}

January 28, 2018

Rating Tomatoes - Which Ones are the Best to Eat and not the ones I grew last year.

I ordered my tomato seeds today, and even an old dog like me has learned new tricks.


I know - I overshared a bit in my last post. Enough of the 'Groaning with Plants' posts. Back to business and today, that means tomatoes. I've been writing my pages on tomatoes for my book, which reminded me that I had better order seed now before it is too late. I won't be sowing seed until late April or early May for setting out into the garden in early June, but I know from experience that the hard-to-get varieties will be impossible to get once spring comes around.

Believe me, gardeners can get seriously geeky about tomatoes.

First off, don't assume that all heirloom tomatoes are good to eat, also don't assume that the nursery will grow only the best varieties. You will need to do some research, read all of the catalogs and some of the best books on tomatoes out there (I share some of those later in this post), and then make your own decisions based on what you will be using you tomatoes for. You might want sweeter varieties or some that are more acidic for caning. Meaty or savory varieties might be preferred over slicers, or you might be planning on making sauce and not eating them all raw with sea salt. If you are like me, you night be able to find a reason to grow every one.






Tomatoes. I've neglected them, lately. Only grew a few last year (30 or so plant, which is 'just a few' for me, most of which I have to admit didn't do very well, which is surprising as it was a very good tomato year last year (very little Late Blight). I realized what my problem was half-way through the gardening season - I didn't do my homework, and I took a risk trying a bunch of heirlooms which I wasn't familiar with. Big mistake. Here is how it all happened.




I was writing my book so needed lots of space for other veggies that I knew I wouldn't be able to find elsewhere - like 15 varieties of okra, lots of melons and watermelons, dried beans, and odd cucumbers from Tibet and elsewhere. I didn't want to ever have to buy a vegetable from a market and photograph it for my book as it feels wrong. In much the same way that a garden writer should never write about a plant that they never have grown. It's just a pet peeve of mine along with photos of supermarket vegetables set into a garden scene. If I see asparagus spears shoved into the ground in an attempt to make look as if they were growing there, who knows what I will do.


Of course I grow flowers. I grow, well, everything, right? Don't you? Does anyone else have this pereption problem?




TOmato seedlings last April. Yes, it is far too early in much of the country to start planting tomatoes, but it isnt too early to order ones seed. The really good varieties will be sold out.








My tomatoes don't get planted into the ground until early June, when our soil warms up to near 70 deg. I've even sown seed directly before and the plants raced back large seedlings from the Home Depot. Soil temperature is key.  How many of you use a soil thermometer? Most commerical growers do.


SO-- my book. My hope is to introduce step-by-step images for more unusual veggies especially for those which few people grow - like Lima beans, Okra, Bitter Melon, Luffa, Parsnips.As for the common veggies like beans and yes, tomatoes, well, it looks like I need to touch on those deeper as well.

I suppose that I was being conscious and felt that I need to respect what information is already out in the marketplace for vegetable growing books Do any of you really need to know how I raise string beans, zucchini or tomatoes? I assumed that most vegetable gardeners already know how to plant the most common vegetable in the vegetable garden, or am I wrong?  And, I very well could be wrong, for even I screwed up epically with tomatoes this past year.


With thousands of tomato varieties now available, why limit yourself to the names you know? But be careful - for looks isn't everything. I still buy the rainbow, but look first to the flavor profile before I look at the color. First look for flavor, then for type (Beefsteak, cherry, pear, etc) then for use - sauce and stuffing tomatoes don't need to be sweet and flavorful, it's often OK to choose a variety which is bland or firm with pulp, others, may need to be acidic and low in sugar. Know what your ultimate use is.


Here's why.

I skipped sowing tomatoes last spring, as I knew that I would need space in the greenhouse for more unusual crops for my book.  Besides, I could find my favorite varieties at local garden centers or at plant sales. I wasn't worried about finding Striped German's and Prudens Purples. I can even find Green Zebra's at the Walmart garden center now.

But as luck has it, planting plans were altered In early June just after Joe and I drove up to Vermont to scout out some other sources for other vegetables that I needed. We stopped at Walker's Farm Stand a place I had heard of through Wayne Winterrowd's books but never found a reason to take the 2-hour drive to visit.]

Upon pulling into the parking lot a couple of customers and a worker there actually recognized us, which was funny - blog followers are everywhere, I am convinced, so once I was able to ditch the inevitable paparazzi and sign a few autographs (kidding, but close - really), we shopped.



Walker's Farm in Dummerston Vermont (relatively near us )offers hundreds of perfectly raised tomato seedlings each spring in individual pots. I just need to learn about which varieties to choose. Best to go prepared next year. Better yet - I will start some myself as one never knows if they will be sold out, or skipped a variety for a year.

It was late in the day and the place was about to close.

Walker's was, which I didn't know,  known for pre-started heirloom tomato plants - they had individual pots of over 250 heirloom varieties! So many that Joe and I instantly both entered plantamorphicparalysis or more accurately, Horticultimania - you know, that condition which afflicts only plant people when they become overwhelmed by awesome selection.

The same thing happens with a few female friends I know, at pop-up Manolo store sales (a couple of male friends, too). (I know as if there are Manolo stores and Manolo sales.).

The problem was, they had only one laminated list which was typewritten, with a single-line description along with the lines of "bright orange with a tart flavor:, for each variety, and it was chained to a bench. There was a woman who kept warning us that "Boy's - we're closing in 5 minutes you know" so that didn't help with anything except with the volume of plants we were grabbing. And grab, we did. You do what you have to do in such situations.


Quickly, I snapped at Joe "Just pick out 10 of your favorite names and I'll grab 10 names that I like. The only rule is to not choose a variety that you've heard of before."

So we grabbed ones with interesting Russian names or anything with 'Pineapple or Peach' in it. If it was a black anything, we grabbed it. If it said 'blue' or 'purple' that too.

Stop judging me! You would do the same thing. They were only about $3.00 each (I think, really, I don't remember), but they weren't $7.00 or anything near the price of a single 4 inch fancy Proven Winners type of annual.

With this strategy, we would surely end up with some very interesting choices. The 'Big Beefsteak types' and "Green Zebra's were varieties that are not rare,  and I could find those anywhere, even at Walmart.

For years I have grown tomatoes, both heirlooms, and new hybrids but after a disaster last year, I discovered that all tomatoes -heirloom or not, are not created the same.


As I said, space was limited so I only added a few more plants of black-fruited ones that I did start in the greenhouse, believing that I had a pretty good selection of both colorful and hopefully, flavorful tomatoes. Like most gardeners, I kept my fingers crossed that 2017 might be a good year for tomatoes and a bad year for Phytopthora infestans - the dreaded 'late blight' that can turn a bed of tomatoes into a wicked moldy mess of dead leaves and fruit by August.

As it turned out, it was a decent year for tomatoes, and it seems that I had everything in order. Three new bee hives were busy pollinating, lots of sunny days, and I was home so I could water and fertilize, prune, train and stake almost every day, but few tomatoes were forming, and the ones that were beginning to look uninteresting.





I turned to my friend Amy Goldman Fowler's landmark book  'The Heirloom Tomato' and decided to look up all of the names of those tomatoes we bought in Vermont to see how she rated them.

Amy goes into great detail not only about growing tomatoes, but lists many in here book each with their name, their synonyms (and there are many of those, so it helps with the confusion that exists between many heirloom varieties as the names were handed down, shared and traded, often changing along the way.

With my tags in hand, and gradually learned that each of the tomatoes we bought from that massive list in Vermont had indeed a great name, but the quality rating in her book confirmed my fears, In fact, I don't think that we had a single tomato variety worthy of a home garden.

I rarely plant tomatoes directly into the open soil without mulch anymore, but sometimes I need to. If so, I plant new varieties bred for disease resistance and hybrid vigor.


For example, rushed as we were, we both grabbed a healthy looking seedling of a variety that had the name 'Alberta Peach', an heirloom peach fuzz coated variety with very fuzzy leaves and enormous leaves. In Amy's book, I began to find varieties listed which began to excite me.

'Pink Peach'
Amy says that the flavor is 'Peachy keen' ,

OK, that sounds like it was a good choice.

Then Amy writes about one called'Yellow Peach'.
The Flavor the said is 'Excellent and well balanced.'

OK, that's good too,

Then'Peach Blow Sutton'.

Flavor: Excellent. Amy wrote that it is  "cool and refreshing" . A "tomato-lite flavor".
(OK, not sure what "tomato-lite" is, but it cant be that bad.).

'Peche', Amy writes, is a variety from 1891 with at flavor profile of: "Good, mildly sweet and refreshing".

Yes. I want that too,

Joe picking the last of last year's tomatoes. A bit of late blight, but it was nearly October.


But the problem was that I could not find one called 'Alberta Peach'. Maybe I was missing something, or maybe it was just one of the thousands of names of heirloom tomatoes was just synonymous with another similar variety. Yet while I perusing the index in Amy's book,  I found a variety called 'Elberta Girl', and began to think that maybe the label was misspelled.

Sure enough, under the synonyms which Amy so thoughtfully lists for each variety found that another name for this tomato was indeed  'Elberta Peach'. Nice. This is a comprehensive book and the research that went into it shows.

The description though was nto what I expected. This wasnt an old heirloom at all but rather one from the 1980's. Amy's then wrote these notes:

'Elberta Girl'. Flavor: "A juicy hardball. The skin is waxy,
bypass the striped fruit of Elberta Girl-unless you want a hood ornament".

I didnt want a hood ornament.

Oh, Amy. Where did I go wrong?


Every summer we host tomato tasting parties, that is until last year. Many friends from California to the Netherlands are familiar with these dinners and some plan visits for late August and early September. Yum!


I guess I should have read every single entry in your gorgeous book and not be distracted by the beautiful photos byVictor Schrager.

So I did.

Today.


All of the varieties I grew last year had their flavor profiles and sometimes their brix numbers in their descriptions. When I looked up the varieties that I grew last year, I coudl see exactly where I went wrong. Sometimes, if not most of the time, the name and colors of heirloom tomatoes can misselead you.

Black Plum, Flavor, --"Bland"
King Humbert, Flavor-- "Bland"
Brown Flesh, Flavor: -- Fair to good"
Caro-Rich, Flavor -- "Fair to non-descript'
Black Prince, Flavor: -- "Poor"

The list went on.

"non-existent",
"on the acidic side",
"mildly pleasing at best".

I suck at picking out tomato varieties.

I am not kidding here, and although I know this list is somewhat subjective, it's also not as if Amy doesn't know her tomatoes. Amy's husband is Cary Fowler, Ph.D., the former Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and instrumental in the creation of the Svalbard Global Seed Bank in Norway. Surely he knows good tomatoes. Amy herself is a noted plantswoman with many accomplishments; author of four books on vegetables, three of which have won  American Horticultural Society's Book of the Year awards. Amy is also sits on the Board at the New York Botanical Garden. Amy is known as a tomoto guru (and a squash, melon and pepper guru just to name a few). She grows hundreds and hundreds of varieties on her farm. She's even had tomatoes named after her. For that metter,  she's even named tomatoes.

When the skills of a serious scientist and serious gardener combine - in a kitchen, something tells me that they would know how to judge the flavor quality of a tomato.

Her books are worth getting and reading and rereading not just becasue they are beuatifully designed and photographed, but because they are well written and exceptionally well researched. The reader can tell that Amy didnt sit on Google 'researching', but  that she spent hours and hours in librarys.

Let me put it this way: Gregory Long, President of the New York Botanical Garden describes her as 'perhaps the world's premier vegetable gardener.", and I have to agree. Joe and I have spent hours in her fields of melons, squashes, peppers and tomatoes oogling at the diversity and trials. You want to read books by people who collected and grew all of what they wrote about - and then know that they did the research as well. Brilliant.

Clusters of tomatoes ripen in a beautiful way, from the bottom to the top, but we often nevert appreciate the coloring until the winter when we discover a photo like this.


So, I learned my lesson here. I made some assumptions about tomatoes, only buying the ones I was familar with, but when I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried some new ones, I didnt do my homework. Amy's book informed me in many ways. It showed me what tomatoes I should have grown, and after a couple of hours reading every page I ended up with lists. One had 30 heirloom varieties on it, all rated high on flavor performance. Each were described as being 'Excellent" in flavor, and a few as "sublime", "Sumptuous', "perfection, with both highest sugar and acid". I eliminated any rated as "good" or "sweet and nutty", "balanced" or even "Good to Excellent", clearly, I've been spooked.

Every year find the photos of tomato harvests from previous years, and it's fun to look at one's notes and the colors to see what worked, and what didn't. This shot is from 4 years ago, and with no notes, I cant remember now what varieties I had.


I am not going to share all of the varieties that I ordered tonight, as many get sold out quickly.  Amy does list sources, and there are many, in the back of her book. A couple here I will share:

Tomato Bob's and Totally Tomatoes, are two that I recommend aside from the sources we already know. Each offers hundreds of tomato varieties as well as other vegetables. If you want the full list I suggest that you get Amy's book. It wouldn't be right for me to post them all here, besides, the list is too long.


Another helpful resource is the Cornell University site called VEGETABLE VARIETIES FOR GARDENERS were one can enter the name of any vegetable and see ratings by both professional and amateur gardeners. It's a site that will show you the highest rated tomatoes (or radishes, squash or what have you) as well as the lowest. Reviews are entered in daily and it's easy to waste a lot of time on this site. FYI - 'Sungold' was reviewed the most with 4 and a half stars.

I have no problem sharing my sources, however, if you think that will be helpful, I can write that list up in the next post - just let me know in the comments sections, sometimes there are secret sources that escaped someone, but most of the time I just assume everyone knows everything.

With thousands of 'heirloom' tomatoes out there, even the most experienced can get confused. What I've learned is to not trust the names, to not trust that all 'heirlooms' are indeed old tomatoes and that just because the big seed companies carry a pretty variety, it doesn't mean that there are not others out there which are better.

Amy's book has 6 pages of sources on-line, it's a book I use frequently to help me week out the trash tomatoes, for the catalogs, especially the heirloom tomato and pepper catalogs are full of hyperbole and "this is my favorite!", which really doesn't help me. Either that or I just don't trust anyone anymore!

I will share that I bought:
Casady's Folly, Dixie Golden Giant, Aunt Ruby's German Green, to name a few.

If you have a fav, please share it and tell us why.

Cheers.

January 25, 2018

January Blues, February Brights

Time to get out of a mid-winter January funk. A record crop of Meyer lemons in the greenhouse might help.

It's been tough. I mean, I expected this. Book deadline looming and I just started writing. Even though I lost my job last winter I was fortunate to have a severance package, but it runs out in a month. I'm not ignorant to the fact that I am still quite fortunate, but I also know that changes are on the doorstep, and maybe I haven't prepared enough for them (hello? Health insurance?). Ive been trying to squeeze in doctor appointments and dental work before March.

I usually like January too - not only do I love snow, it's my birthday month. I should mention that I've officially reached that time in my life when it's like "birthdays? Really? I'm not talking about it.

Then there is this funk which is probably just a combo of everything. Not to mention Post-Holiday Diets, the unusually cold and snowy weather we've been getting here in the Northeast (bomb cyclone and the coldest weather in over 100 years).

This all seems to have manifested itself into a "might-as-well-just-wear-sweatpants-all-day-long-and-watch-Netflix" mentality.

Not healthy.

I have no interest in opening mail. In ordering seeds, or even for looking at nursery sites. I've kind-of lost interest in these things. I dont think that it's depression really, more like the fact that I feel as if I've grown everything and I cant find something new to be interested in. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

I am feeding the birds which is begining to really sound like a very old-man thing - (don't say it).  Still, I'm not doing much more.  Its really only a function. Thistle feeder is out again, dump more in. I'm not 'watching' the birds, which is probably worse now that I think about it. Guilt feeding.

They eat alone, (which they probably like).

I had little problem writing for the book however, so I suppose that is a good sign. Sitting in my office with the snow falling outside has been one of the most favorite things to do. Yet my problem still seems like that I don't feel like working, or not working for that matter don't dont feel like buying plants, nor watering the ones I have anymore either. Nothing seems interesting anymore, and I've lost confidence in what I am doing.

This week our weather seems to have entered another phase -  bit milder (fingers-crossed that it sticks). With these more average temperatures (highs near freezing and lows in the 20's) much of the drama from the early weeks of January has passed. I even am beginning to think about the future more.

I actually sowing a bit of seed today -some flats of mesclun.  I even smelled the first whiffs of the Sarcococca hookeriana in the greenhouse (which we need to grow in a pot here in Massachusetts - don't taunt me Oregon or North Carolina!).

I'm good with the potted semi-tender shrubs like Sarcococca because under glass on a snowy, January day the greenhouse smells just like Tahiti (OK, more like early spring in the Himalaya - whatever...). It warms my soul and I kind of need that lately. At least it provided some hopefulness that I'll 'like it all' again.


Some casualties from the cold include this Canarina canariensis, but after following lots of chatter on the Pacific Bulb Society newsgroup, its bulb-like root may be OK. Many say that I should plant this tender geophyte that has gorgeous orange bell-shaped flowers like in this post, in the ground in my greenhouse, and it might do better. I'm going to try this. I need something to do.

A few freezes didnt hurt the South African bulbs. I kept the soil dry through most of January, which helps the cells expand in case there is a hard freeze. We had the coldest weather in over 100 years with a week of night temps below -12° F.



My book on vegetable gardenings is underway, mostly photo editing and writing at this phase. So, that has been my focus - choosing the best pics, researching at the library at the horticultural society and writing.




The cyclamen are sturdy fellows, able to withstand some very frosty nights with no harm. As long as the roots don't freeze the more tender species like C. graecum, I'm OK. I was able to fertilize them this week on my first visit out the greenhouse this year,.


South African bulbs really don't seem to mind the cold and the wet. These Babiana fragrans may bloom by springtime. As you can see, I never cleaned up the foliage from last season. It's very fibrous and tough and needs scissors to remove it in when the pot is dormant in mid-summer. I figure that this is what happens in the wild (there are no baboons out there cutting the dead foliage down, just digging and eating the bulbs). The iris-like flowers will be pretty though in a few weeks.

Citrus like these Calamondin oranges are blooming, even though half of the plant died from frost.




Other citrus are just not handling this winter all that well. This is what is left of my big Kumquat tree. Not a victim of frost however, but of a misplaced electric space heater.



Tropaeolim - tjhe vining, high-elevsation tuberous types from the Andes seem to relish this weather though. They look so tender and frail, with thread-like stems yet after the hot, summer dormancy, take off covering little trellis' in just a month - blooms will soon follow.
Tuberous Tropeolum grow from round tubers like potatoes. Here is a new species I am growng -  T. ciliatum, a tuber that I acquired from a collector in September. Its  growth is still small and weak. I think that it will appreciate being moved to a sunnier spot in the greenhouse now that it is getting warmer in there.
Another tropeolum species T. tricolor  looked completely dead, and I feared its late emergence meant that something ate the bulb, but it was just last winters growth that I hadn't cleaned up in the summertime (see a trend here?). Not watered since May, I noticed a bit of thread-like growth earlier this week, and after carefully removing the dead foliage found these new stems twirling around.

Last weekend the sun came out, so after journeying out into the greenhouse - sweatpants and all - I coudl see that most of the Dutch bulbs and South African bulbs were emerging. I moved them all to a sunny sand bed, watered them and in just a few days, things have come back to life.

Scilla messeniaca a lesser-known scilla is beginning to show its buds.
The camellias that were planted in the ground always seem to bloom well even in the coldest winters.  One snowy night in a blizzard two weeks ago the gas man wanted to see what I had in the greenhouse around 2 am, but I told him that it wasn't pot - but I could tell by his expression that he didn't believe me so, I shown a flashlight through the frosty glass and this thing was illuminated. He said "Wow, what the Hell is that?". "Not pot, I replied."

Camellias in pots are hardy too if the roots dont freeze. More sturdy than the insulating bubble wrap it seems.

The South African plants are remarkable cold hardy. This Erica 'Winter's Flame' is just starting to bloom.


Narcissus cantabricus, a native North African narcissus species blooms early in the greenhouse sand bed. It is sweetly fragrant - like cottoncandy (which reminds me - when was the last time I smelled cotton candy? It's sweetly scented like a vanilla candle from Target.).


If I was to grow one Nerine, it would be this one - N. alata or N. undulata. I have six stems in bloom this year. It too didnt seem to mind a few light frosts in early January.


The chili peppers didnt like the frost. And while many people keep some chili pepper plants from year to year for a while (like Chiltepin type), these probobly wont make it. I do have some Chiltepin and Tepin pepper plants in the house, however.

The biggest citrus I have is a massive tub planted with a Mandarin orange tree. It was hit by the blast of the propane furnice, and I fear that it wont recover.





Moving forward, I have all hopes that I am moving out of this funk I'm in.  No worries, I'm a pretty positive guy and maybe I just need a challenge. I can't tolerate 'meh' for long.

You're probably thinking that I am just depressed.  Maybe - just a little, but most likely I'm not sleeping because I'm scared, bored and for some reason not motivated because of a combination of all of those things - which is probobly completely normal, right?

After all - this is a big life change I'm going through over the next few momnths. With my severance runnings out in march health insurance is my greatest concern (Cobra?).  IT seems that there is no shortage of freelance projects and consulting on my doorstep, but just how much and how fruitful or consistant it will all be, I dont know. I dont do well with inconsistancy - you know, used to that pay check every two weeks.

SOrry for thinking aloud here, but if you've read this far, you can probably see that this is just like therapy for me. Social therapy.

I've never collected an unemployment check in my life either, but ick - I may have to. I just feel like a failure too I guess.

Yet I promise to not let things get to me too much, this blog which I thought that I would have so much time to redesign and improve, will still go on.  I need to move forward and think about the garden again - and what's next on the horizon for my projects.

I have jsut started thinking about my annual 'special projects' list, which is a bit overdue.

 I am thinking about gladiolus again, a genus I have been putting off for a while now because dahlias got in the way - there are so many lovely crosses if you've even attended a gladiolus society show you know what I mean. Then there are fuschias to try again, but raising them in a different way - training them as standards or as large tubbed specimens, and then perhaps exploring how to create a mini-cut flower garden at home, designed to offer cut flowers for every week of the summer and fall, a mini-flower farm, if you will.

Last year I was reminded of how great coleus looks in group containers, and I am imagining an entire collection of coleus - growing them in odd or creative ways - espalier comes to mind. -

Asian gourds, a big chapter from my book has inspired me to try on a greater scale. Especially after visiting Chow's parents (a Vietnamese friend of mine) whos family grew so many types in their back yard near where I live. Those will definitely be on my grow list this year - including luffa, sponge gourds and bitter melon and how to grow them, because even though many of us know what a bitter melon looks like - who knows how to cook with them? I've learned this year, and want to share it.

Oh yes, and dahlias. And sweet peas. And the tastiest tomatoes - Amy Goldman Fowler's great book THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO has reminded me that the tastiest ones are not any of the varieties I have grown in the past. Thank you Amy! Get it and read it closely - it's fabulously rich with information and well researched.

See? I'll be OK.

There are then other projects which failed once again that I want to retry until I master them. More about those later. Those potted tubs of 19th century Miognonette are going to be mastered - I know it.


January 1, 2018

How a Gardener Reinvents His Kitchen

As anyone who had lived through a major kitchen renovation knows, the process seems endless until that moment when it is complete - I'm a cook and a cook and gardener, so perhaps that didn't help! Curtis, Joe's nephew above helped convince us that he could handle the labor like plastering, removing walls like the mural on the right, and flooring.


It's been a long year since we began this kitchen remodel, now that the project is finally we can move onto other projects (like writing my book, and for this blog which I have been neglecting - not to mention trying to regroup myself after being laid off last March. Our greatest setback has been the tragic loss of Curtis last January - when we just didnt feel like doing anything more with the kitchen, until this October when we decided to just move ahead and finish it the best that we could.

I'm sharing this project here because I know many of you have been asking about the kitchen, or you've been here while we had been under construction. Now that it is complete, the good thing is that we finally have a great new kitchen and dining area, the bad thing is that we can no longer use the excuse that the house is a mess because of the construction!


Our brand new completed kitchen reno is spectacular, and just in time for the Holiday season.


This post is long, but it shows before, during and after images of how we combines two big rooms in an old house which was my parents, and my grandparents. I had to overcome some emotional attachment with murals that my dad painted in the 1940's and 1950's, as well as cabinetry that he also custom painted back then.

We also were working with a limited budget, one that we probably went over now that we were not getting labor from Curtis for free, but without adding it all up, I think that all of this was completed for less that 20k, which whh broke into smaller installments, 3k here, 4k there, $500 there, etc. No one really wants to know but one day, I may sit down and add it all up.

 I'm open to share anything about this project if you want, especially comments about Ikea, Pergo, paint colors or any lighting, tiles or fabric. No one sponsored this post or offered free produt (what was I thinking?) but that does allow me to be honest about everything.