For a festival of constant colour between June and November, one of the surest bets a gardener can make is to plant Busy Lizzies. Although they did suffer from a blight of mildew disease thanks to a contaminated set of seed stock in the early 2010s, the newer varieties of the flower are disease-resistant and, if you want them to be at their fullest flourish in the summer months, can be sown from February through to April.
The flower is native to a vast swathe of east Africa, stretching from Mozambique through to Kenya, and isn’t called Busy Lizzie all around the world. The impatiens walleriana, as it’s officially known, is called Patient Lucy in the United States. The climate in east Africa is, it’s fair to say, pretty dissimilar to ours in the North East, so when you’re making your first sowings of Busy Lizzies, you’ll want to ensure that they’re in a warm greenhouse.
To sow the plants, simply get a good seed compost in a container, and strew the seeds over the top of it. Top with a small sprinkling of compost to bed down the seeds in the soil: you don’t want to smother the seeds before they’ve had a chance to sprout. Wrap the seed tray in a clear plastic bag to help promote germination. Leave it wrapped in the bag for two or three weeks, to help the seeds emerge from the compost.
When they become big enough to handle without damaging them, plant up the seedlings into smaller pots (yoghurt pots can be handy for this). At this point you can grow them on without any protection as long as you though keep them indoors. They need to be slowly acclimatised to our variable weather, and to completely avoid any frost. Spend the next two weeks getting the flowers used to the outside temperature, taking them out in their small pots during the day but keeping them in the shade – too much sun too quickly can scorch the plants before they’ve had a chance to fully establish.
One the fortnight is up and the plants are properly acclimatised to the vagaries of the North East climate, you can plant them permanently outdoors. Busy Lizzies like moist, but not sodden, soil – so they should do fine without much watering. Make sure they get at least some sun (a semi-shaded spot is acceptable), and ensure the soil is well-draining, or they’ll drown.
By early summer you’ll see the first pops of colour from the flowers, providing your garden beds with bright purple and pink or red and orange bursts. You need to feed and water Busy Lizzies regularly throughout the summer months in order to keep them coming. And come they will: Busy Lizzies like nothing more than spreading out across the entire bed in which they’ve been planted, and will rise to about half a metre in height.
Once they’re growing, Busy Lizzies don’t need a lot of care and attention: they deadhead themselves, and will continue to grow for as long as the temperature and light are sufficient. If you want to bolster their growth, feel free to add a squirt of balanced liquidised fertiliser every month to give them a little oomph.