Do you still want emails?


Hello world!

How’s everyone doing today?

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

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

Is email out of favor?

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

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

And, I find my Instagram account is being viewed.

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

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

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

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

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

For now, know that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup. I think it is important to know this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is “very” important to inspect your plants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

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


Beautiful Weather!


Happy Friday Everyone!

How about this beau-beau-Beautiful weather we are having – and it will continue for the next few days! Yipeeee!

Not sure if I’m totally diggin’ the cool night’s though – it has slowed down the ripening of my cherry tomato plants, but it sure does help for a restful sleep. And overall, the non-stressful weather has been fab for my other plants – they are not as stressed from high humidity this year.

Just a few notes – as updates, for today:

Terrarium One-on-One’s

I am offering Terrarium one-on-one sessions, at the bookstore, on Tuesdays and Thursday’s, by your scheduled appointment times. Hours are between 10:30 am to 6:00 pm, starting August 31st thru Sept 26. Only date not available is Tuesday, 9/12.

If interested, see my Facebook Events or my site.

Location is the Book Club Bookstore & More, 869 Sullivan Avenue, South Windsor, CT, where by the way, I have thriving houseplants and succulents available there – still doing well, if you have a need to spruce up a tired plant at your home, swing by to see!

Overwintering Plants Demo’s

I’m offering my demo on how to overwinter plants early this season, so that if you are interested, you may learn first and then get ready to take care of your plants in October right before or after our frost date.

If you prefer to wait, I will also be offering it in October at my house on 10/14.

The sessions are being offered at the bookstore (address above) and at my home based location in Broad Brook, CT. All session dates are posted on

Because the themed plants for my May Container Garden Workshops were houseplants, this type of plant will be discussed on how to transition them to the home before it gets too cold out. And I will be including my usual tropicals, and talk succulents too.

Succulent Topped Pumpkins

This is a fun workshop for the fall, our 2nd annual. It will be offered at my home based location and at the new Stafford Cidery. They are filling up quickly so be sure to register early.

Dates are 10/7, 11 am – my place in Broad Brook, and 10/16, 6 pm, Stafford Cidery. You know where to find info…Yup,

Other Late Season Tips

We still have PLENTY of time to enjoy our plants – but here are some top of mind tips:

Let plants flowers go to seed. Wait for seed pods to blacken to collect. Store them for next year. Be sure to keep them out of sunlight, it a semi-tight container or dry envelope, in a cool room, and label them. You may try your hand at sowing them next year.

Cut old gone by flowers off plants, such as Canna plants. If the flower dries up and is papery, you may cut the stalk off the plant – it will help other stalks to push growth and bloom. Or you may leave the seed pods on the plant too to collect. These plants are beautiful all the way till frost – still lots of time to enjoy the flowers and foliage.

Watch your succulents. If we get really COLD DAMP rains – they sometimes don’t like this as it may cause some to rot. I moved some of my succulents in to the greenhouse already that were outside. It is not mandatory to do “now” but just be mindful of what I told you in my workshops about transitioning plants. When the cold wet rain hits, it may dampen that soil while cold out – not a good scenario for succulents. They like the soil to dry between waterings too.

Collect wild nature items now for fall decorations. I added a new workshop on Succulent Wreaths, for example, and we are having the Succulent Topped Pumpkins workshops. Wood sticks, beach shells, feathers, pine cones, if you find them, think creatively. Items which may be attached are good finds for free while you are outdoors exploring.

Water your container gardens even if it rains. So, you may be thinking, I don’t have to water my plants – it just rained. That is somewhat true – but if your pot outdoors has lots of foliage above the pot rim, the rain water may not have trickled down into the soil. Check it anyways. I do this with my big pots of elephant ears and banana plant. Many times, the soil isn’t that wet after a rain fall. Feel the soil. We may slow down our watering routines, but it doesn’t completely end.

Cut off damaged leaves from cold snaps. When we get cool nights, you may see a yellow leaf or two on your plants, like elephants’ ears. Take the time to cut it off with clean pruners. That will look better and keep your plant healthy. Speaking of that – remove any mush you see on your plants if something rotted.

Watch for caterpillars. I saw a few on my Canna leaves when I noticed some rugged edged holes, and looked “under” the leaf – sure enough, a white interesting fussy caterpillar was having her snack. I took those off, cut off the damaged leaves, and that took care of that.

Ever see a pattern of holes on a Canna leaf which are lined up in a row symmetrical style?

My friend just sent me a photo of just that – and what happened is the bug ate thru a “rolled up” leaf – before it unfurled. It created a pattern when the leaf opened. You may have seen this too, and thought – Wow, that insect is a Picasso!

Send me “Your Proud Plant Pics”

I get so excited when you send me a photo of a container garden which you made at my May workshops to show how well it is doing – or a photo of a plant you bought from me this season.

Please feel free to text a photo to me if you wish.

I love sharing success stories on my Instagram feed. It makes me proud – and happy you are enjoying your plants as much as I do.

That’s all I can think of for now. Enjoy your weekend. It’s gonna be a beauty.

Cathy Testa
860-977-8473 (texts welcome!)

Grand Opening Celebration this Saturday, April 29th at BOOK CLUB

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Good Spring Morning Everyone,

Just a heads-up, the BOOK CLUB Bookstore, 869 Sullivan Avenue (United Bank Plaza), South Windsor, CT is holding their grand opening celebration this Saturday, April 29th, 2017 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

We hope you will swing by to say hello, visit my showcase at the bookstore, and learn about the store’s many offerings.

I will be there to answer any questions you may have regarding my workshops, plant gifts, and container garden installations.

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A Happy Customer with New Bert’s Birdhouse for her garden!

Available Today

Seeds by Hudson Valley – 100% Certified Organic

Houseplant Gifts of Small Carry Sizes

Succulents and Cacti

Bert’s Birdhouses – Now on Stakes!

Terrarium Showcases

Terrarium DIY Kits (underway – hope to have at the Grand Opening)

Workshop Flyers

Micro-greens Starter Kits

Workshop Gift Cards – Perfect for Mother’s Day

Seed Sowing Kits (underway – hope to have at the Grand Opening)

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Beautiful single Soft Succulents in Stock today!


I plan to hold a lunch time hour soon to repeat my free¬†Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening¬†demonstration for those who missed it last weekend on Earth Day – please stay tuned for available dates and locations.

May 4 – Micro-greens demonstration at the bookstore

May 13, 17, 20 – Container Gardening Workshops (3 venues this season for you to choose from). Registrations are now open.

May 25 – Basic Seed Starting at the bookstore (and I plan to offer this demonstration during a lunch hour earlier this month as well – location TBD.)



Be sure to visit to learn of this year’s plant theme and all the details of our upcoming May Container Gardening Workshops. I’m very excited to continue offering this annual hands-on workshop for all my attendees and new friends.

Thank you for supporting small businesses in our local areas!

We couldn’t make it without you – I appreciate everyone’s recent visits and hope you will be visiting on Saturday, 4/29, 10:30 am-12:30 pm, if you haven’t popped in yet.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

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Hudson Valley Seeds 100% Organic Seeds are in stock – Kits are Coming!






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 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”


Sweet Gifts to Warm the Heart

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Good Morning,

I said I would return to writing about “plants” – Well,¬†flowers are plants, right?

I can not do a plant related post without first acknowledging the efforts of our wonderful guest instructors from JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design, Jeff and Mandy Mayer, at Saturday’s Workshop here on Floral Design with Valentine’s Day Reds.

First, the flowers were absolutely ga-GAH-gorgeous! And also, this couple was very enthusiastic and concerned that each one of us were happy – which¬†I surely think we were. Look at the attendees’ floral arrangements – absolutely beautiful. Great job by all.

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This one was created by MaryBeth. She is a returning attendee to my workshops – and she brought a beautiful blue and white bowl for her centerpiece. It is so pretty.

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This one is by Cathy P, another attendee. She rimmed the edge of her container with bling-bling before the class to fit the Valentine’s Day theme. She created an Ikebana style floral arrangement. I didn’t realize her goal was to do this unique art form until she was done because I was making my own arrangement during the class¬†and didn’t see her progressing along until she was done. Let’s just say, she nailed it!

I have never done this Japanese style myself but the process involves arranging flowers and forms so each¬†are displayed with a simple¬†specific structure and balance – That is the best way I can describe it. Sometimes you will see this Ikebana style at flower shows where the arrangements are judged and¬†awarded prizes when¬†they adhere to the art form’s strict¬†rules.

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Everyone’s creations were different and uniquely arranged.¬†We joked that we felt like brides holding our arrangements. It was a fun day of creating and enjoying flowers.

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Jeff and Mandy Mayer of JEM’s make a great team. Jeff is in the center photo above demonstrating his process. He is very symmetrical with his designs, and Mandy, his wife and business partner, was going around to each individual asking if they were okay as they got into their “design” zone. Jeff too. He wanted to provide as much one-on-one attention as possible.

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We enjoyed yummy cupcakes made by a friend, Alissa. She attended my winter holiday workshop and mentioned she is an avid baker. The red velvet cupcakes looked as real as the flowers with (non fondant) frosting. Yummy.

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When I posted the above photos on Instagram, people raved about what a great job she did with this basket of yummy soft flowering sweets for us to enjoy at the workshop. My sister commented that “I spoil my class attendees.” And yes, well, I do! ūüôā

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The flowers provided to each attendee were very fresh. We lucked out so many ways on this workshop day. There was an unexpected snowstorm the day before, so we had to readjust to pick up the flower order right before class started due to travel conditions being hazardous the day before. This resulted in our guest instructors having¬†less time to set up but it all worked out. We were also lucky because they accepted my invitation to teach this workshop – and are returning in late June to do a “4th of July” Floral Centerpiece class – more on that later. Check in if interested. It is listed on the Workshop Dates link above on this blog.

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Here’s my adorable arrangement – I added lollipops to it and really think its cute.


Now it is onto another special¬†event this weekend at a new local bookstore located close¬†to my home called “Book Club Bookstore and More” on Main Street in Broad Brook, CT. They are hosting an “Artisans and Artists” Day on Saturday, Feb 13th. You can’t miss the store, it is adjacent to the breakfast place, before the bridge (across from the dam) by the¬†Broad Brook Pond on Main Street in the center of town.

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If you are a book lover, this store holds book discussions, has special author events, and the interior is beautiful. The store is much bigger than you’d expect, when you enter, it has a long interior style (kind of like a shot gun style home). My friend visited recently and she told me the children’s book selection is wonderful as well.

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JEM’s will be there with me on Saturday, February 13th, from 10 am to 1 pm at the bookstore’s event too. Mandy will have flower arrangements for sale, and I’m bringing along adorable Valentine’s Day themed goodies, such as Mini Succulent Cone Bouquets and Garden Journals. We hope you will pop by. Heck, have breakfast next door then walk on over for a bit. It will be too cold to be outside anyways per this week’s forecasters.

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I spent part of my week making these tiny pompoms to add to my items РAre they so cute?! They look like min-whoville flowers.

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More embellishments to be added – These are great as a sweet gift, table setting pieces, or just for fun to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to whomever is special in your life – it is not just for romance, it is to show your love to your love one’s. It will warm your heart on our predicted very chilly weekend. And there are other vendors participating, so we hope you will visit to stop by and say hello.

I will post more on our floral workshop later as there is more to show, but for now got to go. Looks like this snow “might” postpone my Garden Talk tonight at the South Windsor Public Library – will have to wait and see. If not, I’ll be there promptly at 7 pm. Tonight’s talk is on the How To’s of Container Gardening for Growth Success.

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

Flashback Friday – Coco Bowls with Succulents

Coconut Bowls Turned into Adorable Decor

Coconut Bowls Turned into Adorable Decor

Flashback Fridays – NEW!

It is fun to look back on memories, and thus, I thought – Why not share some of my prior photos of blog posts from earlier¬†days. Some of my blog pages get buried (i.e., I don’t think everyone knows if you click on a menu bar’s title, such as Container Garden Services, a whole page appears of photos of my container gardens.)

Coco Bowls from The Big Island

For today’s ‘Flashback Friday,’ I selected the photos of¬†coco bowls obtained in Hawaii a few years back. Little succulents, such as Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum),¬†were¬†carefully inserted into the coco bowls. A single hole was drilled into the bottom of each bowl to allow water to drain out.

Coco bowls with bling

Coco bowls with bling

See these cacti plants above – Well, guess what? – They are still growing in the coco bowls after, I think at least 4 years. For the life of me, I can’t recall the name of the plant – but I will come across it in my books in no time to share with you, but this plant has¬†as sharp tips as you can imagine on the tips – Literally, it could be a weapon.

Update: I located the plant tag for¬†the Agave in the two coco bowls shown above: Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’ — No wonder I couldn’t remember! That’s a long cultivar name. A century plant, and I do believe they could last a century.



At the show, this is how I displayed a grouping of them. They sold¬†very well. And, I could not part with a few for myself. The bowls themselves are a treasured item because it is a natural material and from a place I visited on a special journey several years back, on the big island of Hawai’i.

Coco Portulaca

Coco Portulaca

Portulaca was put into one as well, but the hens and chick plants and other various succulents really fit better and looked better, in my opinion. You may wonder how I watered them due to the plants top portion eventually covering the top of the bowl, and basically all I do is hold the coco bowl under the faucet and position it so the water runs into the bowl as much as possible, then let the excess drain out.


The coco bowls are truly amazing pots; they don’t rot, last a long time, are adorable to show and even hold. I wrote about our¬†entire adventure to the island and posted it on my original website at the time of putting these together. It is rewarding¬†to look back at the memories, especially the “lava” boat story at the end of my e:Publication. Check out the photos – what a blast.

So, that’s it for my new ‘Flashback Fridays.’

Hey, fellow garden bloggers – Want to join me on this idea? ¬†Share your Flashback – I’d love to see it.

Cathy Testa

Autumn Begins On Monday – Time to Move In Your Plants

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Hi Everyone,

Just a quick note to remind you to think about that statement I made at the Big Container Garden Party in May:

Do not let your succulent plants, cacti, or houseplants with tender foliage in your outdoor container gardens and pots stay out in the cold damp weather too long.

It has been my experience if you let that soil stay cold, and it remains wet Рand then you move them inside, two things typically happen.  The tender soft foliage of these types of plants start to rot at the base, or sometimes the damp wet soil invites little critters to take residence in the pot.

So as noted on your handouts from the May Big Container Garden Party class titled,¬†“The 7 MUST NOT DO’S WITH SUCCULENTS & CACTI“,¬†is that you should not leave them out beyond summer when we start to get continuous cold evening temperatures. ¬†(Try this test: Touch the side of your pots – if Terracotta or glazed, they are chilly right now – even in the sun. ¬†The type of container may contribute to cold soil at this time of year, despite the nice warm sun we are having.)

This week has been nice and sunny during the day, so if for some reason your soil in your pots is really damp/wet, give it some sun, don’t water, and let it dry out a bit – then start to move them in soon. ¬†Frost typically happens early to mid-October, so there is still time to enjoy other plants, as follows:

Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants

As for the Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana plants – they can handle this weather a while longer into early October before the first frost of Autumn hits.

If you wish to keep the Canna, Elephant Ears, or Banana plants in their pots inside the home – my advice is reduce the watering now – it will dry out the soil a bit, makes the pot lighter to move, and kind of the same theory as above, the soil won’t be damp when it is moved inside – reducing your risk if critters moving into damp soil. Pick a sunny window in the house from that point forward.

If you wish to store the Canna, Elephant Ear, or Banana plants base or storage organ, such as the rhizomes under the soil for the Canna, you may allow it to get hit by the fall frost РThe foliage will turn black and soft Рand you can cut that all off and then work to remove the rhizome or corm for the Canna and Elephant ear respectively.  For the Banana Plant, refer to my blog where I posted all the steps.

There is also choice #3 – if you want to keep the Canna, Elephant Ear, or Banana plants in their pots and you have a basement to move them into – this is also a technique for overwintering them. ¬†Again, pick a spot, don’t water it much now, and let it look tattered over the winter but just hanging in there. For basement option, must do before frost as well – which probably will happen in mid-October.

Elephant Ear - Colcocasia

Elephant Ear – Colcocasia

Brugmansia (Angel Trumpets)

Another plant sold at the Big Container Garden Party was the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpets).  These should not be hit by frost.  I recommend you move them in to the home if you wish as a houseplant before frost hits, or into your basement to go dormant.  In the basement, most of the leaves will fall off, it will look tattered over the winter, but will bounce back (usually!).  Also, Brugmansia (Angel Trumpets) may be pruned back hard if you wish Рpruning off all the stems and part of the stalk, but then you would not have the tall height next season if you wish to keep it tall.

Succulents, Cacti, Alpine Plants

Also, a reminder about another “do not do’s” with the succulents,¬†cacti, and alpine like plants – do not put them in dark rooms, or between curtains in the house. ¬†Do not let them sit in water catch trays. ¬†Do not put them in a very shady spot in the home, or by really cold pockets.¬†They need a bright sunny window, and reduce watering them regularly. ¬†South or West facing windows are typically best. Refer to your handout on more details about how to water them in the winter months.

Hens and Chics

Hens and Chicks –¬†Sempervivums

Hypertufas with Hens and Chick Plants

Hypertufas!  Did you buy one in May?  Well, the good news is they can remain outdoors Рthe material of the pot is pretty tough Рbut I say move it to a protected outdoor location, the hens and chicks in the pot will come back next season.  You may want to put it under your porch steps, or if you have a woodstove, heck, put it by the foundation wall near that area outdoors.  Or bring it in and place in a sunny window to treat as a houseplant, reduce the watering, etc.  The plants will look like they are not alive at some point, but they hang in there Рbelieve me Рthey bounce back.

Mini-Crimson Mandevilla

Mini-Crimson Mandevilla


Mandevilla – These too can be stored over the winter in somewhat of a tattered state, cut the vines back, and put them in the basement, they will loose leaves over the winter, but will hang in there. ¬†More information can be provided if you have any further questions. This tropical like vine will be showy for a while more too – but don’t let it get hit by frost.

Perennials – Some of the plants were perennial and you may remove them from your container gardens and transplant them into the gardens of the ground, or often they return in the pots if you move them to a protected location over the winter (i.e., garage), especially if you used a big pot with lots of soil mass as your container garden when you put these together in May.

Thank you, and for those registered for the Octobert Hypertufa Class – I’ll see you soon!

Cathy Testa

P.S. ¬†The “Evergreens Kissing Ball & Holiday Creations” class date has been noted above and on the side bar of this blog. ¬†It is Saturday, December 6th, 2014.

Insects in Your Container Gardens – And What You Can Do…


Hello Everyone!

It is that time of year when we may be¬†seeing little critters appear on some of our¬†plants in our gardens or container gardens, and it ain’t pretty. ¬†Fortunately, many of them do not last long due to their life cycles, stages of growth, and time of appearance, but regardless, it is best to battle them as soon as spotted on your plants.

I like to use¬†the ‘pick and squish’ method first whenever possible, if bold enough, prior to reaching for any insecticides, or use of pesticides. ¬†Sometimes just hand picking off or pruning, then disposing of them¬†works.

In the photos below, you will see what I believe are eastern tent caterpillars on my honeysuckle vine (top left), aphids on the eggplant bloom (middle top photo), and mosquito larvae in the water image.  These were all spotted in late June, along with a first sighting of the infamous Japanese beetles, which emerge from the ground in early summer to feed on plants.

Yuck -- Insects on Plants

Yuck — Insects on Plants

Tent caterpillars on my trumpet honeysuckle РYUCK! That was a first Рand my honeysuckle has been doing so well this year.  Obviously, I was not happy to find these buggers.  My honeysuckle plant is growing by the side of the house, and it surprised me to find tent caterpillars on it.  Fortunately, with a quick snip of the vine from which they were attached, they were easily bagged and tossed.

Honeysuckle bloom creeps into Delphinium

Honeysuckle bloom creeps into Delphinium’s blooms


Using clean pruning shears, I cut of the portion of a vine¬†with the nasty critters on it, put it¬†in a plastic bag on the driveway and then stomped on the bag. ¬†I left the bag laying on the driveway for a while. ¬†Why? I figured the heat would fry any not crushed¬†(oooh, gross – the things gardeners will do!). ¬†Then, I went out for my day’s work at a client’s location.

That day, my parents dropped of some items at my door, and my mother saw the plastic bag sitting on the driveway so she included my bug bag as a hanging item on my door handle while I was not home.  I guess she figured I dropped something by mistake on the driveway.

Well, when I opened up that bag at the kitchen table РACK.  Out to the garbage can it went Рand quickly. You see, the other bags my parents often leave me are filled with fresh veggies from their home garden.  Imagine my surprise and reaction when I found bugs instead of radishes.

Prior to all this bug nonsense, I was enjoying the many orange trumpet shaped blooms growing from my honeysuckle so much all month.  At one point, a stem pushed its way through the center of a Delphinium stalk located near it Рtalk about stunning.

Do these two plants know they are complementary colors on the color wheel?

Opposite each other on the color wheel Рare blue and orange Рtalk about a nice surprise nature combo in the garden! Although this Delphinium technically has more purples than blues in its blooms, the combination was breathtaking all the same РI have been enjoying it for a whole month.  I wrote about Delphiniums before on this blog, as it was a flower I selected in my wedding bouquet 24 years ago.  It probably was one of my first flower obsessions.  I find them a little difficult to keep growing in my garden, so this year, I just bought a new one and plopped it by the honeysuckle plant, and it has grown beautifully.

Honeysuckle Blooms

Honeysuckle Blooms

Honeysuckle (Lonicera) is a deciduous vine¬†that grows quickly every year. ¬†It is deer resistant and attracts butterflies. A trellis or arbor is needed to hold it up as it grows taller, sometimes reaching 15-20 feet. ¬†I’ve had mine for several years in this spot with little problems – again, why I was surprised to see the tent caterpillars take a spot on it this year.

Although this vine¬†grows quickly, I wouldn’t classify it as a invasive plant because it is easily removed if you find it over takes your space, but it can get large fast and needs to be watched. ¬†It is included in my Troublemakers Turned Star Plants on my Pinterest page, because it can be very useful in a container garden if you find it a nuisance in the regular gardens of the ground.

It likes sun to part shade, and blooms for a long time.  The scent is intoxicating for many cultivars. This plant may be used as a thriller in a large container garden, so long as you add a nice big trellis in the container for support.

Happy Bloom on Japanese Long Eggplant

Happy Bloom on Japanese Long Eggplant Being Visited by Pest Aphids


If you take a close look above, you may see the little aphid bugs on my Japanese eggplant.

Aphids¬†are very tiny pear-shaped insects with long antennae and tubes on their back-ends. ¬†Some of the interesting tidbits about aphids are¬†ants protect them because they enjoy their “sweet honeydew”, and they (aphids) reproduce faster than rabbits – the females do not need males to do so, and aphids vary¬†in colors – not just green as the ones spotted on this plant. ¬†To learn more about these little guys, see the CAES link.

Well, seeing them on my Japanese long eggplant flowers in my container garden¬†was not pleasing. I’ve been using edibles in container gardens a great deal this season – and talking about it at garden clubs. ¬†I am finding, however, the edible plants seem to get attacked by bugs much quicker than my tropical or annual plants.

To battle these aphids, I lightly sprayed the plant on a shady day when cool with a safe organic spray for vegetable plants¬†(remember, don’t spray a plant when its very hot and located in full sun), and then a day later, I hosed off¬†the leaves by using the garden hose with a watering wand at a good heavy pressure – it did the trick. ¬†No more signs of the aphids¬†since¬†– and my first eggplant fruit growing right now on the plant – yeah!

I couldn’t really pick the small aphids¬†by hand because they are too tiny, at the size of 1/8″ long. ¬†And by the way, lady bugs are natural predators, releasing them can help if you can find the ladybugs from a garden center.

First eggplant

First eggplant

I potted up this eggplant plant along side an asparagus plant, strawberry plant, and would you believe, Brussels sprouts?! The asparagus added a nice soft texture with its fine and light foliage along side the coarse texture of the eggplant leaves, the strawberry plant is a spiller, and the Brussels sprouts Рwell, wow Рwhat big texture those leaves have offered.

Eggplant with Mixed Edibles

Eggplant with Mixed Edibles

Earlier in June, I brought the container garden to the Ellington Farmers Market to show the combination during my talk about¬†“Incorporating Decorative Edibles in Mixed Container Gardens.” ¬†Well, low and behold, these two very interesting looking insects took their position on the red trellis in the pot – and stayed there all day during the market. ¬†Thankfully they did not jump on me when I was driving home later that day with the container garden on¬†my truck seat. ¬†Not sure what they are, do you know?

Bugs on Trellis with brussel sprout Leaves behind it.

Bugs on Trellis with brussel sprout Leaves behind it.


The other spot where I saw critters was in a water garden I have at home, which is a big galvanized feeding bin (for animals) filled with water and plants, such as elephant ears (Colocasia) or other water tolerant types, such as Cyperus papyrus (Tut). I put the plants in terracotta pots because they sink well into the water due to their weight and the clay is porous. Add some stones to the top of the soil of those pots so the soil does not escape into the water.  When submerging the pots, gently drop them into the water as to not disturb the soil too much.

Well, I should have known, tiny mosquito larvae started to grow in the water, and there were tons of them wiggling in the water one day.

To avoid this situation Рyou may try two things Рplace a mosquito dunk, which are not harmful to the plants, in the water, or just flush some of the water out occasionally with a garden hose so the water is not stagnant.  This is what I do. Later, no more larvae and no more bites.

Oh, when I was very young, I remember telling a teacher that I saw little things wiggling in a puddle at home. (Living on a farm, you tend to notice things like this – or I was just always fascinated with looking at things up close in nature.) ¬†He told me to put them in a jar with water, cover it with plastic wrap and to bring it into class. ¬†He set it on his desk and said, “Let’s see what happens.”¬†A few days later, a bunch of mosquitoes were flying above the water. ¬†A visual lesson for sure.


Fuzzy body of moth

Fuzzy body of moth

Another surprise sighting at my home this season was a Luna moth (Actias luna) on a apple tree in a pot. ¬†As I was walking out to my garage, I saw a white substance on a leaf. ¬†Well camouflaged, I didn’t see the wings of the moth at first.

I thought, “What the heck is that white fuzzy cocoon on my apple tree?” ¬†(By the way, I often plant small trees in container gardens for a few years first – because I am crazy about container gardening, but it also can give a small tree some time to grow larger and stronger before I eventually transplant it to the ground when it outgrows a large pot – this way, I enjoy, learn and grow the plant first – as is the case with this apple tree.)

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To my surprise, it was a beautiful moth and not an ugly insect!  This was in the early morning and the east sun was brightly lighting up its wings.  The moth was completely motionless, and not moving at all Рthis gave me the wonderful opportunity to snap more photos.

Luna Moth on Apple Tree hanging on the underside of a leaf

Luna Moth on Apple Tree hanging on the underside of a leaf

I tried getting photos from every angle, which was difficult to do because it was on the backside of the plant along the garage wall.  After repeatedly taking photos, I tried moving the pot but it flew away.

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Luna Moth on Apple Tree

Luna Moth on Apple Tree


I also just spotted¬†my first Japanese beetle on a plant yesterday – it happen to be a watermelon plant in a single container. Those beetles, I pick up with my hands and squish¬†on the ground under foot. ¬†They never scare me – even when they grab tightly onto my fingers. ¬†I guess this is because my father would pick them from his garden plants and put them in a jar – another memory from childhood – and sometimes, I would help him collect the beetles. ¬†I also would¬†chase my younger sister, Louise, around in our¬†pool, when I would find Japanese beetles in our pool too – and she would screech at the sight of them. ¬†She told me this game as children¬†put a fear of those beetles in her for a lifetime – oh well, the things we do when we are kids – LOL! However, she also practices the “pick and squish” method in her own vegetable garden for insects not so scary to her.

East Windsor Farmers Market

East Windsor Farmers Market


Last week, all bugs aside, I was featured as a guest speaker at the East Windsor Farmers Market on their opening day. Their market runs from now until October, on Sundays, 11 am to 2 pm, at the Trolley Museum off Rt 140.

My niece came for a visit Рshe loves to help me at the markets with my plants Рand I love having her there.  We were goofing around, taking silly photos, and coincidentally, had matching blue shirts on.

See the next photo – this was my building at the market – pretty cool, huh?

Nope, just kidding Рit was some sort of very old structure from the Trolley Museum next to my table setup.  I never got a chance to ask them what is was about, but it was sort of cool looking.  (BTW, if you go there, go see the old trolleys and even a few other interesting vehicles, such as airport shuttle buses built, but they were never installed at Bradley airport.)

The other cool thing about going to the market at this location is kids and family can take trolley rides on antique trolley cars as part of their day.  And, I did not know this Рbut there is a little movie theater inside the trolley museum building too Рalong with old cool trolley pics and more Рso if you go, be sure to go inside as well as visit all the new vendors at this growing market in a great location Рpicnic tables and all.

Old Structure at the Trolley Museum

Old Structure at the Trolley Museum


After the weekend, one of my first priorities was to update my client’s business store front with some red-white-and blues for the holiday and put a nice mix of succulents in the container gardens. ¬†Cactic and succulents can be a little tricky to plant if they have spines and needles. ¬†Just be sure to wear thick gloves and handle it by the root ball – and with some practice, you won’t get pinned, stuck, or aggravated by tiny spines. ¬†I will say this however, whomever is putting their cigarette butts in my container gardens at this location – you will find a little surprise this time (hee-hee!). Fortunately, insects tend to not bother cacti and succulents much based on my experience, so they are useful for the non-insect people.

Client Barrels Decorated for the 4th

Client Barrels Decorated for the 4th

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Oh by the way, what are these ugly critters below? ¬†Saw these on a weed plant, so I pulled¬†the plant out of the ground and took it to the chicken coop for the hens to deal with. ¬†That’s another way to deal with insects. ¬†Recycle to the coop…

More aphids or not??

More aphids or not??

Cathy Testa


Condensed List- What You Can Do:

  1. Pick, Squish, Toss
  2. Prune away Plant Parts with Insects and Toss
  3. Pull Plant; Feed to Chickens
  4. Hose off with Strong Spray of Water
  5. Chase your Younger Sister around with them
  6. Lightly spray with Insecticide specific for plant and insects
  7. Get natural predators, like ladybugs and release near pest insects

Happy 4th of July Weekend Everyone – Hope it is filled with food, family, fun – and not many critters!

4th Photo Courtesy of, by nuttakit

4th Photo Courtesy of, by nuttakit

Minis and Markets – This Weekend in East Windsor, CT

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Happy Friday Everyone,

Looks like an amazing weekend coming up with the weather predicted to be beautiful and sunny – and tons of summer related events to enjoy.


Two on the agenda this weekend for ContainerCrazyCT is a Miniature Gardens Workshop hosted by Cathy T with guest speaker Rhonda Niles of Gardening Inspirations. ¬†It is scheduled for June 28th, Saturday, 11:00 am to 1 pm, in Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT. ¬†Want to join us?? – You can! ¬†Lots of details have been posted on Cathy T’s Facebook page, and links on this blog. ¬†See Cathy T Classes above for more information.

For more inspirations and ideas of what you could potentially create at this workshop, check out my Pinterest Board:


And on Sunday, June 29th, Cathy T will be joining other vendors and guests at the East Windsor Farmers Market on Opening Day at the Trolley Museum grounds.

This is the second year for this market – if you are local, please support this market so it will grow for all of us. ¬†Lots of good fresh food, BACKTRAX BAND providing musical entertainment, and Cathy T will be presenting on “Incorporating Edibles in Mixed Container Gardens.” ¬†This talk also includes interesting details about how EDIBLES are hotter than ever and growing in popularity now and for the past six straight years.

Edibles Mixed Planter with Tomatillo in Center as Thriller

Edibles Mixed Planter with Tomatillo in Center as Thriller


And at the market, Cathy T will have select succulent plants for sale, this is your last chance to get some to fill in your planters at home too.  From tiny and adorable Sedums to big and chunky cacti.  Succulents are perfect for planters in the sun, requiring minimal watering, can be left alone when on a vacation, and last for years indoors as houseplants during fall and winter months.  Come learn about them, and edibles on Sunday at the East Windsor Farmers Market.


Don’t forget to also check out the upcoming “Walk and Talk Home Gardens” day in July on “Pondering Ponds.” ¬†See the menu bar above on this blog for all the details. The one in July will showcase an homeowner’s¬†amazing pond creation in Enfield, CT. ¬†Note the date now so you won’t miss this: ¬†July 19th, 10:00 am. ¬†The walk and talks are free to attend.

Planter with succulents by Cathy T

Planter with succulents by Cathy T

Enjoy your weekend everyone.  Hope to see you soon.

Cathy Testa