First Kokedama Workshop, and The Next

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Last Saturday was the first time I held a workshop on making botanical wall art and kokedama with staghorn ferns. I think it was a success – Everyone’s piece came out great and we had the best time chatting plants, spring’s coming, and life events in general.

Kokedama Mar 22

This Wednesday, March 22, I’m offering another session so I’m putting the call-out again. I hope I’m not driving everyone nuts with my Facebook posts, but they are just so amazing to make and my plants are beautiful – I’d hate for anyone interested to miss out!

IT’S SPRING, RIGHT?!

While snow is still on the ground on our first day of spring (officially today), we can create right now to enjoy the coming of glorious days ahead. It won’t be long; we are getting closer to sunny days and warmer temperatures.

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THE PIECE YOU MAY MAKE

Kokedama balls are hung from string or twine, and positioned inside the home by a bright window. They are very ZEN and influenced by Bonsai. The Wall Art is a statement piece and also the plant is a bright light (not full sun) lover. If you have a room with some bright light – it will thrive. Both may be moved outdoors after our frost in spring time (what I tell people is move them out when it is safe to plant tomatoes).

THE WORKSHOHP LOCATION AND TIME

The location of Wednesday’s session is at the BOOK CLUB Bookstore, 869 Sullivan Avenue, South Windsor, CT 06074 (bookclubct.com). I have been noting that it takes a full two hours to make the Wall Art option, but the Kokedama balls take less time – yet, are as much fun to create.

The start time is 5:30 pm for this workshop – however, if you are interested in making the Kokedama ball, and can’t get out of work right at 5:30 pm – you may arrive a bit later as this item takes less time to make. Just let me know.

The main thing is I need to know very soon if you wish to attend; please contact me so that I will bring enough materials with me for all attendees. Plus, the wall art board requires a bit of pre-work, and I will do that prior for confirmed attendees.

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WALL ART CANVAS BOARD

Speaking of the Wall Art board – My wall canvas board is custom made and heavy duty. Many other places, where you may see classes similar to mine offered, well, I am going to be honest – a cheap board is usually used. I custom ordered my canvas boards – built to “last” because of how these plants are watered. Over time, I want to ensure you have a nice product – and at a nice size too. This is my style. To give it all I can so you enjoy what you create and take home.

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THE FEES

The fees are separate based on what you wish to make. Wall Art is $45 plus CT Sales Tax. The Kokedama is $30 pp plus CT Sales Tax. I also have a few other plant candidates in stock if you would like to make the item with a different plant (button ferns, Sanseveria, living moss, and flame plants, etc.) The fee includes the plant, materials, instructions, and more for the item selected.

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TO ATTEND

Just text, email me, or call by end of day Tuesday (tomorrow).

860-977-9473

containercathy@gmail.com

Thank you,

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

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Plants Around the Coop

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It’s Friday again!

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

Here’s the next 6 or so…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hellebore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anemone ‘Margarete’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begonia ‘Lady Francis’ and Ruellia

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

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

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

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

Begonias really rock it in container gardens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Activity:

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more.

Thank you – Cathy T.

2017 Flower Arranging Workshop – Open for Sign-Up’s

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Good Morning Everyone,

Just a quick post to remind followers and interested people – our registrations are now open for the February 11th, 2017 Flower Arranging Workshop.

Location: Broad Brook, CT

Guest Speakers: JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

We require confirmed seats three weeks before the workshop date to ensure the “freshest flowers”  – so please visit our sister site listed below for all the details and express your interest today, ask questions, or look at our Gallery to see prior workshop photos of everyone’s beautiful creations.

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Additionally, we have posted many workshops upcoming in 2017. Visit the site to see each one and let’s get together to make it together this year!

Thank you,

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

 

A Very Hot Farmers’ Market Day

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Good Morning Everyone,

Thank you to friends visiting me at the Windsor Locks Farmers Market last night, especially because it was so hot out – I think up to 92-95 degrees during the late afternoon hours.

It was a time when my face turned ‘beet’ red after setting up my table. Fortunately, there is the library next to the market grounds where I could take a minute to cool off before visitors arrived. I show up a bit early so I could move slower with this heat – it can be brutal as I unload all my tables, plants, and umbrellas.

Many people attend this farmers’ market regularly, held on Tuesdays from 4-7 pm in Windsor Locks (at their public library on Main Street), because of the veggies. And I have to say, I have become a fan of it too. Plus they have various crafters, hand-made doggy toys, local honey, and bakery items.

Towards the end of the market hours, I go get my supply of veggies for the week. One couple selling also had refreshing cucumber water with mint for us to cool off – much needed last night especially. This week, I picked up a bag of mixed onions, golden grape tomatoes, and kale. Last week, it was green and purple beans, garlic, big onions, and bakery items. They have a mix every week, some herbs, squash, etc. Lots of goodies!

At my table, where I am known as the “Container Lady,” I showed visitors my radish and broccoli home grown sprouts so they can see what they look like and discussed my upcoming workshop on “Growing Sprouts” to be held in November. All the details are on my WORKSHOPSCT.com site. They are so tasty and nutrient rich and easy to grow  in only 5-7 days, once you have the ‘know-how’ and ‘tools.’

Also, I brought along alpine and rock garden plants and talked about how these are great in rock gardens, along edges, in-between flag stones, and beautiful in fun container gardens and small pots too. Many of these plants are drought tolerant and bloom dainty flowers. Most of them are low-growing, only a few inches from the ground, but they are easy to grow and hardy here. Over time, the spread and get larger.

My healthy Greek oregano window boxes, which I’ve had for sale each week, are popular. I’m almost out of them – They are so full and fresh. I love putting oregano with pasta, feta cheese, and fresh tomatoes. Having these herbs in small window boxes are perfect.

Each herb window boxes are filled with quality soil-less mix, slow-release fertilize and have excellent drainage, perfect to take home and put on your deck to snip from all summer into fall – or put in the home by a window. And very reasonably priced – so swing by – there are almost gone. I will be back next week while supplies last.

I also have some various succulents, and displays of other creative container items each week, such as large glass terrariums filled with miniature plants and decor, or hypertufa pots with a wonderful mix of succulents.

And of course, my father’s popular birdhouses made with reclaimed wood and shingles – all hand painted. They are selling there – and some people are returning for more to add to their gardens and landscape. It is a great time to get these and enjoy them before summer is over!

My imagination is running wild each week, as I enjoy sharing creations with visitors at this market. While it was super hot yesterday afternoon, and hard to go if you would have preferred to be by the pool or in the A/C, keep it in mind as the upcoming weeks approach.

And, oh, they have music some nights, and free yoga too on select days. Don’t miss out, especially when this heat breaks.

Location Information:

http://www.windsorlockslibrary.org/
Windsor Locks Public Library
28 Main St, Windsor Locks, CT 06096

If coming from East Windsor, go over the Windsor Locks bridge, take a left, the library is immediately on your right (before the little shoppping plaza). You won’t see the farmers’ market tents from the entrance, they are located in the back grassy area by the library building. Plenty of parking.

Facebook Windsor Locks Farmers’ Market Page:

https://www.facebook.com/Windsor-Locks-Farmers-Market-218475995188619/

Hours:

Every Tuesday
4 pm to 7 pm
Thru end of September (I believe!)

Photos:

Here are some photos from last night.

#containercrazyct #farmersmarket #workshops

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#succulents #alpines #farmersmarket #containercrazyct #birdhouses

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#containercrazyct #farmersmarket #alpines #succulents

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My #farmersmarket table tonight. #sprouts

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Super hot but I'm here at the #farmersmarket

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

A blog about sharing the passion of Container Gardening and combining Nature with Art. Thank you for visiting! Come back soon or “follow this blog” to receive notices of when each new post is added. We are located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT.

Bugs, Drought, and Out and About

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Hello Everybody!

Yes! The heat has “officially arrived” in Connecticut and I’m sure you have noticed how your plants react. They may be stressed from lack of watering – or under attack by insects.

For starters, you may have seen more critters eating foliage or even flowers this time of year. My method for dealing with this is watching and looking over my plants as I water them, a daily routine. Inspect first and identify the problem when you are out and about.

Good morning caterpillar. #insects #bugs #caterpillar

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Just recently, I spotted an amazing caterpillar on an elderberry plant and it is eating the foliage daily, but you know what? I decided to let him be because it appears he will turn into a beautiful and large silk moth per my research. See my Facebook posts or Instagram feed for photos of him. However, if he tries to move to other containers, he may be a goner. I hope he will stay where he is on this plant. I have been taking photos daily.

#caterpillar

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I also spotted but holes in my rhubarb plant – this bummed me out more because my rhubarb in my big pot is spectacular. I LOVE the large showy leaves, reaching at least 12″ in size, but an easy method to dealing with the damage, clip them all off cause new growth arises on this plant continually – and so, I did the BIG haircut on it yesterday. I have not been able to “see” the problem insects yet on this plant – so, not sure it is Japanese beetles- out this time of year, or if another culprit. If you can’t find the bug on damaged foliage, try looking at night. It could be a night visitor.

Black Diamond elephant's ear. #containergarden #colocasia

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As far as Japanese beetles, they definitely have been on my Canna plants in one spot, ugh. I hate that – I see them and their damage, so I will probably do the same routine as the rhubarb, and not reach for the spray but be patient because they do not stay all summer. Just cut off the damaged leaves and hope for improvement. Try to stay patient.

A woodpecker did this. Canna seed pods. #birds

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One day, I spotted woodpecker pecking at the round spiny pods of my Canna plant. He left some large holes in it – and he was either after something in the pods perhaps, or he was just confused. I have a big sunflower right next to it and they were visiting the flower head for the seeds.

Anyhow, my main thing is to try to determine which insect (or animal) it is before proceeding with steps to remove them or deal with them with sprays. This year has been critter month. We have many chipmunks this year – I’ve seen posts by friends on Facebook too of this problem. They even broke down a rock wall at my neighbor’s property, they are everywhere. I found one in our cloths dryer vent – one day, a scratching noise was happening as I was loading, and thought – what is that?! Well, yup – the poor chipmunk somehow made he was down the tube and got trapped. Yuck.

This time of year, especially with the heat on the rise, will encourage more insects. I also believe, the more plants you have, the more visitors you get! Shake the leaves to see if anything falls off, look at the underside of the leaves if you see holes or round specks of foliage damage, and look inside the plants, meaning push the stems or leaves aside and look into the plant’s areas if you have a full container garden with plants with problems. I did this the other day and found two snails. If you have a very badly infested plant in your container, cut it all the way back to the base – many will regrow from the base with new fresh growth. Toss the infected plant parts into the trash.

Don't like that yellow leaf! #containergarden #enseteventricosum #ensetemaurellii

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Another issue is yellowing on my red banana plants – ugh. I have been trying to really narrow this down – was it the new compost I used this season? (which I was told is organically certified), is it a lack of nutrition – when these plants show signs of weakness, you may want to start adding fast release soluble fertilizer weekly – but usually, when I have good soilless mix, a big pot (like this one above), some good compost – I don’t get this yellowing I’ve experienced here in this photo – which is a 5-6 year plant I put out every year. Perhaps it is STRESS of no rainfall – which we have not received much of – note the dry grass everywhere. Or it could be “too much watering” because the compost may have reduced the drainage ability in the soil, so I cut the yellowing leaf off, reduced my watering in this case to every other day, and so far, no more yellowing. But rest assured, I keep investigating these issues – and I’m testing out new products this year which I will share at my container gardening workshops in May of 2017 with my attendees.

See the bit of asparagus poking out of the foliage of this mixed container garden, the other day I found tiny black caterpillars on it – so I just cut those stems off. Haven’t seen them since. This container has repeat ‘plants’ in it. The blue flowering Ceratostigma (Hardy Plumbago) is a perennial and it has been in this pot for 3 years now. Talk about a nice filler. And the Colocasia is also one which I had overwintered and it is getting really full now.

Little #beetle on Coleus 'The Line' #insectdamage

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I also noticed some plants in my landscape with a bit of yellow tones and stressed looking – and it can be a sign of struggle due to lack of rainfall. At least, this is my suspicion. Plants and gardening always keeps you challenged, learning and finding solutions. This year’s challenge has been managing insects and learning about new fertilizers.

FOAM PUMP FERTILIZER

For example, there is a new fertilizer on the market that is a foam pump. You just pump and put it on the soil next to the plant, and then water it in. I tried it out on succulents – and the color on my succulents improved within a week. However, I read “stress” can induce color changes in succulents but the timing was too near the application. I think the fertilizer improved the growth on these right away. Notice this photo, even the Jade plant got red edging on the trim of the leaves. The pumps are cool cause they are easy to apply and measure – reminds me of pumps of hair foam styling products! Read the directions always when using fertilizers or insect sprays, and remember to follow them appropriate. Less is more in some cases, overdoing applications can harm your plants.

#succulents

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Again, I will be sharing all the products I’ve tested out this year at next year’s workshop. There are many new items out there – including new organic types. I also show and tell products at the farmers markets each week.

NEW WORKSHOPS ADDED

Speaking of workshops, I just updated my WORKSHOPSCT.com blogsite with a Soil Sprouts class, and I will be sharing this information tonight at the Windsor Locks Farmers’ Market at the town’s public library located on Main Street. The market is held every Tuesday from 4 to 7 pm on the lawn in the back area of the library. I’ve really enjoyed being there the past couple weeks, and will be there again next week too.

For tonight’s market, I will be selling some alpine plants, great for rock gardens, crevices, and may be used to cascade over walls, and in rock garden scenes of unique container gardens. Sedum ‘Coral Carpet’ is one of the plants I will have available – this is great in rock gardens, and they are very drought tolerant – great for this type of weather we are experiencing, and also a beauty in hanging succulent balls – which is a new creation this season. And a new workshop for next year too!

Succulent ball I put together a few weeks ago. #succulents #delosperma #hensandchicks

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I mentioned drought in the title of this post – because it seems we are experiencing one – the water is low in our rivers, the plants are not getting much natural rainfall, and this can be rough on plants. I’ve been watering my plants in my container gardens daily, sometimes twice, but remember – don’t water log your soils, allow it to breath between watering, and do the finger test if you are unsure. Insert to your knuckle to see if the soil feels moist or dry and observe your plants habits and look for insects, of course.

Enjoy your day everyone!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool nights, Ants, and Plant Care Updates

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Updates on workshops, some plant care tips – and ants!

Floral Design Workshop Cancelled this Month:

First, the Floral Design Workshop for this month (June 25th) has been cancelled. We had low sign-ups and needed a minimum to proceed. However, we will offer this workshop again in February 2017 as the Valentine’s Day option because that was very popular this past February. See our workshops blogsite, WORKSHOPSCT.com, for more information.

Mini Workshop on Hanging Succulent Balls tomorrow:

Second, I am offering a mini first time workshop on making a “Hanging Succulent Ball” tomorrow at 5 pm, June 7th. If interested, contact me on cost and details. We have beautiful Chick Charm succulents, more perennial cacti-like and succulents for this creative project, and hanging dripping succulents, such as Delospermas which look beautiful on these balls.

While many places will make these balls using strictly moss balls (with no soil) which need to be misted regularly to keep the succulents alive, I don’t feel this would keep the plants growing over the long haul, so we are making ours with soil filled in fiber balls and contained in hanging wire baskets. It is not an easy project, but we have all the steps and parts prepared for anyone willing to give this project a try for the first time here at Container Crazy CT’s.

We will show our results too. Again, if interested, contact me soon at 860-977-9473 (text or call) or email containercathy@gmail.com.

Plants Available Here for You:

Third, if you are local and still in need of plants, feel free to contact me as well. I have a few goodies left in my stock, such as lemon thyme, red and green banana plants, elephant ears, pepper plants, succulents, greek oregano, basil, chives, fuschia, creeping Jenny, more perennials, etc. There are a few blueberry dwarf shrubs available, go-ji berry shrubs, and Sambucas elderberry (great for jam making).

Also, I will be at the East Windsor Farmers Market on July 10th. It is located at the Trolley Museum grounds, off Rt 140. Their opening day is at the end of the month on June 26th.

Ants in Pots

I potted up two huge container gardens this past weekend and the next day, noticed tiny ants in one of the pots. They found it fast.

Hmmm, I thought – “What brought them here?” – I believe they were in the ground (area is very dry where I put one pot) and they found the moisture. Tiny little ants were running around the top of the soil. It was my niece who was here this weekend whom noticed them first – and pointed it out to me.

Ants don’t harm your plants per se, but we don’t like them crawling around much either, especially if in a potted house plant. No need to have those ants in the house.

Also, ants are friends with aphids and hang around them due to their desirable honey dew which is secreted from their aphid butts! If you see ants in your container gardens, check for aphids which are sucking insects themselves, but they suck the life from your plants and are not a good thing/bug. Many are green and visible if you look closely and they come in other colors too!

Investigate to see if you see any of the tiny aphids on your plants (and especially check the underside of leaves) to make sure that is not the reason ants are hanging around.

I use insecticidal soap by Garden Safe if I see aphids on a plant, and it takes care of the problem immediately. It is important to resolve the bad bugs right away, and when you water your plants, that is a good time to be Inspector Clouseau and look at them closely for any harmful bugs.

Another option, if you see aphids on a part of a plant, is to just cut that part of the plant off if doable with clean pruners, and toss it away somewhere far from your container gardens.

At first I thought maybe the compost I used in the soilless mix was the culprit for these tiny ants appearing, but it was not the case as I used the same compost in another huge pots – no ants there.

You can ignore the ants if you wish or there are several methods to take care of them. Here’s one article with ideas from Gardening Know How:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/insects/ants-in-flower-pots.htm

Cool Nights Slows Growth of Tropicals

Have you noticed the recent cool nights we have experienced? It is a welcome feeling through our windows and enjoyable during the evenings when we are sleeping, but this will slow down the growth of tropical lovers just a bit, such as the elephant ears (Colocasias).

A couple people have commented on this (the elephant ears not being big yet) – be patient, after a few warm temperature days over the course of a couple weeks, your Colocasias will take off. You probably have seen how large they grew in my photos of past container gardens, but remember, this was after a few weeks of summer as well.

For example, I noticed my plants of Begonias really pop recently in my pots, while the elephant ears are slowly pushing out new leaves, taking longer. You can sense when a plant has taken root, it perks up and you can see it expand in size if you pay attention.

Elephant ears and other tropical plants need warm evenings too – so we will see them really rise fast when our summer fully kicks in, and the soil is warm at night.

Also, a couple people said they were concerned about yellow leaves on their banana plant – this can be a sign of over watering – especially if the yellowing is on the lower leaves. Just cut them off with a clean pair of scissors or pruners. New leaves arise from the center of the plants, so taking one or two off the bottom is not harmful. And reduce your watering if you see yellowing leaves on the lower part of your plants.

Red Banana Plant Care Info:

Red banana plants sometimes have brown on their leaves. There are several causes for this – I believe it is when moisture is trapped in the center of its thick trunk like stalk called a pseudostem (this is the trunk basically that is very fleshy and contains moisture in between each new leaf), and it can make a brown spot there as it unrolls from the center if it stays too wet. Usually, this is temporary and as summer gets the plant going, this minor symptom disappears. If you have well-draining soil, you won’t see this problem much, why soil draining is critical in most container gardening situations.

As I’ve discussed during my workshops this May, watering your plants is a balancing act, and too much can cause problems as well as too little. Water logging the soil is not a good thing either – You should allow moist soil to dry out between watering somewhat so the roots get the oxygen needed to survive. The type of plant matters as well as the type of pot but once you get familiar with their needs and create this balance, all is perfect.

Also, if you move your plants from a greenhouse or from inside the home into the sun immediately, that will cause sunburn on the leaves (white patches usually), as also reviewed in our May Container Gardening workshops. Most of you know to move your finished container garden into the shade first before transitioning it to full sun if you potted up sun lovers for plants which were not hardened off previously at home or by your nursery sources.

Red banana plants (Ensete genus) seem to do great in dappled shade (when under over head tall trees or a patio umbrella) as it casts some shade but they are getting sun. However, they are okay in full sun, but you have to water more often, etc. So if you see your leaves suffering, change the position of the pot if possible to more shade for this plant if you feel it may be getting too much sun.

Lastly, the cool damp temps and returns back to full hot sun and heat will sometimes stress tropical plants which may create brown areas on red banana plants leaves – and that is what we had the past few days for weather patterns.

See this Banana Plant Care link for more information. Overall, I feel these plants are easy to care for, grow quickly, and in most cases, don’t show problems, but it is worthy to note here if you have any concerns. Don’t panick, think about the weather patterns, watering patterns and exposure first. Or contact me and send me a photo.

Otherwise, all seems to be progressing well based on emails and comments from attendees. Many have written to say they are happy with their container gardens and beautiful plants, and are enjoying them – all good news. 🙂 And many have been going container crazy, like me. Welcome to the club! 😉

Please Share Your Container Photos

I would absolutely love to see the progress of your plants, so if you can shoot me a photo, please do so. I will be sharing mine, as always on Instagram and Facebook.

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

http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.CONTAINERGARDENSCT.com

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Ellington Farmers Market invites Container Crazy Cathy T

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Good Morning Everyone!

We had wonderful warmth and sun yesterday, and a nice rainfall is happening today which is providing everyone the perfect “setup” for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend – when many people start to plant their vegetable plants in their gardens – and of course, in container gardens and patio pots!

Most gardeners follow the rule of planting on Memorial Day because we are finally safe from frost and the soil is warmed up for our warm loving plants. This is especially true this year because of the our cool spring. Everyone is anxious – including our plants.

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BEAUTIFUL BLACK PEARL PEPPER PLANTS – WONDERFUL IN MIXED CONTAINER GARDENS

Edibles and Fruiting Shrubs in Container Gardens

Thus – This weekend’s free talk on “Edibles and Fruiting Shrubs” in Container Gardens at Ellington Farmers Market is perfect timing. I will be at the big “square” gazebo (there are two gazebos on the site) from 9:00 am to Noon – and the talk will begin at 10:00 am.

I plan to go over tips on how to use fruiting shrubs in patio pots and also planting mixed container gardens with herbs and other wonderful various plants.

Thyme, pepper plants, tomatoes plants, banana plants, mint, fennel, oregano, rhubarb, Goji shrubs, blueberry shrubs, Sambucas Elderberries, cucumber, and many more will be available for purchase too. Will have select tropical thrillers and some flowering perennials and even succulents.

Don’t miss out – now is the time to grab them while they are hot.

EFF Blueberry Pot

Location of Ellington Farmers Market:

Arbor Park
Arbor Park is located Main Street in the heart of town. Arbor Park offers a safe area to walk. The Farmer’s Market is held in the park on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to Noon.

EFM Lemon Thyme

HEALTHY AND HAPPY LEMON THYME – FILLERS IN POTS – AND SNIP AWAY!

DIRECTIONS

1-84. Get off exit 66; proceed up the road towards rt. 30; turn right onto rt. 30; take immediate left onto west road (Vernon police dept. on your left).  Follow past Garden Barn, Walgreens, and Big Y.  Turn left onto Main Street (Light where Kloter Farms and Valero are located) Arbor Park is about 1/2 mile down the road on the right.
From Broad Brook Area – Take 140 to Ellington Center, get to Main Street and you will see the park on your left before Kloter Farms. There are signs indicating where to go for parking which is located in the back area of the market grounds. The big square gazebo is on the street side where the talk will begin promptly at 10 am.
Hope to see you there! 
Cathy Testa
Check Out Cathy T’s Feature in GoLocal’s May Issue
EFM Pepper Flowers

Pepper Plants in Flower – Ready to plant and produce for you!

Strong Family Farm Hosts Today’s Workshop

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How much fun can a gal have?! I have the wonderful opportunity to teach at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT today and I would like to thank Nancy Strong in advance for her support of local businesses such as myself.

“Strong Family Farm provides a historic agricultural education center where children, individuals, families, and community groups can experience an authentic family farm environment.”

This above statement is from their website. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. It is an “authentic family farm” and historic. It reminds me of my childhood. Seeing the cow barn, where today’s Container Gardening Workshop will be held, brought back memories of being in my father’s barn and the scents, sounds, as well as the sun streaming through the cracks of the barn’s wall are all reminiscent of experiences I had growing up on a farm.

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Today’s Container Gardening Workshop

May 21, 2016 – Saturday
9:00 am to Noon
274 West St, Vernon, CT 06066

Lecture from 9:00-10:30 followed by potting up your containers.
Pre-registered attendees get first dibs on plants.
Walk-in’s for Plant Sales Welcome at 11:30 am.

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The Plants

Where do I begin? We have beautiful “Chick Charm” Hens and Chicks (Sempervivums), Cucumber plants, various Pepper plants, Tomatoes, Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Stevia, Strawberry, Rhubarb, etc. We also have specialty shrubs perfect for containers, such as Blueberry and Goji Berry. And others for the fun of it – such as Sambucas (Elderberry). And of course, hot tropicals such as red banana plants (Ensete), Elephant Ears (Colocasia), and Cynara (Cardoon). Then there’s the annuals from beautiful Begonias to a mix of Coleus and much more.

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The Timing

I think this weekend is absolutely perfect timing too – We had a cool spring but looks like the warm up and sun is officially here! These plants are going to take off in the container gardens or in your gardens should you grab a few today at Strong Family Farm.

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The Prep

I wish I could video tape myself setting up and then do one of those speed up versions. Running from here to there to get hand-selected plants from “local CT growers only!” And running around setting up workshops – lifting tables, lifting big bags of potting mix, pushing a wheel barrel, bending up and down constantly – phew, but the exercise is great – cause you know, Gardening is GREAT for the body and soul.

The Fretting

They call me Container “Crazy” for a reason. The highs are high and the lows can be low – like when I lost two trays of basil – Why? – even with my grow room, our cool spring fluxes didn’t make them happy. But then a high again – a tree frog watching me work one day and chirping, or when the birds swoops overhead as I walk by, or seeing my first butterfly of the season visiting my honeysuckle shrub.

The Dedication is for Attendees

I do this all for my attendee and because I have a strong passion for dressing up outdoor spaces with mixed container garden plantings and patio pots. Caring for the plants, nurturing them – and yes, even talking to them – all takes place behind the scenes. Yup, crazy alright.

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After the Workshop – Attendees Get Details

After my workshops, I email each attendee individually to give them tips about the plants they selected. It may be information about how to prune a plant, its bloom cycle, habit or care. Anything I think will be useful to them. I am here to answer their questions after my workshops on plants in their container gardens or in their gardens at home too. It is one of the benefits of being on the NEWBIE or NON-NEWBIE Cathy T’s Workshops. I’ve been hosting these workshops for over 8 years – so there’s a lot to share.

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Upcoming – Ellington Farmer’s Market (5/28)

So, today will be another fun filled busy day. Then the following weekend, you will find me at the Ellington Farmer’s Market at their square gazebo (there are two gazebos on the site) where I will be offering a free talk and of course, offering more plants for sale. Pop in to say hello. The market is excellent. We bring a cooler and my husband walks around to fill it with fresh veggies, fruits, and fish while there – then we have a feast when we get home. Yumm. Taking clippings from my herbs for the grill cooking tops it off.

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Hope to See You

After today, the hammock in my backyard has my name written on it. You can find me there. But I hope to see you before, after, or later – Keep Checking In.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 – Feel Free to Text Me
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

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Container Garden Design Winner

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It is the day after Container Crazy CT’s first container gardening workshop of the season and I’m excited to announced our Container Design Challenge Winner.

Congratulations to Stacey!

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There are several reasons why Stacey’s design was selected as the prize winner.

First, she used a different technique to structure her design than the typical T-S-F discussed in class, where she put her big Ensete (red banana plant) thriller to the back side rather in the center of the pot.

Second, she correctly divided a perennial which had a densely packed root system, as we also discussed during our presentation on things you should do with plants which are girdled or densely packed before planting them into your container gardens.

Additionally, she selected varied heights of her plants for balance, such as the perennial which will also bloom later in the season, and she incorporated different textures.

Stacey also added what I would say fits the “chiller” plant category also discussed in our workshop – The Oscularia deltoides. This new succulent definitely captures visual interest and has the additional advantage of serving as a ‘spiller’ when it will reach out over the pot’s edge as it grows.

Also, the chiller echoes the colors of the Coleus via it’s stems, AND echoes the colors of the base of her pot.

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Back side of Stacey’s Container Garden

And another bonus – Stacey’s pot was the “perfect size” – large enough based on my recommendations on sizes, and also beautiful.

She mentioned to me how she drilled her drainage holes in other pots at home and even gave me a tip on how to handle urns which can be tricky to add drainage holes to.

As I’ve said before – My attendees become experts and I start getting jealous of them – Great job Stacey!

Your prize is a terrarium – Contact me for pick-up! You may select one with a cow, rabbit, or cat decor. They are a $40 dollar value.

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Colorful Bunny in a Terrarium

A Close Second

Everyone does amazing jobs with their selections of plants for their container gardens – but we want to mention Ashley’s herb drawer. She was on a mission to create an herbal mix – and she added creative touches into her adorable herbal drawer. She brought along kitchen utensils and marked the herbs’ names on them and inserted them into the soil.

 By the way, my assistant, Amelie, whispered to me, “Ashley’s Mom is going to win.” – because her Mom, Wendy, incorporated butterfly decor in her pots, so Wendy, just want to let you know, Amelie was voting for you.

Speaking of assistants, I’d like to thank my husband, Steve. He worked in the yard before everyone arrived, then he assisted with carrying bags of soils, pots, and handled drilling. He went above and beyond – would you believe after everyone left – he had the energy to put away all the tables, chairs, and patio umbrellas which he also had put out early in the morning. Not sure where he got all that gusto but I can tell you this – he passed out on the couch the minute he put his feet up.

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Steve advises Joyce on the checkout procedure.

Upcoming Plant Care

Apparently, we may have a dip in temps – AGAIN! Wow, this spring is an odd one – so my advice is watch the weather forecast, and if it gets low, down to the low 4o’s or below – either move the pot to a sheltered place if possible, or very carefully cover the plants with a “light” bed type sheet – use poles to create a tee-pee if necessary. Remove the sheet as soon as the sun is up the next day. This is important for the tropicals in particular. Perennials are fine, and some annuals, but use caution. I hope after this last dip – we can relax and let our container gardens grow. Also, everyone was told to water in their containers as soon as they got home.

Thank you – Cathy Testa

Succulents for Weddings – How to Care for Them

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Have you noticed how wedding flowers are transitioning to include succulents or herbs in decorative small containers as wedding favors, table centerpieces, boutonnieres and embellishments on a bride’s wedding gown?

No longer are there strict rules on wedding traditions – Many brides are incorporating their own unique style or taste into their choices of arrangements. They may even put flowers on their dog walking down the aisle if they are a dog lover! Or use vegetables as a table centerpieces. I envy the brides of today – so many interesting ways to celebrate and the trends are expanding.

See HUFFPOST WEDDINGS article, dated January 21st, 2016, titled “14 Out of the Box Wedding Trends You’ll Soon Be Seeing Everywhere.

So, when a professional blogger by the name of Meredith of Bride169 contacted me to ask questions about how to care for succulents should you receive them as a wedding favor – I was not surprised at all to receive this question and very happy to reply.

I’ve been seeing succulents (among other choices) via Instagram and Pinterest being used in floral arrangements and as wedding favors. They are absolutely beautiful and unique. Plus, the other big bonus is they are living plants which last a long time after the wedding reception is over – maybe even years – thus, it is a great option for your wedding guests.

About Bride169

Bride169 focuses on “Celebrating all things Connecticut weddings. From proposal to honeymoon and beyond, Bride169 is your go-to source for all things bridal in CT.”

To read her blog post, click the link below:

How to Care for Your Wedding Succulents by Bride169