Grand Opening Celebration this Saturday, April 29th at BOOK CLUB

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Good Spring Morning Everyone,

Just a heads-up, the BOOK CLUB Bookstore, 869 Sullivan Avenue (United Bank Plaza), South Windsor, CT is holding their grand opening celebration this Saturday, April 29th, 2017 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

We hope you will swing by to say hello, visit my showcase at the bookstore, and learn about the store’s many offerings.

I will be there to answer any questions you may have regarding my workshops, plant gifts, and container garden installations.

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A Happy Customer with New Bert’s Birdhouse for her garden!

Available Today

Seeds by Hudson Valley – 100% Certified Organic

Houseplant Gifts of Small Carry Sizes

Succulents and Cacti

Bert’s Birdhouses – Now on Stakes!

Terrarium Showcases

Terrarium DIY Kits (underway – hope to have at the Grand Opening)

Workshop Flyers

Micro-greens Starter Kits

Workshop Gift Cards – Perfect for Mother’s Day

Seed Sowing Kits (underway – hope to have at the Grand Opening)

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Beautiful single Soft Succulents in Stock today!

WORKSHOPS Coming Up

I plan to hold a lunch time hour soon to repeat my free Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening demonstration for those who missed it last weekend on Earth Day – please stay tuned for available dates and locations.

May 4 – Micro-greens demonstration at the bookstore

May 13, 17, 20 – Container Gardening Workshops (3 venues this season for you to choose from). Registrations are now open.

May 25 – Basic Seed Starting at the bookstore (and I plan to offer this demonstration during a lunch hour earlier this month as well – location TBD.)

*****

WORKSHOP INFORMATION AT

Be sure to visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com to learn of this year’s plant theme and all the details of our upcoming May Container Gardening Workshops. I’m very excited to continue offering this annual hands-on workshop for all my attendees and new friends.

Thank you for supporting small businesses in our local areas!

We couldn’t make it without you – I appreciate everyone’s recent visits and hope you will be visiting on Saturday, 4/29, 10:30 am-12:30 pm, if you haven’t popped in yet.

Thank you,

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

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Hudson Valley Seeds 100% Organic Seeds are in stock – Kits are Coming!

 

 

 

 

 

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Caterpillar, Moths, Bugs and Bees

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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:

Beginnings #caterpillars #caterpillar #silkmoth #cocoon #cecropia #cecropiamoth

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He has started. #cocoon #silkmoth #caterpillar #caterpillars

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#cocoon #silkmoth #caterpillar #caterpillars

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Took lots of photos! Love seeing this. #caterpillars #caterpillar #silkmoth #cocoon

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#cocooning #cocoon #moth #cecropiamoth #caterpillar

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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.

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

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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.

#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.

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Here are some details:

Location:

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 www.WORKSHOPSCT.com 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
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

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…

Tomatoe Ugly #containergardening

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Fresh Cukes, Fresh Sprouts, Fresh Tea

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Patio Snacker Cucumber

It is amazing the drinks and fresh meals you can come up with when you have just a few successful edible plants growing in container gardens!

I’ve been super impressed with the Patio Snacker cucumber plant growing in a large container garden on my deck this year. It has been growing so well and producing lots of nicely sized cucumbers with little to no problems experienced thus far.

Patio Snacker Cucumber in #containergarden

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I sold many of these plants in May at my Container Garden Workshops and some at early Farmers Markets, and I hope my attendees are having similar success with their plants.

This cucumber plant is designed for containers, which is why I selected them from my grower’s list.

It stay short and vines, but not too aggressively. With a small wooden trellis or typical cone-shaped metal tomato cage, it stays in place.

With mine, I used a tomato cage, but later, as I witness the little tendrils trying to grab onto things, I strung up some twine from the trellis to my gutters. It won’t grow up that high, but it has moved along the twine.

It is a fast grower and started offering crunchy cukes early in the season – so, I was pleased as they started to grow from the flowers. I have been harvesting about 1 to 2 cukes daily from the plant, which I share with my husband. The skin is very dark green and a little firm but not tough.

Patio Snacker Cucumber from a #containergarden

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As for watering, I water it well every morning, as I do with my tomato plant. When I say well, I hold that watering wand over the soil for a good while, letting the water seep into the soil and get down in there – it is hard to explain how long, but I’m sure I put a minimum of two gallons of water via the hose and probably even more than that for these two plants – they soak up the moisture every day – you can tell if not watered enough when the tips of the plants’ stems weep in the late afternoon.

Last nite, my husband almost gobbled a cuke down before I had the chance to tell him I wanted to combine it with my freshy grown sprouts and fresh tomatoes.

Unlike the cucumber and tomatoe plant, which are growing in big pot outdoors, the sprouts are grown inside the home – so I’m looking forward to growing sprouts year round, even in winter.

Tomato ‘Juliet’

Another container candidate which has impressed me greatly is Tomato ‘Juliet’ which I obtained from a Connecticut wholesale grower for my May workshops.

It has been growing beautifully on my deck in a large container (22″ in diameter, about 2 ft deep – same size as the cuke’s pot) since late May.

When people come over, they are stunned at the amount of green tomoatoes I have on the plant and its shear size. It is a monster now.

The clusters of plum or roma shaped tomatoes are ripening up now here and there – and again, shared with my husband.

Picked today practically perfect. #edibles #tomatoes Juliet in #containercrazyct

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It was funny when we spotted the first ripened one, which I offered it to him, but he actually cut it in half for us to share – very sweet of him.

The tomatoes are clustered on the plant and are about twice as large as typical grape tomato as for the size of each of them.

I’ve fertilized the plant about twice with fast acting liquid tomato plant food (soluble mixed in water) but other than growing it in a large pot (which I always recommend at my workshops), providing good healthy, well-draining soilless mix specifically for container gardens with ‘some compost’ added, slow release fertilizer at the time of planting, and “daily” good soaking of watering in summer, that is all I’ve done.

So many on this plant! #tomatoejuliet #containercrazyct #containergardening #containergarden

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What I particularly like, besides the size of this indeterminate (always growing up) tomato plant, is the plum tomatoes are perfect. I mean perfect. There isn’t a blemish on them, they are firm and very tasty.

Tomato ‘Juliet’ was noted as an “All American Selections winner” on the plant tags, and I would say, it deserves this award. It has been easy to grow and is perfect for container gardening. Glad I selected it this year – and it will go on the “keeper’s list.”

Soil Sprouted Greens

Over the past couple months, or I should say in early spring, and now again in late summer, I’ve been testing out the process of growing soil sprouts.

This is different than how you grow micro-greens – My sprouts are not grown in jars, but in small trays, and take only 5-7 days from start to eating, as compared to micro-greens which I hear and read take about 20 days or so.

There are lots of benefits to growing sprouts this way, which I plan to thoroughly go over in my workshop on the process, but let’s just say I’m hooked.

The flavor varies by type of seed used, and some are bitter, hot and spicey, or mixed and sightly mild flavored – but I do know this – they are wonderful as a salad, in a salad mix with fresh lettuce, as a topping to sandwich meats, and in soups!

They are simple to grow and you can have them available – fresh every day. My goal is to set up the workshop so you have a “kit” to get started, learn every step and the key information about the sprouts and why they healthy and what not to do too so you are successful, etc.

This is the first time I’ve grown them, and sometimes I think – wow, I didn’t realize I would like them so much, and luckily, my husband loves the sprouts too! He asks me now, when are you doing another batch?!

Growing Soil Sprouts Workshop

The workshop on this will be held in November and is noted on my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site. Please sign up if you are interested so we can gauge the amount of supplies we will need. Looking forward to having you join us!

Sun Brew Tea Jar

Lastly, I got into a cute project yesterday – brewing tea in a mason jar. I twined up a jar with flexible soft wire tie material used in gardening and filled the jar with cut up lemons, fresh mint from my container, a dash of honey, and voila! It stayed in the sun for two hours which was plenty of time to infuse the flavors for pouring over ice.

Tea sun jar. Yumm. #mint #tea

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It was the perfect companion to our mixed sprouts salad with fresh tomatoes and cuke, and some cheese from last Saturday’s Farmers Market in Ellington. It all made me look a lot healthier than I am – LOL, we loved it.

Happy Thursday Everyone – Friday’s Coming!

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

My veggie jungle this year. July 2016. #containergardening #edibles

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This blog is all about sharing the passion of growing in container gardens and patio pots – and this includes edibles! 🙂

 

 

Bugs, Drought, and Out and About

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Hello Everybody!

Yes! The heat has “officially arrived” in Connecticut and I’m sure you have noticed how your plants react. They may be stressed from lack of watering – or under attack by insects.

For starters, you may have seen more critters eating foliage or even flowers this time of year. My method for dealing with this is watching and looking over my plants as I water them, a daily routine. Inspect first and identify the problem when you are out and about.

Good morning caterpillar. #insects #bugs #caterpillar

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Just recently, I spotted an amazing caterpillar on an elderberry plant and it is eating the foliage daily, but you know what? I decided to let him be because it appears he will turn into a beautiful and large silk moth per my research. See my Facebook posts or Instagram feed for photos of him. However, if he tries to move to other containers, he may be a goner. I hope he will stay where he is on this plant. I have been taking photos daily.

#caterpillar

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I also spotted but holes in my rhubarb plant – this bummed me out more because my rhubarb in my big pot is spectacular. I LOVE the large showy leaves, reaching at least 12″ in size, but an easy method to dealing with the damage, clip them all off cause new growth arises on this plant continually – and so, I did the BIG haircut on it yesterday. I have not been able to “see” the problem insects yet on this plant – so, not sure it is Japanese beetles- out this time of year, or if another culprit. If you can’t find the bug on damaged foliage, try looking at night. It could be a night visitor.

Black Diamond elephant's ear. #containergarden #colocasia

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As far as Japanese beetles, they definitely have been on my Canna plants in one spot, ugh. I hate that – I see them and their damage, so I will probably do the same routine as the rhubarb, and not reach for the spray but be patient because they do not stay all summer. Just cut off the damaged leaves and hope for improvement. Try to stay patient.

A woodpecker did this. Canna seed pods. #birds

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One day, I spotted woodpecker pecking at the round spiny pods of my Canna plant. He left some large holes in it – and he was either after something in the pods perhaps, or he was just confused. I have a big sunflower right next to it and they were visiting the flower head for the seeds.

Anyhow, my main thing is to try to determine which insect (or animal) it is before proceeding with steps to remove them or deal with them with sprays. This year has been critter month. We have many chipmunks this year – I’ve seen posts by friends on Facebook too of this problem. They even broke down a rock wall at my neighbor’s property, they are everywhere. I found one in our cloths dryer vent – one day, a scratching noise was happening as I was loading, and thought – what is that?! Well, yup – the poor chipmunk somehow made he was down the tube and got trapped. Yuck.

This time of year, especially with the heat on the rise, will encourage more insects. I also believe, the more plants you have, the more visitors you get! Shake the leaves to see if anything falls off, look at the underside of the leaves if you see holes or round specks of foliage damage, and look inside the plants, meaning push the stems or leaves aside and look into the plant’s areas if you have a full container garden with plants with problems. I did this the other day and found two snails. If you have a very badly infested plant in your container, cut it all the way back to the base – many will regrow from the base with new fresh growth. Toss the infected plant parts into the trash.

Don't like that yellow leaf! #containergarden #enseteventricosum #ensetemaurellii

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Another issue is yellowing on my red banana plants – ugh. I have been trying to really narrow this down – was it the new compost I used this season? (which I was told is organically certified), is it a lack of nutrition – when these plants show signs of weakness, you may want to start adding fast release soluble fertilizer weekly – but usually, when I have good soilless mix, a big pot (like this one above), some good compost – I don’t get this yellowing I’ve experienced here in this photo – which is a 5-6 year plant I put out every year. Perhaps it is STRESS of no rainfall – which we have not received much of – note the dry grass everywhere. Or it could be “too much watering” because the compost may have reduced the drainage ability in the soil, so I cut the yellowing leaf off, reduced my watering in this case to every other day, and so far, no more yellowing. But rest assured, I keep investigating these issues – and I’m testing out new products this year which I will share at my container gardening workshops in May of 2017 with my attendees.

See the bit of asparagus poking out of the foliage of this mixed container garden, the other day I found tiny black caterpillars on it – so I just cut those stems off. Haven’t seen them since. This container has repeat ‘plants’ in it. The blue flowering Ceratostigma (Hardy Plumbago) is a perennial and it has been in this pot for 3 years now. Talk about a nice filler. And the Colocasia is also one which I had overwintered and it is getting really full now.

Little #beetle on Coleus 'The Line' #insectdamage

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I also noticed some plants in my landscape with a bit of yellow tones and stressed looking – and it can be a sign of struggle due to lack of rainfall. At least, this is my suspicion. Plants and gardening always keeps you challenged, learning and finding solutions. This year’s challenge has been managing insects and learning about new fertilizers.

FOAM PUMP FERTILIZER

For example, there is a new fertilizer on the market that is a foam pump. You just pump and put it on the soil next to the plant, and then water it in. I tried it out on succulents – and the color on my succulents improved within a week. However, I read “stress” can induce color changes in succulents but the timing was too near the application. I think the fertilizer improved the growth on these right away. Notice this photo, even the Jade plant got red edging on the trim of the leaves. The pumps are cool cause they are easy to apply and measure – reminds me of pumps of hair foam styling products! Read the directions always when using fertilizers or insect sprays, and remember to follow them appropriate. Less is more in some cases, overdoing applications can harm your plants.

#succulents

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Again, I will be sharing all the products I’ve tested out this year at next year’s workshop. There are many new items out there – including new organic types. I also show and tell products at the farmers markets each week.

NEW WORKSHOPS ADDED

Speaking of workshops, I just updated my WORKSHOPSCT.com blogsite with a Soil Sprouts class, and I will be sharing this information tonight at the Windsor Locks Farmers’ Market at the town’s public library located on Main Street. The market is held every Tuesday from 4 to 7 pm on the lawn in the back area of the library. I’ve really enjoyed being there the past couple weeks, and will be there again next week too.

For tonight’s market, I will be selling some alpine plants, great for rock gardens, crevices, and may be used to cascade over walls, and in rock garden scenes of unique container gardens. Sedum ‘Coral Carpet’ is one of the plants I will have available – this is great in rock gardens, and they are very drought tolerant – great for this type of weather we are experiencing, and also a beauty in hanging succulent balls – which is a new creation this season. And a new workshop for next year too!

Succulent ball I put together a few weeks ago. #succulents #delosperma #hensandchicks

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I mentioned drought in the title of this post – because it seems we are experiencing one – the water is low in our rivers, the plants are not getting much natural rainfall, and this can be rough on plants. I’ve been watering my plants in my container gardens daily, sometimes twice, but remember – don’t water log your soils, allow it to breath between watering, and do the finger test if you are unsure. Insert to your knuckle to see if the soil feels moist or dry and observe your plants habits and look for insects, of course.

Enjoy your day everyone!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Next: Garden Presentation on 3/26

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Hello Everyone,

As you know, spring is just around the corner – one week away on March 20th.

If you want to get prepared early – Join us for this FREE presentation on the 5 Must Do’s for Growth Success with Container Gardens (and Patio Pots).

Swing by the Book Club Bookstore & More at 100 Main Street in Broad Brook on Saturday morning, March 26th, 2016 at 10:30 am.

March 26 Flyer

This slide show style presentation will go over each of the keys to success, and dig into (no pun intended) as to why they are critical for growing healthy and lush plants in your container gardens and patio pots.

Additionally, we will go over some new items (or maybe not so new – but new to you) which will help you to make determinations on which soil media to use in your patio pots. Today the options are endless for organics and fertilizers – If you need help in figuring out what to use, this presentation will give you some tips.

If you haven’t heard me speak before, this is your opportunity – and its FREE. Come in for an hour of a nice talk and visit the bookstore’s offerings at the same time. We will have some gardening items for sale ready to dress up your Easter table, like fishbowl sized terrariums and ceramic bunny plant scenes.

We hope to see you -and if you can’t make it – please don’t forget to check out our workshops for 2016 at this special new workshop blog site called:

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Thank you,

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

ContainerCrazyCT is all about sharing the passion of enhancing your outdoor surroundings with container gardens and art inspired by nature. We offer workshops year round where you learn, have fun, and take home your creations. See our new workshop site above for more information, and don’t forget to save the dates. Cu soon.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0024

Store front of the bookstore in Broad Brook!
We like to support local small businesses in our community.

 

Herbs are Perfect for Container Gardens and Patio Pots

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Herbs are perfect fits for container gardens and patio pots. They require 3 big things to grow well: lots of sun, great air circulation, and well-drained soil that needs to dry somewhat between watering. Growing herbs in containers helps you meet all their growing needs. In addition, herbs offer many health benefits. These will be talked about on Saturday, May 30th, during the special “Meet Your Herbs” day at the Ellington Farmers Market.

Thyme grows really well in a container

Thyme grows really well in a container

Perennial herbs will return in container gardens and patio pots. After the season is over and the plants go dormant, all you need to do is store the container or pot in an sheltered unheated outdoor location. Some perennial herbs are tougher than others and their pots may remain outdoors all winter – they will come back again in spring.  Cathy Testa will be talking about them during her free talk at this weekend’s market (9:30-10:30 at the square gazebo) on mixing herbs in container plantings.

Wooden Pot is Well Suited for Thymus

Wooden Pot is Well Suited for Thymus

Thyme is a great example of a perennial herb which thrives in container gardens. And there are so many varieties to choose from with various flower colors from white, pink, lavender, etc. Thymus praecox ‘Albus’ has emerald green mats with white flowers in June. Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’ has a dense look to its growth and is deer resistant as with many other thymes. Thymus praecox ‘Ruby Glow’ is ruby-colored and blooms in spring to early summer – it is very vivid!

Scented Thymes

There are thymes with wonderful scents, such as Spicy Orange Thyme (Thymus x ‘Orange Spice’) with the scent of orange and a strong orange flavor. These are used often in teas and for cooking. ‘Archer’s Gold’ Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’) is low growing and has deep golden yellow foliage in the spring and fall with lemon scents. Anytime I run my fingers across these plants, it evokes a sense of well, smelly goodness!

Creeping Thymes

Thymes also creep, sprawl and somewhat hang as they grow fuller in container gardens. In fact, I came up with the term “sprawler” to add to the well-known thriller, filler, spiller for container garden design techniques and discuss what a sprawler is at my container garden workshops. Creeping lemon thyme is variegated mats of lavender flowers and a great aromatic smell – imagine using it as a groundcover or lawn instead of grass! Awe, mowing is moved to a new scented high in this case.

Woolly Thymes

Many thymes offer a textural softness to your container gardens – they are covered with fine hairs with fuzzy foliage that is soft such as Thymus praecox ‘Hall’s Woolly’. The one in the photo on this blog post is fuzzy and soft too. It is Thymus ‘Longwood’ from Longwood Gardens in PA – it is an improved cultivar of woolly thyme. The pale-pink flowers on it are beautiful and attract butterflies. This is its second year in the wooden pot.

How They’ve Been Used – Not Just for Cooking!

Thyme is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and leaves have been used for so many purposes in cooking and for even “embalming the dead” – yup, just read that in the book referenced below, that thyme was used by ancient Egyptians.

And it is easy to grow – especially in Container Gardens and Patio Pots. Depending on variety, there are many thymes which will survive our planting zones because they are perennial and hardy. The time to plant it in the ground is spring or fall, but in containers – pretty much anytime is time for thyme. And, you may harvest it all summer long through the fall. It can be used fresh or dry – or just for the pure enjoyment of its visual attributes.

Thyme also has been used for antiseptic properties – for coughs and the ability for it to kill germs – by using “thymol” found in thyme compounds – another great tip spotted in the book referenced below.

Thyme is just one example of herbs in container gardens – but there’s many more which Cathy T will be sharing on Saturday during the market at 9:30 am. We hope we will see you there.

Container Crazy CT

Reference: “Simple Home Remedies You Can Grow – Power Plants” by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde.

Reasons to Use Perennials in Pots

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One more day until Container Crazy CT’s workshop on container gardening with powerful perennials and tropical plants. The lucky ladies signed-up are in for a treat! Want to join us? There are just a few seats remaining for tomorrow’s hands-on workshop. You get instruction, tips, and insider info as you pot up your beautiful container gardens and patio pots.

You may wonder why should you use perennials in pots in the first place? Well, here’s just a few of the bene’s:

MORE LIKE A TRUE GARDEN

Perennial plants give your container gardens and patio pots a true garden feel when combined with other blooming annuals and textural plants. How many times have your seen a garden stuffed with only annuals? Not very often I am sure – and it would be too much color in my opinion, and a huge waste because annuals won’t winter over or return. Perennials give your container gardens and patio pots the feel of a true garden in a pot.

A mix of perennials and annuals with a thriller topical - Looks like a garden in a pot!

A mix of perennials and annuals with a thriller topical – Looks like a garden in a pot!

 

ARE LESS DEMANDING AND FUSSY

Perennials are less demanding because they are a little bit tougher. They don’t need to be deadheaded, cleaned up, or pampered on a routine basis or throughout the growing season over and over again. You basically clean them up after their flower cycle during a set period of time based on their particular bloom cycles, whereas annuals need this attention regularly because they bloom constantly. You can spend more time enjoying perennials than pampering them.

Stachy monieri 'Hummelo' has textural foliage and is a tough perennial

Stachy monieri ‘Hummelo’ has textural foliage and is a tough perennial

NOT AS MUCH WATERING

Some perennials don’t require as much watering as delicate and fussy annuals do in the season. With the right soil environment and growing space in a pot from the start, you can pretty much expect the perennial to proceed with what it is used to doing – growing and blooming on queue for you. Learn what is right to use to grow the best powerful perennials in container gardens at the workshop.

EXTENDS YOUR SEASONS

Perennials can take colder temperatures than annuals, so many perennials may be put out earlier than annual plants, giving you an early start to container gardening outdoors in the spring. And perennials may be left out later when fall arrives as well, allowing them to go dormant in the pot before overwintering them. There are many ways to do this which we discuss in Container Crazy CT’s workshops.

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' - Easy to transition to the garden

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ – Easy to transition to the garden

BLOOMS ARE EVER CHANGING

Perennial’s blooms are ever changing, they don’t sit idle. Perennials tend to be like the “star cast members” in a patio pot and container garden. They add interest and change up your container garden display sequentially. Imagine having some color in your pot from a perennial plant that blooms through spring, then a different perennial in the pot sends up its blooms in July and continues to September, and meanwhile a mid-summer perennial plant bloomed in the pot. You have action happening all the time.

Bloom open on perennial 'Hummelo' while foliage carries a strong textural design.

Blooms open on perennial ‘Hummelo’ while foliage carries a strong textural design.

FOLIAGE FOR LONG LASTING TEXTURE

Perennial offer a wide array of showy textures and colors in their foliage, and some are known for being fantastic foliage candidates to mix up your design in your pots. The color of the foliage stays true as it grows and shows. Embrace the foliage – it is what makes your design stable and long-lasting. When a perennial isn’t blooming, it is working in your container as a foliage feature, whereas most annuals do nothing if they are not in bloom. Foliage is architecture in your pot.

Digiplexis 'Berry Canary' is Berry Nice Indeed, makes a beautiful flowering filler or thriller in a pot! Zone 7 plant.

Digiplexis ‘Berry Canary’ is Berry Nice Indeed, makes a beautiful flowering filler or thriller in a pot! Zone 7 plant. There will be some tropicals at the workshop too ! Let’s mix it up.

SOLO CANDIDATES ARE LITERALLY ONE AND DONE

If you like it super simple, pick a stunning pot and plant it up with one perennial which will grow wider, taller and fuller in your pot as it progresses from season to season. That is ‘One and Done’ baby! You only have to overwinter the pot and roll it back out to your favorite spot outdoors every spring.

SIMPLE STEPS TO OVER WINTERED MORE WAYS THAN ONE

They can be over wintered in the pot to regrow every season when stored properly, and there are several ways to do so, which we will go over in Container Crazy CT’s workshops this May. Because perennials return, they are reusable without repaying the following season. Unlike annuals which get tossed, perennials are here to stay in your pots and gardens – no replanting required. They act in a double-duty fashion, and we explain all of this in our workshops.

Ensete (Red Banana) is unrolling - getting ready for the Workshop tomorrow!

Ensete (Red Banana) is unrolling – getting ready for the Workshop tomorrow!

Container Garden Workshop – Session One

Saturday, May 16th – Tomorrow
11 am (start time); end time anywhere between 2-3-4 pm (up to you!)
Cost: $15 to register + price of plants purchased at class for your container/patio pot – we have lots.
To register, call 860-977-9473 or text
Rain: No worries, we have coverage for us and our plants

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Happy Friday Everyone,

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

Why Attend a Container Gardening Workshop about Perennials?

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Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT located in Broad Brook offers a service that brings the plants and education directly to you in one spot on the day of her classes and workshops. The workshops are convenient – You don’t have to travel from store to store to get a great selection of plants – and you get Cathy T’s advice and knowledge as you pick and choose the plants you want to pot up at the workshop.

What makes this class different is a lot of effort goes into getting everything ready for just for you – think of Cathy T’s workshops as a personalized class service for you. She hand selects the plants from local reputable growers based on experience of prior use, her classroom is a place you can get dirty and not worry about it or need to clean up after, and it is fun!

You also get to chance to meet other plant and garden people local to your area, make new friends, and enjoy a day with no true work on your part.  Just think, you show up, plant, learn, and take home your patio pots – there is no need to put away that heavy soil, sweep up the floor, or deal with empty trays to recycle.

Purple Power

Delosperma (Ice Plant) cascades over the rim of this pot – A beautiful perennial with drought tolerance and lots of blooms; it is a wonderful filler and spiller in container gardens – and it returns!

What are the best perennials to use in container gardens?

Maybe you haven’t considered using perennials in pots, maybe you don’t know what they are, or maybe you have. One thing is for sure, Cathy T has used various perennials in container gardens and patio pots over the years due to her experience as a local professional container designer – and she will tell you which have worked and which haven’t – some return easily, some are a little trickier, but either way, she will share with her knowledge of powerful perennials at this class.

Perennials offer lots of design benefits from being truly architectural in pots to providing continuous or cycle of blooms. They can be powerful in container gardens, and you will hear about each one available during the Container Gardening Workshop in May and how to capitalize on their features. Tropical plants are part of the workshops too. There are ways to reuse perennials and tropical plants in patio pots again and again. You will learn how to grow them, store them, and over winter them for use every year which is covered during the Container Garden Workshops in May.

Flamingo Pink

Justicia carnea with pink blooms in a container garden – Attracts hummingbirds and as tropical plant in our CT Zone – It is very showy along side Coleus annual and a hardy shrub above.

Ever have trouble getting help when it’s busy?

Getting attention and help on your perennial questions is sometimes difficult to obtain when you visit a busy garden center as the doors swing open for spring, especially this year – after our snowy winter and slow warm up of spring, everyone is anxious to get going. By attending Container Crazy CT’s personalized workshop, you get help and attention in a setting that is not over crowded or too busy. It is not everyone that is willing to share their background story on plants or what is going on in the industry – but Cathy T often does at her workshops and classes. Get the inside scoop by signing up for the workshop – and you will learn from the other attendees in class as well because many of them have their own experiences with plants or they may be new attending for the first time and want to learn what you have tried, even as a beginner, or if you are more seasoned – either way, it is an open forum at the classes.

Examples of things you will learn at this class:

  • Specific details about each perennial and tropical available at the workshops
  • How to plant perennials in the appropriate soil in pots
  • Design and color tips to choose showy combinations with perennials and tropicals
  • Cathy T’s Five Must Do’s for Success with Container Gardening
  • Ways to overwinter key perennials and tropical plants
  • How to capitalize on troublemaker perennials and make them stars in pots
  • What to know about growing perennials and tropical plants

 PERENNIAL PLANT PICTURES

  • Visit ContainerCrazyCT’s special Pinboard highlighting the selected perennials and tropical plants which will be available at ContainerCrazyCT’s May Container Garden Workshops on May 16th and May 23rd. This will give you a preview and some amazing inspiration!

Three Ways to Sign Up:

  1. Complete the Contact Form below
  2. Visit ContainerCrazyCT’s Events Page
  3. Email containercathy@gmail.com

Cost: $15 per person plus the cost of plants selected at the workshop (sales tax applicable). You only need to send your registration payment, bring the pots of your choice, and enjoy! Sign-up before the seats are filled, space is limited.

We hope you will join us!

Cathy Testa

More details may be found here:

MAY CLASS (BIG CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOPS)

CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP INTRODUCTION

MAY WORKSHOP IN THREE WEEKS (PRIOR POST)

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Container Gardening Workshops in Broad Brook, CT – In Three Weeks!

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Container Gardening Workshops

 Do you dream of lush, full, flower abundant container gardens on your patio, deck, surrounding your pool, or gracing the front steps of your home?

If yes, then Container Crazy CT’s Container Gardening Workshops are for you!

Pucker Up

Cathy T with plants for a workshop

Learn from a professional designer about the steps for success in designing and maintaining beautiful container gardens and patio pots at this workshop and take home your creations.

This is a fun hands-on event that everyone will find informational and convenient. So popular in fact, each May, it fills up quickly – so don’t delay – fill out the Contact Form below to sign up.

Last year's Class Group

Last year’s Class Group

Dates

Saturday, May 16th, 11 am to 2:00 pm
– or –
Saturday, May 23rd, 11 am to 2:00 pm

Water Droplets on Leaves - Different colors and textures

Water Droplets on Leaves – Different colors and textures

Workshop Details

Many plants will be available at the workshop held in Broad Brook, Connecticut for you to select from. Cathy T of Container Crazy CT uses reputable nurseries and local growers that offer quality plants, plus she has an eye for selecting ‘wow’ plants suited for stunning color and textural combinations.

The design process demonstrated during this event will be based on a theme of using ‘powerful perennials’ and ‘showy tropical plants’ this year. A large variety of perennials and tropical plants will be available for purchase and each attendee will be provided with detailed instructions and reference documentation for continued care of their plants.

The right soil mix specifically for container gardens and patio pots will be available for purchase so you don’t have to carry a thing but your beautiful container garden and patio pots ready to be filled with plant selections. And don’t worry, if your pot is too big to carry when you are done, we have delivery services available via a protected trailer.

You only need to bring yourself, a container(s) of your choice, and gardening gloves! It’s that easy.

Don’t Delay – Save Your Date Now

As noted above, you have two choices: May 16th or May 23rd.

Brugmansia tropical - Available at this Year's Workshops

Brugmansia tropical – Available at this Year’s Workshops

Workshop Cost

Only $15 per person + plus the cost of plants purchased at the class (and applicable sales tax).

Payment is mailed to Cathy T’s Landscape Designs to confirm your seat. Address is provided upon registration.

Note: Cancellations 4 days prior to the class dates are non-refundable, or you may send an alternate.

More Details

For more details, visit the menu’s above, or click these links below, and stay tuned.
Once registered, you receive additional details with your workshop confirmation.

May Container Gardening Workshop

Workshop Introduction

Pinboard – Shows Examples of Types of Plants at the Workshop

CONTACT FORM – TO SIGN UP

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Wasabi Coleus with Vivid Lime Green Coloring is a Top Performer

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When it comes to a wide array of foliage colors, coleus plants are one of the best to use. It is no wonder the National Garden Bureau has declared 2015 the Year of the Coleus. Just look at this image below, downloaded from the bureau’s website (www.ngb.org/downloads). The variegation is speckled, trimmed on the edges, and splashy! And this plant is so easy to grow. Coleus plants are known for being tough and are quite recognizable by plant lovers.

Mix of Coleus - Photo from National Garden Bureau

Mix of Coleus – Photo from National Garden Bureau

Last year, I used Wasabi coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wasabi’) in several container gardens for a wedding client. The bride wanted lime green along with cobalt blue and white colors in her décor for the wedding. Lime green was an easy plant color to obtain. There are many plants with lime green or chartreuse colors, and I immediately had several pop into my head, such as:

  • Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantel) – ruffled foliage, lime green foliage and flowers (filler)
  • Canna ‘Pretoria’ – tropical fast grower, lime green foliage (thriller)
  • Heuchera ‘Citronella’ or ‘Lime Rickey’ (coral bells) – foliage lime green, many Heucheras offer it
  • Iris ensata ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese iris) – sword like foliage with half lime green stripes
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Anne Greenway’ (dead nettle) – spiller with lime green and white foliage
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (golden creeping Jenny) – great spiller with lime green foliage
  • Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (sedum) – great filler or spiller, tough for hot sun containers
  • Tradescantia andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ (spiderwort) – strap like vivid lime green with blue-purple flowers

These are just examples of perennials in that color, but many annuals, ornamental grasses, and a few shrubs also show off lime green or chartreuse colors. The plant list could go on and on, but it was important for me to have strong performers and those which would last towards the end of the summer.

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Two easy plant choices, which I knew from experience would last, were the annual plants, Wasabi coleus and Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine). Both plants have bright yellow to lime green foliage and really stand out in container gardens.

Close up of Wasabi Coleus

Close up of Wasabi Coleus – Heavily Serrated Leaf Edges

Wasabi Coleus

One of the aspects I adore about how Wasabi coleus worked in the container gardens is how its lime green coloring was highlighted or intensified as it sat near the dark toned elephant ear plants in the pots.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants - Photo by Patrick C.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants – Photo by Patrick C.

For the elephant ears, two varieties were used, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and C. esculenta ‘Black Diamond’. The coleus was so vivid and intense next to the darker toned elephant ears making each plant all the more dramatic.

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ has to be one of my all time favorite dark toned elephant ears. It has amazing downward facing heart or ear shaped leaves rising from tall plum to purple-black stems and grows to about three to six feet tall. The reason I find them great tropical performers is because the stems cluster and rise in a nice full batch from the center, and they stay tidy but are very lush and full, serving a the main thriller plant in the container gardens.

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT - Wedding Pots

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT – Wedding Pots

Coleus has strong stems which helps it to stand upright in the container as a filler plant next to the elephant ears. However, those strong stems may break in windy situations or if bumped up against. But, the good news is with a quick snip to any damaged stems, regrowth bounces back nicely.

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi coleus does not tend to send out blooms, so I did not have to deal with cleaning them up. From the time I planted them in the containers until the point it was time to tear them out, there was not a flower in sight which to me was a good thing because I prefer the foliage colors and textures of coleus plants – the flowers are not that intriguing to me.

Wasabi Coleus ContainerCrazyCT_0023-001

In fact, I experienced no problems with Wasabi coleus. No blemishes, no spots, thus no worries. It was an excellent specimen from beginning to end.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015

The lime green to chartreuse color of this annual plant served to meet the client’s desired colors, and provided a nice texture with its heavily serrated edges, plus it grew upright and tall, filling in nicely alongside of the other plants in the container. However, there were a couple other plants incorporated into the pots with similar lime-green coloring.

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Duranta – Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’

Another plant, which is not a perennial but annual in our CT planting zones with lime green appeal, is Duranta serratifolia (Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’).

Duranta Gold Edge  -- Photo by Cathy T

Duranta Gold Edge — Photo by Cathy T

This species is a shrub and its vivid lime green to bright yellow foliage with green centers is extremely electric. The coloring is very bright and the plant is tough. The only concern is handling it because stems have sharp spines, but otherwise, it definitely adds flare to the containers. As noted above, cobalt blue was another color requested, and this plant made the blue to purple flowers in the pots pop.

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Marguerite Sweet Potato Vine

You don’t even need to say or mention why sweet potato vines are excellent for container gardens. They trail, grow relatively fast, and are showy in pots. Pretty much everyone into gardening knows of them – similar to how gardeners are aware of coleus plants. This is why the ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine was used as the spiller, a plant which trails off the sides in the container gardens. It has a nearly perfect lime green color and grows quickly.

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

The sweet potato vine plant eventually grew so long, I had to pick them up in my arms when moving the pots into my trailer for delivery. It felt like I was holding the train of a wedding gown. Ipomoeas are sun to part shade annuals. They are very versatile in any type of container gardens from hanging baskets to window boxes. Sweet potato vines could be considered the staple of spillers because they cascade so nicely and keep growing.

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

The container gardens at the wedding event served more purposes than just dressing up the space, they were great for protecting guests from tripping over the tent cords. And the bright lime to yellow green of the three plants (Wasabi coleus, Marguerite sweet potato vine, and Sky Flower) seemed to glow at dusk as the wedding day progressed which turned out to be beneficial.

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

After the container gardens were returned to my nursery, because they were obtained as rentals by the bride and groom, they continued to show their beauty until the early days of fall. When the season was over, I piled the stalks and cuttings of the plants into a garden cart to compost. Even here, you can see how amazing the bright lime greens showed up in the pile of mixed plants removed from the containers.

Garden Cart at Take Down

Garden Cart at Take Down

By the way, many people view coleus as a shade plant, but it can take part sun or dappled sun. Coleus ‘Wasabi’ was a great filler in these container gardens, but many other varieties tend to cascade downwards, serving as what I’ve titled as a “sprawler”. Sprawlers are similar to spillers, except they reach out a bit like arms coming down or reaching out of a pot. Also, big plants, like the elephant ears used in this combination, provide some shade over the lower growing coleus plants.

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

One sprawler which comes in mind is Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’. It has a red wine color. One year when I used it in a container garden, it gently moved its way outward and downward from the pot. And…well, I could go on and on about coleus plants, so I should stop here.

At the Wedding Event - Pot staged in different places by hammock in a small garden bed - Photo by Patrick C.

At the Wedding Event – Pot staged in different places. Here by hammock in a small garden bed – Photo by Patrick C. (A family member of the groom and bride!)

Saying “The Year of 2015” is the “Year of Coleus” seems a little silly because it has always been a yearly choice for me.

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

For more details about how to grow and care for coleus, visit the National Garden Bureau page.

Cathy Testa

P.S. Only 15 days until spring!

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball