A range of colourful cyclamen are flowering now. Take a closer look at these autumnal beauties.
You can just about have a cyclamen flowering in every month of the year but autumn is the time to see the widest range in one go. The most commonly grown and one of the hardiest species is Cyclamen hederifolium. It can begin flowering as early as July, but September and October are its peak months. The flowers appear before the leaves and they are shades of pale to rich pink or occasionally white. The leaves soon follow and are attractively marked with silvery patterns. These leaves last all winter and into spring before the plant dies down for its summer rest, an adaptation to the hot dry summer of southern Europe where it grows wild. You can find this species in Kew's Woodland Garden, Rock Garden and Davies Alpine House.
Cyclamen hederifolium in the Woodland Garden
Slightly less hardy but still worth trying in a sheltered spot outside is Cyclamen graecum. This has been grown outside on Kew's Rock Garden for several years but is also displayed in the Davies Alpine House. Like C. hederifolium, it has wonderful foliage with an array of markings making each plant unique. This species comes from southern Greece, the Greek islands, southern Turkey and northern Cyprus. The pink flowers are held on shorter stems than those of C. hederifolium and are often held just above the new leaves.
Cyclamen graecum in the Davies Alpine House
One more for a sheltered spot is the Turkish Cyclamen mirabile. Although shorter and more delicate looking then C. graecum, this has also survived outside on Kew's Rock Garden but often does best given a bit of protection in a cold frame or alpine house. Here, the flowers are protected from the weather and the tubers are sure of a dry summer. The leaves are rounded and when young, they often have a purplish flush on the upper surface. It is worth looking out for this plant in the Davies Alpine House.
Two other autumn flowering cyclamen that are best grown under cover are the North African species Cyclamen africanum and C. rohlfsianum. Cyclamen africanum has survived outside at Kew but is safest given a dry summer and a not too cold winter in a glasshouse. It is similar to C. hederifolium but has longer flower stems and wider, glossy leaves. Cyclamen rohfsianum, from northern Libya has fantastic leaves that can reach well over 10 cm across and have toothed margins. The flowers appear first and are held close to the ground. Grown in pots in the Alpine Nursery at Kew, this species can now be seen on display in the Davies Alpine House.
These are just a few of the 20 species of Cyclamen. Others to see now include Cyclamen cyprium, from Cyprus, the tiny C. intaminatum from Turkey and, also from Turkey, C. cilicium. In the winter look out for the toughest of the lot, C. coum, and then the spring species take over, including the parent of all those florist cultivars, C. persicum. The one that keeps the flowers going through the summer is the Central European C. purpurascens. So if you can't make it to Kew Gardens now there are plenty of other opportunities to see these amazing plants for yourself.
- Richard -
Several people contribute to the Alpine and Rock Garden Team blog. Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include all the areas where alpines are grown at Kew Gardens. The three team leaders, Joanne Everson, Graham Walters and Katie Price, each have their own particular parts of the Gardens to look after. Between them, these four experts have over 55 years experience of growing alpines.
Alpines at Kew Gardens are not only grown to create colourful and informative displays, they also play an important role in the research Kew carries out around plant naming, classification, biodiversity and conservation.
Mountains are found on every continent and each range has its own unique alpine flora, but these plants are under threat from climate change. As temperatures rise, alpines are forced higher and will eventually have nowhere to go. The alpine collections at Kew are studied to help us all understand the mountain flora better and make informed decisions about protecting its future.
"Probably the most beautiful glasshouse in the world is the Davies Alpine House at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew", John Hoyland, Gardens Illustrated, April 2011
Richard Wilford has written a book on alpines, 'Alpines from Mountain to Garden', published by Kew Publishing. You can buy it in the Kew shops or from Kewbooks.com.
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