Feeling ‘impatiens’ for summer color
Just as I was thinking it might be warm enough to plant my typical summer array of impatiens and coleus on my front porch, I discover the NY Times article discussing an outbreak of downy mildew infesting the U.S. crop of Impatiens walleriana.
Major bummer. To me, this is a big problem. Why? Well, here’s my issue: I love flowers on my front porch. The perky color and long-lasting blooms of impatiens instantly cheer me up when I step onto my porch. As an added bonus, here in Georgia the plants last virtually forever; I think last summer’s plants finally died in November.
I realize that there are millions of other flower options in nature’s repertoire, but my housing situation is antagonistic to most of these alternatives. Residing as I do in the South, I’ve got the obligatory front porch; the blessed respite of shade in the sweltering summer heat. My house is surrounded by trees, making the yard shady as well. Finally, because I’m in an Arts & Crafts style bungalow, I’ve got deep, recessed eves around my roofline, making my porch even shadier. The bottom line is that I’ve tried a lot of plants on this porch and these are the two that flourished.
So what are my alternatives? I know that I’ll be fine with my usual coleus; its variegated foliage providing a delightful contrast to whichever blooms I select. New Guinea impatiens are being highly touted as a substitute, but I’ve tried and failed with those before. Fuschia is another suggestion, but it has failed too. (I got nothing but foliage all summer.) Hostas are lovely, but I think of them as bedding plants, not containers, and their flowers are a little dull.
After browsing around Pike Nursery for awhile, I’ve finally settled on Begonias mixed in with some coleus, a Persian shield (Strobilanthese dyerianus), and a few stand-alone pots of impatiens. I just couldn’t resist. I didn’t want to risk putting all of my money and time into them, but I decided that if I kept a few of them separate, I can easily replace them if they die. I’m also taking a little bit of a gamble. I know that my impatiens didn’t exhibit signs of the disease last year, so I am confident that my soil is uncontaminated with the fungus. Growers are expressing confidence that their stock is clean, but….
Anyway, we’ll see how they all do! I still need to acquire hanging baskets of something and I’m stringently resisting the sterotypical southern porch accessory: the hanging basket of ferns. Not only is it ubiquitous, it’s boring. Spider plants don’t do much for me either. Ivy is right out; my yard is a sea of it. I may settle on a “Wandering Jew” (Tradescantia pallida), but only if I can’t find something a little more exciting. I’m completely open to suggestions, so drop me a comment if you’ve got any ideas!