Monday, March 11, 2013

Made for the Shade---Alternatives for Impatiens

Impatiens has been the go-to plant for many of our shade gardens for years.

 So, it is with regret that we announce that Valley View Farms will not grow or sell Impatiens walleriana in 2013. The impatiens in the United States have been affected with a disease called Downey Mildew. While impatiens has been our number one seller in our plant department for years, we are not comfortable selling a plant that had severe problems in our customers' gardens last year. We will be offering alternatives and plenty of advice on what to plant in shade. We urge you to trust us and take some time from planting what we call 'regular' impatiens, until we are once again sure that the plant is free of disease.
We are sure that there are questions. We will answer some that have been asked already this season.

My impatiens did have issues last year. How do I know that it was Downey Mildew?

Here are some before and after photos of impatiens in beds affected by the disease.

 It really took off when we had some cool, wet nights in late spring and early summer. Areas impacted the hardest were in deep shade, planted densely in low spots. We visited some of our customers' gardens in midsummer to view their gardens. One of them had been planted with 300 plants, only to have them die  in mid-summer.

Impatiens planted in containers seemed to hold out a little longer but most had succombed to the disease eventually.

Is there a way to prevent Downey Mildew from infectng plants? I hate to give up on impatiens.

Not really. There is a spray available to growers that will prevent the disease for a few weeks. The chemical is not available to consumers, so any additional prevention is tough.

I have noticed that many shopping centers, malls and other corporate accounts use impatiens. Will they have to switch to alternative plants as well?

Yes. We've spoken to some of the large landscape companies. They will be planting alternate crops like begonias, caladiums and New Guinea impatiens in 2013.

Okay, so what else will work in my garden?

There are scores of alternative plants. In a way, having this challenge will get many gardeners to experiment with some new things. As one of our friends with Ball Seed, the largest horticultural company in the world, said, "Let's add some drama to the shade garden." The sky's the limit on other plants to consider for shade.
Our greenhouse staff visits regional trial gardens to view and evaluate plants that would do well in gardens in our area. Pictured below are pots of New Guinea Impatiens growing in shade. They were beautiful!

And, here are some other plants that will do well in part-shade to shady areas.

Begonia Baby Wing
Begonia Dragon Wing

Wax leaf Begonias
Bonfire Begonias

Begonia heimalis ---VVF grows over 10 colors!


Caladium---7 varieties grown by VVF, bulbs offered through our garden shop

Coleus Wizard Series

Coleus Sunloving (They like shade too!)

Dichondra Silver Falls




New Guinea Impatiens

Fanfare Impatiens


Lots of other annuals will do well with 4 or more hours of sun. Allow our staff to show you the many choices available for your gardens and potted plants.

And, our perennial sales area is also a great place to find plenty of foliage and color for shade. Take a look at hostas, ferns,

 heucheras, hellebores, dicentra, brunnera, mertensias, astilbes and an entire aisle dedicated to shade perennials.

Tropical plants can add real drama to the garden as well. Look for shade-grown hibiscus, mandevilla, peace lilies, palm trees, ferns, crotons, and a all sorts of other plants to add to containers and garden beds.

We know that impatiens have been our go-to shade plant for years. We also know that, as a company, you've come to trust us. We are united with you to find alternatives to impatiens for shady gardens. We hope to see impatiens back in a few years, but we think that taking some time off from our favorite annual might be the best way to fight Impatiens Downey Mildew.

Maybe, in a few years, our grower, John, will be growing impatiens again for Valley View Farms and our gardening customers.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March Gardening To Do List

The unpredictable weather in March reminds us that Spring is coming. Now is the time to get a head start on our spring garden preparations. Here are some projects to begin, in no particular order.
  • Bring in your soil for a free pH test. Our garden shop will test your soil free of charge to help determine if the soil needs to be adjusted to allow more nutrients to be available to plants.
  • Be careful of not to work in wet soil. Compacted soil does not allow air to reach the root zone of the plants.
  • Early spring is a great time to reseed and over seed the lawn. Choose a good mixture including turf-type tall fescues for good results. We carry a full line of Jonathan Green grass seed and lawn fertilizers.
  • Control winter weeds like chickweed, nettle and henbit with an herbicide labeled for use in the lawn and garden. Wait until temperatures warm a bit for the best control.
  • As air temperatures start to warm up and perennials start to emerge from dormancy, pull back protective mulches, including leaves, to allow plants to grow.
  • Plant onion sets, pea seeds, and asparagus and horseradish roots in March.
  • March is a good time to plant fruit trees, berries and grapes as soon as the soil is workable.
  • Get tools cleaned up and ready for work. Sharpen pruners, loppers and lawn mower blades.
  • Invest in a good thermometer and rain gauge. Keep a journal of weather and gardening events.
  • Start feeding houseplants lightly. Our greenhouse staff, a bunch of plant geeks, love Monty's Joy Juice.
  • Cut back butterfly bushes and ornamental grasses now.
  • Pickup one of our Vegetable Gardening Guides. This free handout provides planting dates, fertilization recommendations, and gardening tips for a slew of vegetable transplants.
  • Choose flower and vegetable seeds early for the best selection. Take a look at our wide assortment of wildflower seeds as well. Now is also a good time to get transplants started indoors.
  • Clean leaves out of the pond and restart the pump. 
  •  Pull marginal plants in the pond back up to their spring shelves along the water gardens edge.
  • Clean statuary and fountains.
  • Attend some gardening seminars. See our upcoming events for a current list of lawn, vegetable and ornamental gardening classes.
Enjoy this time of year. Do some planning, some dreaming and get ready to get a good start in the garden with the help of the aforementioned tips. For more timely tips, visit The Maryland Home and Garden Information Center website.