Is it okay to buy annuals now and plant them now?

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This was a question posed by a person on a Facebook group page of CT gardeners today (5/5/2023). Great question, and it also included the statement of, “There are annuals being sold everywhere right now.”

Yes, the garden centers and nurseries are packed right now. Not unusual, I think, especially with Mother’s Day around the corner (next weekend). However, as tempted as we are to plant now, some plants (such as annuals) should probably wait until we are beyond chances of a spring frost and when the soil temperatures are warmer.

What is confusing is that our climate is constantly changing. We have global warming experiences and fluxes of crazy warm temperatures sometimes during the spring season. All of this leads us to wanting to plant now.

What is a person to do? Wait? Plant and risk it? Get plants and wait. All of these choices are applicable.

Comments and Responses to the Question:

I loved the commenters’ responses to the question posed above. I had to share them and my thoughts on each! Here they are:

“I look at the ten-day forecast in the middle of May. If it looks good, I plant. I get too anxious.”

  • That is good advice actually. I’ve always told folks watch the weatherman/women talk about the weather in mid-May. They usually give a heads-up if a frost is about to occur but usually that is only a one-to-two-day warning or less. However, you may use your weather apps or watch weather forecasters on television to get an idea of the next 10 days. As noted in my prior posts, I always use May 12th as my estimated last spring frost date in Connecticut (Zone 6b) area. So, start watching the weather next Friday.

“May’s full flower moon, and fully leafed out maple trees are always a good indicator for when it’s safe to plant annuals, tropicals and most herbs. I’ll start Sunday.”

  • Interesting on this commenter’s comment of the fully leafed maple trees! We use the maple trees to determine when to take the pool cover off our pool – after our maple tree is fully leafed out and because they drop samaras (winged seeds) first, and those make a mess. I never use the “moon” to gauge my planting time, but people do – and that was interesting advice.

“I always wait until after Mother’s Day and full moon. Last year was so cold but I planted my tomatoes around May 20th and I had a bumper crop.”

  • May 20th is probably somewhat safe; only about 9 days before Memorial Day timing (which I use as safe planting for tropicals, tomatoes, succulents, cacti, and annuals). But be sure to also tack on the ‘ten-day forecast in middle of May advice’ along with that timing by watching the forecasts, and you may use this as your gauge if you are okay with risking it and your internal mind is sure all is okay. (Again, I use Memorial Day as the safest planting date.) It is possible your yard or garden has a unique micro-climate situation based on how it is situated too. I know this is confusing, but some people get anxious and go for it.

“I buy now to get the best selection and then store on an enclosed porch until planting time in mid to late May.”

  • Also, excellent advice. If you have a place like an enclosed heated porch, heated greenhouse, and an attached garage that doesn’t get too cold at night, picking up plants to get the best selection now and waiting to put them outdoors is a choice. Just bear in mind, environmental stress is not good for plants and can impact their growth somewhat. I would use caution for plants that really need warm temps, but many people probably do what this commenter noted, pick up and store until safe. Or you may put some plants out on warm above 65-degree F sunny days and put them back inside the home (like hanging baskets for example) during the evenings until it is ultra safe outdoors around Memorial Day in May.

“Experience tells me to wait…some years I planted annuals before Memorial Day and spent the entire summer trying to backfill those that rotted.”

  • Note she said she planted annuals (in the ground). Remember, the ground is still very cold. Dig a little hole and feel the soil right now. Warm loving plants like warm soils (think tomatoes). So, while the air temperature and sunshine may feel right, the ground is cold and sometimes very damp from April showers. This led to rot on some of her annuals as she noted.

“From someone that has lost many plants due to frost in May, I’d be patient a little longer.”

  • I always note the frost incidents on my calendar, and I swear, I just don’t recall a frost in May of last year (2022), but IT DOES HAPPEN usually – thus, why I personally use Memorial Day as the safe planting time for annuals, tropicals, tomatoes, succulents, cacti. You may be safe putting out containers and patio pot during the day right now, because those are easily movable, or putting out hanging baskets, then if a frost comes thru one night in mid-May bring them inside that night so they don’t get killed by frost, but planting in the cold ground is riskier for warm season and non-hardy plants. They will suffer and not perform well and may die or rot.

“This is the magic questions. Usually, I wait till Memorial Day for annuals, tropical plants, succulents, warm loving tomatoes, and peppers. Frost usually occurs in mid-May but global warming seems to be changing that. It’s a tough call. Depends how safe you want to be.”

  • This comment above was my response to the question. I know, I know, it is super frustrating to wait. I have to wait for some of my client site plantings because I certainly don’t want to do all that work and have it fail. I so wish I could start right now! But at home, I tend to mix up the rules a bit. I have a Yucca in a pot – I moved it outside and it is fine. I actually moved it out because I found tiny ants in it – I also moved out one of my Alocasias in a pot because it was struggling anyhow (so, willing to risk it struggling and see how it does). But anything really healthy that needs warm temps, I’m waiting on. Next week, we have a mid-40’s at night range to anywhere from 62-70-75-degree days! Today’s temperature range (per my weather app) is from 42 degrees F to 62 degrees F and supposed to be mostly cloudy. Combine all the factors and make the decision which is best for you. Everyone is different. I know my Dad always said he waits till Memorial Day to plant his garden and today is his birthday, so it is a reminder, he is a wise old (sorry Dad, LOL) gardener. He has decades of experience!

The second part of this person’s question was: “Should I wait a week or two to be sure the threat of frost is gone?”

If you want to be super safe, and not risk the plant’s health and growth, then I say, yes. But this is the crux of it all, I believe, in my opinion, global warming is changing things. Years ago, Canna Lily plants would not survive in the ground, now they are – as an example. We have been having crazy weather experiences all over the country. What I mean is the golden “Dad” rule of waiting is best and has been for years, but things are changing with our climate and weather.

And don’t forget that Mother Nature creates unusual freakish weather scenarios sometimes. One year, after I planted on Memorial Day, we had the worst windstorm, torrential constant cold rain and the temperatures dropped super low over that weekend from a freak storm. I was devastated. I did lots of work and was worried about the damage and how the plants would or could recover! That is just an example. No matter what we do, we can’t fool Mother Nature.

Have a good weekend!

Cathy Testa
Plant Enthusiast and Plant Blogger
Container Gardening Obsessed
Broad Brook, CT 06016

Date of this post: May 5, 2023 (Friday)

Is it okay to buy annuals now and plant them now? Great question, See people's responses and my comments on that subject! Enjoy!
Variegated Yuccas – Were in the Greenhouse all winter, the one on the right had tiny ants in the soil I discovered – I put it outside and left it there since last week. It is doing okay. Need to repot it. Those tiny ants found their way to the pot’s soil – what a PIA they can be. Easily remedied though, repotting it will fix that. Note Yuccas are technically hardy, but these have been in my greenhouse all winter. So, they are okay moved outside early if need be (due to the ants!).
White Mandevilla I got recently, as noted by the person who said they pick up now and keep indoors – that is what I’m doing with a few of these healthy Mandevillas I acquired recently. I won’t put this outdoors till Memorial Day. Environmental stress is not good for these, they tend to suffer when left out in the cold! They are tropical. They have been in hot environments and shipped here, so think about that – you have been sunning in warm cozy temps and then someone puts you outdoors without a jacket – That’s shocking to the system! These are sensitive to cold snaps – keep them inside until Memorial Day.
Pansies I put out in early April – they are doing great! They are my color filler around my house until it is safe to plant the warm loving plants in my life outdoors later in May. In the meantime, stick with pansies or perennials which bloom in the springtime (and of course the daffs and tulips give us spring color) – those are options to serve as eye candy as well until we can enjoy the other heat loving flowering plants which we want to put outdoors.

First Fluffy Snow

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Yesterday was our first fluffy snow fall, which I have to admit, made me happy. I can picture the soft white snow on the items I made for many holiday orders this year at people’s homes, such as Kissing Balls hanging outdoors, Patio Pots filled with holiday greenery, Garlands, Wreaths, and more. The snow is also a great way to add some moisture to the greens on the wreaths and such.

The past two weeks were extremely busy. As a one woman owned business, with a very helpful special Elf Helper, my hubby, we did it – installed and created holiday scenes for everyone. Today, I hope to make a nice big Boxwood Wreath. I show all my photos on my Instagram page under Container Crazy CT handle.

I want to take this morning to say THANK YOU to all the people who hired me to work on their holiday scenes and patio pots, and also to all who ordered a Wreath, Kissing Ball, or Garland this year. It puts me (and hopefully them) into the holiday spirit. I finally got to do some of my own outdoor decorating yesterday a little bit before the snow started to fall. But it is a real treat and a special thing for me to create Holiday Items for people – THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT – and pick-ups.

I also have to admit, I do stay inside a lot when people pick up their orders cause I’m so busy and can’t talk too long, plus I really really didn’t want to catch any colds or COVID during my work of holiday crunch time. But I find the “Pick-ups” are extremely useful and helpful to people when they are also doing their own rush holiday errands and they may pop by to get their handmade wreath with fresh greenery and other items quickly (Grab and Go!).

Next on the list is making some unique holiday pick-up gifts which are great for last minute shoppers, me included! I haven’t shopped at all yet for Christmas gifts on my own to-do lists. I never have the time in early December.

Hope you are enjoying this snow fall – it sure looks pretty from my office window – I can say that!

Sincerely,

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer located in Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com

www.ContainerGardensCT.com

http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (Blog – You are Here).

Countdown to Christmas!

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Good morning everyone,

Yesterday, on the news, they said today is one of the busiest days for many small businesses offering holiday items, but we are expecting lots of rain and heavy winds today here in Connecticut, which may result in power outages. That’s okay, I can still make my custom wreaths in the dark with the woodstove going and candle light if need be.

Also, for some very odd reason, every year around now, my technology starts to give me trouble – why?! I Wonder?!! One year, my iPhone died completely at this busy holiday time, and I actually had to rush out to buy a new one – a present I wasn’t expecting; I remember feeling completely frustrated I had to do that.

This year, my iphone is not dinging when texts arrive (I seem to fix it once, and it is happening again), and my business Facebook page under Container Crazy CT seems to be doing weird things – Ugh, please holiday bad gremlin go away. Just like in the holiday movies, there is always that one bad spirit trying to steal the happiness of others – maybe that is my tech gremlin! I can’t let him do that though!!!

So, I am just reminding everyone the best way to reach me is a direct text or email works too! I’m busy making wreaths and offering my Holiday Box of Greens. Now is truly the best time to get this as the next week is busier than this week for me. As a one-woman owned business, with one very cute Elf Helper, a heads-up is very much appreciated!

Thank you,
Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

How Many Days Till Thanksgiving

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I’m sure everyone knows how many days till Thanksgiving 2022! We are looking over menus, inviting friends and family to gatherings, and feeling the chill in the air to signal a new holiday upon us soon.

For me how many days till Thanksgiving is important because I start making custom holiday wreaths and kissing balls, some fresh made garlands, and other holiday gift items starting the weekend of Thanksgiving. So, we have 2 weeks to go before getting to my “start date!” for orders.

There’s quite a bit of pre-planning, such as reaching out to those who routinely order from me, posting various photos, wiring ornaments ahead (to save time while making wreaths), maybe spray painting some items for some outdoor holiday installations, or measuring various items, and checking the stock of my inventory needed is a big task as well. Do I have enough wreath frames in different sizes, florist wire, and other items needed to create? Remember COVID year, things were in low supply. I don’t think supply issues are as big but they do impact costs that continue to rise. Cost rising means more planning and careful to not over do things, which is tricky if you love to decorate!

Also, I usually make some special trips too to sources to find unique ornaments, ribbons, or decor to use – but restraint is also required because, not to be a broken record, but we all know prices of practically everything has gone up. As my SIL said recently, “Can you believe even celery is expensive?!” Yes! I can! However, I can not resist making beautiful wreaths with a mix of greens – everyone needs to at least have a wreath to adorn their door, mantels, or outside windows, you name it.

My wreaths come in various sizes from small, standard, large, and deluxe sizes. Usually, standard is a popular choice for folks, and standard or large sizes fit well on doors. I try to use color choices desired, but this year, I have to say with the rise in prices of greens to ribbons, I will be using standard colors mostly. There are some exceptions for special orders, etc. I do the best I can for everyone. And all is made with fresh greenery.

I also offer “boxes of greens” if you wish to make your own, and also make large kissing balls custom made. Fresh greens are great for your outdoor pots, window boxes, or to adorn a railing inside the home.

To inquire or learn more visit me at:

http://www.WorkshopsCT.com (posts by products there)

Instagram under my handle of “Container Crazy CT” where I post lots of pictures.

SmugMug Galleries (Click on HOLIDAY FOLDERS CATHY T) to see various galleries of past and present holiday creations.

Facebook under my handle of “Container Crazy CT

Hopefully, I will hear from you soon!

My Holiday Orders’ list has started to grow!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Located in Broad Brook section of East Windsor, Connecticut
containercathy@gmail.com

Moving In Plants for Winter

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By now, many of my outdoor plants have been moved inside the greenhouse, or if it is a smaller houseplant, into my home, but I am not finished yet. I still have a bunch of elephants ears to dig up out of some larger planting areas to store tubers, corms, etc., and doing things like covering outdoor furniture soon.

In the meantime, I make Succulent Topped Pumpkins for custom orders! This is fun and I love making them. This year I am focused on making medium to large size pumpkins and each is very unique. People will ask, how long do they last – the answer is for months. They make a beautiful centerpiece, or to serve as focal point of a table-scape in your home, and make wonderful hostess gifts.

Just Made Yesterday!

Between making succulent topped pumpkins and running other errands, etc., I go back to my deck to do more outdoor winter prep work. Maybe it is emptying a patio pot of soil and then washing the pot with soapy water to put it away in a clean state for use next year, or perhaps it is asking the help of my husband to use a hand-truck to take down heavier pots, like the one with a giant Agave in it. We did a few of those bigger pots on Sunday morning while it was nice yet very chilly out. It appears that some of Connecticut got a “touch of frost” per my friends comments here and there, but my tropical plants were not blackened from frost which usually happens with a true hard frost, so there is still time to work, and this week is looking good.

Moved Into the Greenhouse

Some things I do to the plants in pots being moved are blowing off leaf and debris by using a leaf-blower, this helps to push out stubborn debris in between the plants’ leaves. I also wash the outside of the pots with soapy dish water and inspect the plants to make sure it doesn’t have any visible insects (or a frog or snake, LOL). I also like to move in pots when the soil is dry so I try to do that (move before a rainfall and avoid watering). I keep an eye on all the plants moved in because as they warm up on sunny days indoors, those insects may decide to show up. A key thing to do is scouting. I know one lady friend who puts all her plants in her garage and does a bug bomb routine each fall season. I don’t do that but I will always have a handy insecticide bottle in case I suspect any insect danger. And I have a rule, if the plants is really badly infested by insects, I don’t keep it – but I am so careful with my plants, thus, this situation is not encountered often here, but my advice is, don’t bother if it has a major problem with insects at this point.

My Cozy Chair for Winter Days

I also moved one of my outdoor cozy chairs into the greenhouse this year with the comfy cushions. In the winter, there is no better therapy on a sunny day than to sit in the warmed up greenhouse with a gardening magazine or book. It totally heats up your bones just like as if you were sitting on a beach on summer’s sunny day! It doesn’t work when cloudy but sure does when sunny. It is a special space and I had to make room for a cozy chair (it should be an exercise bike, but you know, that would just turn into a plant stand).

It turned out the chair is my photo spot too for the succulent topped pumpkins I’ve been making for some orders. It sits perfectly on the chair for a quick photo before pick-up by the customer.

A Nutty Brown Succulent Pumpkin

It is very expensive to heat a greenhouse in the winter here so I keep it at a low temp, just enough to keep tropical plants or tender perennials (some of them rather larger) alive until next season. They are able to endure the conditions in a semi-dormant state. I almost considered shutting the heat down completely this year due to the expense of everything, but I’m very lucky that my husband insists I keep my routine going because, as he says, “This is your passion.” Plus, I think he likes sitting in there on cold sunny winter days too. Sometimes we play a few games of cards.

Another thing I do is take cuttings or collect seeds from plants (I did most of the seed harvesting already a weeks ago). I never ever run out of tasks I need to do – there are always nursery pots to wash and store, debris to toss from jobs, and items to organize, or repair work. I sometimes feel like I will never finish it all. It is a circle that never stops revolving for me and I’m sure most gardeners understand this, plus I have a small little business, so there are also those tasks related to plants. I hope to get more done today due to the warm sunny weather expected.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

Looking for a Purple Flowering Plant that Climbs Quickly? This is it.

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Picking up a couple vining Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ plants in 4″ small pots from a nursery was a nice little find this season for me.

I was first intrigued by the trifoliate leaves with purple veins. I like when foliage offers touches of colors to serve as color echoes in container gardens. I also had never grown these before and thought they would make a nice candidate as something different to try this season in my container gardens.

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ or Lablab (Dolichos) is a vining annual in my Connecticut planting zone (CT Zone 6b) and the plant tag indicates it would produce striking vines with ornamental seed pods, flowers, and foliage. It should be planted in full sun and provided with support for the quickly climbing vines.

If you are looking for an vining climbing plant with purple bloom colors, this is a wonderful candidate. It grows up to 10-20 feet and mine easily climbed a trellis inside a big planter at 7-8 feet tall, making the trellis invisible by now (mid July). The vines continue to reach up, looking to grow higher. Additionally, I read this plant continues to showcase its attributes into the early fall season, so it is a long (and tall!) performer.

Birds were perching on the trellis pole quite often until it became invisible due to the growth of the Hyacinth Bean plant covering the trellis, and I loved seeing them against the pink-purple flowers. Its turned out to be one of my favorite combinations this season. The stalks of the flowers are purple as well.

I included a Pink Pentas annual in the lower base of the same planter, a elephant ear bulb, two Canna lily plants to the side (one yellow with red specks blooms, and another variety with red blooms), and tucked in a Original Pink Mandevilla (bushy with limited vining), and also a little blue ornamental grass behind it. The pot is rather large with a big soil volume and it is my favorite combination this season. I water it every day, although, I read the Hyacinth bean plant is rather drought tolerant.

Yellow Bloom Spike coming up on the Canna Lily

Every day, as I leave my driveway, I look at it. It is also visible from my couch in the living room. In addition to seeing the birds visit it (when the trellis was visible), I sometimes witness little butterflies flutter by it – and hummingbirds zoom past this big planter to my hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds probably will visit the Canna Lily blooms soon, they are opening right now.

Flowers arrive first followed by these beautiful dark purple beans. My sister-in-law, Vicky, would adore this plant because purple is her favorite color. I read that the beans may be harvested after they turn brown to save the seeds to sow, which I will do for sure for growing from seed next spring. Oh, and the tag indicates this makes a nice cut flower as well for its unique-ness!

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ – Purple Flowers

Upon researching this plant, it seems it is edible (the beans, that is) but with a specific cooking process required, thus, it is really for its ornamental value rather than edible benefits. I won’t go into the edible information here because I specifically bought it to try something different for a flowering climber type plant, and because it is a rapid climber.

I did not encounter any insect issues on this plant, which was either luck or a bonus. A plant I had next to it, a purple blooming Datura, in another pot got many holes in the leaves by an insect however, and I just cut it down yesterday because I could not take the look of all that leaf damage anymore on the Datura sitting next to my gorgeous bean plant with no issues.

Vines are Reaching high!

If you are looking for a rapid climber, easy care, and purple color tones, this is a good one to use. I’m so glad I spotted it in a nursery, which was out of town, when I was trying to locate something different. Think purple colors around it or contrasting colors to make it pop (like the green leaves of the Canna Lily). I think you will enjoy it too, and also, remember, this grew from a very small plant into a giant – so it was not a big expense to buy this plant!

Have a great weekend,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Container Garden Designer
Plant Enthusiast
Blogger
containercathy at gmail.com
860-977-9473
On Facebook and Instagram under Container Crazy CT

Thank you for visiting.

Orange and Blue Flowers

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What a pretty combination, don’t you think?

Orange and Blue Flowers

Well, technically the tall plant has purple flowers but it is close enough! I love how it looks with the vivid oranges of the straw flowers on the right in the photo above, and the plant to the left is a Chinese Lantern plant (Physalis alkikengi), which will produce orange lantern like shaped flowers in mid-summer to fall.

Chinese Lantern plants are perennials in our area and I’m looking forward to the vibrant, papery seedpods, later in the season, or I should say, my customer will. I have not used this plant before, but it is a spreader, so beware if you want to try it in the gardens of the ground because it is a vigorous plant in open areas. It is best planted in containers even in the ground to manage the roots and spread.

Baptisia australis

The tall upright plant, with intense blue-purple flowers, is a False Indigo (Baptisia australis), which has always been one of my favorite plants. The blooms are showy, upright, and a beautiful indigo-blue. Shaped like pea like flowers. This is a perennial and does well in containers as well. When I put these three together, I thought, wow, I just love how it looks and even from viewing it from the indoors from the window is so pretty.

Another bonus about the False Indigo plant (upright thriller in this combo) is that it attracts butterflies, and is deer resistant should you plant it in a garden, but in this case, I didn’t have to worry about deer, it is located on a balcony in full sun. This plant is a zone 4-9 plant and will bloom most of the summer. Later, the Chinese Lantern will provide a show of orange. It is nice to add plants that bloom at different times to keep the showy orange and blue display going into the fall season.

I also used similar colors with a blue dish garden and wonderful Calibrachoa hybrid plants.

Cobalt Blue Dish Garden

These dainty but powerful annual plants, Calibrachoa, are so useful in sunny situations as well. One is called “Dreamsicle” and more on the orange side, but I also added another called “Tropical Sunrise” that has a mix of the orange, peach colors in the blooms. It is just lovely. Plus they stay on the shorter side (6-12″) which is nice when used on a table for outdoor dining so you don’t block views of your guests while eating. These annual plants may take part-sun also.

Blue and orange are opposite on the color wheel so they work very well together (complementary colors). I had to just share a couple photos of these to brighten up my page (due to my last post being about snakes!).

Enjoy your Friday. Looks like we are in for gorgeous weather this weekend!!

Cathy Testa
Post date: 6/3/2022
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
06016
Zone 6b

Oh, by the way, as noted on my www.WorkshopsCT.com page, I am offering watering services this year.

Five Random Plant Photos and The Story Behind Them

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Cactus in Tin Cans

This was back in 2019. I used a hammer and nail to pound little drain holes in the base of the soup cans (easy peasy!), and put a cactus plant in each. I had started to do letter stamping on the cans’ sides prior for fun. These just ended up on a wood shed floor and a photographer (JMS Art & Photo) took photos of it when here taking other photos of my plants that day. Note: Only downfall of the cans is they start to rust – but that could be a good thing if you like a rustic look.

Table in the Greenhouse

I know that every square inch of my greenhouse should probably be used for plants only, but I can’t help myself. I like creating a mix of vintage or antique things to put around my plants. The table is a very old small draft table a retired engineer gave away for free one year (actually his daughter posted it for free) so I went to get it. The typewriter in the background was from my husband’s uncle’s typewriter shop. The vintage fan is from a farm in Vernon, which I picked up as part of their tag sale one summer. But of course, what is the most impressive is that succulent plant and the way the flower stems grew. It is such a beautiful photo, again by JMS noted above.

Succulent Blooms in Summer

Speaking of succulent blooms, here’s a beautiful photo of one which was outdoors in summer. It was growing in the shape of a heart! Hummingbirds visit these blooms a lot. They like them, so take note, succulent flowers are great for your little hummingbirds in summer and they last a very long time on long tall stems. This bloom was actually growing from a hanging basket filled with succulent plants, so the flowers were high up and the hummingbird was fun to watch.

Castor Bean Seed Pods

Castor bean plants are easy to grow from seed. I wrote about this plant and an artist’s depiction of them too via this post. This variety has red stems, reddish foliage, and red round seed pods which are spiny. You wait to harvest them at the right time when the seeds inside are mature, and crack the pods open. Gloves are recommended as the spines can be a nuisance when cracking open the seed pods. Keep your seeds over the winter and sow in the spring. These plants grow super tall and huge. I probably will sow more seeds this spring again. They make a tropical affect in the garden.

Morning Glories

Another photo by JMS (noted above). I love the way she captured the shadow of the morning glories growing along my garage wall. I wrote about morning glories last month, see here. Plants offer many artistic benefits and one being the way plants’ foliage and flowers capture light or twine and grow – this is why I am obsessed with plant photography!

Well, just 5 random photos to share today!

Hope you enjoy them.

Have a great weekend.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy at gmail.com
Container Garden Designer
Plant Enthusiast
Blogger
Broad Brook, CT 06016
Zone: 6b
Written: 2/18/22

Photos of Me, Cathy T

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I remember a friend not wanting any photos of herself on her garden website, and I get it, some people just prefer privacy, but as for myself, I felt it was an important aspect of my plant blog or websites to show who I am, after all, I know if I’m looking up a service person of some kind, I like seeing who they are. And often times, if working as a container garden installer in particular, it is nice to see who you will be entrusting your plantings to. Anyhow, today I decided to share some photos of me with plants from the past to present for fun. I was clearing out some file storage and came across a few photo memories!

Photo Shoot for a Feature in Go-Local Magazine

This is me, making a terrarium in my greenhouse. The editor of Go-Local came by with a photographer to take some “action” shots of me for a feature of my small business in their magazine issue. Go-Local is a cool mag! They feature small businesses in various towns and I love seeing their magazine still today. I offer Terrarium Kits and used to do Terrarium Workshops as well. In this photo, I’m sprinkling some horticulture charcoal in the bubble bowl, or perhaps that is the soil. I was surrounded with all kinds of plants which some I stared myself.

This one didn’t end up being used, which we can see why – my eye looks weird, but the rabbit with plant was cool. I made it as a plant gift around Easter. There is moss in the base with cute little dwarf like plants inside. It was just adorable. Sometimes I will spot cool and unique containers, and the red shiny bunny things were perfect as a neat pot of tiny plants.

Cathy Testa with a Tray of Castor Bean Seeds Just Starting to Push Out Leaves

Happy Camper Here – also by Go-Local, of me holding a tray of Castor Bean seeds which were just pushing up their first leaves. I wrote all about this plant, here’s the link. Anyhow, the greenhouse is my ‘heaven on earth’ as I am always happy in there, especially when the sun is shining. What is neat about Castor Bean plants is you can clearly see the cotyledons shaped differently from the first set of true leaves. It is an easy seed to sow and the plant grows massive.

2014 – In-front of my Chicken Coop

The chickens had quite the chalet back then, but I didn’t end up keeping the chickens, as they were unable to free range (too many wild predators in my yard with the Scantic River near by). The birch tree in the background is gone now (probably fell from a storm) and the Magnolia to the right of me is much taller now – probably as tall as me now, and has some intense rosy pink flowers each season. The outdoor chicken pen is covered with Kiwi Vines – they grow super fast and must be pruned often to not allow them to wander too far. They do produce kiwi fruit (takes about 5 years from planting with a male and female plant) and they are hardy in Connecticut. I usually don’t eat the fruit – they are small and a little bitter. Even though the chickens are no longer here, I love this area still with the shed and outdoor pen. I always try to think, what can I do with that outdoor pen? It is all shade now in summer due to the Kiwi Vine covering the top. If I had grandkids, it would be turned into a fairy garden.

Little red table with the Red Blooming Canna Lily

That little red table was a freebie find on the side of the road by my sister’s house and I spray painted it red. It was just coincidence the red canna lily plants in the background were blooming red too for this photo shoot. Those canna lily return each year now because the wall is located above an indoor basement woodstove, so the soil stays warmer in winter – that is my theory anyhow. There is a honeysuckle vine to my left, which I chopped all the way down last year because it was getting aphids a lot the past two years and I thought, heck, I’ll just chop it all down – it grew back healthy. And the red head planter was purchased while on vacation, and I still have it today. For some reason, no matter which plant I put in that red head planter, it thrives. Right now it has a hobbit jade that is doing super well in my home. I put it outside every summer. You can see some catmint (blue flowers), lamb’s ear (silvery foliage), a yucca plant with spent flower stem (that blooms every other year), along with other things, it is kind of a messy area now that needs work!

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

I don’t remember what year this was but many years ago. We always attended the North Atlantic Blues Fest in Rockland, Maine, and one year, we went to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on our way up or back, can’t recall, but I do recall the magnificent Delphiniums in the background at the gardens. Could you imagine having those at your home?!! Just beautiful.

Ah the Younger Me!

Sometimes when I see photos of me, the younger me, I think that was before I got the annoying tinnitus ear ringing issue! Anyhow, I look happy, don’t I? Who wouldn’t with a stash of plants like this – but they weren’t for me – they were for attendees of my container gardening workshops. Aren’t they beautiful plants? I used to pick up plants from Sunny Border in CT at that time. I haven’t been there in a long time, but years ago, it was a fav of mine. They used to have some cool tropical type plants but I am not sure if they do anymore. It is a massive wholesale grower.

Me at The Garden Barn in Vernon, CT

This is me, gosh, I think 10? years ago, really? Time flies. I worked there for two or three summers and this was me before I was about to do a presentation about perennial combinations for container gardens. If you haven’t been to The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, CT, I highly suggest you visit them. They are a huge garden nursery and packed to the gills each season. I still go there from time to time, and always know I can find something I need. They are closed right now for a short time in the winter but are always packed with plants all year otherwise.

Outside of the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA

Going to the Boston Flower and Garden Show was always a routine for me. My husband, Steve, would indulge me for a weekend in the Seaport World Trade Center area in Boston. We’d have Mexican food mid-day, go back to the flower show, and usually go out to dinner for Italian food. This area has changed a lot in regards to buildings, etc., and this year, they are not holding the flower show at the trade center, as it is undergoing renovations and they are looking for a new location. Many buildings around this area have been torn down and replaced with high rises and such. Remember the old run down Irish Bar, what the heck was it called? It is gone now. Anyhow, I just loved going with Steve. I am holding plants I could not resist buying at the show with pink tropical flowers – and guess what? I can not recall the name of them right now.

Presenting in my Garage

LOL! I look so serious, I can only imagine I was talking about big pots during a container gardening presentation in my garage.

Me holding a Floral Arrangement

I coordinated a floral arrangement class once with guest speakers, and they did a wonderful job for my group of attendees teaching floral arranging and everyone made a gorgeous bouquet. It was around Valentine’s Day too. I made one too. Here I am, a happy camper. I have to note “floral arranging” in vases is really not my forte. I don’t know why, but I find it a bit challenging. Whereas container gardening and other plant related creations are not difficult for me. Not sure why I can’t do floral arrangements with cut flowers. Plants attached to roots and soil are not a problem for me – maybe that is what it is, something about the stem positions? Who knows!

2021 Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

Finally, here is a recent one of me. I’m in my truck getting ready to head out to plant some plants at a container gardening site. This is those selfie types – you know all about those! I was happy to have a beautiful day to do some work and enjoy the sunshine, which I’m terribly missing right now during the winter. February is tough for me and why I got distracted with photos as I was organizing my office and office files.

Snowshoeing in New Hampshire

One of my winter hobbies is snowshoeing. I really do enjoy it and we went off on a trail for hours one day in Jackson Village, New Hampshire. Yes, that cooler has food for lunch. The beer was my husband’s. LOL. It started to snow heavily and we were covered in snow by the time we returned to our vehicle that day but it was lots of fun and the snow is so pretty. It is one way I keep myself distracted in winter – snowshoeing. The place we went to had many many trails, linked above, and I recommend it. There were lots of choices for trails. You could spend many hours there. They also have cross-country skiing there.

On a High Rise

I’m super happy to have a few high rise customers and do lots of planters and pots for them every season. In the foreground is a Mangave, on the right. Isn’t it spectacular?! I loved using it in a very tall planter one year in the summer there. I will write about this plant more. I have one that shot up a bloom stalk about 10 feet tall in my greenhouse which started in October and is still standing. More on that later. After working on a high rise for a few years now, I have learned a lot more about what works well. Sometimes I think I should write a mini-book about my experiences of working on high rise outdoor spaces. It is fun, unique, challenging, and rewarding.

Well, if you are not bored by now, I’m glad. I hope you enjoyed the me photos. It is a way for me to look back and seeing flower colors beats the dull and gray wet day outside right now.

Have a good weekend,

Cathy Testa
Container Gardener
Zone 6b, Connecticut
860-977-9473
containercathy at gmail.com
Dated: February 4, 2022

A Cottage Country Garden in Containers

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A mix of elegant pastel colored blooms and pops of bright vivid flower colors offers the feel of a cottage style country garden in several container garden planters.

Container Gardens by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

When I look at this photo above of several planters I designed and assembled for a customer a couple years ago, I think it feels like a cottage country garden. There is a wonderful mix of pastel bloom colors and splashes of deep reds and bright cheerful yellows to capture attention. I could envision butterflies and bees visiting the blooms all summer long.

Yellow Zinnias, Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ Fountain Grass, Plectranthus, Portulaca, Canna Lily, and Vinca

The Plectranthus (plant with white edges on leaves) is a heat lover and cascades over the rim of the pot (spiller) creating a bit of softness. And the Pennisetum grass in the back adds that bit of wispy texture and a dark contrasting color. There is a Canna Lily off-center which would grow tall and have yellow blooms and the Zinnias with big chunky bright yellow flower heads gave structure to this pot, but there were 7 more pots to complement these plants.

Placed in the customer’s front Landscape Beds

The planters were placed in a south facing landscape bed which receives full sun most of the day starting probably around noon time. The idea was all of the pots would be placed in various locations in the front of the customer’s home, of which are visible from the street and also from inside the home from a large picture window. The goal was blooms and color.

Bright Yellow Zinnias popping against the darker tones of the Canna Lily plant and the Pennisetum grass.

I used yellow blooming Zinnia plants in some pots and pink blooming Zinnias in others. The Zinnias provided the big pops of color I was looking for and the plants grown locally were extremely healthy, plus many people adore Zinnias because they are a traditional charming blooming summer plants. When I picked them up, I knew the customer would love them. On the back side of the planter, tucked in were little red blooming Vinca plants to echo the tones of the darker tones of the foliage of the Canna Lily and the ornamental grass. Always looking to repeat colors and provide contrast is key (dark colors against lighter colors).

Pink Zinnias, Purple Million Bells Calibrachoa, and Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ – By Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

The hot pink blooming Zinnias were irresistible as well. There were lots of closed buds on the plants which is awesome, more flowers to come all summer long. Also, the Zinnia flowers were really big and full plus the foliage looked fantastic. I added some purple Calibrachoa, and I had to add one of my favorite foliage fillers, Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’. Alternanthera plants prefers full sun to part sun and are easy-care plants. I’ve used the cultivar, ‘Plum Dandy’ before, a few times, in various container gardens at my own home and other sites, and I feel it is a nice staple foliage filler with a darker tone. The tone, a deep rich purple-like color, worked well with the pinks in these planters.

Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ with Pink Zinnia Flowers

The purple foliage of Alternanthera is alluring to me. I love how rich and solid it looks. This plant doesn’t produce showy flowers, in fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any blooms form, so it is not used for that aspect, but incorporated into the plants to provide a nice deep contrasting filler color against the green foliage of the Zinnias.

Check it out Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ in my own tall planters I have on my deck used the same year as in these pots for my customer on this prior blog post: Overwintering Plants. You will see it in the pot extremely full and lush by the end of the season. Coincidentally, the Plectranthus is also in the same prior blog post (white edges to leaves). Both of these are superb full sun foliage fillers. They grow fast in the appropriate conditions and require little maintenance.

Red Zinnias with Canna Lily and Yellow Blooming Lantana

A yellow blooming Lantana was added to the planters with red Zinnias and Canna Lily plants. Lantanas are very reliable plants and are drought tolerant. They do well in hanging baskets especially if you are not good with watering. This one, shown above, is called Lantana camara ‘Luscious Bananarama’ – Wow, that’s a flashy tradename! It is able to tolerate dry soils and loves heat. It will attract butterflies as well, along with the other bloomers in these planters.

Loading them into the garden cart

You will notice in the photo above, with the two pots in a cart, the pot on the right has an Elephants Ears (Colocasia) plant as the thriller. For the fillers, there is a Gomphrena pulchella Truffula Pink plant (annual as well) with pink ball like flowers and the taller bloomer, Verbena ‘Media Shower’ annual with lavender flowers. Both of these plants are so pretty. They both have very thin stems and grow tall with the round flower balls at the tips, and while sturdy, they have very delicate and wispy looks to them. The Verbena grows taller than the Gomphrena so it adds a bit of change in heights to the planters – also an important design aspect.

When planted at my home, I noticed little white butterflies visited the blooms mid-summer often on the Gomphrena pulchella plant. To see it in my planter at home, see this post: Aqua Blue Planter. I used them there and just loved them.

I partnered the Gomphrena with a blue Salvias (almost purple) in the customer’s planters. The whole goal was to provide lots of flower colors for the customer that would bloom all summer and all of these annuals in the planters would do so, plus they were all very healthy plants to use at the start, which is very important. The Canna Lily and Elephants Ears plants were to be the big showy tropical thrillers in the centers or off-center. They would grow much larger over the course of the summer.

Loading them Up to Deliver – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa

I remember as I started to load up all the planters into my truck, with the help of my husband, thinking how the plants all together looked so lovely and reminded me, again, of a cottage style country garden. Sometimes we are able to create a desired garden look by using various containers with a mix of whatever goal you desire.

In the customer’s landscape front of home upon delivery – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa
Loading them up in a garden cart (so pretty with the pink blooming Mandevilla in the background!)
Pink blooming Begonias, Pink Hypoestes (pink and green leaves), and Colocasia (Elephants Ears) and Canna Lily.
Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ up close
Canna Lily with burgundy darker foliage – to repeat the color of the Alternanthera

In the end, the pots were all bloomers adding a bit of charm similar to cottage country gardens. It was a pleasure to look back at these photos, especially during the winter. I hope you enjoy them too.

Container Gardening Tips with this Post:

  • Always purchase healthy plants to start (weaker plants are more susceptible to insects and diseases)
  • Use varying heights in your arrangements to guide the eye and try to not over crowd plants
  • Focus on contrasting colors (dark colors next to light colors) to make colors more visible to the eye
  • Use various structures and leaf sizes (wispy straps of ornamental grasses next to chunky leaves of Canna Lily)
  • Incorporate some spiller type plants to soften the edges of your pots (Plectranthus as an example) to draw the eye downwards
  • Get plants with lots of buds to open if possible

Enjoy and thank you for visiting. Please share your comments!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Container Garden Designer
containercathy at gmail.com
Location: Broad Brook, CT
Zone: 6b

See also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com