When I worked at a garden center years ago, they had Knock Out Roses always in stock for sale. I recall Knock Outs were easy care, disease resistant, and great repeat bloomers, but for some reason, I can not remember exactly what made them special, other than they were really reliable compared to other fancier roses. I’d walk around looking at them at the nursery outdoors, leaning down to read the tags and smell the blooms, and always admired them, but I had never seen a compact variety of Knock Outs Roses until last year.
That was when I spotted the new member of the Knock Out family – last summer at a local nursery. Because I was familiar with the Knock Out logo and pots (from years ago), it caught my eye right away from a distance, and I thought, “Is that a miniature or smaller rose by Knock Out?” Long story short, I grabbed a few because the smaller new size, called Petite! Knock Out, is well suited for patio pots and container gardens for our summers here in Connecticut. I also knew that my customers would like traditional rose blooms in their outdoor planters. It would be a nice addition to the urban outdoor setting with various planters throughout the area.
The Petite Knock Out rose color is a beautiful intense deep red (their website refers to it a “fire-engine red”), and the plant’s tag indicates its mature size would be about 18″ tall, and that really is perfect for patio pots and containers, plus roses are sun lovers. These required about 6-8 hours of full sun and my customer’s site is definitely a sunny location. Another aspect is these are easy to carry to my location and plant, which is a side bonus for me as a container garden installer. And it would bloom all summer into fall (long-bloomer candidate!). What’s not to love?!
I usually don’t plant or play with roses too much. Some will say roses are for experts and/or I know roses may develop issues, insects, or diseases but the thought of using a smaller, more compact, or miniature rose from Knock Out didn’t scare me. As I took photos at different times, it is apparent the blooming power of this Petite Knock Out Rose plant did not disappoint. Looking at the sequence of the above photos, you can see Photo 1 – upon planting, it has many buds ready to open, Photo 2, lots more flowers opened a month later, and Photo 3 was taken at the end of the container gardening season, towards the start of fall. The flowers are still abundant right before our fall season. And the blooms retained their deep fire-engine red color. When you have very full sun situations, as in super full sun, sometimes flower colors will fade, but they did not fade on this Knock Out Petite. Take a look at the foliage as well – shiny, healthy, and no issues. No signs of trouble, thus, I and my customers’ were pleased.
The Knock Out Petite retained its shape overall, did not overgrow the tall blue planter, but the trailing spiller plant next to it got rather large. Sometimes I laugh at myself, when I see how big a plant got over the course of the summer, and I have to always remind myself to restrain my plant enthusiasm and remember that some plants will grow faster and fuller than others. So next time, a more controlled spiller perhaps with this rose plant will be used.
This Petite Knock Out Rose will give a show from the time you plant it till end of the container gardening season in Connecticut, then you may transplant it later if you wish or store the container with the rose shrub in it in your garage or basement over the winter. After my first year of using the new Petite Knock Out rose, I can’t think of any flaws with it – so it is a nice one to add to your full sun locations list. Well, one flaw, make more of these with other bloom colors. Again, it is noted as disease resistant, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get diseases. Overall, I find if you select a healthy plant to start and maintain your container gardens with appropriate watering and care, all should move along well. Container gardening is not like that of a shrub in the ground which may get subjected over the long term to issues, but anyhow, I really was happy to find a smaller rose plant perfect for container gardens and patio pots.
Plants in this tall blue planter are: Petite Knock Out Rose, Delosperma ‘Pumpkin Perfection’ (orange flowers; called Ice Plant), Senecio (succulent plant with blue foliage; called Chopsticks), and Plectranthus (white edges to leaves and a spiller habit). As far as planting requirements, full sun, potting mix for pots (I added a small amount of aged compost), and use at least a 12″-14″ diameter pot for this size plant, but in my case, I used a larger and taller pot. Go with about 16″ deep, but deeper will help those roots grow down, and use larger pots if adding more plant candidates with the rose. And oh, placement: I suggest you put the outdoor planter near a window if you are able to do so, it will allow you to see the roses from the inside too.
For more information about Knock Out Roses, click here.
Cathy Testa Container Garden Designer Broad Brook, Connecticut Zone 6b Posted: 1/25/2022 See also: www.WorkshopsCT.com www.ContainerGardensCT.com 860-977-9473 containercathy at gmail.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For those of you who (or is it whom?) may be new visitors to my blog site, I thought I’d let you know that my recent posts are related to storing, overwintering, and moving container gardens and patio potted plants at my home from the outdoors to the indoors in preparation for autumn and winter.
I live in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor in Connecticut (Zone 6a/b). We usually get a light frost in early October and most of my plants in pots are not winter hardy in this area. Therefore, they must be overwintered before frost in order to save them to reuse next season. I have been sharing my methods of keeping these non-hardy, tender plants alive for years inside the home or in a greenhouse.
From the web: Covering most of the state is Zone 6, split into colder 6a and warmer 6b with average temperature minimums from -10 to -5 degrees and -5 to 0 degrees, respectively. Connecticut’s new zone, 7b with temperature minimums between 0 and 5 degrees, runs along the shoreline from New Haven westward to the New York state line.
I’m starting a bit earlier to move my plants in than is required (we have not hit any frosts yet here, which would kill my tender plants) but because I want to get a head-start on my container work, I am moving in some plants now during the mid-month of September.
For many years, most of my container plants were moved into my home for the fall and winter seasons, yet, I don’t have a big house. Eventually, I built a greenhouse and I keep it at a low temp in the winters (around 50-55 degrees F), and only some plants are able to tolerate lower temperatures and survive. It is very expensive to heat a greenhouse, so my most treasured prized babies (or I should say mamma plants) get moved in there for the winter season.
This past weekend, I moved the following plants in:
Agave ‘Kissho Kan’
The story behind this mamma, of about 20-22″ in diameter, is I acquired a few trays of them to sell at an event, of which I was part of putting together with a group of other women with their own small businesses, many years ago. I ended up keeping one of the plants and have owned this “mamma” for about 8 years. I’ve lost count. I’ve collected off sets from it before, and I keep the biggest two in my greenhouse in the winters.
Agave in the bedroom
For years, I put this agave in my bedroom by the glass window slider, which is at the southeast end of the house. It gets some light during the day but not full sun all day. It did fine there every winter, but I had to be mindful of those sharp spines at the ends of the leaves when I walked by it in the middle of the night. My brain would know to not bump into it even when I was half asleep.
Agaves can take lower temps and they will do well in a cool or warm room, as long as they get sufficient light during the winter months. I do not let my agaves be subject to frost outdoors, as most are not frost tolerant. It would ruin the plant, in my opinion.
In the case of my bedroom location, where it was put during winters for many years, it got just enough light to hang in there. Most agaves are hardy in zones 9-11, and we are zone 6. I’ve yet to meet one that would survive our winters outdoors, but if I find it, I will let you know. I believe there are some more winter hardy types out there, but I haven’t found or experienced those yet.
Anyhow, after years of taking care of this particular agave plant inside during the winters, I was finally able to utilize my greenhouse instead.
Moved into the greenhouse
For the past 3 or so years, it has been moved to my low-temp greenhouse during the winters. There it will receive plenty of light (when the sun is shining in the winter months as sometimes days are cloudy) which is better for the plant (the more light the better) but it is cooler than it was in my bedroom, of course. I keep the greenhouse temp to about 50-55 degrees F. As noted above, they are able to tolerate low winter temps if kept in a sunny location.
This mamma plant gave me plenty of off-sets over the years which will pop up around the mother rosette over time. I have never had a bad pest on any of my agave plants, except last year, I found an ant trail going to the soil of this plant when it was in the greenhouse in early spring, so I re-potted it before moving it outdoors. I wasn’t happy about having to do that because it was fully rooted in a new pot already from the prior season. Here is my blog posts on the ant incident and how I re-potted it prior and took off many off-set plants:
Yesterday, I used the hand-truck (a handy garden tool for container gardeners) to move it to my greenhouse. Actually, my husband helped me. I told him, “Be careful to not damage the spines,” as I walked beside him. He has probably heard me say that every time we have moved that plant! LOL. After 30 years of marriage (side bar: our wedding anniversary is tomorrow), he just doesn’t respond back. He knows how an*l I can be about my plants, but he seems to cherish them almost as much as I do too.
I hosed it all off with a harsh spray of water and looked it over and watched to see if any ants would come out of the bottom of the pot. No signs of that – so I let it sit outside for the evening and will move it in, maybe later today. It could stay outside all the way up to “before” frost but I’m moving it in early.
You may be thinking, oh she has a greenhouse, but remember, I was able to keep this plant inside for years during the winter months – just be sure you give it as much light as possible, and remember to reduce watering greatly.
I barely water this agave in the winter months. You should keep the soil in the pot very dry during the winter months. In fact, I probably give it about a coffee cup size of water maybe once or twice the whole entire winter, if that. And it does just fine. After all chances of frost in the spring time, back outside she goes. One day, I would love to see this agave flower, but that takes years before it occurs.
Ficus elastica (Rubber Tree)
The story behind these tall beauties shown below is I acquired a tray (sounds familiar?) of them when I was offering a container garden workshop focused on houseplants one season.
These rubber tree plants are hardy in zones 8/9-11 but in my zone, are not and must be overwintered indoors. If I had a huge house, I would put these in a nice spot by a window as a houseplant candidate, but there is no room for that in my home. They have grown rather tall.
This plant surprised me. First, if you put it into a bigger pot, it just gets bigger. They grew several feet each year. The one on the left is 5 ft tall from the soil line to the top of the plant and the one on the right is 4 feet tall. I need to learn how to propagate these. I know there is a method to do so via “air layering.” I will have to give this a try in the spring time.
This rubber tree plant has darker foliage, I believe it was called ‘Ruby’ for its cultivar name, but now I don’t remember, and I don’t feel like digging out my log book this morning, but will do so later for my readers. Running out of time is why, so free flow typing this morning!
The large oval deep burgundy leaves on it are just gorgeous and when it pushes out new growth, there is bright red tip from the tip of the stems, which is just lovely. I had no idea, to be honest, what a wonderful container plant these make in the summer time. They like part shade to part sun but I’ve seen them do well in full sun situations also.
Because the red pots would be top heavy with a tall plant like these, I did put a generous amount of gravel in the base. It has sufficient drain holes, but the gravel makes it a heavy pot to move, thus, my hubby helped me with the hand-truck again. I am getting to that age, I need that help! Thank you hubby!
Anyhow, it is just gorgeous. I hosed it all down with a very strong spray of water, and I inspected all the leaves, before moving these two pots in. I found a little round cluster of white tiny insect eggs on one leaf. I pulled that leaf off with a tug. (Note: Ficus trees release a white sap when you do this, pull a leaf off or nick the plant, so I just let it (the sap) run out and it is fine. It will make your hands sticky if you touch it and some people may be allergic to the white sap.)
Then, as a precaution, I decided to spray it with NEEM horticulture oil. Ficus trees can be prone to scale insects, so I thought, I will do this. The NEEM oil, by the way, makes the leaves all nice and shiny. I sprayed it till it runs off a bit and let it air dry before dragging these into the greenhouse. But as a whole, there were no signs of plant damage from insects or critters. The foliage on this plant is big and bold, and I love that, and now the plants are big and bold as well. I can only imagine what they will look like next season outdoors again.
I was superbly thrilled when I spotted two Mangave plants at a nursery because I wanted a show-stopper plant for my client’s site. And this is a new hybrid on the scene. It was expensive, but I grabbed the only two available.
Unfortunately, one of them, after being planted at the client site was suffering. I remembered the soil in the nursery pot being extremely wet when I potted into their container gardens, and even smelled rot, and thought, the nursery was possibly over-watering them. However, I thought, well, it is hot and sunny here, it should be fine. Turned out it was not.
When the plant showed issues later, I pulled it out and found round types of worms in the soil. They were probably eating the roots. I took it back home and put it into my tender care area, and it took a long time, but I revived it. It actually got moved into different areas, as I tested out its responses to more sun, less sun, and of course it was re-potted into fresh soil.
This plant is very sensitive to breakage when moved. The tips break or snap very easily if bumped into, so it was tricky moving it but we did so. This plant is new to me, and it will be the first year I test it out in the greenhouse during the winter. It has a rubbery feel to its leaves. It is a cross between agave and Manfreda. The cool spotted patterns on the leaves are from the Manfreda side of the plant. It is interesting and a new find, so I’m liking the whole process of testing it out in containers and will see how it does this winter.
I will treat it in the same manner I treated my treasured mamma agave noted above, such as no watering in winter, etc. I have an article about the person who hybridized this new interesting plant, but I would have to dig that out to add more here, maybe later, as I know I can’t be blogging all morning. I have work to do today. Plus, my computer crashed on me while typing earlier, so now I’m even more far behind.
The story about this plant, which is also one I was unfamiliar with, is one I found while in Maine two seasons ago when helping my older sister move into her new home. She had work work to do during the day, so one day, I ventured off in search of nurseries in her area of Maine. I remember, I drove a lot. I found a cool nursery and saw this shrub. I thought it was so pretty so I grabbed one.
It has super deep shiny green foliage and it produces white starred flowers from time to time. It has had no problems in the same pot, and I move it into the greenhouse for the winter months before frost. The only little downside is during the winter, it will drop leaves and it makes a mess, but each spring, I put it out on the outdoor deck and it turns beautiful again, deepening in a rich green color. People will ask me what it is as they admire the beautiful green richness to it and plus it is not common in our area. It is not hardy in CT but it is a keeper.
I also inspected this plant before hosing it down with water to wash away any dust or whatever, I also sprayed it with NEEM horticulture oil as a precaution, and top dressed the soil in the pot with fresh potting mix. The roots are starting to come out of the drain holes so it is ready for re-potting which I will do at a some point. During the winters, I water it lightly from time to time, mostly because it has outgrown its pot and isn’t holding on to moisture well.
So far, I’ve been focused on moving in agaves, succulents, cacti, non-hardy shrubs, and I still have more to do, of course. My Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, Banana Plants, will not be worked on until probably later this month. They may stay outdoors here until frost or after getting hit by frost, if you are planning to store the tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, only (the underground bulb like structures). If you want to keep the whole plant in tact, they should be moved before they get hit by frost. Keep your eye on the temperatures.
As I look at my weather app, I see temps from 48 to 39 (Sunday), so we are still safe, but it is always a good practice to watch the weather people on tv on the news. They will give us a heads-up when the temps will drop lower.
I also will be showing how I move in my Mandevilla plants. I am reluctant to do them yet cause they are so full and lovely, filled with flowers right now, but I also have to budget my time and do it before it becomes a rush.
I hope this information is useful. If you have questions, please feel free to comment or email me. And I apologize of any typo’s or grammatical errors, but I have to go, I don’t have time to edit. Time to get back outside working on my plants and saving them as best as possible.
I am not offering my workshops on Succulent Topped Pumpkins this year due to Covid, but I will have new succulent stock by end of September for Custom Orders and some succulents for sale. Stay Tuned! Thank you.Cathy T.
It is the perfect time to start working on your gardens while you are sheltering at home, but should you go to your local garden center or supply store during this COVID-19 pandemic?
I saw a Facebook post the other day of a person upset someone was going to the store to get mulch. They shouted out on their post about how this is not the time to go to the store, risking contact with others, for mulch.
I thought, I see their point.
But darn it, it IS the time to be outside, to do something meditative, and get fresh air safely at home in your own yard with no one but you and the birds.
Bird Houses are Garden Art too
People are stuck at home, and I am absolutely sure, people who love plants and gardening want to work on what they may while they have the spare time right now.
We have a conundrum on our hands here. Is it okay to go to the garden center or a supply store for plants or gardening items?
I am not going to answer that question.
I suppose if you are doing your six foot distancing, they have curb side pick-up for individual needed items, and you are not touching bags of soil – maybe.
But, I don’t know.
Hopefully you have some soil on hand!
It kind of sucks for a gardener to not to take advantage of this free time.
After all, as noted above, gardening is very meditative and relaxes the mind. Something we all need right now.
And it is actually a good time to do some clean-up work outdoors in early spring, especially on sunny days.
Gardening and being outside may also help the kids at home now with breaks from at-home schooling.
Micro-greens on a window sill
Things you could do possibly, if you don’t have the need for actual items like mulch or plants, are:
Prune your shrubs – those which should be done in early spring before new growth starts.
Remove dead leaves from your landscape or garden beds you didn’t get to in the fall.
Clean your patio pots and containers with water and bleach per the appropriate mixing directions.
Sow your seeds indoors. If no seedling trays on hand, use alternatives – egg cartons, yogurt cups, or toilet paper rolls. (If you don’t have seedling mix, that is a dilemma however.)
Sharpen your garden tools, clean up your garden shelves, and take inventory of your gardening items on hand and make a list of what is missing so when it is safe to go out, you will be ready.
Clean Your Tools
Plan out a new garden bed you’ve always dreamed of.
Watch the patterns of sun and shade in your yard for a day – see where sun lovers are best suited and look for good places for shade plants, etc.
Dust off and read some of those garden books you have but never had the time to fully read before. You need to clean anyhow.
Get your garden decor items out of storage and place them in your favorite spots.
Grow some micro-greens inside the home (did you go to my sessions on those a couple seasons ago?)
Watch some garden related video’s for inspiration. (I have some on seed sowing on my sites right now). Visit my Container Crazy CT page on Facebook if interested.
Gather some stalks of spring flowering shrubs to force into bloom inside the home (e.g., forsythia).
Order some new container gardens and patio pots online. They may arrive a little later than normal but heck, they may be right on time for May plantings.
Get your tubers and bulbs out of winter storage. Pot them up early to get them started inside the home.
Stalk of a Red Banana Plant starting to push out growth
Clean your hummingbird feeders and hang them up – empty, if need be. But they will be ready for when the hummingbirds are and you are ready to make your own sugar water.
Get your patio furniture set up. Okay, maybe risking a last season weird snow fall or spring frost incident, but it will melt fast.
Put your big pots out and dream of planting them. I am! Envision the future.
Collect your tomato cages, trellises, and bamboo poles. Put them where you will be using them when the garden green light is set to go.
Put out your peony hoops around the peony plants starting to pop up now from the ground.
Build a scarecrow with your kids to put in the garden with materials you have on hand. You’ve been cleaning your closets out anyhow, right?
Have your kids search for a hollow log in your landscape if you are near woods to create a planter of sorts. It doesn’t have to be live plants – add some dirt and make twig people. Or find some ferns in the wild to plant in the stump.
Paint some rocks. Another great kid activity. They could pick specific locations in your yard to put them out or place them in gardens. Make them herb markers. Don’t have paint, maybe use nail polish?
Enforcing policies if you have to go:
If we get creative, we can avoid the visits to supply stores or open garden centers, but if we truly do need supplies, then at a minimum, store owners need to enforce policies (see the article below).
And please people, don’t rush to judgement.
Some people may need a propane refill or pet food – which are also at some garden like stores.
Article stated above:
An article by AgCenter Research Extension Teacher outlines some tips in an article titled, “Public Health Emergency Response for Retail Store Managers.”
P.S. If you are local to me and need seed packets, I still have some in stock for tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, some flowers, herbs, etc for sale. I could mail them to you. The details are on WORKSHOPSCT.com. I will have seedlings for sale in mid-May too.
Something surprising is happening – I’m receiving registrations for my annual December holiday workshop now – in the middle of August.
Last year, it was in October when registrations began, but August – wow – thank you.
I think it is a testament to the effort I put into all of my workshops to make them fun with quality materials. And because of your continued support and attendance, I am able to keep my workshops going and offering them as a great value.
What I mean is, I work hard to make all my workshops “quality” – from providing a warm atmosphere to offering quality materials. And when plants are involved, which in most cases they are, I make sure to offer healthy, thriving plants.
Since being at the bookstore in South Windsor with a temporary vendor/pop up plant shop this season, I’ve heard repeatedly from customers, “Your plants are gorgeous.”
Believe me – it hasn’t been easy, because after all the bookstore is not a nursery environment per se – but fortunately, the space there has beautiful bright in-direct light for my various houseplants showcased. The many plants and plant gifts available for purchase there are doing well – and they are available while supplies last so swing by soon if you can before summer is out.
Even my stag-horn ferns on wall boards continue to do well there. It is proof how well various houseplants will thrive with bright indirect light, and in some cases, fluorescent lighting. You don’t need a really full sun type of room to enjoy many houseplants. Many will do fine in home environments where some light is cast or there is ambient lighting.
I also maintain many types of plants in my private greenhouse from perennials, tropical, cacti, and succulents – where there is various sunlight situations, because some are put under shade cloth, while others are in full sun spots in the greenhouse – and I coddle my stock of plants for use at my workshops and for sale to anyone interested.
It takes me two hours every morning to water my outdoor container gardens and inspect my stock plants, making sure they are doing well, and give them plenty of coddling.
I tell myself every year, don’t put out so many containers at the house because I become a slave to them – but I truly can’t help myself. That is like trying to ask a fisherman not to buy another lure – or a shoe fanatic to not purchase a new fancy pair of shoes.
In addition, when I set up my workshops, where we combine nature with art – I do a lot of extras in advance so all is well-organized for my attendees, which I really don’t think others would take the time to do.
For example, for my terrariums workshops, I wash every bubble bowl by hand to make sure they are sparkling, and I package materials, rinse items, and again, make sure all the plants are doing well or get them fresh from growers for each session.
Sometimes, preparing for a single workshop takes a whole day of time. Truly. You may find this hard to believe, but it does. Of course, I want to make the whole package right for my attendees so all is well-organized. Is that going overboard? I don’t think so.
Again, it isn’t always easy – there are so many challenges, but I continue to be obsessed with my plants and workshops. I’m always taking pictures of my plants too – it is to the point, I could be classified as a plant paparazzi. Good thing plants are not shy. The photos are posted daily on my Instagram feed.
But I love it all – and I’m so happy my regulars and new attendees love it too. Thank you again for supporting my small business. I could not be doing any of this without my loyal fans and new plant friends.
As I mentioned in the title of this post today, time is moving so fast – it has been a fast and fun season and now fall is approaching already – summer is almost over, and I’m so excited to be offering more workshops this Sept, Oct, Nov and of course, DECEMBER.
In the meantime, maybe I can grab some beach time between my workshops before summer is gone.
I do not know how professional photographers manage all the photo organization required for their work. It must take weeks!
Due to an issue with my iPhone recently, where photos were not downloading or deleting appropriately, I was scrolling through thousands of my photos the past couple days.
The good news is I think I fixed the download issue, but the process made me reminisce about the past year as I looked through batches of photos from 2016.
I thought it would be kind of neat to share a few at a time, indicating what was going on here.
I’m not going to change the order – so, here we go.
Batch #1 – Five Photos from 2016
Oh yah – This is a beautiful mum, don’t you think?
Mums will return in pots – sometimes – after being stored in an unheated garage for the winter. I’ve had success with doing so – and basically, I cut off most of the top, roll it into the garage with my hand-truck in late fall, and give it moisture if it needs it. Most of the time, the moisture is in the pot when I roll it into the garage in late fall because the pot is so large and wet from rainfall. But I will check it and if looking bone dry, put snow on the top, if there’s snow!
I took this shot too. Notice my red banana plant (Ensete) in the background on the right. As you can see, it is looking a little tattered as we approached the fall’s frost. But before this, this red banana plant was very happy in this spot which is the north-west corner of our house.
In the mornings, it is shaded, but as the day progresses, it gets sun but not extremely hot sun, and later in the day, as the evening approaches, it gets shade again.
Also in the background is a pot which has rhubarb (Victoria) and an elephant ear plant (Colocasia ‘Black Magic’). The elephant ear plant was really extravagant looking with bold, rich black leaves. But the rhubarb was “done” for the season. Before this stage, the leaves of the rhubarb were large and a great contrast to the dark elephant ears plant. I liked how the rhubarb’s leaves were ruffled too. It added a nice texture. Plus, these will overwinter pretty nicely in the big pots when the pots are moved into a protected location, like my garage or shed for the winter.
During these photos, it was fall clean-up time. This shows 3 long window boxes which have oregano (left and right) and thyme in the middle. They were moved to my low-temperature greenhouse and are still doing quite well in the middle of winter.
Oregano is an excellent container garden plant because it stays contained, whereas in the garden, it is a spreader. It serves well as a spiller and filler in larger pots with mixed plants. I used it a great deal this past year for dishes during the summer. I loved it with feta cheese in particular when I would toss a salad or pasta dish. Add some tomatoes – and you are ready to eat!
I grew up on a property which runs along the Scantic River and my husband and I go there for walks sometimes.
The river was very low in this shot. When I stand at this particular curve in the bend of the river, memories from my childhood fill my mind – every time.
We swam here sometimes and I fished at this spot with my younger brother, Jimmy.
He taught me how to catch night crawlers the evening before fishing day. We walked the yard with flashlights – usually after rainfall because they come to the surface.
Those are good memories. Today, I don’t care for putting a live worms on fishing hooks, especially night crawlers – but back then, it was no problem.
Know what this is? A Catalpa tree. Native to our area.
We had a huge one in our backyard – it is still there actually. They can be messy because of their extremely long seed pods which fall to the ground, and require clean-up before mowing the lawn, which my father did every time.
This one is at that spot by the river. The sky was a beautiful clear blue that when I looked up at the tree, I quickly snapped a photo.
During my studies at UCONN, we were required to propagate a tree or shrub, or grow them from seed. I asked my professor if I could grow the Catalpa tree because my parents’ landscape had them and I grew up with those trees.
He responded that it is basically a weed, but yes, I could grow them.
I collected the long seed pods, and had many baby Catalpa trees in no time after laying the seeds on a bed of peat. They germinated easily and quickly.
Ironically, when I did some landscape designs years later, one client really wanted these because they are native. Things change. Natives are not considered weeds.
Actually, I think what my professor was implying at the time was that it is not the type of plant he wanted me to grow because he was teaching nursery production of marketable landscape type trees, but when he understood I had a fond memory of them, he agreed to it. Plant people – no matter how smart or experienced – have that “thing” about understanding the passion for nature and plants.
As a last thought on that professor – he came to me when I got my first job at a nursery to do a design for his wife. I remember feeling surprised and of course, intimidated cause he was a tree master.
I think it came down to he just wanted someone to help his wife.
This week, I’ve been posting pictures of a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) – well, not the moth itself yet, but its caterpillar stages before becoming a moth.
On Monday of this week, he moved to the base of a plant he’s been feasting on and began the process of making a silk cocoon. I’m glad I caught the very first stage of it – and was able to take pictures every couple of hours during the afternoon.
As noted in an earlier blog post, I spotted the caterpillar when I noticed something was eating the leaves of the plant (an elderberry in a starter pot). I am totally fascinated by this caterpillar’s coloring, horns, and well, as odd as this may sound, he kind of became my buddy. (See earlier posts of photos of him during his feasting stages.)
Every day, I’d go out to see if he was still clinging onto the stems of the elderberry, and see how much “damage” he did by feasting, and then voila – this week, I came out and he was starting his process of creating a silky cocoon (not sure if cocoon is the right term.)
I was surprised he squished himself in the base between stems/branches, and the plant label, which I never removed. The label makes a great supporting wall for him. I didn’t see him move at all when I would go out to take a look and photo.
In fact, every time I stepped out to take a photo before, he would stop moving usually and pull his head into his big body during his eating cycles in the mornings prior to the cocoon making.
Upon reading and looking it up, I discovered the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is “North America’s largest native moth” – and it is noted in references that “females can get a wingspan of six inches or more.” Cool. So it is a neat find and I’ve enjoy watching its progress.
As odd as this may sound, I have a memory from childhood of seeing a huge butterfly on a bush and running to get my parents to show them. Later in life, I thought, did I imagine this? – but I remember it being huge – similar to the photos of this moth. I will have to ask my parents if they remember this at all, or if I imagined it.
Anyhow, today, I think I’m going to prune the plant back and put a netting material over the top so nothing can get at it during the rest of the summer and into fall.
In the winter, I will either move the pot into my garage because it must experience the normal temps of winter, or put it under my steps in the front of the house.
I went to a website and asked about it – and they recommended these steps versus bringing it inside or putting it in a grow room which would be too warm.
From what I’ve learned, this moth, when it comes out – will only stick around for 2 weeks, and it is rare to actually spot the process of it coming out – but I do not want to totally disturb it and let nature take it’s course too. It is more important to me he makes it than to witness it changing into a huge, beautiful moth. Especially if it only lives for two weeks.
Ironically, earlier this season, I found black caterpillars feeding on a plant by the side of my house in a different area. I even posted a video of them and remember saying, I don’t know what they are, but I don’t like that they are eating my plant – Well, I suspect now they were the instar versions of this caterpillar because I’ve been looking at the pictures online of it’s growth process online.
Its cocoon basically got thicker and darker colored during the afternoon on Monday. By the next day, it was very dark brown where you can’t really see the caterpillar anymore inside because the layers are so thick from the silk.
He will change into a brown casing (chrysalis? I don’t know – I’m not a bug expert), eventually inside – similar to what is depicted in the Silence of The Lambs movie – like that. I am “not” gonna open it up though.
Here are some photos which I posted on my Instagram feed:
I discovered another insect “thing” yesterday – I put out some glass jars on hanging hooks, and the rain filled one partially. There was a beetle floating around – deceased sadly (drowned), but I noticed little movements of its babies on its back. This stuff fascinates me – nature always has and always will, and I felt a little bad for the mommy – even for an insect I have these feelings at times. Not all the time though – not when they devour other plants I adore.
Clethra alnifolia, commonly called summersweet, is a deciduous shrub which blooms this time of year, and has an intense fragrance. I have only one in my yard, but I look forward to seeing and smelling it every time it starts up its white flowers.
Yesterday, I walked up to it – and of course, iPhone in hand, and I saw a bee kind of sleeping on an upright panicle (flower heads). As I moved closer to take a shot, his little arm would jump up as if he was saying stop coming towards me – it was comical – like a reflex.
Eventually he got annoyed with me and flew away which I caught on a fast video taping and his one little arm was raised like he was saying goodbye as he took off. No Joke! LOL.
Because people are very interested in helping our bee pollinators – this is a good shrub to add to your landscape for late summer blooms to give the bees a boost – and they are certainly enjoying it right now.
September Workshop – Garden Art Creations
Also, we posted a photo of samples of the art pieces we will be making in our September 10th workshop called, “Garden Art Creations” – with wine bottles. Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie is our Special Guest Instructor. She developed three prototypes to show us what we are in for! I can’t wait.
Here are some details:
72 Harrington Road, Broad Brook, CT 06016
$35 pp – Includes a pre-cut wine bottle per attendee, art pieces to embellish, instructions by our Guest Artist Speaker, wire, etc. You may bring additional art pieces to add and should bring your own wine corks. Bring own wire cutters if you have them.
Special Guest Speaker:
Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie. Laura is a returning Guest Artist at our workshop. She taught a wind chime making class in 2015 and we are happy to have her return in 2016 for this workshop.
Date and Registration:
The date for this workshop has been scheduled for September 10th, 2016. Please refer to our www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site for more information, to register via Eventbrite on that site, or see our Facebook EVENT on Container Crazy CT facebook wall. Registration and pre-payment is required. Seats are limited – so please don’t wait if you would like to join us. It will be held rain or shine, and if a nice day, hopefully outdoors.
Enjoy your surroundings everyone – it is there for us to enjoy. Even without Pokemons (did I spell that right?).
Oh, and FYI, my “Ugly” tomatoes, or Costoluto Genovese, are getting bigger, can’t wait for them to ripen. They may be ugly ducklings but the flavor is suppose to be fantastic. The reason I selected them, along with Tomatoe ‘Juliet’, Tomatoe ‘Purple Bumblebee’, and Tomatoe ‘Sun Gold’ is because they are interesting – and, I like that kind of thing…
When another website or blogger links my article to their’s, I receive a notification. This is how I discovered M&M Wintergreen’s post about 2016 Gardening Trends.
I’ve been wanting to write about garden trends because I share them every year at my garden presentations, but as I read M&M’s blog post – I thought they did an AMAZING job of capturing the essence of several trends. I particularly liked how they showed the way in which their company’s products support these popular trends in various ways.
Thus, I’m re-blogging their post (with their permission) to share with you.
Be sure to check out #9 – That’s where my blog article is linked.
I agree with everything they wrote and especially the “toilet brush” tree comment which made me laugh. Oh gosh, we don’t want trees made of toilet brushes! LOL.
Enjoy – Cathy Testa
P.S. Check out my new Blog Site specifically created for this year’s workshops, called www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, where, of course, my annual Holiday Kissing Ball Workshop with Greens is listed.
Just a quick heads-up – If you missed the big Holiday Evergreens Creations Workshop this past Saturday, there are other opportunities to make your own evergreen creation – via appointment this week or attend the Mini Workshop on Saturday, December 12th, 11 am.
(Note, the start time is 11 am but if you prefer earlier in the day, or later, just let me know – I realize everyone has super busy holiday schedules right now – we are flexible).
To attend Saturday’s class, email email@example.com or call or text me at 860-977-9473. Payment in advance is not required – You may pay at the class, but a confirmed headcount is needed, so sign up by Thursday of this week if you wish to join the Mini Workshop on Saturday.
We have fresh beautiful greens to make a Kissing Ball, Candle Centerpiece, Wreath, or Candy Cane Wreath.
Here’s more details!
Open Studio Days – The week following the Big Class, if you prefer a one-on-one instruction by appointment, you may contact Cathy T to book a date and time – any time of day the week of Dec 7th, Monday through Dec 11, Friday. This is convenient for those having time during the day or prefer to make an item after work or even before work.
Saturday’s Mini Workshop
Saturday, December 12th, 2015 – The Mini Workshop: This session is perfect for anyone, nice for mothers and young daughters, or anyone that could not make the Big Class. It is quieter, no festivities other than making your beautiful evergreen holiday items with more one on one personal instruction directly since it is not a big crowd. You will learn the techniques and tricks to making gorgeous greenery arrangements and take home your holiday creation.
Cost: $37-$40 based on item you elect to make.
See the menu bar for descriptions.
Photos by Bonnie of the Home Place Blog. That’s her on the top left in pink! She is wonderful and shares posts about food, events, and fun happenings in Connecticut. Check out Bonnie’s award winning blog for more on her amazing topics about places to eat and enjoy in Connecticut.
The temperatures are getting a little colder here in Connecticut and the misty rain is making things outdoors a bit damp, but it will not dampen my spirits – In fact, it will make them even brighter.
As my big Kissing Ball and Holiday Evergreen Creations class is approaching – in only 3 days – I welcome the colder temps and feeling of winter – It also helps me to maintain the goodness of my specially ordered mixed evergreens for this weekend’s class.
This year, we have lots of newbies in my workshop. Some of them seem a little nervous, saying or texting things like, “I’m not crafty” and “I want to sit in the front of the class,” but I believe they will surprise themselves.
All my attendees end up making something amazing and they impress me every year with their talents as they decorate the kissing balls and wreaths. I learn from them as well.
Kissing Ball with Bow Created at ContainerCrazyCT Classes
But after the class, they may be wondering, how do I keep everything fresh?
For starters, the cold weather really helps – and it best for them to keep their newly made holiday arrangements with fresh evergreens outside.
The natural moisture from misty winter rains and upcoming snow falls outdoors keeps the greens just right. Colder is better to retain needles.
But, the type of evergreen also determines how it will fare in the weather after being cut and inserted into the mechanics.
For example, fir and balsam trees cuttings last very well for a long time. Their needle retention is pretty good – that is why people like them for Christmas trees.
Keep Your Holiday Creations Outdoors
It is also important or helpful, but not mandatory, to keep your wreath or kissing ball out of direct sunlight and wind. The wind may dry out the needles somewhat faster than if located in a protected place outdoors.
You may hang your kissing ball indoors – like from a ceiling fan or chandelier, however, it will dry out faster in a warm house. If you really want to do that for décor during your festivities later in the month, a good tip is to hang it outside the weeks or days before so it stays cold, and move it to your indoor location a couple days before your holiday event.
And be sure to keep any holiday arrangements with fresh greens away from hot rooms heated by wood stoves. That will surely dry them out.
I also recommend any candle centerpieces are kept in the coldest room possible before you display them at your holiday dinner table.
Fake Red Carnations on a Regular Sized Evergreen Kissing Ball
I find my kissing ball, hanging outside by my steps lasts all the way into February with no problems at all. I remember one year, it was hanging there on Valentine’s Day covered with snow and red fake carnations but it was soooo beautiful even then.
Pick Them Fresh
It also helps if the greens are purchased or picked fresh of course, which is one of my goals every year for this workshop. Timing is everything.
If you get greens from your yard, wait until you are ready to arrange them to cut them from your branches, or do it the evening before if possible, and take them when it is cold outside (not warm). Also, I recommend you cut them before any major wet type freeze falls on leave leaves or needles – so be sure to watch your weather forecasts.
Regular Size Boxwood Kissing Ball – Color Lasts a Long Time!
Other types of evergreens which last and have a nice color in mixed arrangements are juniper, incense cedar, white pine, and as noted above, fir and balsam. The white pine may dry out a little quicker than the others, I have found but no worries, all will be fine.
Hemlock branches are very pretty and they tend to arch which I like in container gardens outdoors for holidays, but they will loose their needles a little faster than other types.
Yew, with its dark green needles, is a great candidate and lasts. For some reason, it is not as popular but I think it looks marvelous and adds a layer of texture in the arrangements.
One new item this year at my workshop, which will be a surprise to my attendees unless they are reading this blog post today, is berried Eucalyptus. This has a beautiful blue coloring and texture – and I’m excited to share it with everyone on Saturday.
Boxwood is another excellent, quality green in arrangements for the holidays. One big benefit is they have no sticky sap and they maintain their dark color even if they get a little dry over time. I absolutely love the classic look boxwood cuttings give to kissing balls and wreaths.
Boxwood along with Pine may be soaked in water prior to your day of arrangement – if needed to re-hydrate, but often it is not required.
Holly can be a little tougher to work with because those spines are SHARP. And holly may turn black if it gets wet and then freezes, but I don’t see this situation too often.
By the way, this year, we have variegated Holly – wait til you see it – oh, la, la, fa, and la-lah. Its gorgeous.
One year, perhaps next year, we will add magnolia leaves to the mix – they have shiny tops and brown undersides to their leaves, and it adds a really nice texture to holiday evergreen arrangements, especially on wreaths.
There are anti-desiccant type products you may spray on your greens to help retain moisture, but to be honest, I don’t bother with that – and everything has lasted well for the holidays.
Bow on top of a Kissing Ball
Last but not least, cutting the ends of your greens from fresh branches with “good sharp pruners” is important. It not only helps with the insertion into your kissing ball mechanics, but allows water uptake if you set your greens in a bucket of water the night before or if you are using hydrated floral foam.
Timing is Everything
Timing is probably the most important of all (along with cold temperatures).
Everything is timed in the background – lots of busy growers, distributors, and buyers do everything they can to time the harvesting of greens at the right time to shorten the length it sits out – and if too early, that’s not good – if too late, not good either. It has to be just right.
I do my best and feel like Mrs. Kissing Ball Clause as I prepare all for holiday workshops – I feel this magical spirit as I get everything ready – maybe that is what drives everyone in the business of selling Christmas trees, making wreaths to sell at stores, and arranging workshops. They end up working outdoors in the cold or rain but keep on. We are those elves doing whatever it takes to make all merry.
Container Crazy CT has Gift Cards Available – See the Menu Bar above – A Great Gift Redeemable Towards Future Workshops!
We have many exciting new workshops in 2016 – See “February’s Floral Design Class” with two experts in the horticulture business of floral design. See “April’s Art class”, and also May for the “Container Gardening workshops” – All hands-on and fun, educational, convenient. Classes fill up early too – so gift cards are perfect to give to someone who will enjoy this type of event at Container Crazy CT located in East Windsor/Broad Brook, Connecticut. And they may be used, of course, for next year’s holiday workshops. We hope to hear from you! Cathy Testa