Time is moving so fast…

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Something surprising is happening – I’m receiving registrations for my annual December holiday workshop now – in the middle of August.

Last year, it was in October when registrations began, but August – wow – thank you.

I think it is a testament to the effort I put into all of my workshops to make them fun with quality materials. And because of your continued support and attendance, I am able to keep my workshops going and offering them as a great value.

What I mean is, I work hard to make all my workshops “quality” – from providing a warm atmosphere to offering quality materials. And when plants are involved, which in most cases they are, I make sure to offer healthy, thriving plants.

Since being at the bookstore in South Windsor with a temporary vendor/pop up plant shop this season, I’ve heard repeatedly from customers, “Your plants are gorgeous.”

Believe me – it hasn’t been easy, because after all the bookstore is not a nursery environment per se – but fortunately, the space there has beautiful bright in-direct light for my various houseplants showcased. The many plants and plant gifts available for purchase there are doing well – and they are available while supplies last so swing by soon if you can before summer is out.

Even my stag-horn ferns on wall boards continue to do well there. It is proof how well various houseplants will thrive with bright indirect light, and in some cases, fluorescent lighting. You don’t need a really full sun type of room to enjoy many houseplants. Many will do fine in home environments where some light is cast or there is ambient lighting.

I also maintain many types of plants in my private greenhouse from perennials, tropical, cacti, and succulents – where there is various sunlight situations, because some are put under shade cloth, while others are in full sun spots in the greenhouse – and I coddle my stock of plants for use at my workshops and for sale to anyone interested.

It takes me two hours every morning to water my outdoor container gardens and inspect my stock plants, making sure they are doing well, and give them plenty of coddling.

I tell myself every year, don’t put out so many containers at the house because I become a slave to them – but I truly can’t help myself. That is like trying to ask a fisherman not to buy another lure – or a shoe fanatic to not purchase a new fancy pair of shoes.

In addition, when I set up my workshops, where we combine nature with art – I do a lot of extras in advance so all is well-organized for my attendees, which I really don’t think others would take the time to do.

For example, for my terrariums workshops, I wash every bubble bowl by hand to make sure they are sparkling, and I package materials, rinse items, and again, make sure all the plants are doing well or get them fresh from growers for each session.

Sometimes, preparing for a single workshop takes a whole day of time. Truly. You may find this hard to believe, but it does. Of course, I want to make the whole package right for my attendees so all is well-organized. Is that going overboard? I don’t think so.

Again, it isn’t always easy – there are so many challenges, but I continue to be obsessed with my plants and workshops. I’m always taking pictures of my plants too – it is to the point, I could be classified as a plant paparazzi. Good thing plants are not shy. The photos are posted daily on my Instagram feed.

But I love it all – and I’m so happy my regulars and new attendees love it too. Thank you again for supporting my small business. I could not be doing any of this without my loyal fans and new plant friends.

As I mentioned in the title of this post today, time is moving so fast – it has been a fast and fun season and now fall is approaching already – summer is almost over, and I’m so excited to be offering more workshops this Sept, Oct, Nov and of course, DECEMBER.

In the meantime, maybe I can grab some beach time between my workshops before summer is gone.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.CONTAINERGARDENSCT.com
http://www.CONTAINERCRAZYCT.com

For my various locations and workshop venues, please visit the LOCATION tab on my workshops site. Thank you. Cathy T.

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Cathy T takes up-close photos of plants in her greenhouse. She is a Plant Paparazzi!

Snow -Go Away! I want Spring!

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Happy Friday Everyone,

Well – there it is – snow – ugh! After yesterday and Tuesday’s beautifully sunny days, I don’t want snow.

I’m in spring mode already – I have been offering demonstrations on Microgreens this week, setting up my display items at a new venue (BOOK CLUB) in South Windsor – and ordering and planning all for Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops.

It is never a totally easy process as one may think. There are lots of steps involved, but so far – all is good. We are ready for you.

So for today – here are upcoming highlights:

FREE PRESENTATION – TOMORROW

To kick off my showcases at the relocated bookstore, BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More, I am offering a FREE presentation tomorrow, Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

This presentation is about “Six Design Tips for Container Gardens” – and it is a slide type presentation which covers tips on how to design large and lush container gardens.

If you struggle with this aspect of your patio pots and want to learn some great tips – come on by. These tips will help you – and the first 10 or so people to arrive receive a free plant catalog.

Following the presentation, browse the bookstore’s offerings and Container Crazy CT’s showcases of Plant Gifts, Succulents, Terrariums, Wall Art, etc.

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BOTANICAL LIVING WALL ART

Speaking of wall art – This workshop is coming up. Registrations are still open but we are nearing the time when we need your confirmations. If you clicked ‘going’ on the EVENTS pages, please click CONFIRM to reserve your seat and items.

This workshop is being offered on two dates. First one is March, 11, Saturday at my Broad Brook, CT location and the 2nd session is March 22, Wednesday at the BOOK CLUB’s South Windsor location (869 Sullivan Avenue in the United Bank plaza).

For the Newbies interested, pre-registration with confirmed payment is required. Be sure to read our guidelines on WORKSHOPSCT.com. Due to a limited number of seats and plants – if you want in – now is the time to confirm.

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GREATER HARTFORD WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

The conference has invited me to speak on March 28th at 10:30 am. It is an all day conference at Maneeley’s, 65 Rye Street, South Windsor and registration is required.

My topic will be on Micro-greens – and Starter Kits will be available for purchase or order following my demonstration.

Again, my session is being held from 10:30 am to 11: 15 pm. There are many speakers and topics at this conference – a very well-known event packed with information geared towards a theme of, “Focusing on Energy in Your Life.”

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MICRO-GREENS DEMO AT BOOK CLUB

If you can not make the session above, I will be offering my demonstration again on Friday, March 31st at 5:30 pm. Pre-registration is recommended. Fee is $10 to attend. Again, you have the option to purchase Starter Kits following the demonstration.

Everyone loves trying it out after they learn how to grow Micro-greens easily. It is a perfect “wellness” topic – because micro-greens (and sprouts) are packed with nutrition. I highlight this aspect as well at the demonstrations.

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TERRARIUMS IN APRIL

As noted on WorkshopsCT.com, terrariums are on the list of topics – and perfectly timed for showcasing them at your home for the Easter weekend! But Easter is not the only theme you may use, there are many. We plan to have slow growing plants and succulents for this workshop.

Dates are: April 8th at Book Club, and April 12 at Container Crazy CT’s location in Broad Brook, CT.

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EARTH DAY

In honor of Earth Day, I’m offering my second free presentation at Book Club on April 22nd, Saturday at 12:00 noon. It will be on the “5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening Growth Success.”

If you are new to container gardening or have had issues with your patio pots in the past and don’t know why your plants don’t thrive – this session is very beneficial. We hope you will join us.

GRAND OPENING

The Book Club Bookstore is holding a Grand Opening on April 29th. Check out their Facebook page or bookclubct.com for details. Author appearances are in store (literally). And what is even more exciting, is the authors on this date are local South Windsor Authors.

The bookstore has a wonderful selection of new and pre-owned books, and the owner, Cynde Acanto, is very helpful and knowledgeable. I’m in awe of her book knowledge and I have a feeling I am going to be learning so much there from her customers too. My head has been stuck in gardening books so much, but now I’m learning about so many genres. The store has many gardening and plant books too.

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PLANT GIFT CHANGE OUTS

As for my showcases there as a permanent vendor, I plan to “change out” plants regularly – so as you come by for a visit, bear in mind, it will be ever-changing for each season. Expect to see a variety of plants, and creative ideas on how to use them. Special orders may be requested. Grab a pamphlet to learn more while there.

MY HOURS

My regular hours at the store are 10 am to 6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. – and of course, I am still operating out of my Broad Brook location every day of the week.

Address again:

BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More
869 Sullivan Avenue, Ste. 6
South Windsor, CT 06074
(860) 432-7411
http://www.bookclubct.com
Pre-Owned & New Books – Author Appearances
Book Discussions – Gifts & Cards

Now, snow – please Go Away. I don’t have time for you…

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

 

 

 

More about Container Crazy CT’s new venue in South Windsor

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Hi Everyone,

I’ve been getting the word out about a new venue where I will be available every Tuesday and Thursday starting March 11th at a bookstore, BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More, in South Windsor opening March 1st.

When my sister, Louise, asked me what will I have at the store, I thought it would be a good idea to set the vision so my attendees will know the scoop.

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Many times people have asked me at farmers’ markets and other pop-ups where they can find me, well, this will be the place.

TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS

My regular days will be every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm, where I will be there to answer questions about plants, workshops, and well – I’m sure gardening books!

Since this store is a bookstore, you will find many new and used books, and the store also hosts special author appearances and regular book club discussions.

Nestled among the books will be Container Crazy CT’s items for sale and some plants, etc.

WORKSHOP PROTOTYPES

Every month, the game plan is to showcase workshop creations at this location. This way attendees may see what we will be making at scheduled workshops being offered at the bookstore for smaller groups.

SPECIAL ORDERS

Additionally, special orders may be placed with me for pickup at the store any day of the week based on requests. My large stock of plants will be maintained in my greenhouse at another location, but will be made available to you. It will be an exciting season to say the least.

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LOCATION

The store is conveniently located off of Sullivan Avenue in a United Bank Plaza at 869 Sullivan Place. As you enter the plaza, look for the bookstore on your left. It is only six miles from Broad Brook.

There are many other nice stores there too – a huge pet store, a massage and fitness facility (heard the yoga classes are great there via my other sister, Rosalie.) And I just met the owner of the health facility yesterday when I delivered some tables to the store. He was very pleasant and we discussed how my healthy and nutritious microgreens growing demonstration in March may be of interest to his clientele.

My setup will be somewhat in transition because I am traveling next week – where I will be including tropical plant research in my adventures – and returning just in time for the opening – which is March 1st. Expect to see change outs as my vision evolves.

FIRST FREE PRESENTATION

To kick off my first official day there, I will be offering a free presentation on “6 Design Tips for Container Gardens” on March 11th at 10:00 am. We ask that you register on the bookstore’s Facebook events listing as seats are limited.

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NEW WORKSHOPS ADDED

Container Crazy CT will continue to offer workshops at her usual location in Broad Brook, but now we have added this new place with more dates, plenty of parking, and more. Some of the workshops recently added are Botanical Wall Art (March), Kokedama balls (dates to be posted soon), Terrariums (April), etc.

See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for all the dates and information.

STARTER KITS

We will have kits available for special features, such as our microgreens growing kits, available at the workshops or by request. This is another vision I have – making kits for you so you may elect to create an item at home on your own if you wish.

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And you know, I am so ready to plant up these containers framing the bookstore’s window, as soon as spring arrives. See you there soon!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Owner of “Cathy T’s Landscape Designs” and “Container Crazy CT”
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

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Plants Around the Coop

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It’s Friday again!

And here I am, posting pictures from 2016 in the order of being downloaded to one massive folder.

Here’s the next 6 or so…

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This photo is from the back side of my chicken coop. I attempted to have chickens here at my home 3 times, but it doesn’t work out due to predators in the woodland area around my yard.

The first time we got chickens, we attempted to let them free range in our yard after they were here for a while.

One night, after getting back from dinner, one of our chickens was roosting on the railing of the steps by our home’s entrance door. We were surprised to see it huddled by the corner of the house on that railing.

This was odd, and I suddenly remembered that we forgot to close up the chicken coop before going out to eat!

Steve carried the chicken back to the coop in our backyard, but unfortunately, he was greeted by a trail of feathers from the chickens which were not so lucky – or as smart as this one. A predator had gotten them all.

Every time I attempt to do another round of chickens, they get attacked or stalked. The chickens would go to neighbor’s homes to free range and this would frustrate me. I thought, “Why on earth won’t they stay in my yard? It is huge, there is a luxury pen for them, and what more could they ask for?!”

A farmer once told me it is because they feel threatened, and this made sense. We finally gave up on trying to have chickens here. Too many foxes and coyotes.

The chicken pen and adjoining enclosed coop have been empty, and I’m trying to think of what creative way to use the pen part – which is covered by two beautiful kiwi vines which produce a bit of fruit each season now (they require about 5 years to produce, and require a male and female plant.)

As far as the enclosed part of the chicken coop goes – it has become a storage shed.

The photos above are of that ‘now shed’ on the back side. I put an old pallet box I found there and filled it with left-over soil from containers or projects.

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Last year, I plopped one of my elephant’s ears into the wooden box pot and somewhat forgot about it. When I take a leisurely walk through my backyard, I stop to take a look and snap some iPhone photos.

Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’

This elephant’s ear is Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’ from the Royal Hawaiian (r) Series. And it is one of my favorites of the elephant ear world – although I have many.

A zone 9-11 plant, not hardy to our CT planting zones but easily overwintered, is from “John Cho and the University of Hawaii’s breeding program.”

‘Blue Hawaii’ is named as such probably for the obvious reason that its veins on the leaves look purple-blue, and it is striking, to say the least.

I just love it. The two photos above of it were taken mid-autumn. Before or right after frost, I lift the tubers from the soil to store them for the winter because they are not hardy to our planting areas, but easily regrown in early spring inside the home and then transitioned to the outdoors when the summer temperatures are warm enough (same timing as tomato plants).

As you may know, I offer a demo day to show how I store plants such as these every Autumn. This year I’ve added a new date to provide a demonstration a bit earlier because people want to repeat the process at their own home, so this will give them time before frost arrives.

There will be three sessions on Sept 27, 2017 (early session), Sept 30th (early session), and again on October 14th, which is near when we will probably have our first fall frost.

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In front of the enclosed portion of the now-empty coop, well empty of chickens but filled with supplies and remnant smells of chicken poop, is a lovely Hellebore perennial.

I can’t recall which ‘cultivar’ this one is named from, but it is growing so well in this spot – which makes me especially happy – because I ordered a tray of these one year per a client’s request but never heard back from them when the plants came in.

No matter, I ended up selling them at a market and had one left over for here.

Hellebore

Hellebores are plants which I consider excellent performers in the foliage category for gardens, container gardens and patio pots.

They are reliable, long-lasting, have beautiful semi-evergreen beautiful coarse, solid, almost rubbery like foliage – the leaves are tough and thick – and deer won’t eat them.

In containers, they make long-lasting fillers and of course, they bloom, but the blooms on most species nod-down. When taking photos of the blooms, I need two hands so I can turn the flowers to face up to show their beauty. They are stunning – almost rose like.

Hellebores (Helleborus), a.k.a. Lenten Rose, are easy to grow in my opinion. I’ve started to slowly collect them over the years. They like part sun to part shade, full shade, and tucked in the right corner in sun with good part shade part of the day, they do fine as well. I have them in moist areas in deep shade, and areas with part sun – they seem versatile to me.

These plants have a certain elegance to them. I recommend them for use in both container gardens and gardens of the ground.

Oh, and by the way, they bloom very early in the season, sometimes even when there is still a bit of left over snow on the ground. There’s nothing like seeing a bloom in February or April when our plant world slowly awakens from a winter’s slumber.

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Quiet opposite of the Hellebore’s blooming time is the bloom time of Anemone (windflower), shown above, which blooms late in the season, not early.

Anemone ‘Margarete’

Anemones were in a big pot in my backyard which housed a big red banana plant (Ensete) and some other fillers. I had to wait a long time for the anemones to bloom because this cultivar blooms in September, but it was worth the wait.

This type of plant is what I refer to as a “welcoming” plant in your container gardens. It is the one people will be drawn to for its beauty and feeling of remembrance from when they used or are using the same plant in their gardens. Or maybe it will be a memory of their Grandmother growing them, but I feel they are welcoming and charming.

This one is a Japanese anemone, called Anemone x hybrida ‘Margarete’. Like the hellebore, it is deer resistant. It likes full sun to part shade and is hardy to our CT planting zone. I am expecting them to return in the pot which is rather large and filled with quality soil, and right now, in winter, covered with a board and tarps to protect it.

I selected this one for my container garden workshops because of the color and doubled petals. Oh, and the stems on this one grow very tall – up to 30″ – which made it a perfect candidate next to my big banana plant. If it were a short one, it wouldn’t have amounted to much in regards to structure and scale in the pot with the other companions.

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The last two photos in this Friday’s series of 2016 photos are not from near the chicken coop but by my house.

On the north-west corner, one photo of my red banana plant (2nd photo), that did pretty darn well. This photo was taken at the end of the season. It will be my next monster plant – year two on returning it from its winter sleep this year, or year three. I’m starting to loose track!

The other photo is of an urn I keep on my front steps year-round. Urns are great for that. They may be used all season and kept outdoors because they won’t crack and are tough.

Starting in spring with spring candidates in the urns, and even in winter with greenery for the holidays. I am happy I picked up these two urns a few years ago – each has a drain hole too which is required for plants to do well in container gardens.

Begonia ‘Lady Francis’ and Ruellia

I was super-duper impressed with this Begonia ‘Lady Francis’ in the urn last year. I selected three types of begonias for last year’s container gardening workshops – and boy, I’m glad I picked this one, and the others as well (‘Gryphon’ and ‘Dragon Wing Pink’).

But ‘Lady Francis’ had something other than the typical beautiful (and welcoming) flowers all season long, typical on begonias – it has darker foliage.

Treated as an annual in our CT planting zones, this plant is a hybrid with bronze-dark mahogany leaves and lots of double, pink flowers – but the foliage was full and lush all season long, which impressed me. And it was easy to grow.

From a container gardening perspective, it is a beautiful filler.

Begonias really rock it in container gardens.

This urn is at the front of my house which gets mostly shade and stays cooler, but it did fine. I would roll the urns a bit to the edge of the steps to make sure it received some sunlight when, in late afternoons on the north side of my house, the sunlight hits that spot.

As I mentioned, the foliage is a bonus on this plant because it adds a dark tone to combinations in pots – something very useful when designing your combinations.

I want to mention also, the filler tucked in the corner was a different one which I really liked last year. Called Ruellia (false or wild petunia). It is not hardy, but easily over-wintered, so it may be regrown the following year.

Ruellia or false petunia has leaves that are blade like and produces trumpet-shaped soft purple flowers – at least this variety does. It can take full sun or part shade to shade. This one is compact so it stayed low and tucked in the corner. The flowers bloomed in late spring and mid-summer. I feel it did better than a typical petunia, it lasted a long time and the flowers looked great.

Well, that’s it for this Friday. I have a busy day ahead, and busy weekend.

Have fun during the Super Bowl too if that is your thing!

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

For information on the fall demo and our upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

Upcoming Activity:

Feb 8, 2017 – Wednesday – Down to Earth Garden Club Presentation
“Six Design Tips for Container Gardens”

Feb 11, 2017 – Saturday – Floral Arranging Workshop
Broad Brook, CT by Cathy T and JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

Mar 18 and 22 – Sat, Wed – Botanical Living Wall Art Workshops
New this year! by Cathy T of Container Crazy CT

Stay tuned for more.

Thank you – Cathy T.

Wine Bottle Garden Art Workshop Day

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Hi Everyone,

Here’s a recap of our workshop day with Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie. We had a great time creating what we called, “Garden Art Creations with Wine Bottles.”

wine-glass-art-workshop-day_0004Each creation had its own unique touches or embellishments which held a special meaning to the attendees.

For example, I included a cork from a champagne bottle I had opened when celebrating a milestone. The cork sat in a box waiting for a special place, and having it be part of my wine bottle art piece was perfect.

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Another attendee brought corks along with a horse image on them because she is an avid horse lover – equestrian to be exact. She used her corks along with a balanced mix of colors in her bead selections for her piece.

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During our workshop I stated, “Crafting is good for the soul” — and this I believe to be truth. When you sit quietly focused, your mind wanders a bit as you start working with your hands. It is very therapeutic. At times, we would start up conversations – and during other moments, we were focused on our pieces and in the “crafting zone.”

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I’m grateful we had Laura here again to be our guest instructor. She is a mixed media artist who creates paintings ranging from pets to nature to whimsical objects and anything in between. Her business is called, timefliesbylauralie.

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As I’ve stated many times, I love her art style and art work. Just look at these adorable pumpkin figurines and her magnets. She has many, many more pieces and appears often at shows around Connecticut.

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And at our workshop, we each were given a antique hand-stamped spoon to add to our pieces with “wine themed quotes.” She also sells spools at shows.

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During our workshop last Saturday, Laura took the time to go over each step, and rather than attempt to cut our wine bottles during the class which would have taken a huge amount of time, she pre-cut them all for us and explained the process to attendees.

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She also taught us about types of wire to use and why, how to assemble and work with the wire and each embellishment, and shared stories of her art and methods.

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Each piece created by the attendees during this workshop was different. For example, one attendee used soft pinks in her bottle. While another used warm and hot tones for colors.

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I included little charms with the words like Hope, Dream, Wish, and “Love what you do, Do what you love” on my wine bottle. In addition to using the special champagne cork I had saved, I used a bottle a friend gave me a while back so the bottle itself was special.

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There is so much you could add to “adorn” your bottle, as Laura would state – she used the word “adorn” quite a bit. She got me so inspired, I’m already starting on another one – which will be a witch Halloween theme. I will be sure to post the photos of it when done.

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The date of the workshop was geared for the transition from the end of summer and entering our upcoming fall, however, I learned so many other interested attendees wanted to attend but had conflicts due to final end of summer vacations or plans.

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So, I think next year, we will shoot for the third week of September so more people can make it – providing we have Laura return again – which I’m hoping she will.

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Speaking of Laura – I want to say, “Thank you again, Laura – You are a born artist and exceptional teacher. We appreciate your time, generosity, and spirit at our Container Crazy CT Workshops.”

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

UP NEXT:

Overwintering Plants, Oct 15 – Learn to store Canna, Ensete (red banana), Colocasia (elephants ears), and other plants so they may be regrown next spring in your container gardens.

Growing Your Own Nutritious Soil Sprouts, Nov 5th – Learn how to grow soil sprouts via an easy 5-7 day method for harvest indoors all fall, winter and next season.

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JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design – Next Guest Instructors

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The first time I attempted floral design at UCONN during my studies, it was awkward for me. I found it to be rigid and required a great deal of attention to balance, form, and structure. I remember my instructor was very formal and went over all the exact steps on how to do various floral design styles in each class which had to be followed in a very specific order. There was no playing around with the arrangement as we worked. It made me feel like I didn’t have the freedom to bend the rules.

Perhaps my frustration had to do with the feeling that I just didn’t have a natural talent for floral design, which is kind of odd to me because I enjoy putting together plants in container gardens and patio pots. For some reason, plants with roots attached versus plants cut from individual flowering stems, have always been easier for me. The process of selecting the plants by texture and color comes naturally as I insert them into a pot of soil, but floral design is a little different – because it requires a methodical approach.

However, I believe many people have a natural talent for floral design. They have an eye for how the parts come together in an arrangement – stem by stem. After all, when you arrange flowers in a vase or in glass container for display, you need to have each stem cut at certain length for the appropriate height and balance. The individual pieces must work together in form and function.

When I see beautifully arranged floral designs on the web, I always pause and admire the creator’s work, and that is exactly how I felt when I visited JEM’s Horticulture and Design’s website for the first time. Each floral arrangement made by the designers of JEM’s for various weddings were perfectly formed and assembled with really, really pretty color combinations based on various themes for each wedding they serviced – and I thought, their designs are traditional as well.

JEM’s Horticulture and Design

The art of floral design requires some basic skill to get started, which some people master over time, and I would have to say JEM’s Horticulture and Design has accomplished this. But, I didn’t know of them because I happened to browse their site accidentally. I met Jeff Mayer, owner of JEM’s, when I started my first nursery job after finishing courses at the University of Connecticut. At that time, he was new in the horticulture world, somewhat – but I was very new. We both had just acquired positions at a garden center and started chatting there as newbies. I was a career changer in my late 30’s, he was just starting his career in his early twenties.

Jeff and I started either on the same day or same week at the garden center. I can’t remember now exactly because that was over 8 years ago, but I remember we were learning our new jobs and getting acquainted with the regular long-time employees at the nursery.

As I got to know Jeff, he would sometimes offer me tips when I started drawing landscape design plans for customers of the nursery. He never mentioned to me that he had a degree in landscape design, but would try to help me whenever he could between moving quickly from the office floor to the nursery floor outdoors.

We also would joke about things from time to time, share plant passion comments during our daily work – and, I genuinely enjoyed Jeff’s company although he is half my age! Eventually we both moved onto different arenas in the plant world. We lost touch for a while, but we were both noticing our work online.

Fast forward to today. Jeff is a Head Grower of a very large grower based out of Cheshire, CT called CK Greenhouses. This is impressive. This growing facility sells to both to independents and big box stores – they process huge orders – into the thousands of plants.

In the winter time, Jeff has posted photos of their greenhouses filled to the brim with red poinsettias which is amazing to see as the miles and miles of bright reds, pinks and whites fill the scene. It’s incredible how many they grow there. And being a plant person myself, I know this effort requires horticulture expertise and talent.

One day last year, I decided to text Jeff to ask him a question about an insect problem I was having on a plant, and I took the time to tell him how I admire his progress in the horticulture world. He replied that he admired the creativity of my container gardens which he saw via my postings on Facebook. The bottom line is – even though I am not nearly as advanced as Jeff is with plant knowledge, we both seemed to find our niche in the plant world. And we both appreciate the differences of the working worlds we are experiencing today.

What I didn’t know was he and his wife, Mandy, started a floral design business in 2009. It started with their own wedding actually. It was the very first time they formally made arrangements, centerpieces, and corsages for a wedding. They decided to start offering their floral designs as a team and named the business JEM’s Horticulture and Design, with JEM’s being a play on their first names and sounding like “gem.”

As you can see from this photo from their wedding day – they didn’t do a shabby job for the first time creating wedding arrangements in colors of the reds, bright yellows, and warm oranges to represent an autumn wedding date of October. Their adventure of providing floral services for weddings and funerals took off from there. They have serviced over 15 weddings to date, and as you browse their links on the website, you will see the various colors used for each theme and season.

Jeff is a graduate of The University of Connecticut with a degree in Horticulture and also a graduate of The University of Maine with a degree in landscape design. With his two degrees and experience as a head grower, you can imagine he has a wealth of knowledge about growing various plants, trees, and flowers. However, I didn’t realize what a talent he had for floral design arranging until recently.

Mandy, whom I met for the first time when she and Jeff met my husband and I for dinner, said she learned the skill of floral design from Jeff and their friend, Dory. Dory lives in Maine where Mandy is originally from, and it is where they delivered floral wedding arrangements for Kurt and Cindy, among other friends from that area. They designed the bride and bridesmaids bouquets as well as the centerpieces and arbor flowers. Personally, I absolutely love them – the whites, pinks and soft rose color are gorgeous in the photos shown from Kurt and Cindy’s wedding day.

Mandy describes herself as crafty but she said she doesn’t have any formal training in floral design outside of what Jeff has taught her, and her friend Dory who has a background in floral design also taught her – so there you have it – some people are gifted at floral design – and I think she is, based on all the arrangements they have done for friends and family ever since they did their own wedding arrangements.

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Mandy has an eye for the colors and what would go nicely together, per Jeff’s description of her style. And she says, Jeff has the eye for texture and how to shape an arrangement. He is very symmetrical with his floral designs, something, which I noted earlier, I do not. This is something you learn and master, or perhaps have a natural ability for doing.

Jeff has done everything from small corsages to large arrangements. While he may appear as the master mind behind their floral design business at JEM’s, in just the one dinner meeting with Mandy, I was impressed with her talents and the way she spoke about everything we discussed. She is a very smart young lady and has a keen sense for business.

Funeral Arrangements by JEM

We had the best time talking that evening over dinner, and I probably was over-talking because I was so excited to talk plants, flowers, and workshops with them both – all the while, my husband, Steve, quietly listened and ate his Italian meal with no objections. He was probably admiring the connection between us as plant enthusiasts.

Floral Design Workshop

There are specific things to learn about floral design from how to cut stems, ways to store them, and how to prepare the water for long lasting pieces, and you may become a master or be like me, coming along slower when it comes to floral design – but I do know this for sure – creating as a group in a workshop energizes everyone attending and participating. It is inspiring to share a space, learn, and create – Thus, I was super thrilled when both Jeff and Mandy accepted my invitation to teach a class this year as part of Container Crazy CT’s “Nature with Art” class programs. This workshop is scheduled on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 in my Broad Brook classroom. Start time is 11 am.

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We timed this workshop so attendees may make their floral design arrangement just in time for Valentine’s Day. This workshop is a great way to share time with your mom or daughter making your very own floral arrangement and taking it home to display, or to gather up some friends to create your arrangement.

Our feature flowers at this workshop will be Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily), spray roses (clusters of blooms on one stem), carnations, spider mums, mini carnations, daisies, and Ruscus (evergreen foliage). Additionally, attendees will have the option to buy a container at class (two types will be available) or bring their own of an 8” diameter. In addition, they will have the option of purchasing some special bicolor carnations, additional spider mums, and red roses. What more could you ask for?

I suggested to attendees currently registered that they may bring any embellishments they desire to dress up their floral arrangements, as shown on my Pinterest board. Bring it along, and we enjoy having Jeff and Mandy’s direction on everything at our workshop day.

To Register

We are so very lucky to have these two guest speakers on February 6th. There are seats still remaining. If you would like to register, please do so below, and confirm your seat by mailing in your payment ($45/pp) by January 15 to Cathy T’s Landscape Designs. The address will be provided after we receive your registration. We need to order the flowers three weeks in advance per my guest instructors, so don’t wait – We would love to have you to join us, but seats are limited – sign up today!

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By the way, Jeff and Mandy have two beautiful children. They reside in Stafford Springs, Connecticut where their business is also located. Mandy also holds a degree in early childhood education from the University of Maine. She is a stay at home mom, and she and Jeff love combining their love of flowers, family, and home life.

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

“Stay Tuned for More Workshops! We are filling the 2016 Schedule!”

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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

 

 

Going, going, …Gone! Greens for Sale, Custom Orders, and More!

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Soon it will be going – going – gone on all the beautiful mixed greenery available for purchase at Container Crazy CT’s. I’ve made custom kissing balls for clients, wreaths for friends, and have available boxes of greens if you wish to purchase some to use for your final holiday decorating, but after this week – all will be gone! So contact me if interested soon.

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On Saturday, because it was 60 degrees out, I sat at the end of my long driveway making kissing balls with holiday music coming out of the truck, and my husband facing the sun as he kept me company.

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Some neighbors walked over to say hello and cars beeped as they drove by. It was a fun day and one to take advantage of because of the amazing unusual warm weather we experienced this weekend in December.

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During the week, I also made some cute mini swags and handed them out to friends. They are perfect to put on the back of chairs or as decorations on your holiday table.

I also tried making my first wreath in the shape of a cross. It is filled with juniper, variegated holly, seeded eucalyptus, boxwood, silver fir, yew, pine, and more greens. It took over an hour to make, but it was a nice process for the first time and I know how I would change the application of the batched greens next time to look even better. It is rather large too – at 3.5′ in height. Someone suggested making smaller ones for cemeteries which I thought is a really nice suggestion.

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Yesterday a break was due. My husband and I took the time to visit the Coventry Winter Farmers’ Market at their new location at the Coventry High School. The market is held on Sundays from 11 am to 2 pm. It was a great opportunity to purchase some gifts and to visit my friend, Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie, who was vending as well. She taught a class here for me last year, and she makes the most adorable and cute holiday themed dolls, and she stamps vintage spoons and makes other art. I had asked her to make a spoon for me with my website name to maybe use in my pots, and here it is. She said it was rather challenging, but I just LOVE it!

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And here are some photos of Laura’s work at the market. I picked up a few things for gifts for my family. Her style is one I truly enjoy.

Next year, if I plan all right – I will be vending there on the same Sunday, but this year was just a little too hectic this month to get in on time. My priorities this week are making wreaths in the morning, holiday shopping in the afternoon, planning my menu for my family’s Christmas gathering in two weeks, and well – it is time to make a list and check it twice…

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

 

P.S. I use green florist tape to cover the kissing ball wire hooks. It looks so much better. Those little touches help. It will be something I will show everyone at next year’s workshops.

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How to Make Kissing Balls for the Upcoming Holidays

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Container Crazy CT offers several classes and workshops year-round where Nature with Art are combined.

There are several classes offered every season, such as the annual Container Gardening Workshop in May and a Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Workshop in December.

And this weekend is the Storing Tropical Plants Demo where steps will be demonstrated on how to overwinter plants such as Canna, Elephant Ears, Angel’s Trumpets, and banana plants.

During the months between the spring and winter, special guests artists are invited to hold various hands-on style classes with the the mission to educate, share, and create – and most importantly, have fun with friends.

On the drop down menu under the “Nature with Art Class Programs” from the top of this blog, you will find descriptions for each workshop scheduled in 2015 and upcoming in 2016.

Starting Early – Kissing Ball Workshop Dates

We realize that many of us don’t like to start thinking about Christmas or the Holidays until at least early November, but when you have workshops to setup, some things need to be ordered in October so we are ready when December arrives to make our wonderful holiday creations. This is why places like Hobby Lobby are stuffed with Christmas crafts already, where you may find decor to add to your kissing ball or wreath at the workshop.

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KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOPS

The December upcoming hands-on workshops have been scheduled. Seats are limited for the first big workshop date of December 5th, so register early. We gather to make beautiful holiday creations with a mix of fresh evergreens and socialize. It is a fun day and a great way to make your own kissing ball just in time to place it on your porch or hang it in a hallway.

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See How It’s Done

Kissing Balls Shown on TV by Cathy T. See how they are really fun to make and require a bit of time, but they are beautiful and unique when hand-made with your special touches – and the fresh evergreens smell wonderful – not to mention, when you hang them outdoors, the birds like to perch on them – so pretty when snow is falling upon the kissing balls. You can find steps on how to make Kissing Balls on the web, or watch the video linked above, but when you gather with a group – it makes the whole process extra special because you are with a large group of enthusiastic attendees, the mechanics and amazing greens are here for you, and you learn from Cathy T and attendees with their own unique ideas, such as adding lights to the balls. If you live in East Windsor or surrounding towns in Connecticut, come on down and join us – we have attendees all the way from New Haven joining us annually.

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Open Studio Days and Mini Session

Additionally, there are other opportunities to craft away and make beautiful round kissing balls with a wide mix of evergreens to adorn your home indoors and out. An Open Studio week is offered where you may schedule your own appointment to make an evergreen creation at a time convenient for you. Lastly, we have a Mini Session on December 12th. We also make square or round wreaths, candle centerpieces, and mail box swags at these workshops – you pick the one you want to make.

How to Register

All you need to do is fill out the Contact Form. Cost is $30-$45 (+ sales tax) based on item you select to make, and pre-payment is required. Once you sign-up here, you will receive the 2015 price list and details with instructions. Location of the workshops is East Windsor, Connecticut.

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CALENDAR OF WORKSHOPS

For a handy view by month, click on the CALENDAR menu.

An Attendee Listens to Cathy T's Instructions at the KB Workshop

An Attendee Listens to Cathy T’s Instructions at the KB Workshop

ARTISTS ARE INVITED TO TEACH

Artists are invited to teach and a page shows the Featured Artists for the upcoming season. If you are an artist utilizing any aspect of plants, nature, or the environment in your designs and would like to introduce your product along with DIY instructions for Container Crazy CT’s attendees, please contact her at 860-977-9473 or containercathy@gmail.com to arrange a date and discuss your ideas.  All classes are taught by professionals and artisans with years of experience to share with the interested attendees.

We hope you will join us.

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

The “Don’t Do This” List for when you Plant your Container Gardens and Patio Pots

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During my container garden workshops, I’ve seen some things attendees will do as they start to assemble their container gardens and pots. It is not intentional on their part. They are so excited to get started selecting plants and putting them into their container gardens after my talk that they will move quickly and do some little things I try to catch them on before they continue. It reminds me of things they should not be doing because it can harm the plants or make the container look unbalanced.

So, I decided to create this list – and will share it at my future workshops too. Here are the things you should not do as you put together your container gardens and patio pots.

#1) Do not fill the pot to the rim with soil mix.

Filling the pot with soil mix up to the rim of the container will cause the soil to spill out when watering, or the water might roll off the top somewhat. There should be about a 2-3” space from the top of rim to the top of soil line. If the water is not flowing well into the soil, it will not permeate down to reach the plants’ roots, plus it looks a little odd to have the plants sitting at the very top of the pot. Aesthetically, they are better placed a few inches down. Additionally, the base of the plants are somewhat protected if they are not exposed at the very top – reducing things like toppling over due to wind, etc.

#2) Do not press down hard on the soil after you have inserted the plants into the container.

Out of habit or belief the plants should be pressed firmly into the soil, I’ve seen attendees do this at my workshops. They will push down on the soil, sometimes very hard, after they inserted the plant into the pot. This is not a good idea because you are compressing the soil which may reduce the air pockets required for oxygen in the soil to be used by the plant’s roots. Unless the plant is very top heavy or was root bound (thus a little weighty on the bottom), avoid pressing down hard on the top of the soil after planting. If you need to press, do so lightly and gently. You don’t want to smash the roots or crush the base of the plant by pushing down hard onto the soil.

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#3) Do not grab the plant by the leaves and tug it from the starter pot.

When you take the plant out of its growing pot to put it into your container garden, use one hand to place over the soil at the stem base, and the other hand to turn it over carefully so it slides out of the growing pot. Try to not pull or tug at the plant by its leaves or stems. If the plant has been growing in the pot for a while, it may not slide out easily. Squeeze the growing pot a little to loosen it up or roll it gently on a table. Conversely, if the plant has been recently potted up in its growing pot, the soil may fall away from the root ball as you take it out because the roots have not grown into the new soil yet. Be careful to not damage the plant or its root system as you remove it to put in your container garden. If the plant is extremely root bound, and it is impossible to remove it from the starter pot, cut the pot at the bottom about 1” from the base to remove the closed end of the pot, and then push the plant’s root ball and soil through to remove it. A Hori-Hori garden knife or a razor knife works well for the cut.

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#4) Do not put a plant with circling roots directly into the container garden.

When roots are tightly circling around the root ball, this is referred to as girdling. The plant has been in the growing pot for a while, and the roots have nowhere to go except to encircle the root ball as it hits the sides of the inner pot. Do not put plants with tightly bound girdled roots directly into your container garden without first detangling the roots by hand if possible. If the roots are so tightly bound (really tight like they are hard to pull away or tease apart), you may use a clean sharp knife or pruners to cut them apart by cutting here and there. The roots need to be released, so to speak, to move freely and easily into the new fresh soil of your container garden.

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#5) Do not put the plants into bone dry potting mix.

When you container garden, you should lightly moisten the soil mix before you put your plants into your container garden or patio pot. Otherwise, the moisture in the starter pot will be drawn into the dry soil in the container garden thus taking it away from the plant’s roots. If the soil mix is dry, use your watering wand to moisten it – the key is to moisten, though – not to waterlog the soil, or turn it into mush. Just wet it a bit and then take your hands and mix it around lightly so the moisture is distributed. This will help the plants to adjust easily from their growing pot to their new beautiful soil environment.

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#6) Do not put dry plants into the container garden without giving it a drink first.

It is a good habit to water your plants in their growing pots before putting them into your container garden or patio pots – preferably the night before, or the morning of, or at least a ½ to 1 hour before you assemble your container garden if its soil is “bone dry” in the growing pot. Another tip – be sure to water everything in after you finished assembling your container garden – but the key is, again – don’t over water. You want everything to settle into its new environment in a well-balanced slightly moist but not waterlogged state. Do not walk away before doing this final step. And direct the water at the soil line, not on the foliage if possible, with your watering wand or watering can.

#7) Do not put your plants in full harsh sun right away.

If your plants were grown in a greenhouse and not transitioned to the outdoors yet, you need to “harden-off” your plants. This term means to move the plants, or better yet, ‘transition’ the plants into the great outdoor sunlight carefully – otherwise, they may burn. Be sure to harden them off first if grown in a greenhouse by placing them in shade to part shade for a day or two. In many cases, hardening off is not required if the plants you purchased were already outside at the nursery. You will know if your plants were not hardened off first when you see the leaves turn white if you put them directly into sun – as is the case with houseplants or plants you overwintered inside, they must be hardened off first as well when you move them outside.

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And finally, another tip – when I plant my container gardens, I tend to make pockets in the soil mix to insert each plant. In other words, I don’t fill the pot half way with soil (like I’ve seen done), place or position all the plants, and then backfill around the roots. I personally believe the pocket method makes the plants more comfortable and allows the roots to make easy contact with the new soil in the container. But that’s being a little picky perhaps – all I know is this method has worked for me for years.

To see photos of the above “Don’t Do’s”, please visit my Instagram feed or Pinterest boards where I show examples, or better yet, take one of my workshops in the future to learn and see hands-on more tips by ContainerCrazyCT.

Thank you,

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