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

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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!

Here comes the snow

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Our first big snow storm arrives tomorrow, well, technically tonight, so I guess that means we will be dealing with snowplowing our driveways, cleaning up our cars, shoveling, and wearing warmer winter clothes, but it also brings some nice things.

Nice? Yes, nice things.

Like how the snow covers up the ugliness of our brown landscapes of winter and how the snow decorates the outdoor holiday lights with snowy white accents, and even the after thing which happens the day after a snow storm, like how icicles will be dripping and glistening in the sun, or perhaps you will make a snowman or go snow-shoeing. There are some nice activities, that is, if you like snow.

However, preparing for the storm is usually some pre-work for all of us. For example, rushing off to the grocery store to get food so we can at least have some yummy meals while cooped up inside during the storm, or getting the snow plow prepared or scheduled, and moving any last minutes items from the outdoors to inside to protect from the storm, or covering up big planters in my yard I STILL haven’t gotten to. Geesh!

Cathy T’s Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Globes!

It also will give me the opportunity to continue creating with my fresh, wonderful, beautifully scented holiday greens! I am still creating small holiday planters and a few gift items, and if you are local, and have a last minute holiday gift needs, please look me up. All are custom made and arranged pick-up style. I also create various small hand-held gifts which are great quick pick-ups for gifts. All I need is one day’s notice to make it custom for you.

Planters with Mixed Greens and Decor by Cathy Testa

I will be home all day today (after grocery shopping in the morning) if you wish to pop by for any last minute gifts (all hand made by me and unique as featured in my posts, Instagram feed, and on my Container Crazy CT Facebook business page). My cell is 860-977-9473. Feel free to give me a quick text.

Holiday Globes by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

I’m also marking this date, today, 12/16/2020, as the first big snow storm coming to town. Just think, only a couple days ago, we were outside without heavy winter coats or hats. Today my fingers will be freezing within minutes while I gather up supplies to make my next custom order. And I probably will have to be super cautious when walking across my large driveway to get things tomorrow. This Connecticut weather is crazy. But we will endure, like we always do.

I hope where you live, you are not dealing with this big snow storm, unless you enjoy some of those “nice” things noted above.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Small Business Owner
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, Connecticut
860-977-9473 cell

Adorable Moss Ball with Hand Dipped Small Candle and Accents by Cathy T.

Boxing Up Happiness!

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This year I am offering Holiday Greens by the Box, which I refer to as, “Holiday Greens by Cathy T.”

The Box is actually two per order!

It has been so much fun for me packing up all the wonderful fresh greenery for my orders. I hand select them from my stock and prepare each order individually right before the customer arrives so all is super fresh.

I bought a big roll of shiny red tape to close the boxes, knowing red is appropriate for Christmas and the holidays, and tie each box off with red string too.

Cathy T Holding one of the boxes

As I close them up, I feel a sense of happiness – like I’m wrapping a Christmas present. It is a type of process that makes me feel as if I am giving someone a treat, a gift, and a package of festive time to come.

Lots of Variety!

Each box contains wonderful varieties of greens. I love having the various textures and shades of greens to make my wreaths and I think it is a special treat to have this material to make holiday decorations at home.

Customer Putting Boxes in her Car

My husband built a wonderful rustic stand of tree branches from fallen trees and it is perfect. In fact, I call it “Driveway Pick-ups” now. If someone wants completely no contact whatsoever due to COVID safety, it is easily achieved.

Driveway Pick Up Stand

However, I have been snapping photos of pick-ups at a safe distance with both our masks on!

Picking up a Large Order for her and a friend

Every time someone shows up, a conversation starts up. Just the two of us in the driveway sharing stories of how we all have new traditions this year, as a result of limited gatherings due to COVID19. I hear of what has been going on in their lives, things they may have experienced, and we all realize the new traditions we are forming this year, which could perhaps stay as a tradition – like these new Holiday Greens by Cathy T I’m offering.

There is still time to get your box (which is actually 2 per order). Imagine sitting home right now making a wreath with a friend or with a child, grandparent, and whomever you are staying safe with right now. I invite purchasers to a page with my how-to videos and wonderful tips on working with holiday greens.

If interested, please reach out and I will provide you with the list of greenery included in the boxes and the price. My cell is 860-977-9473 and I am located in Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT.

Husband and Wife Team – They decorate together!

Thank you,

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

Buffalo Plaid Ribbon is Popular in 2020

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Every year, a woman orders a Holiday Kissing Ball from me, and this year, when she texted me, she asked if I could use “Buffalo Plaid” ribbon this season?

I texted back, “Sure, but what is Buffalo Plaid?”

LOL, guess I was totally unaware of that term, even though, apparently, it has been around since the 1800’s.

No matter what the trend, a buffalo plaid shirt never goes out of style. With origins dating back to the 1800’s in Scotland, this type of plaid was originally brought to America in the form of warm blankets. Later popularized by Woolrich and traditionally red and black, buffalo plaid consists of two colored yarns woven in stripes to create large intersecting blocks.

From website: Flag&Anthem

Luckily for me, I was looking at ribbons at my supply house at that very moment of my customer’s text. And I was in luck, there was some in stock.

It is interesting how trends come about.

Maybe we are all seeking that special warm comfort feeling of Buffalo Plaid blankets (now during Covid times), and perhaps, this is why it is so popular this holiday season.

Large Holiday Kissing Ball with Buffalo Plaid Ribbon Topper

I made a pretty bow to top off her custom kissing ball, and added some curly ribbon with the same patterns here and there, and it worked really well along with red bright berries, black and red ornaments, and other embellishments.

Buffalo Plaid Ribbon

When I posted a photo of it on various social media, it received many comments and likes. It is apparent people are into this style ribbon right now.

In fact, another order came in, and they said, “I sure do like that Buffalo Plaid ribbon you used on that kissing ball!”

Hand Made Wreath by Cathy T with Buffalo Plaid

Of course, I was happy to accommodate her. Here is her wreath with the Buffalo Plaid ribbon and cones, cheerful red berries, and little red glitter balls.

Ribbon on the wreath

I rather like how the ribbon came out on this wreath too! It is so adorable and the curly ribbon tucked in perfectly below my Buffalo Plaid larger ribbon.

Wreath before decor was added

At this rate, I’ll run out of Buffalo Plaid ribbon before I run out of my fresh greens! Each of my holiday wreaths, kissing balls, and box of greens are filled with a wide mix of greenery. It smells amazing too when I am working on creating items.

Enjoy your day everyone, and Stay Safe.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT
Porch and Driveway Pick-ups Arranged with Zero Contact!

What do you need to make a Fantastic Holiday Wreath?

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Me, of course! LOL.

Okay, I thought about this – What tools do I find are critical to make a wonderful holiday wreath?

Here are my suggestions:

Good florist wire, a whole paddle or roll. As you work to attach the fresh holiday greens to your wreath frame, the florist roll of wire will be invaluable. Make sure it is a green colored wire to hide well beneath the greenery, and 20 gauge is the type I typically use. I also find the florist wire to be handy to have for many other creative projects. A roll of it is never wasted due to this reason.

A heavy duty wreath frame. If you are going big, you might as well invest in a strong wreath frame, and hopefully, if you pick a good one, you will reuse it the following season. Avoid cheaper frames that are easily dented or bent as you work, especially if making a larger wreath.

Gloves. Sap, sap, sticky sap from your fresh holiday greens, like the balsam fir, will start to really dry out your hands while making a wreath. A box of disposable gloves is really helpful, especially because as you continue to work, your hands may sweat or the gloves may get torn, so I like a box of gloves nearby. I will grab a fresh pair as I continue to make wreaths and kissing balls by hand for my orders.

Mask. Not a joke here, but last year, I wore a face mask because the smells of the greens were starting to make me sniff and sniffle. I wear them after a while if the strong greens smells start to get to me, plus moving and cutting greens increases the dust or pollen around me. If I wear a mask, I’m not breathing that in. I make a lot of holiday wreaths and kissing balls, so it is helpful, and this year, during COVID, we have masks handy, and my mask this year has a holiday theme too! Might as well be festive.

Hand moisturizer. While getting a box of gloves, if you can find them today (tricky to do sometimes during this COVID year), get a good type of hand moisturizer. I prefer lotion that is thick and creamy, like body butter. I slather it on at night before bed. My hands get really dry and sometimes scratched while I work with greens.

Hand-pruners, in good shape. Nothing is worse than using non-sharp, old rusty pruners to cut the various holiday greens as you work. Tidy up your pair of garden pruners before starting, or get a new pair if you wish to invest in them. Avoid using junk pruners.

Very sharp scissors. For making the perfect cut in bows and other decorations as you add the decor to your finished wreath. While you’re at it, you may want to invest in small wire cutters, so you don’t damage the scissors which you should reserve for cutting ribbons and other delicate materials.

Plastic Bins or Laundry Baskets. As you cut your pieces from branches of stems of the holiday greens, a big bin with handles, is super helpful to toss all in because you will most likely go to a warm space to make your creation. Carrying the bin to your house or into your basement is handy.

Holiday music or movies. When I make my wreaths and kissing balls, I tend to watch one of those holiday (corny) movies or one of my old favorites while I work, however, don’t pick a movie where you must look at it all the time because you will be looking down most of the time as you make your wreath. One of my favorites to rent while working are, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” or “Reindeer Games.” If not a movie, go for holiday music, it puts you in the mood for creating your wreath.

Tarp, sheet, or blanket. Lay that down on the floor below where you are working because the needles will fall and make a mess. Wrap up the blanket after you are done to gather the debris and shake it outside to toss out the mess. It helps. A couple towels are handy to protect surfaces.

A glue gun. Another great tool for adding decor to your wreath. Get a bigger glue gun if possible. Those small ones just take too long to heat up, and work slowly plus they tend to get all clogged up after a while. If you are going to make just one wreath, one small glue gun may be fine, but a big glue gun is needed if making bigger or a lot of wreaths.

Florist picks. Little green wooden pick with wires already pre-attached to them are handy for some of the decorations you will add. They are not mandatory but helpful. I usually have a stock of those around.

GREENS!!! And of course, the number one thing you need is abundant, fresh greens from Cathy T. It is better to use fresh and a mix of varieties to achieve an elegant, full, and beautiful look. And I provide you with care tips, instructions, and more information. If you buy from me, you will also learn from me.

You know where I am if you have a need for any of the above items. Visit my site noted below or text me. Hurry, it is time soon to starting making your fantastic wreath.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.

Stay safe friends,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome!)
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com (see for more Holiday Info)

Orders start Friday, November 27, 2020

I made this yesterday…

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All I really wanted to do yesterday was create. I had an idea in my mind to make a small wreath covered in small glass ornaments, bright red and white berries, and a couple succulent plants. I wanted to pack the wreath in a way so it would be colorful, festive and fun.

It really is amazing how long something like this can take to make by hand. In fact, I would start working on it but then had to stop to do an errand or get the other tasks around my property done, but all I really wanted to do was create.

I played holiday music from my Pandora holiday line up of Christmas music which I play every season this time of year. It started with listening to Micheal Buble’s “White Christmas” song and continues on from there to Elvis or Etta – You name it. Every song gets me into that holiday creation vibe, along with the pitter patter of birds or trees moving in the wind outdoors. In fact, a bird landed on the greenhouse roof to visit while I was in there. These moments make me pause while creating.

Yup, I did. I put on the holiday music playing from the tiny new Bluetooth speaker. So let’s see, holiday music on for the first time on Nov. 19th. I think that is my earliest yet. It does set the mood, along with warm sunshine casting upon me in my little heaven of a greenhouse, where I often create, if it is bearable outside for winter temps. Once it gets even colder, my hands get cold in my special greenhouse, kept at a low even temperature during the winter months. Sometimes it gets too cold to create in there, unless I’m bundled up from head to toe. But it is one of my preferred places to be.

After doing errands, I finally got back to making the trio set. One thing that really annoyed me was a sticker was on the bottom of the round hanging globe and it was stubborn. I was like, oh gosh, now I have to go up to the house to remove this sticker, as I don’t have a working “sink” in the greenhouse with hot water. I was thinking, just let me create – no more interruptions, which I found removing a stubborn sticker to be – an interruption. I had to find a spray adhesive removal product and finally was able to completely remove it.

After that, and getting back to my greenhouse and continuing on my creations, my stomach started growling and right then, my husband texted me he was on his way home from work. It was almost dinner time, and yet, I still wasn’t done. The sun would be going down soon, I thought. I need to wrap this up. I left everything there to ponder more for tomorrow, which is now today!

This little mouse, I knew would be adorable in the globe. I thought of the owl found in the Rockefeller tree in NY recently, as I placed my white little mouse ever so carefully in the center, being sure the tip of his red holiday hat with a tiny white pom-pom would point up to the top. I’m not sure why, but I can not get that owl out of my head. I thought, I wish I had an owl to put in here – it would be perfect, but I only had the mouse in the house. Imagine replicating the NY tree owl with that little brown blanket tucked around him and those big bulging adorable owl eyes. OMG! That would be irresistible.

Each of the three pieces have similar color themes and the red dotted ribbon. This would tie them together. Along with the mini brown pinecones with tiny red berries. If I’m not careful, anything could be damaged or not positioned just right, this is why it takes time. I would never rush them as it takes away that Zen of creating.

One thing I have found is in order to create, you need lots of various supplies and embellishments on hand. I just can’t do something totally cookie cutter, it would be like an artist having to limit their various colors of paints, which I think may occur out there, but I don’t want to limit myself when creating.

Because these each have live succulent plants in them, they need to be displayed indoors and near some sunlight or in a brightly lit room, although the succulent plants are very tolerant and may be moved into pots after the season of holiday decor is over. The globes have succulents which are very slow growing and are sturdy, so they won’t outgrow the globes for a very long time.

So that is what I did yesterday. And now I have this feeling I want to make another set. With another color theme. We will see. I will keep you posted!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
see also: www.WorkshopsCT.com

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Who am I?

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I shared this photo yesterday, on a whim, on my personal Facebook page and received lots of comments. Most people wrote things like, “You look so happy!” or “This is a great photo.”

I have to say, I am THE most happy at the moment right then, right before I would be completely ready for my holiday workshops to begin for my annual wreaths and kissing balls attendees.

Cathy Testa right before attendees were to arrive!

This photo, taken two years ago, was on a sparkling, yet brisk cold, December morning. I got up early before all the wonderful attendees arrive, working diligently with my helpful and happy husband to get all the beautiful fresh mixed greens on tables. All this work always took place right before the workshop was to start on the day off.

Boxwood in a Galvanized Bin

From fresh Balsam Firs, so traditional for the Christmas scents we are familiar with, to elegant florals such as Berried Eucalyptus. All would be carefully placed on rustic tables and shelves. Some bundles were placed in red plastic bins or galvanized rustic buckets in wheel barrels. Whatever we had on hand to make all the taking easy for everyone.

Fresh Juniper in a Wheel Barrel

It would be so pretty when we were done setting all the greens up. I would be freezing cold at times with the tips of my fingers being numb even while wearing gloves, and feel like my eyes were tired (why the big sunglasses over my eye glasses in that photo), yet, I always took the time for photos to capture these moments just before guests would begin to arrive. Every minute, from our first sip of coffee that day till the start time of my holiday workshop was consumed with work for both me and my husband.

Decor everywhere

There have been many years where I was completely exhausted from all the organizing type stresses. Will my greens by okay? Will there be enough greens? Will I be able to handle a group of 35-40 very excited women ready to make wreaths?! Will the weather cooperate? Will it be windy? Usually all my anticipation would start to fill my mind, of course, as I laid my head on the pillow the evenings before the big workshop days.

The days or even weeks before the event, I would start to decorate here and there, adding holiday touches in my home, on my property, and in the staging area for the greens. I always wanted to make everything perfect, or as best as possible. It needed to be a cozy, organized, and a welcoming event.

Cathy T’s Holiday Red Hat on the KB Sign

We would stage all the fresh holiday greens, many varieties, in a beautiful wood shed, which my husband built for his wood. For many years, he sacrificed the space on one side for us, for this workshop event, for the ladies. What a man, Mr. KB Claus. He never once complained about that. This year, of course, it is all filled with his stacked wood. And he just happily stacked his wood this year without ever a mention of how he gave up the space all those years prior for my workshops.

Decorations all around

It almost looked like a manger on my holiday workshop days, as one attendee stated one year. It wouldn’t be long before I learned, I need elf helpers because the large group took a lot of coordinated effort, and fortunately for me, I am blessed with three close friends who offered to help me and my hubby.

My elf helpers – They even agreed to wear the festive aprons I got them last year!

But this year is different, very different. My holiday offerings are different, our upcoming family and friend gatherings are different, and our holiday anticipation, in many ways, will be different. All due to COVID entering our worlds. Who would EVER imagine COVID would be here still in the month of November. Into, what eight months, since this all started in March? My goodness!

So this year, as I’ve noted, I am taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls, as well as offering fresh greens by the box. All the details are outlined on my site, http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. I have my holiday face mask ready to greet anyone coming by for orders, and my helpful and festive hubby already built a stand for safe zero contact porch-pick-ups. Well, it will be driveway pick-ups this year. The stand he built is from wood limbs of trees around our property, which make it rustic looking. I can’t wait to hang my custom wreaths and kissing balls on it for orders. I think it will look pretty. And this starts next week, immediately after Thanksgiving Day.

Steve, Mr. KB Claus, Holding a Wreath made by Cathy T last year for a customer

So who am I? Well, I guess this holiday season, I am still Mrs. KB Claus but in a different format. Not sure what my title will be but I do know, I thoroughly enjoy working with the beautiful fresh holiday greens creating and it will certainly help ease our COVID situations. Creating with greens is an amazing escape from any concerns we may have as we stay safe at home. And I’m sure my husband will tolerate all my antics along the way!

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

Token Males, I used to call them as a joke, hanging out with Steve by the firepit outdoors while us festive women created our holiday items!