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SoCal Gardening

Our Impatiens Will at Long Last Be Rewarded

April 08, 1999|ROBERT SMAUS

Last spring we told you about a breakthrough in botanical engineering--the development of a yellow impatiens, an achievement that ranks right up there with white marigolds or the elusive blue rose.

Only trouble was, all the plants ended up being sold back East, even though the variety was developed right here in California by Bodger Seeds. This spring they will definitely be at Southern California nurseries.

The yellow ones are a little more expensive than oh-so-common impatiens because they must be grown from cuttings. That's because the cross that produced the yellow flower was sterile, a mule, so the yellow version makes no seed.

This series of impatiens, called Seashell, also includes some pleasant orange shades called Apricot, Papaya, Passion, Peach and--brightest of all--Tangerine.

The blooms of these impatiens have a different shape too, so different you might not spot them as impatiens. The flowers are more like those of their African ancestors. They are not big and flat-faced like conventional impatiens, but rolled up a bit at the edges like an oyster shell. It's a very pleasing, almost antique look.

I managed to get a few last fall for a talk I gave at the Los Angeles Garden Show, and then grew them on through the winter. Those in pots and under trees kept on blooming, then almost quit in February, but are back and furiously flowering. Those out in the open died in the December freeze.

Culture is the same as for any impatiens: They want moisture and some shade. Don't pamper them, except for watering; they bloom best with neglect. Fertilize them not.

If you lost impatiens in this winter's cold, consider planting these, or pop a few in pots for those colorless shady spots on the patio or balcony.

Or give them a try if you've simply had it up to here with pink and lavender impatiens. These are just as easy to grow and, frankly, less garish.

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