Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coleus, Not Impatiens

 Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Good morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the snow has just begun. An hour ago friend Carlene wrote from mid Vermont to say that there was an inch on the ground and it was snowing. I took Karl out again and a couple flakes drifted to earth but before I just got back to the house the snow was pouring from the sky. At this rate I can envision an inch an hour and with the temperature at 28.8°, the snow will be plentiful and the possibility of rain should diminish.

 If you read my Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens Facebook page (Like it?)  or my personal George Africa FB page this week,  you'll have seen my comments about avoiding impatiens this summer. For a bazillion years impatiens have been used in shady places and half sunny places as a dependable annual with plenty of blooms and lots of color. But in the past couple years Downy Mildew and other plant maladies have struck and not long after the impatiens are planted and have caught on nicely, they seem to fall over and die. For a year now the word from the plant production world has been to think differently about your bedding plants and avoid spending time and money on something that may well fail.

Coleus are one of the substitutes and there is no shortage of color and leaf styles to substitute for your favorite impatiens. Gail has always bought in coleus from her friends at Clausens' Greenhouses in Colchester and we have never been disappointed. Each year new varieties are released to the market and it's not that difficult to have something that fellow gardeners have not seen or grown.

 The leaf styles are intriguing and leaf size ranges from petite to 10"-12" leaves 3"-4" wide. Some coleus can be trained to 5 feet tall and a couple feet wide and those "big guys' look great in the background or planted in large containers.

I'll make an album on Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens to show a full dozen coleus we grew last year. I suspect the flower show in Essex this weekend will have a good display too. If you want to replace impatiens and haven't tried coleus before, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where mourning doves are feeding heavily on cracked corn and millet as two red squirrels circle the bottom of the feeder eating leftovers. Safe travel!

George Africa
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Mary said...

I love coleus and have good success with them. I would love to know the names of the ones featured in your article. They are so beautiful. said...

Mary: We just buy in a dozen or so different varieties each year and the greenhouse sends us the latest. We use most for display so gardeners can see the new varieties and we tag the names at that time. Since we sell very few ourselves, I don't pay attention to names. Sorry. Try this site: as they have a great collection of coleus. The Vermont Flower Show starts today in Essex, Vt and I'm keeping my eye out for colorful new plants. George

Rusty in Miami said...

Hi George, every winter I plant impatiens in my shade garden, but this year I lost 80% of all the plants within the first month. I was not aware of the mildew problem, thanks for the information. I agree coleuses are an excellent replacement.

Jan said...

Those are some gorgeous coleus, George. I often put them in pots and place them around the gardens for added color. It's amazing the new varieties that have come out. Such pretty annuals. I grew impatiens from seed a couple of years ago; I suppose that would help keep the problem away. Many people won't have the patience for that, though. I probably won't do it this year, either. I am trying to have mainly perennials so I don't have to worry about planting annuals! But it's hard to pass up a few...and yours are lovely.