Every garden center I've visited this spring has been selling at least a few Impatiens walleriana, the common impatiens that has been dogged by - fatal - downy mildew the last few years. I understand that some customers won't take no for an answer, but isn't this where garden centers and box stores can step up and educate people?

There are plenty of alternatives to this immensely popular bedding plant - caladium, turenia, and begonias, which are pictured here. I saw many types in my travels to Lancaster County last week, and there are plenty available in the Philadelphia region, too. These were beautiful - note the bright yellow one. It's a tuberous begonia called 'Blitz.'

Actually .... maybe it's time to replace some of those high-maintenance annuals with perennials - though I am the last person to tell you that perennials require little care. (Talk to me sometime about what I do on weekends!)

Most places I've been have a warning posted by the traditional impatiens variety, letting people know that they risk losing all of these plants to the airborne pathogen that causes the mildew. And the plants are off in a corner, instead of their usual place at the head of the table. But why sell them in the first place? The experts all say it's a stupid risk for consumers, a little less so if the plants are put in containers in a protected spot on a deck or patio.

But why risk it at all? Spring is expensive enough for gardeners.

I'm late to the begonia ball. I love dragon- and angel-wing types for containers, but for bedding? And wax begonias have always left me cold. They don't have the perky look, or the spreading/mounding habit, that the common impatiens has, much as some snobs despise them.

But I bought a couple of trays of wax begonias yesterday. We'll see how they do - and whether they win me over.