Caterpillar, Moths, Bugs and Bees


Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

This week, I’ve been posting pictures of a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) – well, not the moth itself yet, but its caterpillar stages before becoming a moth.

On Monday of this week, he moved to the base of a plant he’s been feasting on and began the process of making a silk cocoon. I’m glad I caught the very first stage of it – and was able to take pictures every couple of hours during the afternoon.

As noted in an earlier blog post, I spotted the caterpillar when I noticed something was eating the leaves of the plant (an elderberry in a starter pot). I am totally fascinated by this caterpillar’s coloring, horns, and well, as odd as this may sound, he kind of became my buddy. (See earlier posts of photos of him during his feasting stages.)

Every day, I’d go out to see if he was still clinging onto the stems of the elderberry, and see how much “damage” he did by feasting, and then voila – this week, I came out and he was starting his process of creating a silky cocoon (not sure if cocoon is the right term.)

I was surprised he squished himself in the base between stems/branches, and the plant label, which I never removed. The label makes a great supporting wall for him. I didn’t see him move at all when I would go out to take a look and photo.

In fact, every time I stepped out to take a photo before, he would stop moving usually and pull his head into his big body during his eating cycles in the mornings prior to the cocoon making.

Upon reading and looking it up, I discovered the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is “North America’s largest native moth” – and it is noted in references that “females can get a wingspan of six inches or more.” Cool. So it is a neat find and I’ve enjoy watching its progress.

As odd as this may sound, I have a memory from childhood of seeing a huge butterfly on a bush and running to get my parents to show them. Later in life, I thought, did I imagine this? – but I remember it being huge – similar to the photos of this moth. I will have to ask my parents if they remember this at all, or if I imagined it.

Anyhow, today, I think I’m going to prune the plant back and put a netting material over the top so nothing can get at it during the rest of the summer and into fall.

In the winter, I will either move the pot into my garage because it must experience the normal temps of winter, or put it under my steps in the front of the house.

I went to a website and asked about it – and they recommended these steps versus bringing it inside or putting it in a grow room which would be too warm.

From what I’ve learned, this moth, when it comes out – will only stick around for 2 weeks, and it is rare to actually spot the process of it coming out – but I do not want to totally disturb it and let nature take it’s course too. It is more important to me he makes it than to witness it changing into a huge, beautiful moth. Especially if it only lives for two weeks.

Ironically, earlier this season, I found black caterpillars feeding on a plant by the side of my house in a different area. I even posted a video of them and remember saying, I don’t know what they are, but I don’t like that they are eating my plant – Well, I suspect now they were the instar versions of this caterpillar because I’ve been looking at the pictures online of it’s growth process online.

Its cocoon basically got thicker and darker colored during the afternoon on Monday. By the next day, it was very dark brown where you can’t really see the caterpillar anymore inside because the layers are so thick from the silk.

He will change into a brown casing (chrysalis? I don’t know – I’m not a bug expert), eventually inside – similar to what is depicted in the Silence of The Lambs movie – like that. I am “not” gonna open it up though.

Here are some photos which I posted on my Instagram feed:

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#cocoon #silkmoth #caterpillar #caterpillars

A post shared by Cathy Testa (@containercrazyct) on

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#cocooning #cocoon #moth #cecropiamoth #caterpillar

A post shared by Cathy Testa (@containercrazyct) on

Beetle with Babies

I discovered another insect “thing” yesterday – I put out some glass jars on hanging hooks, and the rain filled one partially. There was a beetle floating around – deceased sadly (drowned), but I noticed little movements of its babies on its back. This stuff fascinates me – nature always has and always will, and I felt a little bad for the mommy – even for an insect I have these feelings at times. Not all the time though – not when they devour other plants I adore.

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She drowned. Her babies on her back moving. #bugs #beetle

A post shared by Cathy Testa (@containercrazyct) on

Bees on my Clethra alnifolia

Clethra alnifolia, commonly called summersweet, is a deciduous shrub which blooms this time of year, and has an intense fragrance. I have only one in my yard, but I look forward to seeing and smelling it every time it starts up its white flowers.

Yesterday, I walked up to it – and of course, iPhone in hand, and I saw a bee kind of sleeping on an upright panicle (flower heads). As I moved closer to take a shot, his little arm would jump up as if he was saying stop coming towards me – it was comical – like a reflex.

Eventually he got annoyed with me and flew away which I caught on a fast video taping and his one little arm was raised like he was saying goodbye as he took off. No Joke! LOL.

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#clethra #pollinatorsandflowers

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Because people are very interested in helping our bee pollinators – this is a good shrub to add to your landscape for late summer blooms to give the bees a boost – and they are certainly enjoying it right now.

September Workshop – Garden Art Creations

Also, we posted a photo of samples of the art pieces we will be making in our September 10th workshop called, “Garden Art Creations” – with wine bottles. Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie is our Special Guest Instructor. She developed three prototypes to show us what we are in for! I can’t wait.


Here are some details:


72 Harrington Road, Broad Brook, CT 06016

Registration Fee:

$35 pp – Includes a pre-cut wine bottle per attendee, art pieces to embellish, instructions by our Guest Artist Speaker, wire, etc. You may bring additional art pieces to add and should bring your own wine corks. Bring own wire cutters if you have them.

Special Guest Speaker:

Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie. Laura is a returning Guest Artist at our workshop. She taught a wind chime making class in 2015 and we are happy to have her return in 2016 for this workshop.

Date and Registration:

The date for this workshop has been scheduled for September 10th, 2016. Please refer to our site for more information, to register via Eventbrite on that site, or see our Facebook EVENT on Container Crazy CT facebook wall. Registration and pre-payment is required. Seats are limited – so please don’t wait if you would like to join us. It will be held rain or shine, and if a nice day, hopefully outdoors.

Enjoy your surroundings everyone – it is there for us to enjoy. Even without Pokemons (did I spell that right?).

Cathy Testa

Oh, and FYI, my “Ugly” tomatoes, or Costoluto Genovese, are getting bigger, can’t wait for them to ripen. They may be ugly ducklings but the flavor is suppose to be fantastic. The reason I selected them, along with Tomatoe ‘Juliet’, Tomatoe ‘Purple Bumblebee’, and Tomatoe ‘Sun Gold’ is because they are interesting – and, I like that kind of thing…

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Tomatoe Ugly #containergardening

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Flashback Friday – My Little Perennial Garden with Echinacea purpurea

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This was my very first little perennial garden in my backyard.

Focal Point

Marigolds fill a golden pot in a carefree perennial garden – Photo taken in Year 2009 by C. Testa

My first perennial garden was framed with a tiny white picket fence, the type you push into the ground.

The small garden space was filled with a mix of tall blooming perennials, such as Echinacea purpurea (coneflower), which you see on the right – a perfect perennial plant for a carefree setting.

Their blooms lasted all summer long in the garden’s full sun location, which is why I had selected this spot for a garden – and because it was visible from almost every direction in my backyard.

As you can see, it had a small golden container.
Perched up on a chair, simple, filled with bright and vivid Marigolds.

My dear departed cat, Ruby, hides near Ajuga reptans and a Jack and The Pulpit plant

My dear departed cat, Ruby, hides near Ajuga reptans and a jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In the photo above, my dear departed cat, Ruby, is seen sitting by Ajuga reptans (bugleweed). She visited this area to play. When she passed, we buried her in this garden.

The jack-in-the-pulpit plant (Arisaema triphyllum) was found in my woodlands near this area, and transplanted here. It grew well for many years in this spot.

The jack-in-the pulpit plant was the first plant introduced to us in an herbaceous ornamentals’ class at UCONN by our professor. I remember he was surprised when many of us were familiar with it. Discovering a stand of this plant growing naturally in my woodlands was a thrill.


Interesting & Healthy Facts about Echinacea

The center of the plant has hard spines shaped like a sea urchin.

The greek word, echino, means “sea urchin.”

When taken as an extract, Echinacea helps with colds or flu, boosts the immune system, and may increase red blood cell production and oxygen intake.

It is one of the most popular plants in the perennial garden because they are so easy to grow and are drought-tolerant.

Echinacea plants work extremely well as “thrillers” in container gardens and patio pots because they are long lasting, very tall growers, and easy!


ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar
Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Me in 2010 at the CT Flower Show as a CT Hort Society Volunteer.

Don’t forget – the CT Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT is next week, starting on Thursday, February 19th.


"Valentine's Day, Greeting Card, Illustration" by kraifreedom curtosey of

“Valentine’s Day, Greeting Card, Illustration” by kraifreedom courtesy of

TGIF Everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day,

Cathy Testa

A Lamb’s Ear Perennial with a Different Look and Feel – Say Hello to ‘Hummelo’

Butterfly visits in Early July

Butterfly visits in Early July

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a perennial I spotted for the first time a couple seasons ago.  Because of its tall blooms, I decided to include it in a whiskey barrel container garden, and thought it worked well when going for a naturalistic theme because it has a soft color to its blooms and the stalks are tall, rising upwards like you would see in a meadow.

'Hummelo' in a Container Garden

‘Hummelo’ in a Container Garden

If you like the cottage garden look, or a perennial with the power to attract bees and butterflies for a long period of time, you need to say, “Hello” to ‘Hummelo’ – A lamb’s ear perennial with a different look and feel.

The color of the blooms, violet to a soft purple, and the shape of the two-lipped flowers, similar to the perennial, Catmint (Nepeta), have a welcoming appeal.

Because of this, I decided to plant two in front of my border by a Knockout Rose this year, and the plant’s habit and characteristics have impressed me since.

Despite our bouts of harsh weather this season in Connecticut, such as hail storms, strong winds, and heavy rainfalls, this plant has not bent, cracked, or toppled.

And the flowers, rising 18-24″ tall on strong, 4-angled stems above the low-growing clump of soft green wrinkled leaves, have been blooming continuously since early June.

It has a long season of bloom, expected to last to the end of August or early September, and it is a butterfly and bee magnet.

Lamb's Ear Perennial

Lamb’s Ear Perennial

However, what makes this lamb’s ear perennial different is the look and feel to the leaves, which are not like the typical species known to gardeners, Stachys byzantina, where the leaves are fuzzy and woolly, soft to the touch.

Foliage on Lamb's Ear

Foliage on Lamb’s Ear

‘Hummelo’ has wrinkled and wavy leaves.  The texture gives it some interest but I find the color of the leaves a little dull – just your basic plain, soft-green, so what you place near and around it should be considered.  You may want to find other perennials with a darker green foliage color, and pair up the beautiful violet blooms of ‘Hummelo’ with other monochromatic colors in the pink and purple tones, along with some contrasting coarse colors and textures.

Lamb's Ear Blooms

Lamb’s Ear Blooms

Some companion candidates for Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ are:

Baptisia australis (False Indigo) has tall darker purple blooms on tall flower spikes, as compared to Hummelo’s bloom color, and its foliage is a bit darker green.  It will end its bloom period around the time ‘Hummelo’ begins, but the dark seed pods will add interest later in the season.  Place it behind ‘Hummelo’ to add impact and height.  It can reach shrub size, and is great at the back of a border in full sun to part sun locations.  And it also has a “naturalized” look, similar to ‘Hummelo’ – plus it was the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year.

For a dramatic effect next to ‘Hummelo’, try a tropical Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ (Elephant Ear).  Its large, coarse and wide foliage with dark purple tones on the leaves and stems will be a great way to add contrast against the soft greens of ‘Hummelo.’  This gets large, so position it where it won’t eat (hide) the ‘Hummelo’ perennial, but pop near it.  The purple stems on this elephant ear will look great with the violet blooms of ‘Hummelo’ – and the soft green foliage of ‘Hummelo’ will pop against the dark tone of the elephant ear.

Supports Pollinators

Supports Pollinators

Incorporating some soft silvers in a more sunny location, such as Artemisia (Wormwood) is a good color to add.  I prefer Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’ with its soft airy foliage and dome shape, with lower stature than ‘Hummelo.’  This plant likes full sun and well-drained soils.

Another darker purple bloom color that would look great as a contrast to the softer violet blooms is Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’ (cornflower) with almost black-purple flowers blooming in July to August and reaching about 14″ tall.  The spidery like bloom structures is intriguing and would also pick up the darker purple colors of the Elephant Ear noted above.  It can take full to part sun locations.

Pronounced STAKE-IS (Click HERE to hear), Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a relatively unknown plant, great as an edger in garden borders, filler in container gardens, and provides a uniformed, sturdy look, and it is a “workhorse” because it has long-lasting blooms and strong upright stems.  And, it can survive under walnut trees.  This plant is a member of the mint family, so be aware it can spread, and often looks good massed or as a ground cover planting.  However, if used in a container garden, it is not a trouble marker, but a star – where you won’t have the spreading concern.

If you decide to use Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ as a ground cover, you may want to consider including some Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ for the foliage on this low perennial, also great as a ground cover, has soft pink and violet tones to it.  Put it in-front, and be aware it is mostly known as a shade to part-shade plant, but can take sun with moisture.

Lamb's Ear, Stachys monieri 'Hummelo'

Lamb’s Ear, Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ is a Zone 4-8 perennial, prefers Full Sun, and is a great addition to your gardens and container gardens.  Some references spell it monnieri with two n’s on the species name.  It is also known as Betony.  Click HERE to read a “Comparative Study of Cultivated Stachys,” by the Chicago Botanic Garden, where you can learn lots more technical details about this plant and its relatives.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473