the beautiful woodpecker was just sitting there, so I leaned down and said, “Hey, little guy, are you okay?”

Right then – he jumped onto my leg and clung on. I was shocked, and wow, what an experience. He obviously hit the glass window of the slider door, and was still coming out of his own shock of hitting the window.

With iPhone in hand, I took a few photos and a quick video. To feel those clawed feet attached to my jeans was interesting. They are stronger than you think. He was blinking his eyes, and turning his head, but he didn’t leave immediately. He hung on for a bit – probably warming up as well.

Suddenly, he hopped up at bit higher on my leg – which startled me. So with a few quick shakes of my leg, he flew off and landed on a deck railing to rest some more.

As I posted the photos on Facebook and Instagram, some people said it is a sign. My sister said, it is a sign you did a good deed by trying to find that woman. And, one friend posted, that woman is my Aunt and she’s been located.

Fortunately, she was found quickly and all was good. And the bird was fine too. I guess he thought my leg made a good stump.

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GARDEN PRESENTATION IN SOUTH WINDSOR

This week has been a busy yet productive one for me – I did a presentation on Wednesday night to a welcoming group from the “Down to Earth” garden club and library visitors at the South Windsor Public Library on Sullivan Avenue.

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After my presentation on “Container Gardening How To’s for Growth Success,” the club emailed me indicating they would like me back next year. She stated that they liked how I had something for the new, beginning, and seasoned gardener. This was nice to read on my laptop screen.

The library is a great venue for the club – it is very large. It was the first time I stepped foot in there – and thought, I need to get out more. They offer all kinds of seminars and I saw a great deal of kids hanging out in one area. Pairing up the club with a library is a smart idea because you meet new people in the library too. There were new gardeners in the audience as well as seasoned garden club members. I enjoyed meeting all of them.

PREPARING FOR SATURDAY

The rest of my week has been preparing the Valentine’s Day themed items for Saturday. I thought, how lucky am I? I love adorning these things with red themes for the day. I always had a love of Valentine’s Day and the colors and artistic nature of the little gifts and cards.

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As a kid – I really liked picking out the little decorative cards, and sharing them with class mates – remember those days?

Also, sending a Valetine’s Day greeting card to my parents for this day is something I’ve always done. Valentine’s Day is not “just for lovers” but for those you love as well.

My desire is to meet you and new friends, so we hope you will stop by on your travels through town. There will be other artisans and authors there to meet and greet as well.

TGIF Everyone,

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

 

Sweet Gifts to Warm the Heart

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Good Morning,

I said I would return to writing about “plants” – Well, flowers are plants, right?

I can not do a plant related post without first acknowledging the efforts of our wonderful guest instructors from JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design, Jeff and Mandy Mayer, at Saturday’s Workshop here on Floral Design with Valentine’s Day Reds.

First, the flowers were absolutely ga-GAH-gorgeous! And also, this couple was very enthusiastic and concerned that each one of us were happy – which I surely think we were. Look at the attendees’ floral arrangements – absolutely beautiful. Great job by all.

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This one was created by MaryBeth. She is a returning attendee to my workshops – and she brought a beautiful blue and white bowl for her centerpiece. It is so pretty.

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This one is by Cathy P, another attendee. She rimmed the edge of her container with bling-bling before the class to fit the Valentine’s Day theme. She created an Ikebana style floral arrangement. I didn’t realize her goal was to do this unique art form until she was done because I was making my own arrangement during the class and didn’t see her progressing along until she was done. Let’s just say, she nailed it!

I have never done this Japanese style myself but the process involves arranging flowers and forms so each are displayed with a simple specific structure and balance – That is the best way I can describe it. Sometimes you will see this Ikebana style at flower shows where the arrangements are judged and awarded prizes when they adhere to the art form’s strict rules.

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Everyone’s creations were different and uniquely arranged. We joked that we felt like brides holding our arrangements. It was a fun day of creating and enjoying flowers.

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Jeff and Mandy Mayer of JEM’s make a great team. Jeff is in the center photo above demonstrating his process. He is very symmetrical with his designs, and Mandy, his wife and business partner, was going around to each individual asking if they were okay as they got into their “design” zone. Jeff too. He wanted to provide as much one-on-one attention as possible.

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We enjoyed yummy cupcakes made by a friend, Alissa. She attended my winter holiday workshop and mentioned she is an avid baker. The red velvet cupcakes looked as real as the flowers with (non fondant) frosting. Yummy.

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When I posted the above photos on Instagram, people raved about what a great job she did with this basket of yummy soft flowering sweets for us to enjoy at the workshop. My sister commented that “I spoil my class attendees.” And yes, well, I do! 🙂

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The flowers provided to each attendee were very fresh. We lucked out so many ways on this workshop day. There was an unexpected snowstorm the day before, so we had to readjust to pick up the flower order right before class started due to travel conditions being hazardous the day before. This resulted in our guest instructors having less time to set up but it all worked out. We were also lucky because they accepted my invitation to teach this workshop – and are returning in late June to do a “4th of July” Floral Centerpiece class – more on that later. Check in if interested. It is listed on the Workshop Dates link above on this blog.

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Here’s my adorable arrangement – I added lollipops to it and really think its cute.

NEXT EVENT: BOOK CLUB BOOKSTORE & MORE

Now it is onto another special event this weekend at a new local bookstore located close to my home called “Book Club Bookstore and More” on Main Street in Broad Brook, CT. They are hosting an “Artisans and Artists” Day on Saturday, Feb 13th. You can’t miss the store, it is adjacent to the breakfast place, before the bridge (across from the dam) by the Broad Brook Pond on Main Street in the center of town.

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If you are a book lover, this store holds book discussions, has special author events, and the interior is beautiful. The store is much bigger than you’d expect, when you enter, it has a long interior style (kind of like a shot gun style home). My friend visited recently and she told me the children’s book selection is wonderful as well.

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JEM’s will be there with me on Saturday, February 13th, from 10 am to 1 pm at the bookstore’s event too. Mandy will have flower arrangements for sale, and I’m bringing along adorable Valentine’s Day themed goodies, such as Mini Succulent Cone Bouquets and Garden Journals. We hope you will pop by. Heck, have breakfast next door then walk on over for a bit. It will be too cold to be outside anyways per this week’s forecasters.

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I spent part of my week making these tiny pompoms to add to my items – Are they so cute?! They look like min-whoville flowers.

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More embellishments to be added – These are great as a sweet gift, table setting pieces, or just for fun to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to whomever is special in your life – it is not just for romance, it is to show your love to your love one’s. It will warm your heart on our predicted very chilly weekend. And there are other vendors participating, so we hope you will visit to stop by and say hello.

I will post more on our floral workshop later as there is more to show, but for now got to go. Looks like this snow “might” postpone my Garden Talk tonight at the South Windsor Public Library – will have to wait and see. If not, I’ll be there promptly at 7 pm. Tonight’s talk is on the How To’s of Container Gardening for Growth Success.

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

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

Workshops – Make and Enjoy! What’s Coming UP.

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I promise to get back to posting about plants very soon! But, I want to take a moment to let you now of the workshops on the 2016 Calendar. They are listed below.

We kick off the year with Floral Design scheduled for this Saturday. Can’t wait. I will share photos of our floral creations the week following.

After that, I will be at a local bookstore for an Authors & Artisans’ Event in Broad Brook. See the date and link below. Garden journals and mini plants will be available for purchase, plus floral arrangements by JEM’s. Swing by to see this quaint bookstore on Main Street and visit with local small business owners. Learn about their services and more.

However, the pace doesn’t stop there – Next is the Hartford Flower Show. If interested in car pooling from Broad Brook on Saturday, February 20th, reach out. We have a small group forming. It helps with sharing parking fees and we learn from each other as we walk and talk the flower show floor.

That’s the start of the year in February, but – wait there’s more. My annual workshops kick in from there where we “learn – make – and celebrate combining nature with art”.

For photos of prior workshops, visit my Pinterest board. We hope you will join us this year – we love meeting new friends at these events and classes.

WORKSHOPS BY DATE

February 6, 2016 – Saturday – 11 am to 1 pm
FLORAL DESIGN with JEM’S HORTICULTURE AND FLORAL DESIGN
$45 pp

February 13, 2016 – Saturday *
Authors & Artisans Valentine’s Shopping Event
Book Club Bookstore & More in Broad Brook, CT
10 am – Free to Attend

February 20th – Saturday *
Group Meet Up: Flower Show in Hartford – 9 am
Meet in Broad Brook; Car Pool

May 14, 2016 – Saturday, 11 am to 2 pm
CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP – Edibles, Herbs, Veggies, and More!
$15 pp (plus cost of plant purchases at class)

May 21, 2016 – Saturday, 11 am to 2 pm
CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP AT STRONG FAMILY FARM, Vernon, CT
Registration Fee TBD

May 28th – Saturday *
CONTAINER GARDEN TALK – HOW TO’S AND DESIGN TIPS
Ellington Farmers Market
Free to Attend – At the Gazebo at the Market

July 23rd – Saturday, 11 am – 1 pm
NATURE WITH ART CLASS PROGRAM with TIMEFLIESBYLAURALIE
Theme: Working with Wine Bottles! More Details Soon.
Registration Fee TBD

October  – Date to Be Announced
PUMPKIN CARVING & PUMPKIN STUFFING WITH FLOWERS AND SUCCULENTS
Stay tuned!
Registration Fee TBD

October 15, Saturday, 11 am – 12 pm
OVERWINTERING TROPICAL PLANTS
$15 pp

December 3rd, Saturday, 11 am – 2 pm
THE 7TH ANNUAL KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOP
Fresh Mixed Greenery, Wreaths, Kissing Balls, Candle Centerpieces
$38-$40 pp

December 7th, Wednesday, 5 pm – 7 pm
WEEKDAY WORKSHOP: KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOP
$38-40 pp

***

All workshops are located in Broad Brook, CT unless otherwise noted above.

*The items listed with asterisks are not workshops, but special events of interest.

And see our Side Bar menu on this blog for Garden Talks at various garden clubs in our surrounding towns too.

Thank you – Cathy Testa