In a time long, long ago and a place far, far away, I owned a home in Florida that was vary similar to the town home I live in today. Well, similar if you ignore the fact that my current place in Richmond is 1/4th the size and my current garden is a mere postage stamp compared to the acre of landscaping I maintained in Florida. More importantly, gardening in Central Florida was a lot of work, with not that much reward. Ironically I get vastly more enjoyment from my little garden in Richmond than I ever did from the mass of greenery I had to maintain in Florida. For example, the Florida house was blanketed by tall Oaks that blotted out virtually all of the sun, except in the Winter (see picture to the left taken around Christmas time, hence the balls hanging from the tree). About the only flowers that would grow dependably in this deep shade were common Impatiens (you can see them at the bottom of the picture). Yes, they added color. No, they were not very interesting.
Fast forward to today. There is a small area of my garden that is in deep shade. I wanted to see if I could find a plant that would do well in this difficult surrounding and that would produce interesting flowers. I came across an exotic variety of Impatiens (Impatiens arguta) at Annie’s Annuals and decided to give it a try. Her description of the plant proclaims that it is “tough”, can take deep shade and is cold tolerant (there is nothing more pathetic when an Impatiens literally turns to mush after a killing frost).
The one other bit of advice from Annie is that Impatiens arguta does best in hanging planters, since the flowers are found underneath the stems. Since I was looking for more of a ground cover in this dark part of the garden, I planted the Impatiens in the ground. I found that Annie’s advice about hanging planters was correct, the flowers do hide under the leaves. Interestingly, the stems are constantly searching for light and they will use any nearby plant or structure for support. So a few of the flowers do peak through on the vertical stems.
(Update 08/19/2010) This Impatiens has turned into one of the workhorses in the garden with a very long blooming season. As the plant has grown in size it has spread through the fence and over some of the other competing plants. While the flowers are a little inconspicuous, they are so plentiful and demanding of your attention, that it is hard not to see them when you pass by.
Interestingly, the common Impatiens that I also planted have done very poorly in my new garden.