Species: Impatiens hawkeri
Common names: New Guinea impatiens Swedish name: lyckliga lotta
Impatiens is a large genus of about 850 to 1000 species of flowering plants, widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and the tropics. Some have a special dispersal mechanism where the mature seed capsules burst in an explosive way. The seeds are sent up to several meters away. The name Impatiens is derived from this mechanism since it is triggered when the capsules are touched. All Impatiens taste bitter and seem to be slightly toxic upon ingestion, causing symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Impatiens are popular to use in garden beds and containers. Hybrids of busy lizzie (Impatiens walleriana) and New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), have commercial importance as garden plants. Impatiens hawkeri was first collected in the Territory of Papua in 1884 and soon became popular as a greenhouse plant. The flowers are visited by bumblebees so it may be useful in a wildlife garden.
Description: To most of you busy lizzie probably is more familiar than the New Guinea impatiens. So why am I not talking about it instead? During recent years buzy lizzie have been affected by a pest. It is a kind of mildew spreading in wet and rainy conditions causing the plants to wither leaving only a green soup. It seems like the New Guinea impatiens is resistant to this pest. That is why I use it instead. Impatiens hawkeri consists of plants with a great variety of flower and leaf colors sold in nurseries. Many are beautiful with dark ornamental foliage and vibrant flower colors, bright orange or pink.
How to grow: Impatiens hawkeri is both an indoor and an outdoor plant. It prefers light or partial shade, sometimes it is said to suit in dense shade. My experience is that it needs a few hours of sun/light to thrive. But keep it shaded from hot, direct sun in summer. It needs a moist but well draining soil and is a bit fussy about water. It does not like the soil to dry completely. So keep the soil evenly moist, but not over watered. Remember that flowering plants are thirsty, and they dry out quickly in containers. Propagation is by stem tip cuttings or by seed. Many hybrids do not set seed or the flowers can be sterile. Some plants will not come true from seed.
I am a green gardener. I think that environmental and nature care is part of being a gardener. I like to enjoy a living, thriving garden where wildlife is welcome. But of course I want my ornamental plants and veggies to be left alone. Not being affected by any pests or diseases. So how do I keep my green treasures safe? And if disaster strikes what do I do?
There are a couple of ground rules to keep in mind
- Plant rotation – never plant the same species at the same spot year after year. Make a rotation scheme for the garden bed. This is of great importance in a veggie garden.
- Polycultures – diversity is crucial do not be too focused on one species learn to love variety and let wildflowers have a place in your garden
- The right plant in the right place – adapt to nature rather than work against it. Learn more about your plants. Just by looking on them you will understand how it works. Large thin leaves with no hair – commonly shade plants. Grey/silvery, hairy leaves or fleshy, waxy succulent leaves – commonly sun lovers. These are just a few features to look for.
- Garden patrol – take a daily stroll in the garden look at your plants. Any signs of something being wrong? Do they need water? How about weeds – time to make an effort?
- Correct composting – never put affected plant material or soil in your compost. Put them in the garbage or burn them. Some diseases are worse than others.
- The right care – plants are living and need proper care. They can not pull up their roots and move to get what they need. It is your job and responsibility.
And if a pest or disease get its grip anyway
- Remove affected parts
- Identify the pest and read about it
- Use biological pest control – use predators or parasites preying on the pest to eliminate it. For example nematode against fungus gnats (Bardysia spp.)
- Use mechanical pest control – simply remove the pest by hand. Pick larvae, squeeze lice
- Use chemical pest control – make a mix of water, soap and alcohol to spray on your plants – works against lice among other things. Baking soda mixed with water may work on mildew. These are the only chemicals I use.
Conventional pesticides and herbicides– never!
And if you do not manage to control it? Well, that is life and a part of gardening.
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