You perhaps missed last summer’s plant plague, which might be back this summer. My garden was spared because last summer I happened not to have planted the particular host plant: impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), that workhorse of the shade garden, one of the few brightly colored flowers that thrive with little sunlight.
Downy mildew disease was the cause of last summer’s plague, which descended on impatiens throughout much of the northeast and parts of the rest of the country. Leaves of infected plants turn pale green at first, then develop downy, white growth on their undersides, and finally collapse. Stems also can eventually pick up infection. Needless to say, infected plants flower little or not at all.
Impatiens in Puerto Rico rainforest, El Yunque
But let’s look forward rather than wallowing in the past. Downy mildew can be expected this year wherever …
“Let it be, let it be” went the old Beatles’ lyric, and this could very well be a mantra in gardening. Sometimes, sometimes a little, and sometimes not at all.
Take, for instance, the climbing hydrangea cloaking the north wall of my brick house. Even now, bereft of leaves and flowers, the finger-thick vines, with their papery peeling, tan bark are a pretty sight weaving their way across and up the russet red wall. Come spring and through summer, bricks peek out from behind a cloak of heart-shaped, glossy green leaves. In summer, white flowers open on short, horizontal stems that reach out from the wall, the whole effect, with the leafy background, like twinkling stars against a dark sky.
I planted the vine about 7 years ago, knowing that it’s slow to get started and that it can coexist …