Coco Coir – A New Potting Media

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Some people may say coco coir (made from the husks of coconuts) is relatively new on the scene while others may state it has been here for a while – but one thing is for sure – it is an alternative for potting up your plants or starting seeds, and it is growing in popularity.

When I spotted some coir blocks being showcased at the CT Flower and Garden Show last weekend by FibreDust LLC, I was sure to step up and hear what the young gentleman was saying about it.

Coir Tour_0007

As he continued to talk about coir and how to use it to my friend, I noticed another person walked up and was observing. My senses told me, this person is the owner of this product, so I walked up immediately and shook his hand to introduce myself.

There was probably an air of excitement in my voice because I want to learn more about coir. It is being added to potting mixes (as an alternative to peat moss). You may also use coir in its straight form, sold in compressed blocks which are soaked in water to expand for use as a potting media. Once expanded, it looks almost exactly like peat (as shown above in the photo taken at the garden show).

During my garden presentations on container gardening, I highlight some of the new options for potting mixes on the scene, and there are many to choose from – it can feel overwhelming at times, but it is all good news because many new potting mixes are geared towards sustainability and incorporating organic materials, and coco coir is one of them.

As I discussed the benefits of coir with the distributor of the coir product, Sam Ahilan, President of FibreDust LLC, decided to invite me to see how they process their coir product at his facility in Cromwell, Connecticut. And of course, I responded immediately with a yes to his generous invite.

Facility Tour

This is what I saw yesterday at their facility located in Cromwell:

Coir Tour_0001

Shredded coir bundled up for distribution to customers were first on the tour list. There were many ready to go sitting on pallets awaiting the skid loader. These are processed via a large production machine, shown below, where coco blocks are shredded and water is added.

Coir Tour_0006

Here it is nice and fluffy for bundling up in the bales above. Sam was kind enough to have the machine turned on by his crew to show me how this is done in their production facility. I have to say, being a container gardening lover, it was difficult to not reach my hand in to feel the coir – it is very light, fluffy, airy, and soft – and it looks very similar to peat.

Coir Tour_0002

Sam is working with a local grower of tomatoes to grow tomatoes in his coir cubes. Here they are lining up their cubes and getting them set for irrigation and planting soon. Fortunately, for me, the sun was shining so it was a moment of “ah” in a greenhouse. Nutrients are added to the coir later in the process as the plants grow. The grower told me he has people taste the tomatoes along side of homegrown tomatoes in the garden, and many can not distinguish the difference. I wanted to tell him, I would have to do a taste test with my father’s home grown tomatoes, but I believed him. Why not? They are being grown in the warm sun of a greenhouse with correct temperatures and in a growing medium which has the similar qualities of peat.

In another larger warehouse space are miles of coconut fibre based products – from mats for landscaping or basket lining purposes to cubes for potted plants. Coir is used in many fashions, and not sold just in blocks or cubes. There are small round disks available to start seeds, which if you are into seed growing, I’m sure you have seen before.

Coir Tour_0004

I asked Sam to hold a sample of a coarse form of the coconut husks which may be used as to increase pore space per Sam. I took many more photos, but I plan to share those at my garden talks and workshops this summer, so I’m saving some for my attendees. This is just a sneak peek!

More About Coir

As I noted above, coir is becoming popular because it can be used as a substitute or alternative for all peat moss based soils, reducing the use of valuable wetlands where sphagnum peat moss is usually harvested and used as a base in many potting mixes. Peat moss is more porous than coco coir and has been used for centuries in the gardening industry for its stability and consistency for growing plants.

However, I wish to note that I don’t think using peat moss is totally all bad and why I feel this way is discussed during my garden presentations – I believe the key is finding a balance, trying out new products which are more sustainable, and testing how they work for your gardening needs to see the results for yourself.

Coir also has attributes such as a good water to air ratio, which is needed in container gardens and patio pots especially because oxygen is required in the root zone for plants to grow. Healthy roots are a result of a balance of water and air, another topic highlighted in my garden presentations.

And speaking of water, coir holds water well, which may be good for reducing watering routines in patio pots – but as I mentioned, I prefer to test it out because it drains and dries out slower too. I will see how coco coir works for me with my container gardens, and share my findings with you along the way. This is one of my goals this year in particular.

Per my readings about the coir products on the scene, the pH is usually neutral, but because the source of the product varies, it should be checked, at least for high production scenarios. Also, nutrients must be added to this product as your plants advance in growing. Unlike some potting mixes for container gardening which often have a pre-charged slow fertilizer added to the soilless mix for you.

One really cool thing about using coir, is they are taking a waste product from the production of other coconut based products, such as doormats and brushes, and reusing it in a new way. It is always a good thing and a bonus when we accomplish the goal of renewing a resource. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

And because coir is compressed to reduce shipping costs, and is easily restored to a fluffy consistency, it saves on shipping expenses, thus reducing more waste. Additionally, it stores well for a long time and all it takes is some water to expand it into a huge portion for use in your pots – if not as a straight growing mix, but maybe as a filler, again something I’m testing out this year. It is great for starting seeds too.

One thing I also like about the coco blocks used as a potting soil (called Sponge Ease) is how easily they are to carry, store, and use. They come in 7 x 7″ blocks (small enough to fit in a purse!), but expand to an amount substantial enough to fill a small to medium sized pot (10 quarts) by putting the block in a bag and filling it with 3 quarts of water. Plus they are packaged with biodegradable labeling, again reducing waste like the big plastic bags which are used for soilless mixes.

You will most likely see these coco coir products in garden supply magazines, some nurseries, even perhaps your grocery store – and of course, for sale at my workshops on container gardening and patio pots, where I will demo the whole process and how to use this potting soil. If you would like to purchase some, feel free to contact me (email is below).

Oh, and by the way, coco coir is used with hydroponics growing systems (growing plants in liquid – sometimes with some soil media and sometimes without) – which is another whole subject I’m exploring – Why? Because hydroponics is a hot topic today too, but it is a bit complicated or requires some solid knowledge of the how to’s.

Bottom line – It was a real treat to see the coco coir production process, various growing coco coir products, and meet the President of FibreDust LLC. I appreciate Sam giving me the tour yesterday, and will share more all with you this spring and summer. Stay tuned.

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

 

 

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CT Flower and Garden Show – Spoiler Alert

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Good Morning Everyone,

I’m sharing some of my iPhone quick pics from yesterday’s visit to the CT Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT.

But fair warning – If you are the type that doesn’t want to see anything revealed before you attend, this is your spoiler alert!

What I found that was different this year:

  • Some “new” booths/vendors – New faces, antiques, roses, coir, etc. It was nice to see new vendors and visit with them. Especially friendly was Helen at Yoga Unfettered (she may do a workshop for me this year), Valerie at Garden Guardians (amazing head face pots – love them and was very tempted to buy another as I have purchased her pots before), Sam at FibreDust showing coir as a potting soil (I will be showcasing this product at my workshops and discussing them at my garden talks.)
  • Enhanced food court sitting area – Nicely organized with a long bar area, couches, more tables for sitting and relaxing (located by the landscape display areas). It is larger this year, well situated, and relaxing between walking the show floor. Just be careful, if you sit on one of the cozy couches, you may not want to get back up.
  • Rearranged vendor spots– While its helpful to be able to locate your favorite vendors in their usual locations on the show floor, there were some vendors located in new spots which made it feel changed up a bit to me. I liked that.

Show Location:

Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT 06103

phone: 860-249-6000
fax: 860-249-6161

Show Hours:

Runs thru Sunday, Feb 21st. Opens at 10 am each day. Tip: Go early, parking in the garage tends to fill up quickly.

Photo Highlights:

In the back row area – Always enjoy the display by Snug Habor – lots of small hand-made hypertufa pots – adorable, small and unique items.

Plant sales by University of CT (left). If you didn’t know, they sell plants from their greenhouses on North Eagleville Road in Storrs by the campus. The photos on the right are from an area at the show on the back right beyond the landscape displays. They have tons of flowering plants and all in full color right now – I believe this is a group of growers that put these out for sale. All healthy.

Floral Design Workshop_0035

If you like staghorn ferns – wow – look at this show stopper – was in the back area by Snug Harbor’s booth. Beautiful and tempting.

Over in the far left area is the floral and plant competition space. Look at these amazing cacti and the shoe! There were pieces of significance and really enjoyed browsing this area. Be sure to check out the jewelry pieces made with seeds, plant parts, and earthy finds.

Floral Design Workshop_0018

Because of my passion for patio pots and container gardens, I especially enjoyed this piece of art – LOVE how the creator inserted a small pot of a dripping down spiller style plant.

Floral Design Workshop_0034

In fact I spotted this plant in the back area in hanging baskets – what are they called again? I’m having a blank moment, but they are adorable, beaded like plants and fun to use in container gardens – as noted above.

Globes, globes, globes are everywhere. Almost every plant related booth had some. They are hot – hot – hot this year and the admiration of these seems to be growing every year. These above are from Natureworks (middle photo) with the adorable bird’s nest with eggs, and Balleck’s on the left and right. We especially liked the thick glass container (left photo) from Balleck’s – a little different, thicker, heavier.

If you are looking for color – it is not in short supply at the flower show. Art and beautiful plants show them off – just look at this moss basket by Balleck’s – Wow, I “almost” purchased that one – it is popping with oranges and yellows.

And I probably shouldn’t have – but I got some of these yummy cookies by Savor. The ladies standing next to me purchasing some told me they enjoy these cookies and return every year to buy some more. They are a small sized cookie which justifies the guilt of eating the extra calories.

And that is all I will post today – as I don’t want to spoil it for you. You should head there today or this weekend. We are lucky this year – no snow to deal with and the sun is shining today. Go check it out – you will enjoy the show.

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

P.S. Lots more photos on my Instagram feed.

BOOK CLUB Bookstore and More – Saturday

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Good Morning Everyone,

Tomorrow, Mandy Mayer from JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design and I (from you know where) will be at the small bookstore located on 100 Main Street in Broad Brook from 10 am to 1 pm for the store’s special event.

She and I have been invited to attend their “Artisans and Authors” day, and we both will have some special items available for purchase and information for you about our upcoming events. There will be flower bouquets, individually stemmed roses, mini succulent cone bouquets, garden journals, and of course – many books and other vendors.

BOOK STORE LOCATION

BOOK CLUB Bookstore and More” is located across from the Broad Brook pond (where a rare goose was sighted recently – don’t know the name of the goose, but pro photographers with very large camera lenses and tri-pod stands were gathered by the pond recently trying to capture a shot of it). It also is situated next door to the “At The Dam” restaurant.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0024

We are pleased to be participating and hope you will pop in to visit, despite the frightening cold weather the forecasters are predicting for tomorrow. A great game plan would be to bundle up, go have breakfast or lunch next door, and visit us.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0028

Mandy will be offering her beautiful floral arrangements – perfect for any one you wish to honor on Valentine’s Day – which is Sunday, but take note – she has a limited supply so don’t delay. She will have stemmed roses and other flowers for sale also.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0030

I will be selling adorable mini succulent bouquets, garden journals, and “Bert’s Birdhouses” which are made by my father with reclaimed wood. They are sturdy and made with care, and will help our feathered friends now and in spring time.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0026

WOODPECKER GETS ATTACHED TO ME

Speaking of birds, an interesting thing happened to me yesterday. I was heading home, and I, of course, looked at my iPhone (when at a stop light!), and saw an alert for a woman out in the cold with no coat. She walked away from Park Hill in Broad Brook which is a living center and the East Windsor police noted she has Alzheimer’s disease.

Instead of pulling into my driveway, I drove around town looking. Around the back of the church, down again towards Main Street, I glanced to see if there were foot prints in the snow and then I saw the East Windsor Police walking out of “At the Dam” restaurant, so I pulled in and thought, I’ll snap photos of the bookstore while here and I was relieved to see they were going place to place in search of the missing woman.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0033

When I got home, I saw a woodpecker sitting on the snow by my kitchen door slider outside. As I opened the door, my cat jumped out – but I picked her back up, put her inside, and got my iPhone.

It was a photo opp because the beautiful woodpecker was just sitting there, so I leaned down and said, “Hey, little guy, are you okay?”

Right then – he jumped onto my leg and clung on. I was shocked, and wow, what an experience. He obviously hit the glass window of the slider door, and was still coming out of his own shock of hitting the window.

With iPhone in hand, I took a few photos and a quick video. To feel those clawed feet attached to my jeans was interesting. They are stronger than you think. He was blinking his eyes, and turning his head, but he didn’t leave immediately. He hung on for a bit – probably warming up as well.

Suddenly, he hopped up at bit higher on my leg – which startled me. So with a few quick shakes of my leg, he flew off and landed on a deck railing to rest some more.

As I posted the photos on Facebook and Instagram, some people said it is a sign. My sister said, it is a sign you did a good deed by trying to find that woman. And, one friend posted, that woman is my Aunt and she’s been located.

Fortunately, she was found quickly and all was good. And the bird was fine too. I guess he thought my leg made a good stump.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0031

GARDEN PRESENTATION IN SOUTH WINDSOR

This week has been a busy yet productive one for me – I did a presentation on Wednesday night to a welcoming group from the “Down to Earth” garden club and library visitors at the South Windsor Public Library on Sullivan Avenue.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0032

After my presentation on “Container Gardening How To’s for Growth Success,” the club emailed me indicating they would like me back next year. She stated that they liked how I had something for the new, beginning, and seasoned gardener. This was nice to read on my laptop screen.

The library is a great venue for the club – it is very large. It was the first time I stepped foot in there – and thought, I need to get out more. They offer all kinds of seminars and I saw a great deal of kids hanging out in one area. Pairing up the club with a library is a smart idea because you meet new people in the library too. There were new gardeners in the audience as well as seasoned garden club members. I enjoyed meeting all of them.

PREPARING FOR SATURDAY

The rest of my week has been preparing the Valentine’s Day themed items for Saturday. I thought, how lucky am I? I love adorning these things with red themes for the day. I always had a love of Valentine’s Day and the colors and artistic nature of the little gifts and cards.

Bookstore Clear Coned Plant_0029

As a kid – I really liked picking out the little decorative cards, and sharing them with class mates – remember those days?

Also, sending a Valetine’s Day greeting card to my parents for this day is something I’ve always done. Valentine’s Day is not “just for lovers” but for those you love as well.

My desire is to meet you and new friends, so we hope you will stop by on your travels through town. There will be other artisans and authors there to meet and greet as well.

TGIF Everyone,

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

 

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

Container Gardening Workshops in Broad Brook, CT – In Three Weeks!

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Container Gardening Workshops

 Do you dream of lush, full, flower abundant container gardens on your patio, deck, surrounding your pool, or gracing the front steps of your home?

If yes, then Container Crazy CT’s Container Gardening Workshops are for you!

Pucker Up

Cathy T with plants for a workshop

Learn from a professional designer about the steps for success in designing and maintaining beautiful container gardens and patio pots at this workshop and take home your creations.

This is a fun hands-on event that everyone will find informational and convenient. So popular in fact, each May, it fills up quickly – so don’t delay – fill out the Contact Form below to sign up.

Last year's Class Group

Last year’s Class Group

Dates

Saturday, May 16th, 11 am to 2:00 pm
– or –
Saturday, May 23rd, 11 am to 2:00 pm

Water Droplets on Leaves - Different colors and textures

Water Droplets on Leaves – Different colors and textures

Workshop Details

Many plants will be available at the workshop held in Broad Brook, Connecticut for you to select from. Cathy T of Container Crazy CT uses reputable nurseries and local growers that offer quality plants, plus she has an eye for selecting ‘wow’ plants suited for stunning color and textural combinations.

The design process demonstrated during this event will be based on a theme of using ‘powerful perennials’ and ‘showy tropical plants’ this year. A large variety of perennials and tropical plants will be available for purchase and each attendee will be provided with detailed instructions and reference documentation for continued care of their plants.

The right soil mix specifically for container gardens and patio pots will be available for purchase so you don’t have to carry a thing but your beautiful container garden and patio pots ready to be filled with plant selections. And don’t worry, if your pot is too big to carry when you are done, we have delivery services available via a protected trailer.

You only need to bring yourself, a container(s) of your choice, and gardening gloves! It’s that easy.

Don’t Delay – Save Your Date Now

As noted above, you have two choices: May 16th or May 23rd.

Brugmansia tropical - Available at this Year's Workshops

Brugmansia tropical – Available at this Year’s Workshops

Workshop Cost

Only $15 per person + plus the cost of plants purchased at the class (and applicable sales tax).

Payment is mailed to Cathy T’s Landscape Designs to confirm your seat. Address is provided upon registration.

Note: Cancellations 4 days prior to the class dates are non-refundable, or you may send an alternate.

More Details

For more details, visit the menu’s above, or click these links below, and stay tuned.
Once registered, you receive additional details with your workshop confirmation.

May Container Gardening Workshop

Workshop Introduction

Pinboard – Shows Examples of Types of Plants at the Workshop

CONTACT FORM – TO SIGN UP

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Cathy Testa Summer 2014

Quick Monthly Pic of the 2014 Year

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January – A visit to a garden center reveals a tray of lettuce growing happily in a warm greenhouse.

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT - Comstock Ferry

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT – Comstock Ferry

February – A walk on my father’s property in the bright winter sun, wearing a silly hat – just for fun!

Cathy Testa_0004

March – A beautiful Amaryllis burst open its white blooms. The scent of its presence fills the room.

One more shot

One more shot

April – Two lovely birds meet on a perch. The puffs of their feathers and little o’ chirps.

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May – A photo was posted of an orchid cactus bloom. So vivid against the blue sky.

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June – An attendee graciously poses with her pot – the May class was fun, we learned a lot!

An Attendees Creation at the 2014 Class!  Gorgeous!

An Attendees Creation at the 2014 Class! Gorgeous!

July – A group of us gathered to hear about a homeowner’s pond gardens. Walk and Talk Garden Tours first year.

Attendees Listening to Talk by Rhonda

Attendees Listening to Talk by Rhonda

August – A hummingbird moth visits a butterfly bush during another Walk and Talk Home Gardens Tour.

Sphinx Moth on Butterfly Bush Blooms

Sphinx Moth on Butterfly Bush Blooms

September – A shot taken mid summer in-front of some pots – being prepared for a special event.

Cathy Testa at Home

Cathy Testa at Home

October – A group of attendees getting into their mix as we learned how to make Hypertufas as part of the Nature with Art Programs offered by ContainerCrazyCT.

ContainerCrazyCT Hypertufa Making Class_0006

November – A view of my chicken coop covered with Kiwi vines and surrounded by mixed plantings.

Chicken Coop Pen at Cathy T's

Chicken Coop Pen at Cathy T’s

December – A winter container garden installed at a local business. One of many with fresh greens and decor.

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean's Hair Salon

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean’s Hair Salon

What will 2015 bring?  Check in to see…

ContainerCrazyCT.com

Thank You – Feeling Blessed Once Again for The Support of Clients, Friends, Family

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Last night, I posted on Facebook a photo of my Christmas tree, not yet fully decorated, while noting that I was very tired indeed. My schedule from spring up to this day has been filled with activity related to plants and container gardening, and during this time of year, decorating the home for the holidays with fresh evergreens and decor.

But, as I sat down last evening, it hit me. I was feeling pretty exhausted from lots of activity, but happy all the same. This year was filled with classes, Walk & Talk Garden tours where friends offered their gardens to be showcased free to anyone interested in attending, plants sales, and container gardening installs. Sometimes I will push myself to do events and I’m definitely driven by the fact I enjoy what I do but it is mixed also with ups and downs of emotions, meaning I get so excited (an up!), then sometimes I worry about the details (the downs!)

Worrying about details can be counter productive because there is so much you can not control in the gardening world. Plants get bugs, they may fail, or look weak – but I always want the best of the best so I will stress, look over my stock, scout and make sure all are doing fine – for my annual Container Gardening Workshop, as an example in May – or for the greens used this month for my annual Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Workshop in December. I always want every thing to be just right – or as perfect as possible.

I got so hyped up at my last class, I thought I was going to faint when I was going over details with the attendees before they started making their kissing balls, wreaths, and holiday arrangements with greens. It kind of reminded me of the panic which set it when I did my first tv gig.  I was “soooo nervous.” I literally thought I may pass out before the start of my talk.

But I still did it and do it – Why? I sometimes think, why did I say yes to something that made me so nervous?! The answer to that question is obvious – because I love doing anything related to plants and container gardening, and while I may not be the most polished speaker in the world – I wouldn’t miss a chance to share what I know when asked, and so I proceed, even if the situation is a little out of my element or nerve wracking. After many talks now, it is not as difficult as it was when I started being asked to do talks – and I love doing them, even when busy and racing around with various activity.

This year, I was honored to be asked to speak to the Advance Master Gardeners Group in Tolland, CT for a session in September on Container Gardening Design, Care, and More. Then, my stupid laptop had major issues, so major in fact that I had no time to finalize my presentations, so I started getting nervous.  I begged the Master Gardener Coordinator to reschedule me – and thus, she did – to November 19th.  She kindly agreed (Thank you Deb P!).

If someone would have told me – you will be speaking to Advance Master Gardeners in November during the evening when temps were somewhat cold and we are approaching the winter season – which is not necessarily container gardening season – I would have thought it nuts, but I spent over 2 hours sharing a great deal of knowledge I’ve gained over the years as a container gardening fanatic and as an installer of container gardens as a business with my audience.

I thought about what I could offer that would be different – and some of it was the different types of tools for design which people may not consider, which I use all the time in my inspirational pool of … well, of, I don’t know the right word there – but what I mean is I try different stuff and tools that may be nontraditional when I design containers and gardens to gain inspiration and more.

And the response by the Master Gardener audience that evening during my presentation made up of 5 modules was amazing, they didn’t want me to stop talking. They commented on the documentation I provided too – saying they don’t get that much in other talks, which I took as a complement.  And two ladies approached me after the talk saying they want me to come visit them at their location south of Hartford. I jotted down their contact info – and then off I went to get busy with my evergreen orders and classes for December – so I still haven’t called those two ladies back yet (I will, I will – I promise!).

Another thing that surprised me was a request to do my edibles container gardening talk in February!  The group said of course, they would love to hear about edibles in container gardens during the winter – so that is up next, after a rest over the holiday week coming up and maybe a little more right after. And after having the luxury to do plant orders for next spring – which is a fun activity – and I’m excited (a big up!) about that as I take my knowledge and experience to select the best plants for next season’s Container Garden Workshop theme – which is going to be about powerful perennials in container gardens.

In addition to the Walk & Talk tours, I held many container garden talks this past year with a special focus of combining edibles in mixed container gardens as “design” elements (meaning their beautiful features – not even the fact they make a good snack when you admire your container gardens), and ‘nature with art ‘ classes with guest speakers, and offering my Big Container Garden Workshop at my classroom location in Broad Brook, CT for the first time, and – lets see, talks and visits at various Farmers Market and more – well, the activity was non-stop. It kept going – all good news!!

This is not to imply, however, that I’m as busy as I could be – I want more work and hope you will consider me for your container gardens in the upcoming season – Oh YAH!  Thanks to the homeowners and business people whom hire me repeatedly every year – you make me so happy – you do not know. When I’m at your home or business installing your container gardens, I think to myself – I’m sooooo happy doing this!! I’m so happy doing this!!  I could do container gardens 24 x 7 allll day long and be happy – why, I guess it is my passion!!

So – anyhow, not to babble – which I know I am at the moment, this post is just to say thank you to everyone supporting my efforts as part of my business, called Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, and my blog called, Container Crazy CT.

Oh, a friend just asked me on Sunday, when she came by to purchase some holly greens for her containers at home, why I changed my business name to Container Crazy CT?

My business name is still the same, but my focus is less on garden design and more on all service offerings related to container gardening – all things container gardening – installs, classes, and more – and offering monthly classes where nature is combined with art with guest speakers, and offering garden tours.  I’m doing less of the landscape design work specifically, but do offer general consultations on gardens or landscapes. I’ll update my blog on all my 2015 service offerings in the new year.

You know, at the beginning of this year – I wrote 5 goals on my black board in my office — You know how they say, write a dream board or goal board, and it will happen?  Well, all of my goals, except one, happened! The one that didn’t, I had put an X on it and said wait til 2015.  It was about transforming this blog into a more professional format, which I hope to do in 2015.

As for the other goals I listed, well, if you want to know what they are – contact me, I will tell you.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

It is time for bit of rest (and gift shopping and cooking for me) – I’ll be back very soon…

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (cell)
containercathy@gmail.com (email)
http://www.cathytesta.com
Blog: Container Crazy CT

Container Gardens with Evergreens – Spice Up Your Space for the Holidays

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I’ve worked on cold and windy days to install festive holiday container gardens with evergreens and decor this time of the year – but I have to say, yesterday was probably the coldest day ever experienced outdoors while doing so.

Checking the weather beforehand wasn’t on my list – I knew it was going to rain today, so I thought, I need to get this done first thing on Monday.

The truck was loaded up with evergreens and decor supplies by sun up. Sometimes, having an early start is nice because all is quiet before shops open up for the day.

So off I went.  Within the first 45 minutes tho – my hands were frozen.  It was much colder than I expected. It was like 22 degrees out!

But because I enjoy the process of installing container gardens for the holidays, ignoring the tips of my finger tips getting cold in my not-warm-enough gloves was somewhat easy – at first.

As the owner of a business showed up to unlock his store, he said, “You picked a terrible day to do this. It’s freezing out.”

So, I responded with, “It is suppose to rain tomorrow, and it is time for the seasonal change up, so here I am!”

He agreed, indicating this is his favorite container of the seasonal change outs, and how he is looking forward to the holidays.

After completing his two big barrels at his store front, I went for a coffee and returned to the house for warmer socks, gloves, a neck warmer, and warmer ski like hat – it was THAT cold out.

Back out I went and finished two other jobs, taking a lunch break in between to – yes, warm up again.

Luckily – these are local clients – for which I am very thankful for their business.

Check them out – The Sweet Spot Bakery in Broad Brook, CT offers freshly baked cupcakes, cakes, and more – and they are yummy. In fact, I had them make a kissing ball cake for my latest class – it was much fun as everyone didn’t realize it was a cake at first.

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Baker (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Bakery of Broad Brook, CT (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

Then there’s the huge and popular package store, Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, on Rt 140 in East Windsor, CT.  When I looked around at the supply of wine and beer, during my warm up breaks in the store yesterday, I thought – “Gosh, what Leslie and his staff has done for this place is amazing.”  They offer a huge selection of wine and beer — and they hold holiday festivities during the year, like wine tastings, and several important fundraising benefits to help raise funds for community efforts.

Barrels in-front of Joe's Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

Barrels in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

After finishing the decor at Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, it was off to a local hairdresser’s shop, next to the new TRX exercise studio, which is another small local business to support. The salon is called Carol Jean’s Hair Salon at 144 North Road, East Windsor, CT. Michelle is a great person and offers local salon services.

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean's Hair Salon

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean’s Hair Salon

All of these business owners tell me the festive container gardens outside their businesses adds a welcoming environment – and their customers really enjoy seeing them each season, and talking about them with the business owners.

Container Gardens outside of storefronts and businesses lets everyone know – customers are important to their small businesses, and they want to share the holiday happiness too!

If you are interested in an install job for container gardens, call me this week while supplies last.  This is the best time of year to dress up your outdoor store front environment, whether it be a container garden stuffed with greens and decor or a holiday kissing ball or wreath hung on your front door. Tis’ the Season!!

His and Her's Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

His and Her’s Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

And, by the way, I’m super glad I went out yesterday, despite the freezing cold, instead of today. I hear the ice is slick out there today – black ice, my husband warned. He already e-mailed me from his office to say be careful stepping out on to the driveway today. It is slick.

I think I’ll wait for the sun to come out and warm up everything – this time!

Cathy Testa

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

How Do You Decorate for the Holidays?

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We just got through Halloween, and now, Thanksgiving Day is quickly approaching. After that it will be Christmas – as we all know!

Some of us do not like to be rushed into the holidays – and many don’t care for seeing the decorations a little too early at the retail stores either.

But because my work involves planning events and classes to learn how to dress up the home for the holidays with evergreen decor and more, my decorating starts rather early, and so does information about upcoming holiday crafting classes.

Former Posts on Holiday Decorating:

To see some of ContainerCrazy CT’s blog posts on holiday decorating, just go to the red search bar on the right side of this blog and type in Holidays.

You will see results of ideas for decorating pumpkins to using mesh ribbon to create holiday decor in and outside the home, and of course posts about the annual class held by Cathy Testa of ContainerCrazyCT on making evergreen creations in December. Look for photos there, or by going to the top of the blog page for Cathy T’s Classes menu.

Search Bar - Red on Right

Search Bar – Red on Right

The “5th Annual Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations” Class on December 6th, 2014

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

For those who have not attended this class before – Well, let’s just say it is a “Do not miss type of event” if you enjoy creating with FRESH greens — and a large variety of them – There will be 14 different types of evergreens to work with when you make your holiday decor item of choice.

Things you can make at this class:  

A large or regular size Kissing Ball to adorn your front steps, a Wreath to hang on your door, a beautiful long and wide Candle Centerpiece for your holiday table, or even a Mailbox Swag to drape over your mailbox with beautiful, colorful and fresh evergreens.

Getting Ready:

As I prepare for this event, I start going thru my holiday decor to dress up the house.  It includes tossing out old holiday decorations too – or donating them to Good Will, thus me tossing out an old tree! But the goal is to make the environment as festive as possible and to provide more space for our growing group of KB Makers in Cathy T’s classroom located in Broad Brook, CT.

Cathy T tosses old decorations out the window to prepare for new festive decorations!

Cathy T tosses old decorations out the window to prepare for new festive decorations!  Image courtesy of Bitstrips.

Getting Started Early:

In a way, offering this class makes me get started a little bit early for the holidays – it puts me in the spirit.  Just the act of taking out decorations made me want to open a bottle of wine!  And because it is offered early in the month of December, it will get you into the spirit too – your decor will be enjoyed all month long before the hussel and bussel of the holidays.

Four Week Countdown:

The class is about 4 weeks away, on Saturday, Dec 6th.  So, if you haven’t pre-registered, now is the time.  Join a great group of KB Makers, a festive environment, light snacks provided by attendees, and some festive beverages.  All while learning how to make your creation of choice with evergreens.

To Sign Up:

Visit www.ContainerCrazyCT.com and fill out the contact form or reply here at containercathy@gmail.com.

To confirm your seat after pre-registration, a check must be mailed for the item you wish to make at class by next week, so don’t delay.  Once registered, you receive full details.

Onto Thanksgiving:

In the meantime, I will be also focusing on preparing for Thanksgiving (only one week before this class), and a Container Gardening Design class I’m teaching at the Tolland/Vernon location for the Master Gardener’s Program.  The Nov 19th evening class is open to anyone.  To learn more and register, visit http://mastergardener.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/703/2014/08/AMG-F14final.pdf.

Note the MG Container Gardening Design class indicates a Sept date in the above PDF link, but it is on Nov 19th, Wednesday.

Thank you – Cathy Testa

KB Class Attendees working on their Kissing Balls with Evergreens

KB Class Attendees working on their Kissing Balls with Evergreens

Wild Friends in My Backyard this Autumn

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A few years back, we purchased a motion sensor camera to put in the woodlands behind our house – strictly for fun.  It is amazing to see what we capture from time to time living and roaming in the wild. Turkeys, raccoons, our cats, and more.  Two recent visitors have been this fox below, and a buck.

I know foxes live out in the woods beyond our backyard, and I recognize their barking sounds.  They sound like a dog with a scratchy voice.  I’m sure my chickens are not liking their visits – I can imagine the foxes scan the coop’s pen from time to time when we don’t know it.

One year, a momma fox and her two babies hung out in our yard quite a bit.  I was sitting on my porch, quietly sipping coffee, and the momma fox came right up near me suddenly, not knowing I was there – and she had the nerve to yelp at me a little because she was startled when she saw me.  I yelped back, because I was startled too, and quickly ran back into the house.

Fox, Broad Brook, CT

Fox, Broad Brook, CT

And this buck, in the photo below, was also captured by the camera this week as he slowly walked up to the camera to investigate it – they are smarter than we think.

This shot is particularly cute with his inquisitive eyes. He is seeing the blinking red light which flickers when a photo is taken. We got many snapshots of him on the camera, but I picked this one to share this morning.

Deer use our backyard as a passage way – the Scantic River runs beyond our property and with the wetlands and many trees, they enjoy the woodland areas.

One year, a little deer in the backyard showed up, so I snuck up with a camera to take a photo, using the pool as a shield as I approached her.  I got rather close to the deer – but she didn’t run away.  My father later told me to never do that again, deer can attack, he stated.

Deer Spotted in Autumn, Broad Brook, CT

Deer Spotted in Autumn, Broad Brook, CT

People will complain about deer munching on their garden plants – but I guess because there is plenty for them to forage on in the woodlands, they don’t seem to bother my landscape plants much, but I certainly would be annoyed if they attempted to munch on my plants in my container gardens scattered around the yard.  Sometimes, in the winter, they may try to bite a bit on some holly bushes in the front landscape area of my house, but it doesn’t happen often.  Thankfully.

There are many critters around here in my backyard – raccoon, fox, and deer are common visitors.  This spring, a family of raccoons took up residence in the garage attic – How did they get in?  Through the pet door for our cats!  It was not fun eradicating the momma raccoon and her 3 babies. Afterwards, the pet door got shut off for a while until we resolved their regular visits.

I really don’t mind the wild visitors in my yard – they bring a sense of calm when you quietly witness them walking around and enjoying their surroundings – so long as they leave my six hens alone – they are welcome!  It is all part of enjoying nature, and as this autumn approaches and we witness the change of the leaves, feel the cooler breezes, and listen to the quieter evenings no longer filled with the sounds of crickets and frogs, I guess we will welcome our wild friends along with the change of seasons.

Cathy Testa