Tomato Reviews by John Olive

By John Olive, Auburn University, Ornamental Horticulture Research Center, Mobile, AL

There is an assortment of cherry and salad type tomatoes available at Tomatopalooza 2016. Mexico Midget, Black Cherry, Super Sweet 100, and Juliet are available. In addition Sungold, a very popular yellow/orange variety last year will be for sale. For shear yield, Mexico Midget and Super Sweet 100 can’t be beat and both have been dependable producers throughout the summer here on the gulf coast. Super Sweet 100 is, as the name implies, super sweet and even children who normally turn their noses up at tomatoes often enjoy gobbling these up.

To help you decide which ones to try, here are some descriptions and comments on each:

Super Sweet 100: Produces well over an extended season through the summer and into the fall in some plantings. As the name implies, very sweet and I know children who refuse to eat tomatoes, that gobble these up.

Tomato Super Tasty web 500_opt

Mexico Midget: Like Super Sweet 100, Mexico Midget is a heavy yielding variety that often yields fruit all summer with slightly smaller fruit than Super Sweet 100 (in our plantings). Very good tomato flavor.

Tomato Mexico Midget

Black Cherry: People tend to love this one or hate it. Most people love it. Larger than Super Sweet 100, it is very juicy and is delicious. Lasted well into the summer but not as heavy yields as Mexico Midget or Super Sweet 100 but worth growing for the unique look and flavor. (Some people like vanilla and some chocolate!)

Tomato Black Cherry 500_opt

Sungold: This variety sold out last year and has been very popular with Gulf Coast gardeners. It is yellow to tangerine orange and very sweet. We have never grown this one but from the reports I have gotten from many folks at MBG, this is their favorite and I am looking forward to trying it.

Sungold Tomato

Sungold Tomato

Juliet: This is a larger salad type tomato that looks like a sauce plum tomato. It is a very dependable heavy yield tomato for us in Mobile and is a versatile fruit. Can be eaten fresh, used in cooking, canning, and I even dried.

Juliet Tomato

Juliet Tomato

Planning a wedding or special event and considering your venue options? The Gardens have a variety of options for Ceremony settings. The Botanical Center, opening onto the Plaza at the front and the Herb Garden at the rear is a blank canvas for your reception and decorating plans.

Join our Exclusive Venue Managers, Mindy and Nick Dees of Dees Design House, LLC on Saturday, February13th from 1.30pm to 3.30pm for ideas and a view of what we have to offer for your Special Day.

Please contact Mindy Dees at if you would like to attend. Free to all.

See our Rental Page for facilities and pricing here. Link opens in new tab

Thanks to Jennie Tewell Photography for the photo.

Botanical Art Class II:
Learning How to Work with Colored Pencil – with Derek Norman
How to surprise yourself and amaze your friends!
A Six-Week Course: Fridays 10am – 1pm from March 25th to April 29th
Members: $125
Nonmembers: $150

For those who simply wish to take their drawing skills to a higher level and those who continue to explore the world of botanical drawing and painting – this class is specifically designed for you!

Students will progress through sound accurate observation and the fundamentals of proportional drawing technique to an understanding of working with color and colored pencil. A step-by-step process will allow the
student to more fully understand the application of color and color blending be it colored pencil or watercolor.

As the class progresses each student will engage in drawing plant specimens as they learn to apply color to hot press paper and understand the importance of structure, surface texture and color perspective

About our Instructor –
Derek Norman and his wife, Ursel, are members of MBG and they are new to our Gulf Coast community, having moved here from Chicago. Derek was born, bred and educated in England before he moved to the States. His graphic works, paintings, drawings and botanical works have been exhibited in Europe and America. He has won Gold and Silver Gilt Medals at the Royal Horticultural Society in London and he is represented in many private and permanent collections including the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, the Library of Congress, the British Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Florilegium Society.

Friday Afternoons (2pm -4pm) in the Gardens weekly
Enjoy an informal afternoon of drawing,taking inspiration from the Gardens’ setting.
An open studio with advice and encouragement offered by Derek Norman.
Please bring your own drawing supplies. Come when you can.

FREE to Members
Non-members will pay admission of $5 to the Gardens

Derek Norman was born, bred and educated (mostly by experience) in England (BFA) and America as an exchange student (great experience).

Since arriving on these shores he has learnt to speak American and drive on the wrong side of the road.
With a fine art background and following a career in advertising, marketing and communications Derek Norman found an avocation in drawing and painting the native flora of the Midwest. Finally, avocation became vocation.

A longtime designer, creative director, television producer, educator, teacher, lecturer and faculty adviser at Columbia College, Chicago and at the School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago, Illinois. Also, founder and former Principal of the Midwest Center for Botanical Documentation.

Co-author (with Ursel Norman), and designer/illustrator of six cookbooks (William Morrow, New York & Harper/ Collins, London). And various newspaper columns – Look & Cook (Pioneer Press, Chicago),
Greenfingers (Chicago Tribune), Woodland Wildflowers, Plants at a Glance and Prairie Plants (Pioneer Press, Chicago).

A former elected member of the London Creative Circle and the Royal Society of Artists and Designers, London. He is the recipient of many design and professional awards. His graphic works, paintings, drawings and botanical drawings have been exhibited in Europe and America. He has won Gold and Silver Gilt Medals at the Royal Horticultural Society in London and he is represented in many private and permanent collections including the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, the Library of Congress, the British Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Florilegium Society.

Derek Norman together with his wife Ursel, nowadays, are happy to reside in Olde Towne Daphne, Alabama.

Spring Plant Sale: March 18th – 20th – free to all
Friday and Saturday hours – 9am to 4pm
Sunday hours – 11am to 4pm

Hundreds of varieties, thousands of plants! From annuals to herbs to perennials to shrubs to trees – fruit, natives, tropicals – if we could find it, we’ll have it!

The Plant Sale list iist PDF format here – arranged in plant categories (Updated Mar 10) . It will open in a new tab.

The downloadable sortable list is in Excel format (.xls) HERE (Will download to your computer) . This is not a complete list – we often don’t know what we’ve got until it arrives, but it’s a great start to your shopping planning!

Spring Plant Sale Preview Party: Thursday, March 17th from 4pm to 7pm

First pick of the plants, with refreshments!
Tickets: $25 in advance or at the gate

Preview Party Tickets – pay in advance online HERE – Our Online Shop will open in a new tab.

The tickets are available from our online shop at look under NON-PLANTS in the menu to find events!

Please note we will NOT be mailing tickets purchased online. We will have your name at the gate. If you are purchasing tickets for other people, please make sure they know the name of the purchaser – or leave us the names in the Special Instructions box just before the Checkout in the online shop. Your confirmation email will be your receipt, but it is not required to be shown at the gate.

WALKING OF THE GREEN, Thursday, March 17th from 8.30am
Walk-through of the sale site with Luan Ackridge, Russell Cker and Bill Nicholas from 8.30. They will share their experiences with some of the plants in the sale. an informal walk and talk. Make notes, ask questions and learn! NO BUYING.

Plantasia Recycling! Our Thanks to Earth Resources Inc whowill be providing recycling services for our Plant Sale this weekend! This is a great curbside recycling service for the Mobile area. Check out their website at (will open in new tab)

Back by popular demand, Tomatopalooza 2016 is Saturday, MARCH 5TH from 9am to 12 noon.

22 Varieties of Tomato Plants will be available to buy online (or at the office) for collection on Feb 27th. There is a limited number of some varieties, so order early to get first pick!

Bill Finch has made his selection of great tomato plants for our Gulf Coast Region, and the seeds are sown! From the big meaty beefsteaks to the teeny tiny cherry tomatoes, there’s something for all tastes and yard space.

SHOP ONLINE NOW! Tomato Collection Online (will open in new tab)

See some tomato growing hints and facts on our Shop Blog: Tomatoes in the Mobile & Gulf Coast Region (opens in new tab)

Also in our Shop Blog is an archived column from Plain Gardening by Bill Finch.Tomato Bacterial Wilt from July 2012 (will open in new tab)

Come out to the Gardens on Saturday, February 13th from 9am to 2pm for a Camellia Day!

The program includes:

  • All about Camellias – Brenda Litchfield
  • Saving Old Camellias – Forrest Latta
  • Basic Grafting Methods – Blanding Drinkard & Rick Crow
  • Our Camellia Heritage – Bill Barrick of Bellingrath Gardens
  • After a boxed lunch there will be a choice of breakout sessions:

  • Guided Tour of the K. Sawada WinterGarden with Bobby Green of Green Nurseries, Fairhope
  • Hands-on Grafting Clinic with Blanding Drinkard & Rick Crow
  • Hands-on Waxing Clinic with Brenda Litchfield & Forest Latta
  • Copies of The Camellia Garden Field Guide by authors Forrest Latta and Brenda Litchfield are available for sale – and they will be on hand to sign the books that day.
    You can order a copy from our Online Shop at www.mbgrebloomshop (opens in a new tab) and pick it up on the 13th.

    The Market Place will be open from 9am to 3pm with a good selection of Camellias and other plants for sale


    Members: $15
    Non-members $25 (you can join online now and take advantage of the members price)
    This includes a boxed lunch by Georgia Roussos catering – choice of Chicken Caesar Pita, Ham & Cheese Sub or Roasted Veggie Wrap (please select when registering) with a fruit salad side, and a brownie.

    New Online Shop

    Find our new Online Shop at

     What’s New? 

    • For you, the customer, the navigation should be easier and more reliable
    • You can choose to create an account – this will store your name, address & phone number to save some typing when you check out next. It will NOT store your payment info such as your credit card information.
    • More information about groups of plants on offer – on the collections pages and in the blog
    • A better Check Out system – you can still choose to pay using your Paypal account, but there is a direct link to credit/debit card payments if you prefer
    • 10% Sales Tax will be added at Check Out for plants 
    • Look in the Non-Plants Section for Membership, Education Classes, Donations and more – sales tax is not added for these
    • For MBG there is a lot more ‘behind-the-scenes’ collating of order information, so we can keep a better handle on orders, stock, payments, and notifications

    What’s the Same? 

    • Tried and true plants that do well in the Mobile Area – and locally grown! 
    • Seasonal offerings at the right time to plant or display – yes, Tomatopalooza, Poinsettias, Gingers, and all the favorites will be listed! 
    • Pick up ONLY  – look at the product descriptions for the pick up date (this will vary for each plant collection – in most cases we will NOT have the plants on site until just before the pick up date) 
    • 10% Discount on plants (only plants and ONLY online) for Members with the shopping code – enter at checkout 


    Sometimes it’s tough to get all our ducks in a row as a mainly volunteer organization with a small paid staff.  After some catastrophic online failures, we implemented an ’emergency’ online store, and it has worked well  – BUT our sights were always on a more integrated system, and this new store is part of the plan. 

    Although we have tested it before launch, there are bound to be some glitches!  Please bear with us for a while – and please let us know of any problems. Email Liz at to let her know! 


    Glitch #1 : NOTE: If you are using SAFARI browser you may get an error message about the site’s certificate not matching. This is not something we can change – it is because the url is using the Shopify certificate, but not the Shopify extension – please be assured that it is perfectly safe, and you can tell Safari to continue to the page – this may happen for the first time you go straight to the page.

    Year Beginning Donations!

    Please consider a financial gift to the Gardens for this New Year.

    Current Projects you may be interested in helping to finance:

    • The Aromi Native Azalea Garden – an extension of the Millie McConnell Rhododendron Garden – although funds for hardscape and plantings have been successful, we are in need of funds to provide the ’embellishments’ such as benches, companion planting, and signage.
    • The Butterfly & Pollinator Garden – the hardscape and plantings are ongoing, but we would love to have some benches and arbors – both are good Memorial & Dedication ideas! Signage, too, is a need.
    • Ongoing maintenance & grounds upkeep – we always have gardens & facilities repairs and improvements to be covered. Your donation will help us maintain the hardscape, seasonal plantings, and help cover hiccups such as the fire and lightning strikes we had last year.

    You may make donations online here. You can pay with any credit or debit card or chosse to pay through a Paypal account. If you would like to make a recurring donation, you can check the box on the screen. Please let us know if you would like to designate your donation for a particular MBG project.