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This page was updated January 23, 2000 
Every gardener has a different opinion about how things should be done. An example is a favorite saying from one of my good gardening friends: "You get three gardeners in one room - fist fight!". While I don't completely agree with Gerry - I know that there is always more than one way to approach a subject. I hope that we can provide you with some useful information, and some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
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The Garden Commando


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Annuals  - Impatiens
By The Garden Commando

Baskets of new Guinea and shade impatiens - Photo L. Peacock

If you need quick, vibrant colour for a shaded area, you can buy a couple of flats of Impatiens sultanii and instantly brighten up that location. Although they will cave at the first sign of a heavy frost, impatiens will normally give you a long season of colour, asking very little except water and some plant food. 

Impatiens come in a wide variety of reds, oranges, pinks, mauves, purples, and in white.  They are a super bedding plant, as well as doing well in tubs, hanging baskets and bags. A note however, on container-grown impatiens - keep them really well watered but not soggy. They can withstand hot, dry conditions, but you must check them daily to ensure that they do not dry out. On the other hand, if you allow them to get too wet, or there is insufficient drainage in the containers, they may rot. 

In my experience they do best planted in a location where they get the morning sun. 

A variation on the ever popular single impatiens is the smaller flowered, double or rose impatiens.  These sometimes come with green and white variagated foliage which gives them an added interest. They are treated in the same way as the single impatiens, except that - in my opinion - they are not nearly as showy and have limited uses as a border plant.  They look interesting when used as a center-piece or in large pots.  They have an annoying tendency to grow straight up rather than having a low branching habit, which is another reason I am not keen on them. 

This year (1998) for the first time we saw a new impatiens variety which came in an washed out yellow and washed out orange. They were not popular with clients, did poorly in the hot dry weather and did not produce the masses of generous blooms we are used to with the other impatiens. In pots and other containers, they became extremely tall and leggy. 

In addition to the impatiens that are used for the shade, there is a variety called Sunshine or New Guinea impatiens, which is more tolerant of the full sun than the traditional "shade impatiens. I say "more tolerant" because like most of the impatiens family they will quickly droop and shrivel if not watered. 

New Guinea impatiens also come in a wide variety of reds, oranges, pinks, mauves and also white.  It is a sturdy, thick stemmed plant which responds well to regular feeding and plenty of water. The flowers often come with interesting variegation on the petals and are especially gorgeous in tubs and hanging baskets. 

Balsam is also of the impatiens family and makes an attractive border plant for a partially shaded location.  The showy, double blooms look like small roses and when massed make a good show. 

A final note on impatiens is the giant (6 to 7 feet tall) Impatiens glandulafera. This is definitely not for every garden, and it tends to be EXTREMELY invasive - self-seeding merrily at a touch. (One common name for this plant is "touch me not".)  They are however rather attractive in a blowsy sort of way, and look nice against a backdrop of evergreens in a partially shaded location.  Bees love them, and it is always fun to watch a huge bumblebee crawl inside one of the blooms, get almost completely swallowed up, then finally emerge covered in pollen.


Texts used to support this article: 
New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening  Edited by T.H. Everett, Assistant Director (horticulture) and Curator of Education the New york Botanical Garden.  Greystone Press, New York
The New Key to Wildflowers by John Hayward. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, England.

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