I transferred to a new school when I was eight and was naturally curious about its various nooks and corners. One corner fascinated me like no other – the science garden which was located just behind the washrooms. The attraction? Several balsams which were planted within tantalizing reach. These drew me like a magnet.
Suddenly I needed to go to the loo more often than was necessary. My pitstops were also more protracted as I would stop and gaze at the plants or check to see if any seed pod had ripened. The impatiens balsamina were single petalled but were pretty all the same. Soon eager fingers sowed my first balsams into a pot. No prizes for guessing the source of the seeds.
With so many plants and seeds available today, only the double petalled variety which look like miniature roses seems to be worth growing; especially when one has limited space. Even then, we grow only those with what we think are lovelier colours.
I was at a garden fest in Singapore when I saw my first bi-coloured balsam. I was instantly smitten. I had to get the seeds but these remained elusive until I returned to Singapore on another occasion. An ever-obliging, long-suffering friend got them for me. Richard, that was a coup!
We have a few double petalled balsams in the garden; sweet pink, scarlet, carmine, lilac, two other shades of purple and of course, the lovely bi-coloured specimen.
Balsams are really obliging and cooperative annuals. They are one of the first plants I recommend kids and newbies grow as success is almost guaranteed. Balsams are not fussy about soil and as long as they get lots of sun, they flower their heads off.
And the best thing is, there is something else to look forward to after the flush of flowers – plump ripe seed pods begging to be popped!