THIS - this - is the time of year that I love the best. Wherever I look there is a garden task to be done - planting, transplanting, labeling, planning, mowing (well, I don't love mowing) - but you get the idea. I can dabble. My wife Susan is really disciplined - that is why she is such a good quilter and knitter. I like to work on something for half an hour, the move on to something different, eventually accomplishing what I need, but in a rather scattered way.
Yesterday I listed the family heirloom tomatoes that I will be fortunate to try this year. Now comes the list of varieties that will be used as pollen to cross with some of the dwarf varieties to introduce some unique and interesting characteristics. I did lots of crosses last year and had a success rate of about 25% - but that also meant 25 new hybrids (that list will come next).
Here are the true garden oddities, and some perhaps not so odd but carrying something interesting and valuable, that are up and growing, soon to donate their pollen to my own particular brand of garden science.
- Stick - this is the true weirdo of the tomato world, with foliage that is like bunched kale along the stem. aka the "poodle" tomato. The tomatoes are medium small, round and red.
- Rose Quartz - this pink cherry has multiflora characteristics - sprays of hundreds of blossoms, not all of which, but many, set fruit.
- Variegated (both my accession, and one from a gardening friend Belinda) - the foliage is variegated green and white, the tomatoes medium small, round and red.
- Honor Bright (aka Lutescent, one from Victory, one from the USDA). This 1890s Livingston variety appeared as a mutation; the foliage is a yellowish color, the unripe fruit go green to white, to orange to red. It lasted in catalogs for a surprisingly long time.
- Surprise - this appeared in a variety from a seed saver named Turkey Chomp some years ago. It has potato leaf foliage that turns yellowish, just like Honor Bright - the fruit, which are large and oblate, go from green to white, then orange, then red.
- Carrot Like (aka Silvery Fir Tree) - this Russian variety that I got to see growing at the Seed Savers garden my first visit there in the early 1990s, is a determinate variety with small to medium red fruit and finely divided, "carrot-like" foliage.
- Blue P20 (the original high anthocynanin variety) - though the fruit don't taste very good, where exposed to the sun the tomato is blackish blue.
- Red Robin - this is the first of the micro dwarfs, growing a foot tall and producing red cherry tomatoes.
- Everglades (from a friend Melissa in Florida) - supposedly very successful in hot, humid Florida, it seems perfect to cross with dwarfs to see if we can get some that survive well there.
Once these get some size to them, I will post some pictures of their unusual growth characteristics.
I've not completely thought through what I will be doing as far as crosses. But pondering dwarf varieties with variegated foliage, the weird poodle type leaf shape of Stick, the ferny foliage of Carrot Like, the yellow foliage of Honor Bright and Surprise, the blue tinted fruit from the P20, and multiflora fruiting characteristics for higher yield are all of interest to me. I suspect some of these are in progress by other amateur plant breeders; that's OK - I love to follow my own path and see things for myself.
Once we have dwarfs with some of these peculiar traits, we can then combine them - for example, a ferny potato leaf dwarf with yellowish foliage that has multiflora characteristics, and striped fruit - and let's throw in variegated foliage...why not! Of course, we are talking years of crosses and research. That's fine - I want to be playing with this type of project for as long as I can garden.
Just a few pics to show what things look like in the driveway, and in the garage.