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Bloom Gloom: Impatiens, Staple Of Suburban Gardens, Off-Limits This Year

WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Spring will be here before you know it, and many can't wait to get at their gardens. But one plant that's considered to be a staple of suburban gardens is off-limits this year.

Tell someone with a green thumb they can't plant Impatiens, and as CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday, you often get a negative reaction.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. Oh no," said Janice Bedell of East Patchogue.

Garden centers would normally be filled with Impatiens, but now they're not even being sold. The hearty staple plant that lines so many gardens suffered a devastating disease last year.

Experts said it's not only a Long Island problem. Impatiens are the number one flower bed plant in the nation, and the disease, called "downy mildew," is worldwide.

"The leaves defoliate -- they turn yellow, you see spots. You'll just be left with blank stems,"said horticulturist Nate Jackson of Hicks Nurseries.

The recommendation is to not plant Impatiens for up to three years because the disease survives the winter in the soil and can spread via wind.

"I'm upset because I have a lot of shade and Impatiens grow very well in the shade," said Florence Johnson of Hicksville.

So what's a homeowner to do?

Experts at the Hicks Flower and Garden Show told Gusoff there are dozens of alternatives, like Wave Petunias.

"[Wave petunias] are great for spreading if you want to cover a lot of area like Impatiens," Johnson said.

"There are a hundred other things you can plant: Geraniums, Petunias -- anything with color," added Cathy Franklin of Amityville.

Even  if your garden did not have the Impatiens disease last year, the advice is to avoid planting the flowers for two to three years.

Garden experts said it's a good time to  let your creativity bloom.

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