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! 🙂

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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 – Are 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 – and 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 – The foliage will turn black and soft – and 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 – pruning 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 – the material of the pot is pretty tough – but 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 – believe me – they 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 – YUCK! That was a first – and 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 – ACK.  Out to the garbage can it went – and 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 – talk about stunning.

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

Opposite each other on the color wheel – are blue and orange – talk 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 – I 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 – well, wow – what 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 – you may try two things – place 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 – this 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 – she loves to help me at the markets with my plants – and 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 – it 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 – but there is a little movie theater inside the trolley museum building too – along with old cool trolley pics and more – so if you go, be sure to go inside as well as visit all the new vendors at this growing market in a great location – picnic 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


Cathy T at the Ellington Farmers Market – Edibles, Succulents, and More


Good Morning Everyone,

In June of 2009, I was interviewed by Sarah Martinez for “Garden Center Magazine” about my Container Garden Parties at people’s homes, and one statement I made to her at that time was, “Holding these parties at people’s homes is a lot of work – but I enjoy it.”

Well, the same holds true today.

Last weekend, Cathy T’s Big Container Garden Party (Class) was held, and the plant feature was succulents, alpines and tropical plants – and again – it was a lot of work to setup, but so much fun.  Being with a group of attendees interested in creating and learning – well, it can not be beat.

Attendees listening to Cathy T's Tips

Attendees listening to Cathy T’s Tips

The opportunity to share what I have learned over the years about Container Gardens and plants presents itself again at the Ellington Farmers Market today in Arbor Park on Main Street in Ellington, CT.

Come see me at 10:00 am in the gazebo. (Note:  There are 2 gazebo’s on the property, one will have musicians, the other along Main Street is where I will be on the farmers market grounds.)

The market opens at 9:00 am and closes by noon.  It will be a fast paced day filled with goodies – including a talk on “Decorative Edibles in mixed Container Gardens” by me.  I hope to see you there today.

And because I have beautiful succulents and alpines in stock, I will have those available for sale too.  If you haven’t completed planting up your container gardens and patio pots – come see the goodies available.

Succulents, Alpines, and Cacti

Succulents are plants with thick and strong leaves and stems.  Because they are designed to store water during periods of drought – they are tough little plants.  Some are dainty and others offer bold and strong architectural forms.

Cacti are similar to succulents; they store water in their stems.  Some have areoles with spines, so they can be very strong and even dangerous if not handled appropriately, but so worth it in my opinion, for many offer values in design compositions in container gardens.

In my class last weekend, I went over the 7 ‘Must Not Do’s’ with Succulents, so if you want to know what those are – see me today or sign up for a future class.

Oh and alpines – well, they are just adorable little plants popular to use in rock garden settings, as ground covers, and in crevices — and of course, in big or small container gardens.  This small wired basket is a creation by an attendee last weekend, Linda.  Isn’t it as sweet as ever – so small but so cute.

A dainty creation with alpines by an attendee

A dainty creation with alpines and herbs by an attendee

Sometimes you get inspired when you work with small plants too.  Yesterday, I took snips and cuttings of various succulents and alpines to create this adorable, dainty tea cup embellishment for a table.  Want to give it a try?  All supplies, the vintage bone china tea cups, plants, and instructions will be available at the market at the gazebo.

Cuttings of Succulents in Vintage Tea Cups

Cuttings of Succulents in Vintage Tea Cups

The tea cup plate and cup on the left, by the way, will be available for purchase. These cups go for $20-25 dollars on eBay – I will have them for a deal at a limited supply so if you want one, arrive early before they are all sold out.

But succulents, as noted above, can be very edge looking, and another attendee at the class scored an amazing container – check this out!  Topped with a very large Sempervirens (Hens and Chick), alone it makes a statement.  Her tall silver GARDEN container will rock it outdoors, and is easily moved indoors over the winter if desired.  I think it was my favorite container style brought by an attendee this year – so fun to see what they find and design in class.

Lisa's GARDEN container rules!

Lisa’s GARDEN container rules!

Succulents and cacti offer extremely different ranges of forms and textures.  Take the Faucaria tuberculosa on the left in the photo below.  This plant is a South African native and has the most interesting triangular leaves and it is a soft silvery blue color. This looks great with darker toned succulents in a pot, but it is also a neat form to work with.  It is a Zones 10-11 plant so perfect for the heat of summer and as a house plant in winter.  It is very easy to grow and will bloom yellow flowers in late summer.  The common name is Pebbled Tiger Jaws – perfect name, I would say.

Awesome forms and textures

Awesome forms and textures

And check out the plant on the right – Gasterworthia ‘American Beauty’ – it is NEW on the scene.  This is a hybrid of Gasteria and Haworthia pumila (maxima) grown by local growers in CT – and the rosette is stunning – patterned with spotting on the leaves. It is shooting up yellow flowers right now.  Both will be available for sale today at the market, along with many other types.

Two Types of Jades

Two Types of Jades

The plant with red edged leaves is a Jade plant by the name of Crassula arborescens – also NEW on the scene.  How can you resist this plant? – it has fleshy, blue-gray foliage and stands upright but full and mounded too.  It eventually grows to 3 to 4 feet wide, and I think they are stunning.  Also, a common Jade (as seen in the background), Crassula ovata, is in this photo – a common houseplant which I think looks amazing in head planters.  Go see my Container Garden Collages for photos of a red head pot to see.

Hens and Chics

Hens and Chics

These are just ‘sneak peeks’ of today’s plant features.  Echeverias with a variety of colors and fleshy leaves tinged with colored edges will be available too.  The Genus name is named after an 18th century Mexican botanical artist, Atanasio Echeveria y Godoy – now you know why they are called Echeverias (a.k.a., Hens and Chicks).  And be on the look out for Agaves, Aloes, Kalanchoes, and other’s.

But now it’s time for me to sign-off and get ready for my day.

See you there,

Cathy Testa



A Succulent of a Different Kind is Rescued – Aeonium arboreum


I recently rescued an Aeonium suffering in the confines of a small square terracotta pot at a garden center.  It was tucked on the floor below potting benches where it stood solo with no others like it nearby.  Spotting its dish plate sized rosette, I stopped to look it over.

Hand shows size of  rosette

Hand shows size of rosette

It was apparent this showy and tall succulent plant had been sitting there for a very long time.  The pot it was growing in was very small, much smaller than the diameter of the plant’s terminal rosette which was growing from a single stem of 15 inches tall.  And although the plant looked great overall with no signs of problems, the pot was tattered and was barely holding up this plant.

This particular succulent could easily be overlooked at the garden center if you are not a scouter of plants, such as I am.  Additionally, there was no plant label in the pot, so if you are unfamiliar with this different kind of succulent, you may have decided to leave it where it sat. However, I decided to return to the garden center to go get it and bring it home.

Original Pot - Ready to be Potted Up

Original Pot – Ready to be Potted Up

I instinctively assumed it was a variety called, Aeonium arboretum ‘Zwartkop’ or Aeonium arboretum var. artopurpureum, because of its dark plum colored foliage, but now I am not sure.  Only because the rosette is so large, I thought perhaps it is a cultivar unknown to me, or just a very mature ‘Zwartkop’ growing for some time.

Either way, the technical plant name is of no matter because the large size of the plant’s rosette is so spectacular, I know it will be a showcase in a container garden at my home this summer.

Potting It Up into a New Home

These plants should be repotted every two to three years. When Aeoniums get pot bound, they may send out additional aerial roots from the base of their stem, which was the case with mine.

The new pot selected should be a size up in diameter of the existing pot, or the plant itself.  Or it can go into a larger container garden with other mixed succulents sharing the same exposure and soil preferences. Either way, the container must have a drain hole, or perhaps two or three, for free drainage of water through the soil profile.

It helps to keep the soil moisture level regular for Aeoniums because their roots are fine and can dry out easily.  This is not to imply you should over water the plant. You do not want soggy soils for any succulents because they have the tendency to rot at the base when the soil is wet.  Most succulents or cacti can handle heat, drought, and dry soils from time to time because they store moisture in their leaves or stems during drought periods – which this one does, but it also is a bit different in regards to moisture levels because of its fine root system.

New Glazed Pot and Soil Mix

New Glazed Pot and Soil Mix

To help keep the soil at its best, use quality, fresh soilless mix specifically for container gardening or patio pots.  You may use soil mix labeled for growing cacti, but Aeoniums can also grow in regular potting mix for containers because it likes a bit of regular moisture.

Be careful when moving the plant to be repotted so you won’t bump into anything.  Gently remove it from the pot by holding the base of the stem.  The stem of this plant is fairly strong, but you do not want to risk damaging it during the repotting process.

As I removed it from the terracotta pot, it was very apparent there were some critters in the soil, such as sow bugs and centipedes.  These bugs like warm moist locations in the soil. I wanted to eliminate them as much as possible, so I gently removed away most of the soil from the plant’s root system.

Removing, inspecting the soil, and seeing the sow bugs

Removing, inspecting the soil, and seeing the sow bugs

In addition to seeing critters in the soil, there was an indication the soil was not taking in moisture anymore.  When potting soil is not renewed, it can actually repel water.  The soil in its original pot was moist only around the edges, and not in the center, so it was not permeating through completely.  It was just another indication the plant needed a new fresh growing environment.

Filling my new glazed pot almost to the top (about 2” from the rim) of fresh potting mix is the process I typically follow when potting up plants.  After it is full, I scoop out some of the soil to make a nice comfy pocket for the plant being transplanted.

Some people may fill the pot halfway with soil, place the plant in there, and then fill around the plant by adding soil up the rest of the way in the pot – but I prefer to make a pocket so the roots come into contact all the way around the plant.

Holding it down with stones

Holding it down with stones

This pocket process was especially important for this Aeonium because the rosette is so large, it was a little top heavy – especially because I removed the old soil from the roots.  To secure the plant better, I placed two large stones on top of the soil, adding a bit of weight there to help keep it stable until roots take hold.

I also added some slow-release fertilizer to the soil, and lightly mixed it into the top.  Always water any transplanted plants right after you are done.  Don’t leave it until later to give it a sprinkling of water – it will help to awaken the roots to the new fresh soil and get them established.

In a shady spot to drain after lightly watering in

In a shady spot to drain after lightly watering in

Succulents are Easy to Grow

Succulents can handle heat and drought, but as mentioned above, this species prefers some light shade for part of the day as it doesn’t really like super hot summers or very humid weather.  They like a mild cool weather which may seem odd because many people think of succulents as heat lovers, but some do well in moderately cool weather, and Aeoniums are one of them.

If you see the leaves curl when this plant is outdoors in summer, it may be an indication you have it located in too hot of a spot.  Relocate it to where it gets a break from the heat, a part-sun area or where it will get bright sunlight such as under a patio umbrella, and all will be fine.  And also remember, moving any tropical like plants outdoors after being inside for the winter should be done so with care – putting them in a shady spot for a day or so.  Foliage can burn when put into direct sun immediately.

The many different textures and forms of succulents are fun to combine in mixed container gardens and patio pots.  And ‘Zwartkop’ cultivars are especially useful because they have a dark coloring which works nicely against other light colored succulents, from the soft silvers of Agaves and Senecios, to bright yellows typically seen on succulent plants, such as Sedums.

The older, lower leaves on most Aeoniums will wither and fall off.  If they turn yellow and are unsightly, you can easily snip them off with a pair of common household scissors before they drop if you prefer – and sometimes they pull off easily by hand.

Tight Rosette in the Center

Tight Rosette in the Center

The top of the rosette stays tight in the center, and the foliage directly below it is usually more spaced out.  A lovely feature is the very center of the rosette.  It can have a tone of yellow or green, more prevalent when the plant is grown in part shade.  When in full sun, the coloring is more on the darker plum to black side.  Water droplets on this plant’s rubbery foliage can be very pretty too.

Different Growing Habits

Aeonium plants may be trained into looking like a topiary by removing side branches, such as the one I took home, and some cultivars grow very low to the ground.  They also grow like a shrub with side branches reaching out from the main stem with rosettes appearing on their tips.

The dramatic shape of the rosettes is useful in container gardens, adding interest and uniqueness to a composition.  And the branches offers an architectural appeal as well, resembling a large bonsai form.  And if you are lucky, you will see their amazing blooms.

I have yet to see an Aeonium bloom from my prior stock of these succulents because I usually get them when they are young plants.  Blooms grow on mature plants. The blooms are an excellent yellow color which contrast nicely against its attractive dark colored foliage.  But witnessing a blooming show has a double-edge sword because some succulent plants will die after they bloom.

To see the different growth habits and blooms of this interesting succulent, see my Pinterest board titled, “Succulent Sensations!” which is filled with examples.

Making More Plants

Propagating this plant is an easy process to do, so long as you are patient enough to wait for it to root and start a new plant.

Snip off rosettes with about 5-6” inches of the stem intact (still attached) with a clean sharp knife, and insert it into a small pot of fresh soil to take root.  This should be done during the active growing period of Aeoniums for it to be successful.

If your Aeonium has many branches, you have the capability to start a whole family of them by snipping and inserting cut stems into soil.  It helps if you allow the cutting to sit for 24 hours to dry a bit before inserting it into the soil, or just set it on newspaper to sit overnight.

The soil for the cuttings may be regular potting mix or one amended with fine sand and drainage material – but I find either works easily.  Moisten the soil before inserting the cut stem into it so it is slightly moist.  Cuttings can also be inserted into container gardens mixed with other plants in fresh soil – it will eventually take root.  This is a great way to capitalize on your purchase of an Aeonium, or other succulents easily propagated by cuttings.

By the way, Aeonium is pronounced like ay-OO-nee-um.  Get practicing so when you show off your specimen, you will sound like a pro.  Or you can just refer to it as a black rose succulent or black tree succulent.

Written by Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 cell

Hardiness Zone:  9 or warmer; grown as a tender perennial in Connecticut during the summers, and as an indoor house plant in the winters.

Upcoming Cathy T Class:

To learn more, register for Cathy T’s “Big Container Garden Party (Class)” on Saturday, May 24th – there’s still time to sign-up!  See “Garden Talks” on the menu of this blog for more information.  Succulents will be the key feature for this class.  Some Aeoniums will be available too.

Returned Inside Until Temps Warm Outside

Returned Inside Until Temps Warm Outside