Monday, November 19, 2012

Cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

Gardening has its pleasures of the instant gratification sort (credit cards are generally involved here), and at the other end of that spectrum it has those delights which become apparent only over a period of years. In the latter category come the always surprising events taking place in the seedling frames. Some seeds take their time about germination, and it can be a real thrill when a plant which one supposed would never grow here germinates and gets off to a good start. Then there are those plants which are not difficult to grow from seed (I didn't say fast!) but take their time about revealing their best qualities. Peonies, for instance, are easy from seed, but one waits five or six years to see the first good flower. It can be really exciting to visit the frames for the first time after months of neglect - and find some long desired seedling up and growing. That's one of those times when I feel like a "real" gardener.

Cyclamen occupy a middle ground in this spectrum. Fresh seed germinates easily at the appropriate time of year, and even old seed will eventually germinate. Under home garden conditions, the first flowers come in the second or third year. In the meantime, there is something else to occupy the imagination of the grower: even the first leaves give a hint of the mature foliage, and there are many strains of cyclamen, both hardy and tender,  worth growing for their leaves alone: I'm sure there would be gardeners who would grow them even if they never bloomed.

Cyclamen graecum and C. cyprium are well established here as cold frame plants, but I frankly doubt their utility in the open garden. Cyclamen persicum persists from year to year so long as it is not exposed to hard freezes: it's not really suited for use as a house plant here (our homes are generally too warm), and it will not survive our typical winters outside. Here I move them in and out during the winter, and this suits them well indeed: last year's plants bloomed for five or six months without a break. Some will eventually go into the cold frames.

Under ideal conditions, both Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum can be used as garden plants here. But those "ideal conditions" include summers drier than the local climate provides. Sharp drainage will sometimes compensate for what our climate does not naturally produce, but more than once I've seen an old, seemingly well established plant rot during a particularly wet summer. The little ones I'm raising from seed will eventually go into a cold frame at the shady back of the garden. I have a hunch that with a glass over them during the summer, all should be well.

The leaves in the image above are of seedling plants raised from seed provided by Ellen Horning of Seneca Hill Perennials fame. She described the seed as "Cyclamen hederifolium, well marked", and as you can see in the images above they are indeed well marked.  These will eventually, I hope,  form the basis of my "hardy cyclamen grown for their foliage" collection.

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