Evey Conroy-Thompson with the F1 Sungold tomato plant in Ryde and, inset, some of the fruit. Picture by Bruce Thompson.
GARDENING THERE is just something about giant fruit and vegetables that fascinates people.
It isn’t just the tallest sunflower or the mightiest pumpkin, the longest leek or carrot or chubbiest cabbage.
News reaches me all the time of hollyhocks reaching for the stars, a potato the shape and weight of a baby seal and a runner bean the length of a shin-bone.
Bruce Thompson’s contribution is no exception to the rule of big being beautiful.
He lives in the shadow of Ryde’s Holy Trinity Church, a place I hold in childhood memory.
As a horrible Caversham House (now Dover Park) pupil, I would dart inside the front door and haul on the church bell-rope leaving my flat-footed friend to be caught. Sorry, Dougal.
But Bruce’s efforts have definitely not been flat footed.
Bruce and his nine-year-old daughter, Evey Conroy-Thompson, planted four tomato varieties but it is F1 Sungold which has really taken off.
They are all planted in the same conditions but Sungold is now nearly 12ft tall, a plant of almost commercial hydroponic glasshouse proportion, aided no doubt by the sunniest summer for seven years.
Bruce, who also sent me some great photographs of Holy Trinity’s resident peregrine falcons, has no special hints — other than using a standard liquid tomato feed.
It continues to be a great year for tomatoes, whether outdoors or under cover, which I have always preferred because the skins, which my mother would laboriously peel off, before adding salt, are always more tender.
Bruce and Evey’s Sungold could not be confused with my diminutive Losetto from Thompson & Morgan, which I planted without reading the label.
While it has proved a nuisance — bushing out instead of shooting up — and made my greenhouse look even more untidy, I can report it has delicious taste with a nice tomato-taste ‘bite’.
Now I read the description, I know it belongs in a basket, from where it can cascade, or in a tub. It is trumpeted as the first of its kind with blight resistance.
It is said to have a height and spread of 1ft but I would say that is conservative.
I did allow a solitary self-sown plant to grow on to maturity — and what a gardeners’ delight it has proved.
No, it’s not the variety of that name, which is one of my favourites, but Blondkopf-chen, an heirloom tomato which I last planted two seasons ago. It was something of a surprise to see it as I change the soil in the greenhouse each year.
The name of this little cherry tomato means ‘little blonde girl’ and it is aptly named because it appeals to children who don’t like a ‘tomatoey’ taste.
Organic tomato seeds supplied by TomatoFest produce a big yield of grape-sized, brilliant yellow/gold, cherry tomatoes in large clusters of 20 to 30. The vines are large and sprawling, so give them plenty of space.
They are one of the few internet enterprises to market this little gem.
Blondkopfchen has the added advantages of being a non-cracking, disease resistant tomato variety that grows well in most climates.
To complete the tomato colour spectrum this year, I tried a new introduction from Thompson&Morgan, which adds even more interest to my salad, if that were possible.
Tomato Rainbow Blend, at £2.99 for a packet of just eight seeds, is on a par with Losetto for high price but it has proved its worth.
As it says in the description — juicy, sweet and colourful — and the Rainbow tomatoes are just that.
The baby plum fruits have a delicious flavour and a high level of sweetness — good texture too. There is nothing worse than a ‘woolly’ tomato.
Tomato Rainbow Blend comprises four varieties in a bright range of colours: Katiebell (yellow); Lizziebell (orange); Luciebell (red) and Flamingo (pink).
How to dry hydrangeas
MY READERS never let me down.
I appealed, on behalf of Ian Campbell, for tips on drying hydrangeas and this appeared from Carol Woodmore:
“Cut hydrangeas in September before they start to die off, put in a vase with 2ins of water, and leave until the water has gone. Take out, tie with string and hang for a few weeks until they are dried out. The flower heads can then be used for decoration.”
I have also got a few leads in Bill Shepard’s quest to find an Island Sorbus service tree but maybe more on that later.
No special treatment for Susan’s monster
SOME weeks ago Susan Arthur contacted me with news of her monster cabbage, which was on display at the A. B. Greengrocers’ shop at the top end of Ryde High Street.
When picked, it weighed an impressive 6lb 12oz.
But that is a tiddler on the world stage — the record is 138.25lb. Nonetheless, it was impressive.
She gave it no special attention, just popped in the ground and it grew and grew, like topsy.
While talking brassicas, Alan Stroud points to his crop being entirely free of the club-root curse this year. He wonders why.
The spores of this disease are long-lived and the best way of avoiding the problem is to grow brassicas on fresh soil, although adding lime to an infected patch to raise the ph has been found partially effective.