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

 

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.

Dont Do Photos for Blog Post

#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

Herbs are Perfect for Container Gardens and Patio Pots

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

Thyme grows really well in a container

Thyme grows really well in a container

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

Wooden Pot is Well Suited for Thymus

Wooden Pot is Well Suited for Thymus

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

Scented Thymes

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

Creeping Thymes

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

Woolly Thymes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Container Crazy CT

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

‘Black Pearl’ Pepper – A Little Too Hot to Eat – Great in Containers!

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One year, I ordered a stock of this pepper plant with purplish black and dark green foliage from a local Connecticut grower. It grows black pearl-like small peppers which are shiny and pretty. But what attracted me to it more was the foliage’s dark toned colors.

Black Pearl Pepper in a Pot - Great Contrasting Foliage Color

Black Pearl Pepper in a Pot – Great Contrasting Foliage Color

So, I included one in a mixed container garden with some of my Canna plants that year.

Today, mixing edibles with other types of plants is a common trend, but years ago, not too many people would see a pepper plant with a tropical plant in a pot, so it was fun to see people’s reactions.

Black Pearl Pepper Descipt

This pepper starts out with small purple flowers which you may miss if you don’t notice them, and then transitions to developing black peppers which later mature to an intense bright red color. This was a bonus in my book. Not only was the foliage a nice dark contrasting color, the show of the peppers changing color was fun to witness.

Veins of Coleus 'Gay's Delight' pick up the purple tones of 'Black Pearl' pepper.

Veins of Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’ pick up the purple tones of ‘Black Pearl’ pepper.

You can easily echo the purple-black foliage by including other plants with similar tones or colors. In this example, you see how Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’ has veins in the same color. It worked, not only because of the color-echo, but the yellow or chartreuse color of the Coleus is opposite to purple on the color wheel, so it was complementary.

Another way to use this plant is to pot it up with other purples. You can see how well Strobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), shown below on the top right, with its striking silver purple leaves would work with the ‘Black Pearl’ pepper. Even a perennial has the capability to bring it all together with the purples.

Monochromatic

Monochromatic

Tomorrow, I host another Container Garden Workshop and I have some of these plants available for inclusion in the pots which our attendees will be potting up. Along with many perennials and tropical plants which are showy and unique. And this ‘Black Pearl’ pepper fits the bill.

Black Pearl in Pot

By the way, it is also a Proven Winners plant and can take full sun to part sun or part shade. It worked so well with my heat loving Canna plants and never showed any signs of weakness or poor growth – it can take the heat – and because the peppers are very hot to eat, the critters in my yard didn’t dare take a bite.

Benefits of Using Edibles with Ornamental Values

Benefits of Using Edibles with Ornamental Values

My husband, Steve, however did try to eat a pepper from this plant one afternoon. He was quick to spit it out of his mouth – It was too hot to bear. So if you are brave, you may want to try it or use it as an ornamental feature in your patio pots and container gardens.

There are so many benefits to using this plant in container gardens: very long lasting, has a wonderful shape which adds another dimension to your design, it is easy to grow, dark foliage, transitioning colors with the pepper’s change from black to red, and makes a nice filler position in a container garden or patio pot.

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Happy Friday Everyone – and I have a few seats open for Saturday’s class if interested, just e-me, text, or call.
Would love to have you join us.

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

Container Crazy CT

Why Attend a Container Gardening Workshop about Perennials?

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

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

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

Purple Power

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

What are the best perennials to use in container gardens?

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

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

Flamingo Pink

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

Ever have trouble getting help when it’s busy?

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

Examples of things you will learn at this class:

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

 PERENNIAL PLANT PICTURES

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

Three Ways to Sign Up:

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

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

We hope you will join us!

Cathy Testa

More details may be found here:

MAY CLASS (BIG CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOPS)

CONTAINER GARDEN WORKSHOP INTRODUCTION

MAY WORKSHOP IN THREE WEEKS (PRIOR POST)

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Cathy Testa Summer 2014