The DIY and garden chain has teamed up with Syngenta Flowers to bring popular bedding plant, the busy Lizzie back to British gardens. It describes its new ‘Imara Bizzie Lizzie’ as “hugely resistant to downy mildew and really easy for people to grow”.
The project has been almost a decade in the making for Syngenta - one of the world's leading breeders of flower seeds and cuttings, with Kingfisher chain B&Q jumping at the chance to get involved several years ago when it was approached by the firm.
“This is the biggest thing - the most significant plant activity - I’ve ever been involved in,” said Kingfisher head of horticulture Tim Clapp. “We are bringing Busy Lizzies back!” he exclaimed.
The busy Lizzie (Impatiens walleriana) species disappeared from garden retailers’ shelves in 2012, as the widespread Impatiens Downy Mildew disease took hold and stockists could no longer guarantee the plant’s performance. Impatiens downy mildew first appears as a grey powder under the leaves, then causes the leaves to curl, turn yellow and finally drop off – leaving only the stems
“Growers saw huge crops destroyed,” said Mr Clapp. “Eventually, many retailers, including B&Q, took the decision to stop selling busy Lizzies - and that was entirely the right thing to do. We couldn’t, in good conscience, sell a plant to a customer that we know won’t survive within their garden or won’t survive very long.”
Whilst availability disappeared overnight, demand for the much-loved plant did not. “We still get lots of people continuing to ask for them,” said Mr Clapp. “It was and still is the UK’s number-one favourite bedding plant. At peak we were selling 20 million plants every year.”
The name given to the new plant - ‘Imara’ means ‘strong & resilient’ in Swahili, and is a tribute to the region in East Africa where the original busy Lizzies are from.
B&Q has secured worldwide exclusivity for the Imara Bizzie Lizzie for 2018. The plants won’t be sold online but will be available will be in 300 B&Q stores in time for the early May Bank holiday.
Retailing from £2.50, up to £13, the Imara Bizzie Lizzies will be supplied in six colours – white, red, rose, orange, violet, orange and orange star - in a variety of packs, pots and planted containers, including hanging planters.
“We’ve got many millions of plants available in all stores for people to buy,” said Mr Clapp – and if the British public’s appetite for the humble busy lizzie is still there, the plants should fly out the door.
B&Q market director for outdoor, Steve Guy added: “There has been a pent-up demand for the plants within the gardening community, and a genuine love among customers. This has driven our perseverance to address this need in the market by developing a resilient and beautiful plant with great garden performance. We’re confident our customers will recognise and love the ‘Imara Bizzie Lizzie’ just as much as before.”
Read more about the science behind the new development in the April 27 issue of DIY Week, out now.