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Planting for winter colour, (Cyclamen coum)

Brightening up  along the  base/ edge of the Beech hedge was my main priority for this winter as a late autumn task.

Cyclamen coum fit the bill nicely and will flower from December until March. The shades of deep and light pink, and the white of Cyclamen coum album are beautifully uplifting, coupled with  the striking marbled leaves that just draw the eye in. 

Cyclamen Hederifolium are the wonderful striking autumn flowering  contrast to coum. You can differentiate the leaf morpholigy  between the two as Hederifolium have  cut edged leaves and coum has an entire leaf margin. 

I am currently developing planting schemes within our cottage garden for an area which has an aspect of semi shade. This will also  include a winter planting of hybrid Hellebores. The wonderful thing is that walkers/ passers by in the lane by our cottage have no idea that the Cyclamen are there, it's our winter secret, lighting up our hidden space. They will however spot the Cyclamen coum in the terracotta troughs on our window sill ledges. These add such cheer to our spirits as we view these in the foreground of the birdfeeder from our dining room.


I think it's also exceptionally important at this time of year more now than ever before with ( Covid)  to be aware of how much we really can extend seasonal colour in the garden, and I think novice gardeners are quickly latching onto this !  Many of you will no doubt be aware that Roy Lancaster has been writing a series for the RHS Garden magazine on plants and shrubs he views from his window, an interesting concept on how we view our gardens. 

The Cyclamen are settling in nicely and adding a subtle touch of colour to this once dull space ! Each year they will increase to form a thicker carpet which still adds exceptional foliage interest once the flowers have faded.

We experienced a slight carpet of snow on New Years Eve. The photo shot shows how the Cyclamen coum flowers come into their own and really bringing cheer to the white winter chill as they hold their stems and flower heads above the splattering of snow.  

Now!  from my perspective as a Plantsman with a deep rooted interest in propagation, ( excuse the pun ) this is where the desire for producing more plants comes to the forefront of ones gardening thoughts ! 

I haven't grown Cyclamen from collected seed before so it's a first time challenge. I would welcome any comments from a Hardy Planter who has ! seed collection being my personal challenge for this next growing season. 

The seed heads that coil on the stems to the surface of the ground are fascinating to study close up.  Cyclamen produce their seed freely,  increasing by self sown seed. The plan will be to collect the seeds  a period after flowering once they have dried in the smaller than marbled size capsules. On average the capsules contain 6 - 12 seeds which are quite large. 

Research tells me to sow the seeds fresh as soon as possible after harvesting them. The capsules at the harvesting stage will be soft and easy to extract the seeds from within. It could be beneficial also to soak the seeds for a number of hours to soften the testa ( seed coat) 

The Cyclamen seeds will be sown in June into 7cm pots into a mix of seed compost mixed with leaf mould if available, or a peat free compost, 50/ 50 mix. I will then cover the surface of the pots with a dressing of horticultural grit. The pots of sown seed will then be placed in the cold frame.

Germination could prove to be erratic from rapid germination to a time span of germination from two months onwards after sowing. The objective will be to grow the seedlings on for a twelve month period before planting out into the open ground.

I will be planning another blog/ blogs  on the seed sowing  of the Cyclamen and covering step by step progress. 

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

 Kevin is Senior Gardener at Cark Manor, (Cark In Cartmel) recreating a period style garden in the late Georgian/early Victorian era.

Kevin is also a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. Kevin also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), Kevin is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

He had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

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