Workshops – Make and Enjoy! What’s Coming UP.

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I promise to get back to posting about plants very soon! But, I want to take a moment to let you now of the workshops on the 2016 Calendar. They are listed below.

We kick off the year with Floral Design scheduled for this Saturday. Can’t wait. I will share photos of our floral creations the week following.

After that, I will be at a local bookstore for an Authors & Artisans’ Event in Broad Brook. See the date and link below. Garden journals and mini plants will be available for purchase, plus floral arrangements by JEM’s. Swing by to see this quaint bookstore on Main Street and visit with local small business owners. Learn about their services and more.

However, the pace doesn’t stop there – Next is the Hartford Flower Show. If interested in car pooling from Broad Brook on Saturday, February 20th, reach out. We have a small group forming. It helps with sharing parking fees and we learn from each other as we walk and talk the flower show floor.

That’s the start of the year in February, but – wait there’s more. My annual workshops kick in from there where we “learn – make – and celebrate combining nature with art”.

For photos of prior workshops, visit my Pinterest board. We hope you will join us this year – we love meeting new friends at these events and classes.

WORKSHOPS BY DATE

February 6, 2016 – Saturday – 11 am to 1 pm
FLORAL DESIGN with JEM’S HORTICULTURE AND FLORAL DESIGN
$45 pp

February 13, 2016 – Saturday *
Authors & Artisans Valentine’s Shopping Event
Book Club Bookstore & More in Broad Brook, CT
10 am – Free to Attend

February 20th – Saturday *
Group Meet Up: Flower Show in Hartford – 9 am
Meet in Broad Brook; Car Pool

May 14, 2016 – Saturday, 11 am to 2 pm
CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP – Edibles, Herbs, Veggies, and More!
$15 pp (plus cost of plant purchases at class)

May 21, 2016 – Saturday, 11 am to 2 pm
CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP AT STRONG FAMILY FARM, Vernon, CT
Registration Fee TBD

May 28th – Saturday *
CONTAINER GARDEN TALK – HOW TO’S AND DESIGN TIPS
Ellington Farmers Market
Free to Attend – At the Gazebo at the Market

July 23rd – Saturday, 11 am – 1 pm
NATURE WITH ART CLASS PROGRAM with TIMEFLIESBYLAURALIE
Theme: Working with Wine Bottles! More Details Soon.
Registration Fee TBD

October  – Date to Be Announced
PUMPKIN CARVING & PUMPKIN STUFFING WITH FLOWERS AND SUCCULENTS
Stay tuned!
Registration Fee TBD

October 15, Saturday, 11 am – 12 pm
OVERWINTERING TROPICAL PLANTS
$15 pp

December 3rd, Saturday, 11 am – 2 pm
THE 7TH ANNUAL KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOP
Fresh Mixed Greenery, Wreaths, Kissing Balls, Candle Centerpieces
$38-$40 pp

December 7th, Wednesday, 5 pm – 7 pm
WEEKDAY WORKSHOP: KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOP
$38-40 pp

***

All workshops are located in Broad Brook, CT unless otherwise noted above.

*The items listed with asterisks are not workshops, but special events of interest.

And see our Side Bar menu on this blog for Garden Talks at various garden clubs in our surrounding towns too.

Thank you – Cathy Testa

What a Month!

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And what a year ahead…

2016 will be filled with exciting new workshops and garden talks, but I have to comment on what a wonderful past month or so it has been installing container gardens for business clients with greenery and festive fun, holding the big “Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations” workshop with 35 attendees this month, and making wreaths, kissing balls, evergreen garlands, candle centerpieces, swags, and more for clients all month long.

These photos of my Instagram feed say it all.

It’s been a pleasure serving you and I’m looking forward to the new year!

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Thank you again everyone, and have a Festive Holiday and Christmas.

Only two more days to go!

Cathy T

 

 

Why I love (and I mean LOVE) Container Gardening!

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Everyone who knows me, or has attended my container gardening hands-on workshops in the spring and summer months, is fully aware that I am nuts about container gardening. I love it. Even in winter as we stuff beautiful mixed evergreens into our pots to bring life and some color into the winter landscape – we are enjoying a form of container gardening.

Today, I am listing just some of the reasons why I love (and I mean LOVE) container gardening – and I think you should too:

It is easy, fun, and fast – Provides instant gratification! Even in winter, stuff in some greens, add some berries, and voila – You have a beautiful container garden on your front steps to welcome your holiday guests.

Cathy T Winter Pot

A Beautiful Barrel Stuffed with Mix Greens and Decor for the Winter

Container gardening takes less space and energy than in-ground gardening does to achieve success. It is instantaneous and provides lots of color and life to your yard. Just watching the plants and its visitors is good for your health. It makes you pause to view it all.

It is okay to make mistakes – This is how you will learn about plants. Plants in pots are more forgiving. You may easily fix mistakes quickly by re-potting or re-positioning the container to suit the plants’ needs, or the decor look you are attempting to achieve outdoors.

Deer can not jump onto your deck or easily visit your patio (hopefully) to dine on your plants in the containers and patio pots, and groundhogs have a difficult time reaching them too. Nice!

Your pets enjoy them – Cats enjoy them for shade in the summer, and they like to hide behind the planted pots when observing the birds or checking out the yard from different areas.

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Cat inspects the bees buzzing into a Mandevilla bloom. Little coco bowls with succulents make nice little decor on table tops.

If you have dogs, they usually like to sit by plants in pots to rest and relax after playing in the yard. They are less likely to tromp thru big pots of plants which are up high or elevated versus a level big garden inviting them to run over it and everything in it, or dig there. Setting up a garden to be pet friendly is somewhat challenging compared to plants in containers where you can monitor your little furry friends near your entertaining spaces by you, your home, doors, and entrances. Just be sure to keep any poisonous candidates out of your pots if they are the curious eating types.

Plant caddies (trays with wheels) allows movement with a slight push of the pot anytime I want, or anytime the plant wants, to be relocated if it needs more sun or more shade, a better home to view it from, etc. That’s flexibility. You don’t even need to get your hands dirty.

It is instantaneous – which is important in today’s world. Most of us want to enjoy beauty around us without too much time if we are busy with work and other fun things. Container gardening is quick, it is not too difficult to learn the how-to’s of Five Must Do’s by Cathy T – once you know them, it is simple and gratifying – and you end up being addicted.

You may use practically “any” plant – You are not so tied to your planting zones or rules because you are enjoying your plants for the summer season, you can use tropical plants and more. Don’t limit yourself to just annuals in the summer season, there are so many choices.

Drama is created with big and bold – Think different, big, unusual, and BOLD.  We like beautiful and showy backyards – and container gardening is a great way to achieve this BOLD look. Just one big plant which grows fast in a gorgeous pot will stop you and your friends in their tracks.

Copywrite Cathy Testa Concrete Planter

A HUGE container garden with showy tropical plants extends the season into Autumn (Photo Protected by Copyright)

You may create niches by grouping or staging various pots together. Potted plants will divide or connect spaces, they frame your view. It is an “extension” of your decor of your home and using some pots creates an additional room outdoors while entertaining your friends or being solo enjoying nature. The right pot can draw you out into your landscape to escape and veg’ out – something we all need to do more of, right?

Winter container gardens with evergreens dress up your outdoor space too – two pots by an entrance with greens, berries, golden or red sticks, is a way to say enter here and enjoy the holiday party. In Autumn, you extend your outdoor spaces with plants in pots that will remain until the first frost – they give so much those potted plants.

Not many bug problems or diseases in potted plants, and if there are any, you see them right away because your patio pots (and indoor house plants in pots) are usually near you. Potted plants have a more sterile environment as well, so the incidence of pests problems are less likely. If pests occur, the containers are easy to treat or quarantine.

If it fun to observe the cute visitors to your plants – hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, butterflies, bees, or even your mother in law admiring your patio pots! It helps your important pollinators – when you see bees visiting a flower, you will hear them buzzing as they go in and out to collect their nectar. It feels good to assist our little friends; we need them so lend them a hand by planting flowering plants in pots.

Bee on Turtle Head Cathy Testa

Bees enjoy a perennial (Turtlehead) flowers in a Container Garden

It helps your health – as you sit up close and personal enjoying your patio pots in your deck chair – you tend to relax, smell the aromas which calm your senses, and you take time to breath deeply – rather than think about all the weeds you have to pull from a garden bed. The distraction of admiring your potted plants in various mixed combination is a form of meditation which is very beneficial to your balance and harmony.

It is not too physically intensive, so if you have any issues with your back or knee problems, or digging in dirt in the ground with a heavy shovel is not your idea of fun, this type of gardening is for you. You may elevate pots or position them in a way for easy harvesting of veggies, herbs, and other goodness. Right outside your door – kitchen container gardens rule.

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A pot on the deck by the pool – two pots say walk here to lawn area, etc.

You can hide problem areas in your landscape, or place beautiful container gardens on your steps or patio to utilize pots as amazing focal points, or test the scale of a plant to be planted in the garden by putting a pot there first. Plants in pots are functional art – they say, “Go here, step down there, look here, and stay here to enjoy life and nature.”

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The amazing colors and patterns from an elephant ear – Colocasia ‘Mojito’

Textures and/or colors to be added to the garden later are easily tried out by using plants of them in a pot in your garden first. If you are unsure what to plant in your garden, put a pot there for a while and contemplate the look and feel of the plants’ style, look, colors, etc.

Lastly, you can create containers of lush plants, strategically place them on your patio or deck, and drink a margarita – now that is my idea of gardening and reducing stress.

And let’s not forget – during the winter, you can admire all the beautiful container gardens and patio pots you have arranged and grown from last summer as you browse your own photos or ‘Pinterest Pages by Cathy T‘ and Instagram photos – This will help you get through the winter months when there is more snow on the ground than anything.

Container gardening and patio pots are part of life today for adding beauty all around. Add a rain barrel to the area near your pots in the summer to use natural resources to water them. Keep an empty big barrel by a greenhouse or garage door to fill with snow during winter, and take it inside to melt onto the soil of pots of dormant plants being sheltered for the winter.

We all will enjoy container gardening as much as I do. I hope…

Cathy Testa
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

Anchoring Holiday Evergreens in Your Patio Pots

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This morning I read a post about collecting evergreens for container garden decorations, and it reminded me of how I once got yelled at for taking cuttings of wild berried shrubs by a roadside. Long story short, check with homeowners, even if the property looks abandoned or vacant!

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Winter Evergreens Touched by Snow and Ice 

However, seeing the post referenced above, and considering the many times I’ve put fresh evergreen cuttings and stems into patio pots and container gardens this time of year for holiday decorations, I thought I’d share the following quick tips on the how to anchor the stems, cuttings, and branches into your pots or container gardens:

Use Last Year’s Soil

Mentioned many times at my workshops and container gardening classes, leave the soil mix in the pots when you disassemble your containers in the fall season. It makes the perfect anchor for inserting your greens in winter. It is a great way to extend the life of your soil.

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Boil Some Water

If the soil mix in the pot is frozen or a bit hard from a frost the night before, pour very hot (almost boiling water if possible) into the soil or over the top. It will soften it up just enough to insert your greens. This can be a bit of a pain, but it works! This is when the soil was moist prior from rainfall or plants, but if the soil is new or dry, the opposite is needed – If you poured fresh dry mix into a pot, you will want to moisten it because it will freeze later and hold in your newly inserted evergreens and stems very well during the winter months.

Spray Foam or Florist Foam

I have not attempted this idea, but saw it last night when browsing Pinterest – and thought, ‘Hmm, perhaps useful.’ Spray foam (the type used for construction gaps and cracks in walls available in spray cans) was used in a pot to insert stems and branches. A test of this will be done – but my initial reaction was, “Will the foam come out after, so the pot may be reused again next season?”

Another technique is using green florist foam blocks in a pot as the anchor base (the type of foam used to create floral arrangements). However, I find this to be an expensive option, and reusing soil mix from the prior season works just as well.

Custom Order

Weight the Bottom

There have been cases when a very tall and narrow pot has the potential to topple over from winter winds. I happened to have some old weights from a weight set sitting in my garage, so I put a round iron disk 3 or 5 pound weight plate in the base of the pot before filling it with soil. It makes the pot very heavy, but let me tell you – it won’t budge during a winter storm. The same could be done by reusing old bricks or stones in the base, however, you will want to remove them come next season if you use the pot for plants as it may clog the drain holes, but in winter, no problem.

Snowman in Pot by Cathy T

Tiki Stakes

Attach Tiki torch stakes at the base of birch branches, thick stems, or poles and insert into the soil to attach a holiday themed decor on the top of the pole or branch. They are available in places like the big box stores, hardware stores, and online – It really helps to anchor and insert heavier items. (Note: It might be a little harder to find them in stores during the winter – get them during the summer months.)

Cathy T Winter Pot

Pot Types

And last but not least, remember not all pots can remain outside – they must be tough enough or made of material to withstand the winter conditions (e.g., cast iron, double sided pots, wood, hypertufa, tin, metal, or frost free pots). See my Page on Pot Types.

Cathy Testa
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Don’t forget – Container Crazy CT has Holiday Gift Cards Available!
Email us today to get your’s in time for the Holidays.

Holiday Gift Cards and New Workshops

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Gift Cards and New Workshops

Hello everyone,

‘Tis the Season’ to get started for your upcoming holiday fun – So, here’s a heads-up on new items and activities I am super excited to share with you today. Container Crazy CT has new workshops being offered in 2016, gift cards available for the holidays, and more.

New Gift Cards

Container Crazy CT has new “Gift Cards” available for purchase. They are redeemable towards workshops, onsite consultations, container garden gifts, or seasonal plants. Perfect for the friends and family members in your life who enjoy DIY classes, plants, gardens, containers and art fun. The card has a beautiful holiday theme cover with a colorful container garden photo.

Greet Card Gift Card

A beautiful card with container garden photo

Returning Guest Artist

Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie is returning as a guest speaker in 2016. We had such a wonderful time learning how to make her unique and eclectic wind chimes the last time she was here and she enjoyed teaching our group. As you know, Laura Sinsigallo has many talents from paintings to cute figurines for special holidays – she is a very creative person. Her program will be in April 2016 and the special Art Work to be made in class will be announced very soon.

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting - Out guest artist in April

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting – Out guest artist in April

Floral Design – New!

Mandy Mayer of jemshorticulture.com will be our new speaker at our 2016 workshops. I am so excited to have her join our list of guest artists. She designs beautiful bouquets and floral arrangements for weddings and special events. Her business is called “JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design” located in Stafford Springs, and you won’t want to miss this workshop. We plan to have her program offered in February 2016. Stay tuned for details.

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer located in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

Kissing Ball Class

The first class is full, the supplies are ordered, and the workshop space is being adorned! So excited to have NEW and REPEAT attendees coming. If you were unable to sign up for this class, mini workshops are offered during the week following the first workshop date of 12/5. And don’t forget to bring your own florist wire and decor to adorn your balls, wreaths, etc. Looking forward to seeing you!

Special Orders for Wreaths or Kissing Balls

If you would like a handmade wreath or kissing ball, please don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t forget to visit my Pinboards and Instagram pages for inspirational ideas. It’s time to get your jingle on.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa
Enhance Your Outdoor Surroundings…
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Overwintering Canna Plants from Container Gardens

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Hello Visitors,

As noted yesterday, I am beginning to disassemble, dismantle, and take apart my container gardens and patio pots.

As I do, I will share with you the photos and steps in the event you can not attend my demo on Oct 17th, Saturday.

Yesterday, I took apart one pot of Canna plants. I selected the tall red one, figuring it would be easy to show you what I do.

Canna plants may be kept in the pot and stored inside, but today’s post shows you how to store the rhizomes.

Rhizomes

Rhizomes are the storage organs which are swollen stems under the soil that usually grow horizontally, below the soil about 6-8″ from the top of the soil line in the pot.

Mature rhizomes may be cut into sections to produce more plants, but you don’t need to do that step now. Just remove them from the soil and store them in peat moss.

Other Overwintering Options

Option #2: If you have a nice sun room in your home, you have the option of continuing to grow your Canna in the pot. However, I find if you keep your Canna plants in the same container for several years in a row, they start to get crowded and tend to not bloom or flourish as much.

Option #3: A third option is to leave the Canna plants in the pot and move it to an unheated basement where it remains cool all winter, but not below freezing. The plant will go dormant and may be revived the following spring after spring frost. In this case, however, you will need to watch for insects and water it sparingly so the soil does not go completely dry during the winter.

Canna Rhizome Removal

Tools: Clean pruners, loppers, or if you are not a full time gardener with various garden tools, use a long kitchen knife (like one you would use to cut bread).

When: You may wait until the Canna plants get hit by our fall frost later in October, and many references will say wait until it gets hit by frost. However, I’ve stored rhizomes in fall before frost and all works out fine as well.

Canna Australia in a Tall Red Pot

Canna Australia in a Tall Red Pot

Cleaning: Using sharp, clean tools is important to prevent pests and diseases from being transmitted to your plants or storage organs (rhizomes). It is also a good practice to wear gloves and wash your hands as you work, and wash your pots when you are done dismantling everything.

The Steps

Step One: Cut the stalks at the base, leave a little 5-6″ stub if you want. Most important – make a CLEAN cut. Do not tear, pull, tug or make a jagged like cut – the cleaner cut the better. If the stems are thin, pruners work. If not, I like using loppers for a clean cut. If you use a kitchen knife, remember to make the slice/cut as clean as possible.

Clean Cut at Base

Clean Cut at Base

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Step Two: Remove other plants in the pot and save as needed or toss. Then remove the root ball. Usually, if the pot does not have a edge on the top rim, it slides out just by turning it over or rolling it on a table (unfortunately, for this red pot, I had to work at removing some soil inside to get it out).

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You can see a rhizome poking out of the soil here in this photo above. This can help to locate where they are but you will not always see this in every case.

Step Three: Cut off (slice off) the bottom half of the soil mass. Be careful to not cut the rhizomes which should be about 6-8″ from the top of the soil line.

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Step Four: I placed my hand to show about the distance from the top of the soil to where the rhizomes are in the soil. Start to remove the soil away from the rhizomes using your hands or tools. If you use tools, try to not damage the rhizomes accidentally — but if you do – don’t panic. Rhizomes are often cut into sections for propagation, it won’t kill them if you break one by accident.

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Step Five: Pull the stems a bit apart, they may break away freely, meaning the rhizomes will separate. Take one stem in one hand, and another in the other hand and pull them away from each other, you will see how they break away. Then clean off as much as the soil as you can. You may use a garden hose to wash them off with sprays of water, but I don’t always do this because then the rhizomes get super wet. In this case, I did to show you how they looked.

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Step Six: Trim off the stem stalks. I do this because any fleshy material stored has the potential to rot in the box of peat moss. I even trim the roots if they are super long with sharp pruners. Then let them air dry a bit (couple hours).

The last step is putting them in a container (box) with peat which I will show in tomorrow’s post.

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In this particular case, the rhizomes were on the small side, but that doesn’t matter. Each piece you save is another new plant for next year.

Crocosmia (perennial)

This summer, I put a Croscosmia perennial in a blue pot. The hummingbirds adored this plant’s blooms. It was amazing to see them zip by every day. So, you have choices with perennials too on what to do with them if you grew them in your container gardens and patio pots.

They may be removed now and put into the ground to have in your garden or if you have a garage, some perennials will come back if you store the whole pot with the un-removed plant over the winter in the garage.

You may also bury pots with perennials in the ground, but I don’t like that idea because the pot will get dirty and probably worn out more – but this is an option. This information was noted on the container garden workshop handouts in May as well (for those attendees reading this information).

Before I cut back all the foliage from the Crocosmia perennial, which was tattered by the end of the summer, I collected the seeds from this plant for next season. They may be scattered in your garden or stored for next season.

I put seeds in prescription bottles. Its a great way to recycle the bottles and the label is available – with a quick sharpie marker, I write the plant’s name and date, and store the seeds in a cool, dark place until next spring.

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The seeds are stored in pill bottles as shown above.

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The root ball was removed from the blue pot. I decided to plant it in my big cement planter after doing a bunch of cutting back of the existing perennials in the cement planter, which also has some huge castor beans growing.

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Then I put some stones around the Crocosmia to help me remember I moved it there. Even if I don’t keep it in this spot permanently, it is now saved for next season.

Crocosmia Blooms from a Prior Season

Crocosmia Blooms from a Prior Season

I love my big cement planter because the soil is so healthy and easy to work in, and dig in. Yesterday, I noticed some worm castings in the soil. This is what they look like below. It a sign the little critters in the soil are doing a great job of keeping the soil healthy. Worms increase air and water movement in the soil and help break down organic matter when they eat, leaving these worm castings behind which help the plant’s growth.

Worm Castings in Soil

Worm Castings in Soil

As noted in yesterday’s post, I sometimes put old soil balls/masses from dismantled containers into “big” pots or into gardens as a filler in the base – this is one example. The soil in this big cement planter is from former container gardens, and the worms moved in quickly. The soil is rich now.

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Begonia from Tubers (see yesterday's post!)

Begonia from Tubers (see yesterday’s post!)

By the way, yesterday I wrote about storing tubers from tuberous Begonias. Here’s a photo of the plant from this summer (see above) which I found this morning in my files.

Note: The details about appropriate storing temperature, methods, and specifics by type of plant for overwintering various plants will be covered in the demo session on October 17th. If I were to write all the details here, this would be a very long post – and I’m wordy enough! But this shows you the basics. It is fairly easy to overwinter plants but there are other tips to be learned.

Keep tuned in – more tomorrow…

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

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The Container Garden Take Down Process Begins

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Hello Visitors,

I’m posting some misc photos this week of the work I will be doing here and there as I take apart my container garden plants. This is for the friends and workshop attendees who are probably ready to do the same – and I hope the information is helpful to you. As always, ask questions if you have them!

Tuberous Begonia

For the first time, I grew a tuberous begonias from tubers. They were started in early March indoors by placing the tuber’s hollow side up in moist peat. They must be kept warm and carefully watered to not over water or under water (keep moist). Shoots began to form, but it took a while for the plant to kick in and later produce blooms, but it was worth the wait.

Three of the plants were gorgeous and showed off orange flowers shaped like peony flowers (male flowers) and rose shaped flowers (female flowers) on the same plant. The stalks of these types of begonias are very fleshy and one plant leaned over from the weight of the plant by the end of summer, and from the force of the wind during last weekend’s rain storm.

I chopped off the top of the plant using clean pruners, and then tipped over the pot and got the soil base out carefully on a table. It was fairly simple to locate the storage tuber. I will allow it to dry a bit on newspaper then it will be stored over the winter in a cool dark place. These tubers should be checked to make sure they don’t dry out during this process in the winter months.

Tubers of these types of begonias must be dug up before our fall frost hits and dried slowly before storing them in peat moss at about 45 degrees F. Wish me luck – I hope to grow even more of these plants next spring!

Showing Steps of Taking Down a Tuberous Begonia

Showing Steps of Taking Down a Tuberous Begonia

Recycling the Soil

Recycling Soil for a Year or Two

Recycling Soil for a Year or Two

If you have attended my workshops in May on container gardening, you heard me go over the soil-less mixes and what I find has worked well over the years. I’ve also mentioned that reusing soil mix is not recommended, at least not for many, many years – and especially when you keep the mix in the pot with the plant. It just doesn’t retain water well or hold nutrients as nicely when it is worn out – BUT you can use it for a year or two, or put it into a compost pile, or sometimes – I will put it in a huge pot (like my big black pot with my red banana plant – see prior post on that). Putting it into bins like shown above is helpful. I remove all the foliage and make sure none of that it is the soil bin, and I put the cover on, but I also remove the cover from time to time to let it breath as the water condensates. These bins will be moved into my garage or growing room soon to stay over the winter and will be reused next year.

Castor Bean

Castor Bean Seed Pods

Castor Bean Seed Pods cut away from a huge plant!

If you are my neighbor or you drive down my road – you have definitely noticed the crazy size of my Castor Bean plants (Ricinus) at the end of my driveway.

A woman pulled in one day, drove down my long driveway to inquire what the heck was growing there. “She had to know,” she said.

This plant made me laugh every single time I left or returned home. It is massive! I’ll share pictures of it later.

This plant is easy to grow from seed. I got my seeds from Comstock Ferre in Old Wethersfield, CT this year. The plants reached about 12 feet tall at the end of my driveway. I also grew some in the ground in my backyard.

The leaves of this giant would be perfect to make leaf castings for birdbaths! This huge tropical can be impressive and comical, as mine was this season.

Just yesterday, I thought I better chop down one because it is becoming a hazard. It is blocking the view of oncoming cars as we leave our driveway.

As I cut it down with big loppers, my neighbor yelled out, “Cathy, What did you feed that THING?!”

Ironically, I gave it the ‘liquid blue’ only 3 times the entire summer, and it was only to the one growing in the pot. The other two grown by it’s side in the ground did not get watered or fertilized at all.

The potted one got watered daily however. I would fill a bucket in my car with water every time I drove out and stop to pour the bucket of water in the potted castor bean plant.

This plant gets huge stalks, which resemble bamboo. Its odd alien like flowers turn into seed pods with burrs on them, as shown in this one clump I chopped off yesterday. It did compete with other plants in the bed part though – my white lavender plants and bee balm were hurting later in the summer as the castor bean plants took over.

Castor beans do well in full sun – which the mailbox specimens were in most of the day, but they can take part sun too. The only other thing is that bed was filled with compost when it was edged with stone, so that is another reason why the plants probably did very well in the ground there too – good soil base.

And it is a fast grower, so if you decided to give it a try next year – take note of where you place it for it will take up space and compete for nutrients and moisture of other plants in the same bed.

Also, take note – all plant parts are poisonous. It is not overwintered by plant parts – but you may save the seeds to regrow them again next year. Or just see me in May.

Red Banana Plant with Two Coleus

Red banana plant with two types of Coleus

Red banana plant with two types of Coleus (Alabama on right, Icky Fingers? on left)

Okay, so I don’t always instantly remember the cultivar names, but on the right side is Coleus ‘Alabama’, which I love. And on the left side, it looks similar to the cultivar, ‘Icky Fingers’. These plants can be saved by taking tip cuttings and rooting them in water, then potting them up to save a small portion for reuse the following season. Or they may be cut back somewhat, dug up, put in a pot and grown as a houseplant over the winter by a semi-sunny window.

As for the red banana plant, I will be showing how to store what I call the “root base” of these plants at the October 17th session. This banana is a look-alike (not a true banana plant) but who cares, right?! This plant is gorgeous when it grows large especially. The leaves are broad and this cultivar ‘Maurelii’ (red Abyssinian banana) are reddish and lush colored with trunks of red coloring. They are relatives to Musa (true bananas) and I grow, overwinter, and sell these every year, obtaining stock from a local Connecticut grower.

These plants grow tall and large in our warm summers in big pots but must be overwintered since they are not hardy. You can move it indoors (if you have the space somewhere) — And remember, if you do move it indoors as a houseplant – do it before frost. Once it is hit by frost, the leaves turn black and to mush.

Or you can dig up the fleshy root base to store it over the winter in a cool place, just like you do with canna rhizomes. You can even store it in its container, if it didn’t grow too large, in a cool dark place until our spring arrives.

The steps on how I do this will be shown at my informal session on October 17th, Saturday. It is also shown on my blog post, step by step, from last October. I recognize you may want to take apart your’s at home now, so sharing all in advance as well.

Begonia ‘Gryphon’

Begonia 'Gryphon' Zones 9-11 - A Winner!

Begonia ‘Gryphon’ Zones 9-11 – A Winner

This begonia, at the base of this container garden, impressed me this season as a container garden filler. I ordered them from a local CT grower for spring, and sold this plant at my May workshops – and it turned out to be very impressive.

The leaves grew bigger than my hand, and the dark green leaves with little bits of white were showy – and healthy, all season. It was very reliable – and low maintenance. I just loved it.

It is considered a tropical plant – for zones 9-11, but is wonderful in our patio pots in during summer seasons. This type is best saved as a house plant. I will dig it out carefully with soil around its roots, and re-pot it into a nice pot to keep inside this winter. It should be kept by a brightly lit window area; not full harsh sun, but bright area inside the home. Be aware of drafts by windows in winter as well.

Lining Them Up

Lining them up

Lining them up

Besides moving 3 wheel barrel full loads of compost, which sat on my driveway all summer, I moved the pots which were carried down from my deck last week by my nephew and his friend to be lined up like soldiers. Somehow, they look taller here than they did on the deck all summer. I will decide which to tackle today and which to keep as demo’s for the workshop on the 17th.

Check-in tomorrow to see what gets done this afternoon.

Thanks,

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

 

 

There’s some cool historic stuff at the Farmers Market in East Windsor, CT

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The East Windsor Farmers’ Market is fairly new but its being held in a place which is not. Located at the Connecticut Trolley Museum, the market tents circle around the front lawn area of the museum grounds. The CT Trolley Museum is a showcase of historical exhibits showing how electric trolleys evolved and visitors enjoy a display of various trolleys in their main building.

Father’s Day is Opening Day

This weekend, Fathers get a free ride on the trolleys in honor of Father’s Day on June 21st. The old trolleys travel down a wooded street starting from the main parking lot area of the grounds for a few miles distance, and many of the trolleys are open-aired which makes for a fun breezy ride while you hear about the trolley museum’s history.

BackTrax Band at the Market

BackTrax Band at the Market

Opening Day Features BackTrax Band

On the opening market day which is this Sunday, June 21st, the BackTrax Band will be playing. Most of the band members are from the East Windsor area and they started playing together in late 1990’s.  They practice in a local family owned barn on a farm in town and move into the bars or venues like the markets to play for anyone interested in enjoying classic rock, country, and oldies.  So while you shop the market and browse the trolley museums features, you will hear some great music.

Great Seats to Eat, Listen, Relax

Great Seats to Eat, Listen, Relax

There are plenty of picnic tables at the market as well, so why not pack a lunch – or better yet – get lunch right there. This year’s market will feature many new foods – homemade pies, veggie samplings, and even some great hot dogs or Thai food. It is a nice place to enjoy some quality time with family and support your local enthusiasts.

Cathy T last year at the market featured succulent plants

Cathy T last year at the market featured succulent plants

Free Container Gardening Talk on June 28th

Another bonus, on the second weekend of the market, which is June 28th, I will be offering a free container gardening talk at noon. Look for me near the picnic tables.

My talk will cover a quick explanation of perennials and tropical plants, along with edibles, which all work in container gardens and why you should use them – These plants offer many benefits. Plus, we will go over the steps for success with container gardening and other tidbits you may not realize which will help or harm your patio pot and container gardens’ overall appearance and health, along with some design techniques and the right soil mix to use to control the growth of your creations.

A great place to walk your dog is at the market!

A great place to walk your dog is at the market!

Lately, I’ve been getting various bug questions about container gardens – there are reasons why some insects maybe showing up in your patio pots from time to time – and ways you can manage them or prevent them from happening again. I will share insight on this as well.

Usually by this time of year, many people have finished potting up their deck pots but this season’s weather has resulted in a somewhat slow start up – Our nights have been cooler and days not as hot for the start of summer – some container plants are slow to get going, thus, this visit is a great chance to get any last minute plants you may want to assemble in time for the July 4th celebrations. I will have various plants available or you may attend just to hear my talk, which I hope you do.

Address of the Trolley Museum is 58 North Road (Rt. 140).

Address of the Trolley Museum is 58 North Road (Rt. 140).

Whatever the reason for your visit to the market – to hear music, gets some fresh locally grown food, take a trolley ride, or hear some tips on container gardening – we hope you, especially those of you local to our town, will come support the market by attending and purchasing locally grown produce from the East Windsor market vendors.

Note: The market hours are 11 am to 2 pm.

Looking forward to see you there.

Cathy Testa
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

Container Gardening Class at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT

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I grew up on a farm consisting of 100 acres of land along the Scantic River in East Windsor, Connecticut – and we had cows, chickens, a horse, rabbits, beautiful cherry trees, apple trees, blueberries, along with days of fishing in ponds, rivers, and even riding a mini-bike. Yup, I would jump on a mini-bike as a young kid, and go “outback” – which is what we called my parent’s property then and still do to this day.

There’s something magical about growing up on farmland. We explored a lot as kids. One time, I found funky shaped clay formations in a crevice where water ran off on a slope. As a child, I remember collecting them and checking them out carefully. Each was soft with round patterns and curvy shapes, formed by the action of rolling waters and clay soil on a hill side.

Flash ahead to my soil science class in my late-30’s and low and behold, our professor showed us a sample of the same thing. He said they are referred to as “clay dogs” and he found it interesting that I knew what they were immediately upon seeing him hand them out in class. He let me keep one of his samples, saying I was a soil scientist at heart. I don’t know about that, but the clay dog he gave me still sits on a shelf in my home office.

Being around nature is so inspiring – especially on a farm. In the summers, as a young kid, I sat on the side of my Dad’s hay baler to make sure the twine did not break as the square bales of hay passed by me when we rolled along in a large field. The sound of the tractor, the wind passing by, or the hot day’s summer heat would lead to more fun after our day’s work – because after we baled the hay – Dad would treat us to ice creams at Dairy Delight in East Windsor (a great ice cream place which still operates today on Route 5).

Sometimes, our trip for ice cream was in the pickup truck – we would stand in the back bed as we traveled down Scantic Road – something I don’t think would be allowed today. The breeze blew off all the hay dust from our bodies as we headed down to Dairy Delight. This is one of my very vivid memories – it was a fun ride for sure, and man, was that ice cream ever good after a hot day of baling hay, especially because it was shared with Dad.

We also swam in the Scantic River from time to time. My parents didn’t have to worry as we played “outback”, and my Mom literally rang a bell to call us for dinner time. We even had a fort and stayed over night in it sometimes. One time, our cows came scratching their backs against the outer walls of the fort and we sat inside quietly laughing – and being a little scared too, but they eventually left and our fun continued at the fort for that night.

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Picking up a blade of grass from the field to put between your fingers and blow to make sounds was a little toy on a farm as I would take the walk outback down to the river. Or collecting walnuts to eat from our big walnut tree was an experience. When you are surrounded with nature, you begin to witness life and the curiosity sets in – at least it did for me. And of course, we had a barn, a barn where we held plays as kids – setting up a stage once – and acting something out as our parents and neighbors endured our little show. The list goes on.

Cathy T teaching a class

Cathy T teaching a class

That is why being asked a second time to talk about Container Gardening at Strong Family Farm feels special to me. Strong’s farm is located in Vernon and it has been standing for 135 years, once comprising more than 50 acres on West Road and Hartford Turnpike. The farm has served as the home and workplace for more than seven generations of Strongs. Just like our family’s farm is serving generations for us too – Today my nieces and nephews enjoy the nature on the farm like we did as kids. It is fun to witness their excitement as Grandpa sits them down on the tractor seat to pretend drive – something my nephew asks for every time they visit my parent’s farm- and he even refers to my Mother as “Chicken Mom” cause he knows when he visits, he gets to go see the chickens before going on the tractor in the big barn.

Located  on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Located on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Strong Family Farms hosts various activities throughout the year, such as their “Adopt-A-Chick” program offered each spring. For a small fee, participants foster a spring chicken over the course of 10 weeks. During this time, class members help feed and nurture the young chickens. If you don’t have a farm of your own, this place is a way to share a farm experience.

Annual Programs

They also host movies on the farm and have a community garden. In the fall, they have a Annual Scarecrow Contest and Harvest Festival. Check out their website at http://www.StrongFamilyFarm.org for details and dates – it is a great place for kids’ activities and very family oriented.

Container Gardening Workshop

The farm has large yellow barns and this weekend’s Container Gardening Workshop/Class will be held inside the barn – which is a unique experience also, as you look up at the big beams in the ceilings and sit on bails of hay. Even the sun beaming thru cracks in the barn walls reminds me of farm life as a child. Birds fly by in their meadows and old antique farm equipment hangs on the walls, making us feel the presence of the many past years of farming held in this space.

The farm life is so beneficial to your health and well-being, as we know – when you grow your own – you grow your spirit too. So, if you still have patio pots to pot up – come join us – the fee is only $10 for non-members and $5 for members of the farm and it is a fun activity for kids too. There will be various plants available for purchase and you will learn the steps for success and other growing tips.

Date: Saturday, June 6th, 10 am to noon @ Strong Family Farm, 274 West St, Vernon.

Please remember to bring cash or checks, as credit cards are not accepted. Plants to expect: Some large tropical plants (drama to containers), herbs, annuals, and even some houseplants and perennials. All attendees receive documentation and Cathy T tips. We hope to see you there!

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT

Round Two – Container Garden Workshop in Broad Brook on May 23rd

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During this busy month of gardening preparations, this is a short quick post to first say THANK YOU to the wonderful attendees of Workshop No. 1 on May 16th.

It did not rain, we had tons of fun, it moved so fast, and everyone’s container garden creations with tropical plants, perennials, and annuals are beautiful.

And the second reason for this post is to remind anyone interested in Workshop No.2 on May 23rd.

Hands-On and Fun

Hands-On and Fun

To Register, fill out the Contact Form below
or text at 860-977-9473

Each Attendees Receives Instructional Booklets and Plant Catalogues

Each Attendees Receives Instructional Booklets and Plant Catalogs – Plus a GIFT bag

It’s DIY, Educational, Plant Filled, and about Potting Passion!

Cathy T shows how to work with color echos in your pots.

Cathy T shows how to work with color echos in your pots.

We Make Big Pots – for Big Statements!

Beautiful Creation by Attendee Donna at last week's class - Love the dark tones and textures!

Beautiful Creation by Attendee, Donna, at last week’s class – Love the dark tones and textures!

Cathy T talks about why Big Pots are important for Container Gardening

Cathy T talks about why Big Pots are important for Container Gardening

Attendees Get into the Zone - The Pot Planting Zone

Attendees Get into the Zone – The Pot Planting Zone

Talk about FOCUS! :)

Talk about FOCUS! 🙂

Awaiting Delivery After Class - So Pretty

Awaiting Delivery After Class – So Pretty

More photos will be posted in the near future – Stay Tuned.  Enjoy your Containers and Patio Pots!

Cathy Testa

Container Crazy CT

For More Information:

CLASS DESCRIPTION