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A Bevy Of Balsams

Articles: A Bevy Of Balsams

Impatiens omeiana ‘Eco Hardy’. Photograph by Tony Avent

West Coast gardens continually fill with new and exotic perennials from around the world. Some are big, bold, and beautiful, demanding our attention and admiration, while others are more demure, hiding in the shadows, quietly waiting for the spotlight to shine on them. The time has come for one of these new stars, the genus Impatiens, often called balsams and formerly regarded as filler for annual beds, to be illuminated on the perennial garden stage. At the San Francisco Botanical Gardens at Strybing Arboretum, we are introducing more of these exotic plants, which most gardeners have never seen and would likely not guess were Impatiens at all. The San Francisco Bay Area provides the most suitable climate for many species: the cool, foggy summers and relatively mild winters allow even the frost-tender species to flourish.

Of the nearly 1,000 species of Impatiens, the greatest concentration occurs in Asia, mainly China, the Himalayas, India, Southeast Asia, and on the neighboring islands. Africa and Madagascar boast a goodly number, with nearly 300 be...

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Articles: Calochortophilia: A Californian’s Love Affair with a Genus by Katherine Renz

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