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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.