GARDENiNG:The greatest show on Earth
To most people, a garden is a company of plants - one that may include flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables, landscaping, architectural oddities or just using the natural features of the land. A garden can be created with artful expression, such as an herb garden or a water garden that speaks of tranquility and unique beauty, and formal gardens can be traced back to centuries of study and intrigue. The term ‘’to garden’’ itself describes the activity in which the person is performing the care and nurturing of the assemblage of particular flora, with the goal to attain greatest result. But, consider for a moment the vegetation itself. Why don’t plants receive credit for any of the success even though the performance they give is usually thought of as a series of acts choreographed and credited to the gardener. Do plants get to have any individual input?
The idea that plants may have their own side of the story may seem a little far-fetched. I would never have believed it myself until I saw it with my own eyes: I think that plants are here not just to feed or inspire us, but to entertain us too!
The tomato trapeze
Perhaps one of the craziest ideas man ever came up with was growing upside down tomatoes from a hanging pot. The first time I tried one of those kits I had disastrous results, the pot all but burst from the weight of the growing plants and poking the plant thru the little holes was something akin to threading a wet wool sock through a small needle. The plants from the nursery were not co-operative and sadly, many were sacrificed.
Regular-sized tomatoes are simply too hefty for upside down antics, so I went for a smaller size everything: a 12-inch coir pot with a cocoa liner and SunGold cherry tomatoes.
In just five weeks one plant had five tomatoes and one had six. They are perfectly happy to hang upside down, like true acrobats. The directions say to water every day since the excess water drains out, so I keep an overturned water bottle on them on hot days.
One miniature, nonedible compact basil is tucked in as companion plant and not the two or three marigolds as the directions recommended, and thus far, not a single leaf has been harmed by insects. Outcome: do not try to stuff too many plants in your hanging baskets; the tomato trapeze is competing for nutrients and your applause.
The pole bean act
One day you will be going out to the garden to pick some fresh beans for supper only to find they are all hanging from one pole. What is this? Visiting beans? The bean-nook? Kentucky Wonder Beans are aptly named, for up one pole and over to the next they jump to visit the beans growing on the pole next door. Who knew there was such a thing as gregarious beans, stealthily leaving their designated 8-foot pole and, like aspiring gymnasts, they spring from pole to pole with the greatest of ease.
The energy they must expend to perform this feat is considerable. The only problem is that now they’ve run out of pole to climb and they are waving at us from the tippity- top as if to say ‘’raise the damn bar!’’ Like true Olympians, pole beans are full of surprises and always reaching for new heights.
Flying pumpkin extraordinaire
We have several pumpkins this year that are showing great promise out of the dozen or so we planted on our small lot.
Our pumpkins are grown ‘’free range’’ style and allowed to roam where they please. Meanwhile, 20 feet away were the tomato plants - the serious crop of hefty Romas and heirlooms intended for winter soups, sun-drying and sauces. These tomato plants were growing up nicely in cages purchased from the local nursery to help keep their weighted yield supported. The cages are made of sturdy metal and almost 4 feet high but soon growing this tall was not much of a challenge for these robust tomato athletes, and up one side and over the top of their cages they hurdled like professional steeplechasers.
One of the little pumpkin vines crept over to a tomato cage and decided it might be fun to climb it, so up it went to the very top and hung for a bit, perhaps it was tired from all of the exuberant tendrilling and roaming about. Soon, a small green pumpkin emerged and this is when it became stuck.
The little pumpkin grew larger, hanging suspended from the top of the vine and growing larger and larger, stretching on its strings like two weak little arms trying to do a chin-up.
The more the pumpkin stretched and curled its tendrils around the cage, the more it closed in the trap; alas, it could not escape the tomato stockade.
The tomato plant now sharing its space with a growing pumpkin was not happy at first but soon adapted by growing up and above while nurturing the hidden pumpkin. How much weight will the cage be able to withstand?
The pumpkin has now grown to almost 6 pounds and the tomato cage is maxed, ready to collapse. The pumpkin desperately throws out more spiraling tendrils onto the cage and out to surrounding plants, trying to protect itself from falling to the ground. Will it make it to the finish? This pumpkin has never touched the earth; indeed, it may very well be the world’s first flying pumpkin!
Sunflowers stand about gangly and tall, they are the gleeful commentators on all of the garden shenanigans with their big, smiling faces. Step right up; come one come all, this garden is really a circus.’