|Impatiens bicolor (closeup)|
This time of year, gardeners get might "impatient"--so what better post on a Valentine's day than these wonderful summer delights (with their somewhat heart shaped flowers and buds)... I doubt you have seen this one before--Dan Johnson and I collected seed of it in September of 2001 (yes--not long after the infamous 9-11-2001) in the Himalayas of Pakistan. I don't recall seeing this offered by any company--we may have indeed introduced it to cultivation subsequently. Like all impatiens, it is prollific and explosive in its seeding--so we have been a tad cautious about sharing it. But it has shared itself generously at Denver Botanic Gardens and a few local gardens as well...
I am a bit surprised the botanist only thought it had "bi" colors--I see white, yellow and pink. Like others of its clan, it likes shade and not too dry a spot--although Pakistan being at the dry end of the Himalaya this is not as fussy as the gigantic sorts that are such weeds in England and the Pacific Northwest.
Another view of our Pakistani...which admitedly looks an awful lot like the other compact impatiens that is often grown (although compact is relative--this can get a meter tall in a moist enough spot)...
Impatiens balfourii is much more bi-colored than its more westerly occuring cousin. It is every bit as vigorous--my original plantings have spread far beyond their allotted space in the Rock Alpine Garden, and now it's busy gobbling up Woodland Mosaic: the flowers are truly ethereal, and the plant is really pretty manageable. I've had far more trouble when I grew our native Touch-me-not (which is locally common in the Denver-Boulder area along some piedmont streams): our orange and yellow native spread everywhere and the seedlings seemed to mature in no time flat!
This year perhaps I will finally obtain the brilliant new Blue Tibetan impatiens that is offered by Annie's Annuals (I shan't tell you the name lest you buy the last ones), and maybe I can persuade Impatiens omeiana to actually grow well enough to overwinter.
Perhaps you can solve a mystery: early in my career a neighbor who lived near Colfax invited me to a garden party "I have a pretty garden, you must see it: it's full of little orchids"--well--who would resist attending a nearby party where the garden is "full of little orchids!"...there were lots of neighbors there that afternoon and some good party snacks--the orchids were out back she told me. So I sidled my way through the munching crowd, and walked into an enchanted little back garden with hostas and other pleasant shady things. No orchids in sight, but dozens of diminutive impatiens--half the size or less than the two I've described, with even more spritely bright rose and white flowers with a sort of monkey like face. I stupidly didn't ask for seed--and I am still wondering what they might have been. This was 30 years ago--the lady was elderly then. But the house still stands just a few blooks from work. This year, I must go see if any of the "little orchids" persisted. What the heck could they have been?