HYDE PARK — An incurable plant disease is damaging fundraising efforts to repair damage by flower thieves.
The popular groundcover flowers impatiens are being infected with downy mildew, an untreatable pestilence that is spreading in Evanston and the western suburbs.
Rumsey said the small colorful flowers that grow excellently in Hyde Park’s shady yards are normally the No. 1 seller at the Garden Fair, but this year organizers ordered 3,300 fewer of the plants because of reports of mildew in the neighborhood.
“They just kept going backwards and getting smaller and smaller and then they were gone,” said Patricia Morse, whose impatiens in a planter in from of her 1755 E. 55th St. apartment shriveled away last year. “Hyde Park is full of building shade, I don’t know what people are going to do.”
Workers at the Garden Fair, which continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Hyde Park Shopping Center, are recommending Hyde Park gardeners try begonias, snapdragons, hypoestes and other plants that do well in shade.
Plants were selling well as of Friday, but it was unclear whether the Garden Fair would raise the $30,000 it did last year to replace flowers stolen from Nichols and Spruce parks.
“That blinking moonbeam coreopsis had developed legs five times and walked off,” said Stephanie Franklin, chair of the Nichols Park Advisory Council.
Franklin said three-quarters of a bed of choral bells under oaks in the park was also dug up and stolen by thieves.
Sixty percent of profits from the Garden Fair are used to maintain the prairie and formal gardens at Nichols Park on 53rd Street and Spruce Park on 54th Street. The organizer, the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, uses the other 40 percent to promote gardening in the neighborhood.