Written by Betsy Abraham, Babraham@antonnews.com Thursday, 14 March 2013 00:00
When gardeners begin shopping for spring flowers, they may notice a familiar staple missing: the impatiens.
Impatiens walleriana, which are beloved globally for their wide selection of color and low maintenance, have been affected by a fungus called downy mildew. The fungus first causes tiny spots, then yellowness on the leaves. A few weeks later, all that’s left is the flower’s stem and a frustrated gardener.
“The leaves turn yellow and fall off,” said Mary Ann Elliott, a member of the Massapequa Park Garden Club, who didn’t have the fungus in her plants last summer but has seen it elsewhere. “There are streaks of yellow, almost like a frost would have hit it there.”
The fungus was first spotted in Europe nearly a decade ago, and has spread to much of the U.S. in the past few years. Wind spreads the fungal spores up to three miles and humid weather causes it to spread rapidly.
Nate Jackson, green goods garden center manager at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, stresses that the fungus is specific in attacking only impatiens walleriana, not other types such as New Guinea impatiens. The fungus also does not affect other types of flowers, so planting them where infected impatiens once were or nearby will not bother the new crop.
“This is one of those diseases that will totally devastate your impatien crop. But it is only impatiens. Each downy mildew is very specific to the type of plant it attacks,” Jackson said.
However, Jackson urges gardeners who have planted infected impatiens in the past to throw out that soil, as the spores can linger and kill future impatiens.
“All the spores can survive on the debris in the ground and in the soil for up to three years, so it’s very important that you clean up the old debris. Don’t compost it, it goes straight in the garbage. As much as you can get away, the more chance of success you’re going to have in the future,” Jackson said.
Impatiens walleriana is the highest selling bedding flower in North America. After becoming aware that the popular annual would be in much more limited quantities or even completely unavailable, Jackson and his team at Hicks worked to find alternatives for gardeners.
“We recognize this is a problem. But we’ve really worked hard this off-season to come up with the right solutions for people. We have a nice palette for people to choose from and we’re very prepared,” Jackson said.
Jackson says that while Hicks will be testing their impatiens, and will have signage informing customers about the downy mildew, he still advises against planting them.
“If you’re going to plant impatiens in Long Island or even in Manhattan, there’s a very high chance that they’re going to get infected, even if you’ve done everything you can do prevent it. It’s up to the consumer to make that choice,” Jackson said.
For those looking to fill their gardens with the beautiful colored blossoms, Jackson suggests torenias, New Guinea impatiens, vincas, and wave petunias. Nelson Demarest, visual merchandising manager, also suggests wax or rieger begonias.
“If you want more bang for your buck, these are great,” Demarest said. “They’re no hassle and last all summer.”
He adds that while the leafy plant coleus has no flowers, the pink, purple and red leaves can brighten up any garden.
“It’s just an endless rainbow of color,” Demarest said.
Gardeners can preview all these flowers and more at Hick’s Garden Show, which is currently underway. The show, which ends March 17, seeks to get people excited about spring and presents different ideas for their gardens including flowerbeds, shrubs, trees, fountains and ponds.
Donna Moramarco, Director of Marketing at Martin Viette Nursery, says that people should keep in mind that no other plant will look or act like an impatien.
“There’s no mystery about them, but unfortunately with the downy mildew, there’s no way for the homeowner to know. People take a lot of pride in their gardens, and people are really looking forward to spending time outside and the last thing they want is to not have success,” Moramarco said.
But, not having the familiar flower can force gardeners out of their comfort zones and look for other ways to fill the shady spots of their garden.
“Impatiens are off the radar for a while. There is life after impatiens and I think it’s going to give people opportunities to have some new friends in the garden. People might be pleasantly surprised,” Moramarco said.
So when can impatien lovers expect to see their favorite flowers again? Not for a couple of years, says Jackson.
“We kind of just have to see how it goes,” Jackson said. “The biggest thing is cleaning up if you see the problem, and trying to avoid planting impatiens and after two or three years, it’ll eventually die off.”
When asked if she would plant impatiens in her garden this year, Elliott replied, “Probably not.”
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00
As voters in the Massapequa Union Free School District approach the Tuesday, May 21, budget vote, the proposed spending plan retains popular educational programs while keeping the rise in spending to 1.49 percent.
Despite what district officials call unprecedented increases in state-mandated employer pension contributions, as well as rising health insurance costs, the overall budget is up just over $2.7 million.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
After Massapequa resident Sol Goldstein and several friends helped finish building a house for a family 20 years ago for Habitat for Humanity, they had a question: “What do we do now?” They were all retired, had enjoyed working together and accomplishing something for a family in need, and wanted to do more.
“I was looking for something [to do] hands-on,” said Joe Botkin, of Williston Park, a retired principal, who had worked with Goldstein in building the home.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
Vinny Zanfardino started his coaching career in 1997 when he stepped up to coach his daughter’s Little League team.
What started as a hobby turned into a full-blown obsession for Zanfardino, 48. Coaching became an outlet to do some good for children while staying close to the game he loves: baseball.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
On Saturday, May 18, the Town of Oyster Bay will conduct a ceremony to officially re-name its golf course in honor of Joseph Colby, a resident of Massapequa Park who served as the Town of Oyster Bay’s 56th supervisor. The Honorable Joseph Colby was appointed supervisor in 1977 and was elected to that office five times in the following ten years. He was then elected as a New York State Supreme Court Justice in 1988, a post he held through his retirement from public service in 1992. The unveiling will take place at the main entrance of the course off South Woods Road in Woodbury.
“When the sign for Honorable Joseph Colby Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course is unveiled, it will celebrate an outstanding career in public service,” Supervisor John Venditto said. “Joseph Colby has always had the needs of the public as his top priority and has been widely respected for his innovation and responsiveness. This golf course will now forever bear his name as a tribute to his outstanding legacy.”