A Dark Echeveria

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This photo caught people’s attention yesterday when I posted it on Instagram and on my business Facebook page.

Succus 2020 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

One commented (a friend and attendee of my workshops) with, and I quote, “That would be dried up, shriveled and dead at my house!” Another comment, on the Instagram feed, was, “Love the color!” And the photo post was doing better than 95% of my recent posts per Instagram’s notices on my feed.

Well, the darker color was the reason I brought a full tray of them to my greenhouse last spring to offer in my workshops, specifically the hanging baskets workshop with succulents. I wanted to make sure we had some to offer contrast in color.

I had asked my grower prior, can you make sure to include some Echeverias with darker tones if possible? When I saw the tray of them at the grower’s later as I arrived, my eye’s did that heart pounding thing which you see on emoji faces grinning with two hearts for eyes. Wow, those are beautiful and I knew I had to have them, and they made me very happy indeed then and since.

The full tray of consisted of 40 perfect darker toned Echeverias, and they all were sold except for 12 last season, which here they are in the orange trays, showcasing their dark tones in my greenhouse in the beginning of winter. Aren’t they amazing? Really!

Their Form

These Echeverias have kept their form, have not shriveled up, and liked being rather neglected in regards to no water for a long time, which is fine for many succulents in the winter. However, if you don’t water some succulents, they will start to show signs of neglect by shriveling up, but these did not do this and seem a bit more resilient.

Inspecting your succulents during the winter months is important. I don’t have to visit my greenhouse ‘every day’ right now but I do have to go there to look around within a few weeks cause if you see a critter, you want to act on it right away.

As I poked around and sighed at the messy parts of the greenhouse yesterday, I did a quick inspection of everything as best as I could. Picking up trays and looking closely. I decided to move these plants into orange trays, and that is when I grabbed my iPhone to take a photo. The orange with the dark colored succulents was striking.

Watering and Inspecting

First, I looked to see if anything needed a drink, then I looked closely to make sure no aphids were present on any of my plants or cuttings, and then I tossed some things. Yup, that is the MOST difficult thing to do but sometimes you know there won’t be a use, as least right now, of some of the cuttings I have waiting to be taken care of and I decided to toss some. Ack! I hate doing that but I did.

But when I laid my eyes upon those darker toned Echeverias, still in stock – a nice grouping of 12, I thought to myself, wow, am I glad I got those. And look at them now. Plump, full, and a nice color in the middle of winter. I wish all succulents would stay this beautiful for this long. Look Ma, No Stretching!

The Name

When I asked the name last spring of this succulent, my grower said, they are Echeveria purpusorum Berger. If you Google it, you may find this description by one site. It was the first to appear on the top of my Google page:

Echeveria Purpusorum Rose A. Berger is a striking echeveria with deep olive green leaves embellished by small brownish red spots. The leaves are pointy and don’t have the white powdery coat like other Echeverias, making this species have a firmer and less fragile look.

Not Fragile

I wholeheartedly agree – these are “firmer” and not fragile. The main reason I wanted them though, last year was because I enjoy adding the contrast in color with a darker toned succulent in arrangements and the hanging baskets, etc. It has a kind of plum-purple color, brown color, or even an olive green color in the right light. It is a darker tone which makes the other succulents stand out in the design or arrangement.

The Light

Speaking of light, it gets plenty of sunlight in my greenhouse on days like today when the sun is shining. They are sitting on a shelf facing the south side and it gets very warm on sunny days in the greenhouse, it can reach to 90 degrees F sometimes, but most days are cloudy and it stays more on the cooler side, about 55 to 60 degrees F in winter. On sunny days, I try to take a break from my office work to visit, water, inspect and get some Vitamin D.

If you google this Echeveria, I’m amazed at the range of prices it goes for from various sites from Etsy to whatever’s. In fact, someone was trying to sell a damaged one for a lot! I think that is funny. But heck, if they are able to make a business that way, what am I missing?

I tend to keep a good eye on my plants and I want them to be perfect but that is not always easy. Yes, succulents may be neglected for a long time, but they will look like total crap if you neglect them too long. Believe me, I’ve seen succulents at places (won’t say where) and think, OMG, they haven’t watered in forever. They are low water plants but not no water. Even in the winter, a little bit is good for them from time to time. But for the most part, they are drought tolerant and need lots less water this time of year. I won’t go into how to water them here right now but there are good methods to keep them happy. That is for another blog post or for a future workshop.

If you do a bit of research on Echeverias, you will learn they are native to Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America. There are so many colors and many are on the softer side of coloring from soft blues to light pinks. Some are green and others are trimmed in red edges. Finding a nice dark rich color is not always easy, but I did last season, thanks to a wonderful grower. They know who they are (Thank you).

One seller’s site online listed them as a “collector’s” succulent. Hmm, was I giving them away last summer? LOL! Anyhow, regardless of the prices, descriptions, and if they are in vogue or not, I do find this variety to be a keeper, and if you are interested in one of the healthy 12 I have in my greenhouse right now, just shoot me a text. You know where to find me.

Have a good day,

Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

Top Nine

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When watching talk shows the other day, I realized so much was being shown regarding the “Top Nine” app used to generate the top nine photos in a grid format from Instagram feeds and it perked my curiosity.

I caved and did it – and here it is:

Top Nine 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Apparently, this is not an “Instagram” thing but a separate app but using Instagram – and it became popular and a bit of a trend. We may all assume the reason why? Because your curiosity kills the cat – you have to know – Gee, what is my top nine (most liked or most engaged photos of the year) per some app? Well, mine are above.

To be honest, it surprised me which were selected. How do they determine which photos are selected? I guess it is based on likes, shares, and engagement? Not sure, and I don’t have the right mind after the holiday hoop-la to research that aspect right now, but I did find it interesting and a bit of fun to use the app to find out.

My Photo Grid Explanation:

From left to right (starting from the top row), I thought it would be entertaining to say what I think of each of these photos which were generated by the Top Nine app.

The Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Ah, this is one plant I became involved with in 2019. Meaning, I propagated it (made cuttings and grew new plants) from it quite a bit. It is rather easy actually. I also used this plant in some of my install jobs in various containers. And offered them in my succulents workshops. But what would make it a top photo is the fact that I feel I can grow them myself and they are healthy and happy! Maybe people enjoyed the photo due to the Indigo Blue Background which is a popular color right now I heard.

The Beach Shot – That was a vacation my husband and I took last year in Naples, Florida. I wanted to make sure we’d go see the sunset which I had read about being wonderful on this beach, and we joined many other people that day doing the same. I guess that is a good photo, right? And it WAS a great afternoon waiting for the sun to set.

The Yellow Peppers – Grown from seed, hot and tasty. I love these yellow long banana shaped peppers, which I wrote about in my seedlings topics on this blog and for the workshop which I offered on seed starting last year too. So, yes, I agree on this photo. The peppers were easy to grow, abundant, and we ground them up after drying them in the oven to make hot pepper flakes of the yellow variety. They did not go wasted. My husband loves hot peppers and he shook those flakes on his various meals many times. We went thru two jars of the hot pepper flakes. Great for chili recipes too.

The Blue Pots – Ah, yes. I was on the hunt for a client, trying to find pots. I kind of knew these weren’t the right ones. I had put them on the floor and took a photo. You will see my hiking boots there as I looked down in the photo. But for some reason, this photo was popular with people on Instagram. However, it was not quite the right fit and I later found a better style and color for my clients’ needs. But that was a journey on a day of hunting for just the right patio pots. Pinch me – I love that type of work.

The Flyer in the Window – My workshop flyer was posted in a local package store’s window. I always appreciate when they share my flyers about my workshops. I guess that day, it was noticed quite a bit and thus, another top nine. I would say these clients are tops too. They have hired me for years to install their store-front pots. I do think the flyers look great in their store’s windows. Thank you!

The Cacti Cans – I pounded small drain holes in the bottom of soup cans with a hammer and nail last year and inserted a cactus in each. No drill required which I loved. And I even hand-stamped the sides of some of the cans with words and added chains to some to hang the cans. They are adorable. However, in the rain, one thing I forgot about is the cans start to rust. I did’t like the rusty look. That day a flower was blooming on one, as you can see, and it was adorable, so I snapped a photo.

The Burro Tail Sedum – I obtained a stock of these from a grower to provide in my succulent related workshops last year. Everyone loves these plants, which drip down into long tails as they grow over time. They work well in hanging baskets – which was a topic I offered last year too. These plants are great fillers in arrangements and easy to grow, drought tolerant and long living.  I still have some growing in my hanging baskets in the greenhouse now. I can see why a popular photo – and those who got them in my workshops surely loved them. Thanks to my amazing grower, I obtained a nice stock of them last year.

A Photo of Me – From many years ago. What I like about this photo is that my red head planter, the little red table with red chairs, and the red blooms of the Canna Lily plants in the background were all happening. I spray painted that little round table and the chairs red. It was a freebie find on the side of the road one day. My sister was annoyed cause it was on her street when I found it as I was leaving her house. She joked that was supposed to be her free find. 

The Cherry Tomato Leaf – This is all about my obsession with plants. I love taking close up shots of plants and their structures. It was also probably popular cause we all dream of eating fresh tomatoes. The photo was taken in March or early April, and the handwriting on the label is not mine – it is of an attendee’s who came to my workshop on seed starting last year. That will be my first project, setting up the Seed Starting Workshop for 2020. I can’t resist doing it – it was very rewarding. Seats will be limited because the plants are kept in my greenhouse until they are ready to be planted outdoors. Unless, of course, I got a bigger greenhouse.

By the way, this is what CNN has to say about the Top Nine app and trend. You may want to read their article before you try it!

Have a good start to your first week in 2020.

Best regards,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Other Cathy T sites:

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

 

 

 

 

8 Days Till Christmas

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Is it 8 days till Christmas? Or…8 days till Christmas Eve?

Guess that depends on how you count the days!

For me, I was on a 15 day of a cold – coughing and feeling quite run down. I remember one day, when having a moment to pause, I felt suddenly exhausted. But, I got through it all: The KB Celebration this month, the KB Workshops, and the Holiday Custom Orders, the client installs, but we still have 8 days, and I’m sure many of you are running around finalizing your holiday plans from gift shopping to food shopping.

Gift Certificates or Hostess Gifts

I still have those 8 days for any last minute requests – Need a Gift Certificate to next year’s workshops? I have them in stock. Just reach out. Need a small plant related holiday gift – ask. I have some cute items I make by order, and I don’t even post any photos of them – they are too unique. Great as hostess gifts or for table decor.

What is KB? You may ask…

KB, as most of you know, is my short-cut name for Kissing Balls. I held all workshops of where everyone makes their KBs, along with wreaths and candle centerpieces, except one session, because I just was too sick AND lost my voice. I didn’t want to spread my germs to the private group either – and I will make it up to them next year somehow. Thankfully, they were very understanding. But the workshops held were super fun and festive. I posted lots of photos on my Facebook and Instagram Pages. Everyone’s creations were well-done.

KB Celebration 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0004

Attendee to our KB Celebration 

2020 Planning

Next year – OMG, I took out my first 2020 calendar and started to jot dates down based on last year’s happenings. The season will most likely start with my “Seed Starting Sessions” and Seed Starting Presentations. That can start up as early as February for me. I will start preparing the game plans, outlines, seed calendars, and handouts in February, probably around the same time of doing taxes (ack!) but then the classes (or sessions) on seed starting will most likely be around March 14, March 21st, and even March 28th – but these dates are all tentative. Will keep you updated in early 2020.

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I need to review other activity first – but I think those dates above are my targets. In April, there is a part two to my Seed Starting Sessions – called, Seed Monitoring. I think I will follow the same format at last year. I really enjoyed the whole Seed Starting (for tomatoes and peppers primarily) offerings. It was one of my most rewarding workshops. Why? Because it was continuous. I got to see how everyone’s starter plants did over the summer, see their harvest, and it was really a good feeling to see how happy everyone was. Who doesn’t love their own homegrown fresh tomato, right?

May’s Topic

Then, in May, should I do the Succulent Hanging Baskets again? Should I offer a new topic? I may poll my attendees or maybe I will come up with something new. I’ve been focused on succulents the past few years. Maybe it is time to return to perennials, tropical plants, or even houseplants? TBD on all of that. But, if I did offer a workshop on container gardening or patio pots, it would most likely fall around May 9th and May 16th in 2020. I do have some new ideas brewing. Stay tuned.

Good Photo Kim with Hanger

Summer Months

The summer months are usually quiet in regards to workshops, but my container installs keep me busy during the height of the watering and flowering season, no worries there, but I usually don’t offer any big workshops mid-summer. People are usually on vacation! Even so, the time moves so quickly every summer. In fact, I keep so busy watering my own container gardens at home that I promise myself EVERY year to not plant as many containers and patio pots at my own home, but what do I do? I always plant tons cause the plant passion grabs me. But grabbing that hose was hard on my arms last year. I got tennis elbow in not one, but both arms. I think it was from the hose dragging all summer long. Of course, I usually have various types of plants for sale during this time as well.

Autumn

Fall arrives very quickly after summer, and we move in the Succulent Topped Pumpkins workshops, which I always feel is a keeper. Will I offer it again? I think so. If yes, I’m looking at the dates of Oct 3rd and Oct 10th. All TBD at the moment. Just scanning the 2020 calendar today for the first time. But if you want to pencil them in….

Custom Pumpkins by C Testa Copywrite_0006

Holiday Workshops

OK, so the big question is – will the Holiday Workshops continue in 2020? I think so on those too. I am toying with the idea of more dates and smaller groups – but I don’t know – it is so popular and I feel like everyone relies on me now to kick off the holiday season with this fabulous and festive workshop. I will have to just wait till I get closer to decide. My tentative dates noted are December 5th and December 12th for now.

End of Year

As I reflect on 2019, I am so thankful for the workshops attendees of 2019 and of past years, and thankful for new clients who found me this year. For the garden talks and presentations at garden clubs and local farmers markets too – great groups this year. I’m also thankful for the inspiration, creativity, and fun we had through it all. It was a very busy year, and I think I said that last year, but this year was busier. In fact, they say it takes 5 years for a business to take off – I disagree – for me it was 10 years of practice, trial, and persistence. My 10th year has been the busiest.

I hope the 2020 year will bring lots of the same fun and maybe a little more controlled hectic schedule. When I finally decide on the exact 2020 workshop dates, I will be sure to post it to keep you updated.

Have a good pre-week before Christmas you all.

Stay Healthy. Stay Happy.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Container Crazy CT
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

KB Celebration 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Cathy T with Hubby Steve 2019

Getting into The Spirit of Fall

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Everywhere you go in the retail stores, you will see a bit of both these days – fall and holiday decorations and supplies. A month ago, I saw so much holiday decor in a store, I told myself – don’t look that way and stay focused on fall.

I love both seasons, of course, and I also have lots of activities surrounding both in my world of offering workshops and seasonal plant related gifts.

For example, in October, my succulent topped pumpkin workshops and custom orders kick it off. Then, as October comes to an end, a craft fair or holiday event pops up, which quickly leads to my holiday workshops in early December where we make kissing balls and wreaths.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0004

As I worked in my greenhouse yesterday preparing for a fall craft fair coming up next weekend (as noted above), I was totally in the mood for fall. I know the holidays are right around the corner, but fall is still in the air. The fallen tree leaves crunched under my hiking boots as I walked the path to my greenhouse, and the cold brisk morning temperatures were just chilly enough to require a vest to keep warm, but not a jacket.

These environmental elements are what gets my mood into a particular seasonal theme. In fact, I went to a couple fall themed events last Saturday with Steve, my husband. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm – and I was feeling like taking a break and enjoying the fall scenes, while they last, because it won’t be long before fall moves by quickly.

We drove to a pumpkin event in Coventry, CT at a church, which turned out to be directly across the street (practically) to a restaurant we enjoy there. The pumpkins were being sold at a church and the money is donated to various causes, one of which is a Navajo Indian farm. Since it was a nice area, we picked this as our first stop on Saturday.

The pumpkins were quite large and so were the gourds of various colors which I had not seen these colors before. I thought how wonderful some of these would have been for my succulent topped pumpkin workshops in October, but no matter, I still was there to enjoy them for carving or other projects.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0007

I picked out this one for myself. This gourd weighs a lot but I just may make something creative with it this week. I had never seen this orange and white pattern on a gourd before. It is not a candidate for carving because it is so thick, but I couldn’t resist it.

Because the sun was brightly shining on this little journey of our’s, and the color of the shrubs next to the church were so intensely red, I used the opportunity to have Steve take a photo of me. As you can see, we were in the pumpkin and fall mood for sure.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0005

I absolutely love that Steve enjoys fall adventures like this as much as I do. He is a kid at heart when it comes to carving pumpkins (and me too). He picked out a large tall one for his carving plans the next day.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0006

After we visited this church and had lunch nearby, we drove back roads over to Manchester, CT and it turned out to be a spontaneous beautiful ride with some foliage colors still to be enjoyed. Steve commented how wonderful these roads would be on the motorcycle. He was starting to appreciate that we decided to take the day to have some fall fun.

In Manchester, we visited some small shops on Main Street during a Halloween Candy event, which even if you don’t have kids (we do not), you might enjoy. Seeing all the creative costumes and the smiles on the children’s faces is another way to get into the spirit of the fall season. Plus, they have a couple breweries in that area and we stopped at one which Steve also appreciated.

All of this activity got my spirit into creating plant related gift items and decor themed in fall colors, but I am still making some fun holiday items too. One of the fall items are large glass globes filled with live succulents and decor of orange and yellow fall colors. These will be available at this weekend’s Fall Craft Fair at the Stafford Fire Department’s event on Saturday, November 2nd which runs from 9 am to 2 pm.

 

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0003

I was debating whether I should create holiday items or fall themes for this craft show. As I got into making items, I let the fall spirit nature guide me. The natural cones and lotus pods of warm vibes as well as some vivid and bright orange and yellow fall decor let me go into that decorating mode. I think our Saturday adventure helped me get into that mode too, which was perhaps another reason why we got out there for some fall events.

This fall fair is expected to have various craft vendors, some of which are hand-made pottery and other items. I’m sure it will be a fun day for me – and you too if you decided to stop by! I always love meeting other vendors and adventuring to a new place, as you never know what kind of inspiration you will get from it – like we did this past weekend. Stafford is also another nearby town to be appreciated in all seasons. They have a local cidery and gift shops. They have a lot to offer and it is not far from the fire house.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Here are the details, again, of the location and event:

2019 Annual Fall Craft Fair at Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary
Saturday, November 2nd, 9 am to 2 pm
27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Fire Dept Building

Hope you will have the opportunity to swing by this weekend!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Every Plant Picture Has A Story

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Fall is a time to capture the sun’s beautiful rays on the last days of the gardening year when our plants and gardens are at their final stages before frost.

Last week, I posted about two tall planters at my home that had upright elephant ears and a couple beautiful annuals.

I truly enjoyed looking at them all year, but in the fall, the sun is different. The sun gives the plants a backdrop of bright yellow and shimmering red fall foliage – and it feels special.

Thus, I asked a professional photographer friend to take photos of my planters before they were dissembled for storage.

Here is just one of those photos:

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

Is this not a stunning photo above?!

I love the way this photographer uses color and light. To me a photo like this is heaven. It is eye candy. It makes me say, “Ahhh.”

The wonderful photographer who took this photo of my planters (and many others to be blogged about soon) is Jackie and her site is called JMS Art & Photo.

I met Jackie when my workshops were featured in a magazine called, “Go Local.” I loved the photos she took then as well for that article. Many of them were from inside my greenhouse. I knew at the moment I saw her photos, I liked her style of photography.

Jackie has vibrant red hair, the friendliest smile, and is also a very creative art teacher in Stafford. She is passionate about what she does in all facets of her life from what I can tell. I will say this – I wish I had her as my art teacher when I was a kid. When I see her class related photos, I just love how she uses colors in a very vivid way. She also has that color talent (which I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it) of the photos she takes at musical fests and shows – and of my plants now! Go visit her site, you will see what I mean.

I find that every plant photo has a story and every photographer does as well. I’ve met 4 professional photographers (each women), and hired each of them to come here to take photos of my plants at some point in my gardening life.

One photographer moved away, and I remember being sad because I just loved her style too. Each photographer is different and each definitely has their own unique style and method – all wonderful. I splurge from time to time to have one take pro photos of my plants here. It is fun for me and a treat.

I want to share many of the photos Jackie of JMS Art & Photo took for me here at my home of my plants this fall. This is on my blogging to do list. And, hopefully, by the winter months, I will be able to do so.

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly share just a couple of these photos with you today.

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

I’m lucky to have met special people, such as Jackie, who have a passion for their art  – and other photographers I have mentioned on this blog in prior posts. Thankfully, they never think I’m a cuckoo for my passion of plants! As they clicked away with their cameras here, I feel like my plants are on the red carpet. And I’m happy they are willing to entertain my passion thru their lenses.

Ironically, I’ve met photographers at craft shows as well. And I happen to have one coming up. In the same town that Jackie teaches. It is a Fall Craft Fair, scheduled in a week, on November 2nd, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm at the Stafford Fire Department house located on 27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT.

Fall Craft Fair 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

You can find out all the details on their Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Facebook page. Approximately 30 vendors are scheduled to participate. My items will be focused on plant gifts related to Christmas themes as well as some fall themes. I hear they make soup in their onsite kitchen at the fire house – and I think I will be enjoying some of that myself! Swing by if you can. And don’t forget to shop the local businesses nearby in the center of Stafford Springs on Main Street. There is a beautiful artisan shop in town and a local cidery, both worth the drop by before or after.

In the meantime, be sure to capture and take in the last moments of fall whether with your own photos of your plants or when you are out and about attending shows. The leaves were stunning this year in Connecticut but many have fallen now onto the ground. Don’t miss out on the last days of these plant photo opportunities.

Have a great weekend!

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

 

 

Sip Wine and Learn About Succulents

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Hello Everyone,

Before I go on and on about how busy I’ve been, I want to let you know to save the date for a Sip and Learn about Succulents evening at a local spirits shops in my hometown called, “Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits” at 149 North Road in East Windsor, CT. This store has a huge selection and knows their stuff – don’t miss out!

Save the date: August 21st, Wednesday, 4 pm – 6 pm – Free to attend

Joe is not the name of the store’s owner, it is Leslie, and he has supported my container gardening aspirations from day one. I told him one day, while shopping for wine, of course, that I would love to do container gardens outside of his store. Another woman happened to be there, whom I believe was a spirits’ distributor, and she suggested the idea of the using wine barrels. And that was the spark that got us going.

Over the years, I have done all kinds of plant designs in the two barrels out front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits. I remember, on my very first install day, a guy (who was a landscaper) walked by and said, “They will die and never get watered.” I thought to myself, “What a pessimist!” — But, did I speak up? Nope, typical me – maybe I should have.

He was wrong of course. The plants have done very well, in fact, often stunning, all due to the staff’s commitment of their watering routines. Last year, I included some rubber plants (Ficus elastica) in the barrels with other plants. I could not get over how big and lush they grew in one season! I apologize for not showing a photo here of it – it is buried in my laptop files – I will have to locate it, and when I do – update this post.

Update: I found some of the photos from the install referenced above. Check this out – how much the rubber plant grew in one summer! The first two photos are upon installation.

A Cont Gardens 2019 C Testa Copywrite_0034

Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) upon installation 

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Upon planting – I added button ferns on the sides

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Mid Summer – WOW! Look at how much this plant grew. It was perfectly healthy too.

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Rubber plants prefer bright to moderate light. This area has an overhang so it is protected and gets some shade part of the day. These plants can live for 15 years or more.  They grew massive the year I planted them at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits.

Of course, during the winter season, I absolutely love installing a mix of winter fresh greens and, from what I’ve heard, everyone loves the change outs each season of the container garden barrels. They enjoy the plants and that makes me happy.

And this year, especially, everyone has commented on the cacti and succulent garden theme I planted in the barrels. I’m so happy everyone is enjoying the various plants in the barrels and I can’t wait to share more about them on August 21st at their Wine Tasting Event.

Well, pause here for a moment – I have to add a photo of the cacti barrels too soon!

Leslie and his staff have graciously invited me to talk about gardening, succulents, and cacti at their wine tasting evening – how fun. The wine tasting will begin at 4 pm and I will be there to answer any questions and then start my talk around 5 pm.

Succulent tip sheets and handouts will be provided, a free raffle of a succulent creation will be offered, and my goal is to discuss how to transition succulents before fall and winter, how to propagate succulents, and how to care for succulents – and we will also do a review of the cacti and succulent gardens in the barrels in front of the store. Bring along any type of gardening questions you may have – I will do my best to answer questions.

Joes Fine Wine Flyer

 

Leslie’s store is a true gem in our town. He works diligently to offer an amazing variety of spirits and they really care about our community. Come support a great local small business (although one would argue Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits is not small anymore, it is a rather large store).

And the timing is great too for succulent care, as end of August will be a time to consider how you will deal with any outdoor succulents you have before fall arrives – which is something we can’t imagine right now with the heat wave coming this week. Speaking of the heat wave – I want to wrap up this post quickly this morning so I can go water before it gets too hot. I have a lot of containers to take care of here at my property.

We hope you will join us on August 21st – please come visit – I’d love to see you. Note the date now so you won’t forget – and remember, I will be offering a free raffle to enter that evening – what will I make – you have to come see!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

Oh, and yes, I have had a very busy year – more on that later. I can’t believe it is mid-July and I’m still running around installing plants and loving every minute of it. Stay tuned for more upcoming events to be posted after the heat wave!! Stay cool, my friends! Cathy T.

Aug 2019 flyer

Next Workshop: Mom and Me Offer!

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Pop on over to WORKSHOPSCT.com to read about this weekend’s Succulent Hanging Basket Workshop on May 11th, Saturday, 1-3 pm, Broad Brook, CT. We are making a special offer in honor of Mother’s Day! Check it out while seats last. Pre-registration is required.

Mom and Me Flyer

And don’t forget – we still have beautiful Mother’s Day cards as GIFT CERTIFICATES. I will be available all week if you decide to pop by to get one and surprise your Mom! They may be redeemed for the dollar value selected for workshops or for plants or plant gift purchases.

Mday front and envelope

Additionally, I will be making special LARGE hanging globes as Mother’s Day gifts all this week and posting them on my Insta feed and Facebook business page. Stay tuned!

Thank you,

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

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Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening and Patio Pots

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Several years ago, I came up with what I called, “The 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening” to help attendees of my workshops succeed with their patio pots and container gardens in the summer. Most of what was written then still holds true today, but some things have changed. I am going to update my “5 Must Do’s” in a series of articles on this blog. To get started, here’s a review with some 2019 updates:

For Successful Container Gardening

  1. Provide additional drainage holes in the base of your pots Still True! And still a number one rule!

  2. Use soilless potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening – Yes, but there are soooo many more choices today – it is sometimes overwhelming to know which bag of mix to select. How do you know which to pick? I will go over this in an upcoming article here on this blog.

  3. Add slow release fertilizer to the soil upon planting – Still a trusted method for me but there are many other choices today of various fertilizers. This is a topic to be updated with more suggestions.

  4. Water your plants on a routine schedule – There is no doubt – this follows rule no. 1 in regards to importance. However, some plants are more drought tolerant than others – so if you are bad about watering, I am going to make suggestions for you on your plant choices. And a ‘routine schedule’ is probably not the best wording – it is really all about how the soil is looking in regards to a balance of moisture and air – we will go into details!

  5. Use big pots to increase your growing power – Guess what? I’ve changed my mind on some of thisI still adore HUGE tropical plants and mixes of annuals or perennials in big pots – but some plants actually prefer smaller pots and I will be offering a blog update on this number 5 rule as to why. Using big pots is not always a rule, and is optional…

Let’s get started:

It may seem straight forward or common sense to do the five items listed above, but many people skip some of these steps when they assemble their container gardens and patio pots because they are either in a hurry, want to avoid spending extra money, or they don’t understand the negative impacts to the plants’ overall health and appearance when they don’t follow The 5 Must Do’s listed above. But, do these 5 important steps and you will achieve successful container gardening status every time.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

DRAINAGE – Must #1

Most pots on the market today have only one small drain hole in the base (or none at all) – and this is not sufficient.  If the soil in the pot remains too wet, the plants’ roots will not get the oxygen it needs. And oxygen is required, along with carbon and hydrogen, for plants to grow. Having constant wet soil in the base of a pot is similar to walking around in wet sneakers. While it may be tolerated for a short period, if air is not provided soon, rot or death may set in. Everything above the pot is depending on what is going below in the soil, so Must #1, providing additional drainage, will allow for the free movement of water throughout the soil profile which is extremely important because as those spaces filled with water are vacated, air can replace them for the plants’ roots to use oxygen.

Without sufficient drainage, your plants will not perform as well which leads to failure.  It is a step you should not forgo or skip, and must do in order to achieve beautiful plants in your container gardens and patio pots.  Once you see the difference in your plants health, you will find adding drain holes so valuable, you will never skip this step again. And, although specific potting mixes have ingredients to help create pore spaces for air, adding more drain holes to the base of your pots only enhances the soil environment for your plants.  It leads to ultimate success because the roots are thriving in a healthy soil environment which is well-drained and balanced.

So get your power drill out and use a drill bit to create holes about the size of a quarter (coin) in the base of the pots. Be sure to drill at least 5 or 6 holes evenly spaced apart (one in the center and a few around the diameter).  If the pot cannot be drilled (e.g., ceramic or clay), make sure it has at least one drain hole already built into the base by the manufacturer, or reserve that pot for plastic plants or water gardening.  Do not use pots with no drainage capability. This always leads to poor results, trust me (except if you are creating a water pot garden).

2019 Update:

One of my biggest frustrations with the market place is they still continue to offer pots with no drain holes. What are they thinking? Plants require drainage! I have posted this comment on Instagram – “Hey, pot makers – Please make pots with sufficient drain holes please!”

If they did this, we would not have to drill them ourselves and it would help sell their pots because the plants would do better in them. It is not to say I haven’t seen some with drain holes in some stores, but it is progressing slowly and not common. I wish they would offer more with them already pre-drilled for us. (Hint to pottery makers, same for those wonderful pots you make – make some with a drain hole please.)

In my container gardening workshops, I have held up grower pots – the ones you buy your plants in – to my audience. I tell everyone, take a look at the bottom – what do you see? SEVERAL, I mean SEVERAL all around drain holes. Growers know what they are doing. It is a good example to show how important drainage holes are in your pots – this holds true for growing seeds in seedling cell trays as well. Or when you put a succulent in a pot – many times, you will see pots for succulents with no drain holes – succulents can be an exception to the drainage rule due to their ability to go without water for weeks at a time, but you have to monitor your watering carefully with succulents in pots with no drain holes. That is a whole other topic to explain, which I hope to do soon, and will in my Succulent Hanging Baskets Workshops in May, where we will be designing them with an amazing array of succulents of all kinds. But that is for a session/class, and for now, we want to focus on the drainage needs of container gardens and patio pots in general.

Over-watering is a leading cause of plant issues for people who are new to container gardening and plants. When you over water and the soil stays too wet in a pot, well, as mentioned above, the roots will rot. But other issues surface when there is too much moisture.

One, for example, is you may get fungus gnats showing up – they need moisture in the soil to thrive. This is especially common in houseplants where people have them in pots inside their home. And sometimes, you may even see mold on your soil when it is too moist. Moisture (with a lack of air circulation) may cause big problems in your soil. Too much moisture in your seedling pots leads to damping off. Water is a requirement for plants to grow but if over done without proper drainage, it leads to issues at times.

Balancing the air and moisture in your container gardens and patio pots or home pots of any size is critical. And soon, I will write a blog post to expand upon the air and moisture of pots as part of the 5 Must Do’s series updates I plan to post here on this blog, Container Crazy CT over the course of the next few months. In the meantime, be sure to add drain holes to plastic pots or buy pots with holes in them already for the best success with your plants.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

SOILLESS POTTING MIX – Must #2

Soil (dirt) from the ground cannot be used as a substitute for potting mix when planting up your patio pots and container gardens.  Must #2 is you must use soilless mix specifically formulated for container gardening. I know what you are thinking, if plants can grow in the ground, why can I just dig up some dirt and use that in my pots?  Well, for starters, soil from the ground becomes very compact in container gardens.  Plus, with container gardening, you have to water more often resulting in the ground soil (dirt) becoming even more compact and dense in the pot as it compresses down in limited space.  Young new roots cannot grow through this and cannot get the oxygen or water they need.

To prove this point, I put ground soil (dirt) into a mason jar and soil from potting mix into another mason jar.  The weight difference between the two jars was substantial.  The dirt jar weighed about two pounds and was very heavy.  The mason jar containing potting mix was light as a feather.  Imagine roots trying to penetrate the heavy compacted poor soil, plus it won’t contain the balanced nutrients or air spaces for the roots to thrive and survive.  Roots are just as important as the top part of the plant – if not more important. Everything below the soil impacts the results above the soil.

Additionally, soil from the ground (dirt) can harbor soil borne pathogens, insects, and weed seeds – and you don’t want those in your container gardens.  The ground soil may be too hard (clay) or too porous (sand). Soil in container gardens must have good pore structure for root growth, water holding for even distribution, and oxygen for the roots, and of course, nutrients for the plants to grow healthy and strong.  Soil from the ground will not give these must needed elements to plants in container gardens. And trying to find the ideal ground soil that has all of these factors is a big chore, if not impossible.

Bottom line:  Do not use Dirt.  Dirt is a four-letter word in the world of container gardening.

Most potting mixes on the market contain a combination of bark, wood fiber, coir (a by-product of coconut husks) or peat, vermiculite, perlite, and maybe some compost.  The little white non-symmetrical round things you see in the soil is called perlite.  These provide pore (air) spaces in the soil required for roots to grow.  Other ingredients mentioned help with water retention (peat moss, coir), drainage (pine bark, perlite, rice hulls), and nutrients (compost). You want a balanced soil that can hold 25% air, 25% water, and the rest, 50%, is organic matter.  Plants must have the appropriate pore space, water holding capacity, and nutrients to grow.  This is especially critical in container gardens because roots are confined, cannot extend out to find its needs elsewhere, and they depend on their current environment and “you” to grow well.

When planting up your container gardens and patio pots, go out there and invest in a couple bags of potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening.  The good news is there are many types available today, and by the way, none of the potting mixes used for container gardening contain any real soil (dirt) at all.  Now you know why, it is should no longer be a surprise to hear this.  Once you start using potting mix, you will be pleased to see how well your plants are growing and thriving.  There are tricks to extend your potting mix life, but that is another topic to be posted later.

2019 Update:

Now that you know you should NOT use “dirt” in your container gardens or patio pots, the big question is which potting mix should I buy? It is OVERWHELMING because today, the market place has many types to choose from – and you stand there looking at all the bags scratching your head thinking, which is the “right” one? I want to succeed, and I read Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s, but I’m now afraid to pick the wrong one.

I will be posting about my favorites, but one big tip is inspect the bags. Picking up a bag of soilless potting mix (and by the way, it is not labeled soilless, that is just a term used, it is usually labeled as “potting mix”) is similar to picking out produce in the grocery store. Look at the bag’s condition, especially if you are shopping at a low-end type store. Is the bag torn, heavy, wet and a mess? Hmmm, that is like a banana or avocado about to rot, in my opinion. It could have been an older bag, and the soil in there may be even worn out – unable to take up moisture. Be careful with “deals.”

Check the weight of the potting mix bag. Is it light and airy feeling? GOOD! Is it rock hard, wet and very heavy, hmmm, not so good. That is not to say it is bad because some bags are out in the cold early in the season, and may be thawing out – but I always go for the ones that look fresh and are in good condition. The weight of the bag gives you clues.

Go to a reputable nursery, see where their soil is placed outdoors – businesses who put their bags of potting mix under cover – with a roof top of sorts – are a winner in my book. Or if they are a popular and reputable nursery, they have lots of FRESH soil bags put out there early in spring especially. They also have staff available to answer any questions you may have if you find there are lots of choices. Be observant. You can tell who is on top of their game, if you just pay attention.

As for the big box stores, some of the mixes are good, but some I am weary of. I will be writing more about the products I like and I share all of that in my May container gardening workshops in detail. Heck, we even test soils in some of my sessions, like I did recently with “seedling mixes” in my recent Seed Starting Session. Horticulture and growing plants is a science and an art. You may have a mix you have found to be wonderful, or maybe you have been using a mix causing problems which are not YOUR fault – it is the mix (and you didn’t know it). We go over all of this in my workshops and sessions. Making your own mix is another option which I plan to go over as well, but some mixes are so excellent and it just saves time to get the pre-made mixes.

Lastly, the type of plants matter. Cactus, succulents, and houseplants have different soil needs compared to tropical plants, annuals, and perennials growing in mixed container gardens. For example, succulents and cacti appreciate more drainage and air space in the mix.

And lastly, I saw a new product on the market recently to help refresh older mixes in your pots – which I will be testing this year myself to see what I think. Heck, there are signs of people growing plants in no mix at all now – using special beads or growing in water. The learning never ends. I always test out new processes first before offering my take on them.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

SLOW-RELEASE FERTILIZER – Must #3

Once you have your drainage holes and soilless potting mix in your pot, you want to add slow release fertilizer to the soil to obtain optimum growth.  Slow release fertilizer will provide small amounts of nutrients to the plants’ roots over a specific period of time.  While some potting mixes come pre-charged with fertilizer (meaning they add the fertilizer in the mix as an ingredient), it may not be substantial enough to keep your plants fed throughout your container gardening season.  Add some when you get started, and don’t have to think about it again unless you are dealing with a high demanding plant or you didn’t follow the rest of The 5 Must Do’s.

Many slow-release fertilizers on the market are available in a granular form which is easy to apply.  The little round balls you see in the granular fertilizer bottles or bags are called prills.  Each contains a balanced release of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium – the three macro-nutrients needed most by plants).  Nitrogen promotes leaf, stem, and above ground growth.  Phosphorous promotes rooting, flowering, and fruiting.  And potassium helps with disease prevention and cold tolerance.  If you put too much of any, you can burn the plants or even kill them.  However, the nutrients in the prills of slow-release fertilizers will slowly leak out into the soil as water vapor is absorbed into the prill through its coating.  It dissolves the fertilizer inside to feed your plants during your container gardening growing season – which is typically 3 to 4 months in Connecticut, from May to September. As the soil temperature warms (during the summer months when you want your plants to thrive the most and when they need more nutrients during their most active growth period), the nutrients are released even more when the prills’ coating expands as a reaction to the warmth in the soil.  Think of the slow-release fertilizer feeding as a well-balanced diet for your plants to stay healthy and beautiful.  It will be handled for you in a controlled manner.

Add the slow release fertilizer upon planting your container gardens to ensure a continuous feeding routine.  Do this one simple step, and you will be amazed at the results.  And it also eliminates the needs to add water soluble fertilizer as a supplement later in the season, especially, as I said, if you follow all five of The 5 Must Do’s.

2019 Update:

One of the biggest ongoing trends or change in gardening is the love of organics, and this is a good thing. Some slow release fertilizer are synthetic while others are organic based. I go over these in my workshops and their differences, but I still think slow-release fertilizer of either type work very well and are EASY to apply and you don’t end up burning your plants. I still use the trusted brands of slow-release fertilizers I’ve always loved and always add slow released fertilizer to almost all my container gardens and patio pots. It just works. Again, some mixes come pre-charged with starter fertilizer but adding the slow-release prills gives the plants a balanced diet over the course of 3-4 months and now many last 5-10 months! The coating size of the prills varies and this is what makes it last longer than others – look at the bottle’s instructions and follow accordingly.

However, I’m on several plant related Facebook groups where there are tons of questions asked, and many times, the subject of fertilizers come up. Wow, the brands some people show and have used, I have never seen before (because the members of these groups are from all over the world). Again, almost like the potting mix choices, it is confusing at times, which should I use? Which is safe? How do I use it? When do I use it? We go over specifics in my workshops based on the plant types.

I read once a nursery owner saying, everyone has different methods of gardening – and this is true – some go into it blindly however, and the 5 Must Do’s are here to get you started, but what I’d like to do is dive into the fertilizer topic more as part of my series of the 5 Must Do’s.

Also, I always always tell my attendees, if you follow the 5 Must Do’s – you don’t have to fertilize as often. I believe over-fertilization advice is given at times. If you have a healthy growing environment with the soilless potting mix and drainage, you are off to a good start and may not need much supplemental fertilizing as the season progresses in summer.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

WATERING – Must #4

Forget container gardening if you are not willing to water your plants in container gardens and patio pots.  Must #4 is all about giving your plants watering love and it must be done on some kind of routine basis and based on the plant type and your environmental conditions (sun, shade, inside, outside, summer, winter, etc), but it must not be skipped or completely forgotten.  Watering in the morning is helpful because the plants take up the moisture during the day while photosynthesis takes place.  If you can’t do it then, please do it when you get home after work.  A plant will remain strong as long as the movement of water through the soil is in balance.  And you are that balance.  Without watering, your plants are doomed. If they don’t get water, there is no growth, and stomates in the leaves will close up to prevent further water loss to protect themselves.  Then, the plant will wilt and it certainly won’t flourish.  If no watering occurs for an extended period of time, the plant may reach a permanent wilting point and never recover.  And you don’t want that after you invested in buying beautiful plants from the nursery or from Cathy T (me!) to enjoy and show off at your home.

If you are not sure if the plants in your container gardens needs water, look at the plants – Are they wilting? Do they look thirsty?  Or insert your finger into the soil at a two to three inches depth.  Does it feel damp or sufficiently moist? It may be okay.  But you absolutely cannot forgo watering your container gardens.  Even if it rains occasionally, or you used drought tolerant plants, you must pay attention to them and their needs in regards to watering.  Observe the plants’ overall health, get familiar with their watering needs, and pay attention.  Climate in your area, the type of material from which the pot is made, and location will dictate some of the timing of your watering routine, but it is not the only factors you should pay attention to.  Basically YOU need to pay attention to watering.

Some people think they can douse their container garden plants with lots of water all at once, walk away, and forget about it for a week or more.  This does not work.  The soil needs periods where it dries out a bit between watering too. It should drain (Must #1) and have some breathing room (Must #2).  You don’t want to overdo it either, where the soil remains too wet. Wilt can be a result of over-watering as well as under watering.

Watering is one of the more difficult of The 5 Must Do’s to master because every plant and container type is different. And because people’s habits are different.  And the weather and exposure will affect how much or how little water your plants will need. There are some tricks to help reducing your watering routine, but that is another post for another time.  Bottom line, you MUST WATER your plants or they will die.  Plants need water to live.  In fact, every living thing on this earth needs water.  We need water. Without it – we all die. If you will not water, you should not do container gardening. In my opinion, not watering your plants is like committing plant murder.

2019 Update:

As I read my information above on watering (written several years ago), I think, yes, this is all still true in 2019. Watering, I think has been my biggest challenge to convey to attendees – is there a simple rule when it comes to watering? The answer is no. But – there is an observation factor involved in watering. You need to think about the soil. When you last watered, and all of that above. You really should NOT just think, “Hmmm, I’ll water every Friday and put one gallon in that big pot.” It really doesn’t work that way, there is a BALANCING act involved. But then, we don’t want to complicate watering, do we? The key point is that you must accept you need to water your container gardens, especially as we venture into summer, or you will not succeed, and your plants will suffer and look unhappy. I guess you could say, well, watering is like doing your physical exercise, you need to keep it consistent to have the plants and you do their best.

There have been times I wanted to do a watering type demonstration – using a shot glass, coffee cup, beer mug or wine glass, and milk jug to show the amount of water to be used based on the size of the pot and the plant type. Maybe I will get around to demonstrating this – but think of this: shot glass (succ), coffee up or wine glass (houseplant), beer mug (hanging basket), and milk jug or jugs (big veggie pots) – get the idea? But it also has to do with how moist the soil is, and did you let it dry somewhat to give some of that air space between waterings, and the type of plant. And yes of course, where your pot is situated. Outdoors in full sun, inside on a window sill, or in the shade. All are factors.

Ensete Red Banana_0001

BIG POTS – Must #5

People fear buying big pots, probably due to concerns with cost, placement, and moving them.  But big pots and container gardens make a big statement!  They capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced. Big pots also provide good anchorage of your large plants, hold more inches of water, don’t drain out as fast which helps to reducing Must #4 (but not eliminating that must), and enables you to grow larger, showier plants – leading to more bang for the buck.  Go for supersized if you can.

However, with that said, big pots is listed last on The 5 Must Do’s list because it is not mandatory for success, but using them will elevate you to a higher level of container gardening.  My recommendation is you should invest in at least one big pot.  Just one. I believe you will never regret it.  It makes a tremendous difference to the plants’ performance when you give the roots a large mass to grow in.  Also, as noted above, using big pots make a big statement in your outdoor environment.  So why not make your container gardening show magnificent for the season?

There are some tricks to helping with the amount of soilless potting mix you have to use to fill up a big pot, but that is for another post. Big pots may be a little challenging to move or fill, but place them in the right spot before you get started, and go back to Must #1 through Must #4 to get them in the best shape ever, and then wow yourself, your family, and your guests as they visit you to see your amazing and stunning container gardens.  You will feel a huge admiration for your efforts, a new appreciation for the world of container gardening because you followed The 5 Must Do’s, and your plants will love you for it too.

2019 Update:

Okay – Okay – I know – maybe not as big as my cement planter shown above in the photo – that is one monster pot! And I love it to this day for showing off my amazing tropical plants grown every year from overwintering tubers, rhizomes, and corms, etc. However, what I meant when I wrote the above is when we did many of my May workshops with a mix of tropical plants (banana, canna lily, elephants ears), and big pots really made the show spectacular. In those days, I would recommend attendees bring a pot about 22″ in diameter and at least as deep for those types of mixed container gardens. Boy, did we ever have fun getting those big pots into their vehicles when they left the day of the workshops.

But, alas, times have changed. Succulents grew in popularity and still are very popular – that trend continues. My joke on that is succulent growers must be dancing in their boots about the passion of succulents these days. They are wildly popular, and guess what – most succulents do not need BIG pots. In fact, they have such shallow root systems, they do just fine in wider and less deep of pots.

And house plants for that matter should not be moved up into a bigger pot too quickly. Their roots tend to grow slower and thus if you move them up into too big of a pot, the roots may rot – because they are not taking up that moisture as quickly, and the soil could remain too damp, so it is recommended to move houseplants into one size up higher pots when they become root bound or over grown, etc.

But when it comes to vegetables, like tomato and pepper plants, well, big pots are recommended and needed, and I talked about this in my seed sessions recently – we went over types and size of plastic pots and fabric grow bags for growing some veggies. Some require the number #5 rule of big pots. But herbs, well, they are fine in smaller pots and in hanging baskets, etc. And radishes or carrot require different size pots too. Lettuces do well in window boxes. You get the idea.

Thus, plant types dictate the pot sizes, so the #5 rule is really optional and based on plant types you are using to make your beautiful container gardens for the season. It is not really a hard rule.

As I provide this Quick Update to my 5 Must Do’s, I remembered, I had a rule no. 6 to add. Now, for the life if me, I’m sitting here thinking, what the heck was the number 6 rule that I wanted to add? I know it will come to me. In the meantime, hopefully, these quick reminders of the 5 Must Do’s are helpful along with my quick 2019 updates as we get closer to the outdoor planting, decorating, and growing season. As noted above, I plan to do a series in detail of several updates on these topics.

The Five Must Do’s are all about achieving successful container gardens and patio pots.  Do all of them, and you will be happy, if not overjoyed, with your amazing results – I guarantee it.

In fact, as a 2019 update, I want to note that I’m amazed by the progress of my attendees’ patio pot creations since they have become fans of my workshops – their results are so good now – they follow the 5 Must Do’s and continue to learn right along with me. I’m very appreciative of the experiences we have had and continue to have learning about the love of container gardening.

Written and Updated by Cathy Testa
Owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT
Location: Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

What are Container Gardens?

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Container gardening is the art of growing plants in pots. When you search the word container gardens or container gardening on the web, you may notice some people define it as growing vegetables in pots, but container gardening is not limited to just vegetables. That is for sure. You may use container gardening for so many situations and types of plants. The options are endless and with the right combination, stunning.

With the appropriate potting soil media, feeding and plant care, container gardens provide instant gratification and focal points. They operate like “functional art” in the right scenarios, bring life and amazing colors to an area, and add movement. For businesses, they are useful as well as welcoming. For homeowners, they create an oasis in your outdoor and indoor surroundings.

I have always preferred growing plants in containers designed to be focal points instead of gardening in the ground. For years, I’ve recommended installing big pots for when you want a big statement. Big pots capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced.

However, in today’s world, many people have limited spaces, and small pots or medium sized pots fit the bill. They are easy to care for, add a sense of space and nature to your surroundings, and let’s face it – are fun to assemble in various design formats. From vintage patio pots to hanging baskets, all of these are defined as container gardens in Cathy T’s container gardening world.

Big pots provide good anchorage for your large plants so it won’t topple over in the wind. Also, they hold more inches of water, won’t drain out as fast which helps in reducing watering routines. Big pots helps the plants to grow larger and showier, leading to more bang for the buck. They are great in summer for vegetables like peppers and tomato plants that may grow to 6 feet tall, and big pots are super for large, showy, big leaved tropical plants, such as elephants ears and banana plant. Want to wow your friends and family? A huge pot with showy big plants will stop people in their tracks.

Small pots are wonderful to create a floral like design to enjoy. They are also excellent for displaying a single succulent on your windowsill. Small succulents are great collectibles! Plus they are easy care, drought-tolerant, and resilient. They easily reproduce via cuttings and propagation steps. Let’s face it, smaller pots with adorable plants, such as succulents and cacti, are irresistible.

Sometimes, two or three medium sized pots work well in business or store front scenarios to direct traffic or redirect a walking path. Two large pots gracing a main entrance helps your visitors know where to go if you have two entrances at your business location. Positioned appropriately, containers or pots may assist with parking, blocking sore spots and drawing the eye to key signs. They also say welcome to your customers and visitors – and changed up for the season make your place more alive and in tune with the seasons and holidays.

Homeowners may want to include a big pot in their outdoor setting along with various smaller to medium sized pots, either way, container gardens provide a plethora of design options. Another wonderful benefit of adding container gardens to your home is helping out our pollinators. Bees, birds, and hummingbirds enjoy visiting the plants and it brings life to your world while they visit and bop around your flowers. And small pots on patio tables are rewarding visually. I can not imagine any space outdoors in summer without lots of plants, or a plant or two. Hanging baskets are wonderful as well as they add height and many are adored today with macrame and beads. It is just wonderful!

In the case with homeowners, container gardens serve as your decor, like a pillow or end table would enhance a space indoors. More and more people are expanding their living environment to include outdoor spaces. And even more are creating oasis of plants inside their homes with houseplants to enhance indoor living – especially because so many of us are glued to our iPhones and social media viewing, we need to break away and enjoy a living plant which also helps to clean our air indoors. Plants are living things and if you care for them, they will reward you in so many ways.

Container gardening is also great for those with physical limitations – no bending, weeding, digging. For kitchen container gardening, you have unlimited access to various herbs right from your door step. Incorporating vegetable plants in your home designs not only provides a healthy snack, it adds color and a place for bees, our treasured pollinators, to collect nectar for their survival. Today, we see a lot of desk top herb growing type of container systems, some furnished with lights. The new trends are interesting and just amazing – and useful. More and more people would rather have some plant life in their home and also appreciate nature and want to participate in helping our earth – plants are the key to this. Be a plant care taker, and you are part of the bigger picture – okay, a little deep – but true!

Many plants you may start right on your windowsill, especially in spring with seeds to start plants which will be later placed outdoors as soon as the spring frost passed in well, yes, containers! Grow bags used for vegetables outdoors are another example of container gardening. And in winter, seeds for micro-greens may be grown in small containers suited to your kitchen.

And let’s not forget “raised beds” which sometimes only require an 8″ depth to be successful as a mini garden where you don’t need to weed as often as you would in the ground, and you control the soil you put in it, etc. Raised beds at a higher level are great for people in wheelchairs, or people who have back issues. All of these examples are container gardening. If I could, my entire yard would be filled with raised beds. Easy to reach in and out of and easy to keep critters away if you enclose it with fencing. They are not only functional but pretty visually.

Some may argue container gardening is not sustainable, and I absolutely disagree – because when you use containers in the correct way, which sometimes involves reusing plants which are overwintered (tropical plants), you are not wasting plants. Also, containers reduce the use of heavy fertilizers or herbicides, in my opinion, because I find less insect issues with plants in fresh soil and clean pots, and don’t fertilize often when it is done right.

Container Gardening is a wonderful alternative to in-ground gardening, and doesn’t require high impact conditions which may negatively affect the environment like other options may. Soil in raised beds are enhanced once a year with some fresh compost as needed, where as soil in the ground requires a alteration at times which is difficult to achieve when working against the natural landscape components (clay, sand, etc.). You don’t need a tractor when you do container gardening either. In container gardens, it is relatively simple. I’m not knocking gardening, but to me, containers are just faster, simpler and just as rewarding.

Container gardening, to me at least, includes by definition, any plant that is put into a vessel of any type. Hanging baskets, vintage pots, terrarium bowls, patio pots, grow bags, wood raised bed frames, hypertufa’s, moss, and more. You name it. Yes, you may have to water container gardens more often than gardens in the grounds, but again – this forces you out of the iPhone addiction rut, and into the scents, sounds (bees and hummingbirds). It forces you to look up, down, all around and slow down and breath, smell the air, feel the flower petals, and enjoy outdoors, rather than having your head in a down position staring at a phone. Believe me, I know – I’m addicted to that darn phone too – we have been “conned” somewhat into staring at them – I say, prepare some container gardens this summer to help you break that habit.

Years ago, when I wanted to pick a name for my blog site, all I could think of was “container gardening” – nothing else was coming to mind, so I spontaneously called it “Container Crazy CT.” And, if you know me personally, you know it fits. I have done so many crazy things with plants – some of those on the nutty side, and others which led to amazing pieces of garden art with beautiful plants, if you will. I kind of wished though that I had named it, Container Garden Crazy CT – but that is too long of a name anyways. However, it has worked over the years and I guess I will keep it.

Happy Container Gardening!

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

When I play white noise in the house, what is my cat thinking?

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I suffer from tinnitus.

If you don’t know what that is, you are lucky.

It is an annoying and constant hissing and ringing sound in my ears (well, apparently in my head, per the experts).

It is a sound or (sounds) that could make anyone go mad. But you have to learn to cope.

So, every once in a while, to combat the tinnitus noise when I’m trying to concentrate on my office work, I will play white noise on the speakers in my house.

The sounds of rushing waterfalls, babbling brooks, or ocean waves splashing on a beach helps to deter the awful noises of tinnitus in my head. It is a distraction, basically.

I often wonder, “What is my cat thinking?” when I start playing the various water sounds which broadcasts from speakers throughout my house.

My cat, Mini, is looking a little depressed right now. She is bored to tears because she just hates the cold weather and hasn’t had much play time outdoors lately.

In fact, when she begs me for fresh air, she comes back from the outdoors screaming at me (meowwww!!!), as if this cold and boring weather is all my fault.

I just tell her, “I know. I know. It is NOT nice out. But it will get better.”

Before we know it, the signs of winter will fade away, but we also all know, it will be a while still. In fact, I’m sure we are in for some snow storms soon.

The only good thing about January (at least in my book, as of this moment) is that it is the best time to plan ahead for the season, which is what I was doing all morning – creating schedules of my workshop dates and outlining workshop details – while tinnitus danced in my head.

The proposed schedule is on my workshops site, http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, under the DATES tab. You may pop by there if you want to start penciling in the dates, which I surely hope you will.

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Removing Succulents from Pumpkins – FB Live on January 18, 2019

First up will be a Facebook Live (for registered attendees of my workshops) and then follows with Seed Starting sessions in March and April, followed by my Container Gardening Workshops in May. Then, of course, the fall and winter workshops arrive, etc.

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Seed Starting Workshops on March 23 and April 13, 2019

Just thinking about them reminds me how busy I will be when they start up, so I guess instead of dreading the blah times of January when it is cold and dreary, I should probably embrace them as I work in my home office listening to white noise while I finalize the pre-plans for all to come ahead this season. There is still much to do.

Whether Mini, my cat, will embrace January as well, (or the white noise she is forced to listen to), I will never know. I guess she has to tolerate it, just like I have to tolerate tinnitus.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

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Want tomatoes like this in 2019? Check out my Seed Starting sessions – Seats will be limited!