Overwintering my Alocasia Plants

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There are many tender tropical plants which I overwinter each year around this time of year in October. They are either dug up and packed up in a cool, dry, frost free place, moved into my home as a houseplant, or moved into my low-temperature greenhouse for the winter.

Today, I will share how I overwinter my newest favorite tropical plant, Alocasia macrorrhiza or Alocasia macrorrhizos (Jumbo Upright Elephant Ears).

Here is a photo of me standing by it around mid-September 2020. It is quite tall and an impressive specimen showcasing dark green huge leaves, big enough to serve as a patio umbrella.

Cathy Testa standing next to her Jumbo Upright Elephant Ears plants in 2020

Each leaf reached just slightly over 3 feet long from tip to the start of its rigid stalks, which were also 3 feet long. Thus, the plant towered over us at 6 feet tall total. The width of the leaves reached about 2-2.5 feet across.

Measuring the leaf after it was removed in the fall from the planter

This plant is not winter hardy here in Connecticut, so it must be removed from the planter to store the tubers (or rhizomes) for the winter. This may be done after the plants get touched by a light frost (which will damage the leaves and make them turn yellow) or immediately after a hard frost (which will completely kill the top parts of the plants and its foliage.)

I prefer to move them in before frost for two reasons: (1) It is not cold out and easier to work with the plants. And (2), sometimes if you leave the tubers in the soil too long, when they get cold and wet this time of year, rot may actually start on the tuber before you dig them out. The tuber will be soft if any rot has started. BTW, the tuber is referred to as a rhizome as well. For the sake of this post, I will use the term “tuber.”

Cathy Testa holding a leaf from the Jumbo Upright Elephant Ears plant in October 2020

While working this weekend to continue my overwintering chores, I asked my husband to take a photo of me with a single leaf to show the shear size of this dramatic foliage plant. I obtained the tubers in 2019. That year, the plant grew more clumps of leaves, but this year, in 2020, the plant grew much taller stalks and bigger leaves. I always tell my followers and customers, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant.

This planter going into my greenhouse

If the plant in your container or patio pot is small enough, you may bring it into your home for the winter, or even into a greenhouse. However, I typically choose to store them by digging up the tubers, after cutting off all the foliage, and storing them in my basement, which is unheated but does not freeze.

The location is key. You need to consider the place you are putting them. A cold closet in the home may work. You need to experiment the first time you do this and hope for the best. A garage (unless it is attached and gains some heat from the house), does not work. The tubers would freeze and die.

Okay, here are my steps:

(1) Chop off all the foliage. You may use either a sharp long kitchen knife or a machete, which I often use the machete when it is a very thick stalk or stump. Just be sure your tools are clean to not transmit any disease or insect problems. I usually start with removing each leaf stalk individually, then cut across the whole stump area if it happens to be large.

(2) Dig out the bottom part with the tuber from the soil. Do this by digging around the plant with your shovel or garden trowel and pushing down around in a circle. You should hear the roots snapping as you are cutting them during this process. Then lift the whole clump together out of the soil. Try to be sure you are not breaking the tuber below the stump area.

(3) Lay the bottom parts in the sun. The bottom part of the plant will either have a visible tuber, or not. Either way, lay them in the sun for a minimum of one day to dry (and/or cure, as they say). Sometimes, I let them sit in the sun for a few days but do not leave them out if you get a hard frost after digging them out. If the bottom piece you dug out is thick and fleshy, turn it upside down to allow the excess water to drain out. These plants hold lots of water. You may gently brush away any excess soil or use a garden hose to blast off the soil, but sometimes I prefer not to add any more moisture to them if I can help it.

Lay the tubers out in the sun

(4) Snip off any long roots. Notice in this next photo how long the roots reached. Because the soil was fluffy and dry in my planters, I actually pulled the roots out of the soil because I wanted to see how long they were. They almost reached the bottom of the gray tall planters. The reason I snip off the roots is to eliminate as much fleshy material from the pieces. Fleshy, wet materials may rot in the storage box.

Showing the root lengths

(5) Put the stumps (for lack of a better word) and or tubers into a storage box and cover it with peat moss. Sphagnum peat moss may be purchased in large square bales or in bags in smaller amounts. It is a natural and organic ingredient that absorbs moisture and aerates around the tubers in the box. Pour some of the peat moss in the box in the base, lay the tubers and stumps on it, and then pour dry peat moss over and around them. Do not over do this. You are only lightly covering them with the peat moss. BTW, the peat moss is reusable every year. It lasts a very long time.

(6) Place the box in a cool, dark, dry location that doesn’t get below freezing and is somewhat unheated. Such as my basement. If placing the box on a concrete floor, place a tray or something to elevate it a bit off the floor because as that floor gets cold in the winter, it may create condensation in the storage box. My basement does get some woodstove heat from time to time, but the woodstove is way at the opposite end of the basement from where I store my overwintering boxes. And the woodstove is not used all winter, just on some nights. So the area where I put all my overwintered plants in boxes stays colder. It has become my sweet spot for this process. It is okay to stack your boxes on top of each other. I use plastic bin type boxes with a lid. Do not use clear plastic boxes, use those that will eliminate any light. Sometimes I have drilled holes into the lids to allow some air to enter. The tubers tend to stay dry but just slightly moist by the peat around it – but not wet. Do not store them in a very wet state. This will lead to rot. If your basement is too hot and dry, they will dry up and shrivel and may just rot away to a dry state which is not usable. If your basement is super cold, the tubers might freeze and die.

(7) Label the box with a sharpie marker, date it, and note what you stored so you will remember in the spring. If the tubers make it, you may recognize them, but if they don’t, you will be wondering what you stored, at least I have, because I store many types of container garden plants over the winter months.

An Alocasia in a large pot

You have other storing or moving options as well. You could just move the pot with the plant into your basement and hope for the best, but you may not have the space, or the muscle power to move a big pot. And usually a big pot is too big for a home. But that is another option to mention. If you move the entire pot with the plant into your basement, you will need to monitor it for insects and add water to the plant, but at a very minimal fashion. You are not watering it like you would during the summer season.

Left – See the Tuber?

In this above photo, the tuber on the left is covered in brown papery like material, which you leave on there. However, on the photo on the right, you really only see a stump. Storing either works for me.

This storing process allows the plant to go into a dormant state. They will not grow in the dark boxes and will usually do fine. When spring returns, you may bring them out of the darkness by starting them in smaller pots inside the home to awaken them. They should not be planted outdoors in your patio pots or container gardens again until all chances of spring frost has passed. These tender bulbs will bring back repeat performance year after year by following my steps above.

If you found this post helpful, please comment below or share my site with others.

Thank you.

Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT 06016
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Other sites: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and www.ContainerGardensCT.com
Container Garden Designer, Plant Lover
and a little “Crazy” about plantings in containers!

Currently taking orders for custom Succulent Topped Pumpkins. They are created with live succulent plants, fall or Halloween decor, and are amazing on real pumpkins. They are low maintenance, easy care, and last for months. Porch Pick-ups and some deliveries arranged. Inquire for current prices. 860-977-9473 texts are welcome.

Bringing Plants Indoors

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I usually call this process, “overwintering plants,” but I figured that is a term which may be unfamiliar to newer gardeners.

Thus, this post titled, “Bringing Plants Indoors,” is referring to just that. I’m starting to bring in some plants this week (Sept 7th, 2020).

Some plants, like hardy succulents, are able to stay outdoors all winter here in our CT planting zones. They are able to tolerate frost and winter temperatures, and are referred to as, “winter hardy.”

For example, Sempervivums (a.k.a., Hens & Chicks) succulents. However, if you decide to keep any of these hardy succulents, which were grown in containers, patio pots, or hanging baskets outdoors, be sure to put them in a protected location, such as under a porch, in an unheated garage, or shed. They are more sensitive to winter conditions if in a pot versus grown in the ground in a garden.

If they have been growing in the ground, they will be fine over the winter, and do not need protection. They will go dormant when the time is right as temperatures drop in the fall and winter, and come back alive next summer season.

This particular hanging basket (shown above) is filled with Sempervivums which are looking perfect right now. There is no damage, no insects, and they are as happy as can be. I just love how they filled this hanging basket in fully. The color intensified recently, as many succulents do when they get a bit of stress of cooler temps.

I decided to move these Sempervivums in a hanging basket into my greenhouse yesterday, however, it is not because they can’t remain outdoors for another few weeks (or all winter in a protected location), but because they look so healthy. I want to keep them that way.

Tip: Move them in while healthy!

I find the best time to move some plants indoors, especially succulents and houseplants, is while they are looking great, are free of insects, and haven’t been stressed by a drop in temps during the fall season, which is usually accompanied by rain fall. When this happens, the soil, the pot, and the plant get cold and damp. This starts to invite issues such as rot, insects, and stress.

This plant above, a Jade in my red head planter, is another example. It could tolerate a few more weeks outdoors. Once it is consistently 50’s degrees at night, they should be moved in however.

It probably won’t go into the 50’s for another week or so, and even if it did – it still might be okay for one night or two of 50’s lower temperatures if our day temps stay warm (60’s, 70’s and maybe even another day of 80’s!).

But, it must be moved in before it gets hit by frost. Frost would kill it. It is not “winter hardy.” It can not tolerate the CT winter temperatures. Frost usually hits in early October.

However, because this Jade plant is so healthy right now, this week of September 7th, I wanted to take this gorgeous red head planter in before the beautiful Jade plant in it experiences any fall weather related stress. It has grown so much and has done well in this planter.

What do I mean by fall weather related stress? Well, when it drops down to chilly, 50 degrees F or below, in the fall season, we usually also get rain. Then the planter would be damp, cold, and this will affect the plant and the soil. It may not kill it – but it most likely will stress it. The soil gets cold and damp, and I find this scenario to not be ideal for plants you are moving indoors.

Tip: Move them in before major rain fall during a temp drop. And let the soil dry out in the containers outdoors before moving them inside.

Additionally, I advise my plant followers to let the soil dry out in your container gardens and patio pots before you move them indoors, AND, move them in before they get too chilly (before there is a consistent temp in the 50’s in the evenings.) A succulent is able to tolerate drought, so let that soil dry out before moving it in.

The plant got tall enough, so I had to remove the top shelf of this south facing kitchen window that extends out. It will be good enough sunlight to keep this plant happy all winter. The window area sometimes gets a little chilly in winters, but this plant is able to take 55 degrees “indoors” during the winters at night. It won’t get too cold here for this type of plant.

Before you move it indoors, here are other things you should do:

  • Don’t water it before moving it indoors for a few days if possible or even a week. Drier soils are better for moving in plants.
  • Inspect it for damaged leaves or any signs of insects. Treat if you find insects with the appropriate spray or treatment.
  • Remove any fallen debris from the plant (I found pine needles in there.)
  • Remove any damaged leaves if possible. Wiggle them back and forth to pull away if you see leaves with holes or damage.
  • Inspect under the pot. (I did this. I found a small round insect cocoon.)
  • Wash the outside of the pot with soapy water (mild dish soap is fine).
  • Move it before it gets 50 degrees F or below at night consistently. (This could happen anytime between now and the next couple weeks.) Watch your weather app for night temperatures.
  • Pick the appropriate home location. Some plants need some sunlight, others are able to tolerate low-light.

The next plant, shown above, is an Alocasia called ‘Tiny Dancers.’ When I saw it at a growers, I had to have it. I have lots of huge monster size Alocasias but I never had a dwarf sized one, like this one. It is too cute!

It started off in a tiny 3″ square nursery black pot. I potted it into a new terracotta pot and had it outdoors all summer. Usually, I store Alocasias by storing their tubers (round like bulbs located under the soil) only, but this is a tiny Alocasia, in fact, more along the lines of a dwarf. It makes it a houseplant candidate in my book, at least, I can test it out as such this year.

I decided to move it in and give it a spot by my south facing kitchen slider. It will receive sun light only a portion of the day during the winter which should be sufficient.

I don’t think it would do well in a north facing window which does not receive much sunlight at all. Another good place for this plant, if there is sun light in the room, is a bathroom because this plant likes a bit of humidity.

This Alocasia has been is pushing out new growth and is very happy. This one will be treated as a houseplant this winter rather than storing it like I do with my giant Alocasias (which are tropical plants and can not withstand winter temperatures). Sorry repeating myself.

I followed the same steps above: inspect, look it over, remove any damaged leaves. I did not wash this pot because it is terracotta and porous so the soap could go into the pot and although probably not too harmful, I just used a rag to wipe away any debris.

But this Alocasia ‘Tiny Dancers’ did have some signs of insects. When you inspect your plants before moving them indoors, look closely.

I did see, in the cups of one leaf, that there were little spiders in there. I am not sure if they were spider mites, but I decided to “lightly” spray the plant with Neem Horticulture Oil in a spray bottle as a precaution.

Tip: Please read the label or ask a nursery staff about insecticides, fungicides, or other products before you treat your plants. You could damage a plants’ leaves if you use the wrong product.

Check any treatments you use on plants by reading the label first. Make sure it is appropriate for the plant type! If you spray a plant with the wrong product, you will damage the plant, not help it.

Another plant I moved in to the house is considered a houseplant, the ZZ Plant. It has been thriving under a patio umbrella and had no insect issues, and is also pushing out new growth. When you see the growth, this is a good sign your plant is happy. Moving them in when happy is a good idea.

Tip: And I can not emphasize this enough, the best time to move plants inside as fall approaches is when or if they are healthy. If they have no issues, get them in before they do. Colder temps often times invites problems.

I carefully cleaned each ZZ Plant leaf with a wet paper towel to wipe away any debris or dust, washed the outside of the pot, and this one was placed in a north facing window that receives very little light. Since this plant is able to tolerate lower light, I think it will be fine in my north facing window this winter. This plant is marketed as being easy and care free, so the north window is its home for the rest of the year. Water this plant less as it does not like overly moist soils.

To recap, plants may stay outdoors for the most part, but some I start to work on early, partially because I have the time this week to work on my own plants before overwintering my clients’ plants from their container gardens. Also, sometimes working in mild and comfortable temperatures is better on me.

Also, I believe plants perform better indoors over the winter when you move them in before they get stresses from drops in temps in the evening. This is especially true for “non-hardy” succulents, such as Echeverias. I will be showing those as I work on them in future blog posts as well.

Tropical plants, like my Canna Lilies, Elephant Ears (Colocasias and Alocasias), and Banana plant (Ensete) may remain outdoors all the way up to frost (early October) or just after frost (IF you plan to store the under the soil bulbs, rhizomes, corms, or tubers only). If you want to keep the plant indoors as a house plant, move them in before frost.

Succulents plants, just to recap, may remain outdoors all winter if they are winter hardy. However, if they are not, they must be moved in before frost in October, and I recommend (sorry repeating myself) to move them in before they get cold, damp, wet, and chilly (BEFORE it gets consistently 50 degrees or below at night). Again, you may wait till we get the temp drop, but I prefer to do it a bit at a time before that phase.

Houseplants, well, I would move those in now too. While plants are healthy, strong, and not stressed out. It is a difficult thing to do because we want to enjoy every last minute of outdoor goodness (and so do the plants), but if they are doing well, might as well capitalize on that because they will be more likely to do well indoors if healthy now.

I already took down my tomato plants, by the way, and herbs are dwindling down so I am trying to use as much as I can before they are goners, and made pesto with my basil. I am considering sowing more herb seeds this fall in the greenhouse however. Maybe have a fresh batch available in a month or so. Sorry, that is a side bar comment. LOL.

Here’s a recap list:

  • Tropicals – Can wait til frost or after frost if storing tubers (specifically Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants). Mandevillas you should move in before frost if keeping the plant in tact or storing the plant.
  • Non-Hardy Succulents – Can wait till the evening temps hit 50′ degrees F, but I recommend moving them in earlier, for reasons noted above.
  • Hardy Succulents – Can leave outdoors all winter. If in a pot, move to a protected location before winter. If in the ground, no worries, leave and let it be.
  • Houseplants – Move them in now while healthy. Each houseplant is different on lower temp tolerance, but treat them like the non-hardy succulents above.
  • Herbs and Tomatoes – Already took down my tomato plants because they are not producing fruit now and it is too cool at night, and herbs are starting to dwindle so collect what you can now. But that is up to you based on your own gardening veggie habits.
  • Agaves and Cacti – Can take drop in temps and tolerate it but can not take frost. Take them in before October frost or treat as I do with non-hardy succulents. The Agaves and Cacti I will leave out for a while longer probably, or take them in “if healthy” and cherished. Again, if they are “healthy” with no issues, I like to move them in before any chance of issues.

Hopes this helps if you are considering on working on your outdoor plants too. And please share my site with friends who may find this information useful. Feel free to ask for any clarifications, and also, note that these are all my opinions based on my years as a container gardener.

Thank you and enjoy your Wednesday!

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

P.S. Unfortunately, I am not offering my typical Autumn Succulent Pumpkin Workshops due to Covid this year. However, I will be taking custom orders around the end of September. Reach out if local and interested. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Overwintering Plants – Some Tips

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my personal recommendation, based on years of moving container gardens and patio pots indoors, is to bring your plants inside the home before we get “cold wet” rains in autumn.

What do I mean by that?

Well, this week, here in CT, we had two cold days. It was cold enough for me to put my red winter work jacket on while I was taking apart plants from big containers in my garage. And it rained. It was damp, cold, and raw. It was cold enough for my bones to feel it. I wasn’t up for being cold all day, so I wore that darn old red coat.

But the very next day, Wednesday, it was humid. In fact, so humid my prototype pumpkin, which I’m going to use for a demo tomorrow at the market, was covered in moisture (dew) from sitting in the garage overnight. I took a paper towel and wiped all the moisture off – and within an hour, dew was on it again.

When we start getting “cold temps” combined with “rain” in the fall season, our plants outside get subjected to cold moisture almost like my pumpkin was subjected to it in the garage this week.

The soil in the patio pot gets really wet from these scenarios, and then, it may stay cold over night if our temps tend to drop down a bit, thus, it stays soggy. Maybe more than normal because summer is gone now, even though we may get an occasional humid, or the opposite, warm and a pleasant sunny fall day, autumn is coming and so are those cooler temps.

When our patio pots with plants have wet soil, and you move them in your home, I believe that is a big invitation for two things:  Foliage or stems to rot (if tender especially, meaning if the stems are more soft or tender, like a Begonia’s, for example) and insects to move in. Insects like moisture and if the soil is wet, they like to make it their home (think fungus gnats) before it is too late. They are probably looking for winter homes. Moisture is an open house invitation for those pest like insects.

I always move in my cactus plants before the “cold wet” rain routine starts. Sure, it is warm enough still for the cactus to enjoy the weather of fall, and they will even tolerate a drop in temps at night, BUT, I always have the best luck with overwintering those plants inside my home when I move them in before they get subjected to the cold, wet rains of fall. The soil is on the dry side in the pot, and it hasn’t been “stressed” by elements.

When moved in, before we get cold wet rains, the soil is dry (before the rain is my goal) and the critters are not settled in. I will, however, a few weeks before, hose off the plant, the pot, inspect it for any bugs, remove any dead leaves which started to fall and land on the cactus plant, and just kind of give it a once over.

As far as houseplants, I had a few in mini pots on my deck table. I moved those in already too. Some houseplants can take cool weather, like ferns, for example. I have a few of those in hangers that did amazingly well this year. The rabbit foot ferns are gorgeous in the hangers right now. I moved those to my wood shed (ooops, that is the hubby’s wood shed) but I moved them there for now to keep them outside for a bit under cover. They can still take the cooler temps, but I am protecting them from major elements. This all may sound premature or even somewhat anal but it works for me and leads to success.

As for tender (soft) succulents, which you may have in hangers or in various styled patio pots, they too are affected if subjected to cold and fall rain. They can especially rot once that soil gets too cold and stays wet. This is not the case technically for hardy succulents, like hens and chicks.

In the fall, wet soil in a patio pot takes LONGER to dry out – because some plants are going into a dormant state, so the roots are not taking up the water as actively as in the summer months. That is another reason why I don’t like plants, like succulents, to sit in wet soil too long when temps are cooler. They, too, have tender soft like bases, leaves, and stems. If stays sitting on “wet cold” soil, it can lead to rot, bugs, etc.

Please though, don’t panic if you still have those types of plants outside right now (cacti, succulents, houseplants), but try to consider maybe moving them to coverage outside, like if you still have patio umbrellas or if you have a cover over your steps, so they can enjoy the sun. This will help to start to dry out the soil in the pot – before you move them inside.

As for the tropical plants (elelphant ears, banana plants, canna lily) – well, those can be subjected to frost (early October usually) – if you plan to dig up the tubers, corms, rhizomes, bulbs (not gonna specify the technical names of each type of plant for simplicity sake here) but you know what I mean, if you are planning to store those underground tubers from these types of plants, you can wait till we get frost in October. All the foliage will turn black when hit by frost and flop over usually if they are tall. At that time, you will have to cut that all off, and dig up the tubers to store.

By the way, if you are local, I am offering the service to show you how to do this at your own home by appointment. If interested, reach out.

As for me, I started taking apart some of my tropical plants early – why? Because I have sooooo many to do. The other day, I made the mistake of not wearing gloves, and there must have been a slug in the soil. My hands started to feel itchy, and then my arms, and then I thought, OMG, what if there is a poisonous caterpillar in that soil? I went inside and had to wash my hands repeatedly 5 times to get the itch to go away. I even grabbed some olive oil to rub on my hand cause there was some sticky slime on my hands, and that must have been, what I call, “slug juice.” Never realized I could have a reaction to that.

As for my really big red banana plants, they are swaying in the wind these days, and reaching towards the heavens. They are so tall right now. It will be a big job to take those down, but it is worth it to me. I love love love having those in my landscape in big huge pots. I still have time to get to those, but may wait til later in the month so I can continue to enjoy them.

Well, that is my simple tips for overwintering plants – do it before cold and wet rains, inspect the plants for insects, remove any leaves or debris blown into your pots, rinse or wipe down the pots themselves, make sure they are clean, and then of course, put them in the appropriate place in your home for the condition of the plants.

Look for insects too – if you see any, treat them before moving the plants inside. If the plant is super infested or damaged, and you have other plants in your home, it may not be worth it to keep them over the winter inside, BUT that choice is up to you. I don’t take in plants that are unhealthy.

And last but not least – check for seed pods for mature seeds on your plants to save for next year.

If questions, holler, oh and by the way, here are my October events coming up.

Hope to see you soon!

Cathy T.

Horizontal Collage Flyer 2018 Upcoming Events

Heat and Humidity Great for Tropicals, but Not So Good for Tomatoes!

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Tropical Cont Gardens Cathy T_0003

This is a big pot at the front of my home exploding right now with tall Canna lilies.

Who doesn’t like Canna lily plants, right?

They are easy to grow, get big and lush, and may be overwintered by storing their rhizomes (tubers), which must be dug up after the tops of the plants are blacked by frost – or just before frost.

Growing them in big pots makes it easier to pull them out by October, thus, why I am going to show the process in early September so you may learn it if desired. (See dates below on that if interested.)

They also thrive in the heat, humidity, and rain, which we are getting all week. None of these weather conditions are harming their attitudes at all – they love it.

tomatoe 2018_0002

My tomato plants, however, are a different story right now.

They started off great, but a fat chipmunk has damaged some of the lower specimens, and well, that is the ugly side of gardening.

To see a tomato half eaten on the ground is discouraging, but it forces us to shrug our shoulders, cry, or become determined to try a new technique to combat the critters. Because in the end, it is worth it to bite into a fresh, juicy, flavorful home grown tomato.

On top of the chipmunk problem – the foliage on my tomato plants started to look bad just recently. I should share a photo here, but why depress myself more?

I think it is Septoria leaf spot. The leaves developed small, dark spots and it started from the bottom parts, and eventually got on many of the leaves throughout the plant.

This type of problem, the leaf spots, occurs more commonly, from what I’ve read, during heat and humidity, and lack of air circulation contributes to the issue as well.

Yesterday, I took pruners out and cut all the damaged foliage off. It took some time, but I just couldn’t stand looking at the terrible foliage.

Fortunately, it does not affect the tomato fruit. Thank God!

Next year will be a new strategy. That is the name of the game, keep trying, don’t give up.

Mikado Tomato Plants

By the way, in the photo above, that is a Mikado tomato. It is an heirloom and I grew plants from seed in April.

I transplanted them into 15-gallon fabric grow bags around Memorial day (which was the first time trying grow bags – more on that later).

They mature by August – as in now, and are indeterminate (keeps growing taller).

I should have given the plants more air circulation by spacing them out more – next season, they will be put in different places too.

Yesterday, I took that photo (above) of one Mikado tomato that is nearly perfect.

Then, I begged the gardening Gods to not allow it to get attacked by a critter, crack, or whatever. I’m scared to go look this am – as I decided to not quite pick it yet. Being hopeful.

vegetables 2018 cathy T_0004

Of course, tomatoes like sun, warmth, and as much good air flow as can be provided. I think I did well with the sun, warmth, but my mistake was not spacing them out enough. They grew very large and needed more space – so lesson learned.

tomatoe 2018_0003

Yesterday, while out pruning the nasty damaged foliage from the leaf spot (noted above), I spotted this cluster of tomatoes on another plant, called Stone Ridge (Solanum lycopersicum).

Stone Ridge Tomato Plants

As stated on the seed packet, they are dense, bottom heavy, and have sweet fruit – so true based on my experience so far.

vegetables 2018 cathy T_0005

What I found with this type is the cracking seemed to happen more on the tops (like they are that heavy and dense enough to weigh them down) but no matter, they are freaking delicious – and they are SWEET tasting.

The Stone Ridge tomato plants have weird various shapes to their fruit.

Some are pear-like (above) and some are just goofy and flatter or fatter. I like viewing the stages of them. When you touch them or hold them, they are heavy.

They must be started earlier from seed, which I did in late March.

As far as the tomato plants go, the Fox Cherry Tomato is my absolute favorite. And apparently is for my fat chipmunk freeloader too.

Fox Cherry Tomato Plants

The shape and size are just perfect for skewers, or cutting in half, because they are more like two bite-sized than one-bite sized. They are plump and perfect. And the plants are vigorous growers. Staking, twining, and supports are needed but worth it.

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Every day, I go out and grab many and put them in little farmers market baskets (used for raspberries or strawberries which I saved) and set them on the kitchen island.

And every morning, my husband takes a bag full to eat as snacks at work. That is the most rewarding part of it – how much he loves them.

Usually the heat and humidity is good for tomato plants, but it can help to introduce some problems, such as leaf blights, like the Septoria leaf spot, I believe was the problem on mine this month.

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I won’t let it stop me though – just keep improving the process next year.

In the photo above, there is the Bumble Bee Mix cherry tomato next to the Fox cherry tomato, to compare.

Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomato Plants

These are fun to grow as well. The have a unique striped patterns, are mild sweet, and smaller than the Fox variety.

They turn various colors,  either yellow, purple, or just mixed. Sometimes it is hard to know if they are ready, but I still love them.

Both the Fox and Bumble Bee will be on my growing list again in 2019.

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Another plant I grew this year is called, Matchbox Pepper (Capsicum annuum), and I LOVE these for the ease of growing and plant size.

Matchbox Pepper Plants

Why are they so great?

Because they are absolutely perfect for hanging baskets.

The peppers are tiny (and supposed to be spicy but we haven’t tasted one yet – probably will this weekend as they are reddening now), and they are decorative.

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But the fact this plant stays compact makes them just wonderful in hanging baskets.

They, like some of the tomato plants, had to be started early inside. They mature 75 days from transplant. They just started to turn red last week.

Now, I just have to learn how to dry these hot peppers, or make some chili this weekend.

And another bonus about pepper plants is that critters tend to stay away from the hot ones. And the fact the plant is in a hanging basket keeps them up high and potentially away from critters looking for a tasty treat.

Upcoming Workshops

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If you want to learn my process on how I overwinter my tropical plants by storing root bases, tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc, the dates have been published on WORKSHOPSCT.com for early September.

I am scheduling it early so people may prepare ahead of frosts. Sign up is requested for headcount but it is a simple ‘pay at the door’ setup for this session.

I’m in love with the big foliage of the tropical plants (canna, elephants ears, and red banana plants) which, as I noted, is flourishing in this heat, humidity, and rainfall.

Tropical Cont Gardens Cathy T_0005

Another bonus about tropical plants is they remain gorgeous all the way into October, and tomatoes for that matter sometimes continue into early October as well.

Well, that’s all for today – I have to get busy again.

I’ll let you know if that juicy Mikado tomato made it – and if yes, it is my lunch today.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Location: Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Tropical Cont Gardens Cathy T_0002

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

 

 

Do you still want emails?

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Hello world!

How’s everyone doing today?

I was thinking this morning, I wonder if my friends, clients, and attendees still want emails?

My stats on distributed emails shows a lot of un-opens from the past few updates sent out to my distribution list.

Is email out of favor?

My website is always here for updates as well, on what is coming up for workshops and educational sessions on plants, so hopefully, if you prefer no emails, you still like coming to read the blog and website updates.

It seems views continue to occur on my sites per my stats, so I hope if you need information and want to know the latest, you are looking here, and on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And, I find my Instagram account is being viewed.

I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram these days. I may be considered a spammer of plant photos at this point – not sure.

I just can’t help but take pics of my plants. It is an addiction of mine. They are like my kids. You never stop loving or enjoying them – and sharing news about them.

Well, if you are visiting my websites, then you will get my latest updates – I hope!

As you know, I completed my very first try at what I called a pop up shop at a bookstore this year – it was a “fast” seven months with many lessons learned and new friends gained.

I, obviously, keep having that dream of having my own plant shop – but alas, we all know the costs of that scenario – and well, I hope to have another opportunity to do another pop up somewhere – will keep you posted when it and if that happens.

For now, know that:

I continue to offer what I feel are “quality workshops” at a “great value.” Hopefully, as a regular (non-newbie) attendee, you know this! As a newbie, you will know. 😉

I sell plants always, and I coddle my plants – meaning I treat them like a newborns.

If you have a plant need, don’t hesitate to ask.

Right now, I have beautiful bird’s nest ferns, rubber plants, rabbit foot ferns, African mask alocasias, other houseplants, and, of course – amazing succulents in stock. Perfect candidates if you wish to dress up the indoors during the fall and winter.

In fact, my first session for the “Succulent Topped Pumpkin” centerpieces is this Saturday.

Get ready to learn, create, and enjoy. We will be covering a great deal of information. And the succulents are so ready for you!

The second session, at the Stafford Springs Cidery, is sold out. However, I think I may offer a mini session the week of 10/16. Or – if you have a group of 4 or 6 you think you can round up – contact me! We may be able arrange a session.

Other things coming up – my “overwintering demo” which is scheduled on 10/14, Saturday – and right now, we are having warm weather with beautiful sunshine. I hope this weather lasts, cause my plants and I are enjoying it.

But, if you want to learn about how I overwinter plants and propagate some, and deal with the houseplants we used this year, sign up soon. This session is good for those who wish to “see” how I do my process. However, you are always welcome to email any questions on overwintering too.

My schedule is so busy right now, cleaning up my workshop spaces.

You may find it hard to believe, but it can take me a full week just to set up.

AND, also, for the succulent pumpkins there is some pre-work done with the succulents to get them ready – so in all total, it takes me a month!

Yup. I think it is important to know this.

So, if you are an attendee, you know that Cathy T does a great deal behind the scenes – cause, well, I care. About you, and my workshops, and especially my plants (a.k.a., babies).

It won’t be long before I place my order for the holiday workshops in December. That is also another event which requires “pre-planning” and lots of it.

I wanted to you to know also, if you want a one-on-one private session to make any creation you see on my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site – ask.

Or if you think you want to arrange a small group – ask too. But timing is key. Because of the planning, working with “live” plants, etc.

And in November, the enjoyable and fun Shop Small day, held for our small business customers to say thank you, will take place again.

I will keep you posted, but you probably want to note the date – which is November 25th, Saturday. I’m pretty sure I will be participating at a place with other vendors – stay tuned.

If you have any questions on overwintering, feel free to reach out too – as I know not everyone can make the demo.

Here are some I’ve already been asked about handling plants this time of year:

Can I use the same soil for my container gardens to re-pot my houseplants?

Yes, if you purchased quality soil mix from me – you can. Remember, if you decide to re-pot your houseplants from your combo planters we did in May, to pick a pot size that is “NOT” large. Remember what I told everyone about houseplants and the roots. You shouldn’t pot them up into a pot that is too large, etc.

Should I spray my plants before moving them into the house?

It is “very” important to inspect your plants.

IF your plants had bug issues, that were not bad, yes, spray them if you think critters exist. I have good spray in stock if interested that is organic and attacks the pests in their various stages (eggs, larvae, adults). I can tell you more if interested, but now is a good time to get the spray.

Also, if you had a problem with a plant where it seemed infested, it is not a good idea to bring them inside when you have other healthy houseplants.

As hard as it may be, a badly infected plant should be tossed if they can not be cured. Otherwise, those critters will find their way to you other plants. However, I am hoping if you got plants from me, you were able to keep them healthy and thriving.

Look under the pots too – sometimes critters hide there. Just a tip.

Can I still keep my plants outside right now? The weather is great.

We are having a spectacular week. Sunshine, blue skies, etc. Some of my Canna plants are still blooming – and yes, many plants may be kept outside. It is when those night time temps start to dip into the 40’s – keep your alert up.

Many tropicals (Canna, Elephant Ears, Red Banana Plants) may stay out till frost – IF you are going to dig up the tubers, rhizomes, etc to store those in dry peat in your basement, which I show how, but heads-up on that.

Because our weather has been so great though, it is also a great time to want to work outside to get your overwintering clean up done before it is cold.

It is a GREAT time to wash pots, inspect your plants, pull any weeds out of the containers if they got in there, and get prepared.

So, if you want to do your storing early, I don’t think it would harm anything.

I divided that big Alocasia, which I mentioned in the last post. I re-potted a few and will store the tubers of the others. That plant got so large, I got 13 plants out of it. It sure was easier to do on a sunny day on my driveway rather than a cold day where my hands froze.

Ideally, some division is better done in the “active growing season”, but I still do some now because I can move them into my greenhouse. Better late than never.

Oh, and yes, if you still enjoy getting the emails, let me know your thoughts. I don’t want to bombard people, but also don’t want them to miss out.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
containercathy@gmail.com
860-977-9473 (texts welcome!)

 

Hello Sept One

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It is September 1st … already?

I couldn’t believe how cold it was outside, as I stepped out in my fuzzy slippers and PJ’s, to get my laptop out of my truck, in the dark, with only the sound of traffic going by.

When I returned back inside the house, I checked my weather app on my iPhone.

Wow, it’s 50 degrees at 5:30 am this morning.

Brrr…

Thoughts going thru my mind…

What?! This is chilly.

Are my little plants okay, which I left in my truck last nite too, after dinner last night?

Wow, look over there – one of my moon flowers is open. Cool. That is a sign of fall.

It’s dark out here – I better be careful to look out for skunks.

All I can hear is traffic of vehicles heading to work on Rt 140.

Do any of us ever step outside this early in the dark to look at the stars?

Brr, it’s chilly. This is too soon.

Let’s get back inside to get my coffee, and oh, little plants, looks like you are doing fine in my truck. You will go back to my greenhouse after my usual am routine, hang tight.

I’m not ready to take on fall or winter yet – but I am seeing the signs.

And, these “signs” get us all prepared to transition to a new season, right?

First, it is the chilly evenings, then transition of the evening skies feeling like they are getting darker earlier, especially on the drive home after work.

The crickets going mad outdoors in the late afternoons – another fall sign – which helps to drown out my tinnitus, so I enjoy that more than ever.

The yellowing of some of my canna and alocasia leaves on plants in big container gardens from these chilly evening episodes, which those plants will need tending to, very soon.

All summer, I wanted to divide a huge alocasia – yet, still it sits in a big pot – larger than ever now – hope I can get to that soon, or maybe I will demo that one for my overwintering demo.

The pile of empty starter pots, in the garage, on the driveway – oh gosh, I have to wash all of those before storing them – I better pick a sunny day before the full cold fall season arrives, else it will be torture.

 

The pool to close soon – really? Ugh.

I didn’t even have the pool party I wanted, well, we had some little get together’s with some friends and family – but not a full out pool party – and the yard looks great.

I’m sure the pool water is ice cold right now. How many times did we use it? Not enough. But on those days we did, it was heaven.

This cool air of fall is all too soon!

But, the biggest surprise of the change of seasons coming on is that my Holiday Kissing Ball and Wreath Workshop is almost completely full with advance pre-registrations.

What? That is 30 people signed up so far, and the limit is 35. I think I have 3-4 seats open for my first workshop. Great news – it makes me very happy and proud – but this is the earliest ever for registrations – exciting!

Other signs – besides this morning’s cold, that it is Sept “One” already, is how fast time flies by – I’ve said that before, many times, I know. Just feels like it is always moving so fast.

I’m starting to see posts of fall crafting inspiration on Facebook by friends, and a little bit of the posts on Instagram of Autumn decorating is starting.

I’m making a cuties thing in my greenhouse themed for Halloween right now – but not sharing photos yet.

But, I guess, I will be taking those to my plant shop display soon. Maybe it is not too early, with these cooler nights – and mornings happening.

All of these things get us thinking fall.

But most of all – for me – is the chilly morning I just experienced today.

Thankfully, it will be followed by a glorious full sun fall like warm, but not hot or humid day, and that is the best part of fall.

Let’s enjoy it…

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

P.S.

My “Overwintering Container Plants” workshops are on the schedule, if you are interested. I am holding it early this year so people are ready for October’s frost timing, but geesh, with the early cool temps – maybe this was timed just right. First session is Sept 15, Friday, 6-7 pm at Book Club Bookstore & More in South Windsor, CT. All details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. There will be a demo at my place too in Sept and October.

And – don’t forget – I am offering my “Succulent Topped Pumpkins” workshop again in early October and mid-October – see my site noted above for dates and details. People are starting to sign-up. It will be fun and creative! Join us!

 

 

 

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!

Wine Bottle Garden Art Workshop Day

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Hi Everyone,

Here’s a recap of our workshop day with Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie. We had a great time creating what we called, “Garden Art Creations with Wine Bottles.”

wine-glass-art-workshop-day_0004Each creation had its own unique touches or embellishments which held a special meaning to the attendees.

For example, I included a cork from a champagne bottle I had opened when celebrating a milestone. The cork sat in a box waiting for a special place, and having it be part of my wine bottle art piece was perfect.

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Another attendee brought corks along with a horse image on them because she is an avid horse lover – equestrian to be exact. She used her corks along with a balanced mix of colors in her bead selections for her piece.

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During our workshop I stated, “Crafting is good for the soul” — and this I believe to be truth. When you sit quietly focused, your mind wanders a bit as you start working with your hands. It is very therapeutic. At times, we would start up conversations – and during other moments, we were focused on our pieces and in the “crafting zone.”

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I’m grateful we had Laura here again to be our guest instructor. She is a mixed media artist who creates paintings ranging from pets to nature to whimsical objects and anything in between. Her business is called, timefliesbylauralie.

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As I’ve stated many times, I love her art style and art work. Just look at these adorable pumpkin figurines and her magnets. She has many, many more pieces and appears often at shows around Connecticut.

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And at our workshop, we each were given a antique hand-stamped spoon to add to our pieces with “wine themed quotes.” She also sells spools at shows.

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During our workshop last Saturday, Laura took the time to go over each step, and rather than attempt to cut our wine bottles during the class which would have taken a huge amount of time, she pre-cut them all for us and explained the process to attendees.

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She also taught us about types of wire to use and why, how to assemble and work with the wire and each embellishment, and shared stories of her art and methods.

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Each piece created by the attendees during this workshop was different. For example, one attendee used soft pinks in her bottle. While another used warm and hot tones for colors.

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I included little charms with the words like Hope, Dream, Wish, and “Love what you do, Do what you love” on my wine bottle. In addition to using the special champagne cork I had saved, I used a bottle a friend gave me a while back so the bottle itself was special.

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There is so much you could add to “adorn” your bottle, as Laura would state – she used the word “adorn” quite a bit. She got me so inspired, I’m already starting on another one – which will be a witch Halloween theme. I will be sure to post the photos of it when done.

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The date of the workshop was geared for the transition from the end of summer and entering our upcoming fall, however, I learned so many other interested attendees wanted to attend but had conflicts due to final end of summer vacations or plans.

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So, I think next year, we will shoot for the third week of September so more people can make it – providing we have Laura return again – which I’m hoping she will.

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Speaking of Laura – I want to say, “Thank you again, Laura – You are a born artist and exceptional teacher. We appreciate your time, generosity, and spirit at our Container Crazy CT Workshops.”

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Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

UP NEXT:

Overwintering Plants, Oct 15 – Learn to store Canna, Ensete (red banana), Colocasia (elephants ears), and other plants so they may be regrown next spring in your container gardens.

Growing Your Own Nutritious Soil Sprouts, Nov 5th – Learn how to grow soil sprouts via an easy 5-7 day method for harvest indoors all fall, winter and next season.

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Search Terms – A Look at Last Week’s

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I thought it would be fun to share some of the search terms which were received last week on Container Crazy CT’s blog. Search terms are words or phrases people use on search engines like Google to find posts on my blog. The terms are not visible to the general public but can be seen via stats and such on the blog’s background pages by the blog owner only. I would never reveal anything private and luckily all of the searches are directly related to plants and, as you can see, decorating for the holidays which is appropriate for this time of year.

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People are definitely searching for holiday decorating ideas, and many are asking about how to use mesh ribbon. Then there are the plant related searches, and last week, people were looking for information on Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ and Petasites japonicus, for example.

Some were looking for information on gardening techniques, such as “how to dismantle a garden” or “where to find Gingko trees in Connecticut” and information about “overwintering plants in the basement.”

Hopefully, they found what they were looking for, but if not, I thought I’d add some additional information here on some of their specific search terms:

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The “mesh ribbon” search

As you can see, many folks are looking for information and ideas on how to use mesh ribbon.

Mesh ribbon has become super popular for its ease of use in the decorating world. It can be used to make a big, puffy, large show on a variety of crafting projects. With a couple of twists and turns, mesh ribbon makes quite the festive creation as it is added to wreaths, arches, and anything you can think of. I love using it.

I think the only downfall with mesh ribbon is when exposed to sunlight over a long period of time it fades. Otherwise, it is perfect and reusable each year so it doesn’t get wasted or tossed out – it can be disassembled as easily as it can be assembled and stores well in boxes after the holiday season is over.

Mesh ribbon comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns and can be found practically anywhere. It comes in every color imaginable. I’ve used it on the Fourth of July, Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day – it is easily attached to container gardens to add some bling.

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One person searched the question on “if you can cut mesh ribbon?” And yes, you certainly can but be sure to use a very sharp pair of scissors.

For assembly to wreaths, I use zip ties to gather and pinch sections of the mesh ribbon together or you may use green florist wire. You may see how I did this on the following posts:

Three Easy Ways to Use Mesh Ribbon

This post above has been viewed quite a lot this month. People new to mesh ribbons are searching on how to use it, how to attach it, and looking for creative ideas.

You should also check out how I use zip ties to attach mesh ribbon to various crafting projects. Remember to use green or a dark colored zip tie so it doesn’t show between your decor, etc.

Using Zip Ties to Attach Mesh Ribbon

This post shows how I attached the ribbon on wreaths and other holiday decorative items. I find gathering it in spaces between each puff is easily attached when using zip ties. They are so handy on crafting projects and I attempted to show what I mean in the post above.

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The “overwintering plants in basement” search

I hope the person looking for this information was able to locate it on my blog because I’ve written and spoken about how to store tender tropical plants many times, but I think maybe the general nature of the search term words used implied they may be looking for what is needed in a basement to keep your plants there over the winter?

For starters, most basements are dark with very little natural light, so for plants that go dormant naturally in pots, a basement is a well suited location to move your plants in the winter. Canna and Colocasia (elephant ear plants) may be allowed to go dormant in their pots, and may be moved to the basement if your basement is frost free, stays cool, and you have some space to put them.

If you have plants which require a period of dormancy in order to bloom, along with some darkness and reduced watering, such as Clivia (which comes to mind because a nurseryman gave me one recently) or Amaryllis (Hippeastrum species) which is sold around this time of year and forced into bloom in time for the holidays, the basement is a good place to place them for their resting/dormancy period.

In addition, some bulbs, corms, tubers store well in dark, dry areas of the basement. It is important to note some underground storage organs like conditions a bit on the damp side, while others like it dry. Look up your type of storage organ (Dahlias, Canna, etc.) for which you are storing in the basement to determine which they like – dry and dark, or damp and dark.

By the way, Amaryllis do not technically require a resting period in order to bloom, but to control the blooming, many people will bring the plant inside after the summer season and store them in the basement. The plant should not be watered, as is with the case of Clivia, for a period of time before you bring it back out into a warm sunlight area in your home. So basements are perfect for plants like these two examples.

Basements typically remain cool but do not go below freezing which is another reason why they are so handy for plant storage. I put my boxed up Canna rhizomes by the basement door corner area on shelves and they seem to like this spot best (the sweet spot). Also, if you heat your home with a woodstove which is located in the basement, this can make the basement too warm for storing conditions, so bare this in mind. Or keep the boxed up underground storage organs far away from where your woodstove is located.

In the fall, I showed my workshop attendees exactly where I stored my boxed up storage organs so they got a feel of what I mean – each home is different, so you need to determine what you have and work with that (such as a cool basement, a cool closet or room in the home that is not heated fully in winter, a sunroom that is not heated, maybe your garage, garden shed, etc.). They need to be a place where it does not go below frost but is not too warm for growth.

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The “how to winter a maurelli abyssinian banana” search

Oh gosh, I hope the person searching this topic found what they were looking for on my blog because I’ve documented the steps I’ve used which have been successful for many years on storing the Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ plant (red banana). Here are the links where you may find this information:

Storing My Big Red Banana Plant

This post above has the step by step process with photos. Storing takes place in late October or early November.

Overwintering Red Banana Plants

Red Banana Plant Revived Again

What should I do with my Container Gardens and Patio Pots?

In the fall season, workshops on the ‘how to’s’ are offered in my area of East Windsor, Connecticut. Each steps is demonstrated and step-by-steps workshop handouts are provided, especially useful for the attendees of my May Container Garden Workshops as a follow-up when the season comes to a close.

Plant Searches

It was interesting that Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ showed up twice in the same week. I’ll have to look around to see if the nurseries are offering it right now – This could be why there has been an interest in learning more about this plant known as a paddle plant. This variety has a fantastic coloring pattern to it of light green, creamy off white, and pink. Maybe folks are seeking it out because it is so pretty inside the home, and this plant makes a nice houseplant because of its look, easy care, and light watering routines, especially this time of year in winter.

Other plant searches were on Petasites japonicus, which is one I’ve written about due to its huge round leaves which are very showy in container gardens, and by the way, it can be overwintered in a shed. I’ve done it many times by moving the pot with a Petasites in it into the unheated shed before winter with success. This is a perfect plant for container gardens because they are a nuisance in the ground – aggressive spreaders. So in containers they are contained and controlled, plus their tough nature makes them easy to overwinter – they make it in an unheated shed every year. See Troublemakers Turned Stars post for more about aggressive plants which are stars in containers and patio pots.

The other plant searched for was a Salix (willow) which I don’t believe I’ve written extensively about on this blog – looks like it is time to do.

Of course, as I mentioned above, I would not share any searches which seemed private in nature. There was one odd one, and let’s just say, I’m glad it was not about me! It had the words: Crazy + Cathy. I’m crazy alright but only crazy about plants, container gardens, art, and of course – holiday décor this time of year. It is time to deck the halls…

Enjoy your week everyone,

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

The Complete Search List from Last Week as typed by the searcher:

  • How to transport a tree in a pickup
  • Salix purpurea ssp. Lambertiana
  • Cans recycle garden
  • How to use mesh ribbon
  • Meshribbonrubanemaille
  • Dismantling a garden
  • Christmas decorating with mesh ribbon
  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora fantastic
  • Can you cut mesh ribbon
  • Uses for buffalo snow
  • Christmas mailbox swags
  • How to assemble a fresh herb wreath
  • How to decorate with mesh
  • How to decorate a Christmas wreath
  • Instead of a traditional Christmas wreath
  • Overwintering plants in basement
  • How to make barbed wire wreaths
  • Fantastic kalanchoe
  • How to winter a maurelli abysinnian banana
  • Decorating with mesh
  • Nurseries in CT that sell ginko trees
  • Petasites japonicas
  • 20 facts about the coneflowers
  • What is the herbal plant that can cure
  • Decorating with wide ribbon
  • Petasites japonicas