Five Random Plant Photos and The Story Behind Them

Cactus in Tin Cans

This was back in 2019. I used a hammer and nail to pound little drain holes in the base of the soup cans (easy peasy!), and put a cactus plant in each. I had started to do letter stamping on the cans’ sides prior for fun. These just ended up on a wood shed floor and a photographer (JMS Art & Photo) took photos of it when here taking other photos of my plants that day. Note: Only downfall of the cans is they start to rust – but that could be a good thing if you like a rustic look.

Table in the Greenhouse

I know that every square inch of my greenhouse should probably be used for plants only, but I can’t help myself. I like creating a mix of vintage or antique things to put around my plants. The table is a very old small draft table a retired engineer gave away for free one year (actually his daughter posted it for free) so I went to get it. The typewriter in the background was from my husband’s uncle’s typewriter shop. The vintage fan is from a farm in Vernon, which I picked up as part of their tag sale one summer. But of course, what is the most impressive is that succulent plant and the way the flower stems grew. It is such a beautiful photo, again by JMS noted above.

Succulent Blooms in Summer

Speaking of succulent blooms, here’s a beautiful photo of one which was outdoors in summer. It was growing in the shape of a heart! Hummingbirds visit these blooms a lot. They like them, so take note, succulent flowers are great for your little hummingbirds in summer and they last a very long time on long tall stems. This bloom was actually growing from a hanging basket filled with succulent plants, so the flowers were high up and the hummingbird was fun to watch.

Castor Bean Seed Pods

Castor bean plants are easy to grow from seed. I wrote about this plant and an artist’s depiction of them too via this post. This variety has red stems, reddish foliage, and red round seed pods which are spiny. You wait to harvest them at the right time when the seeds inside are mature, and crack the pods open. Gloves are recommended as the spines can be a nuisance when cracking open the seed pods. Keep your seeds over the winter and sow in the spring. These plants grow super tall and huge. I probably will sow more seeds this spring again. They make a tropical affect in the garden.

Morning Glories

Another photo by JMS (noted above). I love the way she captured the shadow of the morning glories growing along my garage wall. I wrote about morning glories last month, see here. Plants offer many artistic benefits and one being the way plants’ foliage and flowers capture light or twine and grow – this is why I am obsessed with plant photography!

Well, just 5 random photos to share today!

Hope you enjoy them.

Have a great weekend.

Cathy Testa
containercathy at
Container Garden Designer
Plant Enthusiast
Broad Brook, CT 06016
Zone: 6b
Written: 2/18/22

Elizabeth Park Offers A Spring Greenhouse Show


Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!

Spring arrives today in about 9 hours from the time I’m typing this post – However, the clouds in East Windsor right now sure don’t match our date on the calendar. We may get another frosting of snow today – let’s hope it is the last for the season.

It is chilly and gloomy, so I thought I’d share just a few snapshots from my visit to the Elizabeth Park Conservancy (located at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Asylum Avenue on the Hartford-West Hartford Line) to cheer you up as you deal with today’s weather.

I attended the show yesterday. Fortunately, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the warmth of the greenhouse was a refreshing change from the cold temps still lingering outdoors.

(Address for GPS: 1561 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT).

Burst of Spring Colors

Burst of Spring Colors

The first thing I noticed was the smell of Hyacinth, which looks similar to the purple Muscari shown in the photo above but is much bigger – and everyone knows of them – Hyacinth bulbous flowering plants are very popular during Easter. They have an intense strong scent so it is no wonder the blooms of many filled my nose the minute I opened the door to the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.

Row of Happiness

Row of Happiness

I arrived at 9:45 am figuring it would be best for parking. Taking 91S to 84W, and the exit for Asylum Street, turn right, go straight for about 1.5 miles, and the park entrance is on your left.

First thing I saw was a big fallen tree on the ground which fell over from the force of the 40-60 mph winds the day before. It was near the entrance area. A tree working crew was just showing up to clean that up.

Proceeding down the lane to the greenhouses, I planned to park adjacent to a nice cafe, called the Pond House, they have at the site – but the parking spaces were already full. This really surprised me, so I exited and took a right, circled back, and re-entered the park again. By this time, the tree crew moved to another part of the road and they were all looking up at a limb hanging above. Because the road is one-way, I parked on the roadside near the rose garden beds and took a brisk walk to the greenhouses. I really didn’t mind the walk because it was blue skies and very sunny. Others were walking the park for exercise too.

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

I absolutely adore yellow roses and tulips – and I enjoy taking close up shots of flowers. So, with my handy iPad, I started to lean in to take shots. The greenhouse was quiet – only 4 other people were inside chatting and admiring the plants. I found out later the crowded parking lot was due to seminars and classes being held in the cafe.

Amaryllis Blooms

Amaryllis Blooms

Fascinated by the internal structures of flowers, I leaned closer to a beautiful Amaryllis flower to take photos. Many are blooming in the greenhouse. I love how the sun placed shadows of the stamen and pistil parts of the flower on the petals. To know those tiny pollen molecules move from the anthers of the stamen to the stigma female portion is incredible. So many things happen in plants, if only we could zoom in closer or see the insides operating.

Anyhow! The pink flower petals of the Amaryllis were sparkling in the sun which was truly glorious on a sunny bright winter’s day in their greenhouse. I was fortunate and happy I took the time to visit.

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Visiting the greenhouse early in the morning hours was a good call. The sun was shining through and hitting the blooms everywhere. This tulip has frilly edges to its flower petals – making it all the more elegant in soft yellow.

This Spring Greenhouse Show at Elizabeth Park runs from March 14th to March 27th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. The various spring bulbs will definitely cheer you up if you decide to go.

Middle Row Filled

Middle Row Filled

As I snapped away, one of the workers came inside to tend to plants, so I took the opportunity to ask him how the greenhouse is heated. The structures here are ancient and historic – In fact, Elizabeth Park is on the national register of historic places. There are three greenhouses on the property – only one is part of the showcase at this time. The worker was very kind and told me it is heated by large pipes which run directly under the benches, which of course, I didn’t notice or see because the benches are fully covered with flowers and plants. The temperature in the greenhouse was 60 degrees during the time of my visit, and he told me at night they keep it between 45-50, and the sun is what rose the temp to 60 at that time. I surely was enjoying it!

Splashes of Red and Orange

Splashes of Red and Orange

If you are a photographer, there are plenty of photo-opps here! One of the visitors in the greenhouse was a pro – he had this big tube which he held up at the end of his camera lens, and he didn’t take long to capture his photos. I was sure to not interrupt him – taking pictures of plants is a form of therapy while you go from one to the other in a old beautiful greenhouse when the sun is shining. The only thing you hear are the six fans circulating away at the top of the structure and some mumbles of plant admirers in the greenhouse.

For more information – Visit the Park’s Website

Cathy Testa



When accompanying Steve, my husband, to pick up bird seed last weekend, I noticed the store had amaryllis bulbs on sale (at 50% off actually, so they were a real bargain).  It took only seconds for me to include two in our checkout because I was inspired by a visit to a greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT recently where seedlings were popping out of trays, and bulbs were growing in bulb vases.  A couple of herb seed packets were tossed into the shopping cart as well.


When I arrived home, it hit me. I finally have a great use for a nice green glass container I picked up at a vintage show last summer.  It is a littler larger than what the instructions indicate for amaryllis bulb growing (a pot size of no more than two times the diameter of the bulb is recommended), but I proceed regardless.  The bulb was already sprouting a shoot, which I could see via the window air hole in the box, so it was underway and would only continue to grow once given the right temperature and light conditions.


The amaryllis box included a plastic pot, some soil mix which was rather dry and would require re-hydration with water, and instructions on the box’s exterior cover.  The pot and mix were set aside as I started to arrange various river rocks in my green glass container at a level of about four inches.  My goal was to make a nice indentation or sitting spot for the base of the bulb, and test the bulb’s position before removing dead roots and adding water.

Before setting the bulb in its final position, the brown roots, which were rather dry, were removed carefully by hand.  These can rot in the water.  Any roots which were slightly white remained.  Because even the white roots were very dry, I’m not sure if they will take but new roots should assume command once the plant begins to recognize a water source, light, and temperature conditions as it continues its growth out of dormancy.


As I set the bulb upon the stones, I carefully tucked the white roots in crevices between the stones.  Once I was satisfied the bulb was balanced and checked that the shoot would be able to exit the top of the container, I added stones around the bulb’s top portion.

Instructions indicate, if you elect to grow your amaryllis bulb in water versus soil mix, to be sure to keep the top third of the bulb exposed and water added at a level of one inch below the base of the bulb.  I don’t think you need to be super exact with the inches and all that jazz, just follow the rule to not allow the bulb to sit in water and all should work out fine.

A sunny windowsill is best for an amaryllis bulb to grow, but I placed mine on the north side because this is where my green glass container is best suited – so it may be a little cooler there with less direct sun, but it will grow regardless – just at a slower pace.  As for the room temperature, it must remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  No problem for me as I can’t take any temperature lower than that in my house during the winter, even with a loaded wood stove in the basement!


I’m looking forward to watching the shoot elongate, turn green and eventually reveal a beautiful showy red bloom within a few weeks.  I guess the only downfall of growing these in water versus soil is the bulb is usually tossed because it doesn’t restore well.  However, having a green thumb, I will attempt to store my bulb and redo the entire process again at the right time.  A period of dormancy is required for about two months for the plant to regrow and bloom once again.

Detailed Planting Instructions


Useful Links:

White Flower Farm with Video Growing Instructions:

Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder Plant History and Details:

The United States National Arboretum, How to Make your Amaryllis Bloom Again:


Now onto my herb seeds.  Several small terracotta pots have been washed (via a wash cycle in my dishwasher) and are waiting for soil mix and my herb seeds.  This is next on my little to do list.

Cathy Testa

My Ongoing Greenhouse Procrastination


A premonition

A premonition

It has been a while now that some of my friends have stated, “Cathy, you need a greenhouse.”  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get one.  I do own a few of those little hobby greenhouses, which by the way, have actually worked out nicely for transitioning small plants from the growers’ big greenhouses to my location, especially for small succulents or baby herbs, in early spring.  I line up the little portable greenhouses on my driveway.  The heat from the pavement provides a nice warming situation and they are easy to reach with my hose.  They are cheap and easy to carry from the garage every spring, so they’ve worked during the interim.

I have the perfect backyard for a larger “real” greenhouse. So, why haven’t I gotten one? Perhaps it is the fear of success – or having a greenhouse would provide me an avenue to get “even more” plants.  And this scares me, just a tad.  A hoop house is one on the consideration’s list – however, we had some nasty winter storms here in CT where many folks’ greenhouses collapsed from the snow’s heavy weight.  Perhaps, a hoop house with the covering is not the way to go. They are less expensive and somewhat easy to install, and useful, but have that chance of collapsing in winter. I’m actually lucky I didn’t put one up because we had some heavy duty storms the past couple winters.

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

So, in the usual, Cathy T fashion I began daydreaming about choices of greenhouse styles. I started a board on Pinterest of greenhouse photos. So many unique and fun styles were discovered. Some with colored glass, a bit artsy, others grand enough to make you sulk, for they were large and beautiful. Did this process help come to a conclusion on which greenhouse to get? Nope, this just confused me some more. Think of it this way, if you loved sports cars, and wanted to get just the right one, wouldn’ t you take some time to consider all the options?  It is so tempting to get a really exciting sports car, but then again – do you really need one or that one in particular?

I even had a guy come to my house from a garden show booth selling greenhouses.  As he was going over what he was selling, I asked many questions but my gut said nope, this is not type of greenhouse I want-even though-he offered to have it installed as a showcase since he lived and worked nearby. Perhaps an offer more beneficial to him than me. But it just seemed too small, and he didn’t really understand the hort side of my goals. But he was doing his best.  I need large, tall space for my favorite tropicals.

Another task I did to pursue my goal was order the Hartley book. You know the one, they showcase the finest greenhouse ads in various gardening magazines. Each are stunningly beautiful, and a fairy tale style dream of gorgeous greenhouses. There is one ad in particular that stuck out in my mind.  It’s of a woman, sitting on a cozy chair in the corner of her Hartley greenhouse with her dog at her side.  Her hiking boots (the type I prefer on my feet) are covered with some mud, and there are some plants around her, of course.  The view of the backyard through the greenhouse window panes does not show a perfect garden view.  It’s a little blurry, but her yard is more like a meadow, with tall weeds, perhaps, but the point is, it doesn’t depict a pristine flowering garden view, and I liked that because the greenhouse is perfect, but her gardens are not. She has a big pot of lavender on the other side of her.  Ah, yes, I think as I look at this photo, that could be me.  I would go sit in this greenhouse with my cats every chance I got, and especially, in the winter when the sun comes out for some extra Vitamin D.  As I flipped through the pages of this Hartley catalog showing and describing the various style of their finest luxurious greenhouses, I kind of cursed myself for getting the catalog.  The cheapest greenhouse on their list is $20,000.  When Hartley called me as a followup, they understood my words. Love, love them, but not sure I can do. Click HERE to see their website and what I’m talking about.

I didn’t just start fantasizing about the greenhouse thing recently, I’ve been thinking about it for years.  Three years ago, I downloaded a book titled, “So You Want to Start a Nursery” by Tony Avent. I’ve admired Tony Avent for years, he’s the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, and the reason I enjoyed him so much is he writes extensive, detailed information about plants he’s been selling for years.  He never seems to keep the info to himself – which is what I’ve experienced with other people in the trade that have a long history – some want to keep the knowledge to themselves, and don’t offer it up readily. He’s been a mentor indirectly because he offers much of what he knows, and this book is an example.  The book covers a lot about the skills, land, prep, and all the “nuts and bolts” of running a nursery.  He discusses the skills to consider, from technical to entrepreneurial.  I actually haven’t finished reading it.  It got set aside, and this posting reminds me to go back to that book, but here are some of the excerpts I highlighted so far:

“Visionaries see the future and know where they want to go but often lack the skills to get there.  Entrepreneurs are the ones with the mind-set, energy, and risk tolerance to actually make the vision become reality.  It is the combination of these personality traits that creates the nursery owner who can truly take a nursery to the top level.”  (Darn, that’s good, I thought.)

“The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), serves as a coordination point and clearinghouse for information related to all nursery and landscape issues.”

“…, a mastery of horticulture does not by itself qualify a person to run a nursery business(…skip a part, and then continues with), “…the nursery business involves much more than just plants.  Plants are the commodity, not our business.” 

“…several types of schools, from two-year technical schools to four-year bachelor degree programs.  When choosing a school, be sure to ask whether the school’s emphasis is technical or scientific in nature.  A science background, which is usually more theoretically based and geared towards research and teaching, is usually less important to starting a nursery than practical or technical knowledge.” 

Anyhow, Mr. Avent’s book is excellent and a great resource.  I saw him speak once, he’s very funny and open with his knowledge. If I lived near his business, attending his tours and workshops would be a priority. A dream would be to work for his business.  I bet he has a great deal of greenhouses!!

Another thought I had, because I have almost 6 acres, and it is classified as farm A-1 (I think that is the code), is to buy two or three smaller style greenhouses and set them up in different exposures.  Like a shade house here, a full on sun house there, and then who knows what – but the dream is how interesting that would be, different paths could go to each house, each could have a theme or shape (round green house?), and it also could provide a quarantine place for any problem plants.  Some may argue this is silly – a bigger house is better, more space, easier to maintain the plants, and all that jazz – but I still like this idea, for it would create an environment more fun to play in.  As I type this – I think about the nursery in Rhode Island called, “Umbrella Factory.” It is setup with various hoop houses, and they are all different, one has a pond inside of it, the other has plants lined out, and another is more like a retail world – around all are huge container gardens which I lust over when I have gone to this nursery, which I stumbled upon when I was in town to visit the beach.  You can sense their various greenhouses evolved probably over time, starting with one here, then adding another there.  It is a unique and charming place to visit – and they have lots of big tropical plants, gigantic hanging baskets, container gardens setup high on pillars, and more.  Yup, this is another “dream” situation for me.



But so far, that’s all I managed to get done–the reading and some research with lots of daydreaming…and I also finally mowed down an old rundown garden area where a or one of my greenhouses would go.  The art of procrastination with other spring and summer priorities took over.

Oh and another friend gave me a contact for where he got his attached greenhouse.  I ordered the catalog.  My friend admitted he paid bookoo bucks, but somehow, I sensed he’s never regretted it. He offered a tour which I’ve yet to schedule.  What is my problem? Am I afraid his greenhouse will make me get one just as nice?

Well, summer came along, design jobs kept me busy here and there, and I truly enjoyed taking time to have some fun this season — and now it is the end of August. Right.  I didn’t pick out my greenhouse yet. Missing the target goal. As I had lunch with a hort friend yesterday, confessing I do not know why I haven’t reached this goal, her feeling is I must have some other more important goal lurking. Or maybe it is me lurking, as in procrastinating. Guess it will have to just wait, as I continue my research, and rethinking of goals.

Written by Cathy Testa

Sitting and reading about travels, and greenhouses

Sitting and reading about travels, and greenhouses