Peanuts, Seeds, and Cuttings

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Back to going through my downloaded photos of 2016, and discussing the next 10 or so.

 

Peanuts!

At the East Windsor Farmers’ Market last summer, one of the farmers had a batch of peanut plants – and I was surprised to learn they grow in the ground. Who knew?!

As noted on Aunt Ruby’s Peanuts website, “Many people are surprised to learn that peanuts do not grow on trees like pecans or walnuts. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. The peanut plant is unusual because it flowers above ground but the peanut grows below ground. Planted in the early spring, the peanut grows best in calcium rich sandy soil.”

Well, I’ve been thinking, if they grow in the ground, flower on top, and are easy to handle – these could be a very interesting container gardening candidate which I will research more on and get back to you when I get around to trying them out. They sure do make an interesting conversation piece.

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Moon Flower Seeds

The next photos were all about seeds, which I was collecting from a Moon Flower plant growing in a container garden on my deck and climbing up the railings of my entrance steps.

I’ve always been fascinated by the content of seeds – from my early childhood. It was a common thing for me to grab a seed pod found in the wild to inspect the insides. Well, here I am in my fifties, doing it again.

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I decided to slice one seed pod open to investigate. You can see the seeds in the cavities. This one was not mature yet.

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They look a bit like corn kernels. This was taking place at the end of the season, but I went back to photos earlier in the year to show the seeds from which these plants were started from.

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As you can see, they are much smaller, brown (ripened) for sowing, and harder, versus the ones I was investigating which were white, bigger, and soft.

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I purchased a packet of the Moon Flower seeds from the Seed Library of Hudson Valley Seed Library. They sell seeds every year at the CT Flower and Garden Show (which, coincidentally, kicks off today in Hartford, CT.).

The reason I was attracted to their seeds in particular is because of the art work on their seed packs. Each seed type has an artist’s interpretation of the flowers or plants, and many of the works are absolutely beautiful, colorful and whimsical.

In addition to their colorful seed packets, the seeds are well packaged with instructions. To date, every type of seed I’ve obtained from their packets grow well with no problems. I’ve become of fan.

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I kept waiting for the seed pods, which formed on the plant late in the planting season, to ripen, dry up and turn brown, but a fall frost hit them before it got to that point. In fact, the photo above of the seed pod is one which was damp from a frost and unusable. I will have to find the photos of the Moon flower blooms because they were fantastic. I really enjoyed looking at them last year. It reminds me I should check my seed stock to see if I have any remaining from that original envelope and sow some next month in my grow room to get them started.

Coleus Cuttings

Ah, I remember this day – taking in one of my container gardens, again in the fall season to disassemble it and collect the valuable and reusable parts.

The Coleus was dug out and I starting taking cuttings so I could root them to over winter in my low temp grow room. It was successful. I have a few babies still hanging in there. I remember showing the tools I used in my Overwintering Session held every October, and how I clean them, etc.

You can see in the above photos – there was also a Rhubarb plant (Victoria) which did really well, and I hope it will return in the pot this year. I kept the plant and pot in my garage this winter.

The ‘Black Magic’ elephants ear was just amazing with their rich and lush colors. This plant was also dug up from the pot and I cleaned off the tubers to store in peat in my unheated basement over the winter. I will be checking on them in a month.

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Rooting hormone was placed on the cuttings stem end tips, but you may also just stick the Coleus cuttings in a jar of water, and the roots will appear on the ends, as an alternative method.

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Or if you happen to get a clump of roots still attached to the plant as you separate it and work at the cuttings, you may just re-pot it this way to keep growing.

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Also in this container garden was a hot pepper black (Black Pearl) which I absolutely love using in mixed container gardens because of the dark toned foliage, and the peppers turn from green to purple to red by the end of the season. They are super hot though – difficult to eat but are lovely to look at. The plant may be saved as a houseplant or kept in a low temp grow room and may make it. I didn’t bother saving that one last year.

Well, that was the next lot in my downloaded photos. When I take the time to look back on photos, I amaze myself at the amount of activity I did last year, and it will only grow from here. The gardening chores (well, fun – not chores) never end when you are fascinated by plant life and all the beauty it brings to your spaces, indoors and out!

New Venue, Workshops, and Plants

This year, as noted in prior posts, I have a new venue to show my plants, offer workshops, and answer customer questions in South Windsor. Additionally, my May Container Garden workshops will be a new style – House plants! I’m excited to be offering plants which benefit the air inside and add stylish decor outside – and that is the fun of the plant world – always learning, experimenting, and enjoying new plants.

The workshop information is continuously being updated on my site, www.WORKSHOPSCT.com so be sure to check it out and pre-register early. And you may learn about my new venue on the site as well. I will be there starting March 11th.

In the meantime, enjoy this spectacular warm up we are getting today – I am SURE it will make you feel like spring is almost here.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

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List of Workshops Coming Up – Be Sure to Register Early

More about Container Crazy CT’s new venue in South Windsor

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Hi Everyone,

I’ve been getting the word out about a new venue where I will be available every Tuesday and Thursday starting March 11th at a bookstore, BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More, in South Windsor opening March 1st.

When my sister, Louise, asked me what will I have at the store, I thought it would be a good idea to set the vision so my attendees will know the scoop.

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Many times people have asked me at farmers’ markets and other pop-ups where they can find me, well, this will be the place.

TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS

My regular days will be every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm, where I will be there to answer questions about plants, workshops, and well – I’m sure gardening books!

Since this store is a bookstore, you will find many new and used books, and the store also hosts special author appearances and regular book club discussions.

Nestled among the books will be Container Crazy CT’s items for sale and some plants, etc.

WORKSHOP PROTOTYPES

Every month, the game plan is to showcase workshop creations at this location. This way attendees may see what we will be making at scheduled workshops being offered at the bookstore for smaller groups.

SPECIAL ORDERS

Additionally, special orders may be placed with me for pickup at the store any day of the week based on requests. My large stock of plants will be maintained in my greenhouse at another location, but will be made available to you. It will be an exciting season to say the least.

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LOCATION

The store is conveniently located off of Sullivan Avenue in a United Bank Plaza at 869 Sullivan Place. As you enter the plaza, look for the bookstore on your left. It is only six miles from Broad Brook.

There are many other nice stores there too – a huge pet store, a massage and fitness facility (heard the yoga classes are great there via my other sister, Rosalie.) And I just met the owner of the health facility yesterday when I delivered some tables to the store. He was very pleasant and we discussed how my healthy and nutritious microgreens growing demonstration in March may be of interest to his clientele.

My setup will be somewhat in transition because I am traveling next week – where I will be including tropical plant research in my adventures – and returning just in time for the opening – which is March 1st. Expect to see change outs as my vision evolves.

FIRST FREE PRESENTATION

To kick off my first official day there, I will be offering a free presentation on “6 Design Tips for Container Gardens” on March 11th at 10:00 am. We ask that you register on the bookstore’s Facebook events listing as seats are limited.

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NEW WORKSHOPS ADDED

Container Crazy CT will continue to offer workshops at her usual location in Broad Brook, but now we have added this new place with more dates, plenty of parking, and more. Some of the workshops recently added are Botanical Wall Art (March), Kokedama balls (dates to be posted soon), Terrariums (April), etc.

See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for all the dates and information.

STARTER KITS

We will have kits available for special features, such as our microgreens growing kits, available at the workshops or by request. This is another vision I have – making kits for you so you may elect to create an item at home on your own if you wish.

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And you know, I am so ready to plant up these containers framing the bookstore’s window, as soon as spring arrives. See you there soon!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Owner of “Cathy T’s Landscape Designs” and “Container Crazy CT”
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

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New Digs! Starting in March

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Welcome,

Cathy Testa has exciting news for you!

I will be offering workshops at a new venue this year, along with showcasing my workshop prototypes (so you can see what you can make at our monthly workshops) and offering plants, accessories, gift cards, etc.

I officially kick off my vendor new digs location on March 11th, 2017Saturday with a FREE Presentation on Container Gardening Design. I hope you will come by and bring a friend.

Regular Cathy T Hours

Please note, the bookstore opens March 1st, but I won’t be there until March 11 and then continuing every TUESDAY and THURSDAY between 10 am to 5 pm. This will help you to find me, pick up custom orders or special kits, and learn about my upcoming workshops, ask plant related questions – all while browsing an amazing selection of books at BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More’s new location in South Windsor, CT.

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BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More

Cynde Acanto, the bookstore’s owner, will be there weekly during the regular store hours which are posted on bookclubct.com or via the bookstore’s Facebook page. Cynde is currently located in Broad Brook but is growing and moving to this new location where there is plenty of parking and a beautiful space, which is only six miles from Broad Brook.

Other Host Facilities

Container Crazy CT will continue to offer workshops at her workshop space in Broad Brook, and other special guest host locations, such as Strong Family Farm and the Ellington Farmers’ Market on specific dates. See our WORKSHOPS link on this blog site to see all the dates planned.

It will be an exciting year – and I am very much looking forward to all.

Please let me know if you have any questions – and please register for the free presentation via BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More’s Facebook Events Listings so we have a head count.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa
Owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473 (texts are welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

And More!

Check out the Hartford Courtant’s article on Cathy T discussing growing micro-greens published recently.

Botanical Living Wall Art Workshop – Up Next in March; Seats are Limited! Sign-up Early. See the post for photos and be sure to visit my Instagram pages for photos.

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Planning for the Unexpected

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This week was kicked off by a sensational Super Bowl game, which I know not from watching it but from reading all the excited posts about the game the very next day on Facebook.

Because I am not a sport’s fanatic, I didn’t stay up to watch the game, but it was very entertaining and inspiring seeing all the comments on Monday morning from friends’ posts, which spurred my interest for sure.

Fortunately, we had recorded the game before going to bed on Super Bowl Sunday.

I have to admit, my motivation for recording the game was to see what Lady Gaga would do for her performance, but Steve also wanted to view the game the next day after work.

Due to all the hoopla on Facebook, we both were anxious to see the final seconds in particular as soon as Steve got home from work Monday evening.

As we were viewing it, however, an unexpected prompt appeared right before the last 3 minutes on our TV recording system indicating we ran out of recording time.

ACK! How did that happen?

The game went into over time and I guess that is why. You can’t imagine how disappointed we were.

What a bummer.

That rule of “what can go wrong, will go wrong” occurred in that moment, and I’m sure we will never record something without considering the over time factor ever again.

I decided to start this blog post with the fact we experienced an after-game excitement, but then a bit of let down, but no matter, the whole event was fun regardless, and we moved on, learned from it, and said well, better planning next time.

This year, I believe, will be filled with excitement at Container Crazy CT because I am offering more new workshops. And lots of “planning” is involved.

My workshops have already begun for 2017 and many plans are underway for more and new ones – from ordering plants, posting updates, letting everyone know what is coming up, and more. There are many steps involved, you can’t imagine. And in the gardening world, factors like climate, plant availability, changes in season – are out of our control, but we do our best to look ahead and consider the unexpected’s.

My workshop offerings start off with this weekend’s, for our second annual “Flower Arranging Workshop” – and all seats sold out. I’m thankful the big snowstorm coming Thursday is before Saturday when we will have a great day learning about floral design and succulents in floral arrangements. But we do plan ahead and have snow plows always ready and a backup date “if” it a big storm was to occur on our schedule dates.

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The next workshop up is my “Botanical Living Wall Art” workshop, which I’m even more excited about and have all planned out – Hopefully no surprises will occur at the last 3 minutes – but we adjust – as we always have, which is often the case in the gardening world. This a new workshop with a living plant and custom made canvas board. The creativity will be happening in this event because there are many opportunities to do so.

Following the March “Botanical Living Wall Art” workshop – being offered two times, one session in Broad Brook and the other in South Windsor, we will have a building “Terrarium Bowls“, and of course, my annual “Container Gardening Workshop” is being held in May again on several dates in Broad Brook, Vernon, and South Windsor.

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To learn more about all of them – and to plan ahead, please visit:

www.WorkshopsCT.com

Be sure to stop by so you don’t run into overtime and miss the excitement or opportunity to be part of it – like Steve and I did with the game. Seats are limited in some sessions so pre-registering early is recommended.

Hope to see you there,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9743 (texts are welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

Container Crazy CT’s blog is all about combining nature with art, plants, and workshops.

Plants Around the Coop

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It’s Friday again!

And here I am, posting pictures from 2016 in the order of being downloaded to one massive folder.

Here’s the next 6 or so…

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This photo is from the back side of my chicken coop. I attempted to have chickens here at my home 3 times, but it doesn’t work out due to predators in the woodland area around my yard.

The first time we got chickens, we attempted to let them free range in our yard after they were here for a while.

One night, after getting back from dinner, one of our chickens was roosting on the railing of the steps by our home’s entrance door. We were surprised to see it huddled by the corner of the house on that railing.

This was odd, and I suddenly remembered that we forgot to close up the chicken coop before going out to eat!

Steve carried the chicken back to the coop in our backyard, but unfortunately, he was greeted by a trail of feathers from the chickens which were not so lucky – or as smart as this one. A predator had gotten them all.

Every time I attempt to do another round of chickens, they get attacked or stalked. The chickens would go to neighbor’s homes to free range and this would frustrate me. I thought, “Why on earth won’t they stay in my yard? It is huge, there is a luxury pen for them, and what more could they ask for?!”

A farmer once told me it is because they feel threatened, and this made sense. We finally gave up on trying to have chickens here. Too many foxes and coyotes.

The chicken pen and adjoining enclosed coop have been empty, and I’m trying to think of what creative way to use the pen part – which is covered by two beautiful kiwi vines which produce a bit of fruit each season now (they require about 5 years to produce, and require a male and female plant.)

As far as the enclosed part of the chicken coop goes – it has become a storage shed.

The photos above are of that ‘now shed’ on the back side. I put an old pallet box I found there and filled it with left-over soil from containers or projects.

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Last year, I plopped one of my elephant’s ears into the wooden box pot and somewhat forgot about it. When I take a leisurely walk through my backyard, I stop to take a look and snap some iPhone photos.

Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’

This elephant’s ear is Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’ from the Royal Hawaiian (r) Series. And it is one of my favorites of the elephant ear world – although I have many.

A zone 9-11 plant, not hardy to our CT planting zones but easily overwintered, is from “John Cho and the University of Hawaii’s breeding program.”

‘Blue Hawaii’ is named as such probably for the obvious reason that its veins on the leaves look purple-blue, and it is striking, to say the least.

I just love it. The two photos above of it were taken mid-autumn. Before or right after frost, I lift the tubers from the soil to store them for the winter because they are not hardy to our planting areas, but easily regrown in early spring inside the home and then transitioned to the outdoors when the summer temperatures are warm enough (same timing as tomato plants).

As you may know, I offer a demo day to show how I store plants such as these every Autumn. This year I’ve added a new date to provide a demonstration a bit earlier because people want to repeat the process at their own home, so this will give them time before frost arrives.

There will be three sessions on Sept 27, 2017 (early session), Sept 30th (early session), and again on October 14th, which is near when we will probably have our first fall frost.

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In front of the enclosed portion of the now-empty coop, well empty of chickens but filled with supplies and remnant smells of chicken poop, is a lovely Hellebore perennial.

I can’t recall which ‘cultivar’ this one is named from, but it is growing so well in this spot – which makes me especially happy – because I ordered a tray of these one year per a client’s request but never heard back from them when the plants came in.

No matter, I ended up selling them at a market and had one left over for here.

Hellebore

Hellebores are plants which I consider excellent performers in the foliage category for gardens, container gardens and patio pots.

They are reliable, long-lasting, have beautiful semi-evergreen beautiful coarse, solid, almost rubbery like foliage – the leaves are tough and thick – and deer won’t eat them.

In containers, they make long-lasting fillers and of course, they bloom, but the blooms on most species nod-down. When taking photos of the blooms, I need two hands so I can turn the flowers to face up to show their beauty. They are stunning – almost rose like.

Hellebores (Helleborus), a.k.a. Lenten Rose, are easy to grow in my opinion. I’ve started to slowly collect them over the years. They like part sun to part shade, full shade, and tucked in the right corner in sun with good part shade part of the day, they do fine as well. I have them in moist areas in deep shade, and areas with part sun – they seem versatile to me.

These plants have a certain elegance to them. I recommend them for use in both container gardens and gardens of the ground.

Oh, and by the way, they bloom very early in the season, sometimes even when there is still a bit of left over snow on the ground. There’s nothing like seeing a bloom in February or April when our plant world slowly awakens from a winter’s slumber.

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Quiet opposite of the Hellebore’s blooming time is the bloom time of Anemone (windflower), shown above, which blooms late in the season, not early.

Anemone ‘Margarete’

Anemones were in a big pot in my backyard which housed a big red banana plant (Ensete) and some other fillers. I had to wait a long time for the anemones to bloom because this cultivar blooms in September, but it was worth the wait.

This type of plant is what I refer to as a “welcoming” plant in your container gardens. It is the one people will be drawn to for its beauty and feeling of remembrance from when they used or are using the same plant in their gardens. Or maybe it will be a memory of their Grandmother growing them, but I feel they are welcoming and charming.

This one is a Japanese anemone, called Anemone x hybrida ‘Margarete’. Like the hellebore, it is deer resistant. It likes full sun to part shade and is hardy to our CT planting zone. I am expecting them to return in the pot which is rather large and filled with quality soil, and right now, in winter, covered with a board and tarps to protect it.

I selected this one for my container garden workshops because of the color and doubled petals. Oh, and the stems on this one grow very tall – up to 30″ – which made it a perfect candidate next to my big banana plant. If it were a short one, it wouldn’t have amounted to much in regards to structure and scale in the pot with the other companions.

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The last two photos in this Friday’s series of 2016 photos are not from near the chicken coop but by my house.

On the north-west corner, one photo of my red banana plant (2nd photo), that did pretty darn well. This photo was taken at the end of the season. It will be my next monster plant – year two on returning it from its winter sleep this year, or year three. I’m starting to loose track!

The other photo is of an urn I keep on my front steps year-round. Urns are great for that. They may be used all season and kept outdoors because they won’t crack and are tough.

Starting in spring with spring candidates in the urns, and even in winter with greenery for the holidays. I am happy I picked up these two urns a few years ago – each has a drain hole too which is required for plants to do well in container gardens.

Begonia ‘Lady Francis’ and Ruellia

I was super-duper impressed with this Begonia ‘Lady Francis’ in the urn last year. I selected three types of begonias for last year’s container gardening workshops – and boy, I’m glad I picked this one, and the others as well (‘Gryphon’ and ‘Dragon Wing Pink’).

But ‘Lady Francis’ had something other than the typical beautiful (and welcoming) flowers all season long, typical on begonias – it has darker foliage.

Treated as an annual in our CT planting zones, this plant is a hybrid with bronze-dark mahogany leaves and lots of double, pink flowers – but the foliage was full and lush all season long, which impressed me. And it was easy to grow.

From a container gardening perspective, it is a beautiful filler.

Begonias really rock it in container gardens.

This urn is at the front of my house which gets mostly shade and stays cooler, but it did fine. I would roll the urns a bit to the edge of the steps to make sure it received some sunlight when, in late afternoons on the north side of my house, the sunlight hits that spot.

As I mentioned, the foliage is a bonus on this plant because it adds a dark tone to combinations in pots – something very useful when designing your combinations.

I want to mention also, the filler tucked in the corner was a different one which I really liked last year. Called Ruellia (false or wild petunia). It is not hardy, but easily over-wintered, so it may be regrown the following year.

Ruellia or false petunia has leaves that are blade like and produces trumpet-shaped soft purple flowers – at least this variety does. It can take full sun or part shade to shade. This one is compact so it stayed low and tucked in the corner. The flowers bloomed in late spring and mid-summer. I feel it did better than a typical petunia, it lasted a long time and the flowers looked great.

Well, that’s it for this Friday. I have a busy day ahead, and busy weekend.

Have fun during the Super Bowl too if that is your thing!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

For information on the fall demo and our upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

Upcoming Activity:

Feb 8, 2017 – Wednesday – Down to Earth Garden Club Presentation
“Six Design Tips for Container Gardens”

Feb 11, 2017 – Saturday – Floral Arranging Workshop
Broad Brook, CT by Cathy T and JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

Mar 18 and 22 – Sat, Wed – Botanical Living Wall Art Workshops
New this year! by Cathy T of Container Crazy CT

Stay tuned for more.

Thank you – Cathy T.