Friday, January 2, 2009

Blooming Friday

white rose balsam in our garden last year

I’ve been growing rose balsam (
Impatiens balsamina, also called garden balsam) from seeds for two years now. For the first year, I bought them. Last year, I used the grains I collected from the flowers of the previous year. But unfortunately, last autumn, I wasn’t able to collect any seeds because we’ve had a lot of rain and the cold season settled in earlier. The seeds got rotten before they even mature.

Anyway, balsams are great flowering plants because they can be planted either in sunny or shady areas. As long as the soil is kept moist, you will have a lot of flowers from June to November. That’s around six months of blooms! They are easy to grow. In my experience, they don’t need a lot of care; like what I said, just keep the soil humid. And this doesn’t mean watering them everyday. If planted in sunny areas, maybe watering them twice a week (or even just once if you put mulch) will be enough. In shady areas, once a week of watering or just when the soil gets dry will be sufficient.

I usually plant our balsams in shady areas because there aren’t many plants which flower in shade. And this plant is an excellent choice if you want to have flowers in parts of your garden that don’t receive much direct sunlight. The only tricky part is in germinating them. The seeds have a hard covering so it would be better to soak them in water before planting. And if you want to plant them directly to where you want them to grow, the ground should be sufficiently warm (around 18-20°C) for them to germinate. Since soil in shady areas would take a longer time to warm, what I do is to germinate them in small trays kept in a sunny area in our garden around March or April. And then I just transplant them when they’re big enough and there’s no more risk of ground frost. Fertilizers are not needed; I’ve read they will only make the plants fragile instead of making them healthier. So once the seeds germinate --- grow roots and sprout leaves, there’s really nothing much to do except keeping the soil damp.

And for half of the year, you will have flowers from purple to white, passing through red and pink. Bees love them and by the end of the flowering season, you can collect the seeds. The ones I grew give camellia-like flowers and reach a height of around 75cm. Although I haven’t tried eating them, the whole plant (except for the roots) is supposed to be edible. Crushed flowers can be used to cool burns and the extract from leaves are said to be a treatment for warts (source: Wikipedia). But I haven’t tried using balsam for any of the purposes I’ve stated. So I cannot attest to the effectiveness of its supposed medicinal or culinary uses.

But in any case, rose balsams are great garden plants. The colors are so vivid that they can liven up even the most abandoned and darkest corner of your garden. It’s just too bad that I wasn’t able to collect seeds this year. It feels better to grow plants from the seeds you’ve collected rather than the store-bought ones. But then, I cannot do anything about the early winter this year. Well, maybe spring would come sooner and then I can grow them earlier --- which means their seeds would mature before they get soaked in rain and frost :).

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The Bumbles said...

Hey those flowers are beautiful. And they grow like that in the shade? Really?!?! So excited since a good chunk of our yard is in the shade. I had a tough time finding anything that would survive that wasn't just ground cover. I'll try these out - we are in New England so assume your description of June-November would work for us too.

Anonymous said...

The flowers are amzing larein =) I wished that they were in my garden, except I have no garden *sigh* Happy New Year =)

lareine said...

to the bumbles: i cross my fingers for your plan this summer... and i hope the shaded part of your garden receives some light even for a short period of time... the plants would grow better with a small amount of sunshine...

to bbZush: thanks a lot!... you can try growing plants in pots if you like:)... hope you'll have a wonderful year, too:)

Jo said...

Where'd you get the white one? I've been looking for this for years!! Do you remember which company you bought it from? Or maybe you can sell me some seeds if you still have them?

Jo said...

Where'd you get the white one? I've been looking for this for years!!! Do you remember the company you bought it from? Or do you have some seeds you can sell me?

lareine said...

hello Jo! actually, the sachet of balsam seeds i bought contains all colors... they are sold by a company called Grainial... i wasn't able to harvest their seeds... maybe you can try looking for them in online seed and plant store like Thompson & Morgan... good luck =)!

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