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An unexpected jewel - Impatiens capensis

Impatiens-capensisTwoOne of the unexpected stars in the garden this summer was an American native weed – jewelweed, Impatiens capensis. I’d seen it growing by creeks in this area, of course, and I always thought it was an attractive plant with its sparkling, red-spotted, orange flowers (left, click to enlarge). But the nearest wild plants I’d seen were a mile or two away, so I suspect that the seeds that produced the plants in our garden came in on my boots.

So: “What was it doing growing in your garden?” I hear you cry. “It’s a weed!” Well, when I spotted a seedling, just a few inches high, I thought I’d not pull it out as a weed but just let it do its thing – the flowers being so pretty. That first year, we had just a seedling or two which, in a dark and dry part of the garden, produced just a couple of small spindly plants. But, every year, it seeded. We pulled out most of the seedlings - which is easy when they’re small - and left one or two to flower.

This year we never even spotted the seedling between shrubs outside the guest room window until it emerged alongside the indispensible Physocarpus Coppertina (‘Mindia’) and behind Weigela Wine and Roses (‘Alexandra’). It flowered for months, never dominating, but always there. Always sparkling.

Of course, now we’ve let that one plant grow to almost 6ft/1.8m high, it will have produced so much seed that next year there’ll probably be hundreds of seedlings. And, again, we’ll pull most of them out and leave just one or two.

But it just shows how an ignored and unadmired native weed can add colour and character to the garden tapestry – if we just open our eyes to its beauty.

You can buy seed of Impatiens capensis from Horizon Herbs in North America, and from Plant World Seeds in Britain.


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Heidi/ IN woodland garden

I love our jewelweed! Because of our drought this summer, it was missing from our dry creek bed and rain garden. Don't forget that the juices are a natural itch relief for poison ivy. Jewel is right, but unfortunate 'surname' for such a wonderful plant!

Graham Rice

Glad you like it too! I'm sure there will still be seeds in your dry creek bed and rain garden and that, if next year is less dry, they will germinate. The seeds of many native annuals are programmed to not germinate all in one year - just in case conditions are unsuitable.

Mike Grant

Graham - as you probably know, it's an alien in the UK and has the distinction of first being recorded in the wild by the philosopher, John Stuart Mill (in Surrey in 1822). It's also an example of a plant with a 'confusing toponym' - the epithet capensis suggesting it's a native of the Cape of South Africa.

Diane C

It's like the Dandelion. I had a coworker who thought them beautiful because she was raised in NYC where they were not as plentiful. Also, children love to make bouquets. Hooray for beauty being in the eye of the beholder!

garden design

This might be so exciting add surprising for you to have an unexpected lovely weed in your garden!I really liked this weed,its so beautiful!It adds beauty to the garden!

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