A better pic

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There. That’s Better.

Better than the last post – which was just words saying we are posting formatting changes to this blog.

I started goofing around on this blog with different colors – and one thing led to another, removal of some menu items – Well, now I have some fixing to do. But, I have to table that for later because there are too many balls in the air at the moment.

The center photo above is of me from a few years back at the Maine Botanical Gardens sitting on a bench in front of their beautiful Delphiniums. The photos around that shot are of various container gardens from past to present. I love the colors and the memories.

Upcoming:

January 28th – Ellington Farmers Market
2:30 – 3:30 pm
Demonstration of growing micro-mini-cuties healthy and tasty greens. This is your chance for a FREE demo. Starter Kits will be available for purchase.

February 8th – Down to Earth Garden Club
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
I will be speaking on the “6 Design Tips” for Container Gardens. This is a follow-on of last February’s presentation at this club; Part II to a series. Held in a library.

February 11th – Flower Arranging Workshop
11:00 am – 2:00 pm
JEM’s is returning again as Guests Artist to teach this workshop. We have 9 attendees registered and plenty of room for more. Registrations are encouraged by Jan 28th to pre-plan. Theme is Pinks and Whites.

March 11th – BOOK CLUB Bookstore and More
10:00 am – 11:00 am
Free presentation on the “6 Design Tips” for Container Gardening.

March 14th – Cherry Brook Garden Club
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Presention on my famous “5 Must Do’s for Growth Success” with Container Gardens.

March 18th – Botanical Wall Art
New Workshop to be Announced – Stay Tuned to www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

March 25th – Boston Flower Show
I’m going! Are you? Steve and I enjoy going together and mixing it up with show time, eating time, and relaxing with nice glass of wine. We stay overnight – it is fun and I bring inspiration to share with everyone upon my return.

We may be lining up a soap making workshop soon – I will be letting you know.

And I promise to post more on plants – it is time – a review of plants from last year will be underway.

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

“A blog about Plants, Container Gardening, and More!”

 

 

 

2017 Flower Arranging Workshop – Open for Sign-Up’s

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Good Morning Everyone,

Just a quick post to remind followers and interested people – our registrations are now open for the February 11th, 2017 Flower Arranging Workshop.

Location: Broad Brook, CT

Guest Speakers: JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

We require confirmed seats three weeks before the workshop date to ensure the “freshest flowers”  – so please visit our sister site listed below for all the details and express your interest today, ask questions, or look at our Gallery to see prior workshop photos of everyone’s beautiful creations.

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Additionally, we have posted many workshops upcoming in 2017. Visit the site to see each one and let’s get together to make it together this year!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

Succulents are Tough, but Not Indestructible

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It is amazing how popular succulents are today – and I’ve written about “how to care for them” in prior posts on this blog – but because many were purchased at my Pop-Up events this holiday season as gifts, and provided in my container gardening and succulent topped pumpkin workshops of 2016 – it seems a good time to provide reminders on how to care for succulents.

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First and foremost – Succulents are tough, but not indestructible!

How tough?

Well, you can glue gun them to projects – and they “may” shoot out roots a few weeks or months later – still surviving! Wow! Amazing. But this is not too surprising if you know how they are propagated, which I show in my workshops to attendees. After all, we cut many plants at the base and allow them to heal over before planting them up – but let’s get back to “how tough…”

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So tough that using a bit of glue to attach them to projects will not kill them – isn’t that crazy? – and this is why we are seeing them upon pumpkins in the fall, as corsages for weddings, and on many artsy projects. The uses are endless today.

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Initially, I thought this gluing technique was pure “plant abuse” but after testing it out – and witnessing the roots coming out of the succulents on my prototype succulent topped pumpkins from the fall – which, to this day are still doing well since October, I learned to accept these little toughies really rock it on crafty projects. They seem to have transitioned to not only being a living art but non-living art which has grown to be accepted and adored. And it feels a bit of going to the dark side as a plant enthusiast, because in general, I don’t like plants which are over-decorated (e.g., paint on plants or sprayed weird unnatural colors), but in this case, it works and since the plants don’t die – well, its okay.

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Succulents are also tough enough to handle low temperatures and not die – thus, you may put them in a room as low as 50-55 degrees F and they will make it, maybe even 45 in winter (for some but not all). They typically go into a semi-dormant state in the winter months and just sit there and rest. They may not look “as plump” but when temps warm up and you begin a regular watering routine in the spring and early summer, they will plump back up usually.

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Additionally, they almost can take freezing – just kidding, BUT I decided to attach succulents to my custom fresh wreaths this year- and well, if hung on a door where it gets cold but sunny and are protected by a glass door – they fared just fine.  I even put succulents as ornaments in my Christmas tree (shown above). It is so pretty. The colors of succulents from cool blues to red-tinged edges are a nice compliment to our holiday colors of greens, golds, silvers and flashy sparkling reds.

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As far as freezing – Nope, they will die if exposed to freezing temperatures – but you know what I think it kind of interesting? If they freeze, they still look good. Most plants look like total mush when they freeze.

I ended up putting a wreath on a sled for decor that had a few succulents on them. After a cold day when it snowed, they froze solid – but they didn’t even “look dead.” I had to touch them to see if they were mushy but they were frozen solid and kept in their original form. When using succulents purely as a decorate element, this is a plus. Think of it this way if you are not convinced, how often have you ate an expensive dessert only to see if disappear before your very eyes? Most plant lovers will absolutely refuse to let a plant die – but isn’t that better to have used it as decor, enjoyed it for weeks, rather than throwing it in the trash because it was unloved, un-purchased, and unused?

During the summer, another incredible aspect of succulents is they make the perfect vacation plant because they can go a very long time without watering due to their ability to store water in their leaves, stems and roots. You won’t come back to a dead plant – and you will feel relieved that you didn’t waste your money on a plant. “Look Mom, I didn’t kill my plant!”

With all of this said – succulents are not indestructible.

If you decide to store a hypertufa pot filled with the more hardy types of succulents over the winter in your unheated garage, cold basement or very cold room in your home, they still require some light and monitoring.

Basically, what I do is just give them a bit of moisture in the soil occasionally (like every 5 weeks or so). This way the soil isn’t completely bone dry throughout the ENTIRE winter. It is perfectly okay to let the soil dry almost completely “BETWEEN” waterings, and keep the watering to a minimum (I tell newbies – once a month in winter, on the soil, not on the foliage, meaning direct the water carefully, and let it drain.)

If your succulent is totally thin and papery after a few weeks or months, it may have parted and passed. This is usually when the soil is so dry for such a long time, the poor little baby gave up. Avoid the “crinkly” situation if possible. Avoid poor soil and total neglect if you wish to have it return to its beautiful state when the season warms up again in the spring and fall.

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If you have a decorative pot, like the ones I sold this year as grab n go gifts or hostess gifts, remove the inserted pot which has drain holes, add the water to the soil, and let the water drip out from the drain holes a bit, then put it back into the decorative pot.

Giving these babies out as gifts definitely puts smiles on the recipients faces, believe me. It felt like the feeling I got when I used to give out fresh eggs to friends, the same reaction – pure happiness. I guess because succulents are just so darn cute, adorable, collectible, and usable in many ways. And they aren’t easy to kill, unless you freeze them.

Another aspect which makes succulents and cacti tough – is they do not require lots of fertilizer. They only need small doses from time to time – which I show attendees what I use and how in my container gardening workshops. They seem to be the type which thrive when neglected. After all, their origins are the deserts and hot arid places – they built up tolerance over the years of dealing with drought, wind, and dryness.

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How to Pot them Up

Most succulents will go a very long time in their original home, but if and when you do pot it up, the most important thing to remember is very well-draining soilless media with perlite for excellent drainage. Also, I also recommend pots with drainage holes.

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The plants typically have a shallow root system. Long and wide pots work well, but they may go in tall pots too if that is the look you are going for. After you pot them up, water them in so the soil is moist. They must get acclimated to their new home – especially important in the growing seasons to move them into a moist environment initially. And remember, many have spines (well, at least for cacti like Agave). They are tricky to re-pot when large, and require special tools and handling. But for the tiny small sweet ones, they are easy to handle and re-pot.

And, as noted above, the thing that kills succulents the fastest is over watering. You want the soil to dry out between waterings. Allow the excess water to drain from the pot. Avoid water sitting on the foliage where it will create rot.

If attached to the top of pumpkins, you must moisten the moss every few weeks, and be careful not to damage the decor. If the pumpkin starts to decay, cut the top off and set the portion with the succulents into soil. The succulents will take root when they begin to extend their roots in search of a new home – in most cases! No guarantees here folks, as I said, they are tough but not indestructible.

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Sun or shade

Believe it or not – some succulents (and cacti) prefer some part to full shade, but most in general are sun or bright light lovers. Read the label if your’s came with one and pick the best spot to suit its needs. There are literally thousands of varieties. In the winter months, a bright room works well. They are tough, and usually won’t die if the light is not super bright.

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Babies

Lastly, succulents are great baby-making machines. They produce offsets from the mother plant (little ones on the side) and it is so easy to remove them and re-pot or reuse on your decorative endeavors this way. Many succulents actively grown in the fall, so before winter hits – it may be a good time to collect those babies. By the way, if you see the Mother Plant shoot out a tall alien looking stem with a flower – you might be thinking, “Wow, it’s flowering” and then all of a sudden, the mother plant dies and shrivels up – and you think,”Oh My God. I killed it.” – Not! The mother plant dies after she produces a bloom, but the beauty is her little side shoot babies carry on the tradition of growing on the family. Just carefully remove the dead parts of the mamma plant and you are still in business.

Creations with Succulents

I’ve used succulents so many ways this year – some which I didn’t want to share online because they were so darn adorable – I preferred “revealing” them at the Holiday Pop Up Events held and plan to add them to the holiday workshops of next season in 2017, so that all my attendees will have fun creating with succulents too.

Well – its only 3 more days until Christmas, and I am still doing my last-minute holiday shopping. Got to run for now…

Cathy Testa
Owner of “Container Crazy CT” and “Cathy T’s Landscape Designs”
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

 

One Week to Go!

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Wow, it has been a busy holiday month – and I am excited it continues to be so festive, fun, and creative!

Here’s a sample of items made by Container Crazy CT (yep – that is me) and samples of items made by our attendees this month at our workshops.

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Don’t you just love the horse above? Made by attendee, Dianne T. GREAT JOB!

I will finally be able to do my personal holiday gift shopping next week – which was never my style to wait until the last minute and enter stores void of products, tossed about in piles, or even damaged. But what makes up for that last minute world is the opportunities I have this month creating fresh quality items for orders and offering workshops where attendees make their own beautiful wreaths, kissing balls, and even horse wreaths (new option at this year’s 7th Annual Workshop.)

Smiles on attendees faces, festive feeling when a custom order is picked up, and greeting visitors at pop-up markets has been rewarding. So many people have told me they love what I have been creating and are enjoying my social media feeds, but I sure hope I’m not overdoing it. I guess when you have a passion, you just can’t stop talking about it.

I finally was able to decorate my own tree at our house yesterday. I took a little breather and I feel happy it is situated in the corner of my kitchen area. All lit up – the reflection in the windows is so beautiful. Topped with a burlap bow.

I’m sure everyone is busy as a beaver this week and next – or I should say as busy as an “ELF!” but if you happen to be in the area, please come visit me at the Pop-Up Vendor Event hosted by “Book Club Bookstore & More” on 100 Main St., Broad Brook, CT this Saturday, Dec 17th from 10 am to 3 pm. Don’t let the cold stop you. Swing by for a visit.

Also, there are some very interesting authors who will be there – visit the Bookstore’s web site or Facebook page to see. I’m intrigued and will have the bonus of meeting these wonderful authors and hearing their story. For the book readers in your life, this is a great shop to get books for adults and children. They also have great antique Christmas Cards and other art from local artists.

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Cathy Testa
Owner of “Cathy T’s Landcape Designs” and “Container Crazy CT”
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

For More Photos – Visit our WORKSHOPSCT.com site

Search Terms for Holiday Crafting

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  • how to attach a birdhouse to a post
  • how to with mesh ribbon
  • can i move vegetables in the boot of my car?
  • can you make a snowman from buffalo snow
  • how to make a kissing ball for christmas
  • outdoor christmas containers + how to make evergreens last
  • storing container grown canna
  • decorating with mesh ribbon ideas

The “search terms” listed above are exactly as typed by the searchers on my blog recently.

I am thankful you stopped by to look around for information and answers on Container Crazy CT’s blog .

Many seem to be looking for ideas about holiday decorating, so here are some tips on some of the questions above…

How to use Mesh Ribbon

I wrote about this last year, or was it years before? Not sure. Time is flying! Mesh ribbon seemed wildly popular last year and a few years probably before that – but, I don’t see the trend “as much” this year – but that is me.

However, I watched Scot Haney of Channel 3 put a mesh ribbon wreath around his waist yesterday. It made me laugh!

Mesh ribbon is incredibly easy to bend, use, gather, staple gun to projects, and is super festive – However, it does FADE in the sun. FYI on that but I’ve used it and still enjoy this wonderful ribbon that is amazingly easy to use.

Here’s another link on my blog about mesh ribbon uses:

https://containercrazyct.com/2013/11/18/three-easy-ways-to-use-mesh-ribbon-for-holiday-decorating/

How to make a Kissing Ball for Christmas

Ah, will be doing so with a very large group of attendees tomorrow. If you are located in Connecticut near my area – check out WORKSHOPSCT.com for information on that. This will be our 7th Annual Workshop – and we not only make the kissing balls, we make wreaths, candle centerpieces and more creative items with fresh greens. It is a great kickoff to the holiday decorating season for many – and I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Additionally, we have a weeknight workshop coming up on Dec 7th, Wed., 5:30-7:30 pm. There’s still time to sign up if interested, just text me 860-977-9473 or use the links on our WORKSHOPSCT.com site to get in, Registration and pre-payment is required.

Private parties upon request at our studio location in Broad Brook/East Windsor is an additional option for small groups. Advance notice is required however. And I also offer custom orders starting next week, if you are local.

And of course, you may find information on how to make them just by browsing this site. Use the search field and type in Kissing Balls.

Outdoor Christmas Containers and How to Make Evergreens Last

Ah, this IS the magic question – and I go over tips in my workshops on this based on my experiences creating and installing containers filled with lush greens – but there are three basic ingredients – cold weather, Wilt Pruf Plant Protector spray product found at local stores which may be used on some greens (not all apply so read the instructions on the bottle), and getting fresh quality greens. I have some other little secrets I use – shared with my regular and loyal attendees and followers.

Starting tomorrow, I officially turn into Mrs. KB Claus, greeting and teaching my attendees. They are in for a GREAT workshop.

Oh, BTW, here are more items coming up – hope to see you there!

Book Club Bookstore & More – Pop Up Vendor’s Day
December 11, 2016 – Sunday
December 17, 2016 – Saturday
Various holiday items made and custom designed by Cathy T

Ellington Winter Farmers Market
January 28, 2016  from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Demonstration on “Growing Nutritious Soil Sprouts”
Kits will be available for purchase

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT
Located in Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

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Happy Thanksgiving 2016

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Good Morning Everyone!

Up at the crack of dawn, like me?

Perhaps so!

If yes, I’m sure it is because you are getting your big turkey ready to put in the oven.

As for myself and my hubby – we are off the hook this year for cooking – I say, yippee!

Something we are thankful for is a day of relaxing. It is nice to have a year off hosting, but I am going to miss Mom’s special meat pie she always brings to our side of the family as an addition to our buffet table, and Steve’s Mom’s amazing desserts – She always makes an impressive selection. Her desserts could be featured in the finest of cooking magazines – seriously.

I am thankful for so much – the list is endless. But if I were to try to sum it up  – it would be that I’m thankful for the people in our lives that understand the meaning of sharing, caring, supporting, loving, and appreciating each other.

I remember when I started my first official corporate job. I was 15, going on 16 years old. I didn’t have my license yet when I interviewed so my high school business teacher drove me there for the interview day.

The position I obtained was supporting a high level administrative assistant by the name of Joan. I remember as we walked the halls together on my first day, every single person that walked by us would say hello to Joan and “thanked her” for a task she did recently as part of her position.

I distinctly remember the polite way people treated her, and the way she treated them. For some reason, this memory came to be today. I think it is a good reminder of how we should be every day. She set a good example for me at that time in my life. I truly remember thinking, “Wow, everyone is thanking her – how nice.”

And I can’t end this quick post without specifically saying thank you to my small business supporters – To the ones who shoot out a quick email saying thank you to me at times for something related to my small business, like a workshop they attended, etc. I appreciate hearing those words very much.

Also, to the ones who have complimented my projects and attempts at trying something new related to my small business, thank you. To the ones who have offered to assist or give their own ideas on my plant related endeavors – thanks! And to the ones attending my workshops regularly – a big huge thank you.

My new motto lately is using the words, “Let’s Make It Together”, because this is how I feel – making inspiration together, making decor together, and making it special together. This is what it is all about here at Container Crazy CT.

Enjoy your day,

Cathy Testa

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Autumn Brings Beauty and Overwintering Work for Gardeners

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I think everyone in our area of Connecticut would agree – the fall foliage colors are absolutely spectacular here this year – what a treat for the eyes to see the bright golden yellows and reds against clear blue skies. There are trees in my yard which never looked so vibrant, even the kiwi vine over my chicken coop pen is beaming more than ever, but alas, the leaves will fall and the holidays are right around the corner.

#autumn at the beach yesterday!

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In preparation for the fall, I have spent the last three weeks putting away many of my tropical plants and conducting a mini workshop on the famous succulent pumpkins. It was the first workshop offered at Container Crazy CT’s on this new fashion – Pumpkins covered with succulent plants and decor! The workshop was conducted with an Insiders Club members – what fun we had. We are testing our results based on the techniques we used to assemble and design them, and all of this will be shared in next year’s workshop – I know this workshop will grow. These succupumpkins are addicting.

#workshops #containercrazyct #autumndecor #succulents #pumpkindecor

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Yesterday, a stink bug was still sitting on one of my succulent pumpkins in my house. I had to laugh – these guys are slow moving but he didn’t move for 24 hours. There is a black plastic spider on the top and I thought, “Does he think the spider is real?” LOL.

#succulentpumpkin #autumn #stinkbugs #succulents

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Part of my autumn overwinter process included collecting seeds from Canna, Castor Beans, and other misc perennials which are stored in plastic pill bottles and kept in a dark cool place in my home for use next season. Here’s a photo of the Castor Bean (Racinus) which look like ticks! Oooooh! I also take various cuttings and do some propagation, as well as divide and repot plants to keep (as shown with the lemon grass in my prior post).

#castorbeanseeds #racinus

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If you have been watching my posts this year, you surely saw the container filled with a huge green elephants ear (Colocasia), and I had to finally take it down, such sadness, but one of my workshop attendees asked me for the leaves because she is doing some leaf castings – and so that helped soften the blow – knowing the leaves will be used for an art related project. And, just maybe she can teach us when she perfects her process of leaf casting at my workshops. I can’t wait to see her results.

#containergardening #tropicalplants #autumngardening #ensete #overwinteringplants #workshops

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The elephants ear grew very very large, at least 3 ft long leaves. Here is the bulb located at the base of the trunk shown below when I dug it up. I call it a trunk as I type here but technically base of the stems, but it looked like a trunk because that elephant ear grew very lush this year. I just adored it.

#colocasiaesculenta #colocasia #autumngarden #overwinteringplants

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Now, I will store this bulb to reuse next season. All the steps, tools, process, and products used to store my tropical plants were covered in my “Overwintering Tropical” plants workshop earlier this month. We had lots of fun as you can tell from our smiles in the above workshop photo where we are holding leaves of one of my red banana plants (Ensete). We covered everything you need to know and enjoyed a sunny day following a morning frost.

#tubers #colocasia #elephantsears #autumn #overwinteringplants #bulbs

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And I have to be honest, I was getting tired of storing bulbs, rhizomes, tubers – you name it – I had a lot of plants this year. Here’s a photo of the stack of boxes I was about to hand-truck to my unheated basement for the babies put to rest for the winter. The only good news was the weather was cooperating – it was nice and sunny almost every day – so I wasn’t working with cold hands as in years past. We had a frost on the same day I held my “Overwintering” workshop – which was perfect timing. But about 3 days later, we had a day in the 80’s – when I snuck out to go to the beach! Why not?!

Next on Container Crazy CT’s workshop list is my first ever Growing Nutritious Soil Sprouts workshop – We decided to add a week night workshop by request – so it looks like this one is underway with a few sign-up’s. I can’t wait to show this process – to grow sprouts all year round, starting now in the fall – is a great way to have fresh sprouts which are oh so healthy on your salads, on appetizers, in soups – all perfect for upcoming Thanksgiving meals, or for those moments when you want a nice warm soup on a cold winter day. I could go on and on about these sprouts but I will save that for the attendees of this workshop in November. See my http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site for all the details.

Next workshop. #sprouts See WorkshopsCT.com. Two dates Nov 5, Nov 10. #containergardening

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But as busy as I’ve been the past few weeks, I still take the time to go have some fall fun – stopping by Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT to see their scarecrow competition – it was a PERFECT day – and they did such a wonderful job. I have to enter next year – my brain is already brewing with a scary container garden scarecrow.

#scarecrows #autumn #farms #halloween

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And to cap off this quick post – I have to share the photo of my beautyberry shrubs (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’). I post a picture every year around this time – these purple berries can not be beat. They are so pretty right now. I planted three of these shrubs many years ago – and I remember I followed the spacing instructions exactly, but they can be maintained easily with a good pruning every season. They are deciduous, cane-like shrubs. The branches tend to arch and the color of the leaves is a bright light green color. The purple berries are clustered and they reach their beauty in October. In winter, the leaves will drop off but the berries do hang on a long time. Seeing them makes me consider if my May 2017 workshop should entail beautiful shrubs such as this one.

#autumn #fallshrub #berriedshrub #callicarpa

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#callicarpa #berriedshrub #fallshrub #autumn

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Well, that is all folks for this Friday morning. Enjoy your Halloween Festivities if you have them on the agenda for the weekend, and don’t forget to visit my Instagram pages for many more photos of all the activity discussed above.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com