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THE TULIP/TOMATO TANGO STORY FROM WHITE FLOWER FARM
The tango is a dance that depends on placement and timing to produce a graceful and evocative collaboration quite different from some of today's dance styles. To be successful, tango dancers choose their partners with care and practice patiently. While it may seem a bit of a stretch, White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) has identified a garden collaboration that has some of the same charm.
Three years back, a wet fall found the owner of White Flower Farm short of time and space when crates of new trial tulips needed to go in the ground. A hard frost had just struck down several dozen tomato plants that were themselves part trial and part delicatessen. He dug them out, turned the soil with some rich compost, and dropped the tulip bulbs into the same ground, making a virtue (he hoped) of a necessity.
The tulips thrived, making a brave show the next spring in a spot used to more utilitarian tenants, and Mr. Pettingill took credit for a design breakthrough, although he thought this needed further testing. When the tulips went by in late May, there were more tomato varieties needing to pass their A levels, and the switch was made in reverse, with a minimum of effort and preparation; tulips out, tomatoes in. Weather, soil temperatures, and site requirements are ideally matched.
The following spring, White Flower Farm extended the concept by tucking tomato plants into many of the holes vacated by tulips, with considerable success. No, it doesn't work everywhere because healthy tomato plants are often 5 feet tall, 3 wide and don't belong in mixed borders or tightly composed designs. But, we have found almost NO situation where tulips don't offer a standout performance in the space previously selected for tomatoes, including vegetable gardens, window boxes, formal parterres, and containers of all kinds.
For a few bucks, and a few moments effort, you can transform an otherwise vacant lot into a stunning spring display that can be admired or cut for the house as your choice of varieties and density may dictate. Accordingly, we offer the following thought to the many kind souls who purchased tomatoes from us this spring.
With the end of the summer almost upon us, do take a hard look at your tomato planting, then visualize the ground when the plants are gone. If the spring view would be improved by the silky texture and lush tones of tulips next May, now is the time to act. White Flower Farm has plenty of tulips to choose from online (and in their catalog). They will, of course, be pleased to continue this tango as long as you are, which they expect will be some years to come. But it does, as you know, take two to tango, and it's now your turn.
Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm, is available for interviews upon request, as are other experts.
Please contact: Deborah Broide,
Deborah Broide Publicity,
White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. Plants shipped are true to name, free of disease, and in prime condition for growing. While in the area, stop by White Flower Farm with its five acres of display gardens, or visit www.whiteflowerfarm.com, where you will also find helpful gardening information including how-to videos. Join our E-mail list for gardening advice and tips, From the Farm monthly newsletter, announcement of events at the White Flower Farm Store, and special offers not in our catalogues or on our Web site.
White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.