Milkweed Bugs, Roses, and Mushrooms

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T.G.I.F. Everybody,

As mentioned last Friday, I am posting misc pics from 2016 in the order of being downloaded to one massive folder.

Here’s this Friday’s set of 5:


I left off on my prior post at the Scantic River in East Windsor, CT. During a nature walk there last year, we came across a stand of milkweed plants covered in brightly colored orange and black speckled bugs.


It was covered with milkweed bugs. I thought, these little buggers are not in a garden – and I bet they are thankful for that because in gardens, people don’t enjoy critters.

It turns out these are not as big of a nuisance and may be left alone. They do not do major damage and stay for only a short time. Witnessing this was not for the type of people with creepy-crawly issues – there were tons of them moving about in the sun.


My father bush-hogs this property from time to time so there are some areas which are wide open with miscellaneous native plants here and there.

Growing up on this property provided me with many opportunities to be curious about nature.

I remember opening up the pods of the milkweed to inspect the contents, always amazed by the fluffy material with brown seed heads. Blowing them into the wind after pulling them apart, and walking away with sticky fingers from the sap of the plant.


The next photo is of a shelf-mushroom on a big tree we came across.

I don’t know much about mushrooms other than being aware that IF you wish to grow or harvest them, you must know about them because many are poisonous.

It appears it is enjoying its location on a damaged tree. You can see the bark is stripped away, and a big vine was wrapping around this tree. Mushrooms like decaying environments to sit upon.


When we were getting back to my parents’ house from our walk by the river, I stopped by to smell my mother’s yellow roses.

She told me the name of this beautiful yellow one – and gosh, darn it – right now I can’t recall it. It was named after someone famous easily remembered too. Will have to call her later.

Yellow roses, as it turns out, happens to be one of my favorite colors of roses. When my husband gets me some for special occasions, he usually orders yellow.

Growing Greens at The Market:

And just a final reminder, I will be demonstrating growing micro-greens at the Ellington Farmers Market on January 28th (tomorrow) @ 2:30 pm in the children’s room which is adjacent to the vendors at 11 Pinney Street at the YMCA building.

The demo should be about 30 minutes followed by question/answer session. Starter Kits will be available for purchase at $15 each which includes sales tax. The kit contains seeds with the materials to get started right away at growing your own mini-greens at your home, however, a limited supply is available so it will be first come first serve.

It appears there will be a good turn out so if you wish to have a seat, visit the Facebook Event under Ellington Farmers Market page and click attending.

New Workshops for 2017:

They have been posted to

Be sure to visit – we have many topics lined up.

Spring is in the air in January when it comes to pre-planning.

There are topics on Botanical Wall Art (new in March), Terrarium Bowls (new in April), Container Gardening (held annually in May), and more. It will be a fun-filled year.

Thank you,

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

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


Container Gardening Class at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT

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I grew up on a farm consisting of 100 acres of land along the Scantic River in East Windsor, Connecticut – and we had cows, chickens, a horse, rabbits, beautiful cherry trees, apple trees, blueberries, along with days of fishing in ponds, rivers, and even riding a mini-bike. Yup, I would jump on a mini-bike as a young kid, and go “outback” – which is what we called my parent’s property then and still do to this day.

There’s something magical about growing up on farmland. We explored a lot as kids. One time, I found funky shaped clay formations in a crevice where water ran off on a slope. As a child, I remember collecting them and checking them out carefully. Each was soft with round patterns and curvy shapes, formed by the action of rolling waters and clay soil on a hill side.

Flash ahead to my soil science class in my late-30’s and low and behold, our professor showed us a sample of the same thing. He said they are referred to as “clay dogs” and he found it interesting that I knew what they were immediately upon seeing him hand them out in class. He let me keep one of his samples, saying I was a soil scientist at heart. I don’t know about that, but the clay dog he gave me still sits on a shelf in my home office.

Being around nature is so inspiring – especially on a farm. In the summers, as a young kid, I sat on the side of my Dad’s hay baler to make sure the twine did not break as the square bales of hay passed by me when we rolled along in a large field. The sound of the tractor, the wind passing by, or the hot day’s summer heat would lead to more fun after our day’s work – because after we baled the hay – Dad would treat us to ice creams at Dairy Delight in East Windsor (a great ice cream place which still operates today on Route 5).

Sometimes, our trip for ice cream was in the pickup truck – we would stand in the back bed as we traveled down Scantic Road – something I don’t think would be allowed today. The breeze blew off all the hay dust from our bodies as we headed down to Dairy Delight. This is one of my very vivid memories – it was a fun ride for sure, and man, was that ice cream ever good after a hot day of baling hay, especially because it was shared with Dad.

We also swam in the Scantic River from time to time. My parents didn’t have to worry as we played “outback”, and my Mom literally rang a bell to call us for dinner time. We even had a fort and stayed over night in it sometimes. One time, our cows came scratching their backs against the outer walls of the fort and we sat inside quietly laughing – and being a little scared too, but they eventually left and our fun continued at the fort for that night.

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Picking up a blade of grass from the field to put between your fingers and blow to make sounds was a little toy on a farm as I would take the walk outback down to the river. Or collecting walnuts to eat from our big walnut tree was an experience. When you are surrounded with nature, you begin to witness life and the curiosity sets in – at least it did for me. And of course, we had a barn, a barn where we held plays as kids – setting up a stage once – and acting something out as our parents and neighbors endured our little show. The list goes on.

Cathy T teaching a class

Cathy T teaching a class

That is why being asked a second time to talk about Container Gardening at Strong Family Farm feels special to me. Strong’s farm is located in Vernon and it has been standing for 135 years, once comprising more than 50 acres on West Road and Hartford Turnpike. The farm has served as the home and workplace for more than seven generations of Strongs. Just like our family’s farm is serving generations for us too – Today my nieces and nephews enjoy the nature on the farm like we did as kids. It is fun to witness their excitement as Grandpa sits them down on the tractor seat to pretend drive – something my nephew asks for every time they visit my parent’s farm- and he even refers to my Mother as “Chicken Mom” cause he knows when he visits, he gets to go see the chickens before going on the tractor in the big barn.

Located  on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Located on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Strong Family Farms hosts various activities throughout the year, such as their “Adopt-A-Chick” program offered each spring. For a small fee, participants foster a spring chicken over the course of 10 weeks. During this time, class members help feed and nurture the young chickens. If you don’t have a farm of your own, this place is a way to share a farm experience.

Annual Programs

They also host movies on the farm and have a community garden. In the fall, they have a Annual Scarecrow Contest and Harvest Festival. Check out their website at for details and dates – it is a great place for kids’ activities and very family oriented.

Container Gardening Workshop

The farm has large yellow barns and this weekend’s Container Gardening Workshop/Class will be held inside the barn – which is a unique experience also, as you look up at the big beams in the ceilings and sit on bails of hay. Even the sun beaming thru cracks in the barn walls reminds me of farm life as a child. Birds fly by in their meadows and old antique farm equipment hangs on the walls, making us feel the presence of the many past years of farming held in this space.

The farm life is so beneficial to your health and well-being, as we know – when you grow your own – you grow your spirit too. So, if you still have patio pots to pot up – come join us – the fee is only $10 for non-members and $5 for members of the farm and it is a fun activity for kids too. There will be various plants available for purchase and you will learn the steps for success and other growing tips.

Date: Saturday, June 6th, 10 am to noon @ Strong Family Farm, 274 West St, Vernon.

Please remember to bring cash or checks, as credit cards are not accepted. Plants to expect: Some large tropical plants (drama to containers), herbs, annuals, and even some houseplants and perennials. All attendees receive documentation and Cathy T tips. We hope to see you there!

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT