What’s growing on my deck?
August 11, 2006
I suspect Gerry had tomatoes in mind all along for the recycled redwood containers he built for my deck garden. I’ve been contemplating something large like trees or shrubs but I dithered and vacillated over the perfect choice until the right time for setting out tomatoes came. Then he suggested them as interim plants along with peppers and eggplants, which all crave sun and heat. It’s always a relief when I can’t make up my mind, if someone comes along and tells me what to do. Not only does a decision get made but also as Christopher Robin reasons when Pooh Bear does his arithmetic for him “if he’s right, I’m right and if he’s wrong, it wasn’t me.”I chose 11 of my seedlings to divide among the three planters: a slicing tomato called “Golden Delight,” a yellow cherry tomato, “Gold Nugget’, a red currant tomato, four heirloom “Rosa Bianca” eggplants from a bonus seed packet, three mystery chile peppers and a tomatillo, the Mexican “tomate verde.” I added some of my “signature” signet marigolds for color, and poked nasturtium seeds along the edges for good measure.The edible deck garden looked so puny and sparse, I brought up a fourth pot, cunningly disguised as plastic pretending to be clay, and filled it with the same mix of potting soil and compost as the redwood planters. With the same lack of regard for design, I crammed in my leftover annual flowers. These didn’t look too promising, either, so I also had Gerry lug up my hothouse Angel’s trumpet, Brugmansia “Charles Grimaldi.” With its oversize ovoid leaves on three trunks coming almost up to my chin, it looked impressive and tropically verdant.For weeks the seedlings just sat there, presumably growing healthy root systems, then they began to bulk up like mad, and pretty soon after that they flowered. I’ve had to resort to some drastic pruning to keep the burgeoning tomatillo and tomatoes from strangling the slightly less vigorous eggplants and peppers. They must be 6 feet wide across and almost as tall; one plant could fill a container. Tiny orange marigolds are peeking out from among dense foliage, and sinuous, succulent, nasturtium stems have snaked their lily-pad-shaped leaves through the thicket to scallop the edges of the planters. Here and there brilliant red-orange nasturtium flowers are competing for attention with ripening tomatoes, swelling pink and white eggplant globes and glossy elongating peppers.The mish-mash of annuals is a success too. They are everything annuals are supposed to be, quick-growing, colorful and blooming profusely. Dark blue lobelias pool softly around the ankles of tall, rigid cerise zinnias, while old-fashioned vining petunias shoot pastel flowers in all directions on leggy stems. Dainty white chamomile daisies overflow the pot, anchored by thick basil leaves and lacy marigolds.”Charles” (the Brugmansia) is dangling more than a dozen huge, fluted trumpets from its branches, shading in color from tapioca to unripe cantaloupe and filling the evening air with the sweetest, most intoxicating scent. It is as astonishing, as awesome as the eggplants, which I have never been able to grow well before.Interestingly, as I discovered when reading up on them, the tomato, pepper, tomatillo, eggplant and angel’s trumpet are all members of the nightshade family, the Solanaceae. All but the angel’s trumpet are wonderful foods. Note of caution: The one with the angelic name is the poisonous one. DO NOT INGEST ANY PART OF A BRUGMANSIA. The tomatoes and peppers in the vegetable garden are doing as well as the container ones to date, but I expect this to change when nights get cooler. I bet I can prolong the growing season on the deck by wheeling the containers into the lee of the house wall. So, must I grow vegetables here now forever?I do enjoy eggplant but I’m not ready to cede the redwood planters to them. How about evergreens? They would block out part of our view of the mountains but also offer year round interest, obscure the plate glass from flying birds and shade the living room not only in summer but when the low winter sun heats it up. I have another fall, winter and early spring to give it some more thought. Maybe I can persuade Gerry to build more planters? The garden catalogs are all in – I can work on my tree and shrub orders just as soon as I decide on my fall bulb order … Anna grows cherry tomatoes on her deck in Basalt with her husband, Gerry, so their granddaughter can sneak out to eat them. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with “Anna’s Garden” in the e-mail subject line.
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