I come to visit thee agen,
My little flowerless cyclamen;
To touch the hand, almost to press,
That cheerĖd thee in thy loneliness.
What could thy careful guardian find
Of thee in form, of me in mind,
What is there in us rich or rare,
To make us claim a moment's care?
Unworthy to be so carest,
We are but withering leaves at best.
"To a Cyclamen"
by Walter Savage Landor
First collected in 1862 by Austrian botanist & plant explorer Theodor Kotschy (1813-1866), Cyclamen cyprium was being cultivated in Vienna by 1865.
Our specimen was started by the grower in 2001 & put into our garden at the foot of the rainbarrel near winter's end, early in 2003. The following October, our wee seedling produced its first leaves together with a couple of buds, although alas, we had an unusually long winter freeze, & buds were ruined, so we didn't get to see them in full flower.
When this cyclamen is closer to being mature, it should begin blooming September, sometimes a little ahead of the leaves. Blossoms can last until December. The leaves last to the start of spring, but there were only a very few leaves for its first year in our garden.
Despite that it is still too young to have made any particular show for us, I've enjoyed it even so. The portrait here is of the pretty leaves in a February. These have shown themselves at the base of the barrel all through autumn & winter, & for all their minimalism their first year, they have already brought one more thing of interest to the winter-flower selections we've made throughout our gardens.
The round leaves on ours are lightly splash-mottled with milky markings, which can vary from plant to plant. Spicy-scented flowers on this native of the Kyrenia mountains of Cyprus are smaller than on most species of cyclamen. Uniquely colored, they are ivory blooms with spots of magenta at the very bottom of the petals. This spot is curiously shaped like an M. With luck we'll see good examples of this bloom next autumn or winter.
Of the potentially easy garden-hardy species, C. cyprium is the least easy, so only half-hardy. Even within Puget Sound's moderate microclimate, a mild winter frost may harm the flowers, so they need to be well sheltered. Ours is near enough the house for residual warmth, & since it did make it through its first winter with only the buds ruined, I'm expecting it to do much better in most winters.
In nature it would select somewhat limy soils close to the bases of trees. In its native habitat it prefers life under conifers, & likes to have pine or fir needles in its soil. During summer dormancy, according to the advice of Ashwood Nursery, a well known grower in England & the ultimate source of our seedling, it is best that it experience droughty conditions for about two months, ideally in July & August, just before it has its Autumn return. This could be another soar point for getting it to take hold permanently, if it cannot experience a sufficiently dry spell.
Expert advice on their care is not consistent, however. Rare plants nurseryman Paul Christian says they do best in full sunlight in very well draining soil. The Tile Barn, a famous cyclamen grower in England, recommends shady conditions in a cold greenhouse. Ours is in shade, in ground that typical of our Northwest soils is naturally acidic, &map certainly not in a greenhouse. Such varied advice is hard to harmonize, so we're trying our best with it, & hope that conditions our other cyclamen species have thrived in will be "close enough" for this one to do equally well.
Whether or not the conditions we've provided are optimal, our little start of a Cyprus Cyclamen is doing pretty well so far. Since it has already made it through a harsher than average winter for our area, I'm in the main confident enough that I would call this seedling a successful experiment, & I do now dare to add other C. cyprium seedlings all around it for a fuller winter groundcover.
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