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DONA tomato - back by popular demand?

12 years ago

Yesterday, I posted a question about germinating some "old" Dona seeds. (and had some good answers)

Now today, it seems possible that may not be necessary.

By way of history, almost everything you will see or can buy is NOT the Dona tomato, especially anything associated with Tomatofest. I have found no open pollinated "Dona" that compares with the original F1 hybrid discontinued by Vilmorin around 2007 or so.

Reimer Seeds sells some they bill as the original F1 and I believe this to be accurate but they are by necessity old and my experience with germinating them is not "perfect".

Just out of curiosity, about a half hour ago, I decided to check the Vilmorin site to see what is there. Lo and behold, I find Dona listed. It wasn't before. It seems that Vilmorin has resurrected the Dona variety but maybe only in France. Here is a link to the "fiche produit":;intFinPlantation=0amp;intDebFloraison=0amp;intFinFloraison=0amp;type=2&gencode=3211500008428

Now to figure out how to buy some directly from France, which seems the only current possibility. Any suggestions?

Comments (31)

  • carolyn137
    12 years ago

    I immediately went to Renee Shepherd's Seeds b'c it's she who introduced both Camello F1 and Dona F1, both French hybrids, many years ago, back in the early 90's as I recall. But while she and others still list Carmello F1, she doesn't list Dona F1.

    I checked a few other places as well.

    Speaking for myself I grew both Carmello F1 and Dona F1 when they were first introduced by Renee and I didn't see much difference between them at all. Perhaps you also grew both and preferred Dona F1. I don't know.

    I didn't check your link but as I recall Vilmorin doesn't sell retail.

    IN which case one suggestion is to e-mail Vilmorin and ask if there will be any distribution of the Dona F1 seeds to any companies in the US and also if they are distributing Dona F1 seed in Europe and if so to which companies.

    And why not ask them politely if there is no alternative to getting them in the US or a retail place in Europe would they please give some consideration to sending you a few packs. That's the old I gotta have them, please feel for me I have to have Dona F1 b'c OP Dona isn't the same.

    And the ultimate backup position I think is for you to try Carmello F1 if you haven't already done so.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks so much for your reply. Good to see you around.
    Yes, I do know the story about Renee at least with respect to these two tomatoes. Of course, she will not list Dona as it had been discontinued. If you have her email perhaps you could let her know it is again available. Maybe she's interested.

    Actually, I have tried Carmello but never had much luck with it so I really don't need to go there. And yes, I really did (and do) like Dona.

    I've continued researching and so far find Dona available only in France but there is hope. By the way, Vilmorin has a retail store (magasin) in downtown Paris and as a last resort I may just telephone them. Also, it seems to have been released as a special product of some kind as the packet bears a seal saying "Obtention Vilmorin". I'm not sure what that means.

    I'm still working on it and have found a couple of online retailers in France who state that they have Dona in stock and will ship to the US. That's online. It remains to be seen what the reality is.

    So, as I said, there is hope.

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  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Well, here's an interesting thing. I've found a company that accepts an online order. They have Dona in stock and the order would apparently go through, at least as far as the website is concerned. Exactly what would happen Monday morning on the other end I just don't know. They do have a messaging facility on their site and I have asked.

    The retailer is: Le Monde du Jardin

    I found it by Googling for "vente semences tomate dona" and there appear to be quite a number of other retailers as well.

    The price is very high: 35.64 Euros for 3 packets, including P&P, or about $50. Yikes. Maybe I can find a cheaper place or get them to knock off the VAT. They should.

  • rnewste
    12 years ago


    I have been growing Dona and Carmello for the past 10 years. I really can tell the difference between them, and much prefer the Dona. This Season, I am growing 2 Donas side by side:

    The one on the left is from TomatoFest seed. The one on the right is from a Nursery where I have always purchased them in plant form:

    I don't know of the seed source for Yamagami's Dona plants, but the tomatoes from these purchased plants have been consistent year over year. I'll see how the two different Donas compare in taste later this Summer.


  • aclum
    12 years ago

    Hi sneezer,

    Very interesting info!

    I'm also a fan of Dona Hybrid. I'm pretty sure my seeds are from the mid-to-late 90's. (I got them from tomato grower's supply and there's no date on the packet). I've only started a couple of seeds each year so I've still got a few seeds left that I'm sort of hoarding for the future. This year I just started one seed that germinated with
    no special treatment. The plant's about 9" tall right now and about done hardening off. I'll probably plant it out in about a week.

    I'm very interested in the French seeds, but that price is a bit much for me right now. Perhaps once my Dona is established in the garden and gotten a bit more size, I might try my hand at cloning and trade a few cloned plants for some seeds... Just a thought for a bit down the road maybe.


  • cyrus_gardner
    12 years ago

    What I want to know (as education) what is so special about these tomatoes? Dona, camelia ?

  • rnewste
    12 years ago

    Very good tasting for Hybrids, disease tolerant, prolific, hard to kill, etc. These are the only two Hybrids I grow out of 20 Heirloom varieties.


  • aclum
    12 years ago


    Ditto what Raybo said! It's never been the best tasting tomato I've grown each season but it's certainly the most reliable and prolific with a very good flavor. With the exception of some cherries, it's always been my earliest tomato, the best producer during summer heat, and the last to give up the ghost in the fall. I got a late start last year and had a pretty bad season with little if any yield from many of my tomatoes, but I could always go out into the garden and find a Dona for a salad or whatever. "Old Dependable." And, as Raybo said, hard to kill. My plant last year was way leggy and rootbound in its 16 oz cup with a broken stem even!!! by the time I got around to planting it out. But I went ahead and planted it, sort of splinting the broken stem to a little bamboo stake and it came through like a champ - outproducing anything else in the garden. I generally grow about 15-20 different varieties a year and Dona's the only Hybrid I always grow. This year I'm growing another hybrid from old seed that I haven't done for many years but remember really liking - Odoriko.

    To recap, maybe not the best tasting tomato around, but very good and dependable and, for me, a sentimental favorite.


  • carolyn137
    12 years ago

    I do know what it's like to lose a favorite variety b'c many of us were aghast when Ramapo F1 and Moreton Hybrid were taken out of production and it's one of the reasons I dehybridized Ramapo F1 to an OP.

    Thankfully Rutger's brought back both of those a couple of years ago so they're now available again.

    I'm of the opinion that some of the earliest hybrids bred have some of the best tastes around along with excellent production, blemish free fruits, etc.

    With that in mind, how many of you Dona F1 folks have grown:

    Ramapo F1
    Jet Star F1
    Supersonic F1
    Moreton Hybrid

    If you haven't, why not consider trying some of them which I think are the equal or better than Dona F1 or Carmello F1. And I did grow both of the latter several times b'c I had the seeds from Shepherd's.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago


    (and others) I found out about the new release of Ramapo and Moreton and ordered seeds last year. They are growing now and I will set out in mid-May. I have my hopes for these but am somewhat disheartened by the statements I have seen that they are comparable in flavor to Celebrity, Big Boy and Early Girl, all of which I rejected long ago as the most boring tomatoes I have ever encountered outside of a supermarket. Anyway, Ramapo and Moreton will stay or not based on their own merits, not what anybody else has to say.

    As for Dona, I find it one of the best tasting and most interesting tomatoes, with a wonderful flavor that I enjoy very much. It's not the most blow-the-top-off-your-head intense tasting one of all, though I do like those as well. It's mild but complex. You would have to bring in the vocabulary of a wine taster to catch all of the overtones and subtlety.

  • skeip
    12 years ago

    Not meaning to hijack this thread, but carolyn137, what is the procedure for "dehybridizing" ?


  • aclum
    12 years ago

    Great description of Dona's taste!

    I've never tried the hybrids you mentioned. I really don't grow much in the way of hybrids - Dona's the only one year after year, and some years I'll do a Japanese Hybrid like Odoriko or Sweet Quartz. Last year and this I'm growing San Marzano-2 which I think is a hybrid. Everything else is OP. No room in the garden this year (and too late to start from seed in my zone 8/9), but I might give Ramapo and/or Moreton a try next year if I hear good reports. Thanks for the suggestion.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago


    I started to make this post but got rejected by Gardenweb. Occasionally it does that by not liking the subject line, then everything you wrote is gone. C'est la vie; I'll try again. The only reason I mention that is that "skeip" then trumped me with essentially the same request, though much briefer.

    So here goes:
    Last year I heard about the NJAES resurrection of Ramapo and Moreton and ordered some seeds. They are now started and I will plant out around mid-May. I'm interested but less than enthusiastic about some statements I have seen to the effect that their flavor is comparable to Big Boy, Celebrity and Early Girl, which are the most boring tomatoes I have ever encountered outside a supermarket. However, I have the Ramapo and Moreton plants and they will stay or go on their own merits, not what someone else has to say. I'm still hopeful.

    I certainly noticed your mention that you had dehybridized Ramapo F1 to an OP. I did know that you are one of the ones who do that sort of thing. I have thought of trying that but have been unable to find much on the procedure though I think I remember your saying something one time about a certain sequence of back-crosses. I'm not up to much on genetics and so would have to study some to understand that part. I do know about bagging blossoms, hand pollinating and how to save the seeds. Is it possible that you could provide some references or other help on the actual sequence of crosses, etc.?

    In looking at the NJAES material, I came across the name of the individual who originally created Ramapo, the story of how he had to first stabilize one of the parents (Annie, I think) and how it took longer than the expected seven years. I'm sure he (and you) are much more experienced in that line but, being an old fart with no job, maybe I could accomplish something there. Possibly Dona if I can get a couple of new seeds or get a few of my Reimer's stash to grow. Perhaps I can even manage to live another seven or eight years to get such a thing done. One thing I do know is that the so-called "Dona OP" varieties that are on the market really are nothing of the kind. It would be very nice to get a genuine stabilized one and anything you can do to point us in the right direction would be much appreciated.

    BTW, what is a good source for seeds of your Ramapo OP?

    Again, thanks for being here.

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Well, I choked hard and ordered Dona seeds from France. The
    retailer is Le Monde du Jardin and they did fill the order
    but it took them about a month. I guess we Americans are
    in too much of a hurry.

    Now, there is an interesting aspect of the case. I'm going
    to make a conjecture here and that is that even Vilmorin
    has not bred a new supply of seeds. I think they still had
    a stash which they are selling again because of voiced
    demand. I suspect that stash was rather small, which would
    explain why the variety is at present sold only in France.
    So, we will see what develops.

    My reason for this conjecture has to do with expiration
    dates. There is a date on each seed packet. The date on
    the Dona packets is 07/11 and I take this to be a "good
    until" date. That's not much time for tomato seeds. By
    comparison, I also ordered a packet of Fournaise because
    their publicity says it is "tres precoce" (very early).
    Incidentally, Tatiana's Tomato Base says Fournaise is
    not that great (I didn't check first) but now that I
    have them I will try them. The date on the Fournaise packet
    is 07/15, four more years. In other words, a recently
    produced lot of seeds could be expected to last that long.
    An older lot would have an earlier "good until" date.

    That, of course is the European system or at least the
    Vilmorin system. It seems a bit more honest to me than
    the good old US practice of saying somthing like,
    "Packed for 2010". At least that's my opinion.
    Any other thoughts?

  • digdirt2
    12 years ago

    sneezer - I think maybe you are reading far more into "expiration date" and "packaged for" dates than is intended - at least far more than most of us do.

    Tomato seeds are very long lived and don't "expire". Germination rates may fall off but it is slowly. Personally I ignore those dates totally unless this issue comes up. I have seed packets dated 1999 I'm still using and much of what I grew from seed for sale this year was purchased at least 3 years ago.

    Proper storage of seed is the key, not dates on the package.


  • carolyn137
    12 years ago

    Dave, I do like to know the seed age and for sure one can't go by a packed date b'c that only says when the seeds were packed, not when they were produced. But I think the European system is much better in terms of best used by dates.

    Yes, most of the time one can ignore a packed by date or best used by date until and unless there's NO or little germination, and then if it were me I'd start to wonder about the actual seed production date. Many seed companies do germination tests on the tomato seed they sell and many don't.

    sneezer, I didn't see you post above until now. I don't know where to get Ramapo OP at any place other than asking for it via message sites that have seed exchanges. I know many to whom I sent it and it's now on the F6 or 7 and still stable and I also know that quite a few of those folks post at another site .

    No backcrosses needed as you asked above. Just growing out the F1, saving F2 seeds, where I did see both parents, and continuing to make selections until it was stable.

    And I don't know as I'd suggest that Vilmorin was offering sandbagged seeds, but it has happened before and that was so when Ramapo F1 went out of production, but it wasn't a commercial place that was offering them, rather many folks in NJ, especially some commercial farmers who must have known it was going out of production. Actually the F1 Ramapo I started with came from a friend in NJ who bought a 6-pak at a farmstand. But I knew someone at Rutgers and also had some seed from someone there.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    I definitely agree with Carolyn's assessment of the
    varying "systems" of dating seed packets. Don't want to
    read too much into it and if I got a packet of seeds from,
    say Vilmorin, with a date of, maybe 2008 or whatever,
    that doesn't mean I wouldn't try them. I do think though
    that the date on the package influences one's expectations
    of what's inside and that some companies do exploit that

    I don't know if there is anything compulsory about the
    "European system" or if it is just what Vilmorin does
    but I like it better.

    The date of 07/11 on the packets is not going to stop me
    trying them for, I hope, many subsequent years. My
    suggestion "that Vilmorin was offering sandbagged seeds"
    is only a conjecture and, in fact, I don't really see
    anything wrong with that. After all, that is next year
    and not this year. I'm just glad they had some available.
    At the same time, I can't think of any other reason for
    the difference, unless they would be saying that Dona
    seeds don't last as long as others, and I very much doubt

    What this does mean to me though is that I will be on the
    lookout for some fresher ones and get them if there is an

    Carolyn, thanks for your info on the F2, etc. I do have
    some that I saved at the last minute when I found out
    Dona would be discontinued. No controls, blossom bagging
    or anything like that. It was just a fruit still hanging
    on the vine. I'm calling it "Dona F2" for what that is
    worth and growing a couple this year to see what happens.

    BTW, I haven't been able to get the Ramapo F1 that I got
    from NJAES to germinate. Don't know if they had some
    trouble but these just don't seem to grow. I'll keep
    trying and look around for some OP. I have a Moreton
    and there is another that I gave away. As always, thanks
    for your help.

  • aclum
    12 years ago

    Hi Sneezer,

    If you're interested in a cutting or two from my Dona Hybrid F1 (seeds from TGS - undated), let me know.
    The plant's very healthy, about 30"+ tall and ready for a bit of pruning tomorrow.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks, Anne, but I'm not sure how that could be managed.
    I know tree scions can be mailed and survive but it seems
    that something as green as a tomato cutting would not
    have an easy time of it. If you have other knowledge,
    please share it.

    I have two Dona F1 seedlings, from seeds that I got from
    Reimers. Small and not looking so great. They germinated
    late and I think I did some overwatering. But, they are
    set outside now and in a few days I'll know how they will

    Also, of course, I now have seeds for "the real thing" and
    I'm trying to start a couple of those. Late, but if they go
    out at the start of June, I'm still ahead of almost
    everyone else.

    Yes, I would like to try cuttings but, as I said, I don't
    know how it would work out. I do have (Egad!) a French
    email address if you would want to communicate further.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Sorry, that was dumb, wasn't it?

  • aclum
    12 years ago

    Hi Sneezer,

    Sounds like you've got it covered! Just thought I'd make the offer to a fellow Dona afficianato.

    Please report back later in the season on how everything compares - the Reimer vs the Vilmorin vs the F2's.

    Happy gardening!

  • donnamarienj
    12 years ago

    so who at this point has the REAL Dona? I'm so confused. It's my name and I'd like a tomato with my name. Where can I get the REAL seeds?? Please?


    Donna (with 2 Ns)

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago


    I do. I'm sure there are others but (without malice) I
    believe everything they have is from older sources, prior
    to the time when the developer discontinued
    selling them. I even have some of those older seeds, in
    which I have a fair degree of confidence but not total.

    The "owner" of the strain is Vilmorin, a French
    multinational seed and genetics company. They developed
    Dona a number of years ago (others would know more than
    I about just when) and sold it for many years. Along
    about 2007, they discontinued selling it. A few people
    (Anne) have been growing Dona tomatoes from seed they
    had before the variety went off the market.

    Just this year, Vilmorin has re-introduced the variety
    and, I believe, if you really want the genuine seed and
    don't know anyone who has some old stock, you will
    have to buy it in their packets. I have done just that,
    having sent an order to a French retailer. The price
    was very high.

    Please bear in mind that there are retailers offering
    seed for Dona that is not genuine, that is to say it is
    not the F1 hybrid seed that you would get from Vilmorin.
    Bob's Tomatoes and Tomatofest are among them and I know
    there are others. These are all F2 or higher.

    The only company I know of in the US having Dona seeds
    for sale and claiming that they are the F1 hybrid is
    Reimer's. I believe their stock to be genuine though I
    would not guarantee that. It is old, though, and I have
    found germination to be poor, so you would be taking
    your chances.

    My best suggestion, if you really, really, really want some
    genuine Dona seeds is to find someone who is taking a
    trip to Paris and prevail upon them to drop into the
    Vilmorin retail store in central Paris to pick up a
    packet or two. They will cost you $6 to $7 each. Europe
    is expensive.

    For what it's worth, the store (magasin) is very close to
    a number of tourist sites, such as Notre Dame Cathedral,
    and is just a short walk from the Ile de la Cite, crossing
    either the Pont Neuf or the Pont au Change. Also, it's
    right next to the Chatelet Theatre.

    Actually, it seems to me that this store would be an
    interesting destination in itself, judging from the
    apparently immense size of it. Quite an oddysey for any
    tomato seed lover!

    For those of you bored or offended by this post, please
    forgive me. It seems I got a bit carried away.

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    I probably can spare a couple of these. If you want,
    you can give me a postal address at the email above.

    (not a general offer)

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    I've just germinated three of the Vilmorin seeds and they
    are doing fine. That is, of course 100%, though a very
    small sample.

    The seeds are tiny, as is characteristic of Dona.
    Germination was in three days for one and four days for the
    other two, so I know at least it is a good lot. These were
    done on a wet paper towel and the time stated is for
    emergence of the root tip from the seed.

  • sundrops
    11 years ago


    How many seeds were in the packet from Vilmoron? How much did it finally cost you to get that packet?

    I too have been searching for Dona seeds for a number of years. It was a definate for me every year and was terribly dissapointed when it went out of productions.

    Has there been any changes to the offering of these seeds since last year.


  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Quoting from my own previous post:

    (about the Vilmorin retail location pictured above)

    "Actually, it seems to me that this store would be an
    interesting destination in itself, judging from the
    apparently immense size of it."

    I've been lucky enough to visit there a few weeks ago
    and find myself somewhat surprised. Yes, it was
    interesting and I did buy a few seeds. I also recommend
    the visit to anyone else who happens to get to Paris.
    It's easy to find.

    Judging from the apparently huge size of the place on
    Google street view and my supposition that this would be
    the "flagship" retail location of the entire Vilmorin
    empire, I imagined it as a quintessentially chic
    Parisian shop with lots of glass and polished brass,
    suitably bespoke sales attendants, soft music and lots
    of extremely innovative and interesting merchandise.
    Sort of a Louis Vuitton for gardeners.

    But, not to be. More like an old-timey midwestern
    American hardware store with scuffed hardwood floors
    and an ancient cash register. If you look on the left
    side of the picture above, where the awning is extended,
    you can just see where it says "animalerie" A pet shop!
    There are a couple of those in the same block. And it
    is an interesting block, with several other shops
    specializing in plants and seeds. And pet shops! Also,
    it's nothing like as big as it looks in the photo. They
    do, though have a large display of seed packets, of which
    I bought several (and lost one to a venal and disorganized
    customs inspector at Atlanta airport). Warning - if you
    buy any, mail them back and call them something else -
    documents, dried peas or something.

    All in all, an interesting spot. you can spend an hour or
    a bit more poking around the area

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    The Dona seeds I got at the Vilmorin store are dated
    07/2016. This suggests to me that they have grown a
    fresh lot.

  • marbernhouse_verizon_net
    11 years ago

    Can you share the current situation regarding availability of the Dona's?

    We live in western Massachusetts, where the zone is listed as 5, but our elevations brings it down to 4. We grew Donas in the late '90s, loved them, sold the plants at the Farmer's Market and had many good reports and subsequent requests. We would love to have them again, but only the "real thing", which I assume is an F1 plant?

  • sneezer2
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Sorry to take so long. I have not been logging in much
    of late.

    The current situation, so far as I know it, is that
    Dona F1 seed is available only in France. The most recent
    packet I have shows a "sell by" or "use by" (whatever
    you want to call it or however you want to interpret it)
    of 2016. This indicates to me that Vilmorin has bred a
    new lot of seed. That's encouraging but does not guarantee
    that they will continue. However, seed is available now
    though difficult to get in the USA. There is no-one that
    I know of selling it here. Moreover, it seems to me that
    as you are in MA it is probably too late for this year,
    so you might want to plan for 2012.

    Your best bet, I think, would be if you have acquaintance
    with anyone in France to ask them to send you some and
    offer to pay them the cost of seed and postage. They
    would have to do this using the equivalent of an
    international express mail document envelope. Do not
    let them declare the parcel as seeds or they will be
    seized. There is a USDA program for import of small
    lots of seed and you could check into that if you want.

    Next best and probably just as good would be if you know
    someone travelling to Paris on vacation or business.
    They could go straight to the Vilmorin store as shown above
    and get what you want. Do not let them bring seeds back
    in their luggage. Mail it as "documents" and you have
    a good chance of receiving it.

    Third is to just order some online from a French retailer.
    This is what I did. It is very expensive. You could order
    as much as five or six packets in one order without an
    increase in the postage and that would give you 250 to
    300 seeds. Search the forum under the keyword Dona and
    you will find my other posts, in one of which you will
    find a little more information on this. In my case, the
    retailer just happened to use a document envelope and so I
    received my seeds. A few French companies have websites
    that allow for international shipment though it is
    definitely not what they are accustomed to.

    Sorry I can't be of more help right now. It's late at
    night and I can't think of anything else right now.
    I'll try to check back fairly soon in case you have
    any more questions.

  • rdstirling_zoomtown_com
    11 years ago

    I just found your discussion of DONA HYBRIDE F1 and was fascinated. Last year in France at Truffaut I bought several different types of French tomato seeds among which was Vilemorin's Dona F1. (Exp 07/2016, about 20 seeds) I only planted one seed and my Dona plant already has several tomatoes on it. I'll be interested to see what I get. Among my other French seeds, I also planted Montfavet, Marmande, Noire Russe, Noir de Crimee, Andine Cornue, Coeur, etc. I wish I had seen Carmello there.