Have you seen any yet?
We are all familiar with the cowslip (primula veris) in country meadows and the primrose (primula vulgaris) seen in open woods and hedgerow banks. A lesser known member of the primrose family (primulaceae) is the cyclamen.
This instantly brings to mind the very popular house plant, cyclamen persicum, sold around Christmas - the foliage of which invariably starts to turn yellow two days after its introduction into the dry heat of the typical British home. This member of the genus cyclamen has been developed over recent centuries but is not representative of the species.
A stroll around many of the UK gardens open to the public will reveal in the autumn, drifts of hardy cyclamen. These are normally seen under trees, in lightly wooded areas, in rockeries, or against hedges. Flowering from late July through into November, their variable ivy shaped leaves last until May of the following year.
Most common is cyclamen hederifolium [seen above]; totally frost hardy and living for decades. This is but one of around twenty members of the genus. Their needs range from this frost hardy type to heated greenhouse conditions, and flowering periods spread throughout the year, though about half are quite happy outside, thriving in conditions suited to the common primrose. With the increase in popularity of the hardy cyclamen it is almost inevitable that in time they will spread from private and public gardens, to be seen growing with their British relatives in woods and hedgerows. Keep looking!
Where to see them:
Fancy Growing Your Own?
Most species need shelter from the wind and driving rain, also shade in varying degrees. All need well-drained soil.
When planting out, choose a location sheltered by trees and shrubs and if necessary add small gravel (up to 6mm) and sharp sand to "open up" the soil. A small amount of peat or leaf-mould may also be beneficial. The plants will not thrive if the soil is permanently waterlogged. Plant the corms about one inch below the surface.
When grown in pots in a cold frame or greenhouse, similar conditions are needed. The potting compost should contain loam, sand and perhaps some peat to obtain a well drained medium. Top-dress with a thin layer of 6mm gravel to reduce drying-out and inhibit moss growth. Shade will be needed during the summer months, with enough water only to keep the compost slightly moist. Over-watering will cause the corms to rot. Wake them up gently with moderate watering after the hot days of summer, but never give them water-logged conditions. Through late autumn and winter a hard frost in the greenhouse will prove fatal to those too wet. Neglect is sometimes beneficial ! At all times ventilation to provide air circulation (but not freezing wind) should be given.
Those not considered hardy should be given similar greenhouse conditions but with the addition of heat during sub-zero spells. Attention should be given to ventilation at every opportunity. If kept on the dry side, even those should survive several degrees of frost. However, do note that there are one or two exceptions to this summary.
For more information, pictures and to buy plants, visit the Willows Cyclamen Nursery website at: www.hardycyclamen.co.uk. Alternatively Les Cordes can be contacted at: Willows, Walgrave, Northampton. NN6 9QW, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or even humble Phone 01536 791371 or Fax 01536 791749.