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Vermont Garden Journal: Impatiens

flickr/The Greenery Nursery

I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. This flower is native to Zanzibar in Africa, but was made famous by a plant breeder living and working in Costa Rica. It's also called busy Lizzy or touch me not because the seed pods explode when you touch them sending their seed flying. In America, it's one of the most popular bedding annuals we grow. It's the impatiens.

Breeder Claude Hope first discovered impatiens growing as a weed in the Costa Rica. It was an escapee from Africa and Claude saw the potential. Impatiens are a succulent stemmed annual that come in a broad range of flower colors. They love part shady locations so are perfect in containers, hanging baskets and under trees. Some newer varieties, such as Sunpatiens, are even full sun tolerant.

This common flower has been fairly carefree, until recently. Downy mildew fungus is a common disease that attacks a variety of flowers and vegetables. There's a strain that has been devastating impatiens plants up and down the East Coast and, yes, it was reported last year in Vermont. Early signs of the disease are light green, curled leaves with gray markings and white growth on the leaf underside. In advanced stages the leaves drop and stems collapse. Unfortunately, once you have the disease all you can do pull out the plants.

Growers are trying hard to limit the amount of diseased transplants being shipped around the country this spring, but disease spores can also travel hundreds of miles on the wind. To avoid the problem, plant disease free transplants from local growers or plant New Guinea impatiens, Sunpatiens or begonias which are all resistant to downy mildew.

Now for this week's tip,  it's pea planting time. Make raised beds, soak seed over night in warm water to hasten germination and coat them with a fungal inoculate if you've never used it before. Plant in rows on the beds and build a twig or wire fence to support the pea growth.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about green walls. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Downy Mildew of Impatiens