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Friday, December 9, 2011

Plant Lover

One of the joys of growing plants is that I get to fall in love every year.  Usually several times. 

The object of my affection this time of year is the lovely Cyclamen.  It all starts in late summer when the summer dormant Cyclamen hederifolium tuber sends out flowers in shades of pink or white.

Just when many garden plants have finished their show, bright splashes of color appear in the dark corners of the garden as this fall flowering Cyclamen spring to life.

It can be fascinating just to compare plants of this highly variable species.  Along with or soon after it begins to flower, Cyclamen hederifolium foliage unfurls.  Leaf shape can vary from broad and heart-shaped to narrow and spear-shaped and just about anything in between.  Leaves can be glossy or dull, bright green to silver, heavily patterned or plain.

With the onset of warm weather the following spring, the foliage of Cyclamen hederifolium dies back for a summer rest.  But the fun is not over.  If you look closely, you will see that the seed capsules have ripened and spilled seeds on the ground around the tuber.  These seeds will emerge as seedlings in fall and provide new plants to enjoy in future years.

Cyclamen hederifolium is a reliably cold hardy (reported hardy to Zone 4) and adaptable species.  It can be grown in sun to shade and does particularly well when grown in dry to moderately moist, humus rich soils under deciduous trees where it will seed itself to form large drifts over time.

Cyclamen hederifolium is native to a large geographical region in the Mediterranean from SE France through Italy and eastward to Southern Turkey.  It grows in a variety of habitats from woodlands to rocky hillsides and from sea level to elevations of over 4,000 feet.

Being a Mediterranean plant, Cyclamen hederifolium is adapted to dry summer conditions and can be grown in the dry shade in Western woodland gardens.  Just another reason to fall in love all over again!