Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsImpatiens

OBSERVATIONS

GARDENS : Hue and Cry : Working With the Bright, Sometimes Plastic-Looking Colors of Impatiens

November 01, 1987|ROBERT SMAUS | Robert Smaus is an associate editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

FOR SOME, IMPATIENS are far too common to even consider; for others they are a godsend. They are very common--the single-most popular flower grown in this country--but that is for good reason. They are the only flower that thrives where there is little light. No green thumb is required. And if they look a little like they are molded from plastic, it is because they nearly always look good and are nearly always in bloom. In many gardens, they are the only flower that still looks good late in the year. You can't go wrong. Almost.

The one mistake made with impatiens is leaving them in the ground too long. Many gardeners have learned that impatiens can last longer than a season--but impatiens really should be replanted every year. True, they can be left alone or cut back and they will last into the next year or even longer. But after that first season they become increasingly leggy and flowerless. In impatiens plantings designed by Linda Cooper, the color coordinator for Roger's Gardens Colorscape in Corona del Mar, the impatiens are pulled out of the ground in October or November and replaced with Primula obconica , which looks good all winter. In the spring, out comes that common primrose and in go a new batch of impatiens. It's a neat switch, because the obconica primroses are similarly colored and grow under the same conditions as the impatiens.

While you can't really go wrong with impatiens colors, most plantings could use a little fine-tuning. For anything other than a very small planting, the Roger's Gardens designers avoid the orange-colored and the bi-colored impatiens, saving those for containers or for places where they can stand alone. In most beds only the reds and the many shades of pink--plus a lot of whites for a more harmonious scheme--are used. The designers avoid alternating colors too abruptly, preferring to plant several of each color in a mass, to avoid a speckled look. To do this, one needs to buy plants that already have one open flower, or to buy plants not sold as a mixes.

In small plantings, the designers at Roger's use the oranges and salmons, which often come in a mix, and even the bi-colors--because these few plants tend not to clash--but they still use lots of white, which softens any differences. They also like to break up the plantings with patches of green. The low-growing, shade-loving baby's tears is often mixed with the bronze-leaf ajuga. A surprising combination mixes common parsley with impatiens. White azaleas are another good companion plant, and so is the bright blue 'Cambridge' variety of lobelia.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|