My First Square Wreath Done!


Greeting Fellow Visitors,

Making a square wreath is a little more challenging as compared to a typical round wreath because of the corners and how you should keep the greens symmetrical to maintain the square look of the frame – but it is just as much fun as any project working with freshly cut evergreens.

Steps to Make a Square Wreath:

First, decide if want to batch your bundles of freshly cut greens by the “same type/variety” or by a “mix of each type” per bundle.

Mix of Fresh Cut Evergreens

Mix of Fresh Cut Evergreens

Because I wanted to see how it would look if I cut and batched the fresh evergreens by same type, this is the option I used to make my first square wreath.

However, I also love the look of bundles when a mix of each cutting or snip of the various greens are batched and bundled as well. It just depends on your preference or style.

Types of Evergreens Used:

Shown above, from left to right, are Holly, Berried Juniper, Silver Fir, Fraser Fir, Cedar Coned, Boxwood, and Golden Arborvitae.

Highlights of the Evergreens:

  • Holly – Very sharp leaves, and more of a decor touch – I only used 2 batches of those.
  • Berried Juniper – What is a wreath, kissing ball, or centerpiece without a touch of the berried Juniper? The soft, blue tones add a contrast and like the Holly, I made only 2-3 bundles of this to add as a highlight.
  • Silver Fir – Thick stems, one sided long soft needles (meaning the underside color is softer), and smells amazing when cut!!
  • Fraser Fir – Very long lasting, a must in any arrangement, traditional – just like Balsam, but Fraser is what I had available this season.
  • Cedar Coned – I love, love, love the golden color of the little cones on the tips – and it really shows up against darker greens, like the Boxwood. This type tends to drupe or dangle, so use care where you position it.
  • Boxwood – This is another fav – because it is so classic, a rich dark green color, small ovate like leaves, and a bonus is they don’t make your hands sticky while you work.  It’s a dark contrast of green to use in the design and a nice base, such as the Fraser Fir or Balsam.
  • Golden Arborvitae – Soft, flexible yet so beautiful – it has patterns of golden yellow in the green, and really so pretty to add as another element. Like the Cedar, it is a little softer and pliable.
  • Pine – Also smells amazing when cut, very sappy, and thin, long, flexible needles, nice next to coarse greens. Think thick foliage next to fine.

Cutting the Snips for Bundles:

So, cut a few of each at all the same length (4-5″ or 5-6″) and wire them together tightly at the cut end with green florist wire. Use sharp pruners and wear gloves, otherwise, you will have a sticky mess on your hands, and lots of lotion required afterwards.

Prepared Bundles:

Here are several bundles prepared. It is easier and faster to work if you have all the bundles ready to go, then you can lay them out on top of your frame to see how they would look before attaching them individually on the frame.

Bundles Prepared

Bundles Prepared

Think about putting the lighter colored bundles next to darker ones. For example, dark green Boxwood next to the light blue of the berried Juniper or the softer Golden Arborvitae. However, in the end, I don’t think it much matters, as all the beautiful freshly cut evergreens on the wreath usually look amazing!

Dark Green Boxwood

Dark Green Boxwood

14″ Wire Frame Used:

A heavy-duty double-wire 14″ square frame was used for this wreath. The durable frame is usable year after year, which is why I highlighted it at my class on making kissing balls and other holiday creations last weekend.

14" Wire Frame Used

14″ Wire Frame Used

Shown above are several of the bundles attached.  You can see there are two bars along each side of the frame.

Options are to wrap each bundle directly over the middle of those two bars, or to stagger them on each edge of the double bars. If you have a paddle of florist wire, wrap the stem end to the wire, then continue for each bundle without cutting the wire from the paddle.

Working Way Around

Working Way Around

Or you can cut wire as you go – either way works – but the key is to wire tightly. Wrap, pull tight, wrap a few times more to ensure it is secure.  The Silver Fir, as an example, can be heavy as well as a batch of drooping Cedars, so be aware of their weight for each bundle.  Boxwood and Fraser Fir are lighter thus may not require as much wiring.

Golden Arborvitae Used in the Design

Golden Arborvitae Used in the Design

As you approach each corner, think about the placement a bit so the square form is maintained. It also helps to watch a good holiday movie or listen to holiday tunes, and if your day is lightly snowing!

Snowfall that day in Broad Brook, CT

Snowfall that day in Broad Brook, CT

Here is my first ever made finished square wreath without decor and ribbons. The little red berries are double-ended on a wire and easy to attach. The look here is natural and likable, but decor was added after this step.

Square Wreath with Red Berries Attached

Square Wreath with Red Berries Attached

Adding Decor:

This step is really based on your preference. I made a bow to match the color of my white and red holiday decor colors at the house, and inserted picks of white snowflakes. Zip ties are what I use to attach a hanger on the back.

Bow on the Left Side

Bow on the Left Side

Silver Snowflakes Added

Silver Snowflakes Added

All Done!

Here it is all finished and hung on my door.  When my hubby arrived home, he said he liked it and that it smelled good too. And, when posted, many friends “liked it” which was very nice too – Thank you!

All Done!

All Done!

Want to Make Your Own ?? – Now’s Your Last Chance at Cathy T’s!

I’m holding a mini-session tomorrow, Saturday, Dec 13th from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. If interested in attending, contact me via text or call: 860-977-9473 or email Cost is $30-35 based on item you elect to make. Options: Kissing Ball, Candle Centerpiece, Round Wreath – or, of course, a Square Wreath!!!  Location: Broad Brook, CT.

This will be your last opportunity to Make Your Own, but if you don’t have time, and need a decor element made for your home, custom orders are accepted.

TGIF Everyone,

Cathy Testa

Visit Cathy T’s Pinboards on Holidays to see many, many inspirational ideas of working with evergreens!  Click the Pinterest Icon on the right side bar of this blog.

To see examples of Cathy T’s Container Gardens Stuffed with Evergreens – See her latest posts and pinboards.  Ho-Ho-Ho-Horticulturist!!!

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

Leave a comment

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

Rudolph Delivers Fresh Evergreens for Making Holiday Kissing Balls at Cathy T’s Class


Hello fellow blog followers, friends, clients, and new visitors!

A New Variety at Tomorrow Class - Golden Arborvitae!

Golden Arborvitae Used in Kissing Balls – A New Variety This Year!

Tomorrow marks the date of Cathy T’s “5th Annual Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Class!

It’s hard to believe, but this class has been running for five years now.

It all started when an idea popped into my head to hold a class on making holiday kissing balls, wreaths, and centerpieces using fresh evergreens after helping a friend assemble her kissing balls at her home.

Each year, this class is coordinated with a mix of excitement, anticipation, and fears.

What do I mean about fears?

Well, when working in the plant world – because plants have the potential to be affected by any number of unexpected surprises, there is always that little bit of fear that something could go wrong.

Just yesterday, I shared a link about a California tree grower experiencing a huge loss of holiday grown trees due to drought. Christmas trees take many years to reach the perfect stage for sale during the holidays, so image his disappointment when 500 trees were so badly affected by lack of rain fall, they could not be offered for sale this season. This is something he really had no control over because his trees were suffering from the forces of Mother Nature.

But, most people in the horticulture trade learn how to roll with the punches, solve any unanticipated – or unwanted bumps in the road and move on quickly. And usually, they never give up either.

On the day I drove to my suppliers to finally pick up my order of fresh mixed evergreens  – a day highly anticipated and enjoyed every year around this time – a blip happened.

When I arrived at their door, they told me a big portion of my evergreens order was not in yet.

Cathy yelling "something is missing here!" Photo Source: Bitstrips

Cathy T is surprised to learn not all is in yet. (Photo Source: Bitstrips)

My reaction was not pure panic, because it was one of those – here we go moments, but disappointment set in. I have things to do and get done, and this would be a slight delay to deal with.

I thought, “I guess this is my unexpected storm this go around?”

As I questioned why and how quickly they could resolve this blip, suddenly, out of no where, a very pleasant gentleman showed up by my side.

I had never seen him before and he reassured me all would be fine. He promised to make a special delivery to my house the very next morning.

When I questioned him on the time of the delivery, he said they would be there by 8:30 am.

Timing was important to me, just like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, a great deal of planning goes into my special day – so I didn’t want this little storm to delay the gift of greens used in my class by all the Kissing Ball Makers.

Thankfully, the next morning, one of his elves did show up, as promised — on time.

“Phew.” I thought.  All looked great and it was onto my next to do’s to prepare for the class activities.

As I was working, I started thinking, “Who was “that guy” yesterday?”

As I mentioned, I had never seen him before in all the five years I have driven to their place to pickup my evergreens. Was he an owner? Is he a new worker?

He certainly was very attentive and saved the day.

Was he my Rudolph?

Perhaps!! To me he was at that moment – he made sure the delivery took place no matter what it took – typical of horticulture people – especially this time of year.

So, long story short —

Making beautiful holiday kissing balls with fresh evergreens will happen yet again, despite those fears or blips which may happen from time to time in the plant world.

Snowmen Wine Stoppers - You know what these are for!

Snowmen Wine Stoppers – You know what these are for!

We will be surrounded by holiday decor, warmed by appetizers and holiday cheer, and share our day with enthusiastic kissing ball makers.

Dark and Classic Boxwood Used in KBs

Dark and Classic Boxwood Used in KBs

You may search the question: “How to make kissing balls?” via Google on the Internet, and you will find many videos and information on the how to’s, but you don’t get the holiday magic which happens in Container Crazy CT’s holiday workshop each year, unless of course, you are a fortunate attendee.

See you all soon new and advanced Kissing Ball Makers!

Ho, Ho, Ho…


Your Pseudo Mrs. Claus

Cathy T - Photo by Bitstrips

Cathy T – Photo by Bitstrips

Early Planning is Part of the Process…


Early planning is part of the horticulture process.  Plants must be ordered in the winter months for spring deliveries, and evergreens must be ordered in autumn for winter pickups.

And, as much as you try to plan ahead, there will always be things you don’t expect which may cause your plans to not go exactly according to plan, but you adjust, correct, and move on.

On my recently submitted evergreens order for the upcoming December class on making holiday creations with fresh evergreens, there is a disclaimer on the bottom of the confirmation form which reads:

“Prices are from current inventory and WILL change due to availability, season, and any other act of God.”

Can you imagine if this disclaimer was on your plant tag or pot when you buy a plant at a garden center?  Imagine the response!

But I so get what this company is saying – and, they say it like it is.

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee at Cathy T’s Annual Winter Class

My planning began this month for a Cathy T Class being offered in December.  It is the 5th Annual Kissing Balls and Evergreen Holiday Creations Class, and it is fun, popular, and worth every bit of planning.

This post is to provide my blog followers with a heads-up that the class is on the calendar.  If you wish to sign-up, which is recommended to do early for seats fill up quickly, see the menu bar above, Cathy T Classes.

When you click on the menu’s option, a drop down list appears with two options for this winter class.  One is the “contact form” to sign up, the other provides more details about the class with photos of the items you can make.

As for now, this is all you need to know if you are interested in signing up today to save the date on your holiday calendar.

As soon as you are “in,” more information on the amazing variety of evergreens is provided along with complete details about this class scheduled on December 6th, 2014 – the first Saturday in December.

By the way, we have three “premium” evergreens added this year, which are new for this year’s class!  As well as the usual mix of eleven other types of FRESH evergreens.

That is right – a total of 14 varieties of beautiful evergreens to use when you make your holiday creation as an attendee at this Cathy T Class.

You won’t find this elsewhere, I guarantee it – Unless, of course, there is an act of God.

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa's Vision of the Future - Photo by Bitstrips

Cathy Testa’s Vision of the Future – Photo by Bitstrips

Bottling Intoxicating Scents of Fresh Evergreens by Making Potpourri


Sweeping up the floor of my classroom after an Evergreen Creations Class, a thought occurred to me.  I should collect some of the smaller cut pieces which fell to the floor to make potpourri.

And it was then I remembered, I picked up some mason jar covers at a Vintage Bazaar this summer with a precut pattern in them. They will be perfect.

Using some mason jars I had in stock, I filled the jars with bits and pieces of the greens. It was amazing how quickly the scent permeated from the jar.

Most people enjoy the scent of freshly cut evergreens – especially because it brings back memories.  Scent being one of the most powerful to remind you of something from the past.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension has an article on their website which states the feeling of evergreen aromas perfectly.

“Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit like the perfume of fresh-cut evergreen. Every species of conifer has its own slightly different complex of terpenols and esters that account for that “piney woods” perfume. While all natural Christmas trees share many of the same aromatic compounds, some people develop a preference for the smell of a certain type of tree, possibly the one they remember from childhood. Even if it turns out that using a polyvinyl chloride Christmas tree is more eco-friendly than using a natural one, no chemistry lab will ever quite match the fragrance of fresh pine, fir or spruce in the living room.” – Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Evergreen Creations_0012

Items used to make Homemade Evergreen Potpourri:

  1. Mason Jars
  2. Mason Jar Covers with Holes in the top
  3. Snips or pruners
  4. Decorative Ribbon
  5. Preserved Moss
  6. Pine cones
  7. Holly berries
  8. Fresh evergreens bits and pieces

The steps are pretty straight forward.  Gather up small snips and clips of evergreens, and put them into the mason jar.  Make sure the cuttings are not wet because they will rot.  Make sure the mason jar is not wet inside either if you washed it in soapy water prior.

Evergreen Creations_0015

Add some preserved moss to the top for a decorative look or to eliminate any potential spillage from the cover of needles.

Evergreen Creations_0014

Speaking of needles, got some on your table that fell off?  Put those in the jar too.

Evergreen Creations_0013

Add a couple cones to make it pretty.  Perhaps a snip or two of holly with the red berries as well.  I also placed one item on top of the preserved moss, like a single holly leaf.

Evergreen Creations_0016

Cover it with a cover that has holes so the scent will release.  Add a decorative ribbon or tinsel wire and perhaps an ornament.

Evergreen Creations_0017

Keep in a cold place until you give to a friend, use as a table setting pieces, or put in a room to enjoy right away.  Again, I set one down at one point after it was finished and realized as I was sitting there the scent was strong right away.  I don’t think scented oil is required, but it is an option if you want it to last past the holidays.

Evergreen Creations_0022

Open Studio Days

That same day, as I bottled up these cute and highly scented potpourri jars, a new friend, Cathy, attended my Open Studio Days, where by appointment you get the valuable one-on-one opportunity to learn how to make an evergreen Kissing Ball, wreath, candle centerpiece or other items for the holidays.

Cathy called me up to inquire about my sessions and how they work.  When I asked how she heard about my classes, she said she noticed some kissing balls hanging at a house in another town, but had never seen them in her area.  She wondered how they were made, and so she Googled it, and found my appearance on the CT Style television program when I talked about making them last year.

Homemade items are big on Cathy’s list – and I couldn’t agree more.  She said it is so much more valuable and special for so many reasons.  They are well-made (with love) and unique.  This is absolutely true with kissing balls.  Each and every one made in my Evergreens Creations Classes are one of a kind.  And mixed with lots of various evergreens creating amazing textures – and yes, of course, evergreen scents!

So while Cathy worked on her kissing ball, I made a small wreath.

Here’s are the items I used to make the small wreath:

  1. 10″ grapevine wreath
  2. 2-3″ cuttings of mixed evergreens (pine, juniper, balsam, and more)
  3. green florist wire (on a roll)
  4. green zip ties (cable ties)
  5. pruners
  6. ribbon

Start by cutting your greens and batching them together with florist wire.  Use about 3 snips of evergreens for each bundle.

Evergreen Creations_0018

Remember to lay the most decorative green on the top layer, as done with the blue berried juniper, so it shows up on the wreath.

Set your bundles aside.  You will need at least 8 bundles.  Each is twined at the stem end with green florist wire, wrapping around several times so they are well secured.

Evergreen Creations_0019

Attach the first bundle to your wreath with a zip tie.  Why, you may ask – a zip tie and not the florist wire?  Well, I feel it is really secure that way as the starting point.  And the zip tie is easily threaded through the grape vine.  Sometimes it is easier than using the wire.

However, if you decide to use wire instead.  Attach it to the grapevine for your first bundle.  Keep the wire attached to the wreath as you continue around the wreath to attach your pre-cut evergreen bundles.  You don’t have to stop to cut wire for each bundle.

Evergreen Creations_0021

As you attach each bundle of greens, be sure to position it to cover the zip tie or wire of the previous batch.

I started using my roll of green florist wire to continue.  Keeping the wire attached to the wreath frame and winding it over the frame as I moved to the next batch of greens.

Evergreen Creations_0022

In between working on my little wreath, I would stop to help Cathy cut greens for her kissing ball.  She was proceeding very well and had lots of questions.  This is when I realized having the Open Studio Days enables more individual attention for the student versus the large class held on the first weekend in December.

The large class is lots of fun, and it will remain in session every year – but should you be the type of person wanting more quiet time and some personalized help, the Open Studio days, following the Evergreens Creation Class, is your best option.

Cathy and I spent 3 hours – yes 3 hours chatting and discussing upcoming holidays as we created.  After Cathy was all done creating her kissing ball, we decided on a sparkly gold wide mesh ribbon.  It went on the top with tails on the bottom.  The tails included gold cord which made it more dramatic.  This set the color decor theme for her kissing ball.

We picked out small round gold ball ornaments to attach on the needles and a few decorative florist picks.  And, we also added a new item I had in my decor stock called, golden rain.  It is beautiful, thin long strands of sparkling gold which hangs from a central long pick.  Inserting it on the top of the ball to drip over the sides really finished off the look.  We both just loved it.

Evergreen Creations_0023

Cathy considered adding some golden bows, but when she asked if she should, I told her no – I thought it was just right and too much might be overdoing it.  She agreed.

I think Cathy will be the talk of the town, because she said none of her neighbors have kissing balls.  When the outdoor lights hit that ball, the sparkling from the golden decor will evoke the feeling of the holiday spirit, just as scents of the evergreens will do.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

P.S.  The evergreen potpourri jars make great hostess gifts – and you may be a recipient soon. 😉

Cathy Testa

Evergreen Creations_0020

Winter Gardening Fun – From Making Kissing Balls to Evergreen Holiday Creations!


It is only four more weeks until Cathy T’s 4th annual Evergreen Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Class.

Photo Creation via Bitstrips

Photo Creation via Bitstrips

At this class, you have the option to make either an Evergreen Kissing Ball (hung outdoors during the holidays), wreath, mailbox swag, or candle centerpiece.  The class gets filled with a group of wonderful attendees ready to have some holiday crafting fun before the shopping and other preps begin this year.

This is a great way to dress up your outdoors with some fresh greenery and add some decorating features during the winter! Yes, nothing is prettier than snow on beautiful evergreen creations.  When birds stop by to visit, it is even prettier.  And when you have holiday guests over, and they step outside for some fresh air, they will have something very pretty to admire – made by you.

Photo by Cathy Testa

Photo by Cathy Testa

It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but I’m already excited for the holidays – because of this annual event.  Nothing is nicer than the smell of fresh fragrant evergreens in your surroundings, knowing you created it, and you got it done early so you can enjoy it for the entire month of December and up through after the holidays – evergreens outdoors last well into early February.

There are only a few more seats remaining, so if you are local to my area (East Windsor/Broad Brook, CT), and are interested, please sign up soon.

Evergreen Kissing Balls by C Testa

See more information HERE or contact Cathy Testa at

Thank you,

Cathy Testa


Leave a comment

Greetings Visitors!

Heads-up, if you are in need of an evergreen wreath, candle centerpiece, cute and festive table décor, door swags or other evergreen creations, and live locally to my neck of the woods and nearby towns, please stop by on Friday, December 14th, at the Ellington Winter Market, 11 Pinney Street in the YMCA Building, 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm.

I will be there tucked in the corner surrounded by evergreens.  It is a great opportunity to pick up a hostess gift if you are on your way to a holiday gathering, a festive item to dress up your home, and holiday presents for your family and friends.  We know we all have very busy schedules this time of year, however, it only takes a few seconds to swing on your way to shopping malls or gatherings.  You will find other wonderful homemade and hand-crafted local gifts at the market – it is their Holiday Festival Date this Friday at the Ellington Winter Market.

At the Market

Cathy T at the Market

Yesterday, because I wasn’t exactly sure where the YMCA Building is located, I decided to take a ride after picking up my cat from the vet.  Here was my cat, meowing louder than a hungry baby in the car, and me driving down Windsorville Road.  The cat was becoming so loud, I accidentally took a left onto Pinney Road (instead of Pinney Street).  It didn’t take long for me to discover my error, I should have continued straight down Windsorville Road to the rotary.  Follow the rotary circle and take the 4th exit onto Rt 286/Pinney Street.  The YMCA Building is on your right shortly thereafter.  There is plenty of parking in the front.

You know, I’ve never been inside this building before.  It is amazing how many new places I’m introduced to in town from the markets and my garden presentations, from libraries to churches.  Makes me realize, I need to check out my local offerings more often!  Shame on me!

There are many services, sometimes services which are free, which we overlook.  In fact, this afternoon I plan to go visit the new Vernon Community Arts Center at 709 Hartford Turnpike.  Up to Sunday, December 23, they are showcasing 70 local artists works.  Hours vary, so visit to find the times, but I definitely want to go there to get some unusual holiday gifts.  And support our motivated and talented local artists.

I also have to make it out to the East Windsor Trolley Museum to see Jeannie Pomeroy-Murphy sing.  She is a local friend from my high school class, and I still haven’t made it out there – shame on me!  The CT Trolley Museum is having their Winterfest every weekend until Sunday, December 30th.  Great for kids because of the ride of lights on the antique trolleys.  For hours, visit  They took a hit earlier this year, when someone stole items, which I read about in the newspaper.  This is the perfect time of year to help them recoop from the impact, by utilizing their services and seeing Jeannie sing too – support our local venues, they need us.

Maybe we need a tour bus arranged so we can be shuttled to all the local events as it seems they can be easily overlooked or there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.  As for myself, I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping – I might as well have fun while doing it – so going to local events is one great way to do so.  Cathy T
Cathy T’s Landscape Designs

Evergreen Kissing Balls Class 2012

Candle Centerpiece

Good Morning, or Afternoon Everyone!

Today is the day I have the pleasure of teaching attendees the how-to’s of making gorgeous evergreen kissing balls for the holidays.  Wreath making is also being offered as well as mailbox swags, button balls, candle center pieces, and more.  This is my third annual class on this topic, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to hold it because is it fun, creative, and everyone leaves with a hand-made evergreen decoration.

For those reading my blog regularly, you know this tradition – at least for me – is partly due to my Canadian heritage, and the other part of the formula is being in the world of horticulture.  It can be dreary looking outside in the winter months, and having evergreens around your home in various décor showcases surely cheers one up.  It adds a nice dark green color against the soft snow of the season.Birdbath with Evergreens

I hang two kissing balls from hooks by my entrance door every year, on hooks used for hanging baskets in the summer.  I also make an evergreen topper for my whiskey barrels and insert a big wicker snowman with lights in the center.  I like putting evergreens on a iron garden bench and on the rim of my hearted birdbath.  And I hang evergreen garlands from various places too.  The list goes on.

Festive SnowyAs shown on my latest guest appearance on the CT Style televisions program (See:, I mentioned kissing balls don’t just have to be hung from hooks or from the ceiling of your entrance doors or wrap around porches, although they look absolutely gorgeous there.  They can also be placed in a pretty holiday tin as a table centerpiece. Or you can create festive and fun snow man by using a kissing ball as the body. Another new creation I invented is what I call a “button ball” which is almost a full ball that is hung on the base of your windows, outdoors, on the center of the base.  Just think creatively.

Yesterday, my oil delivery guy tapped on my door to hand in my bill, and he said, “Your place looks so nice!”  I told him I was setting up a class and had people attending tomorrow.  He asked for what?…, and of course, I pointed to my kissing balls hanging right there, he said they were beautiful.  You know, I’ve had the mail man complement me on plants in summer, the woman delivering the newspapers mentioning she enjoys my big container garden season change up by the end of my driveway, and even an electrician this summer, working here, bought an item of mine on his way out that I just made for the farmers market.  He said his wife still raves about it still.

Candle CenterpieceThree days after my kissing ball and wreath making class, I’m holding a class at my local East Windsor Senior Center on how to make candle centerpieces with evergreens and decor.  My parents go to this senior center every single day, yes every week day, for lunch.  They love it there.  I never thought they would be so involved in a senior center, only because they spent so much time at home on our farm, and many of their best friends were Canadian relatives, but now he has many town friends from the senior center.

One day I ran into a person who is involved in running the center, and he said, at first my father was very quiet, yet now he talks to everyone non-stop.  I’m so glad the center is here for my parents, I truly appreciate this helpful service at a time when my parents are retired.  The senior center staff invited me to have lunch with them before we begin our hands-on session for candle centerpieces.  This is another class I’m looking forward to doing, especially because the attendees are good friends of my parents, and it is a local venue.

ev on plateThen it is off to decorating some business store fronts with evergreen décor and hopefully, after that is done, I can do a little more at home for myself.  Some of my favorite evergreens to use are boxwood, balsam and fraser firs, blue berried juniper, coned cedar, yew, holly, and white pine.  I went over why during my television segment, and will during classes.

I also love collecting pine cones which I bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at a low temperature to kill any little critters that maybe hanging out in there, and this also opens them up if they are closed tight.  The fragrance emitted, as they slowly warmed up, is interesting, and kind of sets the mood too.

Beautiful, fresh, and textural evergreens dress up your outdoor environment this time of year, and will add a bit of fresh fragrance, and create festive, welcoming environment.  Once decorated, they can’t be beat and I think even the birds enjoy them.

A new trend I’m seeing is the evergreens are showcasing more unique light products, such as solar powered lights that can be tucked in the base, or you can put a string of lights in the base on top of the soil before inserting your greens and painted or natural branches for holiday outdoor containers and pots filled with evergreens.  You can even create an ice globe by filling a balloon with water, putting outdoors during freezing temps, it will freeze into a ball.  Then just peal off the balloon and you have an ice globe.  This globe tucked into the base of the evergreens in a holiday pot with lights can look very cool during the evenings.  And if it melts, oh well, that just gives some moisture to the tips and cuttings.

This year’s class is full, but keep it in mind for next season as it will return and grow each year.  Also, if you are interested in a custom order for evergreen décor, do not hesitate to contact me at or 860-977-9473.  Thank you for visiting.  Don’t forget to see more photos on my business Facebook page:  Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, and on Pinterest for my holiday boards for ideas.  Cathy T

From Spark to Tradition

Leave a comment

I have a friend who has a tradition of raising turkeys every year for a butchering in time for Thanksgiving.  Well, it is actually her husband and his friends partaking in the butchering, but because she and I walk together in the mornings, I’ve witnessed the turkeys in the pen and the pile of feathers that follow when their annual event occurs.

One year, her dog sat quietly on their lawn witnessing the slaughter and cut up as the gang of guys did their work, and I said to my friend, “Gee, I wonder what your dog is thinking?”  She responded, “…I’m glad I’m not a turkey.”

I never asked her though, how did this whole thing get started?  They don’t live on a farm per say, but this tradition has grown so much at their home, to the point, soon they will need a bigger turkey pen.

Because I grew up on a farm, and my Dad butchered cows, this whole process is not repulsive to me.  At the age of 8 or 9, somewhere around there, I carried cow hearts and tongues in buckets, yes, buckets from the barn to the basement, where my Mom would be there grinding meat and packaging the butchered treasures for storage in the big basement freezer.

I crave freshly butchered meat now more than ever.  Store bought meat never does it for me.  So last year, I purchased a 1/4 of a cow from a local butcher.  The butcher was introduced to me by way of the turkey butchering friends!  Who would ever figure we’d be doing that, …going in on a cow?  Not surprising, but I would not have thought this would become a tradition with my walking partner.  Ironically, we walk right past the cow candidates on our walking route too.  How funny and ironic is that?  Sometimes, I’ll jokingly point to a big cow in the pasture and say, “You are next on our list!”  LOL.

Of the packages of butchered meat, the one I seem to enjoy the most is the ground beef.  The color is so red and fresh, I think I actually drooled once upon opening it.  I told my friend it is vampire-ish.  It brings me back to the memory of juicy meat, fresh from our family farm, and I feel that tradition of my childhood when carrying pieces of meat from the butchering barn to the processing station returning.  With a large family of eight, I’m sure it was the economical way to go as well.  Eventually my Dad had a butcher do the dirty work but we always had fresh meat on hand.

But how this tradition started for my family, or my friends’ family with the turkeys, is a mystery.  Traditions seem to be created over time, starting with an initial spark and leading to a grander event.

For me, my friends, family and some gardening enthusiasts, a tradition sparked at my home three years ago.  It did not include butchering an animal, but we do cut up quite a few evergreens!  I decided to teach a class on how to make evergreen kissing balls for the holidays.  Kissing balls are popular in Canada where my parents are from, and where many of my French Canadian relatives live today.

When we were kids, we headed up north almost every Christmas or New Years as a holiday tradition.  And when visiting Aunts and Uncles’ homes, I always saw kissing balls hung in-front of their doorways.  They hang them in front of local restaurants and hotels too.  When snow is clinging to them, it adds a special feeling of remembering the cold, festive days of a Canada visit.  In fact, you start seeing the evergreen kissing balls when approaching Vermont on the route up north.

These images of evergreen kissing balls dangling to welcome visitors is part of what sparked a thought that I should offer a class on how to make them, plus one of my favorite cousins had asked me to help her make some, so the combo of the two lead to my class.

KB at Spa Restaurant

KB at Spa Restaurant

My “how to make evergreen kissing balls class” turned out to be a very festive afternoon with the ladies, whom I refer to today, in year three of holding this class, as the “Kissing Ball Makers.”  That name was also a spark upon the suggestion of one of the attendees when she replied to an email about it.

Last year, I exclaimed to the group,”I’m going to hold this class every year for as many years as I can.”  And the group returns here on 12/1 this year to keep the tradition going strong.  It is my #1 favorite event for the holidays.

Holding it right after Thanksgiving subsides and the holiday decorating season begins is just about right.  The Kissing Ball Makers relax, chatter, and create before the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations start.  It is a bit of “me time” for the Kissing Ball Makers, and they take home a beautiful and festive evergreen creation of their own style.

During our creation process, we aren’t holding our iPhones (although we use them to check out our Holiday pin boards for inspiration!)  Here is mine:, plus our hands are busy stuffing evergreens or sharing our favorite holiday appetizers without anyone having to do the clean up after.

In fact, I even enjoy that tradition of cleaning up the classroom floor the next day, finding tinsel and glitter here and there scattered around, some empty cocktail classes, and the sound in my mind of all the laughter and fun from the prior day’s event.

If you didn’t get a chance to get in on the sign-up list for this year’s class, which includes new items to make such as wreaths and mailbox evergreen swags, your next best alternative is to tune in on November 27th, Tuesday, at 12:30 pm, Channel 8 to see me return as a guest speaker on the CT Style program on, or watch it on the web right after it airs.  See

KBs in-front of house in Burke, VT.

In the meantime, I have to ask, “What is your favorite holiday tradition, and how did it spark?”

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, Cathy T