seeds: Busy Lizzies, also known as
impatiens or thian in Thai, can add
quick color to the garden and are very
unforgiving to forgetful gardeners.
impatient Busy Lizzies
– bless ’em. They’re hilarious. They have the un-canny
knack of being able to say the daftest things and
totally get away with it. They’ve even mastered the
art of saying daft things in two completely different
First there are the myths they put across as complete
fact when we were young, presumably because we were
too dippy to realize it. Quotes such as “If you pick
your nose, you’ll grow pig’s trotters”, “If you keep
picking your nose your brains will fall out” or “Stop
picking your nose or your head will cave in” must
surely sound familiar. Why can’t mums just say, “Don’t
pick your nose it’s disgusting”?
My sister, now happily married with three ankle-biters
of her own, always always swore blind she’d never say,
“Because I said so” to her children. And yet there she
said it, last time I was back in nearly-sunny
Yorkshire. Totally lame, but she does it anyway, I
think it’s part of the rite of passage in becoming a
Another of my mum’s favorites was the classic, “Finish
your meal; there are thousands of starving people in
Africa”. Yet she never saw the humor or logic of the
situation when I offered to put my leftovers in a box
and post it to those poor people.
She also used to say, “Make sure you have clean
underwear on in case you get run over by a bus.” I
never had the heart to tell her that if I was indeed
run over by a bus, the cleanliness of my Y-fronts
would be the last thing on my mind.
My mate’s mum had a bit of an evil streak. She told
him that if he swallowed an apple pip, an apple tree
would grow inside him and the branches would poke out
of his ears. And that if he drank his dandelion and
burdock (can you still get that stuff, by the way?)
any faster than in small, polite sips, that he would
explode. He believed her.
The other side of a mum’s daftness comes when you’re
older. I’m sure that every grown person’s mum is a bit
doo-lally in some way. My own mum is famous for minor
slips of the tongue surprisingly, I’m not going to
list them here. She’d make my life a misery on her
next visit to Phuket if she ever found out. Having
said that… No, not a word.
My mate’s mum, now that’s a different story. Rumor has
it that she once went to see him and said, “My knee is
giving me terrible pain today.”
“Well don’t suffer then, mum,” he replied. “Take a
couple of Paracetamols to ease it a bit.”
“You don’t take Paracetamols for knee pain. Everyone
knows that. They’re only for headaches,” she
Another gem from her was when she said, “It’s best to
go for a walk before noon because there’s not much
oxygen left later on.”
This is the same mum who talks about “Andrew Lloyd
Webber’s Ryvita”, claims to have “Curtains 95” on her
computer, and asks for tins of “Durex paint” at the
local equivalent of HomePro. Bless.
I really can’t give my mum too much grief she put up
with me during the earlier years of my life, after
all. One thing that I do remember from those years was
her fondness for houseplants. They were everywhere and
were her pride and joy. Especially her Busy Lizzies.
Being a typical youth, I wasn’t particularly
appreciative of her plants, but ironically here I am,
several decades down the road on the other side of the
planet writing about the things.
Busy Lizzies are actually part of the much bigger
impatiens family, but probably the best-known member
and are often referred to by that name.
These attractive little annuals got their Latin name,
Impatiens walleriana, from seed pods that explode when
they ripen, apparently. They shoot their sticky seeds
far and wide. They are certainly not alone in that
regard. Impatient to reproduce, perhaps?
Impatiens are so popular possibly because they’re dead
easy to grow and flower enthusiastically all year.
Today’s versions of the plant are more tolerant of sun
than many older varieties, but too much sun will stunt
their growth, resulting in shorter plants with small
leaves and fewer flowers.
You will find impatiens (with the generic Thai name
thian) at most garden centers in Phuket, probably in
hanging baskets, but there are other ways of getting
them, too. The one in the picture, in my front garden,
was rescued from the street after it literally fell
off the back of a lorry. You can even grow them from
seed if you’re feeling adventurous, but if you can buy
one for a few baht, why bother?
Impatiens are available in a number of different
colors red, scarlet, pink, white, rose and mauve and
in star patterns and bi-colors with light colors
inside the flowers and darker colors at the margins of
the petals. They come in single, semi-double or
fully-double flower forms.
There are actually hundreds of varieties, and
identifying exactly what each one is seems to be an
art in itself. Even my mum couldn’t tell you what they
all are. Ultimately, all that matters is that you’ve
got something in your garden that fills the gap
When growing impatiens, you’ll probably want to give
your plants the best start possible by mixing some of
that coconut husk/compost stuff into the soil at
planting time and finish off by watering thoroughly.
To keep your plants looking their best, you’ll need to
water them daily at this time of the year. Don’t get
them waterlogged, though.
They’re forgiving, too. Miss a day or two and they’ll
wilt like crazy and look as if they’ve given up
completely, but throw some water at them and they’ll
bounce back in a few hours. This strategy isn’t
particularly suggested though.
Deadheading (removing flowers as they finish blooming)
and pinching growing tips to encourage branching are
two things you can do to increase the vigor of these
plants and the number of flowers that they produce for
My mum would approve of this, me writing about Busy
Lizzies. If I tell her though, she’ll probably get the
wrong end of the stick, as ever. “Who’s this ‘Lizzy’
woman? What’s she busy doing?” and so on. In fact,
I’ll probably make a start on that explanation now, on
my Curtains 95 computer. Where would we be without our