It’s been a disappointing year for gardeners – scorching sun and high temperatures have been tough on plants, and many have withered and browned much earlier in the season than expected.
Especially troubling has been the performance of impatiens – often a staple of the suburban yard. In past years impatiens have thrived even in poor conditions – and by August produced colorful borders on residential flowerbeds.
We spoke to Al Krautter, owner of Sprainbrook Nurseries on Underhill Road in Scarsdale to find out why some impatiens are leggy, limp and dying and learned that a blight called downy mildew has afflicted almost all the impatiens in our area – with the exception of New Guinea impatiens which are not susceptible to the disease. Even more depressing, he predicts that there will be no impatiens in this area for another three years! There is no known cure for the downy mildew and Krautter thinks it will take three years to subside as the spores remain in the soil, even through the winter months.
He says that “Impatiens became so popular because they are so easy to grow, produced an abundance of color and inexpensively grown from seed. In the long run, the solution will have to be in hybridization and in the short run gardeners will have to choose alternative plants.
What can you plant instead? Begonias have always been a good garden border. With their waxy leaves in green or brown and red, pink and white flowers, they add color to the landscape, are shade tolerant and last until frost.
Krautter has converted his entire operation to an organic approach and recently published a book called “12 Steps To Natural Gardening” which is a guide to gardening without the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or harsh additives. The book include 34 personal stories and horticultural principles and you can learn more about it here.
We also spoke to Elaine Yellen a Scarsdale resident and landscape designer about the flowers and she said, “Yes, the impatiens are suffering from a fast spreading fungus which has affected almost 100 per cent of all impatiens we planted last spring. Apparently the fungus stays in the ground even over winter, so I will not be planting impatiens next year. Other shade tolerant plants I will use include torrenia, coleus, various begonia types (I love the tuberous ones) and caladium."