For decades, it’s been a rite of spring.
You hop in the car, head for the nearest garden center and load up on impatiens, the best-selling, candy-colored annuals that thrive in shade, mound up like half a beach ball, and bloom their heads off till frost, asking little in return.
But this year, disaster looms.
There will be far fewer impatiens for sale. Gardeners who buy them will be taking a risk that experts say isn’t worth it. The plants will probably die, and the shade-loving alternatives being offered up may not cut it for many who depend on the easygoing, affordable impatiens to brighten their summer landscape.
The culprit in this gloomy scenario is well-known in the trade and virtually unknown to consumers: downy mildew, a deadly, funguslike disease that targets the popular garden plant known as Impatiens walleriana.
In 2011, the disease was confirmed in 11 states. In 2012, it was in 34, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The damage this year is anybody’s guess, but there’s no question there will be damage.
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