The cyclamen are back

It’s raining this evening and I hope this finally takes us out of the summer long drought we’ve been limping through.  The rain will hopefully soften the rock hard soil and usher in a nice gentle season of planting and transplanting.  Somehow the cyclamen knew the calendar had turned to fall, in spite of the heat and drought they’ve been sprouting up amongst the dry, dead leaves and giving fresh hope for fall.cyclamen hederifolium patch

pink cyclamen hederifoliumNothing else grows in the dry shade of this weeping cherry, but the cyclamen don’t seem to mind.  The cyclamen hederifolium  normally come into bloom now, some years earlier, some later, but they always seem to know summer is winding down.  Usually the flowers come up before the leaves even show, but I like it when the two appear at the same time.fall cyclamen blooms

The colors range from white to dark purple and this planting was really starting to look good until some kind of basketball/wagon/quad/bicycle incident at dusk.  There might be some recovery but right now most are crushed or have a ‘windswept’ look.white cyclmen hederifolium

All of these are from seed.  My introduction to these plants came from a friend who sent me a mixed packet to try out.  I planted them in the fall and was amazed to see them sprout during the winter on a cold windowsill and start showing off their fancy little leaves…. until I killed most of them when I left the pot out during a hard freeze.

cyclamen hederifoliumBut gardeners are nothing if not resilient, so next fall I planted a whole new batch of seeds from Green Ice Nursery in the Netherlands.  They were more than amazing.  I grew them under lights in the cool of the basement, repotted them for the next year, put them out for the summer and even enjoyed some flowers that fall.  Another winter indoors and I was starting to recover from the pain of killing off my first batch.

That summer I potted up the best looking ones into individual pots to really get the full effect.  I could admire the individual plants and their cool leaves this way.  (by the way, chicken grit -available at feed stores- makes the perfect pot topper for these guys)cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

pink hardy cyclamen A few really stood out.  This one was a nicely colored, heavy bloomer that sent up plenty of foliage as a backdrop for the two toned flowers.

Things were going really well until it came time to move them in.  I couldn’t find enough room for what was now about 80 pots in all kinds of sizes.  So I crossed my fingers, dug them in for the winter in a sheltered spot, and hoped for the best.

While hope may spring eternal, its got to make it through winter first.  Between January and August I again lost most of my little cyclamen, and as of today this is what remains.  Maybe 15 of the original 80 plants still survive.potted cyclamen hederifolium

cyclamen seedlingsBut never fear, any healthy new obsession involves overkill, and you can bet that even though I’ve lost so many there are also so many more coming along.  Here are last winter’s new seedlings growing happily.  They are courtesy the N. American Rock Gardens Society’s annual seed exchange.  Members donate seeds in the fall and other members such as myself reap the rewards during the winter exchange.  For a pittance to cover postage you can pick up all kinds of new and unusual plant seeds, many of which are just not available elsewhere.

Besides the exchange, there’s also the possibility I broke down last winter and ordered even more seeds from Green Ice.  Jan Bravenboer of Green Ice must have a great eye for cyclamen, so many of his strains seem to be one in a million plants picked out from here and there across Europe.  I had to get just a few more which are sprouting now, and I’m glad I did.  Changes in the inspection policies of the EU have made the certificates on small orders such as mine way too expensive for honest buyers/sellers.fall cyclamen seedlings

coiled up cyclamen seed podsThe seeds in themselves are cool too.  When cyclamen blooms are pollinated, the flower stalk curls up and the growing seed pod is snuggled down into the mulch next to the plant.  There they sit safely tucked in until the seeds ripen.

There are other cyclamen that overwinter just fine (when planted properly) in my zone 5/6ish garden.  The patterned waterlily shaped leaves below belong to cyclamen coum, which is setting buds for Feb/March blooming, and the smaller silvery leaves bottom right belong to cyclamen purpurescens.cyclamen coum leaves

The summer blooming C. Purpurescens might be the hardiest of them all.  I’m having a little trouble making it happy but I think once established it will settle into a zone 4 garden without trouble, and you can enjoy the leaves all year as they don’t die back like many of the other types.

I’m afraid I’ve gone on too long again.  It’s Sunday morning and the rain is finished and the birds are all over the place.  Time to head out there and check things out.  I’ll bore you with many more cyclamen in the future, trust me.



14 comments on “The cyclamen are back

  1. Impressive! Cyclamen are so lovely, but I don’t think they are hardy here. We did see a bunch of them in the UK.

    • bittster says:

      ha. I always think this is the coldest and longest winter around, and then I remember the rest of the north! Let me know if you ever want to try some seeds, I’m sure there will be something coming along next spring.

  2. Annette says:

    Your blog is so enjoyable, I’m very glad to have found you (quite a coincidence when you think that there’s half a million out there blogging away). You are such a lucky girl with all these cyclamens. And a hard working girl as well sowing and caring for all these pots! I’m thoroughly impressed. Guess the ones that did survive are the toughest lot. I planted corms last year which is a bit tricky if you know how they look like ;). I’ve already spotted the first flowers and look forward to more. They’re such dainty creatures and I long for a huge carpet of them.

    • bittster says:

      I’m so glad you like the blog, I’m flattered since yours is one of my favorites too! My cyclamen haven’t been around long enough to start self sowing, but I hear they do and I’m hoping to also have a carpet someday. I bet they will thrive for you in the mountains and they don’t mind at all being dry for the summer.
      You gave me a nice laugh today, I’ve never thought of myself as a lucky girl, let alone a hard working one too! Thanks! 😉

      • Annette says:

        You should have seen me blush, crikey!!! Your own fault though, as you never mentioned your first name up to know 😉 One more story to bring a smile on your face: These past months I’ve been in contact with a saffron grower which I will feature in a magazine…only in his last mail he revealed he’s a man too! And I called him Madame all this time…some names are bloody confusing. Have a good laugh now, so important and keep writing, I’m sure you’ll get lots of readers soon, it’s such a fine blog but always hard in the beginning 🙂

      • bittster says:

        Thanks again, I’m glad there are a few people who like the blog! I can talk to myself forever about my garden, but after a while it gets a little boring 😉

  3. I have been obsessing lately about finding cyclamen corms, and here you deliver up inspiration and sources in one tidy serving! Thank you! I would not have tried cyclamen from seed, thinking it was too challenging. I don’t have a basement and I wonder if a cold frame would give enough protection from frost? I will check out Green Ice but if prices are too exorbitant I may join up the rock garden society post-haste. So excited to get started!

    • bittster says:

      You might really like the rock garden exchange, cyclamen seed always shows up and the membership cost is worth the seed exchange alone.
      You reminded me that I have 40 packets that came from their surplus seed exchange. They’re all the leftovers from the first round but I should really get them started so they can sit outside and get a couple good fall rains in before winter. A coldframe would be perfect! I’ve been too lazy to make one of my own so I tend to use upside down plastic storage tubs:)

  4. Another thought–looks like the Phyto certificate is about $25–want to split a seed order with me and split the phyto fee?

    • bittster says:

      hmmmmm. YES! I shouldn’t but I will, I’ve looked at the listing a couple times and keep telling myself no, but if you twist my arm I could easily be convinced. So far my NA rock garden seeds have been nice enough, but the Green Ice plants really are impressive. A batch of seedlings doesn’t always come exactly true to type but it’s never disappointing! Once they really leaf out I’ll try to post pictures.
      I’ll send you an email, let me know if it doesn’t go through.

  5. Kevin says:

    Thanks for stopping by my site — it allowed me the chance to visit you. How exciting to see the cyclamen appearing — and I really enjoyed your growing from seed efforts. Some of the leaf patterns are as beautiful as the flowers. Be well!

  6. What an interesting trial. You had many go-arounds and still were persistent. I like cyclamen and always grow them as indoor plants. I never tried them from seed, but it looks like they do pretty well as you end up with quite a few. Maybe I will give them a try.

    • bittster says:

      You need some patience, but it really can be rewarding. I have a couple I’ll take indoors and even though they’re not as fancy as the florist types they’re still perfect for an icy cold winter afternoon.

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