Downy mildew has been an uncomfortably hot topic for growers and retailers in recent months. The disease decimated impatiens in a number of areas last fall and is already showing up in Florida this spring. While the majority of the country may not feel such a drastic impact, downy mildew is making a lot of people nervous about the propsect of a season without the nation’s most popular bedding plant in some areas.
At our first stop at this year’s Spring Trials–Ecke Ranch, in Encinitas, Calif.–we saw a response to the problem. The folks at Ecke aren’t introducing a new resistant impatiens variety. They are, however, promoting alternatives to the crop in areas where downy mildew is already showing up in landscape plantings or even in the greenhouse.
Ecke’s Technical Services Manager, Rebecca Siemonsma, showed us a landscape vignette with a number of alternative plants that can work well in plantings where impatiens may have failed or a landscape customer simply doesn’t want to take a chance this season. Siemonsma’s recommendations included SunPatiens, Flutterby Yellow argyranthemum, Doublet begonias, SuperCal petchoas, Maestro Deep Red begonia, Littletunia petunias and Stained Glassworks coleus, among others.
We don’t expect this will be the only Trials stop that addresses downy mildew this week, but Ecke’s was a valuable message to get out there to impacted regions and show them that while the industry certainly can’t replace impatiens, there are some alternatives available to fill at least some of that gap.