Trail Cam Fun

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We have been placing trail cameras (used to capture photos of animals roaming around our woodlands) for years on our private property. We have seen many deer, turkeys, bobcats, coyotes, and the past few years, great blue herons. Apparently, the herons love wetlands. Here are some recent photos we captured on our newest trail camera during this winter of 2023.

Isn’t he (or she?) a beauty? We are impressed by the quality of these trail camera photos. They are clear and the date and time is stamped automatically on the bottom of the photos. This trail camera was about $50 bucks from Cabela’s in East Hartford, CT. Not bad investment for lots of entertainment.

About two summers ago, I started to recognize the freakish sounds great blue herons make as they land into their nests. I would also see them fly above the tree line and do a few rounds in the sky before finding and landing into their nests. This is a special treat for me as I sit back watching this process from my deck with a glass of wine in hand. It feels like a special treat to witness these huge, magnificent bids. My very own nature show.

Stepping into the waters

My husband is very good at finding the perfect locations to place these cameras, but we also have to bear in mind that the land gets flooded at times, so it is important to not place them where the camera will be drowned in water and ruined.

Waiting for a fish?
Unaware we are spying on him.
Cool feathers
Talk about a perfect shot!
Maybe he sees the camera now?
Look at those wings!

To compare cameras, this photo below with the green grassy area was taken with an older trail camera we’ve had for several years. And I believe this was during the spring or summer, can’t recall.

And here’s another with our older trail cam, called Reconyx. I have to say that camera really lasted a long time and has survived some of those mistakes where it was under water. It still worked! I remember the first time I saw a bobcat in a trail cam photo; I couldn’t believe it! But now I see them often crossing our backyard. They are quite common in our neck of the woods in Connecticut. I also saw one stalking turkeys once – using one of my giant pots in the backyard to hide, that was something to witness, until he saw me and took off. And another time, one crossed our yard while we were grilling on our deck. Steve said he couldn’t believe how fast I grabbed my iPhone and filmed him. He seemed to be unaware he was only about 20 feet from us as he carefully but quickly crossed our yard from the edge of the woodlands.

And here’s another from the Reconyx trail cam. I wonder if the wild animals think these cameras are aliens?! They definitely check them out sometimes and they know something is going on, but they are not sure what.

And yes, another of a coyote. I actually saw two coyotes pass through my backyard last week. One had a very bad looking tail. The coyote in this photo from year 2021 in winter shows that he was very healthy looking. I’ve seen them stalk my chicken coop before when I had chickens. That is why no more chicken coop or chickens for us. They don’t take long to discover the chickens!

And another from 2021. Someone told me they didn’t think great blue herons stuck around for the winter, but they do. Or perhaps they just love the Testa Ranch, LOL!

This one was interesting – is the squirrel carrying its baby? It appears as such!

Well, that’s about it for my trail cam story – Hope you enjoyed the photos! We enjoy viewing them, especially during the winter months.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
A nature lover as well as a plant enthusiast waiting out winter.
Date of Post: 2/7/2023

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What Will the New Year Bring?

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I don’t know!

As I sit here on December 30, 2022, I really don’t know what the new year will bring. Every time I think things will return to normal, it doesn’t.

Hopefully the new year will bring “new” things! We shall see.

No Tomatoes in 2023

Bad news first – I don’t think I will be growing my tomatoes this spring. Boo! I know!! But a potential trip will be timed exactly when I would be tending to the sprouted seeds, and I just can’t leave them be when I’m away. Taking care of new baby plants is time consuming, a daily activity of checking and monitoring them, and since I work solo, I don’t think I can grow them in 2023. When growing from seeds, there is so much involved in the “daily nursery aspect.” I open doors, close greenhouse doors, inspect the plants to make sure they are healthy, I move plants, put some under grow lights, move some, I monitor them – sometimes twice a day to maintain just the right moisture, and then there is the potting up phases! That definitely will be an activity missed in 2023, but maybe I can use that time to do some repair work in the greenhouse since it won’t be filled with seedlings. On the plus side, I will be having some type of seed packet sale – so stay tuned if you like heirlooms.

New Offerings?

Sometimes I ponder what new activity could I add to my small business offerings. I know the “organic” things which come to mind spontaneously cannot be forced! It is like it has to happen naturally. Like when you are standing in the shower, and some idea just magically pops into my head. That is usually how it happens. Hopefully a new idea will surface. There have been many in the past, like when I got totally consumed in growing sprouts in the home, remember that?!

Continue Summer Watering Services

I know I want to continue my new “Watering Services” in the heat of summer when people travel. I took care of a few gardens for homeowners and also watered a community garden plots last summer. It felt good to care for plants while someone was traveling and knowing they could relax knowing their plants would be fine and especially because mid-summer is a big harvest month. You need to water at that time, and this service is on my list to continue in the summer of 2023. If interested, look me up next summer, and I will be sure to send out reminders as well.

Container Gardening, of course, will Continue!!

Container gardening is always number one and I will continue to install patio pots, planters, dish gardens, and more at specific sites as best as I can. I’m getting older so lifting is getting harder. At least with container gardening I do not have to dig in the ground but lifting bags of potting soil mix or lifting pots and nursery pots is a thing. I need to work on building up strength so I can continue my passion with container gardening. And knowing to take your time when lifting, using hand trucks and thinking it through helps a great deal so you don’t strain anything.

Camper Style

We bit the bullet and got a small camper last year and absolutely loved it – but only got to use it once or twice, so next year, we hope we can adventure with that more during our off time. Got a recommendation for locations you love in the US for camping? Let us know. I never imagined I’d be a camper girl, but the relaxation of it and not worrying about flight problems, well, that sold me and my hubby. So, for the fun list – this will continue between work.

Seasonal and Holiday Decor

I can’t imagine going thru the fall or winter season without continuing some of my creations, such as the Succulent Pumpkins and my Holiday Wreaths. They were so fun to make this past year, and I thank you again for all your orders. It was a fast-paced Holiday and so much fun to create and handmake all the wreaths, garland, etc. I love the wreaths I made for myself too.

But More??

What more could I do with my business? Got a suggestion? Let me know. I know people still, once in a great while will ask if I still do workshops, and I don’t. I just don’t know if I could do those again, but who knows, right? We really don’t know what the future will bring. However, my stamina for the work involved in workshops faded. It was almost like throwing a baby shower or mini wedding event at times, as I did a great deal to set it up and make it happen, not to mention managing all the plants before after and during. Anyhow, it was good when they were happening, but as I get older, I find it more challenging to organize and run the workshops.

Hopefully the new year will be good to us, and we will discover new happenings which make us happy. I know working with plants keeps me happy and cheerful.

Have a great New Year’s Eve and Stay Healthy,

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
http://www.WorkshopsCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardenCT.com
Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT

First Fluffy Snow

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Yesterday was our first fluffy snow fall, which I have to admit, made me happy. I can picture the soft white snow on the items I made for many holiday orders this year at people’s homes, such as Kissing Balls hanging outdoors, Patio Pots filled with holiday greenery, Garlands, Wreaths, and more. The snow is also a great way to add some moisture to the greens on the wreaths and such.

The past two weeks were extremely busy. As a one woman owned business, with a very helpful special Elf Helper, my hubby, we did it – installed and created holiday scenes for everyone. Today, I hope to make a nice big Boxwood Wreath. I show all my photos on my Instagram page under Container Crazy CT handle.

I want to take this morning to say THANK YOU to all the people who hired me to work on their holiday scenes and patio pots, and also to all who ordered a Wreath, Kissing Ball, or Garland this year. It puts me (and hopefully them) into the holiday spirit. I finally got to do some of my own outdoor decorating yesterday a little bit before the snow started to fall. But it is a real treat and a special thing for me to create Holiday Items for people – THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT – and pick-ups.

I also have to admit, I do stay inside a lot when people pick up their orders cause I’m so busy and can’t talk too long, plus I really really didn’t want to catch any colds or COVID during my work of holiday crunch time. But I find the “Pick-ups” are extremely useful and helpful to people when they are also doing their own rush holiday errands and they may pop by to get their handmade wreath with fresh greenery and other items quickly (Grab and Go!).

Next on the list is making some unique holiday pick-up gifts which are great for last minute shoppers, me included! I haven’t shopped at all yet for Christmas gifts on my own to-do lists. I never have the time in early December.

Hope you are enjoying this snow fall – it sure looks pretty from my office window – I can say that!

Sincerely,

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer located in Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com

www.ContainerGardensCT.com

http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (Blog – You are Here).

Countdown to Christmas!

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Good morning everyone,

Yesterday, on the news, they said today is one of the busiest days for many small businesses offering holiday items, but we are expecting lots of rain and heavy winds today here in Connecticut, which may result in power outages. That’s okay, I can still make my custom wreaths in the dark with the woodstove going and candle light if need be.

Also, for some very odd reason, every year around now, my technology starts to give me trouble – why?! I Wonder?!! One year, my iPhone died completely at this busy holiday time, and I actually had to rush out to buy a new one – a present I wasn’t expecting; I remember feeling completely frustrated I had to do that.

This year, my iphone is not dinging when texts arrive (I seem to fix it once, and it is happening again), and my business Facebook page under Container Crazy CT seems to be doing weird things – Ugh, please holiday bad gremlin go away. Just like in the holiday movies, there is always that one bad spirit trying to steal the happiness of others – maybe that is my tech gremlin! I can’t let him do that though!!!

So, I am just reminding everyone the best way to reach me is a direct text or email works too! I’m busy making wreaths and offering my Holiday Box of Greens. Now is truly the best time to get this as the next week is busier than this week for me. As a one-woman owned business, with one very cute Elf Helper, a heads-up is very much appreciated!

Thank you,
Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Four Weeks Till Christmas

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The festive holidays are starting off nicely this year. Thanksgiving Day was a beautiful day here in Connecticut, followed by Friday, which was a little misty and rainy at first but not terrible in regards to weather, then a beautiful sunny day on Saturday (a popular day to get your Christmas trees and start outdoor decorating, as well as hitting up Shop Small Saturdays for local businesses for gifts), and it looks like we will squeeze out at least another half day of no rain before rain again later in the day on Sunday, today.

This kind of nice cooler, non-rainy weather is helpful to me, because I will make at least 100 trips back and forth to my garage for my greens to make wreaths and prep items for holiday pots and planters during the next two weeks. I have to bundle going back and forth and if it is not raining, it sure helps. Even better is when there isn’t any ice on the driveway where I could potentially slip and fall. However, I don’t mind misty rain so much nor would I mind a “nice pretty snowfall” because it adds to the upcoming Christmas spirit we start to experience this time of year after Thanksgiving weekend.

This year is different, because things are just costing more. When you see an item priced a little higher, please just remember, it is not because anyone is taking advantage – at least not by small local businesses, it is because they are being charged higher too, and that is just the way it is this year. We all have to pick and choose what is important and valuable to us. In fact, we went to get our Christmas tree on Friday, and it was $75. All the trees in the lot were $75 regardless of size, where as a year ago, the place had no trees due to shipping issues, and the year before, I think it was $55. But you know what? We got a gorgeous tree at $75. It is so full and beautiful. Last night, I sat in-front of it with my husband and we admired the tree. It smells great in the house, the needles are firm, and it is full. I’m thinking I will sit in front of it every night instead of the television the next four weeks!

Anyhow, today is probably the day I will make my first custom wreath. And yesterday, was the day I boxed up my first greens box order. I am so very thankful for those who have placed orders thus far. Making each items brings me joy and a little worry too, cause I always worry – I know, not productive! BUT, it can be productive when you are planning and doing your best to have all the holiday “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. But overall, once I get into the zen of making a wreath, it is all good!

We are now at week 4 – meaning four weeks before Christmas. Our weekend agendas will hopefully start to be filled with gatherings and/or festive activities, or perhaps it will be mellow. Not everyone has those big family gatherings, some are small and intimate. Maybe you feel lonely this year, due to a loss, or perhaps just because things are not panning out a certain way. Whatever the case, surround yourself with what makes YOU happy. Whether it be a wreath or a chocolate bar (hopefully hand made with really good chocolate), or in the case of a wreath, handmade with really good fresh greens! And pick those things which make others happy to – for those who are important to you.

One thing that makes me happy to offer is my Holiday “Box of Greens,” which is actually two boxes with 8 varieties of fresh holiday greenery per order. To learn more of the total list of varieties and contents, cost, etc., feel free to contact me soon! And get decorating alone or with friends. I’m located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT and will be here every day this week and most of next. You may also visit me on, http://www.WorkshopsCT.com for additional details, photos, etc.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your weekend! Hopefully today will be a day of rest for YOU!

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

How Many Days Till Thanksgiving

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I’m sure everyone knows how many days till Thanksgiving 2022! We are looking over menus, inviting friends and family to gatherings, and feeling the chill in the air to signal a new holiday upon us soon.

For me how many days till Thanksgiving is important because I start making custom holiday wreaths and kissing balls, some fresh made garlands, and other holiday gift items starting the weekend of Thanksgiving. So, we have 2 weeks to go before getting to my “start date!” for orders.

There’s quite a bit of pre-planning, such as reaching out to those who routinely order from me, posting various photos, wiring ornaments ahead (to save time while making wreaths), maybe spray painting some items for some outdoor holiday installations, or measuring various items, and checking the stock of my inventory needed is a big task as well. Do I have enough wreath frames in different sizes, florist wire, and other items needed to create? Remember COVID year, things were in low supply. I don’t think supply issues are as big but they do impact costs that continue to rise. Cost rising means more planning and careful to not over do things, which is tricky if you love to decorate!

Also, I usually make some special trips too to sources to find unique ornaments, ribbons, or decor to use – but restraint is also required because, not to be a broken record, but we all know prices of practically everything has gone up. As my SIL said recently, “Can you believe even celery is expensive?!” Yes! I can! However, I can not resist making beautiful wreaths with a mix of greens – everyone needs to at least have a wreath to adorn their door, mantels, or outside windows, you name it.

My wreaths come in various sizes from small, standard, large, and deluxe sizes. Usually, standard is a popular choice for folks, and standard or large sizes fit well on doors. I try to use color choices desired, but this year, I have to say with the rise in prices of greens to ribbons, I will be using standard colors mostly. There are some exceptions for special orders, etc. I do the best I can for everyone. And all is made with fresh greenery.

I also offer “boxes of greens” if you wish to make your own, and also make large kissing balls custom made. Fresh greens are great for your outdoor pots, window boxes, or to adorn a railing inside the home.

To inquire or learn more visit me at:

http://www.WorkshopsCT.com (posts by products there)

Instagram under my handle of “Container Crazy CT” where I post lots of pictures.

SmugMug Galleries (Click on HOLIDAY FOLDERS CATHY T) to see various galleries of past and present holiday creations.

Facebook under my handle of “Container Crazy CT

Hopefully, I will hear from you soon!

My Holiday Orders’ list has started to grow!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Located in Broad Brook section of East Windsor, Connecticut
containercathy@gmail.com

Looking Back on Holiday Creations

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My holiday creations and wreaths are usually featured on my other blog site, WorkshopsCT.com, but I got in the mood to review some past creations and thinking about what will be the new creations for this upcoming holiday season.

Last year was the year of the half-wine bottles as an adorable, easy-care, and fun holiday gift. I made these with soil, a beautiful succulent, and holiday bling. So fun. They sold quickly and I was happy to create them.

Silver pine cones with Mr. Santa in white was the theme which developed. I called them “Grab-N-Go!” gifts last season.

Then was the year where I became obsessed with the Rockefeller owl, the little owl discovered in the tree put up in Rockefeller center in NYC. I thought so much about that little adorable owl, and it just hit me to create these larger globes and bubble bowls with the owl as my inspiration.

I purchased an ornament and coffee cup from the organization who saved and rehabilitated the owl and it just was some kind of thing with me where I couldn’t stop thinking about how cute that owl was, and the fact, the owl survived stuck in that wrapped huge tree heading to the city for display!

I ended up making quite of few of these as people ordered them. Each little owl was wrapped in a very soft material I acquired to match the photos of the real owl. I put decor, mini succulents, and some evergreen tips in each. So fun to make. Loved this so much. And it was just one of those “organic” ideas that popped into my head.

Several years ago, I made one of those holiday themed mannequin skirts with fresh greens during the holidays. It was a test, and I cannot claim credit for this idea. I started seeing them on Instagram feeds, and after I finished making custom wreaths for orders, I decided to give this a try!

It was a little tricky to make. I used chicken wire underneath to work with and loved how it came out but I thought you sure would need a nice location to display it and keep it fresh, and how would one transport this? – it would have to be made on-site, and it was time consuming as well. I loved it though. I almost purchased a bunch of those mannequin clothing display stands from a warehouse once, but then I stopped myself, because I didn’t think I’d really get many orders for these. So this was just a first trial test.

These moss holiday balls with mini tapered candles were from last season. Aren’t they just adorable. Could you see them lined up on a table for a holiday fancy dinner? Little things like this make perfect hostess gifts too and are nice used in groupings with other decor you may have on hand.

I’ve made other glass hanging votives with matching mini baubles wreaths shown below. The creative juices will start to flow at times. This one was so cute because the mouse was so cute with his little red Santa hat. How could anyone resist him?!

I called this one the “Ho-Ho-Ho” globe – what really made it was the perfect bow on the bottom. And the ribbon on the top. A friend ordered a set of these for her best girlfriends – which I think is super sweet.

Every year, a spontaneous gift related idea for the holidays pops into my head – those are the best, the ones that just arrive in your mind for whatever reason. It could be a unique little animal I saw somewhere, or whatever. Those are the fun, spontaneous, unique ones for me to make. I don’t know yet what will spur a new idea for this Holiday but I am planning to go look at some inspirations. Maybe something new will come to me – we will see.

And of course, there are my custom made wreaths. I like to make them full and fluffy – that is just my style, with a nice mix of greens. I will be taking custom orders again this year which are picked up from my home base location.

My kissing balls take a really long time to make and use up a lot of greens, but I’m always happy with the result. They are rather large too. Here I am holding one up which is good arm exercise. My husband is always so helpful with taking my photos for me so I can show others what the kissing balls look like – this was one before being decorated.

Here’s an example of a rather large and full and fluffy wreath I made. I love the white snowy background.

And another, made for a customer, with a bow with cute red, white, and silver colors.

And here he is, my willing hubby, always helping me to take photos and sometimes to install the larger wreaths at sights.

And here is what I called, or should say my customer called, a Winter Wonderland! It was freezing out the day we put this all together but somehow my love of holiday greens kept me working away until my fingers needed thawing.

A few wreaths laid out on a table before installing them. I’m so lucky we built a larger garage when we built it many moons ago because it comes in handy for setting up and laying out all my materials while I work.

Well, today is a beautiful, sunny autumn day, but I started to think about the holidays ahead and that got me into these photos. I’m looking forward to a weekend of autumn right now however, and I’m sure you are too!

Cathy Testa
Container Gardener
Plant Gift Creator
Plant Enthusiast
860-977-9473
Located in Broad Brook, Connecticut
containercathy@gmail.com

Date of this Post: 10/28/2022

For more information on my custom work, please visit www.WorkshopsCT.com.

Thank you!

My Mangave Shoots Up A Bloom

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I like finding cool and unique plants for my clients’ balcony gardens every season, so when I spotted two rather large Mangave plants at a local garden center, I had to grab them despite the price. I was excited to plant them in two large upright planters and I asked my husband to take a photo of me standing right behind the planters.

Cathy Testa with Mangave in front planter

The mask wearing was on purpose, to show a timeline history of my plantings, and this had to be when masks for COVID were still required. Anyhow, I wore a pink mask and I loved how the photo came out. We were still required to wear masks at this time so I think it was 2020, or 2019.

Mangave is a Cross between Manfreda and Agave

I’m a big fan of Agaves, so when I spotted an article about the new Mangaves, which I read about prior to finding the only two available at a local garden center, it elevated my excitement of getting them and planting them as a unique and dramatic specimen at this location. I love the outlines of the plant, the speckling on the leaves (spines), and the fact it was not something commonly found at that time.

Here is some background information about it.

As stated in the article linked above:

Taking the best from both genera, Mangave have the accelerated growth rate, spotting and softer spines from manfreda, mixed with the durability and large architectural forms of agave. Mangave hybrids bring the potential of hundreds of new colors and habits not previously seen among agave in a product that’s more grower-friendly, with a quicker finish time and less prickly spines.

As the principal breeder of Mangave, Hans is the perfect source for the story behind the succulent, his experiences with the crop and how he sees it contributing to the world of horticulture.

https://www.growertalks.com/Newsletters/View/Newsletter/?article=3103

Spines are not weapons, like with regular Agaves

It is true, the spines are less prickly than typical Agaves. In fact, spines on Agaves are so sharp, they could be used as a weapon! And the spotting patterns on these new Mangaves are very interesting on the spines, and it has a wonderful architectural form, and yes, they grow fast! My two specimens were already rather large so I knew they must have been growing somewhere at a growers for a while before making it to a local garden center in my area to be offered for sale. In fact, when I spotted them at the garden center, they were sitting on the floor in their large nursery pots under a bench, as if almost hidden from sight, near other succulents and cacti. I lifted them into my shopping cart at warp speed, let me tell ya. I knew I had to have them.

They served as wonderful candidates all summer long at the clients’ site, and I think the only downfall to these plants is the spines are extremely flexible and soft, thus with one bump, the tips break off. I don’t like that aspect because it feels like a break to the overall form and architecture of the plant, so they are somewhat difficult to move, especially when you are moving plants up to a high-rise, but the effort was worth it. When moving them, use caution to not break any of the spine tips when possible, as I did the more I experienced observing, growing, and using this plant. It turned out to be more useful than I had expected.

September 21

In September of 2021, I noticed a bloom coming up on one of the Mangaves, which I had returned home earlier from the client site. Sometimes plants are taken back, and in this case, one of the Mangaves at the client’s balcony had started experiencing growing issues, so I took it home, inspected the roots, and sure enough, there was some type of pillbug in the soil. Because I cherished this plant, I removed all the soil and repotted it in new fresh potting mix that is well draining and more on the coarse side. Agaves typically don’t like wet soil, and I suspected the soil was probably wet prior to even planting it. I watched it for a while outdoors to see if it would improve, which it did, then in the autumn season, before frost time here in Connecticut, I moved it into my greenhouse. It was around that time, in September, that it suddenly started to shoot up a bloom stalk.

A Bloom Stalk Surfaces in 2021

When the bloom started, I was super excited about this and posted a photo to my Instagram feed (seen above). As some plant people may or may not know, Agave plants do not commonly flower. Some will bloom after several years, while others may take as long as ten years or even a hundred years to produce a bloom; this is why Agave plants are referred to as century plants. And the flowers will grow on the tip of a very tall stem, solo rising up from the middle of the plant, and the stem/stalk will grow super tall, reaching for the skies, or in my case, reaching for the ceiling of my lean-to style greenhouse. Knowing this, I was pretty excited to see how long it would take the flower stem (referred to as a candelabrum or wand for Agaves) to grow and how high it would reach in my greenhouse before it would produce flower buds. The stem (or wand if you wish to think of it that way), has no leaves on it and to me, it resembled an asparagus stalk.

Photo Taken As It Kept Rising

September 27

Within 7 days, you can see from the next photo how much the stalk rose from the center of the Mangave. It was growing up, and every day, I’d walk in to take a look, and I started to have to move it around because as it got taller, it was reaching the lean-to style of the greenhouse’s roof. I wondered if it would soon hit the ceiling.

Mangave flower candelabrum or wand

It got to the point, the stalk was so tall, I couldn’t get the whole thing in a photo. Here is a photo (above) where I moved it in-front of an old silver locker I picked up at a vintage shop, and it was about as tall as that cabinet by this point. As you can see, it definitely looks similar to an asparagus stem.

Very Top of the Stalk

Then the next phase was starting to reveal. Side shoots on the top started to form with flower buds. I knew I was in for a big surprise soon. And fortunately, the very tip of the stalk was not touching the roof of the greenhouse. It appeared I had just enough space to keep it inside for the rest of the winter.

Flowers Opening

The flowers started to feel like a fireworks show to me. That is just how my mind works when it comes to nature’s surprises. The flower clusters started to form to the sides of the main cluster on the top and as they opened, pollen was visible and I thought it was a shame as it would not be pollinated inside my greenhouse during the winter months, but just the same, it was a fun experience to witness all the buds opening over time.

By December, 3 months after I first noticed the stalk rising from the center of the plant, it had buds and the stalk was about 10 feet tall. In reviewing some of the posts I was sharing, around December 11th, it was 6 feet tall. Later in December, it grew to ten feet. By the following spring, I decided to chop off about 1/3 of the stalk and it was time to get it out of my way so outside it went. I put it on my deck, and to my surprise later in the summer, more side plants formed at the top of the plant’s flower stalk (where I had cut it off). It also produced many pups on the sides at the base of the plant, which I decided to use to top off my succulent pumpkin centerpieces; it made a nice spikey looking thriller on the top of the pumpkins.

Mangave used on the Succulent Pumpkin Centerpieces

This plant ended up surprising me in many ways and kept on giving. It did not die off as some plants do after flowering for Agaves, and retuned to my greenhouse yet again this fall. Not only that, I repotted some of the pups earlier, and they grew rather quickly into larger plants (as noted by the breeder above, Hans, they grow quickly).

Agave and Mangave plants make wonderful specimen plants, are beautiful in larger pots, and they handle full sun and don’t require lots of fertilizer, and they may be kept inside the home over the winter, if not too large, or if they haven’t grown a major flower stalk of 10 feet tall, and they over winter well in a low-temp greenhouse too from my experience. It is pretty cool when you start off admiring something and witness many returns and uses which were unexpected, like how I used them on my succulent pumpkin centerpiece creations this season.

I like collecting various Agaves and now Mangaves and will continue to do so. I find they are easy care plants and you can obtain various sizes and styles if you keep your eyes open for special finds!

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

Date of Post: 10/26/2022

Storing Corms, Tubers, Bulbs, Rhizomes for Winter

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This year I’m trying a new method for storing my Alocasia corms (sometimes referred to as bulbs or tubers, but they are not true bulbs). I have seen Alocasia corms referred to as “tubers” in many garden reference and technical books, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with corms as the term used for these Alocasia plants I am putting away for the winter months in Connecticut.

Bins Years Prior Used

For years, I stored the bases of underground parts from my elephant’s ears and canna lily plants in plastic bins with covers (air holes drilled in the covers) with peat. When I say “parts”, I’m referring to corms for the elephant’s ear (Alocasia and Colocasia) and rhizomes for the Canna Lily plants).

The peat (only a small amount below; used almost like a bed below the corms/rhizomes, and some peat lightly sprinkled over the tops of the corms and rhizomes) helped maintain a bit of moisture but kept the tubers in a dry but not too dry or too moist state.

However last year, some of my Alocasia corms had rot areas on them when I went to take them out in the spring to start growing again. They were too damp. Plastic bins will hold onto some moisture (versus a dry cardboard type box) but this problem of rot really had never occurred before. Since I want to make sure I am able to save these dramatic large Alocasia plants’ corms, I’m trying this new method this year.

Dug Up about a Week or few days prior

In last week’s post, I showed how I dug up the Alocasia plants from a huge cement planter, cutting off the foliage about 4-6″ from the top of the corm area, and laid them out in the sun for one day. Then I moved them to my basement in laundry baskets.

I also dug up a very large Alocasia plant prior to these, from a big tall patio planter, and laid out a huge corm with top part of the plant (stump like stem area) in a bin about a week before these above.

The ones in the laundry basket were still too damp when looking them over yesterday, so I laid them out on a table in my basement, and spread each corm on the table so they are not touching, and decided I will wait a few days longer before packing those up into boxes. I will leave these on a table another few days to air dry in my unheated basement.

However, I decided to pack up the others that were dug up prior from my gray patio planters. One of them is super large and heavy. It isn’t draining out any more water or moisture now, feels like it has dried enough, and there are no rot or damp areas on the corm area. It was placed in a bin in my basement about one week prior to those dug up from my cement planter so it and its side shoots have been drying longer.

In doing a bit of research, I’ve read Alocasia corms may be stored in newspaper and put in a cardboard box with air vents. I happen to have some boxes available and used a large sharp knife to make slits in the boxes around the perimeter of the cardboard boxes for the air vents.

Making air vents

I placed crumbled up newspaper sheets in the base of the cardboard box and used the original plastic mesh bags, which were around each corm when they were originally shipped to me. I placed individual corms into these mesh bags for those that would fit. My largest “stump” shown top right of this photo below is too large for any of the mesh bags I kept on hand.

Mesh Bag with Corm inside

I loosely wrapped a couple sheets of newspaper around this mesh bag once the corm was inside and put it in the box. I am careful to not have them stacked or touching too much with other corms handled the same method because if anything is damp, that moisture will transfer to any touching corms. However, these were all fairly dry and not moist. The idea is to not overpack any boxes and keep air around each.

Now for the larger Alocasia stump. I keep calling it that because it is so much larger, it is more like a stump size! This one I had to find a larger long box and I have no mesh bag for it. It also has a large green area (the top part of where it grew) still attached which is not wet at all when I decided to lay it into the long cardboard box. Again, I crumpled up newspaper below in the box, and then I used a paper bag to cover it like a blanket and close up the box. I did not tape the box closed, as air circulation is important. I just overlapped the covers and I also put vents in the sides like with the other cardboard box prior to laying it in there.

Largest Alocasia “stump”

The root area is dry with dry soil a bit still on it, the corm area is dry, and there is still green life on the top part but there is no dripping water coming out of it – it seems like it is dry enough. I labeled all the cardboard boxes with date and placed it in the usual corner of my unheated basement (by the door where it is like tucked in a corner, stays cool, dark, dry and it does not go below freezing here.)

I have read the optimum temperature for storing Alocasia corms is 40-45 degrees F. Again, my basement is unheated. The only time it may get warm in there is when we use a woodstove at the opposite end of our basement, which is only occasionally. It does not go below freezing (32 degrees F) so they will not freeze. They are kept in a consistent cool 50 degree range or a bit below that for the whole winter. I will check on these in one month by making a note on my calendar to go look at the corms in these cardboard boxes and seeing if they look good (no rot, no moisture, no wet newspaper).

Again, this is the first time I’m trying the cardboard box method for these. I also wish to note, canna lily rhizomes tend to not survive if they completely dry and wither up, so I don’t think I’ll use this method for those plants, only for my precious upright huge Alocasia plants’ corms. I’ve read more about how these are okay more on the dry side. Makes sense because when I purchased the corms about 3-4 years ago, they showed up in a card boad box, with the white mesh bag, shown above, and only the brownish corm with no plant at all attached.

Label the boxes
Corner in Basement

You see the big plastic bin near these two cardboard boxes, that was the bin I last used for my big red banana plant (stump), the Ensete, I had for over 10 years. It failed this year, so there’s nothing in that box right now. I also put a plastic shelf section below the boxes so it is not directly on the concrete floor which may lead to dampness on the bottom of the boxes.

Pic of corm inside a mesh bag

I just hope this works well this year and will keep you posted. Next up will be to dig up my canna lily plants from containers outdoors. Sometimes I don’t bother anymore with those as they may be easily grown from new plants next season, but it is always a great feeling to reuse and regrow plants to save money on purchasing new ones, but sometimes I run out of energy to keep digging up these things. Each year, I seem to do less storing because of the effort. Sunny days help!

Thank you for visiting,

Cathy Testa
Connecticut Planting Zone 6b
Date of Post: 10/18/2022

P.S. I also want to note, many references will indicate to let the plants get hit by frost first before storing underground parts like the corms or rhizomes, etc. because the freeze will induce dormancy to the plants, however, I often do this process just before a hard frost. The weathermen indicated frost may be happening this week. Wednesday’s forecast indicates about 34 degrees F overnight – so that is chilly!

Overwintering Elephant’s Ear Plants

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Overwintering Alocasia (al-oh-KAY-see-uh) plants, dug up from a large cement planter in my yard yesterday 10/11/22.

Since this plant is not hardy in my Connecticut planting zone (6b), they must either be dug up and stored (tubers) in a cool, dry place. Alternative options, if the plants are small enough, is overwintering them as houseplants in small pots where you have a sunny room. Or just moving the pots with the plant in tact into an unheated basement and letting them go dormant, but check to add moisture to the pot’s soil from time to time, and check for any insects on the foliage if moved in the pot. In this case, I dug up the plants, removed the foliage, and air dried the tubers yesterday outdoors.

The Planter – Cement

Because yesterday was sunny and warm, I wanted to get to the elephant’s ears in this planter. I was already tired from being on my feet all day, so I rushed getting these out. Luckily for me, the soil is super soft in this big cement planter due to worms and just great healthy soil. Rather than cut all the foliage off first, like I typically do, I dug around the tuber areas in the soil to break free some roots and just pulled them out one by one from the plant stems.

10/12/22 Before Removing the Elephant’s Ears plants

The soil and exposure

The soil in this planter stays relatively moist and receives the east morning sun, so it primarily gets partial sun or dappled sun, it doesn’t get too hot in this area. I do not fertilize – literally – I do not in this cement planter. Over the years, I’ve added recycled soil (from other pots), maybe some compost, but not often, and it is possible some wood ash from the woodstove in our basement, that is used only occasionally, was tossed in there by my husband, but I asked him not to do that after a while (wood ash changes the pH of soils). It is apparent when I dig in the soil, it has worm castings and the soil is very soft and easy to dig into. This is why I was able to pull out the tubers with the plant on the top rather easily after I broke the roots around the base with a trowel. I didn’t even use a shovel.

I do, however, water this planter by using a garden hose from above and showering it every time I was out there watering my other patio pots above on my deck. We had a very dry season this summer here in Connecticut so I’m sure the tropical plants in this cement planter enjoyed the moisture I gave them. These tropical like plants like moist soils, part shade or some full sun. After getting them out, I laid them on the ground and got my machete, which I finally found where I had stored it!

Chop off the foliage, then lay in the sun

It was super easy to chop off the foliage and stems with my machete. One whack and it was done! Then I put them in a laundry basket to sit in the sun for the rest of the afternoon, later, I moved the laundry basket to my basement. It will sit there drying a while before I move them to bins or paper bags for the winter. Some references will say to wait until the foliage dies back or wait till the foliage is hit by frost to dig and store the tubers, however, I like to work on nice days and yesterday was it – sunny and warm. I store mine in the basement, in a corner by the door, which is an unheated basement but it does not go below freezing in winters. We have a woodstove at the other end of the basement, but it is only used on stormy winter days when we feel like it. We do not use the woodstove to heat the house, only to warm it up sometimes. This means those tubers in the corner stay cold, but they never freeze there. It must be cold, but not freezing, and not too warm either. If warm, they may get soggy or start growing.

Side Shoot on Right

Notice my logo on the left side of this photo above; do you see the brown original tuber? The plant this season grew from the side of this tuber (a side shoot) which is attached on the right. Sometimes there are smaller side shoots which you may pull apart to create separate plants and replant those side shoots. Also the green parts above the brownish tuber is this year’s plant and I cut it about 4-5″ above the brown tuber in most cases when I remove them. I usually leave the green plant (like a stump or root base) on there but I am not absolutely sure that is required, because when I received the tubers, there was just the brown dry tuber to plant.

After Photo

It probably took me only a half-hour to get those elephant’s ears (in this case, Alocasia macrorrhiza, known as giant elephant’s ear or giant taro) out of the cement planter. I was lucky I think it was easy. I know rain is coming tonight and some parts of Connecticut got hit by a quick light frost already, but no hard frost here yet in East Windsor, CT. When it is a true frost, all the foliage will blacken and flops over. Next is to get to those tall Canna lily plants on the ends of this planter dug out and store the rhizomes or the whole root base.

Note: A. macrorrhiza is hardy in zones 8-10 from what I’ve read, but here in Connecticut (zone 6b for me), they are not hardy (will not survive in the ground over the winter months). Also, when I dug these out – there was no rot on any of the tubers, which is good news. Sometimes, if I wait too long to dig these out, there may be rot spots on the tubers because of cold, wet soils later in October. This is another reason why I like digging them out now. I don’t want any soft rotten spots on the tubers, rot only leads to storage problems as the rot may continue on the tuber, which is what you don’t want.

Sit to dry out a bit more before storing

Because these plants get huge and are gorgeous, I had to take the time to save them. I will let those tubers sit in a bin, spaced out for air, probably for another five days before I store them. I have always typically stored them in peat in bins with air holes in the lids, but last year, as noted on prior posts, they rotted a little. I am going to try storing them in paper bags in cardboard boxes this year with air holes. Plastic bins can trap moisture and for some reason, it just seemed they were too wet last year (maybe I was rushing too much last year, and stored them too wet). I have found when my rhizomes for Canna Lily were too dry stored, they didn’t make it. I have always balanced a bit of moisture from the peat and air, but I believe the Alocasias prefer more on the dry side. Everyone has different techniques for storing from what I’ve seen and read over the years.

Prior was making pumpkins

Prior to doing all of this quickly yesterday afternoon, I made a few more orders of my centerpiece succulent topped pumpkins. They were so fun to make and took me a few hours – and my feet give me a hard time, now that I’m getting a little older, standing for hours can be rough. I even put foam on the floor – below my feet, but I felt it later. I tend to make these centerpiece arrangements standing up, and anyhow, these are what I made for some requests. It was a perfect day to do them – sunny in the greenhouse. It’s that time of year when I’m making pumpkin centerpieces and still putting away plants and supplies.

Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

If interested in a custom pumpkin, now is the time to order since it is pumpkin season. They last for months!

Thank you for visiting!

Cathy Testa
Connecticut Zone 6b
Container Gardener and Plant Enthusiast
Custom Creations for Seasonal Decor
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WorkshopsCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (you are here now!)
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Stay tuned for more information on holiday creations for later in November!

Date of this post: 10/13/2022