Trapped in the house!
Ice storm and bird count

A blue impatiens!

Impatiensnamchabarwensis 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.Impatiensnamchabarwensisblu_2

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

Comments

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jodi

Whoa, Nelly! That's so beautiful, it's almost surreal. Sort of reminds me of the blue of my evolvolus 'Blue Daze', which I keep growing indoors because I need a blue fix in winter. I'll wait for this to make its way across the pond...even I would grow this impatiens!

Graham Rice

Yes, doesn't it look great? Well, in the meantime you could always try the natural species from Annie's Annuals.

ed

I think it's worth noting that the flower color (of the sp. at least) is somewhat weather dependent- it's usually more purplish in warmer weather.I'm curious if 'Blue Sky' is a seed strain, as the plants don't seem (in the northeast, anyway)inclined to be perennial, even in a cool greenhouse. Finally, Cistus Nursery in Oregon (who should be on your list of favorites, along w/ Yucca Do in Texas) also sells the plant

garden grouch

I'm sincerely glad to see that the seeds/plants are now in the "public domain". I'm sure that all the big seed companies are working like mad to see if it'll cross with any of the known commercial sources. Very cool.

Gunn

I got this from Annie's Annuals last year in late summer so I never saw it get lanky. The blooms were exquisite and whilst small the plant was appealingly loose, without that dumpy habit that's been bred into many Impatiens.
Definitely give it a go.

max

This reminds me of the bizarre internet non-hoax associated with I. psittachina, which many people refused to believe was real when pictures circulated under the name "Thai parrot flower." There is an amusing attempt to prove that it is real here:
http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Rare%20Thailand%20Parrot%20Flower%20SP.html

Graham Rice

No, ed, it's not a seed strain It's for propagating by cuttings.

We're gong to see lots more unusual impatiens, I'm sure. Like 'Fusion Peach Frost' I mentioned last summer - http://transatlanticplantsman.typepad.com/transatlantic_plantsman/2007/07/wonderful-new-p.html

And that "parrot flower", max - how could anyone say it's an orchid! It's so obviously related to Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).

max

Graham, I think it's safe to say that the "parrot flower" controversy occurred among people who were not exactly plant experts. Then again, neither am I, and I instantly suspected it was an Impatiens.

Also, of course, psittacus means parrot in Latin (and Greek).

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