Getting into The Spirit of Fall

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Everywhere you go in the retail stores, you will see a bit of both these days – fall and holiday decorations and supplies. A month ago, I saw so much holiday decor in a store, I told myself – don’t look that way and stay focused on fall.

I love both seasons, of course, and I also have lots of activities surrounding both in my world of offering workshops and seasonal plant related gifts.

For example, in October, my succulent topped pumpkin workshops and custom orders kick it off. Then, as October comes to an end, a craft fair or holiday event pops up, which quickly leads to my holiday workshops in early December where we make kissing balls and wreaths.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0004

As I worked in my greenhouse yesterday preparing for a fall craft fair coming up next weekend (as noted above), I was totally in the mood for fall. I know the holidays are right around the corner, but fall is still in the air. The fallen tree leaves crunched under my hiking boots as I walked the path to my greenhouse, and the cold brisk morning temperatures were just chilly enough to require a vest to keep warm, but not a jacket.

These environmental elements are what gets my mood into a particular seasonal theme. In fact, I went to a couple fall themed events last Saturday with Steve, my husband. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm – and I was feeling like taking a break and enjoying the fall scenes, while they last, because it won’t be long before fall moves by quickly.

We drove to a pumpkin event in Coventry, CT at a church, which turned out to be directly across the street (practically) to a restaurant we enjoy there. The pumpkins were being sold at a church and the money is donated to various causes, one of which is a Navajo Indian farm. Since it was a nice area, we picked this as our first stop on Saturday.

The pumpkins were quite large and so were the gourds of various colors which I had not seen these colors before. I thought how wonderful some of these would have been for my succulent topped pumpkin workshops in October, but no matter, I still was there to enjoy them for carving or other projects.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0007

I picked out this one for myself. This gourd weighs a lot but I just may make something creative with it this week. I had never seen this orange and white pattern on a gourd before. It is not a candidate for carving because it is so thick, but I couldn’t resist it.

Because the sun was brightly shining on this little journey of our’s, and the color of the shrubs next to the church were so intensely red, I used the opportunity to have Steve take a photo of me. As you can see, we were in the pumpkin and fall mood for sure.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0005

I absolutely love that Steve enjoys fall adventures like this as much as I do. He is a kid at heart when it comes to carving pumpkins (and me too). He picked out a large tall one for his carving plans the next day.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0006

After we visited this church and had lunch nearby, we drove back roads over to Manchester, CT and it turned out to be a spontaneous beautiful ride with some foliage colors still to be enjoyed. Steve commented how wonderful these roads would be on the motorcycle. He was starting to appreciate that we decided to take the day to have some fall fun.

In Manchester, we visited some small shops on Main Street during a Halloween Candy event, which even if you don’t have kids (we do not), you might enjoy. Seeing all the creative costumes and the smiles on the children’s faces is another way to get into the spirit of the fall season. Plus, they have a couple breweries in that area and we stopped at one which Steve also appreciated.

All of this activity got my spirit into creating plant related gift items and decor themed in fall colors, but I am still making some fun holiday items too. One of the fall items are large glass globes filled with live succulents and decor of orange and yellow fall colors. These will be available at this weekend’s Fall Craft Fair at the Stafford Fire Department’s event on Saturday, November 2nd which runs from 9 am to 2 pm.

 

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0003

I was debating whether I should create holiday items or fall themes for this craft show. As I got into making items, I let the fall spirit nature guide me. The natural cones and lotus pods of warm vibes as well as some vivid and bright orange and yellow fall decor let me go into that decorating mode. I think our Saturday adventure helped me get into that mode too, which was perhaps another reason why we got out there for some fall events.

This fall fair is expected to have various craft vendors, some of which are hand-made pottery and other items. I’m sure it will be a fun day for me – and you too if you decided to stop by! I always love meeting other vendors and adventuring to a new place, as you never know what kind of inspiration you will get from it – like we did this past weekend. Stafford is also another nearby town to be appreciated in all seasons. They have a local cidery and gift shops. They have a lot to offer and it is not far from the fire house.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Here are the details, again, of the location and event:

2019 Annual Fall Craft Fair at Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary
Saturday, November 2nd, 9 am to 2 pm
27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Fire Dept Building

Hope you will have the opportunity to swing by this weekend!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Every Plant Picture Has A Story

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Fall is a time to capture the sun’s beautiful rays on the last days of the gardening year when our plants and gardens are at their final stages before frost.

Last week, I posted about two tall planters at my home that had upright elephant ears and a couple beautiful annuals.

I truly enjoyed looking at them all year, but in the fall, the sun is different. The sun gives the plants a backdrop of bright yellow and shimmering red fall foliage – and it feels special.

Thus, I asked a professional photographer friend to take photos of my planters before they were dissembled for storage.

Here is just one of those photos:

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

Is this not a stunning photo above?!

I love the way this photographer uses color and light. To me a photo like this is heaven. It is eye candy. It makes me say, “Ahhh.”

The wonderful photographer who took this photo of my planters (and many others to be blogged about soon) is Jackie and her site is called JMS Art & Photo.

I met Jackie when my workshops were featured in a magazine called, “Go Local.” I loved the photos she took then as well for that article. Many of them were from inside my greenhouse. I knew at the moment I saw her photos, I liked her style of photography.

Jackie has vibrant red hair, the friendliest smile, and is also a very creative art teacher in Stafford. She is passionate about what she does in all facets of her life from what I can tell. I will say this – I wish I had her as my art teacher when I was a kid. When I see her class related photos, I just love how she uses colors in a very vivid way. She also has that color talent (which I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it) of the photos she takes at musical fests and shows – and of my plants now! Go visit her site, you will see what I mean.

I find that every plant photo has a story and every photographer does as well. I’ve met 4 professional photographers (each women), and hired each of them to come here to take photos of my plants at some point in my gardening life.

One photographer moved away, and I remember being sad because I just loved her style too. Each photographer is different and each definitely has their own unique style and method – all wonderful. I splurge from time to time to have one take pro photos of my plants here. It is fun for me and a treat.

I want to share many of the photos Jackie of JMS Art & Photo took for me here at my home of my plants this fall. This is on my blogging to do list. And, hopefully, by the winter months, I will be able to do so.

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly share just a couple of these photos with you today.

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

I’m lucky to have met special people, such as Jackie, who have a passion for their art  – and other photographers I have mentioned on this blog in prior posts. Thankfully, they never think I’m a cuckoo for my passion of plants! As they clicked away with their cameras here, I feel like my plants are on the red carpet. And I’m happy they are willing to entertain my passion thru their lenses.

Ironically, I’ve met photographers at craft shows as well. And I happen to have one coming up. In the same town that Jackie teaches. It is a Fall Craft Fair, scheduled in a week, on November 2nd, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm at the Stafford Fire Department house located on 27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT.

Fall Craft Fair 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

You can find out all the details on their Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Facebook page. Approximately 30 vendors are scheduled to participate. My items will be focused on plant gifts related to Christmas themes as well as some fall themes. I hear they make soup in their onsite kitchen at the fire house – and I think I will be enjoying some of that myself! Swing by if you can. And don’t forget to shop the local businesses nearby in the center of Stafford Springs on Main Street. There is a beautiful artisan shop in town and a local cidery, both worth the drop by before or after.

In the meantime, be sure to capture and take in the last moments of fall whether with your own photos of your plants or when you are out and about attending shows. The leaves were stunning this year in Connecticut but many have fallen now onto the ground. Don’t miss out on the last days of these plant photo opportunities.

Have a great weekend!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

 

 

Overwintering Plants 2019

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Hi all,

I spent a good deal of this past weekend overwintering my tropical plants from patio pots and container gardens, with the help of my husband, Steve.

First, I walked around our yard with Steve and asked, “If you can move this or that – it would help me a great deal?” He was very happy to do so.

As he worked on “this or that,” which consisted of various pots with Canna lilies and such, I worked on taking apart some plants from a couple large and tall patio pots on my deck and disassembling my large tropical garden filled with a elephant ears, perennials, and a huge red banana plant (Ensete). I posted photos and videos of the process on my Container Crazy CT Facebook page.

The weather was fantastic both Saturday and Sunday, which helped a great deal, but it was cold out – I needed to wear warm gloves. We had two “light frosts” this month so far (one on the 20th and one prior in the month) but we still haven’t had a hard frost which would kill and blacken the foliage of my tropical plants that I was focused upon.

When I say tropical plants, I’m referring to the red banana plants, canna lilies, elephant ears, and mandevillas – plants which will not tolerate the frost here in CT.

I document my storing process every year usually so if you need information on it, use the red search bar on this site (right-hand side of the screen, scroll down to locate) and enter ‘red banana plant,’ or ‘overwintering’, or ‘ensete’, ‘canna’, etc – and you should be able to locate the prior detailed articles I have posted.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

This year, I planted Upright Jumbo Elephant Ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza) in two new pots I acquired. The tall pots are about 5 feet tall or maybe a little less, and are very nice, BUT the spiller plants in the pots grew so well, they actually hid the beautiful pots.

By the way, the spillers were Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ and Plectranthus coleoides ‘White Surf.’ Both were amazing. I especially love the plum color of the Alternanthera, and the Plectranthus (with green leaves serrated with white edges), both of which are always great spiller performers in container gardens. They can take full sun and part sun. And both are vigorous growers as annual plants here in our CT zones.

The tubers of the upright elephant ears were shipped to me in early April and I planted them in nursery starter pots, first in my greenhouse and then moved them out to my new patio pots later after all chances of spring frost, usually around the same time we plant out our tomato and pepper plants (around Memorial Day in late May).

I had visions of these upright elephant ears growing super huge and tall, but they didn’t reach the 6 to 8 feet height described by the producer of the tubers. However, they reached about 3 ft high in the first year – I expect it to be taller next season. And I will probably start them in the nursery pots sooner in the greenhouse to get the growth going earlier, which helps get that big show I was looking for.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0005

Removed Leaves

The leaves were on average about 20″ long, but what impressed me the most about this variety were the clumps they formed. One tuber shot up about 15 stalks per tuber, or tubers, which reproduce on the side, as they grow in summer. As seen here:

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Original Tuber on Left (new growth on right)

The original tuber is on the left. When it arrived in the mail in April, it had a dry papery brown covering and was big and solid. As you can see on the right, it grew another plant after I planted them in the patio pots outdoors, and this is what I love about tubers from tropical plants – you get more plants at the end of the season to replant next spring. In fact, as seen here, I got LOTS of new plants for next year:

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0006

There are 12 stalks in this photo – all from one original tuber. After I removed them from the big patio pots, I cut the stalks down to about 4-5″ from the base of the tuber area (root end) and I will store these in a cool, dark, dry place (my basement which is unheated but it does not freeze there).

You may cut back all the foliage before or after frost before you dig up and store the tubers. I prefer doing it before frost because it is less messy. After frost, the foliage turns black and mushy.

After I dig out the tubers from the patio pots, I usually lay them out for 2 days in the sun to dry a bit. After that, they get placed in plastic rubber maid type boxes (low height containers) with peat moss covering them and a lid on the box. I sometimes drill small pin holes in the lid to allow some air exchange in the boxes/containers. Again, all of this is documented in detail in prior posts on this site too. Do not store them in too deep of containers or boxes as this increases the chances of rot. And I also recommend you only lightly cover them with the peat.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Pots empty and ready to cover for winter

When I posted this process with videos last weekend, a few people asked some questions – one of which was, “Do you keep the soil in these pots for next year?”

Traditionally, I do not keep soil in patio pots after a year’s use – UNLESS they are really big pots like these. Potting mixes lose their ability to retain water well in smaller to medium sized pots after a year or two’s use.

I am a big believer in using the best potting mix possible – fresh every year in your containers, and to use reputable sources. I really need to do a long post on potting mixes – one of these days soon.

But for really big pots, I do keep the soil mix in there for a couple years. Sometimes with smaller patio pots, I use the “old” soil as filler only in the base of big pots. Or it goes to compost areas or garden areas as filler at the end of the season. To me it is so worth it to have quality potting mix for your plants because they thrive and put on a wonderful show of growth when you do.

I put these two big heavy patio pots on trays with wheels so we could push them to a more sheltered location on my deck and I will cover each of them with thick tarps. I sometimes put a board over the top of the openings and then cover it. This seems to work well with my bigger pots in my yard – none of them have ever cracked, thankfully.

These upright elephant ears made me happy despite not getting super tall. The sun rose behind them every morning and lit up the leaves. I enjoyed looking at them from my bedroom sliders. These plants could be over-wintered as a houseplant IF you owned a a large home, but alas, I do not, but I would if I could. However, what I love about these is how you may store the tubers in a compact way to reuse them again and again every season. And it may look like lots of work or effort, but it was relatively quick to get it done. It doesn’t take too much muscle strength to get them dug out of pots either, as compared to the ground, where the roots extend further into ground soils.

You may also allow these plants to go dormant and store them in their growing container or pots but that also means having the space to do so. When I started these in the spring, the original tubers were planted about 4″ deep in my nursery starter pots. It was the waiting game that was difficult – waiting to see how they would grow, but when they did, many weeks of viewing was enjoyed in summer till almost the end of October. Tropical plants last well beyond annuals in most cases. Another reason I continue to enjoy them.

Also, these plants very rarely get insect problems. The upright elephant ears’ leaves are slick, shiny, glossy, and dark green. They’d make great candidates for making leaf bird baths the hypertufa style way! But who has time for that? I have to get ready for my holiday workshops now – and speaking of – I have to mention them:

KB 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0010

Holiday Workshops – December 7, 2019 – For Beginners and Advanced Attendees

Registrations ARE happening now for my December 7th, 2019 holiday workshop and if you are interested, I encourage you to sign-up early. The start time is 11 am to whenever you like, we have fun in these workshops making kissing balls, wreaths, or candle centerpieces with beautiful fresh greens. For as long as I can offer them, you should be taking these workshops – cause, I dare say, they are wonderful! Will I ever loose steam to do them, like I do all these pots in fall? Hmm, only time can tell. Hint: Don’t Miss Out! Sign-up now!

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0004

Red Banana Plant Stumps (Ensete)

Lastly, I also took down my two big red banana plants in other big pots in my yard. Here’s a photo of the stumps (technically pseudo stems) that get stored in BIG plastic bins, of course. I posted some time lapse videos of the process on my page noted above as well. Like the tubers of the upright elephant ears, I let them sit out in the sun to dry and drain because these big stumps hold excess water. I also clean the soil off the roots with a soft brush. Today, they will be laid to rest for the winter in the big bins in my basement.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
Located in Broad Brook, CT (East Windsor)
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

Next Workshop – This Sat, Oct 12 – Succulent Pumpkins

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Hello visitors!

We had a great time last Saturday making amazing succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces and we are offering a 2nd workshop this Sat, Oct. 12, 2019, at 1 – 3 pm. Now is your chance to sign-up! Location is Broad Brook, CT.

TIME CHANGE: Please note the time for the 10/12 workshop has been changed to 10:30 am to Noon to better suit current attendees. If interested in attending, please text Cathy T at 860-977-9473. Thank you!

Succ Pumpkin Workshops by C Testa Copywrite_0004

The creations last week were amazing. I love, love, love how people come up with their own versions and twists of creativity. It is so therapeutic to create, and to take home a centerpiece to showcase in your home is a great feeling.

And we don’t just make pumpkin arrangements. As seen above, attendees may bring their own container if they wish – like this really cool skull pot made by an attendee. I say she gets “first place” in creativity for skulls! Wow.

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And you may make a big or small centerpiece. I tell my attendees, you can pick a pumpkin as small as a baseball or as large as a basketball. It is up to you. The small ones are adorable, nice in groups on a table, or as table setting decor. The large ones are wonderful on large dining tables or on a stand in the home.

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You can pack them with succulents or go with a minimalist look. It is up to you! Everyone received some surprise free decor in the workshop. You will notice the little glitter dots are one of them. I just love how people used them – coming up with their own ideas. Grouping them, some glued them on the fake sparkly spiders, and one attendee used them to dress up a single gourd. I loved that – that gourd is a nice accent piece next to the succulent pumpkin centerpiece.

Succ Pumpkin Workshops by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Yesterday, I made this little guy below. I picked up the painted pumpkin at Strong Family Farm, a place where I offer workshops from time to time, in Vernon, CT. They are selling “painted pumpkins” and I thought, gosh, how cute would this be dressed up with my succulents?! The thing is – you can get more and more creative with these fall arrangements. I think I’ll bring this one to my presentation this week as a sample.

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We had a large group of attendees last Sat. I only wish I had more time to take more photos but I was busy. We went over propagation steps, the types of succulents to use on pumpkins, and then got right into crafting and making the centerpieces. Again, the pumpkins are NOT cut open – there is no rot issue. These last for months!

Now is the time to come make one this Saturday, October 12, 2019, from 1 to 3 pm! And by the way, I also make custom orders, like this one recently purchased. If interested, contact me anytime. Tis the Pumpkin Season.

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Thank you – Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Container Crazy CT offers workshops where we combine plants with art. We also install container gardens, patio gardens and sell plants in spring time for the tomato/pepper season. Soon it will be the holiday season. Be sure to visit our workshops site to sign-up early. Those fill up fast!

Succulent Pumpkins – This Saturday, 10/5

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Flyer Succ Pump This Sat

Last weekend, I held a Mini Succulent Pumpkin session at the Ellington Farmers Market and it was so much fun. Moms and their kids participated and the whole process is rewarding. To see the smiling faces of the kids walking away with their little pumpkin in hand was too adorable.

But, this weekend, it all about making Succulent Pumpkins of any size. Large, small, many mini sizes – it is up to the attendees. I am offering my first workshop of the Autumn season this Saturday, 10/5/19 from 10 am to Noon. Attendees bring their own pumpkins! Why? Because everyone has their own style and color preferences, and there are so many to choose from out there from local farmers and other places. I don’t much believe in offering workshops that are cookie cutter where everyone makes the same exact thing – people are so creative when they get into creating their centerpiece and this makes it all the more exciting. You have choices at my workshops.

By the way, lots of people assume the pumpkins are cut open – and they are not – this would rot the pumpkin – so come learn the how to’s here at my workshop on Saturday. The process is explained in detail, we teach you how to care for the succulents, and even how to continue them on after the pumpkin decorating season is over later in the year.

There is still time to sign up. Just either visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site or text me at 860-977-9473 if interested. We have some seats available. You pay a registration fee which includes the mechanics and instruction, but you must bring your own pumpkin and glue gun with glue sticks. We have some other misc glue available for attendees to use but the glue guns work best.

Also, here at Container Crazy CT’s in Broad Brook, I have the succulents of many styles and sizes waiting for you to pick from. You buy the succulents at the workshop and thus, you can make a huge pumpkin or many smalls – whatever you desire. That is the fun of it – if you ask me. I work hard to provide quality succulents and care for them for especially for my workshop attendees. They are fresh and happy succulents. They are waiting for you.

In addition, we are going to have a Propagation Station where you learn the steps on how to make succulent babies. And complete, detailed handouts are provided. We also will have some light autumn snacks. Hope you will consider attending as there are only 2 offerings of this workshop this month! The first one is only 4 days away.

And after the workshop, a few months later, attendees are invited to a free Facebook live where we show you what to do with your centerpiece after the autumn season is over to keep your succulents growing till spring time.

Thank you, Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

containercathy@gmail.com
860-977-9473
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com