Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cyclamen persicum

Hybridists have sent the wild Cyclamen persicum on a wild ride over the centuries. The wild plant, the largest of the wild cyclamens, has been bred to be even larger, and in the process the fragrance of the wild ancestor has been largely lost. The result is the so-called florist's cyclamen, a staple of the winter window-sill garden. These big plants are good for providing lots of color for months; but the typical American home is too warm for them, and thus that potential is rarely reached. And although the wild forms grow in areas which experience freezing weather, these big plants are not for the open garden in this area.

There are also dwarf forms of the florist's cyclamen, and these often have good fragrance. That same day I purchased the plant of azalea 'Autumn Belle' I spotted a tray of florist's cyclamens. I was initially drawn by the color, but as I got over the plants a very pleasant fragrance became apparent. I picked up a red-flowered plant, gave it a sniff, and quickly put it down - nothing nice there! A pink-flowered plant gave the same result. And then I tried a white-flowered plant: that's where the great fragrance was coming from. This one came home with me: that's it in the image above.

It's in the cold frame now: its chances are better there than inside the house. Will it survive the winter in the cold frame? We'll see. I hope it does because it's loaded with flower buds, enough for it to carry on for weeks and weeks it would seem. And there is a particular pleasure to be had in opening the cold frame and getting a rush of sweet fragrance.

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