Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hardy Cyclamen

Most will appreciate a good pot of the indoor or Florist's Cyclamen (typically seed strains derived from C. persicum) at some point during the winter. Their heart-shaped green, and often silver-mottled foliage and bright white, pink, red or purple flowers, in large or miniature forms, make it a wonderful addition to the indoor "garden".

Many gardeners however, are not aware that a few species of Cyclamen are hardy enough to survive most winters in Southern Ontario in the outdoor garden. Both C. coum and C. hederifolium are generally hardy to zones 5 or 6, possibly even lower if given good conditions.

Cyclamen coum is likely the easier of the two, and is typically all the rage among alpine gardners. It is quite variable in both flower colouration, leaf patterns, and overall size.

A few suggestions with the above plant: first, avoid the packaged "bulbs" available at some garden centres and big box stores, as these will likely be dried out and shrivelled up -- if possible buy actively growing plants from a specialty nursery in early spring or fall; second, do NOT plant too deep -- this tuber prefers to be just at or below the soil surface. Finally, it's a great plant for dry shade.

These are usually produced from seed, but a "clone" with fantastic foliage does exist via the tissue-culture pros at Terra Nova. It's called 'Something Magic', and I planted one or two last year, and am looking forward to seeing it perform this year.

Cyclamen hederifolium is a touch more difficult, although I've had several plants in a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden (zone 6) for several years, amongst some Dogwoods. It flowers in the fall with usually pink flowers, but also has some wonderfully silvered-mottled foliage. It is generally also recommending for dry shade, and again, don't plant too deep.

Check out these beauties grown as alpine specimens in pots.

Here's to dirt under your nails.


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