Mom can tell you the Latin name of almost any plant there is, but my knowledge of Latin names is still awful spotty. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between common names and Latin names. I was rather shocked to find out that “Balsam” was a common name for “Impatiens.” (For one thing, I hadn’t even realized there was any connection between the two!) I’ve come to expect that most common names are more along the lines of “Busy Lizzies,” with English words instead of seemingly unrelated words. That was another great surprise to me–the huge difference between Busy Lizzies and Balsam.
My education on the wide variety of plants that are grouped into a genus began when I started looking up seed-starting information during this past winter. My absolute favorite book for finding this kind of information is From Seed to Bloom, by Eileen Powell. I wish she wrote a companion book for vegetables. Many books give too little information, and almost just as many books give too much. Eileen seems to have found the perfect balance. Everytime I use this book, I have always found the answer to my questions without having to sift through piles of irrelevant or unneeded information. It has made becoming familiar with flowers a million times easier for me. The entries on each genus (over 500 annuals, perennials and herbs) consist of a list of common names, a short description of the plant, suggestions of where to plant it, sowing information, germinating information, information on planting seedlings outdoors, caring for plants and propagation.
Anyway, I discovered the connection between Busy Lizzies and Balsam while still making garden plans in the winter. The sowing and germinating information on Impatiens from “From Seed to Bloom” says:
Indoors: 8-10 weeks before last frost.
Outdoors: After last frost.
Time: 7-30 days
Requirements: Light, high humidity, and 70-75F. Highly susceptible to dampening-off; sow seeds in vermiculite and water only from below.
So when “8-10 weeks before last frost” rolled around, I dug out the seed packets. The Balsam seeds were large and round. The Busy Lizzies were also round, but they were tiny! I didn’t sow either of the seeds in vermiculite, though I did sprinkle a little playground sand on top of my potting soil. I also put some plastic wrap over the top of the cell pack to keep the moisture in. Then I put them under our florescent lights, and waited. Within a week, almost all of the Balsam was sprouted and growing quite robustly. The Busy Lizzies still hadn’t sprouted. Two weeks later, the Busy Lizzies are still refusing to show themselves, and the Balsam is almost ready to pot on!
I find it quite fascinating that two species of the same genus can act so differently. Apparently this is common knowledge; certainly when I showed Mom she was completely unsurprised. She did confide that Busy Lizzies are always pretty persnickity about gracing you with their presence, but I didn’t have any great plans for them anyhow. In fact, I hadn’t orginally planned on starting any, but when I realized they were in the same genus as Balsam, I wanted to see how similar they were. At this rate, I’ll never find out, because the Busy Lizzies seem to be completely uninterested in my great experiment. I suppose it’s too soon to jump to conclusions, though. “From Seed to Bloom” did say from 7 to 30 days. Maybe the Busy Lizzies just want to keep me guessing!