Ten Years of Kissing Ball Workshops

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Wow, ten years since I started these holiday workshops. These workshops began because I felt inspired by the holiday round greenery kissing balls I’d see when visiting relatives’ homes in Canada. Then, one day, a cousin asked me to help her making kissing balls and I did.

We spent all day making them. I said, “Hey, this would be a fun class to teach.” She agreed. We drove to a place where I get all my supplies a few days later, and said, “We can split all the expenses and do this.” Yet, she responded with, “No.” She said it was “my thing and that she didn’t want to participate in teaching it.”

So, there you have it – this is how it all started, and me being a plant person, this workshop was a perfect fit for me to add to my workshop offerings as part of my small business. I could teach about the greens and create a wonderful holiday decor item.

From that spark of a suggestion, my annual kissing ball workshops evolved over the years. I started to learn how to make wreaths myself, improved the KB making technique with new ideas, and then I added new creative items, which attendees may elect to make at the workshops, such as, the candy cane wreath, horse head wreath, square wreath, cross wreath, and more. Each year, it became more and more creative. And it grew with holiday spirit and in attendance.

The KB workshops kicks off everyone’s season – so they tell me. The “regulars” tell me it is the thing that makes them get into the holiday mood. This makes me so happy. Not to get mushy, but I didn’t have any children, and you know, I have always, always missed that part of what it must be like to have kids getting up on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents. Somehow, this event has filled that void for me during the holidays. The KB workshop is my highlight of the holiday season.

In my case, the holiday spirit starts taking hold in early November. Every single year, I start cleaning the messes in my workshop space to get things ready. I’m alone and working in the cold because the wood stove isn’t running yet. I start sorting holiday items, taking count of stock, cleaning, dusting, moving items to make space, and then comes moving in the tables and chairs, etc.

All of this pre-work to setup the workshop space takes time but it has become a good ritual for me. As I work on the various aspects, I start to think about the laughter, the smells of freshly cut balsam and all the fresh greens which the attendees cut at the workshop, and the images of the past ten years pop into my mind. I usually put on some holiday music as I do my thing setting up. This helps the holiday magic fill the air.

As my mind starts to wander, I even smile sometimes as I clean due to the memories. I may even laugh when I start thinking about something in particular that happened, or whatever. I just start thinking about all the attendees in this space every December. I think about the chaos of it all – usually, it is good chaos. Everyone is excited and getting into the holiday decorating zone. But sometimes, it is other chaos of just getting all the holiday ducks in a row.

The memories are good and so is the setup but it also reminds me that some people, though, sadly, I’ve learned over the years, are struggling at that time of year – but not showing it. Maybe something recent happened in their life and they feel down or alone. But, they still show up here for the KB workshop regardless, pull up their big holiday panties, and realize, hey, I can hopefully break out of my doldrums by being here at Cathy T’s KB Workshop. And they tend to feel better afterward the workshop. This makes me happy too.

Ten years. I never thought I’d be offering this workshop for ten years. How can it be even ten years already? I remember joking once, I’ll be a little old lady with gray hairs doing this workshop – but can I make it that long? I even feel I put on weight this time of year in preparation for being Mrs. Cathy Clause at the KB workshop. Seriously!

I’ve stressed out on so many aspects to set up this event. Like, will there be enough greens, will it snow, will my truck get a flat, how am I going to stage all of this first thing in the morning, what if it rains, what if we get a blizzard, and, what if this, what if that? I’m a big what iffer! But this can be good for planning. Thank Goodness I have Mr. Steve Clause to help me. And he does. Every year – he is part of the spirit too. I believe he loves this event as well. He would miss it if I didn’t do it. He says to me – you always do the what if, but it always is fine. He’s right.

There have been so many “behind the scenes” things I’ve dealt with which no one has any idea. I thought, I should jot down some of the interesting things that happened to me as a result or at this workshop. I started to do so today. And here they are…

The Mystery Coat:

A black mid-length winter coat was left by the fire pit outside on the workshop day. After everyone leaves, I usually sit outdoors by the fire pit with Steve to relax and talk about the day. When I put out word via emails and Facebook posts to the attendees the day after the workshop that someone left their black coat here, no one from the workshops ever claimed it. The coat fits me PERFECTLY. I needed a new coat at that time and it is larger than my usual coat size, yet, somehow it fitted just right. Was it the Christmas spirits who left it here? Still a mystery. There was a small red ball ornament in the pocket.

Almost Arrested for Taking Berries:

I got yelled at by a guy driving past a road side area where I had pulled over to cut “red berries” from wild shrubs for a KB workshop. It was a remote, nowhere area. He pulled up quickly out of nowhere too, with tires coming to a halting screech. He busted out of his car, came stomping over with a note pad in hand, and said he was going to REPORT ME for stealing red berries from a property. I remember feeling so annoyed because I was finally “in a moment” of having fun. I apologized profusely and explained I had no idea this was private property. Then he asked me, “Well, why do you want those anyways?” When I explained to him it was for the holiday workshop and that I teach about plants too, he calmed down and let me go. I didn’t dare mention the words: Kissing Balls.

The Old Rusty Wreath Frame

As mentioned above, a ritual of cleaning takes place every year in the workshop space. Well, one year, I saw something tucked behind my big black oil tank in my basement. What is that, I wondered. I pulled and tugged at it and out it came with a force. It was an “old, rusty wreath frame of a very large size.” Seriously, folks. This was not put there by me. I didn’t even make big wreaths yet. Was it left behind from whomever owned this house over 30 years ago? Or did Santa leave it there? Now, if that is not weird, what is? I won’t toss out that wreath frame. It hangs in the workshop space. I find it would be bad luck to remove it.

The Big Balls

Okay, we have, over the years, made the biggest balls of them all. Every year, I have to remind all the ladies that if they make them too big, they will fall off the hooks. We keep to measurement guidelines now, but one friend did tell me, she saw her kissing ball rolling down her street on a very snowy and windy day from her kitchen window. She made her kissing ball too big, and thus, it was too heavy and fell off the hook. We don’t make them “monster” sizes anymore but they do come out larger and better, in my opinion, than what you see in retail. OK, so big balls it is! But I did have to enforce no more monster balls, after all, this isn’t Halloween, it is Christmas! LOL.

The Dark

Every year, I offer one or two day time workshops. And a week night workshop. This year, I decided to skip the weeknight offering. It is just too dark and cold outside. The greens are outdoors but we hold the workshops indoors. To lug all the greens to the indoors in the dark was becoming too much for me. One year, after everyone left, I switched on a spot light pointing outdoors to finish up some work on some items outside in the dark, and when I clicked on the spot light, there – standing right in-front of me was a deer. I was like, OMG! It startled me. I said out loud, “You stay away from my greens!” And right then, his nose glowed red. Then I heard the jingle bells of a sleigh take off.

The High

No, we don’t get high here but the smell of the greens is so over powering in the workshop space, we may get that tinsel type high from the wonderful aromas of the fresh greens. But the natural high I get from the workshop event lasts well after everyone leaves from the workshop. In the first few years, the workshop would run all day, even into the night. I had so much adrenaline after it was over that I often sat in my kitchen trying to deflate. Mr. Santa Steve is asleep in bed by then. But I can’t fall asleep, even though I’m usually exhausted, so I start looking at all the wonderful photos of everyone from the day’s activities on my iPhone. The wreaths, kissing balls, and all the smiling attendees’ faces. In more recent years, the ladies have made a day of their events. My workshop is their number one stop, and after, some will go to lunch out, or even attend another holiday event somewhere. My event transitioned into a day of activities for the attendees, not just a few hours. Pretty cool.

The Weather

Knock on those wooden ornaments, I have been very lucky with the weather. We always make the next day a backup date should we get a big snowy storm, but in 10 years, that has never happened. One year, it was so warm out, we had t-shirts on – yup, global warming does exist. Santa is very good to me. He waits to bring on the snow storms after my holiday workshops. This year, I have a feeling it will be cold however, which means me working outside in the cold. Much of my preparation is done very close to the workshop date because I like things fresh. I like quality. And some of the preparation is done far in advance like now, including getting sign-ups, picking up hard good supplies, and what have you.

Well, I know there is more storytelling to tell but I can’t think of it now. I know when I work today, some of those stories will pop into my head again. If they do I will share them. In the meantime – You too could become part of the KB story. Sign-up for our workshop on Saturday, December 7th. There are still seats available. Ho, Ho, Ho…

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Cathy T Holding Large Wreath

Me holding a Large Custom Wreath and Wearing that Mysterious Black Coat

 

Looking for Workshops?

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Hi everyone!

In reviewing my stats this morning for this blog site, there are two key items people are searching for:

How to Overwinter Plants AND Holiday Workshops

OVERWINTERING

I’ll start with the “overwintering” topic. I’ve shared a few video’s on my process on how to overwinter specific tropical plants on my Container Crazy CT Facebook page. If you visit there, scroll down to find several. This should be helpful to you. There are also various posts on this blog showing the process – use the search bar to find them, which I see some of you have!

HOLIDAY WORKSHOPS

On the Holiday Workshops, please visit my sister site called WorkshopsCT – that is Workshops (with an “s”) – sometimes missed is that s, and CT for me, Cathy Testa or Connecticut!

As of today, my first holiday workshop in early December is completely sold out – and all attendees have been contacted (emailed) just yesterday to ask which item they plan to make.

I will be contacting workshop no. 2 attendees for the weeknight workshop soon as well.

I’m also offering a mini workshop at a senior center right after that – then comes my custom orders!

All current information about my holiday workshops are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

Gift Card in PPT

HOLIDAY GIFT CARDS

Additionally, don’t forget, this is a GREAT time to get a gift card for anyone you wish to provide a gift to this upcoming season. They are applicable to workshops registration fees based on the amount you desire.

SHOP SMALL DAY RAFFLE

And, I will be raffling off a decorative item on Shop Small Day, November 25th – so stay tuned to my Facebook page under Container Crazy CT to learn more about that.

To enter the raffle, there will be some guidelines, such as like the page, share the post, tag a friend, and you must pick up the prize if you win!

TODAY’S FROST

It was definitely frosty this morning – I know, because after a very early brisk morning walk, I walked over to my greenhouse to check if the heat was working properly – and it is!

The glistening sparkles on my hydrangea, along the path to the greenhouse, was as shiny as a Christmas tree as the morning sun was hitting the frost upon the leaves.

If you didn’t move, dig out, or protect your tropical plants by now – I suspect they are damaged by the frost.

We had a good season of being able to wait – because we had the warmest October on record here in Connecticut, and my plants, like my Mandevilla and Cannas were still blooming yesterday.

We got a few extra weeks of time to get our gardening chores done. Most weather reporters on t.v. were saying the “growing season” was over as they gave everyone the heads up of the frost coming this week, and they continued with saying that most people wouldn’t have plants out this time anyways – but NOT TRUE. Plant people like to save the enjoyment as long as possible. You may have been pushing the limits of the outdoor plants.

Fortunately, I had taken down my last big red banana plant on Monday – and glad I did – Even though, it did not get hit by frost yet, I noticed the root base had a portion which got mushy – which meant it was starting to rot a little – so, although we did not have frost yet, and the days were warm, the soil was cold and wet – always something to consider, so it was good I got it out and stored before that rotting situation got worse – and got other tropical plants dug out earlier in the month.

Hope you did too!

Cathy Testa

 

 

Autumn Brings Closure and Changes

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Good morning everyone,

It has become quite the busy month as I started to dissemble my various container gardens around the property in preparation for the cooler season, and held an impromptu pumpkin succulent session with my Insiders Club workshop members.

Usually our frost date hits around mid-October, so there is still time to enjoy many container gardens filled with your tropical plants, perennials, and maybe a still producing vegetable plant, like peppers – but soon enough, all will come to an end when the frost hits the foliage of our tender plants.

However, one of the beauties of container gardening is not all is lost. Many plants may be overwintered by storing their storage organs (rhizomes, corms, bulbs, etc.) or by taking cuttings and rooting them. Or by moving them (perennials) to your gardens. Some plants make good house plants too, such as succulents, begonias, etc. The list goes on.

Another thing that will keep me busy this month is planting my fall bulbs, as soon as I clear out my favorite place for them, from the lush tropical plants enjoying their last moments in the great outdoors. There is much to do still.

Lastly, the annual Holiday Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshop is in my beginning planning stages. Orders will take place very soon for the beautiful mix of fresh greens to be provided in my workshop for all the registered attendees.

Additionally, I’m investigating adding ‘horse head’ wreath frames, due by popular demand by my repeat (non-newbie) attendees! This is always an exciting time for me. It will be my 7th Annual Kissing Ball Workshop. It is one of my most favorite things to do as part of my business and it closes off the year absolutely perfectly. Don’t forget to register early. Details are on my WORKSHOPSCT.com website.

 

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#containgardening #lemongrass #thaifood

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Lemongrass harvest (above) after dissembling two big pots of them. These can be rooted or cut to put in teas, soups, and I bet even soaps! As you work at splitting the root of this plant, the aroma is oh so good.

The rooted divisions may be potted up into 12″ x 12″ pots and grown to serve as next year’s thriller plant in your container gardens. Or, the edible lower portions saved may be frozen and used for months on end – great for teas to treat coughs and colds too, I read. I showed all the steps on how to take it out of your container gardens and save the pieces via my Facebook feed this week as Facebook Live videos and on Instagram.

The removal of this plant (Cymbopogon citrathus; lemongrass) should be done before frost, by the way, unlike the Canna or Elephants Ears (Colocasia) which may be done either before or after frost if you plan to store their storage organs.

Using my handy-dandy hand truck, I’ve managed to move some rather large pots into my garage to start some the work of taking cuttings of Coleus, digging out the elephants ears, and whatever others I can save for next year’s season. I showed it all on my video feeds, and I have to say, this elephants ear, Colocasia ‘Black Magic’, was just stunning with 3′ long stems and 23-28″ leaves! Say Ah. One client requested the leaves for her leaf casting project, and I am happy to help her out as a repeat workshop attendee. Maybe she will teach us a class on the leaf casting when she perfects her technique.

This plant’s rich black leaves are luscious. Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ can take sun to part shade, and I had this one more in shade this year, facing north. The total height was about 5′ feet by the end of the season, and the soil was kept moist, which is preferred by elephants ears. Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ is a wonderful tropical plant, and probably will be on my list again for the annual May Container Gardening Workshops.

In my Facebook Live videos this week, I also went over cuttings, how to clean your tools, and using rooting hormone to stimulate growth. Cuttings do best when they are in warmer temperatures – so inside the home or if you have a grow room or greenhouse is best this time of year. Always important to use “healthy” stock and take them from the tips of the plants (below nodes, etc.). Of course, the types of plants, species, etc. differ on how to handle propagation, but once you learn how, you may be reusing your mother plants again and again for freebies each season. Beware of plant propagation laws, however, if you are a seller of plants – a license is required!

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#overwinteringplants #autumn #containergardening #coleus

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One container garden which is very hard to part with at this moment is this one. OMG. I just love it – it is soooo full. It is the apple of my eye this season. I removed the variegated Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus coleiodes). My friends, this plant is a real keeper in my book. No bugs, no diseases, no problems. It is the one dripping down the front of this pallet planter box salvaged from a company that tossed it out.

Variegated Swedish Ivy can grow to a foot or more with a trailing in habit. It keeps going and stays strong. It has a funky smell but it doesn’t bother me at all. My nephew told me it smells like a cologne. OK, whatever, it is a keeper, and handles cooler temps in my low-temp grow room over the winter. I still have to work on the rest of this container which has an elderberry, coleus, begonia, and more.

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#carex #overwinteringplants #containergardening

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In my first Facebook Live video, I showed Carex grasses and how I’ve had it in these pots along my driveway for at least 3 years. Sometimes plants which may be aggressive in the ground are excellent candidates for containers, thus this was one to show how I take care of it and store it over the winter.

And alas, it was succulent pumpkin time prior to all of this. My goal was to have a huge workshop on October 8th, but not enough attendees signed up. So, I spontaneously offered a special workshop to my Insiders Club workshop members, and the results were fantastic.

There are a couple ways to approach making these which I detailed in our workshop session. We will be testing the longevity of these and report back next year when I hope to repeat this workshop with an even larger group. In addition, during this workshop, I went over how to propagate succulents and keep them healthy in season and over the winter.

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#sempervivum #agave #pumpkindecorating #succulents #autumn

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Above made by an attendee. Love the little glass acorns and the pods she brought along as embellishments.

This one above is the winner for the evening. Absolutely gorgeous, great colors, well designed. Good job, Diane!

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#crafting #diy #autumn #succulents #pumkins

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Here’s a photo I took of one I made as a prototype before the workshop.

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#pumkins #succulents #autumn #diy #crafting

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Yes, it is so adorable. I can’t part with it!

Well, I still have much, much more work, and thankfully I am not dealing with a hurricane. The poor folks in Florida are facing this battle and along the way I thought of them often this week as I worked on my containers. I remembered when we experienced our crazy winter storm in October years ago, and well, probably not nearly as devastating – but it did impact us a great deal with loss of electricity and other damage, and I had to rush to put away my plants at that time as the snow began falling. I saw posts of Florida friends not only boarding up their homes, but they were rushing to take care of their gardens too in preparation for the hurricane. And some had to evacuate! We are all praying they did not face as much devastation as predicted.

If you wish a hands-on experience of the overwintering steps, feel free to join me on October 15th for the workshop where I will show more.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Cool app transforms photos from your iPhone to this!