About christina starmans

I'm a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

The magical re-appearing garden, 2016 edition

Magical re-appearing garden

(If only it was really that easy!)

It was a good afternoon for getting my hands dirty. It feels like a late start this year – it’s been too cold at night until just the last few days! And of course now that it’s time, I’m going to be out of town for 90% of the next month! Thank goodness for friend-neighbors who don’t mind watering in exchange for veggies 🙂

This year’s garden starring (hover over picture to see cultivar name):

I do love my dark purple tomatoes, and I missed out on Black Krim last year after he kept dying, so I’m excited for that, and to try a new cultivar I found called Carbon. Ok, hurry up and grow, guys!

 

What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.
~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden

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More Frankenfruit!

Yesterday I posted about my new creation, provisionally named Frankenmato until I can judge his characteristics. Today I thought I’d share an even more ridiculous(ly awesome) Frankenfruit – the Tree of 40 Fruits.

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This tree was created over five years by grafting together branches from 40 different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. The tree begins the season looking fairly normal, and then bursts into a rainbow of blooms, which then produce dozens of rare and old varieties of fruit from June to October. How awesome would it be to have one of these in your backyard?!

At the time this project began I was doing a series of radio hoaxes where I hijacked commercial radio station frequencies and played my own commercials and songs. In addition to becoming acquainted with FCC regulations I also discovered that the term “hoax” comes from “hocus pocus,” which in turn comes from the Latin “hoc est enim corpus miem,” meaning “this is my body” and it’s what the Catholic priest says over the bread during [the] Eucharist, transforming it into the body of Christ. This process is known as transubstantiation and [it] led me to wonder how I could transubstantiate a thing. How could the appearance of a thing remain the same while the reality changed? And so, I transubstantiated a fruit tree.
~Sam Van Aken, Artist.

Frankenmato

This story starts with one of my favorite flowering plants ever: the giant Pinot Noir Hardy Hibiscus. It blooms 8-10″ across, and it has overwintered in this giant pot for the past 3 years.

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It was always quite slow to start showing any green in the spring, and every year I’d think it hadn’t made it through the winter, but then just when I was about to give up on it, some green shoots would appear. So this year I kept the faith when staring at the bald sticks into June.

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And the faith paid off – in mid-June, green shoots started to appear.

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But….the shoots didn’t look quite right! On closer inspection, these were tomato shoots! It seems that some tomatoes must have fallen into this pot last year, and the seeds managed to survive the winter and self-seed! It was a mystery though, which of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted last year was the winner here.

After letting it grow wild and crazy for a while, I managed to wedge in a tomato cage and tie up the stalks. But now that the tomatoes have started to ripen, it’s become clear that there wasn’t just one winner, but at least THREE different types of tomatoes growing in this one container!

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So far I see Sweet 100s (the bright red ones), Sun Gold (the smaller orange ones, and my favorites), and … I have no idea!! (Larger yellow/orange ones). None of the tomato varieties planted last year were this medium type of yellow/orange tomato. My best guess is that this fruit is a result of cross-pollination.

If different tomato varieties are planted close together (as mine certainly are!), flowers from one plant can get pollinated with pollen from another variety of tomato. The resulting tomato fruit will look exactly the same, but will carry hybrid seeds inside. If these seeds are saved (or sow themselves!), the offspring tomatoes will carry some characteristics of each parent, resulting in an entirely new variety of tomato! Will it turn out to be a delicious accident, or a monstrous disaster? Stay tuned…

Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.
~Frankenstein’s monster, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

the first month

2015-06-13 10.51.40It’s been a rainy few weeks, and both the garden and I are pretty happy about it – it’s nice to be able to go away to sunny Texas for the weekend and know that your plants are being taken care of by the sky!

The zucchini plants are going nuts, as they always do. So far, it looks like it may be a bumper year for teeny (and not-so-teeny) phalluses 🙂

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The herb garden is also looking great – I’ve got some spearmint, chocolate mint, chives, a cute little dwarf basil (I guess “cute”, “little”, and “dwarf” are a bit redundant. Oh well.), rosemary, oregano, cascading nasturtiums, and some hidden strawberries that are SO tiny still – see next picture.

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Strawberries – I have no idea if they’ll even bear fruit this year. If they do, it will be kind of amazing, since this will be the 5th year they re-emerge after winter in this same tiny peat moss container.

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I planted some purple potatoes this year in a “potato bag”. I’m planning to do another post about these when I add the second layer, but for now, look at how well they are flourishing in this bag!

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Lastly, I seem to have gone overboard on the flowers this year, which is unlike me — usually I want to fill every last nook and cranny with edibles. But I was feeling indulgent with my gift certificate at the garden center, and apparently I was also feeling pretty purple!

I’m most proud of my “window box” – I think it looks great, and it’s in a perfectly shaded spot to keep the fuchsia plant happy. I LOVE fuchsias, but I have such a hard time keeping them lively in those hanging pots they normally come in, so this year I took them out and combined them with some hot orange annuals and some dark purple foliage. This container is right beside my door, and makes me super happy when I go in and out.

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When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.
~William Makepeace Thackeray

2015 garden, starring:

It was a beautiful weekend to get most of the garden planted. The plants all look a bit sad as they adjust to being outside, but in a week or two it'll be like they've always been there. I'll post in more detail soon, but for now. here's the starting lineup!

It was a beautiful weekend to get most of the garden planted. The plants all look a bit sad as they adjust to being outside, but in a week or two it’ll be like they’ve always been there. I’ll post in more detail soon, but for now. here’s the starting lineup!

Also starring:

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
~Margaret Atwood

Indigo Kumquat

This is the first year I’ve grown this cherry tomato called “Indigo Kumquat”. The name intrigued me, and the tomato looked pretty in the picture. But when the tomatoes on my plant started ripening, they looked really crazy!  They turn almost black on the top half, while the bottom half is still green, and they start looking more and more rotten as they ripen. When they’re finally ripe though, they look just as advertised – like a (half) indigo colored kumquat. They taste great – not super sweet, but a bit meatier than most cherries, and a bit bigger.

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unique parking-lot-garden pests

Every garden has its own unique problems, but I think my latest issue may be uniquier than most. One of the local inhabitants of my garden absolutely demolished one of my zucchini planters and shoved a bunch of the other plants around in their pots.  As I was contemplating whether an army of squirrels had teamed up and gone berserk on the garden (I wouldn’t put it past them!) it dawned on me that this was the work of the rarely seen garden pest known as urbanus automobilus.  2014-07-25 11.12.41

(It was a car. Being in the parking lot, someone just backed right into the pot while pulling out!)

taming the jungle

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We’ve had a ton of rain this week, which was great because I didn’t have to water the plants.  But when I when out to rescue them from this weekend’s beautiful sunshine, I found a ridiculous, and very tangled, jungle. So I pulled them all apart and surveyed what exactly was going on where.2014-07-06 10.17.04When I pulled them apart, it turned out that some of them were being held up by the others, so that giants like this Sweet 100 cherry tomato dramatically threw themselves all over the parking lot. But an hour of tying vines with plant tie tape and dragging massive containers around to new positions resulted in a much happier and better-looking parking lot jungle.2014-07-06 10.48.27

As I was pulling them apart I also found quite a few surprise veggies hiding inside. Most are still small and green:2014-07-06 10.30.52

but there was one really pretty Indigo Kumquat cherry tomato:2014-07-06 10.40.32

and THREE huge zucchini!
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and a couple of eat-while-you-garden strawberries 🙂2014-06-29 20.09.24

The Romaine lettuce is perfect, but probably in danger of bolting any day now, so I moved it to a shadier spot until I can use up some more of it.2014-07-06 09.27.20

I also harvested all of the bok choy last week, which really should have been done quite a while ago. It actually started to bolt immediately after I planted it. I don’t think it was too hot – it was mid-May, and we had a cold-ish start to summer – but it might have been too cold? I’ve read that cold temperatures can stress it into bolting. I just let it keep going though, in the hopes it would get to a reasonable size, but at this point it was getting a bit ridiculous.2014-06-29 16.34.55

It was delicious in a stir fry though, and I might even say the flower stalks were the best part!

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And, cutest for last, the watermelons have started to appear. I’ve grown these in a container once before, and they’re really not meant for such a small space, but I thought I’d try it again this year just for fun.2014-07-06 10.47.59

Almost any garden, if you see it at the right moment, can be confused with paradise.
~Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman