I’m getting picky about the tomatoes I grow. But wouldn’t you know it — in the hundreds of tomatoes in seed catalogues, it’s not easy to find exactly what I’m after.
I hope you won’t abandon me when I say I want to grow tomatoes for ornamental display. Of course, I’ll use the fruits and enjoy them, but I want the plants for containers, combined with flowering summer annuals like nasturtiums, cascading verbena and black-eyed Susan vines (Thunbergia alata). Many modern cultivars are vining (indeterminate) types, but I want upright, self-supporting (determinate) plants with limited height, between 16 and 24 inches (40 and 60 cm) tall. And I don’t want small, marble-size berries in trusses that look all bunched up like grapes. I want the little tomatoes to be cocktail size, about 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) in diameter, and reasonably spread out in a spray that displays each fruit. And it wouldn’t hurt if they had an intriguing feature, like shape (possibly pear or plum) or a colour detail (such as striped or purple). See what I mean? Picky.
Already the field of selection is considerably narrowed. The plants I have in mind should be dwarf in size, and are often listed as patio types for containers. Stokes Seeds (stokeseeds.com) has the Tumbling series—‘Tumbler Hybrid’, ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ and ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’—that have the right-size fruits, and can exist in a six-inch (15-cm) pot and cascade down. Good for hanging baskets, but too small for what I have in mind. Twelve-inch (30-cm) tall ‘Sweet n’ Neat Scarlet’ is too short, with small, sweet olive-size fruit. ‘Terenzo’ might be a good candidate. It grows from 16 to 20 inches (45 to 50 cm) tall with cocktail-size fruit with a tolerance to cracking.
Over at Dam Seeds (damseeds.com) I found ‘Siderno Hybrid’, 18 inches (45 cm) tall, with golf ball-sized fruits. Perfect height, but how big is a golf ball? Well, certainly it’s larger than a grape! This tomato was developed in Germany, and the catalogue says their trial plant had more fruit than foliage. Would that be too many tomatoes on a small plant? Dam also has ‘Totem’, only 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) tall with disproportionately large 1 ½-inch (3.5-cm) tomatoes, making it a great producer, but too short, and those weighty fruits might require support.
Finally, at Veseys Seeds I found what might satisfy this picky gardener. ‘Window Box Roma’ grows to 18 inches (45 cm) and has bright red, plum-type fruit in clusters of three and four that, from a distance, resemble hibiscus flowers. They look charming in the picture; not too crowded and quite ornamental. This is the one!
Think what you will of me, but I’ve found the perfect tomato for this year’s containers.