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.

GBFD September – out with the old

Each month Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides asks us to focus on the foliage backdrop which fills any garden display.  Christina has a subtle blend of foliage form and foliage color in her (usually) warm, sunny, and windswept Italian paradise.  My garden is not so subtle, and the (usually) reliable rains and humidity give me a completely different plant palette to work with.  With frost only a few days away (anytime from early to mid October) I wanted to take a last look at the gaudy tropicals and annuals before they become a soggy frozen mess…. and then in with the new season!

coleus 'limon blush'

Coleus ‘Limon Blush’ with a few late season delphiniums and cane begonia.

This might be the first year I didn’t buy any new coleus.  I wonder if I’m moving out of that phase….

yellow sun coleus

An unidentified yellow “sun” coleus. In full sun it bleaches to a pale yellow, in shade it will stay a chartreuse color.

It wasn’t too long ago that I filled the late winter windowsills with pots of rooted coleus cuttings.  From October to March the snow refuges would sit in a glass of water, but in early March I’d pot them up and start the production line of clipping off even the smallest shoot for rooting.  By May and June I’d have dozens of plants for the garden.

rooted coleus cuttings

Rooted coleus cuttings in June

It’s easy enough, but there’s only so much room for them to grow on and if my interests take me elsewhere….

coleus 'Alabama sunset'

Coleus ‘Alabama sunset’ and a dark leaved (something with Lava in the name) coleus which have been with me since the old house (8 years ago?)

I’m sure I’ll save plenty again, they’re no fuss, tolerate drying out and add such bright color….. it just depresses me a little thinking about taking cuttings and ending the season.  But for a few more weeks the foliage will continue to do a good job of creating patches of brightness in the borders.


Without the aging sunflower stalks, the front foundation planting looks much neater. Coleus “Redhead” fits nicely into a color scheme which I’ll pretend was planted intentionally here, and mums and sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ echo the coleus and compliment the blue fescue.

I don’t know how this will go over, but I’m going to confess to being a coleus thief.  To the embarrassment and disgust of my wife I’ve been known to nip a cutting here and there when I linger too close to particularly nice municipal plantings.  I try to rationalize my way out of the theft by looking at the damage done by unwatched children and careless pedestrians, but I guess it’s theft nonetheless even if park employees have laughed at me for asking permission or have pulled off way more than I even wanted when aiding and abetting.  Just for the record I would never do this in a nursery!

yellow cutleaf coleus

I like to call this yellow cutleaf coleus “Entrance to Epcot”

There seems to be a heavy criminal theme to my posts lately.  I suppose that’s what happens when your workplace is closed for nearly a week as authorities mount a massive manhunt in the surrounding woods and residential areas.

coleus in pot

This coleus likes a little more shade than the others, although it can handle full sun too. I call it “Hershey Park”.

The subject of ownership of living things is a lot more than I want to get into in a foliage post, but I’ve seen plenty of tempers flare over the subject.  I hope my rare coleus clipping has never caused anything worse than additional branching of the plant, but I know the argument well which starts with “what if everyone did it…” and I know there are cases where nicked cuttings do cause damage.  I envy the people who live in such a simple black and white world.  I wonder if they return the piles of autumn leaves which blow into their yards each fall, or bring back the dead limbs which happen to fall over the fence.

rhus typhina 'tiger eyes'

The Virginia creeper and wild asters were ‘gifts’ from next door. I don’t think I’ll return them, they look nice here with the ‘tiger eyes’ sumac.

Next month will have a show of autumn colors and the coleus will be gone.  I’ll miss them but would never give up the changes in seasons.  Fortunately there will be plenty of perennials and shrubs to pick up the foliage-slack.

autumn color on Virginia creeper

The Virginia creeper was just starting to color on Saturday and this morning I see the color’s spread across the wall.

Some perennials which I’m looking forward to seeing change are my new-this-year heucheras.  The cooler nights are already bringing out new patterns on the leaves.

mixed heuchera planting

We will see who does the best in this mixed heuchera planting. The gaps are already widening as other plants (mainly primulas) die back or die out….

To round out the post, here’s the weedy iris bed which was the recipient of all that thick and rich (and smelly) lawn clipping mulch last week.  I’m going to try my best to plant nothing here until the weeds are under control…. except for a few daffodils and transplanted iris 🙂

Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ might be too tall a grass for here, but at 8 feet tall and several feet wide I’m not too keen on moving it. (plus I do like my tall plants!) -and notice the shop-vac. The gnats drive me nuts this time of year, and I get remarkable pleasure in sucking them out of the air with the vacuum!

Ok, moving along.  Here are the last bits of foliage which will be gone from the garden in another couple weeks.

alocasia "calidora"

Alocasia “calidora”… just when I was getting tired of lugging it in and out each spring it explodes into leafy greatness. This year I’ll just wheel it into the garage, stop watering, and clip off the dead leaves as they yellow.

…and another pot for the garage.  After suffering all winter and spring in their cramped clearance sale pots, this purple dracaena and fuzzy leaved succulent have finally found a home.  Hopefully they can handle each other’s watering requirements.

succulents and purple dracaena

I think the relief of actually being in a real pot has made this succulent happy enough to throw off a few blooms. I have the name somewhere, but love the foliage mix and bright flowers just as much without a name!

So that rounds out the end of summer foliage news.  Much is set to expire, but the colder weather should bring a whole new set of players.  If you can, take the time to visit Christina’s blog and check out what other bloggers around the world are finding in their own gardens.  Enjoy your Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day and have a great week!

Cyclamen on the move

Rather than do the right thing at the right time I like to test the limits of my plants,  so if you’re looking for good advice you might want to move on to your next search result 😉 but if you’re like me and can barely get around to half the stuff you want to (even at the wrong times), well then I say “Tally Ho!”

Cyclamen should be transplanted when dormant if possible.  It’s easier and probably less stressful for the plant.  I’ve found they don’t really care all that much and do it whenever the mood strikes, so when the mood struck last week (about two months too late) my little guys got roomier quarters.  Winter blooming cyclamen coum was my target and this replanting is to get them ready to come indoors and brighten up my winter garden.cyclamen coum ready for repottingC. coum is perfectly hardy outdoors around here (zone 5/6ish) and I only keep them potted because they’re so easy to grow and bloom in the back corner of our semi-heated garage.  They’ll bloom throughout the darkest days of winter, unless for some reason one decided to start now.

early blooming cyclamen coumFor repotting, a gritty good draining mix is perfect, but mine do well enough in a blend of 3 parts purchased potting soil mixed with about 2 parts sand robbed from the kid’s sandbox.  Sometimes the kids complain, and the mix gets less sand.  Replant the round bulbs with the top of the corm just at the soil surface and then cover it up with about an inch or so of gravel or grit.  I prefer chicken grit since it’s easy to find around here and was the topping first recommended to me by Carol, my cyclamen mentor and enabler.

Finished product.repotted cyclamenA few of the plain green ‘Meadens Crimson’ went into garden beds since winter garden space is limited, but this was a good start, and not as many plants as I thought, so it inspired me to take a leftover c. coum pot and bring them in too.cyclamen coum seedlings

How could I resist?  I love the one with the ring of pewter patches, and the silver leaf with the small Christmas tree center….. also a favorite.  It’s been a few days and the plants have settled in well outside.  I feel like the cooler temps and good air circulation help avoid any rot or fungus, and I think the fact they are actively growing helps too, but untangling the leaf and bloom shoots is like separating Velcro.potted cyclamen coum

Most of the fall blooming cyclamen hederifolium will stay outdoors.  There are still a few blooms coming up, but from now through winter it will be the foliage which steals the show.fall cyclamen blooms

In this dark dry spot under a weeping cherry I’ve been putting a few of the too-large or excess cyclamens.cyclamen hederifolium

They might be too close together.  I think I’d prefer to be able to enjoy each different leaf pattern separately and some of the smaller plants don’t compete well with the bigger guys.  I’ll just have to put that on the to-do list.hardy cyclamen

Also on the to-do list is finding homes for all the cyclamen hederifolium still in pots.  Last year my brilliant idea was to pot them up individually so I could get the full effect of each separate plant and maybe take them all in under lights.  Not enough room, so I tried to find a sheltered spot, dug in the pots and gave them a little winter cover and crossed my fingers.  Most died either over the winter or during the summer, so I will not test that method again.  These surviving treasures will either enjoy a winter garden spot or find a permanent planting bed.  The plants near the center are from (like nearly all the other cyclamen) Green Ice seed, these were from the ‘fairy rings’ strain.cyclamen hederifolium foliage

I like how this one’s more silvery leaves stand out.silver edged cyclamen hederifolium

Here’s one that develops a pinkish center as temperatures drop.  This one will get a windowsill spot for foliage on cyclamen hederifolium

I do like my cyclamen…. addiction might be a word you could throw around here…. Just wait until the c. coum start to flower this winter, you’ll be avoiding this blog for sure as the entries fill with the same blooms over and over again.  I will try to show a little bit of restraint, but I don’t think I’m the only cyclamen fan out there 😉

If you’re craving more examples of great foliage, check out the garden blogger’s foliage day (GBFD) hosted over at Christina’s Hesperidesgarden.  It’s a great chance to check out each month’s best foliage plants from all over the world (and a great blog every other day of the month too!)