Goodnight Cyclamen

There’s royalty in some plants, and I’m pretty sure cyclamen carry these bloodlines.  Obviously (to me at least) the queen of the family is the tender greenhouse cyclamen (from the c. persicum line), with her bright fancy flowers and her holiday appropriate bright colors, but the other members of the family all deserve equally elite titles.  Lets start with the king who lives in my garden and goes by the name of Cyclamen hederifolium.  His crowning glory is the diversity of exotic patterns and varied shapes which his winter-hardy foliage takes on.

hardy cyclamen hederifolium foliage

A kaleidoscope of hardy Cyclamen hederifolium foliage.

The round corms of this plant sit dormant underground for most of the summer until about August when the first flowers start coming up to dapple the shaded bed where they grow.  The pink or white flowers are nice enough, but as soon as they fade the ground begins to grow a covering of the beautiful cyclamen leaves.  They love the cool temperatures of autumn and as the rest of the garden drops its leaves the cyclamen bed takes on its winter silver and green foliage blanket.

cyclamen hederifolium narrow silver foliage

Leaf shapes for the king vary from wide to narrow, rounded to more of an ivy (Hedera) leaf shape.  Here’s a nice narrow leaved silver form.

The leaves will stay for the winter, and with a good snow cover look as fresh as ever when the snow retreats.  It’s only in late spring that the leaves die back and the plant goes dormant again, and because of this it’s a plant I think is perfect for filling in those dark, boring mulch beds under deciduous trees who’s shade is too dark for anything else.

hardy cyclamen hederifolium foliage

hardy cyclamen hederifolium foliage

If the king likes the spot he’ll form a nice colony as seedlings fill in.  Any winter-vacant spot is fair game for a clump of C. hederifolium seedlings, and I’m beginning to see them come up in all sorts of spaces, even the lawn.

hardy cyclamen hederifolium silver foliage

The tiny leaves at the center of the clumps are new seedlings from last year’s flowering.  Even on the smallest seedling leaf the foliage patterns begin to show off.

I’d like to give different parts of the garden over to some of the more unique foliage patterns and see what shows up.  In the far back of the yard I have this white blooming, green and silver leafed form.

hardy cyclamen hederifolium foliage

This Cyclamen hederifolium has a brighter green color when compared to its relatives.  It’s always nice to have something a little different.

Another form which could be really interesting (and I think already is really interesting) is this purple tinted foliage form.  When fall temperatures drop, a purple wash bleeds through the foliage and the plant takes on an entirely new look.  I’ve only got a few weakly colored examples, but some I’ve seen have a bright pink and purple color which looks great.

cyclamen hederifolium purple tinted foliage

Pink highlights on Cyclamen hederifolium foliage.

The bold C. hederifolium dominates the shade right now, but other hardy cyclamen also carry on the family name throughout the garden.  Princess coum will grow in the same beds as the king, but in the long run is crowded out be his overbearing ways.  Her waterlily shaped foliage is less intricate than the king’s but still shows off the silver marbling of the family and as is befitting of a princess she is covered with jewel like blooms as soon as the snow melts.

hardy cyclamen coum

Hardy cyclamen coum, a princess of the cyclamen family.

For the past two years as snowpocalypse has hit the east coast the delicate princess coum lost all her leaves and nearly all blooms, but has always bounced right back.  King hederifolium suffered a bit but mearly shrugged it off during the summer, but there’s a third family member in my garden who didn’t skip a beat.  Prince (or maybe Duke, I’m kind of losing my way here) purpurascens seems to be the hardiest of the bunch.  I’ve seen Cyclamen purpurascens listed as less hardy than the other two, but in my experience he’s never been bothered by low temperatures (although we usually have some snow cover) and although he’s the slowest of the bunch (even seeds take over a year to mature) C. purpurascens is reliable.  He doesn’t even lose his leaves in the summer.

hardy cyclamen purpurascens foliage

A sloppy planting of hardy Cyclamen purpurascens.  The leaves are similar to C. coum, yet slightly sturdier and have more of a veinier marbling.

This morning marks the last day of Christmas vacation and the first day in which temperatures have dropped low enough to freeze the top crust of soil.  Neither of these are something I look forward to but you get what you get, and even if that means a low of 8F (-13C) tomorrow nothing short of an early retirement and move down south will change things.  So today I say goodnight to my outdoor cyclamen as they slip under the blanket of their winter sleep.

The royal family will carry on though, and if you want a bigger and more diverse intro give Jon Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens a visit.  Besides growing and showing many of the other, less hardy members of the royal family, most of the plants are available for sale and I’m certain you won’t find a better selection elsewhere on the East coast.

40 comments on “Goodnight Cyclamen

  1. Lisa Rest says:

    Thanks for the beautifully written post and botany lesson and isn’t it remarkable to see how our friends, flora and fauna, respond to the ever-changing challenge of climate and weather. I’m with you today about bemoaning the end of the holidays as far as time off from work goes… Happy New Year…:-)

    • bittster says:

      Ugh Lisa. Today was the first day back at work, and although I had a great day I was NOT thrilled when the alarm went off and I had to go spend the day doing things for other people rather than myself!
      I picked up 40 lbs of sunflower seed this weekend. It will be fun to see the activity again after not getting around to it last year, and I’m sure there will me many appreciative winter residents.

      • Lisa Rest says:

        I’m with you, working the last 2 weeks has seemed pointless… Good luck with the feeders, it might take a few days for the birds to discover and spread the news but I hope you get a good crowd.

  2. Happy New Year Frank. I do agree, this weather has made some very interesting looks to ground covers and plants we would now see covered in snow. The hardy cyclamen make the garden floor a stained glass wonder. The temperatures dropped here, so it feels a little like winter is on the way.

    • bittster says:

      I bet it feels even more like winter tonight!
      What a shock to have been above freezing for weeks and now dropping into the single digits practically overnight. Might as well live in the Midwest, this weather probably wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow out there!

  3. Happy New Year Frank! Great post and you have some stunning leaf forms. C purpurascens is certainly the hardiest of all cyclamen.

    • bittster says:

      Happy New Year to you as well John! Good to have confirmation on the cyclamen and know it’s not my imagination. I was more than a little surprised when I read (in a book from a well respected source no less) that this one was less hardy.
      One of my regrets for the past holiday season was not making my way down to your neck of the woods. I though for sure this would be the year I’d finally have a chance to stroll Edgewood gardens and see all the cyclamen in person…

  4. Amy Olmsted says:

    What a gorgeous assortment you have there Frank! My C. purpurescens seems to be the hardiest too and the fact that it holds its foliage all year is a real plus. I am still waiting for the seedlings to show up all around my gardens, but I just need to be patient.

    • bittster says:

      Now if it makes it through your winter, it really must be hardy enough. You have hederiflium as well don’t you? How about coum though….
      I’m still waiting for seedlings as well. Honestly I’m not even sure if it formed seed last year, I should look when things thaw out again later in the week!

  5. Christina says:

    I always feel very sad that you have to say “good-bye” to your garden each winter Frank; but I like this farewell post very much, good choice of plant to high-light. I’m hoping to establish some cyclamen in the new woodland path; there are native cyclamen that grow on the shaded road verges, that thrill me with their flowers every autumn. I hope you have a very Happy and great gardening 2016. Christina

    • bittster says:

      All the best to you and yours Christina, I think 2016 will be an excellent year!
      I would love to see all kinds of cyclamen in your new woodland, the fact they already have taken to the roadside verges is a good sign and I’m sure you would be able to grow a far wider range of types than I can!
      The winter goodbye isn’t as bad as you would think. The rest is nice and it gives one a nice chance to regroup and start fresh. When the garden re-emerges from the snow it’s such a distinct new beginning it’s always exciting.

  6. Chloris says:

    A lovely post. The leaves of cyclamen are an absolute delight and everyone seems to be different. I haven’ t come across one with leaves tinged with pink before. What a shame if yours have to disappear under snow for so long. Still you still have the ones in the garage to croon over.

    • bittster says:

      I’ll miss them under the snow, but then when they re-emerge I get to rediscover them all over again… and for the in between time, yes, I have secreted away a decent amount for the garage 🙂

  7. The late, great Seneca Hill Perennials asserted that C. purpurascens was the hardiest, and so that is what I purchased from them several years ago. It wasn’t too happy about the move to the new garden, but has rebounded nicely for a slow grower. I have a few very small corms of C. coum that were a garden club freebie and I anxiously await their appearance every year. They haven’t bulked up to the point that I feel certain they are here to stay. I would love to try C. hederfolium as the foliage is so lovely, but I fear I may condemn them to certain death, seeing as C. coum is struggling.

    • bittster says:

      You should give C. hederifolium a try as well. It’s almost a bully in spots, the way it sprouts up and covers the ground!
      I was just starting to get serious about putting down roots just as Seneca Hills was closing their doors. I remember the temptation of reduced prices as Ellen cleared out the last of her cyclamen stock. That and it seemed like every cool plant I ever saw online would be followed with an “oh yeah I got this from Ellen Horning a few years back” and now it’s no longer available…

  8. Cathy says:

    So lovely to have a focus on cyclamen leaves instead of just the flowers. They are so very beautiful, and they obviously seem to like you because of all those small babes they are producing! Chloris obviously knows that you have some tucked up for later in the garage – I look forward to them.

    • bittster says:

      I’m always a little worried when people remember what I’ve been up to and what I said. So much is just plain silly and I keep forgetting people actually will read this blog on occasion. That said, Chloris is absolutely right, you will be seeing more cyclamen shortly, and then seeing them again, and again and again until something else finally happens outdoors again!
      I’m so glad the cyclamen have decided to stay. It’s so nice to see them return just as everything else is either worn out from the summer or dying back for the winter.

      • Cathy says:

        I know so well what you mean – but we are all the same. In my case it’s vows and broken promises to self! Glad we will see more cyclamen. I am trying to turn our vine terrace into a cyclamen home – and, yes, they are seeding (slightly!!) Still v. early days. Good luck with the return of winter.

  9. Julie says:

    What a glorious selection of hardy cyclamen you have in your garden! I am trying to establish a few drifts here but they are slow to get going. In my last garden I moved in to many well established clumps which spread happily every year – perhaps one day I will have something similar here!

    • bittster says:

      I’m sure you will soon enough Julie. I feel like these are one of those plants which seems to do nothing for years and then suddenly pops out of every sidewalk joint! I wish snowdrops would do that here someday… you have a few snowdrop drifts, I have a few cyclamen drifts. It’s bound to even out someday!

  10. You have such an enviable selection of Cyclamen. I’m glad they have always recovered from the trials of winter. Here we returned from California to find everything under a thick layer of solid ice. While winter drags on, I may amuse myself by dreaming of Cyclamen. Perhaps I’ll actually acquire a few.

    • bittster says:

      … and what a layer of ice it is! Nothing like going from one extreme to the next 🙂
      Now begins that dangerous time of year when everything sounds like a great idea and they’re all just a click away. Last night I thought a rock garden would be something easy to whip together, tonight I’m considering more dahlias….

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    They’re beautiful, this royal family and a welcome sight in the winter garden. The purple-tinged leaf form is new to me and is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing these, I never tire of looking at their cool leaf patterns.

    • bittster says:

      Aren’t cyclamen leaves amazing? Thanks for showing a few of the ones you’ve picked up as well, they’re quite the awesome little plants, and my fingers are crossed that the purple-tinged ones seed as well.

  12. I love cyclamen and have a few varieties growing in deep shade but nothing like your kaleidoscope collection. While I love the flowers, it is the foliage that makes me swoon. Cold and about 3 inches of snow here finally. Thanks Frank for the link so I can indulge my love and collect a few unusual cyclamen!

    • bittster says:

      Good luck with the cyclamen. I’m still somewhat surprised they can overwinter so well in my garden and it will be a while before I get my fill.
      I wouldn’t mind some of that snow… and I’m guessing you wouldn’t mind wishing it my way 🙂

  13. Wow, that foliage is stunning. I confess I tried C. hederifolium in my first two gardens and both failed to establish — but both were South Shore (south of 27a) locations and now I’m wondering if I might have more success here “up North”. Thanks for the source link! 😉

    • bittster says:

      I think they would enjoy your garden. I gave my mom a few and they’re doing great in the Stonybrook area…
      Did you start with dormant tubers? Oftentimes dormant tubers are hard to get started. They’re usually wild collected and not the young, seed grown plants you can find at a specialty nursery.

  14. Annette says:

    Absolutely stunning, Frank, what a selection and such lushness which makes me turn green with…oh no, not envy rather anticipation and impatience. Mine are slowly developing. A friend told me his didn’t do much for many years and all of a sudden it exploded. Now you could put their names on the list of invasive species 😉

    • bittster says:

      Believe it or not I think there might be a place or two in the Pacific NW where they have indeed been placed on an invasive plant list. I don’t think they’re actively displacing natives, but they have naturalized. I could think of worse weeds!
      As soon as you see your first few seedlings I think it goes quickly from there on. Just a little more patience, I’m only a year or two ahead of you!

  15. I didn’t realize cyclamen were hardy! I always think of them as houseplants. I love their foliage. 🙂

  16. I keep thinking I will add some cyclamen and then forget about it. Knowing they are slow growers I think is one reason I haven’t made the leap as it feels like I have a lot of other slow growers. Do they go dormant in the summer? I’m currently trying to add Erythroniums and snowdrops so perhaps I just don’t want to have another obsession!

    • bittster says:

      You have quite a full plate, so maybe another plant obsession is something you should think twice on…. but than again maybe if you just ‘dabble’ a bit..
      They do go dormant for the summer, but I’m always surprised by the dry, rooty shade they can survive in. It really is a nice plant to grow under shrubs, and then be surprised by when the leaves drop.
      I’m looking forward to hearing what snowdrops you’ve added 🙂

  17. Dee says:

    Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  18. We had our snowdrops make an appearance, but now they are under a blanket of snow. Your winter garden of Cyclamen are quite lovely.

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