Yea! My Policemans Helmets are flowering

MacDaddy(z6a NY)July 6, 2005

Wow! The flowers are so much better than I expected. So far two red plants and one purple. Ever since I was a kid I've been trying to start these things and never got them to work.

I used to love the native touch-me-nots of upstate NY when I was a kid. The first time I noticed them was because my father had planted store bought impatiens in a planter on our deck. I was intrigued by the swollen stems, which made the plants look like succulent bonsai, and the bright flowers with tiny noses. The petals have embedded beads that act as retro-reflectors of any ambient light to better attract insects in the shade. They were awesome at night when flowers glowed under the back porch lights

So one day I was coming back from a small stream at which I used to play and low and behold there were the same stems on these wild plants. I tracked their progress and was surprised by the little orange goldfish like flowers. The most exciting thing was the seedpods, which explode like little firecrackers when ripe. The slightest touch to a ripe one generates a satisfying pop that scatters seeds to the four corners of the earth. Brushing an undisturbed plant for the first time sets of a fireworks grand finale.

I was reading about these wild impatiens when I learned about another member of this family the PolicemanÂs Helmet. I found a seed supplier and for three years was unsuccessful at getting them to germinate. The seeds about size of the wild touch-me-not seeds and needed cold stratification and surface sowing which I provided. All they seemed to do is grow mold. I finally gave up around twenty years ago.

This year I decided to try again. I got seeds from two sources. One set of seeds looked just like the ones I had before, but the seeds of the other supplier were large, about eight times as heavy as the others. Then I realized why I was unsuccessful before. The small seeds were all shriveled up and dead. The shriveled seeds grew mold once again but the hefty seeds germinated.

Nice plump seeds. These ones will make wicked projectiles. Did I forget to tell you they have the same exploding seedpods. I canÂt wait to prompt some naïve admirer to touch one.

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MacDaddy(z6a NY)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 7:29PM
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michaelzz(z6CT)

here are someof the Himalyan varieties that are similiar to the native jewel weed, but over 7' tall ... i had trouble germinating them too ,,then i bought a plant and it shot seeds all over the place and they germainated this year after a very cold winer.. i moved them where i wanted them this year

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 10:51AM
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MrImpatiens(Zone 9 CA)

Macdaddy
What you got there are Impatiens balsamina not the true Policeman's Helmet. Michaelzz has the true species. Your balsamina is rare though you dont often find the single forms.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 9:59PM
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MacDaddy(z6a NY)

Can the seeds survive zone 6b? How far north can the seeds survive the winter?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 7:21PM
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MrImpatiens(Zone 9 CA)

Impatiens glandulifera is very hardy. Impatiens balsamina? eh I not to sure with temps in a Zone 5 but collecting seeds of balsamina is easy compaired to the other species. Collect a few keep them warm and sow them in the spring. If you let some seeds go over winter outside then you will know for sure.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 1:17AM
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MacDaddy(z6a NY)

Thanks, so I what you are saying is I have an 20 or more year track record of not getting policeman's helmet to germinate? Darn, I thought these things were weeds.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 6:53PM
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