From the employee-owners of Gardener's Supply

Mystery Seeds Yield a Sweet Surprise

Impatiens balsamina

A packet of free seed became a row of free-flowering annuals.

Here at Gardener’s Supply we have something called “the free table.” It’s where employees put things they want to give away, so it’s always interesting to see what shows up. The free table is a great place to recycle. You’ll find everything from last year’s bestseller to a sparkly cat figurine. Last spring, I grabbed a packet of seeds. I was unfamiliar with the variety, but it was described as a “Victorian favorite” heirloom flower, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I planted the seeds indoors and grew them under lights for eight weeks. Then, I transplanted them into our test gardens, in a row along the back of two side-by-side raised beds. After a couple of weeks in the ground, the seedlings really took off. The row matured into a 2-foot tropical hedge covered in light pink, coral and magenta blooms, which continued until frost. The bees and butterflies loved me for planting these seeds.

After the flowers faded, an unusual seed capsule formed. When squeezed, the capsule would explode and fling seeds in every direction. My six-year-old son loved that part.

The mystery flowers were Impatiens balsamina, also known as jumping Betty. This year, I plan to try more unusual heirlooms; I can’t wait to see what sweet surprises await me.


  1. March 18, 2014    

    What a fun idea! There are lots of plants that produce seeds that are easy to save and then give away again as gifts like Nasturtiums, Cleome, Centaurea Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos, and Lavetera. Plus they reseed in your garden, too!

    • Chris Moe
      March 26, 2014    

      Have you tried the purple hyacinth bean plant? Awesome, showy vine with lots of seed pods, a must!!

  2. Elaine
    May 1, 2014    

    I got some seeds of the same plant in a similar way about 8 yrs ago. I”ve not had to replant as they reseed abundantly even here in MN. I love them!

  3. Arloa Dahl
    May 1, 2014    

    I can remember Mom planting these every summer when I was a kid in the 40’s. And yes we loved popping those seed pods.

  4. Denise Nash
    May 1, 2014    

    LOL! Recognized it from my childhood – not that I’m Victorian era, but my mother used to grow these. I didn’t know they were an impatiens species. My mom called them balsam! Thanks for the memories…I loved popping the seed pods too. Funny that I didn’t realize that the seed pods are identical to other impatiens and put 2+2 together. Duh.

  5. May 1, 2014    

    I love to collect seeds from such plants as four O’clocks, blackeyed Susan’s,cypress vine, morning glories and plant them the next year.

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