Persian Shield is Purplelicious

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If you haven’t been introduced or seen the annual, Persian Shield, you are missing out on one of the most amazing purple colored foliage plants to use in container gardens.

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Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) enjoys full to part sun and will grow to about 18-36″ tall. It has an upright habit, makes an excellent filler, and is an annual plant except for zones 9-11. In CT, we are zone 6.

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In a part sun situation, under patio umbrellas, these plants performed beautifully this season for me at home. However, I also have installed them in full sun situations at client sites (photos on those later) this year, and they performed equally well because they are heat tolerant too. I guess you could say, this plant is very versatile.

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As a container garden installer, sometimes I will have some left over plants and assemble them at home in random fashion. Thus, this year, I put together 3 plants you may not consider would “work well” together for design purposes, but they did. They were a darker variety of rubber plant, Persian Shield, and mint.

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The mint served as a cascading spiller (and was handy to cut from for summer cocktails), the rubber plant served as the large and tall thrillers, and the Persian Shield was the filler (and is of a perfect height with the rubber plant which grew taller).

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0005

I tend to enjoy foliage plants over flowering. Foliage lasts a long time (still going strong right now in mid-September) and adds a great deal of texture. In the case of Persian Shield, it has the narrow shaped leaves with pointy ends and the leaf veins and the somewhat ruffle texture on the leaf itself gives it a sense of ambiance.

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These two patio pots with Persian Shield graced the steps leading to the top level of my deck. When friends came by, they always stopped to not only comment on the Persian Shield’s coloring and beauty, but they also would reach down to touch the leaves with their finger tips. This is a true sign of a plant that is captivating.

The rubber plant’s darker toned and larger sized leaves gave the Persian Shield’s coloring a bit more impact but this plant also pairs well with softer colors, like pinks or softer purples, which is a combination I put together at a client’s full sun patio site this season (and will show photos of that combo later).

I have found the coloring of Persian Shield is best in the part-sun situations, but I would never limit it to only part sun. It tolerates the full sun situations. I watered these two pots regularly and the soil remained moist most times, although one should always be sure to not over water anything to the point of soggy. The nice thing about Persian Shield is it can take low water use as well. Again, easy and versatile.

This plant may be overwintered as a house plant, which I have not done myself, or you may take tip cuttings to root in water and hopefully keep it going to replant next season, or just run to the nursery in the spring time to get some more because Persian Shield is worth it.

In a future post, I will share more photos of how I used this plant and post about the rubber plants used in these combinations soon. They have an interesting story to go with them. 

In the meantime, enjoy the purplelicious nature of this wonderful primarily foliage plant (Note: It does bloom light purple flowers eventually but they are not very showy).

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

P.S. The beautiful photos in this post were taken by JMSArtandPhoto

Planning Ahead is required if you Want to Start Plants from Seeds

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Before going into why growing plants from seed is extremely rewarding, fun, and even spiritual, let’s discuss why planning ahead is so important.

Planning Steps

First – You need to consider our climate and planting zone because you can’t move new, tender seedlings outdoors until it is safe for them to grow. In order to plan for this appropriately, you really need to prepare a plan of when to start your seeds. Your very first step is finding out what your last spring frost date is for your planting area and then work (count) backwards on your calendar. How many weeks you need to count back from the last frost date depends on the type of seeds you are planning to sow.

Second – You need to make a calendar or chart to plan out each variety of seed you plan to sow. Making a calendar is important because if you start seeds too early, the seedlings or starter plants will be ready before it is safe to move and grow them outdoors. Starter plants (seedlings) waiting inside will start to grow too large and this will cause growing issues which may result in unsuccessful plants when planted outdoors. And the opposite will happen if you start seeds too late, you will end up not having them ready in time for the outdoor growing phase and the plant’s fruits will mature too late to harvest them.

Third – Seeds sown need to be transitioned from cell trays to larger pots, and then transitioned during a hardening off stage – all before they are transplanted into your gardens or container gardens outdoors. If all three of these steps above are not thought out in regards to timing, you could waste some valuable and enjoyable growing time of your treasured starter plants, and not to mention waste soil, water, and other resources.

While it is not as complicated as it may seem, it is a bit of a process to plan these steps out if you want to increase your chances of success. It requires some pre-planning and organizing.

The good news is, after some seasons of practice, trial and error, and success, you start to master the process and develop some of your own successful methods and routines which you acquire along the way. Truly rewarding, and a bit addicting.

So where do you begin if you are a beginner?

There are many seed planning charts out there, websites, planting apps, and helpful resources to determine all of this planning and calendaring information, but in my opinion, it is not as easy as a “click” and marking the date on your calendars.

You want to plan ahead AND make a schedule. And now (late-Feb) is about the time to do this planning effort, if not sooner. It takes a bit of thinking, organizing, and considerations.

Even thinking about how many plants you are able to grow based on your layout of containers or patio pots and/or garden space at your home is necessary. And thinking about what types of vegetables you want to grow and why – do you enjoy them for cooking, slicing, snacking, sauteing, or even grinding for flakes to use in recipes? All of these aspects should at least be pondered upon during your planning process in order to avoid some pitfalls or disappointments.

Thankfully, my upcoming “Seed Starting Sessions” are here to guide you.

I have already done much of the “planning and calendaring” legwork for my upcoming seed starting sessions in March and April. In these sessions, we will go over how to do the planning so you will be prepared when you go do this on your own next season, and we will plant various tomato and pepper seeds in large trays to grow in my greenhouse.

You will learn about the how to’s of sowing, about various soil mixes, appropriate tools and how to maintain them, and potential problems you may encounter. You will learn all of this while attending these sessions in my greenhouse, so we will go over some information on what to consider in a hobby greenhouse growing environment as well – which is a bonus.

In April, you will revisit your seedlings, see your progress, and make any necessary adjustments. Or if you wish, you may take your trays home to watch the germination and growing process while you maintain all steps there. It is up to you!

Seed selection is always key in regards to timing.

Even before the planning and calendar phases, the fun phase of selecting seeds is another important step. Starting plants from seed gives you the wonderful option of growing unique and favorable varieties based on your style and tastes. Often these unique varieties are not found in local garden centers.

If you want to sow something out of the ordinary, selecting seed ahead is important and should be planned ahead, which I have done for my upcoming seed starting sessions.

I use a trusted, reputable, and well-orchestrated seed company. We will be sowing cherry tomato seeds as well as seeds of various large tomato varieties. We have hot peppers and sweet peppers on the list. Each I hand-picked due to various traits – such as, they are reliable, easy, produce a large harvest, and yummy.

Some varieties chosen are ideal for snacking and others perfect for enhancing flavors of sauces. Some are large slicers for sandwiches and others are decorative in pots when they flower too – after all – container gardening is always key on my list.

Other varieties selected grow well in hanging baskets and some in large pots. One really special seed variety I have chosen produces 3 lb. fruit – imagine that?! And most importantly, all the seeds are certified organic, heirlooms, and/or open pollinated.

Lastly, there will be other seed types to mix into the planting trays for herbs, salads, or flowers. You will have some flexibility of choices in your large seed tray to sow and grow.

Dates of the Seed Sessions are March 23 (Part I) and April 13 (Part II):

In regards to planning ahead, now is also the time to sign up and get on the sessions list. Seeds are so fun to grow – you learn the process and are able to grow many varieties and many plants.

Some of your new seedlings you could pass along to your children or grandchildren to grow in their kid’s garden, and some you may want to give away as gifts, but I bet your bottom dollar, many you won’t be able to part with after you learn about the great aspects of growing plants from seed and value that you grew them yourself, not to mention the taste! Fresh is best – we all know homegrown tomatoes are out of this world compared to store bought – you would be nuts not to agree!

Growing plants from seeds takes some time and considerations on where you will grow them, and as started above, proper planning – but it also saves you money because you can grow so many more for the price of one transplant from a garden center. And because most of the legwork, materials, and tools are being prepared right now for my upcoming seed starting sessions, it will save you time and the need to go get materials, seeds, and tools on your own. And the materials are reusable.

And not to mention, by attending, you are gaining valuable space to put out your seed trays with heating mats to warm the soils, and natural sunlight of a greenhouse for their growing environment. If you rather take your trays home to keep them going, that is an option. We hope you will consider joining us and plan ahead.

To learn more, visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, and feel free to ask any questions in advance.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
https://www.instagram.com/containercrazyct/
Location: Broad Brook, CT

What are Container Gardens?

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Container gardening is the art of growing plants in pots. When you search the word container gardens or container gardening on the web, you may notice some people define it as growing vegetables in pots, but container gardening is not limited to just vegetables. That is for sure. You may use container gardening for so many situations and types of plants. The options are endless and with the right combination, stunning.

With the appropriate potting soil media, feeding and plant care, container gardens provide instant gratification and focal points. They operate like “functional art” in the right scenarios, bring life and amazing colors to an area, and add movement. For businesses, they are useful as well as welcoming. For homeowners, they create an oasis in your outdoor and indoor surroundings.

I have always preferred growing plants in containers designed to be focal points instead of gardening in the ground. For years, I’ve recommended installing big pots for when you want a big statement. Big pots capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced.

However, in today’s world, many people have limited spaces, and small pots or medium sized pots fit the bill. They are easy to care for, add a sense of space and nature to your surroundings, and let’s face it – are fun to assemble in various design formats. From vintage patio pots to hanging baskets, all of these are defined as container gardens in Cathy T’s container gardening world.

Big pots provide good anchorage for your large plants so it won’t topple over in the wind. Also, they hold more inches of water, won’t drain out as fast which helps in reducing watering routines. Big pots helps the plants to grow larger and showier, leading to more bang for the buck. They are great in summer for vegetables like peppers and tomato plants that may grow to 6 feet tall, and big pots are super for large, showy, big leaved tropical plants, such as elephants ears and banana plant. Want to wow your friends and family? A huge pot with showy big plants will stop people in their tracks.

Small pots are wonderful to create a floral like design to enjoy. They are also excellent for displaying a single succulent on your windowsill. Small succulents are great collectibles! Plus they are easy care, drought-tolerant, and resilient. They easily reproduce via cuttings and propagation steps. Let’s face it, smaller pots with adorable plants, such as succulents and cacti, are irresistible.

Sometimes, two or three medium sized pots work well in business or store front scenarios to direct traffic or redirect a walking path. Two large pots gracing a main entrance helps your visitors know where to go if you have two entrances at your business location. Positioned appropriately, containers or pots may assist with parking, blocking sore spots and drawing the eye to key signs. They also say welcome to your customers and visitors – and changed up for the season make your place more alive and in tune with the seasons and holidays.

Homeowners may want to include a big pot in their outdoor setting along with various smaller to medium sized pots, either way, container gardens provide a plethora of design options. Another wonderful benefit of adding container gardens to your home is helping out our pollinators. Bees, birds, and hummingbirds enjoy visiting the plants and it brings life to your world while they visit and bop around your flowers. And small pots on patio tables are rewarding visually. I can not imagine any space outdoors in summer without lots of plants, or a plant or two. Hanging baskets are wonderful as well as they add height and many are adored today with macrame and beads. It is just wonderful!

In the case with homeowners, container gardens serve as your decor, like a pillow or end table would enhance a space indoors. More and more people are expanding their living environment to include outdoor spaces. And even more are creating oasis of plants inside their homes with houseplants to enhance indoor living – especially because so many of us are glued to our iPhones and social media viewing, we need to break away and enjoy a living plant which also helps to clean our air indoors. Plants are living things and if you care for them, they will reward you in so many ways.

Container gardening is also great for those with physical limitations – no bending, weeding, digging. For kitchen container gardening, you have unlimited access to various herbs right from your door step. Incorporating vegetable plants in your home designs not only provides a healthy snack, it adds color and a place for bees, our treasured pollinators, to collect nectar for their survival. Today, we see a lot of desk top herb growing type of container systems, some furnished with lights. The new trends are interesting and just amazing – and useful. More and more people would rather have some plant life in their home and also appreciate nature and want to participate in helping our earth – plants are the key to this. Be a plant care taker, and you are part of the bigger picture – okay, a little deep – but true!

Many plants you may start right on your windowsill, especially in spring with seeds to start plants which will be later placed outdoors as soon as the spring frost passed in well, yes, containers! Grow bags used for vegetables outdoors are another example of container gardening. And in winter, seeds for micro-greens may be grown in small containers suited to your kitchen.

And let’s not forget “raised beds” which sometimes only require an 8″ depth to be successful as a mini garden where you don’t need to weed as often as you would in the ground, and you control the soil you put in it, etc. Raised beds at a higher level are great for people in wheelchairs, or people who have back issues. All of these examples are container gardening. If I could, my entire yard would be filled with raised beds. Easy to reach in and out of and easy to keep critters away if you enclose it with fencing. They are not only functional but pretty visually.

Some may argue container gardening is not sustainable, and I absolutely disagree – because when you use containers in the correct way, which sometimes involves reusing plants which are overwintered (tropical plants), you are not wasting plants. Also, containers reduce the use of heavy fertilizers or herbicides, in my opinion, because I find less insect issues with plants in fresh soil and clean pots, and don’t fertilize often when it is done right.

Container Gardening is a wonderful alternative to in-ground gardening, and doesn’t require high impact conditions which may negatively affect the environment like other options may. Soil in raised beds are enhanced once a year with some fresh compost as needed, where as soil in the ground requires a alteration at times which is difficult to achieve when working against the natural landscape components (clay, sand, etc.). You don’t need a tractor when you do container gardening either. In container gardens, it is relatively simple. I’m not knocking gardening, but to me, containers are just faster, simpler and just as rewarding.

Container gardening, to me at least, includes by definition, any plant that is put into a vessel of any type. Hanging baskets, vintage pots, terrarium bowls, patio pots, grow bags, wood raised bed frames, hypertufa’s, moss, and more. You name it. Yes, you may have to water container gardens more often than gardens in the grounds, but again – this forces you out of the iPhone addiction rut, and into the scents, sounds (bees and hummingbirds). It forces you to look up, down, all around and slow down and breath, smell the air, feel the flower petals, and enjoy outdoors, rather than having your head in a down position staring at a phone. Believe me, I know – I’m addicted to that darn phone too – we have been “conned” somewhat into staring at them – I say, prepare some container gardens this summer to help you break that habit.

Years ago, when I wanted to pick a name for my blog site, all I could think of was “container gardening” – nothing else was coming to mind, so I spontaneously called it “Container Crazy CT.” And, if you know me personally, you know it fits. I have done so many crazy things with plants – some of those on the nutty side, and others which led to amazing pieces of garden art with beautiful plants, if you will. I kind of wished though that I had named it, Container Garden Crazy CT – but that is too long of a name anyways. However, it has worked over the years and I guess I will keep it.

Happy Container Gardening!

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

When I play white noise in the house, what is my cat thinking?

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I suffer from tinnitus.

If you don’t know what that is, you are lucky.

It is an annoying and constant hissing and ringing sound in my ears (well, apparently in my head, per the experts).

It is a sound or (sounds) that could make anyone go mad. But you have to learn to cope.

So, every once in a while, to combat the tinnitus noise when I’m trying to concentrate on my office work, I will play white noise on the speakers in my house.

The sounds of rushing waterfalls, babbling brooks, or ocean waves splashing on a beach helps to deter the awful noises of tinnitus in my head. It is a distraction, basically.

I often wonder, “What is my cat thinking?” when I start playing the various water sounds which broadcasts from speakers throughout my house.

My cat, Mini, is looking a little depressed right now. She is bored to tears because she just hates the cold weather and hasn’t had much play time outdoors lately.

In fact, when she begs me for fresh air, she comes back from the outdoors screaming at me (meowwww!!!), as if this cold and boring weather is all my fault.

I just tell her, “I know. I know. It is NOT nice out. But it will get better.”

Before we know it, the signs of winter will fade away, but we also all know, it will be a while still. In fact, I’m sure we are in for some snow storms soon.

The only good thing about January (at least in my book, as of this moment) is that it is the best time to plan ahead for the season, which is what I was doing all morning – creating schedules of my workshop dates and outlining workshop details – while tinnitus danced in my head.

The proposed schedule is on my workshops site, http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, under the DATES tab. You may pop by there if you want to start penciling in the dates, which I surely hope you will.

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Removing Succulents from Pumpkins – FB Live on January 18, 2019

First up will be a Facebook Live (for registered attendees of my workshops) and then follows with Seed Starting sessions in March and April, followed by my Container Gardening Workshops in May. Then, of course, the fall and winter workshops arrive, etc.

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Seed Starting Workshops on March 23 and April 13, 2019

Just thinking about them reminds me how busy I will be when they start up, so I guess instead of dreading the blah times of January when it is cold and dreary, I should probably embrace them as I work in my home office listening to white noise while I finalize the pre-plans for all to come ahead this season. There is still much to do.

Whether Mini, my cat, will embrace January as well, (or the white noise she is forced to listen to), I will never know. I guess she has to tolerate it, just like I have to tolerate tinnitus.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

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Want tomatoes like this in 2019? Check out my Seed Starting sessions – Seats will be limited!

Succulent Pumpkins or Succulent Skulls

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Hi Everyone,

Just another heads-up!

We posted our second autumn workshop of the season and it has a groovy and spooky option in addition to the traditional succulent pumpkins centerpieces we have made in the past fall workshops.

We will be offering two options at our October workshops!

Succulent Pumpkins with Words

Swing on by to www.WORKSHOPSCT.com to learn more and get signed up early.

Here’s photos of what you may elect to make at our October workshops.

Skull with words

Skull Upfront Container Crazy CT

New this year – SUCCULENT SKULLS

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Succulent Topped Pumpkin

Pre-registration is required. See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for the details of what is included, what you need to bring, and dates. We setup our workshops for flexibility on how many you want to make and how elaborate you want to make your creations. Contact me anytime for questions.

Thank you – Cathy T.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Located in Broad Brook, CT

 

Seeds and Such – In Container Gardens

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Good morning friends,

As noted in my prior blog post – I will be offering a Facebook Live on growing edible plants from seeds in container gardens and patio pots.

The date of the Facebook Live broadcast is March 21st, Wednesday, 10:30 am EST. Just check into Container Crazy CT on my Facebook page to locate the feed.

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Edamame Soybeans in Pots – YES!!! You will be amazed at how many you get.

Couple Updates – I will have SEEDS available!

I will have a limited supply of seeds by a company which I find offers excellent quality (will review the seed company at the live session).

By this I mean, they germinate very well, have a very interesting mix of varieties which I find are unique and flavorful (and often you can’t find these varieties in stores), and also, many are selected because they are perfect for container gardens and patio pots.

Some examples are: Kale, Radishes, Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Basil, Oregano, Lettuces, Hot Peppers, Carrots, Edamame Soybeans, Cucumbers, and a few flowers too.

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Tomatoes in Containers – they were amazing last year – can’t wait to taste them again

RESERVING A SEED PACKET

If you think you would like to reserve a pack before or after my Facebook Live, please fill out the contact form below for a list and prices. (Note: For pickup’s only from me in Broad Brook, CT; no mailings).

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All Grown From Seeds – Container Gardens Filled with Edibles

Free Handouts

Also, if you wish to obtain the free handouts prior to view as I talk “Seeds and Such” at the Facebook Live, please fill out the contact form on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

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Yummy! Basil in Window Boxes.

Other Quickies – BERT’S BIRD HOUSES

I, once again, have many birdhouses available, made by my father, an old avid farmer (sorry, Dad, you are not old). He is healthier than me – not kidding – he never stops moving.

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Soon, he will be busy in the garden, but in winter, he makes these adorable hand-painted bird houses. They are made with reclaimed wood. He has MANY colors available.

If interested, contact me (see below). (Note: For pickup’s only from me in Broad Brook, CT; no mailings). Prices range from $18-$25.

Remember, the birds are looking right now for their nesting homes.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6a

CONTACT FORM – SEEDS OR BIRD HOUSES

 

Seeds and Such

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It is mid-February, we are expecting temperatures in the 50’s tomorrow and Friday, and I heard of potential snowfall on Sunday.

Yes, that is Connecticut (or New England) weather for ya! There will be days where it feels like spring is coming, and days where we are reminded winter is still here.

I just saw my first live and crawling woolly bear caterpillar yesterday on the driveway – a sign, I hope that we are all getting ready to receive spring while we wait out winter.

While we contemplate the approaching spring, now in February is a good time to “get organized and started” with planning out what you want to grow from seed (if you plan to do seeds this year).

Last year, I was behind with my tomato seedlings, yet, I still had a very nice harvest of cherry tomatoes, but I remember thinking that I needed to plan ahead for year 2018.

Believe or not, we are at the “13 weeks mark” before our last (spring) frost date – if you use the May 10th date as an estimate (which I am) of when we can expect our last spring frost here in Broad Brook, CT.

Some charts of our average frost dates in the northeast may indicate an earlier “last frost” date – towards the end of April, but I like to play it safe and go with a May date, and work back from there. It is also based on my own records and playing around with seeds which I grow in my hobby greenhouse from time to time.

Various micro-climates, your own gardening experience, where you eventually put your seedlings (for me many are put in container gardens outdoors and indoors), and how much you wish to risk it – all play into what, when, and how you start your own seeds and seedlings.

TRIAL AND ERROR

Trial and error is one way to experiment with seeds. After all, if you place a seed in soil – there is a great chance it will sprout for you. It can be fun to experiment that way, but we don’t want to waste our time or seeds for that matter either.

Sometimes I will put a seed in a starter pot just to see what happens – like I did recently with seeds from a slice of jackfruit, which I tasted for the first time in my life last week. I, did, however, look up the seed online, and didn’t see any special preparation requirements for this type of seed (such as scarification), so I plopped the big seeds in pots with soil mix, watered it and will watch and see (an experiment).

By the way, the fruit of jackfruit was very yummy. I found a big slice of it at Whole Foods and when I told the woman at the register that I was getting it just to see how it tastes, she replied with, “Well, then – it is on the house. I’m not charging you for it.”

Experimenting and playing with seeds is fun but they must be cared for or you will result with unhealthy, stretching, or badly rooted plants.

The more I started to think about seeds and reviewed my various reference books on growing from seeds, the more information piled into my head. So you have to start somewhere, and I think one of the best places to do so is …

FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO EAT

I think probably the best place to start is figuring out what you like to eat. Decide what you want to grow and where. For me, I love herbs like basil, mint, thyme, parsley. I enjoy fresh lettuces, kale, spinach, etc. I love cherry tomatoes and all kinds of peppers. Oops-there goes that long list again. Maybe narrow it down if you are a beginner.

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In my case, I plant vegetables in containers around the house and in the house. Some are started with seeds and others are seedlings I grew in advance. Thus, the timing. Looking at the “days to germination, days to maturity, days to harvest, days to transplant, etc.” on the seed packets come to play as well. That is probably step two in my book, get familiar with the seed packet.

Last year, I obtained seeds from a company I really like called Hudson Valley Seed Co. and sold them at a pop up shop last year, and I gave some as gifts to my attendees at my last workshop of the 2017 season at Holiday time.

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I hope you (if you are an attendee reading this) kept the packet in a safe place since December. And, if you did – NOW IS THE TIME to get familiar with the instructions and timings noted on the seed packet and look at your calendar if you want to sow the seeds in time for the gardening season. And note my next Facebook Live on your calendar too – see below on that.

FEBRUARY IS TIME TO PLAN AND WAIT

February is the time to look up your last frost date, mark it on the calendar, and starting counting back the number of weeks for the seed packet you have on hand.

Also, note — if you start seeds too early (getting anxious–as we all do this time of year), beware, this can lead to problems if you keep the plant (seedling) in a starter pot too long – it may get root bound, stretch for light, etc.

And remember, the more stressed a plant gets, the more likely they can get a problem. Consider the plant type before you begin, as some like cooler temps and others require warmer temps and soil. A good example is tomatoes. I always wait til Memorial Day to plant them outdoors. You don’t want to start them this early in the season.

Although I think much can be accomplished whether you do things exactly or not – it is a good idea to think it over before you begin. Next is where, if you are new, should you get your seed packets?

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Seed Starter Kits I sold at a Pop-up Shop last Season

WHERE TO GET SEEDS

Another good thing to consider, now we are at the mid-February point, is where would you grow your seeds? Do you have the right type of windows at home with light and warmth, do you have a hobby greenhouse, etc. Do you need to get grow lights, a heating mat, or other supplies? Before you begin, consider all of these things before you buy your seed packets.

Many nurseries and stores are offering seeds now. I even saw a seed rack display at Rite Aid last week. And don’t forget garden shows, which Hartford’s starts up next week on Thursday, February 22nd (CT Flower and Garden Show) – there will be seeds there. Every year, Hudson Valley offers them – check them out. I find their seeds are reliable, well packaged, and great instructions both inside the seed envelope and outside. It is a good time to get supplies from them too – or you can go to your favorite online seed sources.

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Did you happen to save any seeds from your own plants last year? I did, and will be reviewing those to get started too. There is such a nice reward when you grow plants from seeds you collected the year prior. And it saves you a bit of money.

Another item you may want to pick up when you get your seed packets is a small pocket size calendar for your records to track all, count back the weeks required, etc. The small sized calendars are handy cause you can easily file them and refer to them the following season.

You should start to organize your supplies, think about what you need for materials, such as seed starting mix, potting mix, peat pots, seed trays, watering can, etc. during this month. And since we are having warmer temps this week, why not wash some containers. I like using hanging baskets to direct sow seeds (for lettuces) and smaller window boxes (for herbs).

I will be doing some materials preparation myself this week because I want to start some seeds in hanging baskets and pots to show at my next Facebook Live session, which is scheduled on Wednesday, March 21st.

The March Facebook live will show some of the basic seed starting I’ve done (and I haven’t really done tons with seeds because almost all the time I get plants from growers for my workshops), but I will show what I know, and will focus on seed starting inside the home too.

Many seeds may be grown directly in decorative pots and kept in the home if you have the right spot. Each plant has different needs, but you may be surprised at what you can grow inside in a cool room in your home or on a partially sun lit table in a warmer spot.

As I keep reading and researching more about seeds, I feel like the list grows on what to know, but then I think also, it is a seed, just plant it.

I think the bottom line to my message here today is “plan it.” Because if you don’t, you will either be behind or too early.

OTHER SIDE HIGHLIGHTS – WEBINARS

Aside from focusing on seeds in February, I’ve been taking the time to attend plant related webinars. Today, I’m signing into one on Perennial Plantings and it will be held with a Trial Manager (meaning they trial plants as growers). They will be going over cultural requirements, water management, and fertility. I’m sure I’ll learn something new.

I’ve also attended a few other webinars, by calling in and watching the presentations, on new products out by Scotts and one webinar was focused on Neptune Harvest (which is an organic fertilizer) and plant food (which I use in my micro-green’s growing (from seed). I plan to share what I learned with my attendees at FB Lives and this year’s workshops.

I received a review of soil mixes of which some are new coming out in 2018 at another webinar this month. I take notes and plan to share the information at my first spring garden talk on April 23rd at the East Hartford Garden Club. We know there are so many soil choices out there so everything learned is something to share with you.

Keeping up with plant knowledge can be tricky as a solo-entrepreneur but I wanted my followers and attendees to know I work on it by attending these webinars now and by researching, reading, and experimenting. It’s an investment for me and you.

PAST FB LIVES

If you tuned into my last two Facebook live sessions – thank you. This idea just kind of organically started in my mind – I thought why not share now in the middle of winter some topics each month. It is a great way to keep in touch with you all too.

The first session was on how to remove the succulents from the pumpkins we decorated last October in 2017, and the 2nd was on how to make a Moss Mardi Gras mask, which to me, is so much fun. I hope you felt inspired by it and you can see all the photos on my Instagram feed.

2018 WORKSHOPS

Because I am not offering my May Container Gardening workshops this season – I wanted to give something free to my attendees to soften the blow of this news – cause I know many of you enjoy it so much – which is part of the reason why I started the FB Lives. Hopefully you are enjoying them and find them useful.

However, don’t worry, more workshops will be planned in May of 2019, and some are already scheduled for the fall and holiday workshops of 2018. The latest schedule is on the WORKSHOPS tab in my website, www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. I’m sure I will keep adding to it as we get closer to spring.

Well, guess that is all for today.

a heart iiiii

Valentine’s Box Filled with Succulents – Created by me!

Happy Valentine’s Day – Hope you receive something sweet from whomever you share this day with.

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

Offering Workshops, Plant Gifts, and Container Gardens

 

 

 

Do you still want emails?

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Hello world!

How’s everyone doing today?

I was thinking this morning, I wonder if my friends, clients, and attendees still want emails?

My stats on distributed emails shows a lot of un-opens from the past few updates sent out to my distribution list.

Is email out of favor?

My website is always here for updates as well, on what is coming up for workshops and educational sessions on plants, so hopefully, if you prefer no emails, you still like coming to read the blog and website updates.

It seems views continue to occur on my sites per my stats, so I hope if you need information and want to know the latest, you are looking here, and on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And, I find my Instagram account is being viewed.

I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram these days. I may be considered a spammer of plant photos at this point – not sure.

I just can’t help but take pics of my plants. It is an addiction of mine. They are like my kids. You never stop loving or enjoying them – and sharing news about them.

Well, if you are visiting my websites, then you will get my latest updates – I hope!

As you know, I completed my very first try at what I called a pop up shop at a bookstore this year – it was a “fast” seven months with many lessons learned and new friends gained.

I, obviously, keep having that dream of having my own plant shop – but alas, we all know the costs of that scenario – and well, I hope to have another opportunity to do another pop up somewhere – will keep you posted when it and if that happens.

For now, know that:

I continue to offer what I feel are “quality workshops” at a “great value.” Hopefully, as a regular (non-newbie) attendee, you know this! As a newbie, you will know. 😉

I sell plants always, and I coddle my plants – meaning I treat them like a newborns.

If you have a plant need, don’t hesitate to ask.

Right now, I have beautiful bird’s nest ferns, rubber plants, rabbit foot ferns, African mask alocasias, other houseplants, and, of course – amazing succulents in stock. Perfect candidates if you wish to dress up the indoors during the fall and winter.

In fact, my first session for the “Succulent Topped Pumpkin” centerpieces is this Saturday.

Get ready to learn, create, and enjoy. We will be covering a great deal of information. And the succulents are so ready for you!

The second session, at the Stafford Springs Cidery, is sold out. However, I think I may offer a mini session the week of 10/16. Or – if you have a group of 4 or 6 you think you can round up – contact me! We may be able arrange a session.

Other things coming up – my “overwintering demo” which is scheduled on 10/14, Saturday – and right now, we are having warm weather with beautiful sunshine. I hope this weather lasts, cause my plants and I are enjoying it.

But, if you want to learn about how I overwinter plants and propagate some, and deal with the houseplants we used this year, sign up soon. This session is good for those who wish to “see” how I do my process. However, you are always welcome to email any questions on overwintering too.

My schedule is so busy right now, cleaning up my workshop spaces.

You may find it hard to believe, but it can take me a full week just to set up.

AND, also, for the succulent pumpkins there is some pre-work done with the succulents to get them ready – so in all total, it takes me a month!

Yup. I think it is important to know this.

So, if you are an attendee, you know that Cathy T does a great deal behind the scenes – cause, well, I care. About you, and my workshops, and especially my plants (a.k.a., babies).

It won’t be long before I place my order for the holiday workshops in December. That is also another event which requires “pre-planning” and lots of it.

I wanted to you to know also, if you want a one-on-one private session to make any creation you see on my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site – ask.

Or if you think you want to arrange a small group – ask too. But timing is key. Because of the planning, working with “live” plants, etc.

And in November, the enjoyable and fun Shop Small day, held for our small business customers to say thank you, will take place again.

I will keep you posted, but you probably want to note the date – which is November 25th, Saturday. I’m pretty sure I will be participating at a place with other vendors – stay tuned.

If you have any questions on overwintering, feel free to reach out too – as I know not everyone can make the demo.

Here are some I’ve already been asked about handling plants this time of year:

Can I use the same soil for my container gardens to re-pot my houseplants?

Yes, if you purchased quality soil mix from me – you can. Remember, if you decide to re-pot your houseplants from your combo planters we did in May, to pick a pot size that is “NOT” large. Remember what I told everyone about houseplants and the roots. You shouldn’t pot them up into a pot that is too large, etc.

Should I spray my plants before moving them into the house?

It is “very” important to inspect your plants.

IF your plants had bug issues, that were not bad, yes, spray them if you think critters exist. I have good spray in stock if interested that is organic and attacks the pests in their various stages (eggs, larvae, adults). I can tell you more if interested, but now is a good time to get the spray.

Also, if you had a problem with a plant where it seemed infested, it is not a good idea to bring them inside when you have other healthy houseplants.

As hard as it may be, a badly infected plant should be tossed if they can not be cured. Otherwise, those critters will find their way to you other plants. However, I am hoping if you got plants from me, you were able to keep them healthy and thriving.

Look under the pots too – sometimes critters hide there. Just a tip.

Can I still keep my plants outside right now? The weather is great.

We are having a spectacular week. Sunshine, blue skies, etc. Some of my Canna plants are still blooming – and yes, many plants may be kept outside. It is when those night time temps start to dip into the 40’s – keep your alert up.

Many tropicals (Canna, Elephant Ears, Red Banana Plants) may stay out till frost – IF you are going to dig up the tubers, rhizomes, etc to store those in dry peat in your basement, which I show how, but heads-up on that.

Because our weather has been so great though, it is also a great time to want to work outside to get your overwintering clean up done before it is cold.

It is a GREAT time to wash pots, inspect your plants, pull any weeds out of the containers if they got in there, and get prepared.

So, if you want to do your storing early, I don’t think it would harm anything.

I divided that big Alocasia, which I mentioned in the last post. I re-potted a few and will store the tubers of the others. That plant got so large, I got 13 plants out of it. It sure was easier to do on a sunny day on my driveway rather than a cold day where my hands froze.

Ideally, some division is better done in the “active growing season”, but I still do some now because I can move them into my greenhouse. Better late than never.

Oh, and yes, if you still enjoy getting the emails, let me know your thoughts. I don’t want to bombard people, but also don’t want them to miss out.

Thank you,

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

 

Hello Sept One

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It is September 1st … already?

I couldn’t believe how cold it was outside, as I stepped out in my fuzzy slippers and PJ’s, to get my laptop out of my truck, in the dark, with only the sound of traffic going by.

When I returned back inside the house, I checked my weather app on my iPhone.

Wow, it’s 50 degrees at 5:30 am this morning.

Brrr…

Thoughts going thru my mind…

What?! This is chilly.

Are my little plants okay, which I left in my truck last nite too, after dinner last night?

Wow, look over there – one of my moon flowers is open. Cool. That is a sign of fall.

It’s dark out here – I better be careful to look out for skunks.

All I can hear is traffic of vehicles heading to work on Rt 140.

Do any of us ever step outside this early in the dark to look at the stars?

Brr, it’s chilly. This is too soon.

Let’s get back inside to get my coffee, and oh, little plants, looks like you are doing fine in my truck. You will go back to my greenhouse after my usual am routine, hang tight.

I’m not ready to take on fall or winter yet – but I am seeing the signs.

And, these “signs” get us all prepared to transition to a new season, right?

First, it is the chilly evenings, then transition of the evening skies feeling like they are getting darker earlier, especially on the drive home after work.

The crickets going mad outdoors in the late afternoons – another fall sign – which helps to drown out my tinnitus, so I enjoy that more than ever.

The yellowing of some of my canna and alocasia leaves on plants in big container gardens from these chilly evening episodes, which those plants will need tending to, very soon.

All summer, I wanted to divide a huge alocasia – yet, still it sits in a big pot – larger than ever now – hope I can get to that soon, or maybe I will demo that one for my overwintering demo.

The pile of empty starter pots, in the garage, on the driveway – oh gosh, I have to wash all of those before storing them – I better pick a sunny day before the full cold fall season arrives, else it will be torture.

 

The pool to close soon – really? Ugh.

I didn’t even have the pool party I wanted, well, we had some little get together’s with some friends and family – but not a full out pool party – and the yard looks great.

I’m sure the pool water is ice cold right now. How many times did we use it? Not enough. But on those days we did, it was heaven.

This cool air of fall is all too soon!

But, the biggest surprise of the change of seasons coming on is that my Holiday Kissing Ball and Wreath Workshop is almost completely full with advance pre-registrations.

What? That is 30 people signed up so far, and the limit is 35. I think I have 3-4 seats open for my first workshop. Great news – it makes me very happy and proud – but this is the earliest ever for registrations – exciting!

Other signs – besides this morning’s cold, that it is Sept “One” already, is how fast time flies by – I’ve said that before, many times, I know. Just feels like it is always moving so fast.

I’m starting to see posts of fall crafting inspiration on Facebook by friends, and a little bit of the posts on Instagram of Autumn decorating is starting.

I’m making a cuties thing in my greenhouse themed for Halloween right now – but not sharing photos yet.

But, I guess, I will be taking those to my plant shop display soon. Maybe it is not too early, with these cooler nights – and mornings happening.

All of these things get us thinking fall.

But most of all – for me – is the chilly morning I just experienced today.

Thankfully, it will be followed by a glorious full sun fall like warm, but not hot or humid day, and that is the best part of fall.

Let’s enjoy it…

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

P.S.

My “Overwintering Container Plants” workshops are on the schedule, if you are interested. I am holding it early this year so people are ready for October’s frost timing, but geesh, with the early cool temps – maybe this was timed just right. First session is Sept 15, Friday, 6-7 pm at Book Club Bookstore & More in South Windsor, CT. All details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. There will be a demo at my place too in Sept and October.

And – don’t forget – I am offering my “Succulent Topped Pumpkins” workshop again in early October and mid-October – see my site noted above for dates and details. People are starting to sign-up. It will be fun and creative! Join us!

 

 

 

Thank you for Attending!

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The Grand Opening Celebration at the bookstore, where I have been showcasing my plants, products, and gardening items, was so much fun. There was a great turnout and I met many new faces, which I want to say was so nice – in addition to having friends and family stop by.

Thank you for attending and supporting local small businesses in and around our towns. It really was a treat to be part of it all. And special thanks to the bookstore owner, Cynde Acanto, for having me part of their opening celebration day.

There has been so much going on, and I have my big container gardening workshops coming up starting soon, with the first session happening on Saturday, May 13th, which is one day before Mother’s Day!

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I have had many mom and daughter teams attend my workshops in the past, and if you want an idea to take Mom to somewhere to make her happy – consider one of my Gift Certificates. They are redeemable towards workshop registrations and plants for select items.

They are available via my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site or by visiting the BOOK CLUB Bookstore in South Windsor, CT (see address below). Each has a beautiful plant related photo on the cover.

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and I put out some themed plant gifts in the store for that – which I loved doing since I just recently traveled to Cabo, Mexico with my husband. While there, I picked up some special finds – all hand-made and hand-painted art – perfect in terrariums and for succulents. Friends stopped by to grab some right away. Especially for those special people born on May 5th – it is perfect for gift giving.

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Also, I’ve been taking custom orders at the shop along with offering new items weekly. There are terrarium kits in stock along with terrarium plants, succulents, cacti, and more. I’m also accepting one-on-one sessions if you can not make a workshops date. My friend from the corporate days came to a session and made this beautiful terrarium in a jumbo bowl (above photo). She scored bunnies that I swear look like chocolate. We had a very nice session that day. And, by the way, I’ve added another terrarium’s workshop date on June 10th. Visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for the location and time.

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I’ve made some staghorn fern wall boards with smaller boards for people who’ve mentioned they’d like one on a smaller scale. And there are seeds available by Hudson Valley Seed Co., which is one of my fav seed co’s – all 100% Certified Organic, Open Pollinated and Heirloom. Swing by before they are all gone – I’m also offering a Seed Starting Talk soon (see WORKSHOPSCT.com).

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But the list doesn’t end there – it just keeps growing. My father’s adorable birdhouses are stocked in the store, which I recently added heavy duty garden stakes to – this is a great way to put them up immediately – or put them in your big container garden. It makes a wonderful pop of color to your plant arrangement. And a home for the birds.

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Many of my friends and workshop attendees have stopped by to see all and I can’t thank them enough for showing support of my endeavors. It really makes me feel valued when they pop by and visit. I’m having so much fun and have been very busy adding more workshops and making new items.

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Don’t forget – for those available during the day, I’m offering a free container gardening talk at the bookstore at noon on Tuesday, May 9th, and a restaurant in the adjacent plaza (Red Onion) is offering a discount to my attendees if they wish to pick up a grinder to bring with them during my talk, which is on my “5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening Growth Success.” Just ask for Steve, the new restaurant owner, and say Cathy T from the bookstore sent ya. It is a 45 minute quick talk and demo since I have to get back to work immediately following. I hope to see you there.

Thank you,

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

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Address to Bookstore:

BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More
869 Sullivan Avenue
South Windsor, CT 06016
United Bank Plaza
Dunkin’ Donuts and Red Onion Restaurant next door