Impatiens (Bizzy Lizzy) at OpdeHaar gardens

Impatiens omeiana
Impatiens omeiana

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Impatiens Omeiana

Having talked about hardy begonias, it seems fitting to introduce the hardy version of “Busy Lizzy” or, more grandly and correctly, Impatiens omeiana. This plant was originally found in 1983 by Don Jacobs on the famous Omei Shan ( Mount Emei) in S.E. Sichuan, China. It is a beautiful foliage plant, around a foot high, which excels in moist shade and slowly forms a clump. As autumn arrives, yellow trumpet-shaped flowers appear but , like the begonia, it is really a plant which one grows for its foliage.

Winter hardiness

Speaking personally from here in The Netherlands, it is currently even more difficult to find than Begonia grandis and I only managed to get my plants in the spring of 2009 and I have only had it now through one winter. However, I took the precaution of covering the planting spot with a small strip of bubble plastic at the end of November  primarily to keep out excessive moisture. I removed this in mid-March and new shoots were visible by the start of April. Elsewhere, no precautions were taken and shoots appeared around the same time. My conclusion is that I. omeiana is hardy in the Netherlands to at least -10 deg C. 

Time passes by (2014) and any question as to the winter hardiness of I. omeiana can be safely discounted. Despite this and it’s ease of propagation, it is still a bit of a rarity in the Dutch nursery trade and isn’t seen in garden centres.

Impatiens Ice Storm, Silver and Pink, Sango, Pink Nerve

Roots of Impatiens omeiana "Sango"
Roots of Impatiens omeiana “Sango”

At least two variants are reported by specialist nurseries. “Ice Storm” features a plant where the attractive leaf variegation of the sort is rather masked by a sort of haze over the leaf. Although I’ve seen it in both Dutch and UK nurseries, it is for my taste less impressive than the original I. omeiana. To my mind , a far more attractive and currently rarer variant is a dark leaved, attractively variegated variety that appears on the Internet as ”Silver Pink” or ”Silver and Pink”.

I recently came across a dark leaf form at Pan Global Plants and the owner, Nick Macer, had christened it ”Sango” – it looks very similar to ”Silver Pink”. He had found it in a batch of plants at/from a Danish nursery. The RHS and general nursery trade in Europe are now generally referring to the variegated dark-leaved variant with its pink leaf veins as “Pink Nerve“. Anyway, putting all taxonomic considerations to one side, this dark-leaved variant of Impatiens omeiana is well worth looking out for. 

As Spring 2017 breaks, I have to smile at any doubts I had as to the hardiness of Impatiens omeiana and the Sango/Red Nerve variants. With the shelter of a woodland, this impatiens is pushing through by the first weeks of March when night frosts are still occurring. What has also become clear is that the Sango/Red Nerve variant is significantly more vigorous than the sort and spreads from a rhizome which forms an almost impenetrable network a few centimeters under the surface of the soil. The photograph gives you an idea of what is going on under the soil surface. This can easily overwhelm smaller plants and my advice is to put in something like a section of plastic lawn edging in cases where the advance of the impatiens needs to be controlled.

Photos of Impatiens at OpdeHaar

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