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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Sun Dipper tomato star of the show last summer

It was a season-long attraction with its unusual and delicious little tomatoes on a slim indeterminate (staking) plant

Last February, an email from PanAmerican Seeds contained an interesting offer to trial some of the new varieties they would be introducing to the market in 2023.

PanAmerican is a major breeder and producer of flower and vegetable seeds. Their “plant sampler” program allows for selected growers and garden writers to trial new varieties ahead of their introduction.

PanAmerican has produced many popular varieties like the “Wave” petunias, including my all-time favourite: Tidal Wave Silver. The company is also the producer of the always productive Little Napoli paste (Roma) tomato that I grow in pots on my patio every summer. And they introduced the bushy, compact Fernleaf dill.

A big box of transplants arrived on May 19 in absolutely pristine condition, the pots encased securely in well designed enclosures that snapped open easily.

There were several impeccable Dragon Wing White begonia plants, which made a nice show of blossom-laden, arching stems in hanging baskets across the front of the house all summer.

The large blooms in salmon and coral shades of Salmon Glow impatiens gave a lovely show in a pot at the top of the driveway. Still, the star of the transplant show, from my point of view, turned out to be Sun Dipper tomato. There was just one plant, but it was a season-long point of attraction in the garden with its unusual and really delicious little tomatoes on a slim indeterminate (staking) plant.

Over the course of the summer and up to the beginning of November, I invited everyone with me in the garden to pick and try a few of the Sun Dipper tomatoes. Without saying anything, I just waited for the reaction, which was always one of surprise and delight. Even my son, who doesn’t usually like tomatoes, loved these little ones.

Sun Dipper provides food for the eye as well, with its long chains of small, elongated tomatoes, perfect for dipping into various sauces. My pot luck group enjoyed them as an appetizer before our summer and early autumn gatherings. I served them in a bowl beside two different dips.

I’ve ordered seeds for growing my own Sun Dipper transplants this spring. So far, I’ve seen it listed in the catalogues from William Dam Seeds and W.H. Perron — both Canadian companies. I’ll certainly be growing more than one plant this year.

I kept my Sun Dipper plant pruned to just one stem, as I do with all my indeterminate tomatoes, which I train against sturdy wire fencing. The advice that came with the transplant suggested restricting its growth to leave one or two stems in order to harvest fruit that will reach eight to 10 cm in length. In other words, don’t let the plants bush out. Keeping the plants pruned this way, and uncongested, also shows off the long, decorative fruit clusters nicely.

Calling all clubs. Though life has not entirely returned to “normal” as the pandemic is still with us, many gardening groups are once again having in-person meetings, and some groups held plant sales last year.

Because of this tentative return to pre-pandemic practices, once again I am inviting gardening groups throughout Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands to send along details of 2023 activities and programs for inclusion in the Events portion of columns.

If your group has finalized plans for meetings, a flower show, plant sale or other events, please send details to Note there is no “t” in the middle of Chesnut.

To be sure of reserving space in a column for your event, send the information well ahead of its date. To allow for computer issues and other assorted life glitches I submit columns to the paper around 10 days ahead of publication dates.

Include a description of the meeting or other event with the location, time, cost of admission (if any) and points of interest. Please do provide both the day of the week and the date. It’s easy to type in a wrong number, and a check between day and date allows me to pick up conflicts that sometimes occur between them. A phone number as well as the email address is helpful. If the group has a website, include that too.

Please place the information in the body of the email rather than in attachments. I look forward to hearing from you.

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