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.

The beat goes on

From seven in the morning to about four in the afternoon all we hear is the thump thump thump of bulldozers…. six days a week.  Oh, and the dust too.

construction behind the garden

I have to admit I find the earthmoving, rock crushing, and site grading to be fascinating. I think it’s me who actually comes closest to being a kid in this family… and then my daughter throws a fit to prove me wrong 🙂

Of course things could be worse, but the steady beat of the steel bulldozer treads has been relentless all summer and I hope it’s finished soon.  Also I hope it’s not replaced by something more annoying!

The above picture is of the dried up vegetable beds with construction in the back, and as you might be able to see I’ve given up on the garden and it’s slowly dying without water.  Earlier in the week when it was cooler I was inspired and planted out a small bed of lettuce transplants, dutifully watering them in, but today as the temperatures climbed to 87F (30C) with bone dry soil, I’ve given up in disgust.

hardy cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

When all else fails I take a look at my cyclamen hederifolium seedlings. How can you stay grumpy with leaves like this sprouting up?

The fall rains will come some day and I’ll complain about the damp I’m sure, but right now I could go for a nice soaking.  I want the rain so I can get transplanting, there’s just no joy in it when the soil is so dry you need a pickaxe.  Fortunately I at least got the compost pile turned, and although it’s also a dry fungal mess there was some good stuff at the bottom.  In another week or two my new bulbs will appreciate that!

Daylight savings time

During daylight savings time I’m not entirely sure where all the saved light goes, but after getting to work in the dark and leaving in the dark, I’d like to pretend a little shows up in my winter garden.  Ok, winter garden is a pretty fancy label for my shoplight in the back of the garage but in a family that calls the vegetable garden “the farm” and one apple tree “the orchard”, it makes sense.  I cleaned things up a little with a plastic liner and gravel base and I’m more pleased than ever.  My only complaint is I should have used a sand base to place the pots on, a sort of ‘sand plunge’ that would distribute the watering better.  Looks like that’s the plan for next year.winter garden under lights

Things seem late, maybe because of the cold spells or my late setup and start-of-watering, but from the looks of things it should pick up soon.  More of the cyclamen coum are sending up blooms including the darker ‘Meaden’s Crimson”potted cyclamen coumThis is my current favorite though.  It’s got a nice pink shade that darkens around the petal edges giving almost a bicolor effect.cyclamen coum under lights The seedlings from last winter are also recovering well from my neglect.  For about the first year of their lives these cyclamen hederifolium will grow quickly sending up new and larger leaves if kept cool and watered with a little fertilizer.  Once they get past a certain point, around their first birthday, they either get too big or get too old (I’m not sure) and no amount of light, water, cool or warm will keep them actively growing through the winter.  They just sit there until warmer weather and drought bring on dormancy.  In this batch of seedlings I like the silver leaf in the center with it’s slight pink tinge.  Maybe it will hold onto this as it grows, but I’ve seen other babies play this trick and it never lasts.cyclamen hederifolium from seed

More snowdrops are coming into bloom.  I don’t think any of these are galanthus woronowii (like the label said) since they just don’t have the glossy green leaves that they should, but the blooms are welcome anyway.forced snowdrops

The first of many Van Engelen clearance sale bulbs are blooming.  I can’t hold them back any more!  It’s difficult to tell from the picture but these are barely half the size of the others.  Still nice though as more snow falls outside.potted snowdropsI have a birthday coming up.  I’m considering gifting myself two more shoplights rather than endlessly wishing for a greenhouse.  It’s not quite the same but it’s a start!

disclaimer: I guess daylight savings time is technically the summer time change, but just like I’m desperate for sun I was also desperate for a title 🙂

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 last bits

Between working late every day and changing the clocks, my enthusiasm for the garden has dropped off the edge of a cliff.  The leaves are down and the soil is still on the dry side so that’s not helping either.  I guess winter is the perfect time to hibernate, but before I shut down completely here are some last pictures.  Some selfsown mums are still blooming.  I’m not crazy about the colors, but the timing is a welcome last call.seed grown chrysanthemumsThe milk thistle seedling still fascinates me with its cool mottled foliage, but I still have my doubts about it overwintering.  So far I’ve only ever managed to grow it as an annual, not a biennial (which I think is what it prefers)milk thistle foliageMy one cyclamen hederifolium seedling which gets a pink tinge is coloring up for the winter.  Now that temps are dropping into the 20’s I brought it into the garage for safekeeping even though I’m sure it’s hardy enough to overwinter in the ground (but I would miss it out there!)cyclamen hederifolium with pink foliageOne job which I did get done before free time dissapeared was the tidying up of the compost pile.  Not everyone has this much room surrounded by a fancy pink marble block wall, so I’m kind of grateful for that…. but I still wish I had more leaves and such to fill it up compost pile So that’s the story from here.  Things are shutting down and I just don’t have any motivation, but that could change at any time.  Just last week I noticed a bunch of seeds I wanted to plant this fall, and bulb clearance sales typically start on thanksgiving.  It’s hard to be unmotivated when a couple hundred bulbs are shipping your way 🙂

Hope your end of season plans are going better than mine!

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!)

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.



The Winter Garden


growing under lights

Gardening indoors

A winter garden usually means something a little fancier than my shop light setup that sits in the back part of the garage.  Hellebores, evergreens and snowdrops could fill a corner of an outdoor winter garden, a nice glass conservatory planted with camellias and clivias would be a perfect spot for a January morning cup of coffee,  even a couple southern windows with a flowering lemon tree and a couple amaryllis is nice….. but this is all I’ve got.  It’s better than nothing.

The cyclamens love the cooler temperatures of the garage.  I keep some of my babies here, the ones that I didn’t get around to planting out or ones that I wanted to “keep close” for another year.   Right now the cyclamen coum are blooming.  Here’s one grown from  Green Ice Nursery seed.  The mother plant was collected in Russia, and I think it’s cool that my little plants are only one generation removed from the Russian wilderness.

Cyclamen coum seedling

Last year’s Cyclamen coum seedlings

Seedlings for the next generation of Cyclamen hederifolium are also coming along in the winter garden.  They were sown last winter, didn’t get enough of the cold they wanted, sat all summer and then finally sprouted in the fall.  I could have left them outside but they take up barely any space and I can check up on their progress any time I want.

cyclamen coum seedlings

Various hardy cyclamen seedlings