My Aqua Blue Planter

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When I saw a planter box with a trellis advertised as homemade by a nearby carpenter, I ordered one up for delivery right away. The carpenter goes by the name of Harold’s Woodworking. They are on Facebook under that name and their logo is an owl. If you are local to my area (Broad Brook, CT) and decide to contact them, please tell them Cathy T sent ya’s. Ask for Jen. She was very helpful throughout the process of building it and delivering right to my driveway.

Because my husband said it is best to let pressure treated wood dry out before staining, I planted it first, and stained it later.

Staining it turned out to be tricky, of course, with plants in there, but I managed to get the job done by using light weight plastic over the plants while I stained. At times, I also used a large piece of poster board to protect plants. It was a messy job but I got it done!

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Here it is with the plants identified. And this photo was taken about 3 weeks ago so the Canna Lily plants (#1) are much taller at this time, and the moon flower vine (#8) is growing much more and clinging onto the trellis now.

Moon Flower (#8)

The moon flower is one I grew from seed. It will produce fragrant, huge white blooms. The flowers open from dusk to dawn in late summer to early fall. The vine can grow up to 8 to 12 feet tall. Planting it near my bedroom entrance door will give me a show later this season. By the way, moon flowers have hard coated seeds so you must soak or nick them with a nail file or other tool before sowing them. I direct sowed 3 seeds in this planter along the back wall. This plant also requires a long growing season so hopefully I did not sow them too late as I can’t wait to see blooms at the end of our summer season.

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Gomphrena pulchella (#5)

The #5 plant with round pom-pom like flowers is one I am very happy I picked up from a local nursery. It has very sturdy stems and stays upright. I have not seen any damage or flower drop from these. As noted, they do not require deadheading. I cut a few to put in a vase and they hold up very nicely in vases too. So far, I have only seen small white butterflies visiting these blooms as well as tiny flying insects visiting the blooms to get their nectar. It is giving it a wonderful display of color at just the right height.

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#6 Salvia ‘Rockin Fuchsia’

I purposely selected this annual because of their fluted flowers to attract hummingbirds and because of their purple color. They have not disappointed in either. The hummingbirds swing by to visit them from time to time and the plant is as sturdy as the other annual in the planter. It is hard to see them in the first photo, but they are tucked to the right and left of #5. I love how the dark purple flowers look with the lighter pink colors of the Gomphrena annual next to it.

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#3 Upright Jumbo Alocasia

I planted two of these on the left and right sides of the planter. Because this bulb was a bit smaller than my others, they are on the small side but I am sure by the end of summer, these will be dramatic. I’m in love with the upright type of elephant ears now. The foliage is almost rubbery and shiny. They just seem to stay beautiful all summer long. A new leaf pushes out every few weeks or so and it is like they are performing a dance for me to witness over time. They will be half the height of the Canna Lily plants in a few weeks and add a dramatic shape to the arrangement.

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Comanche Moon Art

The hanging art, referred to as Comanche Moon, by its creator was an item I purchased many years ago. I had it hanging in my greenhouse and now I realize I wasn’t capitalizing on it’s beauty in the greenhouse. The sun glimmers thru it at times on the lattice part of this planter, and it makes it glow. It is so pretty against the blue aqua color as well because of its orange colors. I selected orange because it reminded me of the mountains of Sedona, Arizona from when we visited there. The artist had many colors to choose from and it was a difficult choice at that time. His website is noted above in the photo. Upon contacting him recently, he said he no longer makes these but check out his other wonderful art pieces. Really stunning and of high quality.

Other Plants

And, I have Portulaca annual tucked in the far left and right corners in the front as well as some tiny petunias in the center. I wanted color and I achieved it! Because I’m a huge fan of foliage over flowers, I thought this year, you know, I really need some color in my containers. This prompted the whole scene of the aqua blue stain to the colorful purple, pinks, soft lavenders in this planter. And ironically, the ruby darker foliage color of the Canna Lily plants picks up the dark tones of the Comanche moon hanging art in the center.

Prior Planting Set-up

As far as the setup prior to planting, we put some blocks of wood below the planter so it would be elevated a bit to allow for drainage and air circulation below and to help protect the wood of our deck floor.

Additionally, I inserted two large fabric grow bags (40 gallon sizes) in the planter to serve as a liner and put foam below the grow bags. Quality potting mix and some compost was added along with slow release fertilizer.

The planter is on the east end of my deck so as the sun rises, it hits the Comanche Moon just right in the mornings. I can see the planter also from the far west end of my deck. I am enjoying is so much. It gave me the color I was looking for.

I will post more photos later in the season to show the progress of the plants. At least that is my game plan.

Have a great day,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
“I plant all in patio pots, container gardens, and planters of all sizes!”

Other websites:

http://www.WORKSHOPCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT. com

 

 

COVID Creations

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I have to find ways to entertain myself during these challenging times and ‘playing with’ my plants is one big time distraction.

Last week, I made a mask with succulents.

I thought I’d share the photos today. I know I’m not the first to think of this idea. After all, succulents may be applied to many scenarios.

I started off with using the traditional white cotton dusk mask. I placed a half styrofoam white ball under it as I assembled it to keep it stable, because the mask is pliable.

 

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From there it was easy peasy, but took some time.

First, I glued live moss to the white mask using green moss I have in stock and a glue gun.

Then I attached some of my baby succulents and added dried flower pods as filler. To be honest, I didn’t want to waste too many of my succulents so I wanted filler around it to take up some of the space on the mask.

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Then it hit me – I had some round red fuzzy craft balls in stock. I realized they resemble the COVID-19 images of the virus outside of a host cell. I’m sure you have seen this image many times, floating on TV screens as backgrounds during broadcasts. In fact, I was getting annoyed by one image a local news station used for weeks because it just reminded me of the darn C-19 nasty virus lurking everywhere!

The little red craft balls used on my succulent mask have little shiny spikes on them. Thus, these red balls were my representation of the C19 virus images, as shown below of an image obtained from the CDC Image Library on the web.

CDC Cell Image

Caption:
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Photo Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

Here are some photos of my final creation:

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You may wonder, will the succulents survive on this mask? They may. Their fine roots will reach into the moss to grow. Maybe at that point, I will take it all apart and pot them into small pots.

By the way, the succulent plants used were a mix of small echeverias, baby hens and chicks (sempervivums), and some Jade leaves.

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

 

 

How to Water Succulents in Pots with No Drain Holes

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My number 1 rule has always been to make sure your patio pots and container gardens for plants have sufficient drainage. There is no doubt plants perform much, much better when they have sufficient drainage holes in the base of their pots. Oxygen is necessary for plant roots to develop and perform better, and without drain holes, they lack it.

But, what about all those good and unique pot finds with no drain holes which you want to plant your succulents in? Vintage tea cups or a cool rock? Or when you are growing plants in hanging glass globes or in glass terrarium bowls? How do you deal with the fact these types of pots have no drain holes. If you cannot drill them, which is tricky with glass in particular, then the answer is to water very carefully.

Because succulents are able to withstand periods of drought, many people use them in pots without drain holes, but they do need watering at some point. In fact, succulents tend to like a good drenching, and then you should allow the soil in the pot to completely dry before you water again. The key is watering carefully when you have no drain holes.

Here is a list of tips I created to help you do this correctly, and again, carefully.

Tip No. 1 – Use Sphagnum Moss

Add some moss in glass hanging votives or glass globes over the soil mix. Fibered sphagnum moss absorbs up to twenty times its weight in water. The moisture will distribute naturally throughout the moss reaching the plants’ roots. The moss will dry over the course of the next few days on its own. By the way, sphagnum moss is not peat moss. And, Spanish moss is also different. Spanish moss is more for decorative uses and will remain soggy longer than sphagnum moss. I prefer the sphagnum moss because it dries between the moisture routines allowing the aeration also needed for the succulents delicate roots.

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Tip No. 2 – Tip the pot

After putting water in the soil mix (or moss), tip the pot to drain out any excess water, especially if you over did it. It may be okay to let the water sit there for a bit to be soaked up awhile, maybe an hour or so, but then be sure to drain out any excess water from the globe, pot, or whatever has no drain hole.

Tip No. 3 – Unplug the weep hole

Some pots, such as this hanging basket, has a reservoir area in the base. If the pot got overfilled with rain water during a heavy rain fall, pull the plug out, and allow the accumulated water to drain completely out. After, let the soil dry out and then re-insert the plug.

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Tip No. 4 – Add horticulture charcoal

Charcoal is very useful in terrarium glass bowls in particular. It improves drainage and absorbs harmful impurities. Add a thin layer in the foundation of the bowl along with soil and gravel in the base. It may be used in pots without drain holes too if desired. It will help the soil environment. Just be sure to follow the guidelines on the bag for the amount to use, and wear gloves since it is a messy dusty like component which will blacken your hands. Layer it appropriately as well for terrariums.

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Tip No. 5  – Less is more

Do not over water especially if your pot is in a dimly lit room inside your home or in the shade outdoors. This is a formula for inviting fungus gnats. The moisture will not dry out as quickly in shady spots, and thus, it invites critters. Critters like moisture. Be aware less is more in these situations, but again, your succulents shouldn’t be in non-lit areas in the first place. Most succulents prefer sun. If possible, if the soil is too wet from this situation, put it outdoors on nice days to give it natural air. Just be sure it is warm enough outside and not in too much sun IF the plants have been inside all winter. Select a partial sunny place and bring it back in later before evening.

Tip No. 6 – Use a porous pot

Terra-cotta and non-glazed clay pots allow air movement through the pot itself, so using a clay pots helps the non-drain holes situation versus using a glazed ceramic pot for example. Also, fabric or fiber pots with the natural ability to allow moisture to seep thru the pot base, are helpful to use. Such as coco fiber liners used in hanging baskets.

Tip No. 7 – Add perlite

Your potting mix may already have perlite, but adding more to the soil mix for pots with no drain holes will enhance the air spaces in the soil. Horticulture perlite is expanded volcanic glass. It increases aeration and drainage which will help the roots develop. This tip is good for plants which enjoy lots of drainage, such as succulents. Perlite is available by the bag in garden type stores.

Tip No. 8 – Create a drainage layer

Add gravel, stone chips, sterilized sea shells, or river pea gravel to the base of the pot before adding the soil and or moss. This is only recommended for pots without drain holes. Otherwise, if the pot does have drain holes, it can be counterproductive, creating blockage to drain holes or moving up the soil moisture above the gravel line. More on that in another blog post. It is a bit of a thing to explain to folks, which I have in my workshops on container gardening in the past.

Tip No. 9 – Allow drying time

Most plant roots need a balance of moisture and air. Be sure to allow your soil to dry between watering, especially important when you have no drain holes and are using succulent plants. Succulent plants should not be sitting in soggy soils for prolonged periods of time. And if the weather is right, put your container outdoors for some fresh air to give some air to the soil or moss, just be careful to not put it in harsh sun right away if they’ve been indoors all winter. And do not put out non-hardy soft succulents outdoors if it is still cold out – usually the right time to transition them outdoors is around Memorial Day, but if there is a suddenly warm day and sunshine, it doesn’t hurt to put them out for a few hours if the soil is really too wet.

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Tip No. 10 – Direct the water

Direct the water carefully to the soil mix (not to the top of the plants). Do not mist succulents. Point the tip of your watering-can spout to the soil, moss, or around the plant. I’ve been using a hair style water bottle lately for succulents in tight pots. The bottle is squeezable and squirts out a stream of water perfectly from a very narrow tip. If your succulents are a hardy type, and outdoors, it is okay if they get wet especially in the sun, but for soft non-hardy succulents, it is best to avoid getting the foliage wet. Also, bear in mind, newly planted succulents may have not expanded their fine roots into the soil much so the amount of water may depend on if you just planted a plug or baby succ, versus one that may be fuller and more mature.

Potting Mix

And finally, I think this goes without saying, use a quality potting mix or container mix for your plants in the pots. No native soil, no dirt please. In a future blog post, I will talk about my favorite potting mixes and how to find them. I have my favorite brands, and I actually listened to a webinar yesterday on new wood substrate type components for peat-based potting mixes. Again, more on that later. There is always more to learn.

Thank you for visiting.

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

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Why Succulents in Hanging Baskets?

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Succulents continue to be wildly popular with plant enthusiasts and collectors. If you don’t have lots of room on your patio, a hanging basket filled with various succulent plants is a way to capitalize on your space. Succulents don’t require frequent soakings and may stay dry for weeks, making them very low maintenance plants, which is perfect in summer, when we are busy or going on vacation. Many people are surprised to learn that most succulents do produce flowers, at least once during the growing season. Hummingbirds love the flowers on the long arching stalks of Echeverias for example, just one of the many type of succulents out there to enjoy. It is a thrill to witness a hummingbird visit the delicate urn shaped blooms. In summary, succulents have lots to offer and are very long lasting plants, which means you may enjoy them outdoors in the warm season on your patio in a hanging basket, and then later, move them indoors for the winter season to enjoy on your windowsill or any indoor room with decent sunlight.

The Soil Mix

Succulents require good soil drainage to perform their best, and hanging baskets with coco-fiber or sphagnum moss liners are perfect to provide that drainage. The water will seep thru the natural liners and allow the soil to dry between watering or after a strong rainfall. And, as long as you plant them in a gritty potting mix, which is best for succulents, the plants will thrive. Gritty soil refers to adding more components to make the potting mix sufficiently porous (i.e., providing air space) with materials such as white horticulture perlite, which is added to improve drainage and aeration.

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Fresh Mix is Best

The garden industry provides many perfect potting soil or container soil mixes by the bag to use to plant your succulents in containers, hanging baskets, and patio pots. Potting mixes or container mixes are suitable, and cacti mixes or mixes specific for succulents, are even better. The key aspect to keep in mind when selecting your potting media is to purchase it fresh from a reliable source. Never ever use dirt (native soil) from the ground for your succulents in hanging baskets. Dirt is far too compact and will not provide the appropriate air spaces in the soil for the plants’ delicate fine roots, and it may harbor diseases, plus it will be too heavy to support a hanging basket on a hook. Look for brands such as ProMix, Fafard, or Hoffman. There are many mixes on the market to choose from and most of them have the component to achieve success.

Deep Pots Not Required

Hanging baskets are also well suited in regards to depth. Most succulents do not require super deep pots, and hanging baskets with an 8” diameter and about as deep are fine to use for many types of succulents. Even a minimum of 6″ deep is fine for many succulents. If they outgrow the hanging basket by the end of the summer season, they are easily transitioned to interior pots for keeping them indoors for winter, or propagated to make more succulents from a mother plant. They don’t mind being crowded in a basket for the short term of a summer season. Hanging baskets are a perfect choice and have so many benefits for succulents.

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Making Baby Succulents

As the succulent plants in your hanging baskets continue to grow and get bigger, you may create babies from your plants via propagation steps. One propagation method that is becoming practiced quite a bit by beginners is making baby succulents by propagating leaves removed from the succulent mother plant. There are many ways to perform propagation to achieve success but once you learn how, you will become a succulent baby making machine in no time. The endless benefits of succulents are to be enjoyed. Some succulent naturally produce off set side babies as well to keep the plant growing and to expand your succulent family collections.

Each Has Different Needs

Not all succulents are the created equal, however. Each has different needs. Did you know some succulents actually prefer less sun than others? And some succulents may burn in extreme sun situations, especially when moved out from the indoors to the outdoors for the first time. But, in general, they are very tolerant of being housed together in one hanging basket for the summer. Plants like Jades will play well with Echeveria or Sempervivums, for example. Many succulents are spillers or trailers, perfect to soften and hang from the edges of hanging baskets; think donkey or burro tail (two types of Sedums). And for plants with upright appeal, add a Kalanchoe paddle plant or Aloe in the center. The list of succulents is endless and in general, many share similar needs, such as limited watering, full sun to part sun, and minimal fertilizing needs. Succulents do well in full or partial sun outdoors, and when grown indoors, you should do your best to place them by the brightest windows in your home. If you see your succulents stretch, this may be a sign of not enough light, or they could be pushing out a bloom, which hardy succulents often do from their centers. In regards to temperature, it depends on the type of succulent! Hardy succulents tolerate the outdoors in winter but some should be protected. Soft succulents are not able to stay outdoors in winter. This is why the hanging baskets are handy, just bring them inside and set them on top of a pot for winter! Voila!

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Watering Conservatively

Watering is probably one of the most difficult tasks to master when it comes to training plant beginners. Because most succulents conserve water in their leaves, they are tolerant of watering neglect but they will not survive if they are completely ignored forever. They have very delicate roots and if not watered at all, those roots will dry up and die. Watering is based on the climate, location, season, and the type of patio or interior pot. There are different methods of watering, but when they are in a hanging basket, especially one with a natural liner, you can’t really over water them either due to the drainage which will occur in hangers with natural liners. In addition, succulents appreciate a bit of air space below their pots, and hangers provide this function. Misting succulents is not recommended. They should be watered only when the soil is completely dry. You may drench the soil in the hanging basket and allow the excess water to drip out to drain. It is not good to let water sit on succulents leaves, especially in the hot sun, due to a water mark appearing on the center of the plant at times. Shaking the basket after watering helps, it will cause the water droplets to roll off the leaves and its center rosette. The misting routine, often used, is really not best for some succulents.

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Observations

I have found succulents have done very well in hanging baskets ever since I started offering it as a workshop topic a couple years ago. Due to the succulents various sizes, styles, shapes, and tolerance, people have been successful with keeping the plants going in their hangers after the workshops. In fact, many have shown photos of how well the plants grew and they were able to maintain them in their homes during the winter.

Spring is upon us and by early June, it will be time to enjoy your succulent plants outdoors. It is important to transition them carefully in late May, gradually, before putting them in full sun or partial sun. They also require warm temperatures and you should avoid putting them out too early.

Refreshing succulent hanging baskets is easy to do as well. Much of this I will be showing to my attendees via Facebook Live videos soon. For Connecticut, they are safe to go out around the same time you would plant your tomato seedlings/starter plants, around Memorial Day. Now may be a good time to take a look at your succulents and consider refreshing them for the outdoor season.

Workshop Cancellation

My goal was to offer a workshop in May 2020 again on Succulent Hanging Baskets but this was cancelled due to COVID-19. Stay tuned for updates on what is next, which only time will tell (see my Services List below). I have plenty of pretty colorful hangers in stock now however. Guess that means, time for me to get planting. All of the above is explained in detail at my workshops, but alas, I think the workshop scene is on hold for my offerings in the coming months. I will be, however, refreshing my succulent hanging baskets in stock and offering them for sale. Lately, I’ve been offering porch pick-ups for folks in my area during this difficult time (for seeds and houseplants or succulents). It brings me great pleasure to know it has been helpful to cheer up their environment with plants and other things, like seeds for sale or houseplants. I guess succulent baskets may be added to my services list. I will see how the rest of this month goes!

Thank you,

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

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Ants on My Agave

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Yesterday, when I was in my happy place sowing seeds in a nice warm sunny greenhouse, I saw some little tiny ants on my Agave plant.

They were traveling from a leaf, up along a spine on the tip of a leaf, onward to a column on my shelving for my seedlings, and traveling up under the seedling heating mat.

I thought, “Oh gosh. Here we go. I have to stop my happy sowing to address this issue.”

For the most part, ants don’t really harm much; meaning they don’t eat plants, thankfully. I suspect they were in search of moisture in the soil.

Sometimes ants will be on plants due to aphids. They like the aphid’s secreted honeydew, but that was not the case here. No aphids in sight, thankfully, and I have never seen aphids on agave plants anyways.

I treasure this agave in particular, because I’ve owned it for years and just re-potted it last summer, thus, I had to deal with it right away. It could not be avoided.

Last Summer’s Repotting

You see, last summer, I had finally moved it out of an urn it grew in for at least 8 years, separated the side baby plants (off-sets), and then re-potted it into a big blue plastic pot.

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In the Urn before Re-potting Last Summer

My husband, Steve, assisted me at breaking the urn (a sacrifice I had to make). I thought banging the urn with a hammer would do the trick but he had to get a chisel and hammer to do break the urn pot.

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After we managed to get it out, separate the side babies, and all of that – I managed to get it into a new blue plastic pot without stabbing myself anywhere (including my arm pits).

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It sat outside all summer and was moved into the greenhouse before fall time.

This has always been my typical routine, actually for many years, I just moved it into my bedroom because the slider doors are right there – and this plant is big and heavy!

But last year, I thought, time for you to join the others for winter in the greenhouse.

Ant time!

Now fast forward to yesterday, early April.

To see the ants trailing on it was disappointing because of all the work we did last summer.

But, I thought, I want to see if these ants have an ant farm in the soil. They did not, by the way, from what I could see when I took it apart.

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Photo in the greenhouse last fall

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Moving it outside when discovering the ants

Because it was a decent day, finally now in spring, I moved it out. Lugging it was not easy.

At first I thought, let me flush it with water. I’ve read also the pot may be inserted into a bucket of water with soapy solution to kill the ants, but you can imagine with the size of this beast, I did not do that.

I figured that flushing it with water from the garden hose may help, but I still saw ants a bit later rushing around confused, as I let it sit it out for a couple hours.

I thought, gosh, I will have to take this darn thing out and re-pot it if I want to avoid having these ants in the greenhouse. I forced myself to do this process.

I also had to clean my seedling heating mat, move all my seedlings aside for the moment, inspect the shelves, and clean that as well, then move the seedlings back.

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Upside down root ball of the Agave

Now here is the good news. I discovered the agave grew roots all the way to the base of that blue pot from the time I had re-potted it last summer (end of summer) to now.

Wow, the roots are healthy and really down to the bottom, as shown in the photo above of the upside down root ball.

The bad news was I had to break some of those roots to get the darn agave out. What a bummer after all that re-potting work accomplished before.

More bad news – and this is really bad, because of how many times I have said to be sure you make sufficient drainage holes in your pots. I discovered my blue pot did not have sufficient drain holes.

In fact, this rule is one of my 5 Must-Do’s of Container Gardening, but what did I see? That I did last summer?

I had only drilled 2 big drain holes in the center and some around the perimeter but those are way too small of a hole size, thus, the water collected at the base of this pot, and there was a lot of moisture held down there in the pot. I think this is why the ants found it.

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I think because I was tired from a busy season on that day of doing the summer work on the plant and pots, I probably got lazy and didn’t drill enough holes. I remember I had to get that plant re-potted and forced myself to get the job done before summer was over.

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New temporary pot for now

Here it is in a new pot – a galvanized bucket with sufficient drain holes in the base, that I had on hand.

The white powdery stuff you see on there is diatomaceous earth. I dusted the top of the soil with it and some fell on the bottom of the leaves.

I am not going to water this plant for a while so there is no issue right now with the dust getting wet. It should kill any remaining ants still trying to locate their trail of buddies.

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Before putting it in the pot – I hosed the plant off really well and allowed it to air dry

It is the first time I’ve used this dust product this way, and I heard through a friend this worked for her when she had issues with ants in her pots.

As far as I know, the dust will not harm the plant. It is not poisonous but caution must be used when handling.

I wore my bandanna scarf over my mouth and had my sunglasses covering my eye glasses, and wore gloves both for the dust and to avoid the spines pricking my hands.

I’ve also read this product is helpful for fungus gnats; which is why I had it on hand. I was in the midst of researching it and grabbed a bag of the dust power of it a few weeks ago, the type made for horticulture use, so I was lucky I had it on hand in my garage.

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Last year – before re-potting – Love this!

By the way, last year, when walking by my agave, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.

A tree frog! It had been hanging out on it. A good memory, for sure.

I posted lots of photos of my agave on SmugMug recently.

Agave – Other Facts:

I believe this one is Kissho Kan. Actually, I’m 99% it is – I had bought a tray of them one year, many years ago, to sell at a plant and art show. I kept one for myself, of course.

Division is best from spring to summer, which I did, of the offsets, as shown on the urn photos above. The underground stems or stolons are where the off-sets are produced.

Agaves tolerate a minimum temp of 41-50 degrees F, which is why they do just fine in my low-temp greenhouse over the winter.

Most agave species die after flowering. They are monocarpic. If I ever see it push out a flower stalk, I’ll be posting many photos of that. And probably hold a ceremony. LOL.

The common name of agave is century plant. They are slow-growing plants hardy in zones 9-11 but for our zone 6, they must be overwintered inside the home or greehouse before fall arrives.

They prefer full sun and well-drained soils. I added some perlite to the new soil mix after the ant incident to increase the porosity of the soil.

They really don’t need much fertilizer, which I did not provide much to this plant over the course of 8 years, and look at it – it is a monster. But I do follow the other 5 Must Do’s, except as noted, goofed on the last re-potting of the drain holes.

The soil in the pot should be allowed to dry out between waterings. And in the winter, keep it dry, which I did but I happened to be hose happy due to spring arriving and started to give it water recently – thus the soil was moist for the ants.

They do well as houseplants, which I can attest to, since it was in my bedroom over most winters over the years, which the slider door faces south so it received enough light.

Over all, they are easy care plants, minus when you have to re-pot them or they get ants – which I hope doesn’t happen to your’s or happen again here.

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

P.S. If you are in search of seeds during this COVID-19 time, I have seeds in stock for sale. Details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. They are mailed upon ordering. Mostly tomato, hot peppers, parsley, basil, lettuce, and some misc other types.

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Seed Packets Wrapped to Mail

 

 

 

How will COVID-19 Affect Plant Events?

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

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

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

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Note it is Prospect Hill Road (not drive).

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

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A mix of Healthy House Plants will be available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 UPCOMING EVENTS

 

First Talk Coming Up, and First Workshop Posted

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Good Morning Everyone,

Just letting everyone know I posted the first Container Crazy CT Workshop today to be held in May 2020. See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for all the details, which includes a Mother’s Day special. The topic is again, Succulent Hanging Baskets, with new twists!

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Also, I will be speaking in a week and a half at the Burlington Garden Club on Seed Starting (focusing on tomato and pepper plants – warm season crops). The session will be held on Thursday evening, 2/13/2020, at the club’s location. See their site for more details. Seeds will be available for purchase following my demonstration. March is the time to start “some varieties” and I’m excited to share the types I will be offering this season. It is a good time to consider all aspects of seed starting.

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And we all know that Valentine’s Day is around the corner – only two weeks away. I make custom items for Valentine’s Day with plants and here’s an example. Local meet-up’s and I will be showcasing some at a store soon as well. If interested in any, contact me for a meeting up or drop by for pick up (Location: Broad Brook, CT).

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend!

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

 

A Dark Echeveria

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This photo caught people’s attention yesterday when I posted it on Instagram and on my business Facebook page.

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One commented (a friend and attendee of my workshops) with, and I quote, “That would be dried up, shriveled and dead at my house!” Another comment, on the Instagram feed, was, “Love the color!” And the photo post was doing better than 95% of my recent posts per Instagram’s notices on my feed.

Well, the darker color was the reason I brought a full tray of them to my greenhouse last spring to offer in my workshops, specifically the hanging baskets workshop with succulents. I wanted to make sure we had some to offer contrast in color.

I had asked my grower prior, can you make sure to include some Echeverias with darker tones if possible? When I saw the tray of them at the grower’s later as I arrived, my eye’s did that heart pounding thing which you see on emoji faces grinning with two hearts for eyes. Wow, those are beautiful and I knew I had to have them, and they made me very happy indeed then and since.

The full tray of consisted of 40 perfect darker toned Echeverias, and they all were sold except for 12 last season, which here they are in the orange trays, showcasing their dark tones in my greenhouse in the beginning of winter. Aren’t they amazing? Really!

Their Form

These Echeverias have kept their form, have not shriveled up, and liked being rather neglected in regards to no water for a long time, which is fine for many succulents in the winter. However, if you don’t water some succulents, they will start to show signs of neglect by shriveling up, but these did not do this and seem a bit more resilient.

Inspecting your succulents during the winter months is important. I don’t have to visit my greenhouse ‘every day’ right now but I do have to go there to look around within a few weeks cause if you see a critter, you want to act on it right away.

As I poked around and sighed at the messy parts of the greenhouse yesterday, I did a quick inspection of everything as best as I could. Picking up trays and looking closely. I decided to move these plants into orange trays, and that is when I grabbed my iPhone to take a photo. The orange with the dark colored succulents was striking.

Watering and Inspecting

First, I looked to see if anything needed a drink, then I looked closely to make sure no aphids were present on any of my plants or cuttings, and then I tossed some things. Yup, that is the MOST difficult thing to do but sometimes you know there won’t be a use, as least right now, of some of the cuttings I have waiting to be taken care of and I decided to toss some. Ack! I hate doing that but I did.

But when I laid my eyes upon those darker toned Echeverias, still in stock – a nice grouping of 12, I thought to myself, wow, am I glad I got those. And look at them now. Plump, full, and a nice color in the middle of winter. I wish all succulents would stay this beautiful for this long. Look Ma, No Stretching!

The Name

When I asked the name last spring of this succulent, my grower said, they are Echeveria purpusorum Berger. If you Google it, you may find this description by one site. It was the first to appear on the top of my Google page:

Echeveria Purpusorum Rose A. Berger is a striking echeveria with deep olive green leaves embellished by small brownish red spots. The leaves are pointy and don’t have the white powdery coat like other Echeverias, making this species have a firmer and less fragile look.

Not Fragile

I wholeheartedly agree – these are “firmer” and not fragile. The main reason I wanted them though, last year was because I enjoy adding the contrast in color with a darker toned succulent in arrangements and the hanging baskets, etc. It has a kind of plum-purple color, brown color, or even an olive green color in the right light. It is a darker tone which makes the other succulents stand out in the design or arrangement.

The Light

Speaking of light, it gets plenty of sunlight in my greenhouse on days like today when the sun is shining. They are sitting on a shelf facing the south side and it gets very warm on sunny days in the greenhouse, it can reach to 90 degrees F sometimes, but most days are cloudy and it stays more on the cooler side, about 55 to 60 degrees F in winter. On sunny days, I try to take a break from my office work to visit, water, inspect and get some Vitamin D.

If you google this Echeveria, I’m amazed at the range of prices it goes for from various sites from Etsy to whatever’s. In fact, someone was trying to sell a damaged one for a lot! I think that is funny. But heck, if they are able to make a business that way, what am I missing?

I tend to keep a good eye on my plants and I want them to be perfect but that is not always easy. Yes, succulents may be neglected for a long time, but they will look like total crap if you neglect them too long. Believe me, I’ve seen succulents at places (won’t say where) and think, OMG, they haven’t watered in forever. They are low water plants but not no water. Even in the winter, a little bit is good for them from time to time. But for the most part, they are drought tolerant and need lots less water this time of year. I won’t go into how to water them here right now but there are good methods to keep them happy. That is for another blog post or for a future workshop.

If you do a bit of research on Echeverias, you will learn they are native to Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America. There are so many colors and many are on the softer side of coloring from soft blues to light pinks. Some are green and others are trimmed in red edges. Finding a nice dark rich color is not always easy, but I did last season, thanks to a wonderful grower. They know who they are (Thank you).

One seller’s site online listed them as a “collector’s” succulent. Hmm, was I giving them away last summer? LOL! Anyhow, regardless of the prices, descriptions, and if they are in vogue or not, I do find this variety to be a keeper, and if you are interested in one of the healthy 12 I have in my greenhouse right now, just shoot me a text. You know where to find me.

Have a good day,

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

 

8 Days Till Christmas

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Is it 8 days till Christmas? Or…8 days till Christmas Eve?

Guess that depends on how you count the days!

For me, I was on a 15 day of a cold – coughing and feeling quite run down. I remember one day, when having a moment to pause, I felt suddenly exhausted. But, I got through it all: The KB Celebration this month, the KB Workshops, and the Holiday Custom Orders, the client installs, but we still have 8 days, and I’m sure many of you are running around finalizing your holiday plans from gift shopping to food shopping.

Gift Certificates or Hostess Gifts

I still have those 8 days for any last minute requests – Need a Gift Certificate to next year’s workshops? I have them in stock. Just reach out. Need a small plant related holiday gift – ask. I have some cute items I make by order, and I don’t even post any photos of them – they are too unique. Great as hostess gifts or for table decor.

What is KB? You may ask…

KB, as most of you know, is my short-cut name for Kissing Balls. I held all workshops of where everyone makes their KBs, along with wreaths and candle centerpieces, except one session, because I just was too sick AND lost my voice. I didn’t want to spread my germs to the private group either – and I will make it up to them next year somehow. Thankfully, they were very understanding. But the workshops held were super fun and festive. I posted lots of photos on my Facebook and Instagram Pages. Everyone’s creations were well-done.

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Attendee to our KB Celebration 

2020 Planning

Next year – OMG, I took out my first 2020 calendar and started to jot dates down based on last year’s happenings. The season will most likely start with my “Seed Starting Sessions” and Seed Starting Presentations. That can start up as early as February for me. I will start preparing the game plans, outlines, seed calendars, and handouts in February, probably around the same time of doing taxes (ack!) but then the classes (or sessions) on seed starting will most likely be around March 14, March 21st, and even March 28th – but these dates are all tentative. Will keep you updated in early 2020.

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I need to review other activity first – but I think those dates above are my targets. In April, there is a part two to my Seed Starting Sessions – called, Seed Monitoring. I think I will follow the same format at last year. I really enjoyed the whole Seed Starting (for tomatoes and peppers primarily) offerings. It was one of my most rewarding workshops. Why? Because it was continuous. I got to see how everyone’s starter plants did over the summer, see their harvest, and it was really a good feeling to see how happy everyone was. Who doesn’t love their own homegrown fresh tomato, right?

May’s Topic

Then, in May, should I do the Succulent Hanging Baskets again? Should I offer a new topic? I may poll my attendees or maybe I will come up with something new. I’ve been focused on succulents the past few years. Maybe it is time to return to perennials, tropical plants, or even houseplants? TBD on all of that. But, if I did offer a workshop on container gardening or patio pots, it would most likely fall around May 9th and May 16th in 2020. I do have some new ideas brewing. Stay tuned.

Good Photo Kim with Hanger

Summer Months

The summer months are usually quiet in regards to workshops, but my container installs keep me busy during the height of the watering and flowering season, no worries there, but I usually don’t offer any big workshops mid-summer. People are usually on vacation! Even so, the time moves so quickly every summer. In fact, I keep so busy watering my own container gardens at home that I promise myself EVERY year to not plant as many containers and patio pots at my own home, but what do I do? I always plant tons cause the plant passion grabs me. But grabbing that hose was hard on my arms last year. I got tennis elbow in not one, but both arms. I think it was from the hose dragging all summer long. Of course, I usually have various types of plants for sale during this time as well.

Autumn

Fall arrives very quickly after summer, and we move in the Succulent Topped Pumpkins workshops, which I always feel is a keeper. Will I offer it again? I think so. If yes, I’m looking at the dates of Oct 3rd and Oct 10th. All TBD at the moment. Just scanning the 2020 calendar today for the first time. But if you want to pencil them in….

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Holiday Workshops

OK, so the big question is – will the Holiday Workshops continue in 2020? I think so on those too. I am toying with the idea of more dates and smaller groups – but I don’t know – it is so popular and I feel like everyone relies on me now to kick off the holiday season with this fabulous and festive workshop. I will have to just wait till I get closer to decide. My tentative dates noted are December 5th and December 12th for now.

End of Year

As I reflect on 2019, I am so thankful for the workshops attendees of 2019 and of past years, and thankful for new clients who found me this year. For the garden talks and presentations at garden clubs and local farmers markets too – great groups this year. I’m also thankful for the inspiration, creativity, and fun we had through it all. It was a very busy year, and I think I said that last year, but this year was busier. In fact, they say it takes 5 years for a business to take off – I disagree – for me it was 10 years of practice, trial, and persistence. My 10th year has been the busiest.

I hope the 2020 year will bring lots of the same fun and maybe a little more controlled hectic schedule. When I finally decide on the exact 2020 workshop dates, I will be sure to post it to keep you updated.

Have a good pre-week before Christmas you all.

Stay Healthy. Stay Happy.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Container Crazy CT
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

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Cathy T with Hubby Steve 2019

Getting into The Spirit of Fall

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Everywhere you go in the retail stores, you will see a bit of both these days – fall and holiday decorations and supplies. A month ago, I saw so much holiday decor in a store, I told myself – don’t look that way and stay focused on fall.

I love both seasons, of course, and I also have lots of activities surrounding both in my world of offering workshops and seasonal plant related gifts.

For example, in October, my succulent topped pumpkin workshops and custom orders kick it off. Then, as October comes to an end, a craft fair or holiday event pops up, which quickly leads to my holiday workshops in early December where we make kissing balls and wreaths.

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As I worked in my greenhouse yesterday preparing for a fall craft fair coming up next weekend (as noted above), I was totally in the mood for fall. I know the holidays are right around the corner, but fall is still in the air. The fallen tree leaves crunched under my hiking boots as I walked the path to my greenhouse, and the cold brisk morning temperatures were just chilly enough to require a vest to keep warm, but not a jacket.

These environmental elements are what gets my mood into a particular seasonal theme. In fact, I went to a couple fall themed events last Saturday with Steve, my husband. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm – and I was feeling like taking a break and enjoying the fall scenes, while they last, because it won’t be long before fall moves by quickly.

We drove to a pumpkin event in Coventry, CT at a church, which turned out to be directly across the street (practically) to a restaurant we enjoy there. The pumpkins were being sold at a church and the money is donated to various causes, one of which is a Navajo Indian farm. Since it was a nice area, we picked this as our first stop on Saturday.

The pumpkins were quite large and so were the gourds of various colors which I had not seen these colors before. I thought how wonderful some of these would have been for my succulent topped pumpkin workshops in October, but no matter, I still was there to enjoy them for carving or other projects.

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I picked out this one for myself. This gourd weighs a lot but I just may make something creative with it this week. I had never seen this orange and white pattern on a gourd before. It is not a candidate for carving because it is so thick, but I couldn’t resist it.

Because the sun was brightly shining on this little journey of our’s, and the color of the shrubs next to the church were so intensely red, I used the opportunity to have Steve take a photo of me. As you can see, we were in the pumpkin and fall mood for sure.

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I absolutely love that Steve enjoys fall adventures like this as much as I do. He is a kid at heart when it comes to carving pumpkins (and me too). He picked out a large tall one for his carving plans the next day.

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After we visited this church and had lunch nearby, we drove back roads over to Manchester, CT and it turned out to be a spontaneous beautiful ride with some foliage colors still to be enjoyed. Steve commented how wonderful these roads would be on the motorcycle. He was starting to appreciate that we decided to take the day to have some fall fun.

In Manchester, we visited some small shops on Main Street during a Halloween Candy event, which even if you don’t have kids (we do not), you might enjoy. Seeing all the creative costumes and the smiles on the children’s faces is another way to get into the spirit of the fall season. Plus, they have a couple breweries in that area and we stopped at one which Steve also appreciated.

All of this activity got my spirit into creating plant related gift items and decor themed in fall colors, but I am still making some fun holiday items too. One of the fall items are large glass globes filled with live succulents and decor of orange and yellow fall colors. These will be available at this weekend’s Fall Craft Fair at the Stafford Fire Department’s event on Saturday, November 2nd which runs from 9 am to 2 pm.

 

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I was debating whether I should create holiday items or fall themes for this craft show. As I got into making items, I let the fall spirit nature guide me. The natural cones and lotus pods of warm vibes as well as some vivid and bright orange and yellow fall decor let me go into that decorating mode. I think our Saturday adventure helped me get into that mode too, which was perhaps another reason why we got out there for some fall events.

This fall fair is expected to have various craft vendors, some of which are hand-made pottery and other items. I’m sure it will be a fun day for me – and you too if you decided to stop by! I always love meeting other vendors and adventuring to a new place, as you never know what kind of inspiration you will get from it – like we did this past weekend. Stafford is also another nearby town to be appreciated in all seasons. They have a local cidery and gift shops. They have a lot to offer and it is not far from the fire house.

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Here are the details, again, of the location and event:

2019 Annual Fall Craft Fair at Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary
Saturday, November 2nd, 9 am to 2 pm
27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Fire Dept Building

Hope you will have the opportunity to swing by this weekend!

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

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com