July 27 – Just sharing some photos at the end of the month


Hi everyone,

I’m at the bookstore today, where I have a small plant showcase as a premier vendor, and just finished talking to a customer who was here to see what I had that is “new.”

She’s become a regular visitor – and new plant friend. She likes my inspiration and then she shows me all of her plant creations via her photos on her phone. We could talk for hours!

It has been so much fun showcasing and selling my plants here – and the best part is meeting new people and making new connections. Without my venture here, I would not have met many new plant enthusiasts as well as avid book lovers.

I could write a book on my experiences here – you see, I’m not a huge book reader myself (shh-don’t tell anyone!). Well, let me correct that – I DO read books, but most of the time, actually probably 99% of them, are related to plants, gardening, propagation, succulents, cacti, houseplants, garden tools, tropicals, gardens around the world, bugs, leaves, botanical subjects, etc. My home based office is FILLED with books on 5 long shelves. And, I don’t just “read” them, I use them for my research. The studying never ends in the world of horticulture – it is the name of the game. Learning! But it has been a very long time since I read a novel or love story – LOL.

Many times, however, especially during the winter, when I have spare time, one of my all time favorite things to do is getting cozy in a lawn chair, which I keep in the greenhouse for those sunny yet cold winter’s day, and read. I soak up the sun, warmth, sights, and sounds as I enjoy a good plant book. On sunny days in the winter, you can’t beat the warmth. It can get warm enough to not have your coat on and put on a bathing suit top – and get a sun burn if not careful! But the vitamin D is heaven on those cold winter days. I just love reading my plant books there.

In the summer, the only time I’m reading in the greenhouse is when I’m looking up a plant problem, and even then, it doesn’t happen much (reading that is) in the greenhouse in the summer cause the greenhouse is filled with plants and plant projects. I’m too busy watering or planting, re-potting, cleaning, and repeat.

My greenhouse space is quiet, however, no matter the season. The things I hear are the occasional dried up leaves blowing across the slanted roof top, or a turkey making a cooing sound to his fellow wild friends. Sometimes I’ll hear a hawk – and once, a hawk landed on the top of the greenhouse roof to observe the bird feeder on a tree nearby for his own living tasty treats. He swooped down over to the feeder from the greenhouse roof – what a sight to behold as I was sitting quietly reading, looking up and seeing the span of wings. And, lastly, sometimes I hear a faint meow from my cat walking by, or hear tons of birds chirping in the brush behind the greenhouse – they love that stuff.

Anyhow, my point being – I do read, but it seems always to learn about plants – Plants! Plants! Plants! How did this planting thing become such a crazy (as in Container Crazy CT) obsession? Well, let’s not go there – that is another LONG story.

This year provided me with MANY new challenges and ventures. I decided to try my hand at houseplants – and WOW, was that ever a fun new gig. I met a wonderful grower, who truly supports me and treats me with respect. I feel this is a gift. A plant connection friendship formed and little did I know – I would learn a tremendous lot about houseplants – by observing, growing them, caring for them, and asking questions when I didn’t know the answer – it’s been all good. And now, I’m fond of them more than ever before. However, no worries, friends. I will continue to offer my other usual too, from perennials to wildly large tropicals. I just like to mix it up every year. It helps us all to grow as plant lovers. Plus, it is fun.

Now – for photos – let’s go so I can stop rambling, and do what I set out today, which was to share some photos…

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Ah, this was fun – making a circular pattern with my BEAUTIFUL succulents!

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My friend Terri came in to make a big terrarium – one-on-one style – which I offer by appointment at the bookstore on Tuesdays and Thursdays – did you know?!!

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My big Staghorn Fern – This was a new workshop offered earlier this year – what fun! I’ve expanded this whole process to mounting other plants to boards. I even painted one board in red-white-blue colors for the 4th of July, and I made custom theme boards for customers. It was the year of “wall-art!”

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Alocasia African Mask – I LOVE the look of this plant – and it is a new one for me this year – it does really well indoors in bright indirect light. I also found it has been thriving in a situation where I have one in very organic soil as an under-story like plant (below bigger leaved plants). It does not take full sun well at all – it needs shade. Also, it prefers “moist” soils, but not water logged. I give it a little water every time it is dry to the touch on the top but not soaking water.

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Oh God – This Canna ‘Cleopatra’ is ga-ga-ga-gorgeous. I scored a few BIG pots of them – full enough to last you a life time if you overwinter the storage organs (as I refer to them), which I teach how in my “Overwinter Plants” workshops – but back to this plant! It is soooo beautiful; the dark toned striped patterns in the leaves and it blooms, not only red, but also yellow flowers! How can a plant offer so much? Those of you who bought a plant at my workshop or from me at the bookstore – congrats.

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Here, I was showing an elephant ears tuber (bulb, corm – whatever you prefer to call it – although technically they have different names) – no matter, this was a big one! I potted up many this season and sold quite a few elephant ears of my own. One can not have a container garden thrill (or thriller) without one, in my opinion! They last into the fall, bob in the wind, and are easy – they prefer shade but can take sun if you water – a lot!

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Ah, this photo is showing moon flower seeds. This is another “new” offering by me this season – selling seeds by Hudson Valley Seed Co. All 100% certified organic seed and open-pollinated. Well, I had to sow some of my own of this plant which get huge, tubular, white flowers at end of summer. In fact, my plants are growing in a pot and I trellised them up to the light on my garage with garden twine which they freely accepted – the plant’s vines finally reached the light fixture – and I think it may go as high as the gutters of the garage. Because the seeds are open pollinated, any seed I collect from my plants will be true-to-type for next year’s round. Bonus! You buy one seed packet and you can keep it going on for years if you harvest your seeds from the plant.

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I’ve been offering so many terrariums workshops – I’m becoming known as the “terrarium lady” – and one day, a customer came in with a terrarium she had owned for one year – a gift from a friend, and it was so overgrown, she asked me to renew it – which I did – and I made up 3 terrariums for her. That was a fun project. BTW, our next TERRARIUMS workshop is on a Monday, August 21st, 6-8 pm at the Stafford Cidery! See http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for all the details.

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And to finish off today’s “picture post” is a flash back of some of the containers created by attendees from my May Container Garden Workshops. I hope everyone’s creations are doing well. Now, it is time to stay tuned to the fall and winter workshops, after you finishing enjoying our summer vacations and the rest of our summer months! We have a few coming up:

8/21 – Stafford Cidery – Terrariums
9/15 – Book Club Bookstore – Overwintering Plants
9/20 – Stafford Cidery – Microgreens Growing
9/27 – Container Crazy CT’s BB location – Overwintering Plants Early
10/7 – Container Crazy CT’s BB location – Succulent Topped Pumpkins
10/16 – Stafford Cidery – Succulent Topped Pumpkins
10/14 – Container Crazy CT’s – Overwinter Plants (timed for fall frost)
12/2 –  Container Crazy CT’s – The 8th Annual Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making
12/6 – Container Crazy CT’s – Weeknight Kissing Ball & Wreath Making Workshop

Enjoy! July is almost over!

Cathy Testa

If you are an Instagram fan – I’m there under ‘containercrazyct’ – look me up – I am constantly posting photos!

Thanks, Cathy T.

Other services:

Plant Refurbishments
Garden Talks
One-on-One Private Sessions for Workshop topics
Plant Deliveries – coming soon



It’s Terrarium Time!

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This weekend is Container Crazy CT’s first session on making terrariums.
Our workshop is being held at the BOOK CLUB Bookstore hosting facility on
Saturday (tomorrow), 4/8, 11 am. Located in South Windsor.
Note: We can squeeze in one or maybe two more last minute attendees if you are interested!

We are offering a second session at Container Crazy CT’s workshop space in Broad Brook on Wednesday, 4/12, 5:30 pm. This session has a few seats open.

To sign up, visit our sister site WORKSHOPSCT.com or text me at 860-977-9473.


I’m super excited because my terrarium plants are just the right size, adorable, and healthy. Container Crazy CT works hard to make sure your plants selections are fresh and new for every workshop. Lots of love goes into their care.

At the workshop, 3 plants for your terrarium are included, but you may decide to buy more if you really want to ramp it up in your glass vessel. We have many selections. And we go over all the maintenance, care, and more in the workshops.

Here’s a sneak peek. To see many more, visit my Instagram feed.

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Don’t forget to check out our upcoming workshops:

May Container Gardening (3 dates available)

Basic Seed Starting Demonstration (to be posted soon!)

How To Grow Micogreens Demonstration (2 dates available)


Container Crazy CT is offering Microgreens Starter Kits and soon to be added are Terrariums Packaged Kits! If you can not make a workshop, these are available.
Stop by the BOOK CLUB (869 Sullivan Ave., S. Windsor) or contact me for more information.

Thank you – and enjoy the break in the rain today…

Cathy Testa


“Combining Nature with Art”


Snow -Go Away! I want Spring!

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Happy Friday Everyone,

Well – there it is – snow – ugh! After yesterday and Tuesday’s beautifully sunny days, I don’t want snow.

I’m in spring mode already – I have been offering demonstrations on Microgreens this week, setting up my display items at a new venue (BOOK CLUB) in South Windsor – and ordering and planning all for Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops.

It is never a totally easy process as one may think. There are lots of steps involved, but so far – all is good. We are ready for you.

So for today – here are upcoming highlights:


To kick off my showcases at the relocated bookstore, BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More, I am offering a FREE presentation tomorrow, Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

This presentation is about “Six Design Tips for Container Gardens” – and it is a slide type presentation which covers tips on how to design large and lush container gardens.

If you struggle with this aspect of your patio pots and want to learn some great tips – come on by. These tips will help you – and the first 10 or so people to arrive receive a free plant catalog.

Following the presentation, browse the bookstore’s offerings and Container Crazy CT’s showcases of Plant Gifts, Succulents, Terrariums, Wall Art, etc.

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Speaking of wall art – This workshop is coming up. Registrations are still open but we are nearing the time when we need your confirmations. If you clicked ‘going’ on the EVENTS pages, please click CONFIRM to reserve your seat and items.

This workshop is being offered on two dates. First one is March, 11, Saturday at my Broad Brook, CT location and the 2nd session is March 22, Wednesday at the BOOK CLUB’s South Windsor location (869 Sullivan Avenue in the United Bank plaza).

For the Newbies interested, pre-registration with confirmed payment is required. Be sure to read our guidelines on WORKSHOPSCT.com. Due to a limited number of seats and plants – if you want in – now is the time to confirm.

Greater Hartford womens Conf Microgreens Demo by C Testa


The conference has invited me to speak on March 28th at 10:30 am. It is an all day conference at Maneeley’s, 65 Rye Street, South Windsor and registration is required.

My topic will be on Micro-greens – and Starter Kits will be available for purchase or order following my demonstration.

Again, my session is being held from 10:30 am to 11: 15 pm. There are many speakers and topics at this conference – a very well-known event packed with information geared towards a theme of, “Focusing on Energy in Your Life.”

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If you can not make the session above, I will be offering my demonstration again on Friday, March 31st at 5:30 pm. Pre-registration is recommended. Fee is $10 to attend. Again, you have the option to purchase Starter Kits following the demonstration.

Everyone loves trying it out after they learn how to grow Micro-greens easily. It is a perfect “wellness” topic – because micro-greens (and sprouts) are packed with nutrition. I highlight this aspect as well at the demonstrations.



As noted on WorkshopsCT.com, terrariums are on the list of topics – and perfectly timed for showcasing them at your home for the Easter weekend! But Easter is not the only theme you may use, there are many. We plan to have slow growing plants and succulents for this workshop.

Dates are: April 8th at Book Club, and April 12 at Container Crazy CT’s location in Broad Brook, CT.

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In honor of Earth Day, I’m offering my second free presentation at Book Club on April 22nd, Saturday at 12:00 noon. It will be on the “5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening Growth Success.”

If you are new to container gardening or have had issues with your patio pots in the past and don’t know why your plants don’t thrive – this session is very beneficial. We hope you will join us.


The Book Club Bookstore is holding a Grand Opening on April 29th. Check out their Facebook page or bookclubct.com for details. Author appearances are in store (literally). And what is even more exciting, is the authors on this date are local South Windsor Authors.

The bookstore has a wonderful selection of new and pre-owned books, and the owner, Cynde Acanto, is very helpful and knowledgeable. I’m in awe of her book knowledge and I have a feeling I am going to be learning so much there from her customers too. My head has been stuck in gardening books so much, but now I’m learning about so many genres. The store has many gardening and plant books too.

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As for my showcases there as a permanent vendor, I plan to “change out” plants regularly – so as you come by for a visit, bear in mind, it will be ever-changing for each season. Expect to see a variety of plants, and creative ideas on how to use them. Special orders may be requested. Grab a pamphlet to learn more while there.


My regular hours at the store are 10 am to 6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. – and of course, I am still operating out of my Broad Brook location every day of the week.

Address again:

BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More
869 Sullivan Avenue, Ste. 6
South Windsor, CT 06074
(860) 432-7411
Pre-Owned & New Books – Author Appearances
Book Discussions – Gifts & Cards

Now, snow – please Go Away. I don’t have time for you…

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts are welcome)




Always a Good Time at the Market


Every time I speak at a farmers’ market, I have a great time interacting with the market goer’s either before or after my talk.

There is a positive vibe at markets – and I believe everyone attending is happy to be there.

Same goes for the vendors selling items and for me!



After setting up my demonstration table and being interviewed by the Hartford Courant (which was a surprise for me), we visited some of the vendors to shop a bit.



My niece, who often helps me at my talks and workshops, was drawn to the “Clear Mountain Alpacas” booth by the Garrow Family. They run a small family farm in Somers, CT and have beautiful hand-made products.

Later, after my demo, Steve, my husband, bought a pair of really nice long warm socks from them for himself, along with a nice pair of gloves for my niece. She was smiling!

We also stopped by Marie’s “Toes to Nose Soaps” booth and picked up lip balm in various scents from watermelon to chocolate mint. She was offering a buy two get one free on the lip balms – and her soaps are wonderful too.

My niece scored that day, but she deserved it after helping me with the rather large audience at my demonstration about growing your own immature greens, via an easy method in 5-7 days, which turned out to be a popular topic with the market goer’s.


Before I was about to start my demo, I did a quick Facebook live video to show what else was being offered by the many vendors and show the crowd. It was a busy day – nice in winter to be surround by local offerings. We were lucky to not have bad weather.


Starter Kits were available for sale after my demonstration so that interested attendees could get growing the minute they got home.

Starter Kit Orders

If were unable to attend on Saturday – just reach out by calling or texting 860-977-9473 or emailing containercathy@gmail.com if you are interested in a kit.

Special Note to Kit People: If you bought a kit on Saturday, I forgot to mention the compost already has the seaweed component in it. If you ended up getting a bottle of your own, it is fine if you added it in – won’t hurt it.


Requesting the Demonstration

Additionally, if you have a venue where you would like to have me present this demo, please don’t hesitate to ask. One of the reasons I enjoy showing how to do this process is because it may be done year-round. It is a 365 day thing – you can do this any time, winter, spring, summer and fall. And it is easy – and fun. Not to mention extremely healthy; there are many benefits to eating these types of greens – and they sure beat potato chips as a snack.


Plus you don’t need mason jars with my method of growing immature greens.

Here’s a sample I brought along of radish immature greens above, which happen to be one of my favorite to eat due to a subtle spicy kick – but there are so many to try. The list is endless. As I mentioned on Saturday – I started growing micro-greens because I enjoy the taste and because it is the perfect easy in-door gardening technique.


Gift Cards Reminder

Gift cards to my upcoming workshops are available – great for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, or any special occasion. You may determine the dollar amount you wish to apply to the Gift Card for use at workshops. Please inquire if interested. More information is available on WorkshopsCT.com. We have many new topics this year.

Thank you Shout Out

Lastly, I want to say thank you again to the Ellington Market Master, Dianne, for inviting me to speak. Familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a while were there – along with many new faces and my regular attendees. It goes by very quickly but it is always a good time at the market.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
Owner of “Cathy T’s Landscape Designs” and “Container Crazy CT”

A blog about container gardening, plants, and combining nature with art.


Feb 8th – Down to Earth Garden Club, S. Windsor
Six Design Tips for Container Gardens

Feb 11th – Flower Arranging Workshop, Broad Brook
Guest Speakers: JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

Mar 14th – Cherry Brook Garden Club, Canton
The Five Must Do’s for Container Gardens

Mar 11thBook Club Bookstore and More, Broad Brook
Six Design Tips for Container Gardens

Mar 18thBotanical Living Wall Art Workshop, Broad Brook
by Container Crazy CT



2017 Flower Arranging Workshop – Open for Sign-Up’s

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Good Morning Everyone,

Just a quick post to remind followers and interested people – our registrations are now open for the February 11th, 2017 Flower Arranging Workshop.

Location: Broad Brook, CT

Guest Speakers: JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design

We require confirmed seats three weeks before the workshop date to ensure the “freshest flowers”  – so please visit our sister site listed below for all the details and express your interest today, ask questions, or look at our Gallery to see prior workshop photos of everyone’s beautiful creations.


Additionally, we have posted many workshops upcoming in 2017. Visit the site to see each one and let’s get together to make it together this year!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)


Where can I find rare or unusual plants in Connecticut?

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The Entrance Sign

The Entrance Sign

One of my goals this year is to visit nurseries I usually don’t have the time to do, but I’m making time.  Last Friday, I picked up a tube leaf Ginkgo tree from Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT. I’ve always wanted a Ginkgo, and this one has unusual leaves where some are fused, so they look a bit rolled up.  Latin name is Ginkgo biloba ‘Tubiformis’ and it will be fun to see once the leaves begin to expand.

This nursery, located about an hour from my home town, has some of the more rare or unusual plants that you won’t find in traditional nurseries. Many plants are propagated by the nursery. So if you are a plant collector, or looking for unique varieties or cultivars, an hour’s drive makes the visit to Broken Arrow worth it.  Unique conifers, trees, and shrubs are available at their site and via their well organized mail-order website.

As I drove down the winding roads lined with old stone walls to their retail location, it reminded me of trips to another nursery, a wholesale one, called Sunny Border in Kensington, CT.  Like Sunny Border, this place, Broken Arrow, is tucked within a nicely woodland landscaped area in a private section, where you get the sense it may have been started right out of the home.  It is not on a main highway or roadway, and you would not really even know it was there unless someone told you.

Upon my arrival, I recognized their symbol of a broken arrow with an tree.  This is the place, I thought.  And I knew right away, I was going to enjoy my visit when I saw deciduous and evergreen trees dug into the soil where you could see how they were growing here, rather than lined up in a field.  However, they had plenty of plants lined up for sale too, with good signage detailing the important information about the plants.

Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis'

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’

They have unusual conifers, such as this one called Dragon’s Eye.  It is a variegated form of Japanese Red Pine.  Latin name is Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis.” Yellow bands across the long needles give it a little something different to look at.  It would be stunning in a garden of perhaps bright yellows as a theme, and you just don’t commonly see these in typical landscapes.

A happy and helpful staff member

A happy and helpful staff member

Or how about this Whip Cord Western Arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’).  Andrew Summers, one of the welcoming staff members, took the time to discuss this plant with me along with other unique plants on the premises.  His energy was inviting and he didn’t mind at all when I asked him to hold the plant for a quick photo for my blog.  This plant is interesting looking and would look great in a rock garden or in a container garden.  First thing that comes to mind is a big “face” pot, so the whipcord acts like hair!

We discussed how it must be so difficult to work at Broken Arrow because of the temptation to buy many of the plants available. One could go broke here, especially if you have a passion for the rare.  Andrew was quick to explain key features of several plants, which I truly appreciated.  It is not often you find two people “ooohing” over the shape of a leaf, but we both were – it is just one of those plant geek things I guess – or for plant enthusiasts.

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

As I continued through the nursery, I took a lot of photos for my research of plant materials – especially because this location is a bit far for me, I wanted to remember the plants I saw in person.

Sparkling Arrows

Sparkling Arrows

Take for example a form of an Alaskan Cedar with creamy white coloring with the green.  Darn, I thought. I just bought one of these last week, and I like this one better – because it is different.

Magnolias at Broken Arrow

Magnolias at Broken Arrow

There were some perennials, but not a huge amount (at least not yet).  This place is a destination for trees, shrubs, and conifers.  If you like Magnolias, they had at least nine different cultivars to pick from on the premises, and offer many more via their website and catalog.

There were many full sized weeping Japanese maple trees and some compact dwarf sizes.  For example, take a look at the yellow foliage of a Japanese Maple Tree shown below of a dwarf type.  The foliage greens up in summer on ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’. The leaves are packed tightly on its branches, and it is just stunning in a container or perhaps in a Japanese garden.  It caught my eye immediately.

Many evergreen and deciduous shrubs, some really pretty Viburnums, Stewartias, Dogwoods, Witch Hazel, and more.  Many of the plants are just beginning to awaken to the spring air and sun so flowers were not out, but I can imagine how this place looks when a bit warmer out.

Many beautiful Japanese maple trees at Broken Arrow

Many beautiful Japanese maple trees at Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow is located 13 Broken Arrow Road in Hamden, Connecticut and is also listed in the new “Passport” being made available by CT’s Garden and Landscape Trail organization (see http://www.CTGardenTrail.com).  You can get your Passport book stamped as you visit sites, and when you reach 10 sites, you can enter to win a $10,000 dream landscape – so I made sure to remember to bring my Passport with me.  And by the way, Broken Arrow offers some really nice classes, and has a “thing for shade-loving perennials” per their catalog too.  I didn’t make it to their tree farm section at another location nearby, perhaps I will save that for a fall or winter trip.

Bee busy on a winterhazel

Bee busy on a winterhazel

Container Crazy Cathy T

3 Quick Examples of Color and Plant Combinations from the Boston Flower & Garden Show

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Great combination of colors

Great combination of colors

No . 1:  Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ with Daffodils and Hosta

This weekend, at the Boston Garden and Flower Show, I admired a combination of plants with a monochromatic color scheme utilizing hues of yellow and greens.  It was displayed at one of the garden exhibits and included yellow blooming daffodils (Narcissus), variegated hosta, and Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate.

‘Sweet Kate’ was placed between the daffodils and hosta.  This perennial, with the common name of Virginia spiderwort or widow’s tears, has long strap-like leaves, resembling long blades of slender grass.  The leaves of this cultivar have an iridescent yellow color, most showy in full sun conditions.

At the base of this planting bed, an ivy plant was tucked within which had leaves with yellow margins, repeating the hues of yellow in the grouping of plants.  Purple blooms of Muscari armeniacum, grape hyacinth, with urn-shaped flower clusters on short flower stalks created a complementary color (purple opposite yellow on the color wheel).  It was a soft and spring like combination.

Softly repeating yellows

Softly repeating yellows

I thought to myself, this designer carefully selected plants that worked well together in regards to subtle colors, and it also had a nice woodland feel.  I think it is a good example of simplicity, and a perfect combination to use in spring container gardens, with the daffodils serving as a “welcoming” plant, ‘Sweet Kate’ as a filler along with the hosta, and the ivy as a spiller.  It was charming and calming, so I took a couple quick photos to post on my blog, and share with you.

No. 2:  Heuchera with hot red Tulips and Euphorbia

Another arrangement, located at the next display, was a combination of intense red blooming tulips combined with the bright leaves of a Heuchera perennial at the base, and yellow flowers of a Euphorbia perennial to the left of the tulips.

The display was elevated with a mirrored window frame in the background to capture the colors in its reflection. Again, the designer was thinking of color, but in this case, a harmonious relationship of red, yellow, and green was utilized.

The red tulips were the thrillers, and caught your eye from a distance, adding some heat, while the yellow was a bit less intense but still created a warm tone to the grouping of plants, quite opposite of the soft hues displayed in the prior exhibit at the flower show.

Red Tulips with Euphorbia and Heuchera

Red Tulips with Euphorbia and Heuchera

The Euphorbia, left to the tulips, with yellow flowers at the tips, echoed the bright yellow colors of the Heuchera tucked in at the base of the grouping of plants.

The Euphorbia perennial, known as spurge, has flowers with yellow bracts turning an orange-red.  In the center, you can see a dab of red again repeating the red tulips’s color.  The leaves have a reddish midrib.  These small pops are like the brush strokes in a painting – adding a bit a flare you may not consciously notice, but feel.  Take notice in the next photo, there’s some yellow strokes at the base of the red flower petals on the tulips.

I didn’t write down the Heuchera’s cultivar name from the display, but it reminded me of Heuchera ‘Citronelle’ with bright citron yellow foliage.  Common name is coral bells. Heucheras make great fillers in container gardens in spring and last well into mid to late summer. And while the Euphorbia flowers may fade, the foliage will last to the end of summer too.  Both plants are easy to grow.

Close up of red Tulips with Heuchera

Close up of red Tulips with Heuchera

The arrangement using hot reds and yellow with solid, reliable greens immediately reminded me of one of my favorite spring container gardens I assembled a couple years ago, using a pop of red and probably the same bright yellow Heuchera, with some red repeating colors from a Euphorbia.  See here:  Cathy T’s container garden:  spring combo

The next plant combination may not be for everyone, but it caught my attention.  I really like foliage in designs, and this one put together an unusual grouping. In the center, a very tall bamboo plant is showcased, with Helleborus orientalis ‘Brandywine’ perennial sitting below at the base and Mondo grass. Who would have thought these would work together?  But they do.

Bamboo with Helleborus perennial

Bamboo with Helleborus perennial

No. 3: Fargesia nitida (bamboo) with Helleborus ‘Brandy Wine’ and Mondo Grass

I also liked how they alternated the Helleborus plant at the base with what I believe is a Mondo grass.  Again, foliage shapes and forms work well. The Asian styled walls and windows make the foliage plants stand out more and draw your eye in to the design area at the same time.

Helleborus plants happen to be one of my favorites because of their coarse semi-evergreen foliage, deer-resistant trait, and early flowering in late winter to early spring. Hellebore is the common name.  It has cultivars with flower colors in dark plums to soft pinks, whites, and more pale colors.  Hellebores also make excellent long lasting container garden plants as fillers, lasting well into fall. They are a “solid” plant to use in containers and can be transplanted to your gardens when the season is over.  I like how the basal leaves are tough, and some have a little bit of serrated edges.  It is a partial shade to full sun plant and fairly drought tolerant.  Some are starting to poke out of the ground right now, as we enter spring.

These are just three quick examples of color and plant combinations I saw at the show – there were many more.  There was even a display covered in fake snow, which was so appropriately timed – as we got snow fall yesterday – one day before the “First Day of Spring” which is today, March 20th.  I hope it melts quickly so we can go get some of these spring flowers and start adding some color to our porches and gardens soon!

Snow covered display

Snow covered display

Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ is the UFO of Ornamental Peppers

Purple Flower to Purple Pepper

Purple Flower to Purple Pepper

Ornamental peppers add many wonderful attributes to design compositions in container gardens.  They come in various colors, very rarely get attacked by pesty insects, and have interesting shapes. Additionally, the color of the fruit changes as it matures.

These attributes are something I’ve written about in previous posts.  One post was when my sister purchased a pepper producing purple fruit from me, and another post was when I gave a black fruiting pepper plant to my vet as a thank you for the nose surgery he did on Hunter, my cat.

I really like the look of colored peppers in container gardens.  Some end up in deep, dark colors, and others evolve into bright hot colors. You can include companion plants in the container combination to capitalize on this by thinking about when the other plant’s flowers will bloom and selecting bloom colors to match, echo, or contrast the colors of the peppers for seasonal interest.

The shape of ornamental peppers is interesting too.  Some are pointy and long, facing upwards on stems, others are round and chunky, and some are perfectly round pearl shapes.  Before the trend of incorporating veggies into perennial gardens, people would be surprised when they saw I had a pepper plant in my container gardens with other types of plants.  Now I have a new candidate to suggest using, one by the cultivar name of, ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’.  It has the most unusual shape.

Shaped like a UFO

Shaped like a UFO

Shaped like a Flying Saucer

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ is a Brazilian pepper plant with fruit resembling a UFO.  It has a wide to squat body shape with edges around it extending outwards a bit.

Dianne, one of my good friends, noticed mine in a container on my deck last summer, as shown in this photo to the left.

She asked, “What is that?”

When I told her the name of the plant and explained how I think it looks like a flying saucer, she replied with, “Only you, Cathy T, only you.”

Dianne is always super enthusiastic about my plant endeavors.  She attends my classes regularly and always gives me words of encouragement and praise.  I’m lucky to have her, and many other good friends, support my plant passions.  She was really impressed with the unique shape of Ubatuba and said she had never seen one before either.

I asked Dianne, “Doesn’t the fruit also look like a body with arms hugging its belly?”

We both started laughing as she agreed.  The fruit’s shape provides conversation opportunities to any admirer taking notice. But the shape alone is not its only talking point.  There are some interesting facts about the plant’s name.

Named after a place, and from its shape

Ubatuba is a lovely beach town in Sao Paulo, and Cambuci is a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro.  So, the plant is named after these two places.  I also read that a river in eastern Brazil is called the Ubatuba River, and that Cambuci is a fruit tree apparently on the verge of extinction (and this tree’s fruit has a similar shape of this pepper!), and get this…Uba Tuba granite is quarried in Brazil for use in making kitchen counters.  So there you have it – a plant named after a place and a shape.

Sometimes I think the name selections are off for plants – this one would be so easily called ‘Alien Nation’ and you would get it right off.  But honestly, I haven’t visited Brazil, so I did not recognize the name as being from a place, but surely it is a tropical treat there, just like this pepper plant.

The first part of the plant’s cultivar name has ‘tuba’ at the end, and it is pronounced just like the brass instrument, so just add an OOH-BAH in front of that. The second part I wasn’t so sure how that goes, something like CAM…going into a BOO, and then the common e-e or ei sound at the end.  Heck, you can just nickname it “Uba” for short, but there is a certain ring to saying Ubatuba – Ubatuba.  This attribute, its name, is entertaining, at least to me.

Color Changes from Yellow to Orange, to Red

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ starts off yellow, transitions to orange, and finishes to a bright attractive red. The fruit grows to about a three inch size.  A little bit larger than the perfect bite size.  The plant itself has a bushy habit and grows up to three feet tall. Its dark green foliage has good sized leaves and the stems are sturdy and strong.  Fruit tends to stay stable on the plant because of this, and staking is usually not required, if only, towards the end of the season.

The added benefit of the pepper’s color changes is it can help you in the selection of your companion plants in your container garden design. If you think it through by period of bloom, matching the yellow stage of the pepper’s color to an early yellow bloomer of another plant, and the red color stage of the pepper to a flower blooming in late summer in the same container garden, you create seasonal interest.

Black foliage and purple peppers

Black foliage and purple peppers

Plant Companions to use with Ornamental Peppers

As shown in the photo to the left, the annual, Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’ was used as a filler because of the purple veins in its bright chartreuse leaves.  It highlighted the purple flowers and fruit of the pepper plant in this container.  In this case, the pepper plant’s foliage was also a dark purple to black color.

Consider perennials; examples are Monarda didyma ‘Petite Delight’ with pink flower, Nepeta x faassenii ‘Dropmore’ with lavender flowers, and Verbena bonariensis; these would look stunning with purple peppers.  This would create a mix of purple tones to show up against the dark foliage of the pepper plant as shown here for a softer combination of monochromatic colors.

If the pepper of your choice has a full, bushy habit, put a taller center plant to elevate above it, as in the example of tall Canna plants.  Or combine your pepper plants with edibles to create quick dinner snipping sources. Include cherry tomato, basil, chive, and oregano.

Because many herbs are green foliage plants, select those with variegated leaves to make them stand out against the foliage of the pepper. Ocimum citriodorum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ has a creamy white coloring on the leaves’ edges, or Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst Improved’, showing off a deep dark shiny black color.  Golden thyme plants work well, try Thymus citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’.  For a spiller, nasturtiums are perfect and easy to grow, and are edible, look for Tropaeolum majus ‘Wine’ for the yellow and orange flower color.

For a hot red combination, plant Verbena x “Taylortown Red’, and add a Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ as a spiky accent with the ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ plant.  I assure you, if you add an ornamental pepper, your friends will take notice, and you can have them taste test the fruit.  Ask them if it is sweet or hot?

Plants with Flavors

Plants with Flavors

It is Sweet, no wait.  It is Hot.

When I include peppers in my container gardens, the matured fruit does not last long because of a number one predator in my home, Steve, my husband.

Last summer, he walked up the back deck stairs, rather than entering through the front door when arriving home from work so he could partake in the daily offerings of my ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ fruit.

So I asked him when he took his first tasting, “”Is it sweet or is it hot?”

He responded, “It is sweet, no wait. It is hot.”

This pepper is listed as “mild-hot” in the catalog, but the plant’s label indicates “sweet.”  There seems to be a little bit of both, starting off mild and transitioning to hot as you munch on it.

Adding tasty treats to your container gardens is a lot of fun, and of course, they can be used in cooking or dried later in the season to use in your recipes during the winter.

I can’t tell you how many people noticed my Stevia plants (Sweetleaf) offered for sale at a farmer’s market one season.  It is a substitute for sugar, and when you bite into a leaf, it truly tastes like sugar…And that plant – one to blog about later – really grew well in my container gardens.  But more on that later.

Culture and Container Size

For the container size, go large, at least 22-25″ diameter pot, especially if you combine “Uba” up with two or three more plants.  ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ appreciates moist, well drained and organic soil and the space to grow.  Be prepared to water this plant in a container garden more often because it draws a good amount of moisture from the soil during hot summer months.  I watered my plant daily toward mid to late summer.  And of course, it needs full-sun to produce the best flowers and fruit.  Remember to check your companion plants for the same conditions.

By the way, I actually had difficulty finding the Genus and species name for ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’.  It is not noted on the plant’s label, nor was it in the grower’s catalog.  I’ve read it is bred from a species Capsicum baccatum or Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum.  Cultivars are typically distinguishable from the species by one or more characteristic.  The most obvious characteristic being, in this case, its unique “flying saucer” shape.  It is one you won’t forget after the first time you see it – just like when you spot your first UFO.

Container Crazy Cathy T

Please feel free to click on the ‘red stamp icon’ at the top of this blog to leave your comments, especially if you have grown this pepper, I’d love to hear from those of you visiting.


32nd Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show

'Kwanzan' Cherry tree bloom at the flower show

‘Kwanzan’ Cherry tree bloom at the flower show

The CT Flower and Garden Show is underway at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford this weekend.  It opened on Thursday, February 21 and continues through Sunday, February 24, 2013.

I attended yesterday with three friends, and we bought more garden goodies than we could have imagined.  One friend bought 60 lily bulbs because she had success with them every year in her gardens, so she returns to the same woman from Maplecrest Lilies (booth 427) at the show to purchase batches for her friends and family.

This year’s theme is “Love in Bloom” and there were blooms a plenty.  You can expect to see everything from landscape displays, florist competitions, garden supplies and tools, greenhouses, solar panels, sun rooms, ponds, clothing, furniture, photography, scarfs, and even some things I felt were a little out of place, such as beds – as in ‘sleeping’ beds, not garden beds.  Who knows on that one, perhaps if they lined them with floral bed sheets or those made from bamboo, it may have made a little more sense, but all the same, it is fun.  I would have liked to rest on the bed when my feet got tired!

I took a photo of a ‘Kwanzan’ Cherry tree in bloom at one of the landscape displays. Nothing welcomes spring more than spring blooming trees, and this one surely creates a seasonal accent in your yard.  It has outstanding features, such as puffy pink flowers, bronzy leaves that turn an orange-bronze color in fall, and shiny, smooth bark offering some winter appeal.  Plant one in a full sun location with moist, well-drained soil and protect it from harsh winds.  It is a great specimen or patio tree.  Or come enjoy its beauty at the show.  One of the great benefits of attending the show is seeing many trees, shrubs, and perennials in the landscape displays so you get a feel of how they look before you give them a try in your landscape, plus you can ask plant questions at the show.

Terra Cotta Pots, Glass and Wire Vases by Puddingstone Farm

Medieval Watering Pot at the show

Medieval Watering Pot at the show

I almost purchased one of these medieval watering pots for $15.  They were something I found neat – but then I thought, “Don’t be silly – you have way too many container gardens to use this.”  But at the same time, it is an artistic piece and I love the natural clay used by the maker.

This artist also had tiny wired bottles used to create miniature bouquets with “snippets of fresh flowers.”  This vendor’s clean labels, clear and simple packaging, and tiny unique works of art, were sweet and well-made.  As tiny as they were, each was perfect and professional looking.

All of us bought a few of the miniature vases, and I already put mine on the windowsill.

The terra-cotta pots and bird houses were natural looking, so I also purchased a birdhouse made of terra-cotta.  It will be used very soon by a lucky bird this spring.

Puddingstone Farms by Cleave Hayes/Josie Fowler are located at booth 1050 at the show.

Shoes are popular this season

We saw shoes of all styles at the show used as plant pots, and they were cute, but one note of caution, check if they have drain holes.  When I was checking out this silvery bling pair, I said out loud, “But they don’t have a drain hole,” and then a woman next to me said, “Yah, but it is filled with succulents and they don’t require lots of water.”

Well, have to just say here, this doesn’t matter.  Without a drain hole, these have the potential to rot over time, and if you look closely, there is also moss on the top of the soil, which will stay wet. I love these shoes, but a power drill would have easily solved the problem, just saying.  Check for the drain holes and encourage the maker to create them going forward as they make more – because they are cute and fun.

Silver Shoes with Succulents

Silver Shoes with Succulents

And although there are hundreds of great gardening finds at the flower show, I don’t want to list them all here and give away the surprises you can enjoy, but I also wanted to mention the works created by Shauna Shane of Fenton River, located in Storrs, CT.  She had the cutest fairy dolls, and works made with clay that were so natural.  Her leaf prints were earthy and she had sculptures with succulent dresses.  Her fine art and whimsy are available to enjoy and purchase at the show.  And she offers classes, demonstrations, and workshops at her business location in Storrs.  Her website is noted as http://www.shaunashane.com but I couldn’t get the link to work this morning, so to reach her, try 860-429-3646 or fentonriver@yahoo.com

A Fairy Doll by Shauna Shane, Artist

A Fairy Doll by Shauna Shane, Artist

So get out there – take a drive to downtown Hartford, CT to see the show.  The weather will be fine most of today, so you don’t have to worry about poor driving conditions until later this evening.

Some Tips:

Discounted Tickets:  Check with your local nursery, some are selling discounted tickets ($2 off the regular admission price.)

Bring a Bag:  Bring a light weight bag or two to put your literature and garden goodies into as you walk around.

Light clothing, good shoes:  The floors are cement so wear good walking shoes, and wear something that you can feel comfortable in for little temp changes.  Sometimes it feels cool, other times a little warmer as the temperature in the building seems to change from time to time.

Lunch and Beverages:  There is wine sold at the show, but we decided to have appetizers after in a downtown restaurant.  The croissant sandwiches are very good at the show’s cafe.

Camera:  It can be difficult to get good photos at flower shows due to lighting and shadows, but bring your camera or smart phone along to take shots, and try to take a photo of the vendor’s sign or business cards, so later, you will remember who you bought what from.

Hand stamp:  If you leave the main show floor, get your hand stamped so you can return back in, and don’t overlook the speakers on the upper floors, included in the entrance price.

Parking:  Remember where you parked your car in the garage, it is kind of like a maze getting around the garage.

Passport:  Visit the CT Garden & Landscape Trail booth, get a pamphlet called a “Passport” and take it with you this season as you visit all the CT Garden Destinations.  The garden facilities participating will apply a sticker to their listing in the “Passport” as you visit them, and you can send the completed Passport in by the end of 2013 to be entered in a drawing to win at $10,000 landscape installation.  The winner will be drawn at the CT Flower & Garden Show next year, on February 23, 2014.  (Cool, another reason to return next winter.)

Show’s website and telephone no.:  www.ctflowershow.com, 860-844-8461

Show’s Hours: Saturday: 10 am to 8 pm / Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm – This weekend.

Thanks for visiting,

Container Crazy Cathy T

Butterfly Conservatory Breaks the Winter Blues


If you suffer from a seasonal disorder in the winter, where you need to get out to break from the winter blues, may I suggest a visit to the “Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens” located on 281 Greenfield Road in South Deerfield, MA?  It will be a place of warmth, sunshine, and lots of color.  I visited yesterday with my sister and niece, and here are the photos I took along the way.

Favorite shot

Favorite shot

I think this one is my favorite photos of the day.  If I am reading the butterfly id chart correctly, which I purchased for $1.00 at the entrance ticket booth, this is a Brown Clipper, Parthenos sylvia.  I don’t know much about butterflies other than they are beautiful in the garden – serving as nature’s living art – so hopefully I have the right names written with the photos I took yesterday.

Tithorea tarricina

Tithorea tarricina

Again, not sure but this one looks like Tithorea.  Love the long antennae and legs.

Japanese Lantern

Japanese Lantern

There are many tropical plants at the conservatory and this one was probably my favorite of the lot.  A Hibiscus schizopetalus, Japanese Lantern bloom with a long stamen dripping down in such an elegant fashion.  Just love the look of this bloom and the next butterfly photo is a perfect color comparison.

Hey Mr. Postman

Hey Mr. Postman

One of the things I noticed was many of the butterflies did have some wing tears, which made me a little sad.  This one is Postman, Heliconius melpomene.  He matches the Hibiscus photo above in coloring.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

My niece asked me what this plant was, and of course, it is a type of pitcher plant.  I didn’t see many plant labels at the conservatory, and it would be nice for them to offer a plant identification key like they offer for the butterflies.  These types of plants are found in tropical rain forests, and many know they get their nutrition by capturing insects in their pitcher.  I saw a television show recently that also indicated a new discovery of some larger species luring small rodent-like animals, and they go for the nectar while on top of the pitcher, and guess what drops out the animal’s back end into the pitcher?  Yup, their poop – another source of energy to the plant.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plant

This is a plant I’ve grown in my container gardens.  Pachystachys lutea.  There were many of these at the conservatory for the butterflies to enjoy.  You can see why it is called a golden shrimp plant as the common name.  The flowers are not the yellow parts you see here; these are the bracts.  The white flowers extend from these, and in my container garden, the hummingbirds loved them.



There were a few Justicia plants, the common name for this one is shrimp plant too.  It is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, and I adore the style of the flowers.  Very exotic, and this one had a deep hot pink color, but the one I used in a container garden was a softer pink – both are spectacular, and loved by hummingbirds and butterflies.

Justicia carnea

Justicia carnea

This photo was taken of my container garden in early September about two years ago. The large pot is combined with a Coleus, Ajuga, Delosperma, Alternanthera, and Sambucus.  The container on the table has a Sedum in it with a Creeping Jenny trailing below.  Justicia carnea (shrimp plant) in the large pot bloomed during the summer and into fall, and paired up perfectly with the Sedum blooming around the same time.

Ow Butterflies

Ow Butterflies

Here’s two owl butterflies, Caligo eurilochus, were having a little mating fun.  And it is obvious why they call them “owl” butterflies, used to deter predators.  This is the type that landed on my shoulder for quite some time later, see video below.

Name this plant

Name this plant

Okay, I know I’ve seen this plant before – but I can’t remember the name?  Help me out tropical bloggers – what is this called?  It is so beautiful and the plants at the conservatory trailed all the way up to the ceiling.  I would have loved to capture a butterfly on it but no luck.

Morpho peleides

Morpho peleides

I did have luck capturing this Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Got to thank iPhones for the quick clicks.  I had to reach up a bit to get the shot, but was so glad he was in a rest state and didn’t fly away.

Purple Passion

Purple Passion

There were mostly tropical plants at the conservatory, which I enjoyed because they are one of my passions – yet, later when I got home, I thought it was sad they didn’t have natives for the butterflies to enjoy – and to showcase.  We have many in CT and MA that would suit the feeders.  Also, I noticed outside, they had a border along the front of the building enclosed in posts, and it was all old evergreen shrubs, the soil didn’t look too healthy, and I thought, later – when I got home, how wonderful it would be to fill that bed with some native plants.  Too bad I don’t work there – LOL.

More help please?

More help please?

More help please.  What is this plant?  It looks like a Peregrina bloom?  But not sure, the foliage is soft and fuzzy, but the orange flowers are my main attraction.



Just a shot of the sculpture in the gardens at the conservatory.



There was an arch/trellis at the entrance, and if you look closely, you can see a butterfly flying right in the center.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to capture the hundreds of butterflies circling your head.  As I stood here, taking some photos, one landed right on my shoulder.  I used the rotating feature on my iPhone to get a video of it.  Here it is…

And one more butterfly shot to share, this one is Cairns Birdwing (male), I think.  Love the florescent coloring.

Cairns Birdwing

Cairns Birdwing

Some tips if you decide to visit this place:

Recommendation:  If you happen to be visiting MA or CT, this is a fun trip with kids, or if you are into photography.  There is food sold at the sight, but I enjoyed the restaurant at Yankee Candle right down the road.  Go early, as if it is school vacation season, it will get busy quickly.

Special Occasion:  If you have an engagement to announce, this could be a great place to go with a photographer for some fun shots, but be prepared to get hot – it is humid and warm in the conservatory.  Wear light clothing.

Location:  281 Greenfield Rd. (Rt 5 & 10) off of 91.  If traveling north, take the exit 24 noted for Yankee Candle.  If traveling south, take Exit 25.  South Deerfield, MA.

Hours:  Per their pamphlet, they are open year round 7 days a week.  Summer: 9 am to 6 pm.  Fall/Winter/Spring: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on some holidays.

Website:  www.MagicWings.com

Name of place:  Magic Wings

Cost: $14/Adults, $10/Kids

Butterfly Key:  I recommend you pay the $1 for the key, my niece immediately wanted to use it as we strolled along.  She had a big desire to identify all the butterflies.  I wish they had a key for the plants, but I don’t think they did – or perhaps I missed it somehow.

Camera:  Bring your camera of course.

And last but not least, when you enter the exhibit, you first enter a room of insects in tanks.  They reminded me of “Indiana Jones” bugs, large and yucky.  And to finish off this informal quick post, here’s a photo of “Hissing Cockroaches”….Yuck.  But fun still for the kids!

Container Crazy Cathy T

Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing Cockroaches