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).

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

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!

Making Succulent Pumpkins

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I made my first two succulent pumpkin centerpieces for an order yesterday, and gosh, it was so much fun. I typically make these in my small hobby greenhouse and the “Zen” feeling in my greenhouse puts me into a total creative zone.

The leaves of the trees outside are starting to turn the color of yellow for autumn, and the wind was blowing around quite a bit. Every once in a while, I’d look outside from my work table in the center of the greenhouse to see if any bears would be there outdoors on the property – and nope! I have NEVER seen bears here in my yard, but there have been three sightings in my town last week of a momma bear with her two cubs. And it was nearby for one sighting so it makes me wonder, will they ever adventure here? I hope not!

Locally Grown by Nearby Farms

I picked up 9 pumpkin candidates from nearby farms in my town the day before. We had a drought year and I wondered how well the pumpkins would grow and this year they look great (last year we had too much rain). Number 9 was selected by a repeat customer right away along with a cheese pumpkin (not shown in this above photo) which I grew myself this year for the first time as a test (with the help of my cousin who grew veggies in her community garden plot in our town for the first time this year too!). She planted a couple of my pumpkin plants in her garden and I planted one pumpkin plant in a container here. I got about 7-8 pumpkins total for the smaller cheese pumpkins, but some had blemishes on the side but two were perfect – one has been used so far for a succulent pumpkin! Yes!

Succulent Pumpkin on a Cheese Pumpkin

And…here it is in the above photo. It is about 7-8″ diameter. I grew them from seed and kind of just experimented. I don’t plan to be a “big pumpkin grower” but it was fun to see how they would turn out. They arrived (were ready to pick) a little earlier than I would have liked so I will adjust my seed starting process for next year. But these pumpkins last a long time, can be stored and baked too. Anyhow, it was so very rewarding to make my fall themed arrangement on this pumpkin because it was home grown by me! The shape is perfect for the succulent pumpkin making process as well.

12″ pumpkin from a local farm

The other pumpkin I used yesterday was sourced from a local farm. I’m so fortunate to have local farms nearby! It is a blue-green color and very very heavy – you’d be surprised by the weight of some of these pumpkins. I carried it to the greenhouse and get into my “Zen” and create. Sometimes I listen to blues music and totally just zone out or sing along. I guess it is that space where some artists say they are at their best. To me, it is a pleasant time of creating and hopefully the end results reflects my Zen-mode. Also when in Zen, my tinnitus is not as noticeable which is another huge bonus cause I suffer from tinnitus.

Hobbit Jade

If you can believe it – the large pumpkin finished with 11-15 different plants of all sizes! It is quite the bargain when you consider the succulent plants may be transplanted later to keep going. So as a wonderful colorful living autumn centerpiece in your home, and then plants are maintained later. Anyhow, this customer wanted reds and orange themed décor. Oh and I forgot to mention, this year I also put a dwarf agave on each pumpkin which I think is pretty cool. The plant is rare and a nice find!

Ivory Whites, Beige

I really want to make a pumpkin with the color theme above for the décor embellishments. I like this neutral feel of the soft whites, cream whites, beige, brown, etc. Maybe I’ll make that one today. Even if not for a standing order, maybe as a gift, or maybe someone will purchase it after I make it – we will see!! It is a rainy day so it is perfect to be creating again, I hope.

Well, I better get to it – I have to pack my truck for a job tomorrow and then hopefully some time today make another Succulent Pumpkin. FYI, I’m located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT. Thank you for visiting my blog and have a great day. Feel free to contact me with any inquiries or questions.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT

Grab-n-Go Holiday Gifts

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Alas, we are two weeks till Christmas! I’ve been so happy to create for everyone and I can’t thank you enough for your small business support of my Cathy T Custom Work of my holiday kissing balls, wreaths, garlands, variety of holiday greens in boxes, swags, and holiday installations of planters and sites.

My hands have been a little sore and my back a little achy but I love what I do so much, I continue to move forward. Each detail is important to me and now, with the last two weeks of planning underway before Christmas Day, please keep me in mind if you are looking for any last minute Grab-n-Go Gifts. Some are made with plants and some without. I usually post as I create so you see how they are made and what is being made minute by minute.

Also, if you have any last minute greenery decorating needs, I have some beautiful cedar available in bunches while they last. Almost all my greens are used, which makes me happy! This means planning worked out and no-waste of the beautiful fresh greens! Limited supply on the greens now as of this writing (12/13/21). Thank you again for ordering from me this season. Now its Plant Gift time…

In regards to the Holiday Plant Gifts, please give me a day ahead to make it and then swing by to Grab-n-Go on your daily last minute shopping adventures. Just text me your questions or interests. 860-977-9473.

Details are also shown on http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. Some items available: Terrariums or Terrarium Kits (great gift idea!), Holiday Moss Trees with Succulents, Hanging Small Globes with Holiday Themes, and other perfect hostess holiday themed gifts. See my Facebook Pages or Instagram under Container Crazy CT for the latest daily holiday creations.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
860-977-9473
Today’s Date: 12/13/21
See also www.ContainerGardensCT.com for Holiday Installs
See also www.WorkshopsCT.com for Custom Creations

2021-12-25T06:49:00

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Days Till Xmas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Customer Comment:
Thank you again, it is just the perfect size and even more beautiful in person. I can really see your creative talent in your work. I especially like the two hanging zip ties added for height option. Also, the extra ornaments and matching ribbon. Nice little added details that you think of. It smells soooo good too! – Wreath Purchaser, L. Mickey, 2021

Champagne Colored Ornaments
Top Made to Match Homeowners Theme with Elves fun colors, and Bottom Wreath was Created to be Natural with Burlap Bow

Frost on Plants

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It finally arrived here in Connecticut. Frost on our plants. Last week, it dropped into the 28 degrees F range in the evenings of Friday and Saturday (Nov 5-6th weekend).

For months, I was putting away frost tender plants from my container gardens, because I wanted a head start and it takes a lot of time to dig up plants from pots to store underground portions (rhizomes, corms, bulbs) for frost tender plants, as well as move containers into my garage or basement for the winter months, or just doing cleaning of empty nursery pots for use next season.

The frost of fall appeared a bit later than last year in 2020 (it was on Halloween weekend in 2020), but this year, in 2021, it decided to arrive about a week later, and we could feel it. As I walked out of my house the other day to check my greenhouse to make sure the heat was working well, I saw frost on my truck.

Frost 2021 Nov 5-6 weekend

I carefully walked on the frost covered grass and carried my flashlight to point here and there, hoping I wouldn’t stumble upon any wild animals, on my way over and down to my greenhouse. It is kind of pretty to go out at an early hour, think it was like 5 am, and see all the glitter on the plants outside from the overnight frost. But it was very cold and I didn’t stay out there too long in my slippers and PJ’s with a very thick bathrobe!

Later, when the sun was finally up, I got a glimpse of a rose bush near my house and I thought, look how pretty that is with the glittering frost on the roses!

While it may look pretty on the outdoor plants, we definitely do not like seeing our tropical plant toppled from frost, which is why I did all my overwintering chores early. It seemed to take forever. My list pretty much consists of Canna Lily plants, elephant ears (Alocasia and Colocasia), red banana plant (Ensete), some Mandevillas, and of course, I move in all my succulent and cacti plants early as well.

This year, I made a note on my calendar to check my stored tubers, rhizomes, corms in about a month. I want to make sure there is no rotting or problems. Last year, I ran into that and I think it was due to not having some air holes in new plastic storage bins I used, so I drilled very small holes into the covers of my storage bins which are kept in my unheated basement, stacked up in a corner, where it stays cold but not below freezing during the winter months.

And as I noted above, I check my greenhouse in the early part of the winter heating phases to make sure all is going well, that the heat is on, and I will sometimes take the flashlight and look at the plants. Did you know, some critters (insects) come out at night. Not common in the winter months cause the greenhouse is kept at a low temp (around 50 degrees F), just warm enough to allow my low temp tolerant plants hang in through the winter months.

In the winter, I pray for sun during the day hours. Not only for myself but for my plants in the greenhouse, so they may stay toasty warm during the winter days (and not utilize any heat). The cost to heat it is getting a bit too much. But so does a good dinner out! LOL. Choices!

My greenhouse also doubles as a creative space for me to make items with plants for the decorating seasons, such as upcoming holidays. It can be cool in there in the midst of winter however, requiring me to wear a thick coat, etc, but on the days when the sun is in full force with no clouds, it is like a sauna at times and I try to capitalize on those days. It will warm up your bones in an instant. On sunny winter days, it feels like the tropics.

On rainy days, the greenhouse can bring me some relief too. I suffer from tinnitus and the rain pouring down hard on the roof top is the most soothing sound to me, as it drowns out the ear ringing. Also, distractions drown out the ringing, so when I am creating or working with plants in there, it also brings me relief because I am distracted and in the “zone.”

We just did the ol’ “fall back on the clocks,” and this is a time of year of transition. It will be darker out at dinner time and dark out when we get up. I will try to not let that bring me down. The thing that keeps me up is knowing the holidays will be near and that I will be making wreaths soon, right after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Wreath by Cathy T

While times are tough, there are shortages of supplies, and also many prices increases for us all around, I still will attempt to make the most beautiful wreaths possible. If you are looking for a hand-made wreath, kissing ball, or boxes of greens, look me up if you are near me. All is arranged as porch-pick up’s and are noted on my site called, www.WorkshopsCT.com.

Well, not much else to report today. I basically wanted to make sure I record the date of our fall frost, because it is important for next year to remember when it comes around. Each year is slightly different.

Enjoy today’s sunny weather!

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

Fall is Fantastic

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We are having a wonderful spout of good weather in Connecticut this year, 2021, during our fall season. The temps have been just lovely, no more rain (like we had all summer practically), and minus the mosquitos here, the fall weather has been fantastic to continue my various plant projects.

I am still taking down some of my tropical plants at home to store and overwinter, while finishing up some container garden installations for the fall season for clients, and also making beautiful custom made succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces for my orders.

I thought I would show some photos of various projects I’ve been doing, jumping from one project to another this month of October 2021 in Connecticut.

Cathy T holding a banana leaf Oct 2021

Well, here I am, holding a very long banana leaf from my red banana plant (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelli’). It is not hardy to our zone (6b) so I take it down every fall. It has become a ritual. I never had any issues with storing it as described on this blog via other posts (search Overwintering or Ensete), but this past spring, when I took the “stump” out of the storage bin, it was a little more damp than usual. I figured it was due to no air holes in my bins, so I drilled some very small air holes in the bin covers for this season. Or maybe it was the “new peat” I bought that stayed too damp, I’m not sure, but I have done this process again! Cutting down each leaf, chopping off the top of the plant, then storing the base. (See more photos below). People liked this photo when I shared it because it really shows the size of the planter, the plant’s leaves. I’m 5’6″…so, you can see how long these leaves grew this season in 2021. You may notice the plant is in a big black pot, I usually plant it directly into the big cement planter, but got lazy this year, and it did just as fine, the roots went thru the drain holes into the big planter below. I also fill this planter with Castor Bean plants, other Alocasia and Colocasia plants, and other perennials, etc.

Callicarpa Beautyberry Shrub Oct 2021

This is not a tropical plant above, it is a deciduous shrub, called Callicarpa. Just look at the purple berries this year! The foliage is a lime green (normal color). But this year, the berries have been abundant and really a deep purple color. I wondered if our abundant rainfall contributed to the color being so intense this season? I planted 3 of these side by side by my deck at the ground level years ago and I remember taking a measuring tape out to ensure I was giving it the recommended distance for spacing. People notice this shrub right now – it is beautiful. It makes a nice shrub for massing together as the branches arch and fill the area. I had cut it back in early spring and it performed nicely. I’ve never seen birds eat the berries, even though some sources say they do. I’ve never tried to grow it from seed, perhaps I should try to do so. Mr. Micheal A. Dirr’s manual indicates the seeds require 90 days cold stratification.

Cathy T holding a large Succulent Topped Pumpkin 2021

Yup, that’s me – trying to hold onto this very heavy and large succulent topped pumpkin I made for an order. Isn’t it beautiful – and so are the plants behind me! I could barely hold the pumpkin long enough for my husband to take a photo.

Ensete stump
Ensete stump

Referring back to the top photo of me holding the red banana plant leaf, here is the stump I dug out after chopping off the top. I use a machete. This stump was left in my garage for about a week, mostly because I was busy doing other fall plant project, but also to allow it to dry out somewhat. It is still moist from the water held in it, so a good suggestion is to tip it upside down and let the water drain out of it after removal from the pot or ground. I did have to cut off more of the top to fit it inside my storage bin which is about 3 feet long. The cover barely shut – this stump is a doozie! (That is heavy and big).

Container Garden by Cathy T in the month of October at a client site

If there’s one thing I will tell the plant Gods when I visit them some day, is, “THANK YOU!!” for offering me the wonderful opportunity to plant on a high rise. This is an October photo of just one of the many container gardens I install at this client site, and it is full and lush. I love how the fuzzy big leaves of the Lamb’s Ears plant grew extremely well, no blemishes, and as perfect as ever. It is called Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears” and I guess you could say, I do have a fondness for big plants which make a big impact. It is a perennial plant for full sun (hardy to Zone 4). The silvery soft leaves are low maintenance and used as groundcovers, or in containers as I did here. I paired it with two flowering plants, one an annual and the other a tropical lover for hot sun. They looked just beautiful but it was time for the take down process this month. The nice thing about using perennials in containers is if you wish to move the pot (not doable in this case due to the location), you may do so to an unheated garage and there is a good chance the perennial will return the following spring. Or you may dig out the perennial from the container garden and plant it in the ground in the fall to continue your plant investment.

Mop Head Hydrangea Bloom at my House

I guess you could say, this month of October 2021 has been a very colorful one. This plant above usually hasn’t produced many blooms for me before, but this year, it took off. I had these big colorful blooms and I cut them from the plant just yesterday. I read you may spray the flower head with hairspray (aerosol hairspray) and set it in a cool dark room to dry. I am trying that out this season with these Hydrangea mop-head blooms in purple, blue, and rosy tones.

At a Client Site

A pumpkin centerpiece I created (referred to as a succulent topped pumpkin) is shown above at a lady’s home. I absolutely love how she decorates her table, putting the Family piece and candle holders with the mums all around. And a nice photo she took, which I decided to share here. Isn’t this another beautiful fall color photo? And yes, that is a real pumpkin, one of a nutty brown color. Sourcing my pumpkins was a little trickier this year. Many local farmers had issues growing them because of our summer abundant rainfall. Some fields were flooded and ruined some of the crop. I had to hunt and peck to find good ones for my succulent topped pumpkin creations this season.

More of my creations above. I love making these in October. I have made some Halloween themed too.

Me in-front of a Wall of Mandevilla

That is me again, here I am standing infront of a wall of Mandevilla plants I installed in the spring. By October, they were full and gorgeous all the way to the top of the 7 foot wall situated above planters. I have to say, I was distraught early this spring because right after I finished planting these, there was an extremely freak cold rain day where temps dropped so low and it poured, cold rain. I was so worried it would ruin my work at the client’s site, but the Mandevillas did well, and the rain all summer encouraged their growth. The foliage was shiny, perfect and lush. Each year is different, and I was so thankful these performed well. They have white trumpet shaped blooms that last all the way into the fall. These plants are vine-like growing easily up when trellised. They will keep on climbing, reaching for the skies, which they did here on this high-rise garden. I have planted the red, pink, white types. All add a tropical feel to any container gardens outdoors in summer.

Plant Gifts by Cathy T

Well, I guess that is it for now. I’ll finish off today’s blog post to remind everyone I offer custom plant gifts, especially popular in the autumn and at the holiday season. Look me up on Facebook or Instagram under Container Crazy CT. I do all in containers, planters, patio pots, dish gardens, etc. You name it. This month I’m offering adorable succulents, bagged up and ready for pick up. If interested, DM me on Facebook or text me!

Thank you and enjoy the rest of this week’s perfect and fantastic fall weather.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Zone 6b
Broad Brook, CT
cell: 860-977-9473
email: containercathy@gmail.com

Today’s weather: 72 degrees F day, Lows at 48 degrees F at night (still safe for tropicals outdoors, I suspect the frost will arrive later next week!)

Tomorrow – partly sunny and Saturday and Sunday look nice during day. 37 degrees predicted for Sunday night.

Back to work I go outside today. Trying to make the most of this perfect fall weather, did I mention, it is fantastic?!

Succulent Topped Pumpkin Time

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Autumn Time

Hop on over to my site, called www.WorkshopsCT.com to learn about my custom made succulent topped pumpkins. They make wonderful autumn centerpieces, and now that there is a bit of fall in the air, these are my next fun endeavor. I love making them for orders. They are wonderful displayed inside your home for the fall and Halloween season, and last for months!

Winterizing Time

I’m also still taking down my tropical plants, probably working on them this weekend during the nice pleasant sunny cool fall weather. We have not had our October frost here yet, so there is still time but alas, my work must continue or I will be backlogged with plants! I have some Brugmansias which are blooming beautifully right now with huge yellow trumpet shaped flowers which smell wonderful in the evenings, as well as my Canna Lily plants, and I still have many elephant ears plants (Alocasia and Colocasia) outside in my larger container gardens. All will be taken down, pulled out of the soil, cut back and stored via the parts under the soil (corms, tubers, rhizomes, etc.) for storage during our winter months. I will show more photos soon but just enter search terms in the search box on this blog to locate directions and information and feel free to ask questions. I also have already collected my seeds from various seed pods by this time and stored them in cool dry places for use next spring to regrow some of my favorites. Pods should not get soggy and wet and be collected before that phase, or they will mold or rot on the plants outdoors at this time of year. I also put away most of my agaves, mangaves (one is shooting a flower stalk – it is 4 feet tall right now! So exciting!) And put my succulents in the greenhouse along with some of my larger house plants. The greenhouse is not being heated of course yet, and the natural air goes thru daily along with an auto fan as the temp rises on sunny days. Anyhow, the fun and plant work continues.

Winter Time

Boy, times are tough for small businesses. Every time I turn around prices are going up. This impact us greatly and we just can not afford to be “low priced” on our unique creations and please bear in mind, plants are perishables similar to vegetables from the grocery stores. Of course, you may make plants last for years, if not centuries, with the appropriate care, so it is a wonderful investment to have the beauty and company of plants surrounding us, but all the delivery costs, shipment fees and delays, materials and you name it, it has raised prices on materials for our industry, from the plants to the decorations we use for them. So thank you for supporting my small business – especially those who repeatedly visit me.

It brings me much joy, honestly, especially in the winter months to continue my work and custom orders. I guess my point is – I’m still planning to make my custom made holiday items as well as my succulent pumpkin centerpieces, but prices have gone up for me as a very small business owner. Custom is not cookie cutter, so if you enjoy unique, handmade, well cared for plant creations – I’m your girl! And also, the weather factors, this year our areas got hit hard with rain and floods – this impacted the availability of pumpkins locally. But this will not stop me from creating because it is my passion. Passions can not be stopped! 🙂

Thank you for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b
USA
Posted: 10/7/2021
Today’s weather: 54 degrees F, Foggy, H: 73, L:50
Weeknight temps for next week are in the mid 55’s range.
Friday and Sat – Party Sunny – yes! Glad we will have nice weekend weather.
Next week, looking good too in the mid-60’s to low 70’s, but maybe some rain showers

Three Days till Christmas

4 Comments

And what have I learned?

#1) That making fresh holiday wreaths and custom gift orders totally helped me get thru the tough times of the pandemic.
#2) That I still feel lonely when I wrap Christmas presents.
#3) That I am a late shopper but you are able to get good deals at local shops because of that.
#4) That I don’t like to bake holiday cookies, but I sure love eating them.
#5) That I still don’t know how to make this year’s Christmas Day special for just Steve and I due to the pandemic.
#6) That I am going to feel bored on Christmas Day, I think.
#7) That no matter what, I put on Christmas pounds this month.
#8) That I bring smiles to people’s faces with special unique custom creations.
#9) That I love working with holiday greens. And I especially loved packaging holiday greens boxes.
#10) That I am very motivated when into a work related holiday project even in blustery cold outdoor temperatures.
#11) And, that I love holiday decorations in our home even if it is mainly for just the two of us (since we have had no indoor guests here all month, again due to the pandemic.)

Well, some of this list may sound depressing. I hope I don’t get the blues after Christmas day, cause as noted on #1, making wreaths and holiday creations for people, really truly absolutely got me through this month. It allowed my brain to go to a happy place, create, watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music, while I made wreaths and such. Making these holiday items for a month truly kept me sane. Thank you so much for all your orders and enthusiasm.

Cathy T holding a wreath she made (on a nice sunny day!)

In regards to #2 (wrapping presents) and #3 (holiday shopping), I did my first trek out to holiday shop just yesterday. I discovered that I am so busy before Christmas making holiday items for orders, that I usually end up going out for last minute gift shopping for family or friends of my own just before Christmas, but one thing I did this season was stuck to going to local places to shop and it was quiet in the stores, all the holiday items were marked down to 40%, and I got a nice hot cappuccino from a local bakery with cookies to go, which one cookie I snuck out of the package to eat in my truck while driving to my next destination.

But on #2 (lonely wrapping presents), this year I felt especially lonely when I got back home and immediately started wrapping presents. I didn’t even take a rest and got to it immediately. I felt lonely I guess cause I know I won’t be in the room when they open them. Isn’t part of the fun watching people’s expressions as they unwrap the gifts? And being kid-less myself, sometimes holidays feel lonely. I wrap and wrap for so many, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like anyone is wrapping for me. Parents are lucky. They always will get a gift and the joy of watching their kids open presents. For me, that is non-existent. There I said it. I don’t mean to be a sap (sorry). I guess that is probably why I just enjoy the smiles of people’s faces soooo much when they pick up a custom holiday gift I made for someone special in their lives. And it also taught me there are way bigger problems in life than my silly moments of holiday sighs. Gosh, one nurse I met, she has seen some very sad situations. Very sad indeed. And I think, we need a National Holiday for Nurses after the pandemic is over. Truly, I think that is needed.

#4) That I don’t like to bake holiday cookies, but I sure love eating them.

There is no doubt, there is nothing better than biting into a fresh, soft, yummy, fully decorated homemade or bakery made holiday cookie. And folks, my mother in law made the best, hands down. One time, when I just started dating my husband, I hap hazardly made some sugar cookies to bring to their house on Christmas Eve. It was I think the first time I attended her amazing holiday dinner on Christmas eve. She is the type of woman who picked recipes from a fancy cooking magazine, now I can’t recall it, darn it, anyhow, she made food to perfection. So when I arrived at the door and handed her a plate of odd shaped, not too good looking, sugar cookies with a happy attitude, not being any the wiser at that time, she took it and brought it to the kitchen. Later, I discovered them kind of tucked into a corner, which was no surprise when I saw the most magnificent display of the most heavenly cookies you ever seen in her living room. She had a gift, let me tell ya. At her elderly age, she doesn’t bake as much, but I sure do miss her amazing, soft, decadent cookies. Yesterday, I got some at a local bakery to try to make up for that, and I also spend time admiring the photos on Facebook of everyone who bakes amazing cookies at their homes, which you all are posting a lot right now. My mouth waters. Yummy.

#5) That I still don’t know how to make this year’s Christmas Day special for just Steve and I due to the pandemic. #6) That I am going to feel bored on Christmas Day, I think.

I know #5 and #6 sound depressing. It has always been “just the two of us,” but we also attended family gatherings here and there for Christmas too, and this year, well, that is a big no-no due to the pandemic. And it will be pouring rain all day on Christmas Day, they said on the news last night – Ugh! What will we do all day? We already watched quite a few holiday movies. And we can’t even decide right now what we should make for a meal. At first, we thought let’s order from a favorite restaurant, then we decided, well, maybe not. Well, tomorrow will be sunny and gorgeous so we are going to do some gift drop offs and try to make THAT day special. Maybe, since he will have the day off, we will figure out our meal plan for our Christmas Rainy Day, and pick up items on the road tomorrow. Because, today, I have to do some more last minute shopping still.

#7) That no matter what, I put on Christmas pounds this month.

Oh yah, the holiday pounds, let’s not even discuss that. It goes back to #4. You get the idea there. I used to say it was because I become Mrs. KB Claus, but now I guess it is Custom Cathy Claus. LOL. Those of you who know me best, know what I mean! LOL.

My Gnome Globes Made People Smile!

#8) That I can bring smiles to peoples’ faces with special unique custom creations.
#9) That I love working with holiday greens.
And absolutely loved packaging Holiday Greens Boxes for customers this year!

Oh yah, that kind of goes to point #1. I love seeing smiling faces when people pick up my holiday creations. That is really the true meaning of Christmas right? Bringing smiles to people’s face, and I learned I really love working with holiday greens, and LOVED packaging greens for my Holiday Greens Boxes this year (which was a new offering). It felt so good to do that – the fresh aromas, the mix of wonderful greens, where people could create with at their own homes, etc.. That is something which totally gets me into the spirit, at least it did all this month, and it will continue to do so as I look at the greens around my house, like the kissing ball hanging by my door, the pot of holiday greenery, the big wreath I hung outside on the fireplace wall. I just love the smell of the fresh holiday greens and I love the nature of it all. And I am happy for those who got greens, they could create at their own home as well.

Box of Greens for Customers was so fun to package up!

#10) That I am very motivated when into a project even in blustery cold outdoor temperatures.
#11) And, that I love holiday decorations in the home and outside even if it is mainly for just the two of us.

Oh yah, I remember one year working on the barrels which I fill with greens at local package store, the owner came out to say he couldn’t believe I was working in the frigid cold temperatures that day. It was super cold, but there have been days I don’t care that it is cold, well, I care, but I can endure super cold temperatures outdoors when creating with holiday greens to decorate a special place or business. I am not sure why. I would whine like a baby otherwise probably about the freezing cold temperatures, but when I am creating, I usually push through the chills and make sure I bundle up as much as possible, and I do try to go on good sunny days. We did have some mild temp’s earlier this season. However, you have to be careful because your holiday motivation can make you forget the fact you could get frost bite or catch a cold, or whatever, thus it is important to warm up between stuffing greens into holiday planters and pots outdoors at residences, or at home, etc.

And #11, decorating! Oh yah, we did decorate a bit less this year, got a small tree for inside the home, but you know what, we still LOVE decorating for the holidays. It really does bring a warm feeling to your home, gives it a bit of the Christmas or Holiday magic to your surroundings, and there is nothing better than staring at glitter and gold. I didn’t unpack as many boxes or adorn as many rooms in the home as year’s past but it was an absolute must to decorate. I’m sure everyone knows it isn’t just for their guests, it is for them, to be in the moment and spirit.

Happy Holidays Everyone. Only 3 more days to go…

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

A Little Pine around my White Bird House – Even the Little Touches Count!