Thrillers and Spillers are needed in Succulent Dish Gardens too!

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Hello Followers!

This will be a quickie post because the sun is FINALLY out and we are expecting 85 degree temps here today in CT, so I have to head out soon, but here are some updates:

NEW SUCCS (Succulents) IN

I want to take a moment to let you know, if you are local, I have some new and “very limited” stock of succulents. Heads-up if you want to get some soon.

Also, if are in need of components and materials to create a Mother’s Day Gift (coming up on May 13th), reach out to me.

I have all the components for bubble bowl terrariums or other patio pot arrangements you may be thinking of making for your Mom or with your Mom.

Just text: 860-977-9473 or email containercathy@gmail. com or do the old fashioned phone call. We can arrange a pick up time by appointment for you, or swing by.

I am here most days (Broad Brook, CT) and on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday (between 7 am to 10:30 – 11 am).

Inspiration Station!

Secondly, OMG, I FOUND SUCCULENT HEAVEN IN FLORIDA LAST WEEK. A huge 4 floor store titled RH (Restoration Hardware) was across the street from our hotel in West Palm. Let me tell you, I saw the building and thought, “What is that place?  A hotel, a private residence? Or what?”

There were crystal chandeliers hanging outdoors above various patio like pergola sitting areas with amazing outdoor furniture out front to view before you even enter the grand doors of the main building. That alone caught my eye. I dared to enter, knowing I’m not high society rich, and looked around outside.

You never saw me whip out my iPhone so fast to take photos of the succulent dish gardens on every patio table. They were absolutely stunning, very healthy, and real – not faux.

Here’s just ONE example below. And it has the thriller, fillers, and spillers happening.

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My first thought is look at how there is a thriller (Kalanchoe paddle plant) among the other amazing succulent fillers. And look how the bowl shape is perfect. It allows you to see all the succulents clearly – and so much texture – right? We don’t always need flowers to achieve success with patio pot designs.

Get this, the ground surface under my feet, below all outdoors featured areas out front of this store, was covered in tiny pea gravel and it was raked into patterns, like a Zen garden. I didn’t know if I could I walk on it – but I figured yes, because it was a showcase store and encouraged. The staff was extremely welcoming upon entering the building after browsing the outdoor decor areas.

More Photos

For more of all the succulent dish gardens seen at RH, please visit my Instagram feed by searching Container Crazy CT on Instagram.

I can’t even get into how amazing the inside was – with 4 stunning floors – it was like entering a gallery or mansion.

Thriller Available – Today – from Cathy T

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A Unique and Cool Looking Thriller – Gasteria species – Thick Texture – Available now from me

These are the type of situations which inspire me, and that place was a great inspiration station. The way it was executed really spoke to me.

You can do this too

And folks – YOU CAN DO THIS TOO – CREATE AN AMAZING COMBINATION TO ADMIRE ON YOUR PATIO THIS YEAR. Just come see me for the tips, instructions, and plants with components. Prices are provided when you contact me.

Succulent Spiller

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String of Pearls – A Succulent Spiller

I have various succulents, fresh and new, right now available. Remember, you don’t want plants which have been subjected to frost outdoors and you don’t want tattered tired plants – so see me soon if you want to get some nice ones.

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Workshops

My next Facebook Live is scheduled on May 16th to give general updates, but if you need info on current workshops, be sure to visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site.

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Great Filler or Thriller based on style of pot – Red Edged Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Available now by me – Reach out before supplies run out

Impromptu Mini Workshops

Recently, I posted a succulent filled birdcage photo I saw on Pinterest, which inspired a few of my regular attendees. We held, what I call an “impromptu mini workshop” and made some of them – see my Instagram for photos. They came out great.

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Burro tall (Sedum burrito) – A spiller succulent – A bluish green makes nice contrast color

If you have a mini group and want to hold an impromptu session, reach out to me. We can talk.

Also, remember, I have Canna lily and green Elephant Ears starting in 5″ pots available – they will take off if this sun and warmth continues. I will be posting more progress photos of those too.

Enjoy your sunny day in the meantime.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Instagram Link
Zone 6 gardener
Connecticut
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
This world of mine is all about sharing inspiration, the beauty of plants, and sessions where we may enjoy all of it.

Today’s date: May 2nd, 2018 (Wednesday)

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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

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

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

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

Petasites japonicus (butterbur) – Awakens in a Pot every Spring

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Did you know that some plants are big time troublemakers in the garden (invasive, prolific spreaders, aggressive) but they are amazing STARS in patio pots and container gardens?

My blog page titled “Troublemakers Turned Stars” talks about which troublemaker garden plants you may use in container gardens. And, it starts with this plant:

Petasites japonicus (butterbur)

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Its key feature: HUGE ruffled green leaves reaching 32″ wide.  It prefers shade and may be used in water gardening because it likes moisture – lots of it. In fact, in a container garden, you need to provide it with a nice long watering to soak the soil well daily in the heat of hot summers.

Why it’s a star in container gardens and patio pots:  Because of its huge leaves.  I like lush foliage, so this one is a keeper. And because you can overwinter it very easily in a big container garden or patio pot just by moving it into a sheltered location after the season is over towards the end of Autumn.

My storage location for this plant growing in large patio pots is my little shed or unheated garage. I’ve been moving pots with Petasites in it for 3+ years now at the end of the season to store them over the winter.  It is best to cut back all the foliage after it gets hit by a light frost in Autumn.

In the Spring, roll it back out, position it somewhere to show the big leaves off which follow its flowering cycle. This plant is interesting. It shoots out flower buds first and leaves start coming out in various places in the pot after.

Here is a photo below taken this month of the flower pods rising. Once you have this pot outdoors, be sure to cut off the flower heads before they start to set seed because you do not want it to be carried by wind to your landscape to take hold because in the ground, this baby spreads like wildfire and is hard to control. You don’t want it in places where it will take over the landscape unless you know how to control it very carefully. And one way to control a plant like this is to use it in container gardens and patio pots.

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Why it’s a troublemaker:  This plant has rhizomes at the base, and they grow rapidly via a spreading habit.  In the garden, they would easily take over an area and invade. They can be a problem to remove.  In fact, in a container garden, sometimes the roots will creep up to the top of the pot or out of the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes.  They are ambitious. One way to provide extra reinforcement is to sit the pot on top of another as shown here.

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Caution:  If you decide to use this plant in a container garden, be aware when it flowers, the seeds can self-sow in the garden. Sometimes, I’ve kept mine raised above the ground on an elevated deck, so this has not been an issue. Or again, as shown above, situate it on top of another pot filled with soil so if the roots escape, they will go into the soil in the pot below it.

At the end of the season, rolling these back into a sheltered location such as a garage, shed, or other space is plenty of protection to keep it alive in a dormant state until the climate and conditions are favorable for reappearance each spring.

This is why I love using perennials which return every year in pots – they save you money – and become treasured specimens.  In many cases, troublemaker perennial plants are great candidates for container gardening.

To see more about Petasites japonicus, click HERE.  It is a blog posting I wrote a couple years back with more photos of the plant’s flowers, root structure, and habit.

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

The leaves on this plant grow to dish plate size which make them very showy. When you put them away at the end of the season, it is helpful to moisten the soil so there is a bit of moisture, and visit it maybe once during the winter to put some snow on top to melt into the soil – this is what has worked for me.

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Here’s a variegated Petasites I scored last year from The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, CT. I’m glad to see the variegation on the leaves returning right now in my blue pot. After a few years, this pot may require a refresh of new potting soil – and a division of the plants.

Perennials like this are wonderful candidates in container gardens, and reasons why perennials will be discussed at this year’s Container Garden Workshops on May 16th and May 23rd, 2015. To learn more about the workshops in Broad Brook, CT, see HERE.

Detailed information about the plant and characteristics can be located HERE at the Missouri Botanical Garden website.

Stay tune for more about “Troublemakers Turned Star” plants for container gardens and patio pots.

Cathy Testa

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Yellow Shrimp Plant with Two Companions Make The Perfect Trio in Two Pots

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The Tools - MG Class (1)

Foliage Lasts Throughout the Season

One year, these three plants were used in two pots and the foliage rich result was eye-catching.

One of the benefits of focusing on plants for their foliage features is foliage lasts throughout the growing season.  In many cases, annual plant blooms will wither away towards the end of the summer from heat exhaustion or repeat blooming.

So when you use foliage with a captivating thriller plant, like the yellow shrimp plant, you result with a stunning combination which is easy to assemble and maintain.

Echoing Foliage Colors

Notice how the dark purple plum like color (violet-red color on the color wheel) of the sweet potato vine’s heart shaped leaves are repeated in a band of the same rich purple plum color in the leaves of the Coleus ‘Kong Rose’ plant.

Repeating a color of one plant in another plant is a way to add impact to a design. This holds true in containers, patio pots, and in gardens of the ground.

Complementary Color – Yellow and Purple

The yellow shrimp plant’s yellow parts (technically bracts) represent a color opposite to purple on the color wheel so they seem to pop near each other.  This is especially true when two plants with pure yellow and purple colors are used together in a container garden – but either way – what I loved about this trio is how lush and full they got and stayed all summer long with little to no problems.

The Tools - MG Class (2)

The plants used in these two pots are what I consider reliable performers.

Reliable Performers

The ‘Ace of Spades’ sweet potato vine just kept growing and growing, dangling over the rim of the pot to the ground and even down the railing. It served as a “spiller” in the container gardens.

The Coleus ‘Kong Rose’ has very large leaves; and is an exceptional “filler” in the container gardens. I would have to say the ‘Kong’ cultivars are one of my fav’s as well – because of their lush leaves.

Then, of course, is the shrimp plant, the “thriller“, with its amazing yellow bracts and white blooms. The flower structure is fascinating, so the minute I saw some available at a local garden center, I grabbed two that year.

See the Yellow Shrimp Plant during the Winter

Visit the Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in South Deerfield, Massachusetts; you will spot this plant there growing in their greenhouses filled with fluttering butterflies. The butterflies love the blooms, and the tropical like feel in this place is perfect for growing this tropical to sub-tropical loving Peruvian shrub.

Yellow Bracts with White Flowers

As I noted in my prior blog post about spotting this plant there, you can see why it is called a golden or yellow shrimp plant.  The flowers are not the yellow parts you see here; these are the bracts.  The white tubular flowers extend from the yellow bracts, and in my container garden, the hummingbirds and butterflies loved them.

Long Lasting Blooms – Feeds the Butterflies

Another bonus of the yellow shrimp plant’s blooms are they are long-lasting in summer, and grow upright and tall – you really notice them, plus they are a bit unusual or nontraditional – and are definitely exotic looking in my book. If you are looking for something out of the norm – this is the plant to try.

Part to Full Shade or Full Sun to Light Shade – Easy to Grow

Yellow shrimp plants enjoy part to full shade and this worked out well because its companion plants in this container gardens do as well. Although I found if situated in part sun – it didn’t do much harm at all.

This plant combination was featured in the GMPRO magazine in 2008, titled “Foliage Fanatic.”
Check it out to read the exact growing requirements.

2008 Stunner

2008 Stunner

Other plants similar to the yellow shrimp plant are Jacobinia carnea (pink shrimp plant, Brazilian plume) and Pachystachys coccinea (cardinal’s guard). They are not hardy to our Connecticut planting zones, so just be sure to wait to put them out in season when things are warmed up appropriately during the summer months – which is far away at the moment, but viewing these photos gives us inspiration until then.

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Cathy Testa

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Don’t forget to note the May 2015 dates for Cathy T’s Container Garden Workshops:
May 16th and May 23rd, 2015

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Flashback Friday – Golden Head Planter with a native Autumn Fern

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For this week’s Flashback Friday

Brilliance Autumn Fern in a Golden Head Planter

Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’
Zone 5-8/9; Perennial and Native

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In season, this fern’s upright fronds remain a dark green color, as shown in the photo above when it was growing in the container during the early 2012 summer. The beautiful golden face planter with splashes of black was a find from the Pottery Barn store. Knowing it would glimmer in the summer sun, there was no hesitation to get one. Placing a fern in it was a good choice because the planter did not have a drain hole, and this fern can take moist conditions. I did not want to risk cracking this pot so a drain hole was not drilled into the bottom, as typically done so the roots may breath and not rot from overly wet soils. However, ferns can withstand moist conditions with appropriate controlled watering in pots. If I felt the soil was too wet from a rainfall, I would tip the pot to let the excess water drain out.

Head Pots (1)

The fern’s name includes the word ‘Autumn.’ I’ve read this is because when the plant is young, it is a copper color, but it also takes on highlights of copper later in the summer season. Here it was moved to a shadier spot on my deck that season because this fern prefers dappled shade.  It was easy to grow in a container garden (or head planter). Some perennials will return in stored containers – which is a topic I will be teaching in detail in the 2015 season when two Container Garden Workshops are scheduled in May.

Head Pots (3)

The golden color of the head pot is really rich.  As it was sitting next to another container garden with mixed plantings, including the thriller – a dark leaved Colocasia (elephant ear or taro), which was the cultivar, ‘Diamond Head,’ the effect was gorgeous. Colocasias are plants I plan to include in my plant ordering list every year. I love foliage and love how the big leaves toss from side to side in the wind and the plant will last all the way into the fall season, up to the last frost date, plus they are easily stored over the winter for regrowing every season here in my Connecticut planting zones (5-6).  By the way, the plant with yellow and red leaves in-front of the elephant ear is called Amaranthus tricolor – it was noticed during a “Walk and Talk” Pond Garden Tour last summer in my friend’s planter near her three-tiered water gardens which everyone seemed to like it and asked what the plant was. It really stands out in the right situations and has a unique look to it.

This particular Colocasia cultivar was not too big for its pot, even though its leaves reached about 3-4′ tall, because it has a compact habit.  While the Autumn Fern is a semi-evergreen perennial (hardy to zones 5-9 – and native), the elephant ear is a tropical type plant (not hardy to CT), but hardy to zones 8/9-10.  The Colocasia is a sun to part sun/shade plant so the exposure was fine next to my beautiful and elegant golden head planter with faces all around it.

So, again, the two pots near each other in a shady spot on my deck was a good combo for they enjoyed the shady mornings and dappled sun later in the day.  By the way, Autumn Ferns are deer resistant – good for gardens with deer eating issues. Most ferns grow best with a high organic matter content in the soil when grown in the garden.

Head Pots (2)

The following year, I planted a succulent in my golden head pot, a Kalanchoe. But, because I was unable to drill a drain hole, I inserted the plastic pot it was in into the golden head pot so water could drain freely below it without creating a overly wet base.

Kalanchoe plants prefer the opposite exposure of ferns.  They enjoy sun and dry soils, able to withstand drought like conditions, within reason, in a small pot. Ironically, the leaves on this plant also highlighted some copper to red coloring on the edges. Matching plants to pots should not be exact matches (what I call matchy-matchy) but connect to the pot somehow perhaps in a subtle way – as done with this fern and succulent because the pot of golden to copper colors highlighted the copper tones of the plants used – it just worked – at least for me – I loved the look!

Why Use Head Planters?

Head pots make heads turn – When used in your gardens as art, or in special pots as decor elements in your outdoor spaces, and inside the home during the winter season.  And when you change up the plant in a pot – you change up the feeling, look, and affect of the pot or planter itself.  A big fern like plant gives it an exotic hairdo style, a smaller succulent may keep the head pot looking tidy and neat – it is fun to play with and – thus – I will share more in my ‘Flashback Friday’ posts about my head planters of other styles soon.

Happy Friday Everyone – T.G.I.F.

Cathy Testa
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

“A Blog to share Container Garden Passions and Nature Combined with Art”

For more information about this fern shown in my new Flashback Friday posts, see the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder.