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The story behind 'Pollination,' a Topsy Turvy tomato tip, and soursop's sweet reward

There's great drama in a huge drift of all yellow blooms, or a sea of lavender, but a crazy assortment of fuzzy pinks, spiky oranges and lime-green creepers all mixed up in a jumbled bed can be just as striking.

That's what I've got for you today. I've been collecting little gems for a few weeks in hopes I'd one day have enough to fill a vase — or a column. And now I have!

Did you get the "Pollinators" email?

In early June, several readers forwarded me one of those viral emails zipping around the globe. In all honesty (sorry, Mom), I don't usually look at them; I get so many! But something about the subject lines, "Penny, OMG, you will LOVE this!" made me click.

The senders called this video, "What Goes On in the Garden When You Aren't Watching." Along with the link there's a much-forwarded message: "This is beautiful . . . Some of the finest photography you will ever see."

It is. Absolutely stunning time-lapse cinematography captures butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and even bats, burying their prodigious proboscises into flowers. Then, in revved-up speed, we see the glorious results: unfurling blossoms and ripening fruits.

I had to know where it came from — it's that good. It was posted on YouTube in May 2011 by Mahmut Demir, whom I tracked down on Twitter. Mahmut is a young engineering school graduate in Istanbul. He's quick to say he did not create the film, he edited it for sharing on YouTube.

It's no wonder that he wanted to share. It was created by renowned cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg and shown during his talk at TED 2011 in Long Beach, Calif. TED is a nonprofit group devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading."

And this one certainly is, as Mahmut attests.

He wrote me that he was a lonely exchange student in Tokyo last year when he saw the clip, which TED had shared online for downloading.

"I was feeling kind of alone in my dormitory room," Mahmut wrote me. When he stumbled across the film on his computer, he suddenly felt connected — to everything.

"There I saw the hidden cooperation among any kind of alive things: plants, bees, insects and birds. Such unconscious beings were helping to each other. Contrary to belief that every bit of things in this world are 'rival' and evolved to compete with each other, they were helping each other.

"This video has suddenly changed my feelings. I felt all of these things work for me without any expectation."

It so moved Mahmut, he clipped the TED video to a shortened version and shared it on his YouTube channel. It has had more than 20 million views since, it's that remarkable.

"There are several similar clips but people liked it too much," Mahmut wrote. "What is the reason? Maybe the mood I had when I uploaded it. I think my feelings at that time has also embedded on that video :)"

You can see Schwartzberg's high-definition version on his YouTube channel. Search "Moving Art Channel." The short film is actually part of the full-length DisneyNature film called Pollen (and sometimes by the title Hidden Beauty: A Love Story that Feeds the Earth). It's not yet on DVD but has screened thus far in France.

Mahmut says he has been in touch with the filmmaker, who has invited him to his studio and dinner in Los Angeles. I wasn't able to reach Schwartzberg, but he told Food Freedom News that he has been filming time-lapse flowers 24/7 for 35 years.

"The beauty of their relationship compelled me to film their behavior," he's quoted as saying. "But this essential romance is threatened. Pesticides, loss of habitat, mites, and environmental stress imposed by humans is eradicating bees at an alarming rate. It's frightening, because we depend on pollinators for over one-third of the fruits and vegetables we eat."

Schwartzberg is raising money for a feature-length version of Gratitude, another short film of his. Check it out on his website, Have the Kleenex handy!

Some Topsy Turvy tomato plant help

From John Tischner, Dunedin

"Florida summers can be brutally hot and tough on new plantings," John writes.

"I recently bought and filled a Topsy Turvy tomato tree on a stand. The instructions say to place the container and stand in 6 to 7 hours of sunlight daily. I did."

John was pouring 2-plus gallons of water into his Topsy Turvy every day, and still the plants drooped.

"What I found is the plastic lid that covers the planter bag got very hot, generating heat into the bag and quickly drying it out," he writes. "So I cut an 18-inch round disc out of sturdy cardboard, covered it with kitchen aluminum foil and taped it, then slid it over the unit's top post. The aluminum foil acts as a deflector for the heat. Presto!"

John's heat deflector dramatically reduced the need for watering, he says. Once the plants are well established — and when we're getting regular rain — you can remove it, he says.

How you can fool zebra swallowtails

From Paul Zmoda of Flatwoods Fruit Farm, Riverview

I know more than a few of you who are obsessed with attracting a wide variety of butterflies to your gardens.

I also know more than a few of you are struggling to grow pawpaw trees — the larval food for the zebra swallowtail.

Struggle no more, my friends. Paul Zmoda has found an easier-to-grow plant that works just as well.

"The soursop is super easy. And it attracts the zebra swallowtail," he says.

Paul says soursop should be grown in a container because it's very cold sensitive and should be brought indoors when temperatures drop to the low 40s. Though it likes full sun, you'll have fewer watering issues if you can keep it under a tree so it doesn't dry out too quickly.

"Around November, cut off the top third and put it in a garage or some other sheltered location where it can still get morning sun," he says.

The soursop flowers late summer to winter and produces a sweet fruit, but may require hand-pollinating.

Paul is a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International, which meets at 2 p.m. the second Sunday of each month at the Bayshore Garden Club, 2629 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa.

Penny Carnathan can be reached at [email protected] Find more garden stories at or join in local gardening chat on Facebook. Look for Diggin Florida Dirt.

The story behind 'Pollination,' a Topsy Turvy tomato tip, and soursop's sweet reward 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 4:30am]
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