I made my first two succulent pumpkin centerpieces for an order yesterday, and gosh, it was so much fun. I typically make these in my small hobby greenhouse and the “Zen” feeling in my greenhouse puts me into a total creative zone.
The leaves of the trees outside are starting to turn the color of yellow for autumn, and the wind was blowing around quite a bit. Every once in a while, I’d look outside from my work table in the center of the greenhouse to see if any bears would be there outdoors on the property – and nope! I have NEVER seen bears here in my yard, but there have been three sightings in my town last week of a momma bear with her two cubs. And it was nearby for one sighting so it makes me wonder, will they ever adventure here? I hope not!
I picked up 9 pumpkin candidates from nearby farms in my town the day before. We had a drought year and I wondered how well the pumpkins would grow and this year they look great (last year we had too much rain). Number 9 was selected by a repeat customer right away along with a cheese pumpkin (not shown in this above photo) which I grew myself this year for the first time as a test (with the help of my cousin who grew veggies in her community garden plot in our town for the first time this year too!). She planted a couple of my pumpkin plants in her garden and I planted one pumpkin plant in a container here. I got about 7-8 pumpkins total for the smaller cheese pumpkins, but some had blemishes on the side but two were perfect – one has been used so far for a succulent pumpkin! Yes!
And…here it is in the above photo. It is about 7-8″ diameter. I grew them from seed and kind of just experimented. I don’t plan to be a “big pumpkin grower” but it was fun to see how they would turn out. They arrived (were ready to pick) a little earlier than I would have liked so I will adjust my seed starting process for next year. But these pumpkins last a long time, can be stored and baked too. Anyhow, it was so very rewarding to make my fall themed arrangement on this pumpkin because it was home grown by me! The shape is perfect for the succulent pumpkin making process as well.
The other pumpkin I used yesterday was sourced from a local farm. I’m so fortunate to have local farms nearby! It is a blue-green color and very very heavy – you’d be surprised by the weight of some of these pumpkins. I carried it to the greenhouse and get into my “Zen” and create. Sometimes I listen to blues music and totally just zone out or sing along. I guess it is that space where some artists say they are at their best. To me, it is a pleasant time of creating and hopefully the end results reflects my Zen-mode. Also when in Zen, my tinnitus is not as noticeable which is another huge bonus cause I suffer from tinnitus.
If you can believe it – the large pumpkin finished with 11-15 different plants of all sizes! It is quite the bargain when you consider the succulent plants may be transplanted later to keep going. So as a wonderful colorful living autumn centerpiece in your home, and then plants are maintained later. Anyhow, this customer wanted reds and orange themed décor. Oh and I forgot to mention, this year I also put a dwarf agave on each pumpkin which I think is pretty cool. The plant is rare and a nice find!
I really want to make a pumpkin with the color theme above for the décor embellishments. I like this neutral feel of the soft whites, cream whites, beige, brown, etc. Maybe I’ll make that one today. Even if not for a standing order, maybe as a gift, or maybe someone will purchase it after I make it – we will see!! It is a rainy day so it is perfect to be creating again, I hope.
Well, I better get to it – I have to pack my truck for a job tomorrow and then hopefully some time today make another Succulent Pumpkin. FYI, I’m located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT. Thank you for visiting my blog and have a great day. Feel free to contact me with any inquiries or questions.
This is part one – showing my process of disassembling my largest elephant’s ear plants from containers or planters. I purchased the tubers in 2019 for this Alocasia, which I refer to as an “upright elephant’s ear” because the leaves point upwards towards the sky. It is often referred to as a Giant Elephant’s Ear, Giant Taro, or Upright Jumbo). Official name is A. macrorrhiza. They grow from 71 to 96 inches (6-8 feet tall) from summer to frost and prefer partial shade. The leaves are very dark green, glossy, and impressive! It prefers partial shade but will do well in more sun with appropriate moisture. In my zone, it must be stored, but warmer zones, I suspect you may keep them outdoors or protected somehow.
As you see here, I’m peaking behind two of the leaves. The leaves are at least 3 feet long with the stem an additional 3 feet as well. They tower above me in my planters and put on quite the big tropical show in summer. Now, on to how I disassemble them in preparation for our Connecticut winter months:
Gloves: Definitely wear garden gloves. These plants release a sap that will make your hands itchy – believe me, I regret when I don’t wear them. Even digging around the soil, I found my hands will itch later.
Hori hori knife: I really like this tool, heavy duty, serrated edge, perfect for cutting the roots in the soil around the base of the plant to release it. I find this to be one of my most useful overwintering tools.
Bin: A clean bin to put all the tubers and root bases in to let dry outside if it is pleasant weather, or inside if it is rainy.
A Large Kitchen Knife or Machete: I couldn’t find my machete, so a long, clean, sharp knife is a great back up.
Clean Up Tools: A leaf blower works to blow away dirt that will fall everywhere.
Ruler: Yes, measure those babies!
Cut away all the foliage by using the knife to slice each stalk off individually at the base of the plant. The main thing is to cut away from the plant so the angle of the slices are able to drain away excess moisture. At least that is how I do it. I’m also very careful to not nick surfaces with my knife tip – always avoid any damage while I work.
As you slice off each petiole at the base, be sure to do a clean cut, avoid tears or anything which would allow entrance of mold or insects later on. A clean cut is recommended. If you mess it up, cut it again below where you just cut it.
I always measure so a ruler is handy, or measuring tape, and then take photos. Because sharing is caring – LOL. Everyone loves to see how massive these leaves get. It is fun to Instagram the photos!
Here are two of the biggest leaves above. It is too bad I am not set up to make leaf castings of these babies, they would make impressive art for the garden!
As you can see, the slice is downwards and away from the center of the plant. I slice each stalk individually and pile the leaves to the side.
After removing each stalk, I use my Hori hori knife to cut around the base of the “stump” in the soil. As I push the knife around in the soil, I hear the crack of the roots being cut. Then I will push on the stump back and forth to help loosen it. Once I feel it is ready to be “delivered” from the soil, I start to pull it out – It always makes me feel like I’m a doctor delivering a baby – hahahaha. I have quite the imagination at times!
I will put it in the clean bin and trim the roots with clean sharp pruners or cutters, and slice the top off a bit if it still too big to fit into the bin. Leaning it upside down, or on the side to help drain excess moisture is helpful as well. Some folks may recommend not trimming the roots but I always have. New roots grow when it is replanted. My theory was less “fleshy” material the better. Fleshy material has the tendency to rot sometimes over the winter months.
After I got the massive big base out and laying out to dry, I worked on the planter next to it which had more off sets from the same type of Alocasia. I then let this dry in the house for about 6 days. Oh, I also removed as much soil as possible from the tuber areas. I used my gloved hands and kind of just rubbed or pushed off the soil. You may use a garden hose with water blast but that will only make the tuber wetter, so I didn’t do that. In the past, I have used a soft painters type brush to get soil off.
In Connecticut (my planting zone is 6b) you may do this process either before or after we get a fall frost which could happen anytime now, but sometimes I like to start this while things are dry and temperatures are not too difficult to work in, so I started on these two planters last Thursday (9/29/22). It was a cool, breezy, day with little sunshine but that would be better than the rainy cold days expected the days following. The date if this post is 10/4/22 and no frost yet, but there are some talks it could happen this weekend, I hope not, cause I have lots more to do!
I placed the bin in the house for a few days and then moved it to a table in my basement. The next phase is storing them. For years, I stored all my tubers, rhizomes, corms in peat in bins with air holes drilled on the tops. But this past spring, I had rot on portions of my tubers. This year, I plan to store them dry in paper bags for some at least. I will most likely test the paper bag process and see the results. I will post photos of this soon. I also saved some mesh netting bags (like those used for Avocado’s in grocery stores) to put some tubers in.
Oh, when I took these apart last week from the gray planters, they had NO ROT anywhere on the tuber areas (brown area at the base) which is good news. No rot means they won’t have rot as they dry for a few more days. When I store the tubers, I will share it here as well.
The tubers need to be sored in a cool, dry place. I use my basement which does not drop below freezing but is unheated so it stays cool. It is recommended that you do not store them in plastic bags which would only trap moisture. If stored in a paper bag, make sure it has holes for vents. Again, for years, I stored them in peat moss in bins, but had rot issues this year in spring, and I didn’t want to loose these tubers of this super big Alocasias, now that I’ve regrown these plants each year. These particular tubers were from 2019 so it has been replanted 4 times now. A definite pay back from the investiment!
PLANT IN SPRING
Next year, after all danger of spring frosts, I will replant these Upright Elephant’s Ear tubers to grow again. Many tropical loving plants may be handled this way, such as Canna Lilies. For years, I stored my big red banana plant, Ensete, the same way as shown above. In fact, here is the link to the Ensete post if you are searching for it on my blog site: https://containercrazyct.com/2013/10/31/storing-my-big-red-banana-plant/. Unfortunately, I lost my big red banana plant this year in 2022. It was the first time it rotted too much.
NEXT OVERWINTERING PROJECT
Ack, I have to dig all of these up soon – anyone want to come help me?!
Cathy Testa Connecticut A Container Garden Designer Also make custom orders, grow tomatoes in spring time, make succulent pumpkins now in fall season, wreaths during the holidays! Thank you for visiting and your support.
DIASSEMBLY ALOCASIA QUICK STEPS:
Get your tools ready (knife, gloves, bin, hori hori knife, cleanup tools, etc.). Cut away each leaf stalk at base cleanly. Cut around base of plant in the soil area to break free roots with hori hori knife. Pull out stump (base with the tuber) out of the planter, and let dry for several days to a week. Store in an unheated, dry, cool area that does not go below freezing in winters.
Just a real quick post – It is that fall time of year and I’m starting to make custom orders for the large to medium style succulent topped pumpkins. To learn details, please visit www.WorkshopCT.com and see the top post.
Next up! Photos of me taking down my largest Alocasia plant. Stay tuned!
Cathy Testa Container Garden Designer Connecticut US Zone 6b
This is the second year I grew Goldie Tomato plants from seed and I plan to keep it on the list. Those who purchased the starter plants of these this year have all reported they are one of the best tasting golden heirlooms they’ve had and I couldn’t agree more.
These heirlooms have the most perfect golden yellow color with no blemishes on the skin and grew from baseball to oddly shaped almost grapefruit sizes (or perhaps a bit smaller than grapefruit sizes).
Size of the Goldies
I like using the terms of other fruits and veggies to explain the sizes of my tomatoes. They do not get as big at the Oxheart tomatoes which I have grown in years past however (which were up to 3 lbs and a soft pink color when ripe and up to grapefruit or larger than grapefruit sizes).
In my container plants at home, my Goldie tomato fruit grew to about baseball sizes but friends showed me pics of theirs’s which were much larger – and shaped like the typical heirloom odd shapes where the tops may be bumping or ridged, and odd looking.
In the photo above, with 3 Goldie tomatoes in a bowl at my house, this shows the size but they do grow bigger. The are sweet golden, melt in your mouth flavor and texture. These are the type we easily sliced, put a tiny bit of salt on, and ate with a fork right to our mouths from a plate! Not even on a sandwich! So yummy.
In this photo above, you see what I try to explain about the bumpy ridged look of some of the tomato fruit of the Goldie (typical of many heirlooms). I picked this set early because I was going away for the weekend so I didn’t want the chipmunks to get them. They ripened very easily on the kitchen counter and I took a few with me on vacation too to eat while away.
Perfect Firm Skins
One of the things about this tomato which impressed and impresses me is the fact the skins are perfect. They are fleshy inside but the skins remain smooth and firm. BTW, this is an indeterminate variety so they need staking, support, twine, whatever but the fruit hangs on tightly. The plants grow very tall, up to 6 feet, and I use twine to train them from my containers up to house light fixtures on my deck. They are considered a beefsteak fruit size, and will get soft to the touch somewhat if you allow them to ripen to a more orange color. However, if just placed on a counter, they seem to just retain a firm skin and never really bruised, etc.
I was a little worried when I saw a tad bit of brown on the bottom of the tomatoes in this photo above, but they did not get blossom end rot – thank God! The seeds are started indoors in my greenhouse about 6-8 weeks before our last frost date in CT and I then harden off the plants for my pick-ups by mid-May. If you think you will be interested next season, be sure to note my email and let me know to record your name. See below for more contact information.
Every season, I try to add new varieties to my tomato growing list. I cut back on the number of plants I grew this year, only because the cost of all supplies and such have gone up, so I thought, try to restrain myself. That is not always easy to do when starting seeds.
These tomatoes are very pretty in color – and I like mixing colors when making an appetizer with tomatoes so this one definitely added to the artists’ palette of beautiful sunny colors. For example, slicing and laying them down on a pretty plate with purple toned Cherokee Purple tomatoes was just lovely and made your mouth drool just seeing the colors and textures.
My husband joked with a friend about how I coddle my tomato plants when growing from seed. What he means is I’m constantly inspecting them, checking at least twice daily for watering needs, and looking them over. Scouting for any problems is one of the most effective management techniques of anyone growing tomatoes from seed. It allows you to catch any potential problems before they get worse. It may seem easy but there is lots of time that goes into caring for the seedlings from seeding them to watching them grow. I make sure to give air circulation, water as needed, inspect, and admire – and I guess my husband calls that “coddling.” Whatever, it means, I can assure you that man LOVES my tomatoes and he usually asks now if he may eat one because sometimes he eats them all before I get a chance, so now we have “tasting sessions.” After tasting the Goldie tomatoes again this year, we both agree this one is a keeper to grow next season.
Cathy Testa Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT containercathy at gmail.com Plant Blogger, Very Small Tomato Grower, Container Garden Designer and Installer, Holiday Creations with Plants, Plant Enthusiast, and basically a “One Woman Owned Small Business.”
UP NEXT IN OCTOBER!
Next on the list will be making Succulent Topped Pumpkins in early October by order. Here’s a reminder of what those look like.
When I saw that my biggest of my upright elephant ear plants was leaning to the side, I was very concerned because of a strong windy rainstorm predicted to arrive in Connecticut last Friday (8/26/22).
I decided to water the soil deeply in the planter even though we were expecting lots of rain with this storm because I felt the wet soil would stabilize the planter better and help to prevent it from toppling over. Then I kept my fingers crossed.
The day after the rainstorm, I looked it over and it was fine. It did not topple over but it was still leaning quite a bit and I had to think of a plan to stabilize it and help it grow upright. This was the first time I ever had to do this with an Upright Alocasia elephant ear plant, but luckily an old belt came to mind and I had some rebar available. This is what I did.
I’m not sure why I decided to plant the largest of my tubers in the smaller planter anyhow. I think maybe I was considering that it will grow very tall in smaller planter, and the taller planter would look nice with the huge elephant ear leaves sitting on top of their long stalks next to the lower planter to the side of it. Next year, I will make a note to plant it in the larger of the two planters I typically use each season for these Upright elephant ear plants. The rebar and belt seems to be working as a splint of sorts. As you can see from this above photo, the base of the plant is super thick and becoming heavy. I also remember, I probably didn’t plant the tuber deep enough. I was concerned about some rot experienced when I took them out of storage this spring.
Taking Out the Tubers From Winter Storage
Every year, in spring, I take out my elephant ear bulbs/tubers from the basement where I overwinter them in plastic bins (with drilled air holes in the bin covers) in peat. But this year, some tubers were damp and even parts were starting to rot. This has never happened before in the 10 plus years I’ve stored the tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, etc. of various tropical plants (Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, Red Banana plants, etc.) over the winter months here in CT. The basement stays above freezing but it does not have any heat so it stays cold enough usually to keep all the tubers in a dormant state.
Why did they go soft this time? I don’t get it – is it climate change, did the basement stay warmer than usual, it is because I stacked the plastic bins on top of each other (in the past, there was a shelf there and I stacked the bins on shelves), or was it the peat I used, which was a different brand? Maybe it was COVID. I decided COVID must have changed the whole pace of life? Did someone steal my green thumb?
Anyhow, I found the tubers of some of my upright elephant ears (the largest of the elephant ear type plants I replant every season) which were plastic bins inside plastic mesh bags (similar to what you may see in a grocery store) and laid “on top” of the peat (rather than in or buried in peat), did better. Maybe these types of elephant ear tubers are better stored dry? But some of those even had rots spots but not enough to not use them. I decided to cut off some rot spots and go for it.
Timing of Over Wintering Tubers
In thinking about it this morning, I remembered now, I decided to dig up and store the tubers from the plants on my deck a little earlier than normal, around mid to late September, in order to get a head-start on my various plant related tasks and work. Maybe I stored them too early? It is often recommended to wait till the plants get touched by frost and then take them down to store. This usually means the tubers will sense the cold temps and cooler soil, and go into a dormant state. Thus, this year, I will wait till October to pull the plants from the planters, chop the foliage off the top, and store the tubers. And I also will keep them more on the dry side for this particular type of elephant ear plant, as I wish not to risk loosing them again.
Precious and exotic large lush plants
If you were to ask me when I started to fall in love with big plants, I am not sure I can remember when – it was years ago. In fact, when I went on my honeymoon over 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the big lush foliage of the tropical like areas of the Hawaiian island(s). We even ventured off a long, dirt road once and found a tremendously large elephant ear plant and people accused me of photoshopping the image. I stood next to it and was in awe, not afraid of snakes or whatever might be lurking below my feet!
Reusable Year after Year
Another wonderful feature of using tropical plants (not hardy to CT and must be stored in winter), is the fact they are used year after year. With having good luck with my storage technique for so many years, it baffled me as to why I had some back luck with storing them this year (i.e., the rot spots). Anyhow, the photo above was when I planted the same bulbs/tubers in 2020. I think I had purchased the tubers of these in 2019 or 2018. They are also super easy to care for once they start growing in the planters outdoors, with relatively no problems, and with this year’s tropical heat all summer, they loved it. They tend to get the most full and larger by this time of year and into the fall season. Another bonus to growing them is they last all the way till end of October. BTW, they do get flowers and I successfully grew one plant from seed I collected last year. I made a baby from the seed of this plant for the first time ever. I’ll write about that some other time.
Taking Care of Them In-Season
I pretty much do nothing more than consistently water the elephant ear plants in their patio pots and containers, as they do appreciate good moisture. I also will cut off any bad leaves (because I don’t care for ratty looking leaves), and I might do a water soluble fertilizer application once or twice a season, but often times, it is not needed. I put slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil mix in the spring upon planting as well. In most planters, I use fresh potting mix for planters, but in really big planters, I usually remove the top of the soil portion and add fresh soil. I also fill the base of the planters with foam sometimes to reduce soil usage if it is a super large planter. This also helps reduce the weight of the planter if you wish to move it around. And most importantly, I admired the plants often which I think they notice.
Where to Place ThemOutdoors
One side bar, be aware if you plant these big leaves next to any pointy tipped plants, such as agaves or cacti, as I did once, realize that as the leaves of the elephant ear plants move around in the winds, they may bang against the agave leaf tips, causing holes and damage to the elephant ear plant’s leaves. But other than that, you want them placed where they are showy, do not lean like mine did this season, and anywhere there is dappled sun or part-shade. They can also take full sun but more watering is required. Some days, during the heat waves this 2022 season, I opened a shade umbrella next to the planters to offer some relief of the late day sun, however, even that became an issue because the leaves got so large and tall, the umbrella was hitting the leaves as I opened the umbrella. A larger planter is best because of the shear size of the plants. My planters are hip height and the plants are towering over my head now at probably 6 feet tall with 3 feet wide leaves. It is magnificent.
Storing Technique for Winter
As I’ve written about several times on this blog, I typically store my bulbs, tubers, rhizomes for various tropical plants in low-level bins with peat slightly covering them, but I will adjust my process for these Upright Elephant Ear plants. The bulbs get larger over time and the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant. Often, you will find side shoots forming, as I showed in a prior post when I separated them before. Here’s a photo from last year when I took the plants apart. Unfortunately, I lost some of these due to the rot situation I noted above. I document the whole process every year, so you may use the search bar on the right side of this site to locate past writings of how I store them.
I look forward to using these plants every season. I wish I could plant them on the high-rise balconies I service but they would bounce around too much in the wind up there, and require lots of water, especially during hot drought seasons, so they are not feasible there. If I could I would totally surround my yard with these big leaved showy exotic looking plants, I would. They make me think of escaping to another place, another world, and don’t we all enjoy that from time to time? Plus my cat loves to sit under the shade cast by the big, sometimes huge, showy leaves of these upright elephant ear plants. Cute thing – my 5 year old nephew told me he could see the leaves growing on them when they were moving in the winds, which I thought was so adorable. Maybe he will become a plant lover like me!
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you find this post amusing. When I take these plants down for the winter, later in October, I will be sure to show my process as I always do. And hopefully I won’t have any scares next spring like I did this spring. I actually lost the largest of my red banana plants this season. It was too rotted to plant and I had to bow my head and think, “Whelp, you gave me many years of happiness. Guess this year was just one of those gardening learning experiences, yet again!”
Tiny Tim Tomato are a perfect sized plant for smaller containers, window baskets, hanging baskets, and patio pots. The plant has a dwarfing habit and I planted mine in patio pots which are 11″ deep and 14″ diameter on the top. The plant stays smaller and so do the fruits, but this year, many of the Tiny Tim fruits reached almost the size of my Fox Cherry tomatoes. Tiny Tims are about the size of a regular marble or maybe one of those bigger marbles you played with as a kid. Remember those?
I ended up putting the 3 patio pots I planted with Tiny Tim’s on high top chairs. We find the chairs someone uncomfortable for ourselves, but they were the perfect fit for our Tiny Tim pots! They branched out and I would drape the stems and branches over the back of the chairs and onto the adjacent table. The squirrels and chipmunks never jumped up there either which was really nice. I was sure they would try but they did not fortunately. The fruit stays on the hanging clusters well and didn’t drop off.
I was super impressed with the abundant clusters of fruit which formed on the plants this season. It’s been a hot dry season, but I watered the pots daily with a good soaking. The sweet-to-tart fruits are ready earlier in the season than my other tomatoes, and grew to the 1″ fruit size or bigger size this year, due to the weather pleasing these plants. It probably helped that they were set on high back chairs to allow for perfect drainage and air circulation below the plants and pots. No major issues were encountered. They were the perfect dining guests all summer and still are now.
In this above photo, the patio umbrella is closed but I typically kept it open. During rain storms, I made sure it was open so the plants were somewhat protected. Another bonus of having these 3 pots situated on the high-back chairs is it was easy to reach the plant to harvest the tiny tomatoes and water daily. It is a great plant when you don’t have much room outdoors, or have room to spare on a table. The seed packet indicates it does better in pots than in gardens of the ground.
The fruiting clusters ripened beautifully and are still ripening many fruits right now as I type this on 8/26/2022. The flavor to me is more on the tart side than sweet. I find Fox Cherry tomato fruit to be much sweeter for example, but we still enjoyed these. They are the perfect appetizer size on small crackers with cheese, or mixed with other yummy summer goodness. One day, I tossed them with fresh avocado, shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, pasta, and crushed black pepper.
I also planted Tiny Tim tomato plants, which I started from seed as well, into long rectangular planters at a high rise balcony site (think typical large window box sizes). My client’s told me the fruit has thrived all season. The planter is a self-watering type but the plants are high above on a high rise with exposure to lots of the elements and with a dry year at that – and the plants did well. I’m happy I chose them this season to try. I have photos of the balcony plants, but I have to find them in my iphone, which is overloaded with photos at the moment!
In this photo above, you can really see the sizes. I have grown these before and the fruit was much smaller, but again, our tropical heat probably helped them to grow larger. I used a typical potting mix with added slow release fertilizer. I don’t recall ever applying liquid fertilizer later – they have been doing just fine all along. These would be the perfect candidate for small children to grow in pots – they are adorable plants.
Tiny Tim Tomato are sown 3-9 weeks before your last frost and transplanted after frost, and these may just last until mid-September. We will see. Another side bar: They probably will hold up well to the stormy afternoon weather being predicted for today. They are compact and probably, hopefully, won’t topple over. I’ll be sure to harvest all the ripened bright red fruit today before the storms arrive.
Green Zebra: Tangy flavor; green color to green and yellow striped colors as they ripen, medium sized round fruit (about the size of a tennis ball), and a good long yielder. Indeterminate so it grew to about 7 feet tall and keeps branching out further. My plant on my deck still has fruit hanging on it as of this date, August 25, 2022.
Planted with: Professional potting mix by SunGro with “Espoma Tomato-Tone with Calcium added” to soil upon planting (Tomato-tone is a dry fertilizer powder mixed into the soil; comes in a bag) and I also fertilized the plant later in the summer, maybe once or twice with Espoma tomato food (liquid feed) with a 1-3-1 NPK ratio (comes in a bottle and mixed with water) as needed.
Planted in: A black fabric grow bag (I believe it is the 15 or 20 gallon size) and placed on the east end of my deck facing south, bag located against the house. The plant has reached the gutters and expanded so much, it looks like a Christmas tree from the inside of my house by the end of August. I kind of get a chuckle when looking at it right now.
Taking Notes: When I planted my tomato plants here, I made notes of the potting soil used and fertilizer upon planting as noted above. In my other planters, I added compost to the base of the pot and mixed it in somewhat, but I did not add compost to the Green Zebra fabric grow bag components. The Green Zebra fruit never got the dreaded blossom end rot, and another bonus – it did not get munched on by squirrels or chipmunks, which I’m guessing maybe because they are green and not red, thus less visible to them as a sneaky snack. Lastly, as noted, it is still holding some fruit while my other tomatoes like the Cherokee Purple and Goldies are done fruiting now.
When to pick it: For the folks who bought the Green Zebra plants from me in spring time, a couple texted me to ask when they should pick them? I responded with, “The packet says when soft to the touch,” but what I found is the flavor was better when I saw the yellow stripe coloring within the green color of the fruit.
Pruning: The packet also indicates to prune it to have no more than 3 main branches for a healthy harvest, but I pruned it just to reduce the size a bit and started to attach twine to light fixtures and other things on the deck and would take branches and train them along the twine. It looks rather messy and silly, but that is how I roll. I like it – it adds a jungle affect to my deck and this is fine with me. I was happy the plant experienced no major issues, no blossom end rot on the fruit, no bites from critters, and no blemishes or blight on the leaves.
Size of Fruit: I did expect in my mind to have bigger fruit but most of them didn’t grow larger than a tennis ball. Maybe one or two about the size of a baseball. All smoothed skins, soft to the touch when nearing ready to pick, no blemishes, and rather interesting patterns made it a fun one to try. I like putting tomato slices on pretty plates and adding slices of mozzarella or other red tomatoes. This makes a colorful appetizer! Oh, and many of the fruit produced in clusters too on the Green Zebra plant. They start off looking a bit like cherry tomato clusters but grow much larger than cherry tomato fruit.
Its Unique Flavor: Now, for the true test! The flavor. My husband will eat any tomatoes of any kind. He loves tomatoes. And he slices, gobbles, and grabs as many as he can and approved of the taste of the Green Zebra. (He also asked me one day why they weren’t turning red yet so I reminded him these are green new ones I was trying out this year for the first time.).
As for myself, I did think it was “tangy” and I just wasn’t sure how to use them other than adding them in for a beautiful color affect with cheeses and or with red tomatoes, but then one day, I decided to toss them with chopped up fresh cilantro and a couple small cherry red tomatoes, and OMG! That is when I decided these are a keeper on my list. The flavor with the cilantro was very delicious. And by this point, the tomatoes were the juiciest too. Some people don’t like the flavor of cilantro but I absolutely love cilantro and this was the best taste to me with these tangy juicy tomatoes. Perfect as a salsa too or to put on taco’s on taco night!
I probably won’t take down this plant for another few weeks but I’m starting to feel like I need to say good-bye to the other indeterminate plants with no more blooms or fruit. My cherry tomatoes are still producing and turning red right now and I’ll write about those later. Hope you are still enjoying your Green Zebras too if you got some from me!
Cathy Testa Container Crazy CT Blogging today Other websites:
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
One of the wonders and benefits of growing lots of plants and being surrounded by woodlands in my yard is the invitation of wildlife. This year, I’ve seen lots of snakes, so, if this is not your thing, brace yourself, because one made it’s way into my greenhouse!
I’m not too afraid of snakes but I definitely don’t want to find one in a pot I’m carrying in my hands! Fortunately, this guy made it out safely when I left the greenhouse’s screen door open just a crack. I think they found their way in via a drain (they, yes, there was a ring neck snake in my greenhouse this winter as well).
I felt badly that it would not survive in there because I do not have mice or slugs in my greenhouse, nor a source of water, so I’m glad this guy found his way out. In fact, he was drinking water from the rims of pots – so I knew he was thirsty. It took a while. I had to leave him alone to travel across the floor to the screen. He had his face right against the screen and I was like, “Dude, slide to the right to the opening!” Finally, he did.
Then, just yesterday, I spotted a beautiful Luna Moth on a shrub on my driveway at 7:30 am. What a sight. I’ve seen them before, but this one was absolutely perfect, so I rushed out to take a photo or two. What a sight – they are just beautiful.
We have two huge groundhogs and lots of rabbits in the yard now. This is typical. And of course the squirrels and I’ve seen a chipmunk spying at my pots already. The list goes on and on. It is a wild life jungle. We even have five huge blue heron nests in the woodlands. I can hear them make their bird calls when they arrive. I am in tune with the sounds of these animals in my surroundings. And there have been quite a few hummingbirds this season. They zoom up to my flowers, pop around, investigate, and I have my hummingbird feeders in various places.
It is just wonderful to watch the wildlife, but it is also tricky because I have to watch them from getting my tomatoes later this year on the deck (that is for the chipmunks and squirrels). I want to build a huge garden enclosed some day in my yard, but that is a huge project for a later date/year.
I plant all my tomato starts in large pots and fabric grow bags. Usually a minimum of 22″ in diameter and about as deep for pots, and the grow bags range from the 15-20 gallon sizes. I know you can grow them in 5 gallon buckets, but that is not my thing. I use quality potting mixes, usually add compost, and this year, I’m adding Espoma Tomato food with calcium because I had the Blossom End Rot issue last year. Long story there, but I want to test if this plant food will help prevent it. Whiskey barrel (1/2 size barrels) are a great visual to determine the size of pot you should use, unless it is a compact variety for patio pots that stays small, but the tomatoes on my deck are mostly indeterminate and will get large. Never use soil from the ground – it is too compact, harbors diseases and insects, etc.
This year, I have planted one of each: Fox Cherry Tomato, Cherokee Purple, Goldie Heirloom, and I need to plant a Ground Cherry, which that one is new to me. Just I have to rush to do these things for me between plant work for others. That is fine, the weather has been stupendous! Let’s hope it stays that way. Anyhow, I take lots and lots of photos if you are interested in seeing the progress, and more wild life photos – go to my page on Instagram under Container Crazy CT. I posted a few of the Luna Moth yesterday.
Well, that is all for today. Just wanted to share a quick photo or two.