Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

Impatiens - supermarket bedding or an ideal bed mate!

Last year I purchased two varieties of hardy Impatiens to help prolong the season of interest from summer into autumn in our garden. Impatiens, like many plants, have got themselves a bad reputation. Impatiens glandulifera, or Himalayan balsalm  has become a nuisance along riverbanks and on waste ground with its exploding seed pods. Seed can remain viable for up to two years. Plants overshadow and swamp anything else around it. Then we have the Bizzie Lizzie, Impatiens walleriana. Sold everywhere from supermarkets to garden centres. Do we really all want this same plant growing in our gardens in various different colours? Well I suppose we could all swop sob stories about how the mildew has got it again! I myself am not a lover of bedding plants so have never grown it, nor am ever likely to. Supermarkets you can keep them!

There are a few much more worthwhile candidates. Impatiens omeiensis is a low growing ground cover for woodland areas, spreading slowly by runners. Subtlety with variegation is the key, and this plant certainly does that with a yellow midrib on green leaves edged with hints of burgundy. For me the foliage alone is a reason to grow it, but in late summer and autumn creamy yellow flowers appear above the foliage too. It needs to be grown in a sheltered spot, having an H3 hardy rating (down to -5 degrees C) in partial or full shade. Don’t let the hardiness rating put you off. You would be surprised how sheltered some urban or even woodland gardens are. It could also be planted as ground cover in beds backed by house walls.

Impatiens tinctoria, is at the other end of the scale. It is one of the largest of the species. It can, in the right conditions, grow up to 10ft tall, but is more likely to grow to about 6ft. This is a plant that is certainly going to grab your attention. Large leaves topped with scented, spurred, white flowers with a dark centre, resembling orchids up to 8cm wide. The flower scent seems more intense at night. Grown from a tuber, it can be treated very much like a Dahlia – planted in the ground with a heavy winter mulch or grown in a container and overwintered in a cool greenhouse. It is hardy to about -6 degrees C. Although it originates from Africa, it tends to be found in the cooler northern regions, so is much more suited to growing in our climate. Moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade will suit it nicely. It doesn’t self-seed in this country so there is no chance of it overtaking your garden. I really don’t know why this isn’t more widely grown.
Posted: 26/04/2016 22:17:34 by Pamela Barden