In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2012
Regional Report

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Black tomatoes! Why not try them in your own garden?

Try Something New!

I was cruising around Golden Nursery in San Mateo last weekend with a friend when I came across some gorgeous black tomatoes growing on a trellis! The looked like gigantic South Sea pearls clinging to a vine. I found the owner of the nursery, who told me they had been developed by the University of Oregon a few years ago. He said they have intense tomato flavor, with skin that is not tough at all, but tender like a cherry tomato, and most surprising, when you cut them open they are a rich ruby red on the inside. I asked him if he sold many this past season and he said "No, but the people who grew them were very excited". He expected to sell many more next spring.

Which brings up the point of my column for this week. Researchers are coming up with new, improved varieties of plants every year to enrich our gardens and improve our success rates. The Wave petunia is a perfect example. For years we were stuck with the same old petunias that performed exactly as expected. When the new Wave varieties were introduced they were planted in demonstration gardens to get the word out and prove to the public that this indeed might be a desirable plant to try. Once people saw the brilliant colors and the amazing spread of this fantastic new variety, sales went through the roof.

Many of us, myself included I'm sorry to say, tend to stick with the same old thing year after year. I say it's time for a change! There is still time to dedicate a small portion of your garden as the "experimental section" where you can plant and evaluate something you have never tried before. How about a chartreuse cauliflower? Or some ruffly ornamental cabbage perhaps? Bulb planting time is just around the corner, so why not try some frilly parrot tulips or tiny clusianas? Seed catalogs and mail-order plant nurseries have amazing things available for you to try. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Petaluma even offers seeds for a blue squash! Imagine what your neighbors would say if they saw something like that growing in your vegetable patch!

With fall planting season just coming to its peak, this is the ideal time to visit your local nursery and, just for the heck of it, select something you have never grown before. Try perennials such as Verbena rigida or gaura, delightful background plants that are well suited to our dry climate and will eventually spread a riot of color throughout a forgotten corner.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and you will help keep those mad scientists working on new varieties to delight us in the future!


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