This is a tough one

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This is a tough one.

It is the perfect time to start working on your gardens while you are sheltering at home, but should you go to your local garden center or supply store during this COVID-19 pandemic?

I saw a Facebook post the other day of a person upset someone was going to the store to get mulch. They shouted out on their post about how this is not the time to go to the store, risking contact with others, for mulch.

I thought, I see their point.

But darn it, it IS the time to be outside, to do something meditative, and get fresh air safely at home in your own yard with no one but you and the birds.

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Bird Houses are Garden Art too

People are stuck at home, and I am absolutely sure, people who love plants and gardening want to work on what they may while they have the spare time right now.

Conundrum

We have a conundrum on our hands here. Is it okay to go to the garden center or a supply store for plants or gardening items?

I am not going to answer that question.

I suppose if you are doing your six foot distancing, they have curb side pick-up for individual needed items, and you are not touching bags of soil – maybe.

But, I don’t know.

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Hopefully you have some soil on hand!

It kind of sucks for a gardener to not to take advantage of this free time.

After all, as noted above, gardening is very meditative and relaxes the mind. Something we all need right now.

And it is actually a good time to do some clean-up work outdoors in early spring, especially on sunny days.

Gardening and being outside may also help the kids at home now with breaks from at-home schooling.

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Micro-greens on a window sill

Things you could do possibly, if you don’t have the need for actual items like mulch or plants, are:

Prune your shrubs – those which should be done in early spring before new growth starts.

Remove dead leaves from your landscape or garden beds you didn’t get to in the fall.

Clean your patio pots and containers with water and bleach per the appropriate mixing directions.

Sow your seeds indoors. If no seedling trays on hand, use alternatives – egg cartons, yogurt cups, or toilet paper rolls. (If you don’t have seedling mix, that is a dilemma however.)

Sharpen your garden tools, clean up your garden shelves, and take inventory of your gardening items on hand and make a list of what is missing so when it is safe to go out, you will be ready.

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Clean Your Tools

Plan out a new garden bed you’ve always dreamed of.

Watch the patterns of sun and shade in your yard for a day – see where sun lovers are best suited and look for good places for shade plants, etc.

Dust off and read some of those garden books you have but never had the time to fully read before. You need to clean anyhow.

Get your garden decor items out of storage and place them in your favorite spots.

Grow some micro-greens inside the home (did you go to my sessions on those a couple seasons ago?)

Watch some garden related video’s for inspiration. (I have some on seed sowing on my sites right now). Visit my Container Crazy CT page on Facebook if interested.

Gather some stalks of spring flowering shrubs to force into bloom inside the home (e.g., forsythia).

Order some new container gardens and patio pots online. They may arrive a little later than normal but heck, they may be right on time for May plantings.

Get your tubers and bulbs out of winter storage. Pot them up early to get them started inside the home.

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Stalk of a Red Banana Plant starting to push out growth

Clean your hummingbird feeders and hang them up – empty, if need be. But they will be ready for when the hummingbirds are and you are ready to make your own sugar water.

Get your patio furniture set up. Okay, maybe risking a last season weird snow fall or spring frost incident, but it will melt fast.

Put your big pots out and dream of planting them. I am! Envision the future.

Collect your tomato cages, trellises, and bamboo poles. Put them where you will be using them when the garden green light is set to go.

Put out your peony hoops around the peony plants starting to pop up now from the ground.

Build a scarecrow with your kids to put in the garden with materials you have on hand. You’ve been cleaning your closets out anyhow, right?

Have your kids search for a hollow log in your landscape if you are near woods to create a planter of sorts. It doesn’t have to be live plants – add some dirt and make twig people. Or find some ferns in the wild to plant in the stump.

Paint some rocks. Another great kid activity. They could pick specific locations in your yard to put them out or place them in gardens. Make them herb markers. Don’t have paint, maybe use nail polish?

Enforcing policies if you have to go:

If we get creative, we can avoid the visits to supply stores or open garden centers, but if we truly do need supplies, then at a minimum, store owners need to enforce policies (see the article below).

And please people, don’t rush to judgement.

Some people may need a propane refill or pet food – which are also at some garden like stores.

Article stated above:

An article by AgCenter Research Extension Teacher outlines some tips in an article titled, “Public Health Emergency Response for Retail Store Managers.”

https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/aiverson/articles/page1584563222650

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

P.S. If you are local to me and need seed packets, I still have some in stock for tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, some flowers, herbs, etc for sale. I could mail them to you. The details are on WORKSHOPSCT.com. I will have seedlings for sale in mid-May too.

 

 

Finding the Bright Spots

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I was getting a little depressed the past couple days, I think because I started to worry about my husband still going to work. His company is considered essential, but to be honest, I want him to stay put at home and work remotely. Who wouldn’t want that?

Obviously, my worrisome feelings are because of those lurking fears of COVID-19 risks, but the other part is he is my only family member outside of me in our home! I am used to being at home alone, working here, and staying busy, but the pandemic made me feel a bit too alone. I’m sure many may relate to this feeling.

However, I had quite a few bright spots in the past week or so while I dealt with the emotional ups and downs of this challenge we are all facing. I’m up when I am in my greenhouse, for example, sowing seeds, but I get down real quick when I see the news and start to worry about loved-ones. And although I’m somewhat safe here at home, there are so many who are not safe, who have to face the danger every single day. I can’t imagine what their ups and downs feel like today.

I guess, from what I’ve read, it is important to focus on the bright spots right now when we can. Here are some of mine:

Bright Spot #1 – A thank you letter in the mail

I don’t always pick up our mail myself. My husband does it every day when he arrives at the end of our long driveway from work. He hops out of his car to get the mail and our newspapers, but yesterday, I walked to the mailbox to put an envelope in there to return a prepayment check for a workshop I was hired to do for a prep school in May. Of course, the May session has been cancelled. No worries, that is okay. On the way back from the mailbox, however, as I sifted thru my mail pile, I saw a card in the stack. It was from Garden Media Group. It stopped me in my tracks.

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The Thank You Card

I attended a presentation by the owner and founder of Garden Media Group, Suzi McCoy, many years ago at UCONN. I was just starting my own small plant related business at that time, and her speech made an impact on me. I could write a whole page on why, let’s just say, she knows marketing, especially plant related marketing. Everything she stated during that presentation spoke to me. It had a lot to do about the “new” Facebook world and how to market there, and what not to do on social media as well. Also, she included a whole presentation on TRENDS in the gardening world for that particular year. If you do a google search on Garden Media Group, you may see this about her company:

Today Garden Media is one of the top 10 public relations firms in the Philadelphia region and the top marketing communications and PR firm in the lawn and garden industry. We know this industry inside and out, and people know us, from the top media to garden center owners to horticultural breeders.

I’ve read every single one of Garden Media’s annual gardening trends reports since attending that talk years ago. I find marketing in general fascinating but even more exciting when it is related to plants of course. Sometimes, to be honest, I felt I was a trend-setter because some of the things I offered related to plants would be in that report. Other times, the trends report tuned me in to what is on the rise. It was always on the mark, I’ll say that – in my opinion.

Recently, it was announced Suzi McCoy was retiring and her daughter is taking over the company. Right at that moment, I decided to type Suzi McCoy a letter and tell her how her presentation that day spoke to me and how I followed her advice in her company’s newsletters and trend reports ever since. Me, being a very small solo business, with very little mentors of my own, she was a mentor from afar but she didn’t know it. I let her know this. This letter was sent to her at least a month or more ago.

When I was reading her handwritten thank you card in my driveway at the base of the hill yesterday, half way back up to my house, the sun was shining on me and I thought, wow, one of my garden heroes wrote me back. I stopped in my driveway to read it completely. It was one of those letters you can’t wait to open till you get inside the house. She said she saved my letter to her. She also said that she was flabbergasted, as one never knows how or when they can make a difference in someone’s life. To get her thank you in return for my letter to her, which I didn’t anticipate or expect at all, right now during COVID-19, made it extra special to me. Her letter and the timing was a bright spot.

Bright Spot #2 – My nephew face-timed me

My young nephew is stuck at home now due to school closings, so I’m sure he was searching to play with his new messaging app, which is monitored by his parents, but I was pleased he face-timed me this past weekend. It was a bright spot for sure as it was a surprise as well. While talking to him, I walked myself and my phone to the greenhouse to show him all the seed trays I’ve sown, and he replied with, “Wow!” Then he told me I was breaking up due to a low connection, and I told him, “Oh yes, that happens when I’m in my greenhouse.” Anyhow, after that, I showed him a view of his Uncle Steve chainsawing wood. This got him all excited. That was a bright spot.

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Bagged Seed Sowing Kits 

Bright Spot #3 – Seed Sowing Kits

First of all, I sold seed starting kits to about 15 people when the presentation I was going to do at a market was cancelled (due to COVID-19). I want to say thank you to those who purchased the kits from me. I finally packed up the remaining kits I had pre-assembled for the market because I realize we should not be risking social contact anymore. But a bright spot was hearing how happy people were who got the kits and sowed their seeds at home. They got a bit of “excitement” knowing that they had something to look forward to – seeds germinating and sprouting above the soil!

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Sealed Seed Packets for Mailing

You see, it makes ME happy when others are happy about plants. I even had a friend of a friend ask me to mail him a few seed packets, and I did. Along with sending him my instructional PDFs to show all on how to sow the seeds. As you can see, I’m a wordy girl, so they get lots of PDF details along with their seeds and/or kits. And I gave a seed sowing kit to a friend’s mother who is dealing with throat cancer. She sent me a message to say thank you. That was a bright spot.

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The Tiny Bright Spot making a Big Impact

Bright Spot #4 – Seeds Actually Sprouting

I’ve been doing some Facebook Lives from my private workshops page for my regulars on how to sow seeds, what to do, how to watch over your seedlings, how to transplant them and what have you when it comes to sowing tomato and pepper seeds. And this did and does make me happy – very happy in fact, especially last week on the sunny days. It gave me a focus and people are at home anyways, so how perfect is it to share what I can with them?

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Bumble Bee is on the left, Fox Cherry on the Right

But as noted above, I started to get the blues real fast this week. I felt the blahs. Then I walked into my greenhouse yesterday, and saw my Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomato seeds are starting to sprout. And when I say sprout, I mean the tiniest tinniest baby sprout. This thing, this tiny thing, made me smile. Why? It is just a seed, after all. Because it shows renewal, growth, future, success, and I don’t know – I’m a plant freak, is why! Nature has always amazed me. Even from childhood. I often looked at nature and pondered it. Nature and plants are my savior right now. I’m not just saying that. Plants are my bright spot. And eating those yummy cherry tomatoes this summer will be even more appreciated than normal.

Bright Spot #5 – Hubby working from home today

He is working remotely today. He handed me a cup of coffee as I was typing this. He made his typical jokes the way he always does. He is an eternal optimist. But his work is considered essential and not on the stay at home list, so I know he will have to go back in to do some rotating duties at the office. But for now, I will soak up this bright spot and feel a bit of relief. Hopefully the next bright spot on my list will be scoring TP today, because I have to go out and get some. Wish me luck!

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

P.S. I received another bright spot this morning. A text from a client, showing me the new containers I will be planting this spring for her! 🙂

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Me, Cathy T, last spring. Looking forward to more bright spots to come!

 

 

Market cancelled but I’m still here!

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Hi everyone,

The Ellington Farmer’s Market had to cancel tomorrow’s last winter market, where I was scheduled to speak, but hey – I’m still here! If you have a need for seeds, seed kits, fresh houseplants, or succulents, please reach out. I am located in Broad Brook, CT and we could arrange for a meet up if local or near my town.

If interested, lists of what is available are provided to you via email, etc.

In the meantime, please stay healthy and calm. Remember, plants calm the soul! Consider sprucing up your home with some air purifiers, grow some of you own seedlings now, and get your TP!

And also – a big thank you for all who attended last night’s Purse and Plant Party – it was really fun. Enjoy your new plants and purses.

I hope, truly, that everyone stays safe and sound.

Thank you – Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

How will COVID-19 Affect Plant Events?

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How will the virus affect plants, plant products, and plant world remains to be seen. I do have to say, however, this week in Connecticut, there seems to be a ramp up of concerns. I just listened to a voicemail received on my cell by Congressman Larson telling us that there will be a update issued to cell phones at 7:00 pm today about Covid-19. There seems to be a panic in the air. We all have our concerns, fears, and sometimes, we are trying to not go there – meaning trying not to panic and remain calm. Wash hands, don’t touch your face, and stay healthy, in general.

That is what I’ve been trying to do. I try not to watch the news too much, but I have to admit, I want to know the updates. I try not to touch my face, wash the hands, and trying to stay healthy. Thank God I have my plant sanctuary to unwind and stay calm, which is my greenhouse filled with plants and seedlings starting right now. My Happy Place.

We are seeing many events being cancelled, and oh boy, I understand totally, but I also have a little fear of how many will they cancel? As for me, we are proceeding tonight with a Purse and Plant Party, an idea that sparked into my mind one day when chatting with Buxton Sales Rep friend, Maryse Kettle. We decided to collab (collaborate) and we are fully prepared for today’s event which is being held at a restaurant in East Windsor, CT from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm today. The restaurant is called Elizabeth’s Bar and Restaurant at 4 Prospect Hill Road (not drive as someone just pointed out to me).

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Note it is Prospect Hill Road (not drive).

This shopping event is being held in their banquet room and any one wishing to shop today may stop by anytime between 3 pm and 7 pm. I guess we will be listening to Congressman Larson’s phone update there when we close our event. Will this be the last event of my spring season?! I surely hope not. I think we all have to weigh out our situations. But this show must go on. We have lots of plants and purses – we are ready!

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A mix of Healthy House Plants will be available

This event is good timing, however, to get healthy and happy plants, as well as, to enjoy shopping a huge mix of purses, wallets, accessories. As for plants, well – they DO enhance our well being. Plants are able to make us feel more calm – something we need right now with Covid-19 being in our minds. Plants also help you to relax and be mindful. If you create a space as your indoor green oasis, you can meditate there with plants. Did you know that people with plants in their work spaces actually take fewer sick days?! They tend to feel happier and there have been studies by NASA about how plants “clean” indoor air. This is something good to know for buildings, homes, and schools.

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Satin Pothos – Trailing plant, gorgeous in macrame hangers, moderate to bright light. Fast growing, and one of my favorite easy house plants – will be available tonight.

Houseplants in particular are trending now too. I think people really understand the value of plants in general for increasing our well-being whether at home or at work by having nature around us. And also increasing our spaces to enjoy inside the home.

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Zebra Plant – Bold white veins and patterns on the leaves. Very pretty plant. Bright to moderate light. This one likes warmer temps so keep away from drafts of cold windows but what a beauty. I just LOVE this one. Keep soil constantly moist but not overly wet.

Tonight, I am offering 11 varieties of houseplants for sale and they are very healthy right now. I personally think now is the time to get some of these beauties – especially if the impacts of Covid-19 impact the traveling of plants to our regions for our nurseries or plant people, like me! I will also have various succulents in containers, in individual decorative pots, and my Mother’s Day Gift Cards.

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Low modern small dish garden with baby succulents I grew myself. Only 2 of these tonight will be available! It has a nice wooden tray to sit on.

My collab friend, Maryse Kettle, is stocked up with many purses and accessories. She knows her stuff when he comes to fashion and accessories! Her product line, Buxton, is made of fine quality. She is offering one of a kind designer samples and leather hand-bags at 1/2 price. She’s kind of got me hooked on purses now – I love the different varieties she has in very festive bright colors, especially for spring. I guess her sample sale is somewhat similar to my plants – as I have samples of many types of houseplants ready for the garden and plant lovers.

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White TerraCotta Pots, 3″ size, with succulents – Only have 18 available – they are doing really well in these porous pots. Perfect gift or for your shelf at home!

Again, show up anytime between 3 pm – 7 pm at Elizabeth’s. The restaurant is in a plaza off to the side of Rt 5 (Prospect Hill Road). You will see a big banner outside displayed to help you locate us. It is an easy on/off highway 91 too in Connecticut for East Windsor.

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Lots of colors – not just the hot pinks or reds. Black purses and many other styles and colors.

I hope you will join us. And oh yes, by the way, we are offering a FREE raffle. Cash and checks please. We do have a link for any items over $40 available for PayPal, but in general, we would like to use cash and checks for payments at today’s event.

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

2020 UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Purse and Plant Party

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Hello all,

What a wonderful winter we have had so far, right? No big snow storms. I hope I don’t jinx myself by typing this – but wow, it feels like spring on some days, although I did work outdoors for 3 hours on Sunday and it was very cold, brrr! I had overalls on, two shirts, a hat pulled over my ears, a neck warmer, thick gloves, a warm coat, and big snow boots to stay comfortable.

But, only one day later, I was outside without a coat unloading my truck from Sunday’s work in warm temps that felt more spring than winter. It seems the daily weather is fluctuating this year, and I would guess that most of us in Connecticut agree, it has been a mild winter. Thus, this gets us into thinking spring sooner, don’t you think? I do.

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PURSE AND PLANT PARTY

To kick off the ‘think ahead spring’ season, I am holding a collab with a friend (and she is my cousin too), called “Purse and Plant Party!” It will be held next week, Thursday, March 12, 2020 from 3 pm to 7 pm at a local restaurant, called Elizabeth’s Bar and Restaurant in East Windsor, CT.

Stop in any time to see the wonderful line of purses and accessories by Sales Rep, Maryse Kettle, of Buxton Co. There will be many colors and styles available for purchase. And, I will be offering succulent plants, plant gifts, seeds, and houseplants for sale. It will be held in the banquet room next to the bar area. We hope you can pop by. Please take note – checks and cash are preferred.

SEED SOWING DEMO

Two days after, I will be offering a demo at the Ellington Winter Farmers Market. The winter market is held at the YMCA and there is a large side room for demonstrations – find me there starting my talk at 2:00 pm, shortly after the market opens. I will talk about seed sowing for tomato and pepper plants primarily. There will be a hands-on opportunity for anyone wanting to start a 6 pack cell tray, and will have seeds for sale and seed planting kits. This is THE PERFECT date to get it all started. My demo is focused, as you know, if you are a follower, on planting in container gardens and patio pots. The talk is free to attend, the hands-on portion has a small fee, or you may purchase kits or seed packets. Now is the time my gardening friends. This is held in Ellington, CT. See link above. Again, cash or check preferred.

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PLANT BLOGGING

Ok! I admit it – I need to really blog some topics on here soon on plants and not just events. I have so many topics on my mind, it is not easy to find the time to sit down and write it all out – but I promise I will soon. If there is a particular topic you would like to hear about, please let me know.

WHAT I DO AND OFFER

I think now is a good time to remind everyone, in addition to holding plant related workshops and demonstrations, I also make custom plant gifts and install container gardens and patio pots for homes and businesses. I actually have 3 sites. This one, called Container Crazy CT, and one specific to workshops called WORKSHOPSCT.com. And my container install site is called, ContainerGardensCT.com. CT for Connecticut or for my initials, Cathy Testa. I am also on Instagram and have a gallery on SmugMug.

Well, I gotta go – today is one of the days leaning towards warmth and sunshine, expected to be 55-61 this afternoon – yahoooooo! Love that – especially when in the greenhouse making items for my upcoming events.

Thank you for visiting today,

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