Opening day for the winter garden

There’s only so much I want to do outdoors while the snow is blowing and the temperatures drop.  It looks beautiful and we have plenty of cozy winter gear but unless I have a snow shoveling job to do I’d rather just admire the whiteness from inside the house.  So instead of bundling up, I dusted off the shop light and set up my little winter garden.  These cyclamen coum and cyclamen hederifolium are hardy enough to overwinter outdoors easily but I’m sure I’d miss them too much under the snow, so it’s nice to have them under lights and in the garage.  Plus with blooms starting, it’s time to give them a nicer spot than the dim, dusty windowsill.hardy cyclamen under lightsThe snowdrops also need more light,  I try to keep them back by holding them in the coolest corner of the garage but they have their own growing timetable.  The first of this bunch bloomed in November and now I’m happy to see the rest starting.  My apologies for the mess and dirt and less than attractive cardboard backdrop…. no Martha Stewart gardening here.potted galanthusLast winter’s cyclamen seedlings also appreciate the lighting.  They didn’t sprout until temperatures cooled in the fall but will now grow and reach a decent size for planting out next spring.cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

With the lights on, these cyclamen will get more regular watering and we’re going to pretend it’s spring 🙂  There are new blooms just under the gravel waiting to come up, and if it’s between looking outside and looking at this, I’ll take the flowers.cyclamen coum blossomNot a bad way to start off the new year.  It sure beats the -9F (-23C) I saw on my drive to work the other day.  Stay warm!

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.



Cyclamen Coum….. indoors

Cyclamen coum under lights

Cyclamen coum in full bloom under the shop lights

In a way it defeats the purpose of growing a hardy cyclamen if you grow it indoors, but on a cold day like today indoors wins. My winter garden consists of a four bulb flourescent shop light hung over a makeshift table, but it seems to do the trick for things like cyclamen, snowdrops and hellebore seedlings. The cool temperatures of the garage are perfect for these winter growers and assuming their caretaker can handle the responsibility of watering, they should make it through the winter just fine.