As soon as I got the e-mail about the sale, I circled the date, Friday, April 20, in red on my calendar. A first-timer to attend such a sale, I was excited like a child. In fact, my family members could tell how important this day apparently was to me as I kept mentioning it at any given chance. This day, by the way, is when the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia held the annual Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale. Not that anyone commented, but what made my over enthusiasm seem somewhat funny is that I hardly ever grow tomatoes.
Nevertheless, I reached the county museum, the venue of the sale, a little earlier than the announced time, only to find several folks already browsing seriously, quite a few with shopping lists on hand, at the neatly arranged and labeled flats of seedlings. Speaking of which, I had done my homework ahead of time too from the detailed, descriptive list sent by the historical society of the various plants offered for sale accompanied with colored pictures.
The task of deciding was, by no means easy, for there were over 40 varieties of tomatoes to select from, in addition to several kinds of peppers, basils, an okra called cow horn okra and some very unusual plants. Though I tried to stick to my list, the opportunity of getting such unique plants didn’t seem likely. So, happily, I brought home a tray full of healthy seedlings which have slowly found a home in our garden - some in containers, some in beds, even between flowers and the shrubs.
Of the dozens of tomato varieties, I decided to get “Tiny Tim”, a pint-sized cherry tomato plant, developed by the University of North Hampshire in 1945, which is, as the name implies, fit for a basket or a window box, one called “Persimmon” grown by Thomas Jefferson in 1781, which definitely needs more space as the fruit the plants bear are fairly large. Another variety I chose is named “Silvery Fir Tree”; supposed to be quite ornamental – this Russian determinate dwarf type has grey-blue fern-like foliage with silver shimmer.
Two other plants that I couldn’t help adding into my “cardboard shopping cart” are not only heirloom but hard-to-find as well, and therefore, seemed too good to pass up. They are “Love Lies Bleeding” and the “Sensitive Plant”; since I have not grown either of these before, I guess I will save my findings for a future column. So, do stay tuned!