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Gardening and More: How to fill your garden without using impatiens

PLEASE GROW — The New Guinea impatien, pictured above, is not the same type of flower (the impatiens walleriana) that is being killed by downy mildew. The New Guinea impatien has a nice flower and a good range of color, but it is more expensive than impatiens walleriana. Photo courtesy of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses.
BUFFALO — In an earlier column, I told you that impatiens, which many gardeners regard as the perfect flowers, for a shady area, are doomed. This column will list alternatives that you can plant, instead of impatiens.

The problem is that downy mildew is killing off the impatiens. Some garden centers will not carry impatiens this year but, if you can find them, expect them to die. You will probably not be able to buy impatiens at all in Western New York, next year, so begin to look for alternatives.

According to Jill Kisker, grower at Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg, there is no one other plant that has all the wonderful traits of impatiens. Other plants do not have such a wide range of colors, do not bloom as long or are expensive.

You may have to get creative, to fill the void.

Mark Yadon of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses in Williamsville recommended using annuals sparingly and taking this opportunity to develop a perennial garden in your shady space.

“If you get perennials going and add splashes of color, with annuals, it won’t be nearly as costly,” Yadon said.

It can be hard to find long-lasting, colorful flowers for the shade, so add color to your shady garden, with plants that have colorful leaves, such as the coleus. Create interest with shape and textures, using plants such as ferns and caladium. Instead of relying on a large block of solid color, as you may have done in the past, with impatiens, use a variety of plants, to add interest.

The New Guinea impatiens are great alternatives. Although they have similar names, this plant is different from impatiens walleriana, the plant that is being killed by downy mildew. New Guinea impatiens are not affected by the disease.

New Guinea impatiens have flowers similar to common impatiens and have a good range of color. These annuals are more expensive than common impatiens.

The begonia is another annual that comes in many colors. Mischler’s carries “crackling fire,” which comes in white, buttery yellow, rose and orange. Lockwood’s has a varietal called “sparks will fly,” which has orange flowers and very dark leaves.

The lobelia is an annual that offers a bright blue color.

The fuchsia is another annual with a big wow factor. It packs a punch, with dramatic, vibrant color. It can often be seen, growing in hanging baskets.

The heuchera, also known as coral bells, was recently acknowledged by The National Garden Bureau. That organization named 2012 the year of the heuchera. This plant is native to North America, but breeders have introduced many new varieties that did not exist, even 10 years ago.

Not only are these perennial plants aesthetically pleasing, but they have become strong, full and disease resistant.

There is also a huge variety of hostas available. Mike Shadrack and Kathy Guest Shadrack of Hamburg wrote “The Book of Little Hostas: 200 Small, Very Small and Mini Varieties.”

There are 200 varieties, and that is just the small types! Hostas are valued more for their leaves than for their flowers, but they do bloom. Some of the flowers are fragrant.

The columbine has such a pretty, lacy flower. Many are bicolored. The columbine is a perennial and will reseed, or gardeners can collect the seeds and spread them, where they would like new plants to grow.

The perennial foxglove, which is actually a biennial, has bell-shaped flowers. The blooms come in many colors and can have interesting, vivid markings. The plant’s Latin name is digitalis; the heart medicine by that name comes from this plant.

The flowers of the perennial astilbe grow in feathery plumes. Astilbe grows to approximately 2 feet tall, so it can add some height to your shade garden.

The caladium has leaves that are shaped like elephant’s ears, but the plants come in a wide range of colors. They can add a tropical feeling, to your garden.

The Bergenia perennial is also called pigsqueak, because of the sound it makes, when you rub its leaves together. Bergenia is an evergreen plant with shiny, round leaves. It gets pink flowers, in early spring.

Jacob’s ladder comes in varieties with green leaves and with variegated leaves. The flowers can be white, pink, blue or yellow.

Lamium, a perennial, is often grown as a ground cover.

Start planning now, to decide what to plant this year, instead of using impatiens.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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