I keep forgetting to bring this to your attention and now that spring is approaching for many (excluding, of course, those of us still battling with ice-rink driveways) I’ve remembered… a BLUE impatiens. Really? Well, yes. It goes by the tongue-twisting name of Impatiens namchabarwensis and in Britain there’s an improved form called ‘Blue Sky’.
This is a classic plant hunting discovery, the species was found for the first time by two botanists who trekked 100km from the nearest road to a gorge in Tibet which is almost the length of the whole of Britain and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This was as recently as 2003, it was named in 2005 (after the gorge where it was found). You can find out more about its discovery here.
Seed went to the British National Collection of Impatiens, then to the plant breeding station at Thompson and Morgan Seeds in England where plant breeder Charles Valin set about transforming the tall and lanky plant – with spectacular blue flowers – into something more gardenworthy. ‘Blue Sky’ (previously called ‘Blue Moon’) is the result.
Although the striking blue flowers were clearly dramatic, the plant was tall and lanky, did not branch well and flowered sparsely. In just a few generations of careful breeding and selection, Charles has improved the plants enormously and selected ‘Blue Sky’ which reaches only about 45cm/18in in height, branches well and is more prolific in flower than the wild species. It grows well in shade or in partial shade if the soil is moist and on cool morning the blue flowers will sparkle at their best, becoming more purplish as the day warms up.
‘Blue Sky’ is not yet available in the US, but the wild species is. And by the way, when you see the name Blue Diamond attached to it this is not the name of a special selection, it’s a “common name” give to it by, well, someone who didn’t fancy making a stab at pronouncing the botanical name!
Plants of Impatiens namchabarwensis ‘Blue Sky’ are available by mail order in Britain here.
Plants of the wild form of Impatiens namchabarwensis are available by mail order in the US here