SCOTT SIMON, host:
The proposition that certain sounds at certain pitches might assuage into light plants is an article of faith among some plant lovers. And such sounds might include the human voice - there's a matter for debate. But this week the Royal Horticultural Society held open auditions to try to come up with the 10 best voices to encourage their tomatoes in a month-long experiment.
Colin Crosbie is the gardener at the Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley Gardens in Surrey. Thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. COLIN CROSBIE (Royal Horticultural Society): It's good to be with you.
SIMON: And what's a great tomato voice?
Mr. CROSBIE: Well, this is where we don't really know because plants have been tested with music in the past to see how they respond. But we thought we'd set up this exciting little trial with a number of tomato plants, try and get 10 very distinct voices, 'cause voices go from very low to very high, and see which one is best.
Now, scientists think that it would be the low kind of gravelly voices, which perhaps cause more vibrations that might stimulate plant growth.
SIMON: So, Oliver Reed as opposed to Sting.
Mr. CROSBIE: Very much so.
SIMON: If a person turns out to be the absolutely right voice for tomato plants - I mean I can foresee a gold mine ahead.
Mr. CROSBIE: Well, I can, you know, because some people encourage them by heaping praise on them; others might threaten a plant which is not performing. But if there is a great voice…
SIMON: Excuse me. You're talking about plant abuse there, aren't you?
Mr. CROSBIE: Oh, well, there occasionally have been times when gardeners have been knowing to threaten their trees if they're not blossoming or not performing right: This is your last opportunity or it's the chop. And whether they hear it or not, we don't know, but the tree responds.
And this little experiment just goes to see - is there something, does the human voice, does it encourage growth hormones and things like that?
SIMON: So in theory a voice a could say, Bloom or I'll toss you into the Thames, but it wouldn't matter if their tone was right.
Mr. CROSBIE: Really it doesn't matter because with the additions - we had two pieces; we had "The Day of the Triffids" and we also had a piece of Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which were being read, you know, and it was a five-minute section from both texts. But really, the text was the secondary thing. It was the range of the voice, you know, the pitch of the voice, the tone of the voice, which was the most exciting thing. And we've got a team at the present moment that are going through all the people that auditioned to make sure that we get the proper range of variations and we'll see which ones have the greatest effect.
SIMON: Well, Mr. Crosbie, we'd like to check back with you and hear some of the voices in a month or so.
Mr. CROSBIE: Okay. Yes, we would look forward to speak to you again.
SIMON: Colin Crosbie, he is gardener at the British Royal Horticulture Society Garden in Wisley.
This is NPR News.