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!
Cathy Testa Container Garden Designer located in Broad Brook, CT 860-977-9473 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
LOL! I look so serious, I can only imagine I was talking about big pots during a container gardening presentation in my garage.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Are you new to Connecticut and have no idea what flowering plants you should grow in containers or patio pots on your deck this summer?
I saw this question asked by a CT newbie on a gardening group on Facebook recently, and thought, hmmm, that is a GREAT question.
So to start to answer the question above, I will share some of my suggestions. Let’s start with tropical plants:
Flowering Tropical Plants
If you are new to Connecticut, you may not be aware of the wonderful tropical style plants which showcase beautiful flowers and are perfect to grow in container gardens and patio pots on your deck this summer. The key thing to know about tropical plants is that you should not put them outdoors until after frost in the spring here in CT (known as the last frost date) because tropical plants can not tolerate frost conditions. Thus, the key timing is to put them out around Memorial Day as a guide. Frost usually occurs around mid-May and it changes slightly year to year but mid-May is a good all around watching point, check the weather forecasts, etc. Once we are past frost, many tropical plants do wonderfully during our summers here in Connecticut in pots, planters, and container gardens.
Blooms all summer
Another cool thing about using tropical plants is many tend to bloom all summer into the fall season, usually into September and October, without fading or wearing out as with other annuals type plants. They usually showcase long lasting flowers. And just as with spring timing, you have to take them in before the frost which occurs in the fall in Connecticut. I blog a lot about storing underground tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc. here on this site which you may search for in the fall on this blog by using the search word “overwintering” for more details on when you should take them in and steps to store them over the winter to reuse each season.
Canna Lily Plants
Canna lily plants are not hardy in Connecticut, at least they used to not be hardy, but if grown in the ground, they sometimes come back (due to global warming). That’s another story, as the focus of my blog site and this post is about growing them in pots.
In pots, you may plant them using plants you would pick up from a local nursery (or from me if local to my area – see below). Or you may start them by purchasing the rhizomes and planting them in one gallon size nursery pots indoors with potting mix to give them an early start, in March. They will start to grow from the rhizomes inside the house, and then you may transplant them outdoors after our spring frost in Connecticut by the end of May typically.
Love full sun, grow really tall, not a lot of problems
Canna lily plants love full sun but they are also okay in part sun or even part-shade. Many grow really tall and others species or cultivars are dwarf sized. Anywhere from 4 feet to 8 feet or taller. Their flowers attract hummingbirds and the plants are easy care. Flowers are pink, red, yellows, peach, orange, and some have dark burgundy colored leaves.
I usually do not encounter insect problems with Canna lily plants, other than the Japanese beetles that come out one time a year in the summer, they may eat some of the leaves and you may see some holes, but the beetles don’t stay out all summer so I usually just cut the damaged leaves off and tolerate them for a month. This occurs in July or August on one or two plants. Sometimes they only bother one of my plants and leave the rest alone, so I don’t find them to be a nuisance.
How to plant them…
As far as planting them, use a good quality potting mix and add some compost. I typically add slow-release fertilizer to all my container gardens and patio pots as well. See my prior blog post, called the 5-Must Do’s for more information. I typically don’t regularly fertilize my Canna lily plantings on a monthly schedule, with liquid plant food as often recommended, unless I have the watering can with me and I’m fertilizing other plants, than maybe. But, in general, they are very easy to grow. They tend to be low-maintenance plants, other than the part about storing them over the winter, that is a bit of maintenance in the autumn season, but worth it if you wish to reuse them each season. And of course, as with all container gardens and patio pots, you must water them in the summer as needed.
Can be top heavy…
One thing to note about Canna lily plants is that they do grow tall and their stems are usually thick enough to stand on their own, so staking is not required at all, but I typically grow them in large pots of 22″ in diameter at a minimum and about as deep. They tend to multiply and produce more shoots so a good clump can form over the summer. As a bigger clump of stems form, it can be top heavy in a pot, and if a small pot is used, they may toppled over from the wind at times. The rhizomes from which they grow are usually about 6 inches deep in the soil, so when you are ready to take them out by digging up the tubers in the autumn season, you will find them there in the soil below. And if you are growing a really tall variety, be aware a very windy location could tilt them, but I don’t encounter that here at my house on the deck. I’m talking if you grew them on a high rise or place where it is unprotected with super strong winds.
Make More Plants!
Another great benefit to using Canna Lily plants is they tend to grow bigger rhizomes each season. You may dig up the rhizomes in the autumn season, and divide them into pieces and store them from late fall and over the winter in a cool basement, dark place, and where it will not freeze (where it will not drop below 32 degrees F). You get more plants over time with this process.
Thriller in Arrangements
As I’ve noted before, a good balance of plants in container gardens is having a thriller (tall center plant), spiller (drapes over the edges of pots and hangs down), and fillers (self-explanatory). Canna lily plants make excellent thrillers. They give height to your container and planters, and bloom all summer into fall, non stop. As flowers fade, just remove them if you wish, keep the plant cleaned up as desired, and enjoy them all summer on your deck. And best of all is seeing hummingbirds zoom up to the flowers while you sit and enjoy their show.
Pair Them Up With..
Practically anything. As you see in the photo above, I have succulents in the base of the planter with those tall Canna lilies and various annuals. They are great with practically any warm season loving plants that enjoy full to part sun. On this post, about my Aqua Blue Planter on my deck from 2020, you will see a list of the plants I used as fillers and spillers below the tall Canna lilies. Many larger leaved foliage type plants do well with Canna lilies as well, such as Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia), which are also tropical plants. They do flower but usually only one or two blooms. However, for a tropical look, I just love using the big ears of Colocasias with my Canna Lily plants and other topical plants with fantastic foliage. Because many succulents enjoy summer hot weather, they pair well as fillers too.
I will continue blog about other tropical plants great on decks in the summer in Connecticut.
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Thanks for visiting,
Cathy Testa Container Garden Designer and Installer Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT Zone 6b