Hardy Cyclamen For Garden And Greenhouse

We see so little of them to-day – most flower lovers know only the greenhouse-flowering Persian Cyclamen and are amazed when they see these fairy flowers in bloom during midwinter, as is C. Atkinsii and its various forms. True, they are not a poor man’s flower. C. repandum is possibly the cheapest, but just a single corm is well worth planting, for each should throw dozens of enchanting flowers when once established. Except for the months of June there is one species at least to flower during the remaining eleven months of the year.

Some shade is essential to the requirements of the hardy cyclamen and for this reason they are generally found growing to perfection under tall trees and in a shrubbery, provided the soil is in no way acid which it so often is. These cyclamen are lime lovers and grow to perfection in those parts of Britain which have a high lime content in the soil. Where this does not occur, then a quantity of lime rubble should be worked into the soil before the corms are planted. Ordinary hydrated lime may be worked in with equally good results provided drainage is completed by the addition of a small quantity of brick rubble or some coarse sand. A quantity of leaf mould or peat should also be added if the soil is in a poor condition. Planting preparations should indeed be thorough for when once planted, the corms will remain in the ground for a lifetime, increasing in size each year, until they will, in say five years’ time, be throwing dozens of their dainty butterfly blooms from but a single corm.

Hardy Cyclamen

Given a soil where conditions for reproducing themselves are suitable, all the varieties will produce small quantities of seed each year to carpet the ground for several feet around the original corm. For this reason they should not be planted too closely together. My method is to plant in groups 5 ft. apart, spacing three corms to each group x 8 in. apart in the form of a triangle.

The corms of the rare species being expensive, possibly no more than two could be obtained and these should be planted 2 ft. apart. It is surprising how quickly the self-sown seedlings will cover the ground and how attractive are their shiny, pencilled leaves even before the corms are large enough to produce bloom. Their foliage is an added attraction to the cyclamen of all groups. But it cannot be emphasized too much that the ground should have received ample enriching and be thoroughly cleared of perennial weeds before planting takes place for the corms hate to be disturbed when once they have settled down.

This habit makes the hardy cyclamen an ideal plant for the garden where labour is at a minimum, and nowhere do they thrive better than under beech and oak trees, where the ground is bare of everything but the mould of continually falling leaves. But here too, the ground may be slightly acid and the addition of some lime is all important. A top dressing of lime rubble, finely crushed should also be given every three years and where the corms are planted in a border or shrubbery, they will appreciate a mulching with lime, peat and leaf mould every alternate year. We rarely pay sufficient attention to this question of mulching bulbs with the result that they scarcely attain the full glory of which they are capable.

GROWING FROM SEED

Sow hardy cyclamen seed on a layer of limestone chippings. I have found this to be an excellent method. Boxes or seed pans may be used, pans being more suitable, for the seedlings are better if allowed to remain in the pans for a full twelve months where they will grow on slowly all the time. My method is to mix together a compost of equal parts peat and rotted turf loam, then over this is placed in the pans a layer of limestone chippings which have been pulverized but not too finely. Directly on to the chip-pings the seed is sown, thus right from the beginning the plant is provided with its lime requirements.

As with most alpine plants, the seed should be as fresh as possible when sown, and flowering as most species do between September and April, early summer is generally taken to be the most suitable time. The seed should germinate readily if the pans are covered with a sheet of glass and allowed to stand in a cold frame or greenhouse shielded from the summer sunshine. Careful watering is necessary and especially throughout the following winter where the plants will remain in their seed pans in a cold frame, partially protected from severe frosts by covering with sacks or straw. The following spring should see the plants set out into individual pots of the 2 1/2 -in. size and still in a cold frame they will be grown on for another twelve months. They will then have formed a small corm which will be ready for planting out during the early summer. This may take another twelve months to become thoroughly established before flowering, after which in a soil they like they will produce more and more bloom each season.

PLANTING THE CORMS

Those species that flower during late winter and spring should be planted early in September and those that bloom before the new year should be planted out during April. Rather more care should be taken in planting than with most other small bulbs. In the first place correct depth is important ‘and like their more exotic sisters, the greenhouse cyclamen, they must in no way be planted deeply. They should be pressed very firmly into the soil with only the barest covering of soil over the top. Planting too deeply, and that means in. or more below the soil surface, will cause nothing but failure. Again, it is essential in planting dormant corms to see that they are set out the right way up, or smooth side downwards and this is not always as easy to determine as one would imagine.

Shallow planting is where the occasional mulch comes in, for the wind and rain and the tendency of the corm to push itself out of the ground as it forms a heavy rooting system, will all tend to expose the crown rather too much. A light mulch with leaf mould or peat and limestone chippings will correct this whilst at the same time supplying the plant with the food and humus it enjoys. And should there be any tendency of certain species to be in any degree tender, a light mulch will prevent any damage to the corm.

HARDY CYCLAMEN FOR POT CULTURE

Not by any means is the Persian Cyclamen the only one that will bloom indoors, many of the little hardy species are equally lovely and where a heated greenhouse is not available, they will prove most valuable by covering the entire winter period with a display. What they must be given is a compost containing not only lime rubble but a large quantity of peat or leaf mould. In fact the compost should be made up of a parts peat (or leaf mould), 1 part loam, x part lime rubble. This should be thoroughly mixed and well moistened and for the hardy cyclamen an earthenware seed pan is by far the best container. Six corms of different species or whatever selection is required, should be pressed into the compost which has been made very firm. It should be very firm, yet springy when the corms are pressed in, the top of the corms being level with the top of the compost. Planting should take place in early October and the pans may be stood in a cold shaded frame or placed directly into a cold greenhouse. They will require only very occasional waterings otherwise the crowns will tend to rot should the weather be dull and misty. Depending upon the variety, they will come into bloom at Christmas and extend their flowering season right through the winter and spring. A single corm set in a zfin. Pot will also provide a charming addition to the dressing-table, for they will grow well in a window or they may be taken indoors from a frame or greenhouse as soon as the first buds are seen. Like the Persian cyclamen, they will remain longer in bloom and the colour will be enhanced if given an occasional application of liquid manure water. A charming effect is obtained if fresh sphagnum moss is placed around the corms as soon as they have made some growth – in fact a far greater use should be made of moss for all indoor bulbs.

Two lovely varieties to plant together are C. Atkinsii album and roseum for Christmas flowering with coum and coum alba to follow.

SPECIES

Summer and Autumn Flowering

  • Cyclamen africanum. From North Africa and requires a sheltered garden, preferably in the South of England and the West of Ireland. It produces its daintily twisted pale pink blooms in October.
  • C. cificium. From Asia Minor and hardier than C. africanum though producing a bloom of similar colour and at the same time of the year.
  • C. europaeum. From the Alps and possesses a strong perfume when in bloom during midsummer. It will produce its vivid crimson flowers to perfection either in full sun or partial shade and is very dwarf and dainty. The exception to the rule of shallow planting for this species likes to be well into the soil.
  • C. neapolitanum. Famed for its silver-mottled ivy-shaped leaves which precede its rich rose-pink flowers in September, this is a most valuable variety to follow C. europaeum and also for flowering in a shaded position, under shrubs or conifers. There is also a form of purest white, which is rather scarce though quite hardy and increases rapidly and is a particular favourite of mine.

Winter and Spring Flowering

  • C. alpinum. Though not in my own collection, this hardy little plant is always in full bloom in a friend’s garden on Christmas Day, its white bloom attractively blotched purple, giving a glorious midwinter display.
  • C. Atkintii. Exceedingly valuable in that it will produce a succession of bloom from early December until the end of winter, this species produces deep carmine-pink flowers and fascinating deep green leaves. The white form, contrasting with the almost black leaves is particularly exquisite.
  • C. count. Flowering like Atkinsii over the whole winter period, this is a species from Greece and Turkey and rapidly increases itself from self-sown seed. The flowers are vivid magenta, the leaves glossy green and it is the most dwarf of all.
  • C. byemale. Producing its rich carmine flowers during the darkest winter months, when its white mottled leaves are also an attraction, this is a variety that seems to grow well in the town garden and in any soil, though it does like some lime rubble.
  • C. libanoticum. From Syria, and outstanding in every way. The delicately coloured pink flowers, crimson at the base, are larger than those of any other cyclamen, while they also carry a stronger perfume than all others. The flowering time is March and April when there are few other cyclamen in bloom until C. repandum comes along early in May.
  • C. repandum. Also from the Mediterranean regions from which all the hardy cyclamen originate, this species produces a very flat corm. The flowers being carried on long stems and at their best during May, this is an ideal variety for planting in short grass. The flowers are deep carmine-pink.

GREENHOUSE CYCLAMEN

Today one of the most widely grown of all greenhouse-flower- plants, cyclamen persicum as it is correctly called, may be likened to the hardy species in that it will not tolerate undue forcing. Though at its best over Christmas and the new year, the plants should be carefully brought on in a temperature of no more than 50F. They may be said to be a refined version of the outdoor species though as lovely as they are this does not necessarily infer that they are more beautiful. They may be obtained either by sowing seed in July with the expectation of obtaining a flowering corm in eighteen months’ time or young plants may be purchased from a specialist grower in April for flowering early the following new year.

SOWING THE SEED

Cyclamen seed loves either peat or leaf mould to get its roots into and to the ordinary John Jones Seed Compost made up of 2 parts rotted turf loam, 1 part horticultural peat and 1 part coarse sand – add a little extra peat or leaf mould which has been finely screened. To each bushel of compost 1 oz. of superphosphate and 1 oz. of ground limestone should be added.

The compost is then placed into boxes or pans each of which should take about fifty seeds spaced out as evenly as possible, but before sowing the seed first make the compost very firm. Cyclamen demand a firm seed bed. Very lightly cover the seed, give a good soaking with water, place a sheet of clean glass over the pan and stand in a temperature of 60 F. until germination has taken place. The house temperature should then be reduced to around 50F. And very great care taken in watering otherwise the young seedlings may damp off. Water only when necessary and then it is better to add the water round the edges of the seed pan. Aim at watering the roots but not the stems of the plants.

By October the seedlings should be ready for transplanting into 2 ½-in. Pots into a John limes Potting Compost which I slightly vary for cyclamen, adding a half-part extra of peat and sand and slightly reducing the loam. This should work out at 6 parts of rotted turf loam, 3 ½ parts of peat or leaf mould, 2 ½ parts of coarse sand to which is added 2 parts hoof meal, a parts superphosphate, part sulphate of potash. In this size pot the young plants remain throughout the winter months in a temperature of 52° F. until re-potted into 48-size pots the following May. This is the final potting and I find that if to the first potting compost is added a small quantity of old mushroom-bed compost or extremely well-rotted stable manure, the plants will make vigorous growth throughout the summer and will have built up a large corm by Christmas when they will come into bloom, depending upon the degree of watering and the temperature of the house. By the systematic use of both water and heat it will be possible to have a display of bloom in home and greenhouse from November until early spring which will prove of the greatest value, in conjunction with several of the winter and spring-flowering species in the open, in bringing their own particular charm to house and garden at a period almost devoid of flowers.

As soon as the first buds have been observed, the plants will thrive on weekly applications of diluted manure-water right until flowering has ended.

CARE OF THE CORMS

Of the vast quantities of greenhouse cyclamen sold during the winter months, thousands fail to give the pleasure they should, because so few understand their requirements. The greatest cause of disappointment is the dropping of the flower buds and the yellowing of the leaves soon after the plants arrive in the home. Over-watering is primarily the reason, continually adding water to the plants when the soil is still in a moist condition with the result that the soil becomes stagnant through the balance of moisture and air becoming uneven.

Another cause of bud drop may be due to draughty conditions or a room that is too warm and stuffy, but here the question of over-watering is not likely to occur. Keeping the plants in a temperature of about 52° F. and watering round the side of the pot with tepid water and only when the soil appears to be becoming dry, together with the careful removal of any dead blooms will ensure the plant remaining healthy and colourful throughout the winter months.

When once the plant appears to have finished flowering and no more buds can be seen emerging from the corm, the plant should be allowed to die down gradually by withholding water. The foliage will then die away when the corms should be shaken from the pots and replanted into a fresh but similar compost, the corm being merely pressed into the soil with the top left quite exposed. During the summer the pot should not be watered but should be placed in a shaded place where it will not be subject to the sun’s rays otherwise the corm will shrivel up. Towards the end of August the pot should be placed in a temperature of just under 60 F. well watered and be given a light, sunny position. The greenhouse is the most suitable place, but a warm, sunny window will be quite satisfactory. Those who wish to obtain a profusion of large refined blooms should water each week with liquid manure which may be obtained ready made up at most seed stores or agricultural chemists. Water sparingly at the beginning and until the rooting system has become thoroughly established, after which a little more may be given but only when the soil really needs it.

MARKETING THE PLANTS

A word about marketing to those who may wish to grow cyclamen on a commercial scale. This is done during a period of poor weather conditions when care is needed in transplanting the plants from a greenhouse temperature of around 55° F. to one that may be no more than 35° F. Unless adequate protection is given the plants, bud dropping and damage to the blooms already showing will result. The pots should be stood in a deep box with straw or wood shavings packed between each. This will keep out the frost and also prevent breakage. Round the pots and enclosing the bloom and foliage should be strong tissue paper, again to prevent frost and wind from damaging the bloom, for it must be remembered that the plants are often left on a railway station or lorry quite exposed to the elements and often for a considerable period. As an extra precaution it is a good idea to place a strong piece of cardboard at each end of the box and reaching as high as the top of the bloom.

VARIETIES

Greenhouse Cyclamen

These run to hundreds, for over the past fifty years the nurserymen of Holland and Belgium have worked hard at creating a large range of colours and perfection of bloom. From the many, the following are of recent introduction and outstanding in every way.

  • Apple Blossom. Large blooms of delicate apple blossom pink.
  • Crimson King. Blooms are of deepest crimson and of great substance.
  • Excelsior. Purest white with attractive carmine shading at the base.
  • Fragrant Gem. A new variety similar in colouring to Excelsior but carrying blooms having the strongest perfume.
  • Royal Rose. A unique colour being of brightest deep rose with a silvery sheen.
  • Rose of Zehlenderf. Brilliant salmon pink.
  • Scarlet King. Huge blooms of fiery scarlet.

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