Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pink Saturday - Cyclamen

Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you.


This holiday season, I bought a dozen florists' cyclamen to decorate my table for a buffet. Cyclamen, with their curiously-shaped noding flowers that rise up over prettily patterned leaves are strikingly decorative and elegant.



Here in L.A., the cultivated florists' version is one of the most popular flowering plants for wintertime. The blooms range in color from deep burgundy to pure white, and last a long time.
I adore cyclamen, and for a time in my gardening life, I was obsessed by their beauty. Cyclamen are native to the Mediterranean area and into Central Asia. They are tuberous plants, related to the primrose family. The name comes from the Greek "cyclos" or circle, and refers to the circular or spiral twisting of the stem of the fruit that occurs after the flower is fertilized. The stem draws the fruit down to the soil as it coils, protecting it from grazing animals and birds, also bringing it close to where ants, attracted by the sticky, sugary coating on on the burst fruit, disperse the seed to the surrounding soil.


There are some 20 species. Cyclamen persicum is the species most frequently used to breed the fancy greenhouse varieties sold for holidays, but several cyclamen species are used as garden plants in certain parts of the US.

In the Pacific Northwest, Cyclamen hederifolium - or ivy-leaved cyclamen - is easily grown in shady gardens or beneath the canopies of trees. It blooms in the fall and winter. Swathes of cyclamen bloom in the mounded compost beneath fragrant witch-hazel and daphne in the Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. This cyclamen's autumn blooms are followed by those of cyclamen coum, blooming in winter. Both are commonly available in nurseries, including by mail order or - if you're in the Pacific Northwest at the right time, from the annual Plant Sale held by the Arboretum. At the Plant Sale you might find special varieties of these charming plants with extraordinarily marked leaves, or with white blossoms instead of pink.


Perhaps the biggest booster of garden cyclamen is gardener Nancy Goodwin, of Montrose Garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina. She aspired to grow every known species of cyclamen, and at one time opened a nursery to help other gardeners do the same. After ten years of operation, the nursery was closed, victim of its own success. Goodwin felt that the rigors or running a volume business took time away from doing what she loved best - gardening. Goodwin still holds seminars at Montrose.

By happy coincidence, I was gardening in the perfect climate for growing cyclamen during Montrose's brief heyday. Nancy's mail-order catalogs were wonderfully written, and I stocked my garden with many of her plants. In addition to cyclamen, she offered a wonderful variety of asters, dianthus, and named varieties of heuchera, or Coral Bells.

I've written before about my family's tendancy to plunge enthusiastically into hobbies and interests. Hooked on this charming genus, I joined the Cyclamen Society and soon was signing up for the seed exchange.

If you like to grow annual flowers and vegetables from seed, you would enjoy being part of a garden seed exchange. You'll find these at many local gardening clubs as well as local chapters of enthusiasts devoted to certain types of plants. Here you can find seeds for specially selected plants, along with advice from gardeners who know what they're doing. You'll make gardening friends as you keep and exchange seed from your own plants.

It's particularly rewarding when you finally see the blooms of a plant that is more challenging to grow from seed. Bulbs and tuberous plants take a while to germinate, and a while to come to flowering size - but when one you've grown finally blooms, it's very rewarding.

Cyclamen take months to germinate, and about 3 years to come to blooming size. In its first year, a cyclamen tuber is about the size of a pea. It must grow to the size of a radish before it's ready to bloom.

When we moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, I had two flats of two-year-old cyclamen tubers, dormant over the summer, and I was determined not to let them die. We drove down the coast with the flats in the back of the car, checking on them at each stop. Arriving in Topanga, I planted what I could in my dry garden and tried to keep the rest alive. The dry climate of Southern California, and the coarse clay soil of my garden proved more than even these hardy plants could endure. I couldn't keep the little pots from drying out. In despair, I tipped a bunch of them out into the ivy bed bordering my driveway, beneath the canopy of a Coast Live Oak, letting them take their chances instead of dooming them to death in a 2" plastic pot.


Ten years later, I have one vigorous survivor. It is a specimen of cyclamen persicum, the species, and it thrives and blooms more and more each year. If you look at the picture, taken last spring, you'll see another bloom to the side. This is a second survivor, slower to come to maturity, and I'm not sure which species it is yet. With any luck, this spring it will have more leaves and blossoms, so I can compare them to the books and identify it.


Cyclamen's interesting shape and nodding flowers make it a good subject for visual arts and crafts. A couple years ago, in a thrift store, I found a Weller cache-pot with a cyclamen pattern on it. It makes a perfect container to display a cyclamen in bloom.

If you live in a moderate climate in the US, try cyclamen hederifolium in your shady garden. Or bring a beautiful showy florists' variety inside for your winter pleasure. You'll enjoy it.

40 comments:

vintagewindow said...

Those are beautiful.

Happy PS

Kris

dana said...

What a great post!! I am not a gardener---can barely keep the few plants alive I haul home each Spring to put in my pots around on the patios. However, I have always loved the Cyclamen. I remember the first time I received one as a gift (sadly because of a death in the family)--it was so beautiful and gave me such comfort.
After your terrific post on the plant, I will always have a greater appreciation for them.
What good fortune that you found that great pot!!
Happy Pink Sat. Dana

SUEB0B said...

I always think they look like shy bunnies, with their ears up and their faces down.

Cyclamen are famous in my family because I had a test in a horticulture class where I was marked wrong for calling them a perennial. Hey, at my house they were perennial - my mom has an amazing green thumb and they thrived all year round.

Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) said...

Happy Pink Saturday, These are so gorgeous. I have the book down on the list of "must" haves. I hope you have a super Pink Saturday,
hugs ~lynne~

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I love the story of the traveling and surviving Cyclamen. That is a love story indeed.

Donna @ Party Wishes said...

I loved your post G! I have a hard time growing things from seed around here in the Los Angleles desert. They have many of these at the Flower Mart in LA. Have you gone yet?
Happy New Year!

Ed said...

Your posts are always so wonderfully informative and full of photos, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I love cyclamen too - in fact a while ago, I also posted a photo of mine - which is still in full flower now. Hope you have a Happy Pink Saturday, thank you for visiting my blog, and Happy New Year xx

Smilingsal said...

What a beautiful plants. Thanks for the information. Happy Pink Saturday!

Neabear said...

Your cyclamen is so pretty. I have never grown any. I guess I could here in the North Bay area above SF. Happy Pink Saturday!

Cami said...

We'll be doing a seriously phenomenal garden this year. FLowers and veggies. Now to keep the chickens out of everything. Diggin' the cyclamen and wishing I lived closer to the ocean.

Gollum said...

I enjoyed this post so much--and I dearly loved the photos. I must look into a cyclamen.

Beverly said...

Happy Pink Saturday, Glennis. I wish you and your family a healthy, happy new year.

Guess what? I don't live too far from Montrose. I so enjoyed your post as I am a true appreciator of cyclamen.

shaybert said...

Thank you for visiting my place. I just discovered your blog today thru Beverly's Pink Saturday and actually left a comment earlier regarding one of your west side posts. I look forward to reading more. Blessings! Shay

Nanna said...

what an inspiring post, it made me look forward to Spring, with this crazy Ala weather I'm not sure if winter ever really came LOL, Thanks for stopping by this morning!
Helen

Buttercream Cottage said...

Great post. They are gorgeous!

She'sSewPretty said...

Your cyclamen is gorgeous. I have one red plant under a rose bush that was doing terrible inside but has flourished out in the yard. I really should buy some more. Those pink ones are gorgeous!
Happy Pink Saturday and Happy New Year!!

Marina Capano said...

Hi!Those are beautiful. I love your cyclamen!!!nice pink post!
have a great weekend and wonderful new year!!


xoxo

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

love them too---we have one that blooms in June and NOW!

Deborah said...

They are just beautiful. I had one the color of your pink one...it was not to last for long. Yup, I did it in! That's me...the one with the brown thumb.

Much happiness on this Pink Saturday!

Dawn said...

How interesting and how beautiful! Happy PS!

imjacobsmom said...

I am so glad that a few survived for you! They really are very pretty. Hope you are having a Happy Pink Saturday! ~ Robyn

ann said...

HI G.IF THERE WERE A WINNER TODAY.YOU WOULD BE IT.YOUR PLANTS ARE PERFECTION.WOWOWOWOW..ANN

Cottage Rose said...

Happy Pink Saturday;

Those flowers are so pretty, love them. I have not seen them before. I really like them....

Have a great weekend.
Hugs;
Alaura

suesueb said...

this post was so interesting! the flowers are beautiful, i think they grow down here but i'm not sure. (south louisiana) maybe it's too hot. happy pink saturday and new year!!

Anne Fannie said...

I love your Cyclamens! I also have them growing all over the place during the winter months. You must live in So California too! They do great here and they keep coming back every year stronger and stronger!
Happy Pink Saturday...
Love, Ann

Joy said...

They are not only interesting, but they are elegant too. :o)

Connie said...

Your cyclamen is gorgeous, sweet chick. Happy pink saturday,
Smooches,
Connie

jeanne said...

Oh, your cyclamen flowers are gorgeous. Your story and information about them is wonderful. Your pot with the cyclamen pattern is so lovely. What a wonderful hobby. The reward is great. A beautiful pink post to share.

Hugs...Jeanne

Claudie said...

I used to have them in Vancouver. They seemed to love it there.
I haven't tried them here in Ontario.
I seem to have so much to do on the outside in the summer that I tend to ignore the indoors. I did manage to grow some paperwhites and a pink amaryllis I love watching them grow. It was perfect for Xmas.
Claudie from Canada

Happy To Be said...

G, how pretty these are..I still have some blooming in my widow boxes...Happy PINK Saturday to you...hugs and smiles Gloria

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

I've learned alot from this post. May have to try my hand at cyclamen!

lisa said...

What a gorgeous flower. I enjoyed reading the information you posted.

Lisa

Mo..."Mo's Cottage" said...

My Cyclamen are still going crazy....blooming like crazy....they are so pretty...I have them all over my yard....
You have so many colors...just beautiful...
Hugs,
Mo :-)

Sondra Behne' said...

They are so beautiful....I had a couple once but they always died on me. Just dont have a green thumb when it comes to those.

JCK said...

Those pink ones are gorgeous!

And I love the survivors in your garden.

White Iris Designs said...

Cyclamen are very nontraditional Christmas flowers..but very nice. They remind me of tulips that the wind blew their petals backwards!
Happy New Year!

CC said...

This was such a fun post..and I now have a greater appreciation of all flowers..specially this one. I hope your little plant manages to thrive where its been placed..

Shirl said...

Hello Happy Pink Saturday, thank you so much for stopping by. I love your beautiful cyclamen! The colors are so pretty. I have had no luck in trying to grow them in my house. I bring the home from the florist and they never bloom again. I love the name of your blog and how it came to be your name. My mother loved doves so they always remind me of her.
Happy New Year, Shirl
Shirls Rose Cottage

KATHERINELLEN said...

Beautiful and Gorgeous flowers....Happy Pink

Karena said...

I adore pink and absolutely love Cyclamens. My guess is that in the Kansas City area, they would not survicve as annuals. I lived in San Diego thirteen years and certainly miss my friends and family who live there. Life was always an adventure!