Alpine and Rock Garden team blog
The Alpine and Rock Garden team looks after a fantastic range of plants from the world’s mountain ranges. This blog includes stories about individual plants, growing techniques and trips to see alpine plants in the wild. You can visit plants from Kew's collection of alpines in the Davies Alpine House, the Rock Garden and Woodland Garden and read this blog to find out how the team gets to grips with cultivating them.
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 -
2 comments on 'Autumn flowering cyclamen'
So it's down to me to write the first of the Alpine and Rock Garden blog posts. My name is Richard Wilford and I am the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew.
The Hardy Display Section at Kew Gardens includes several areas where alpine and rock garden plants are grown. Behind the scenes is the Alpine Nursery, where plants are grown and propagated in a series of cool glasshouses and frames. They are cultivated in pots, ready for planting out on the Rock Garden or in the Woodland Garden, or put on display in the Davies Alpine House. The nursery is run by Graham Walters, who will be contributing to this blog in the coming weeks and months.
Graham Walters in the Hardy Display Section at Kew Gardens
The Davies Alpine House opened in March 2006 and as well as permanent plantings in the rocky landscape, there are display benches and plunge beds that are used to show off the best alpines and bulbs to Kew's visitors as they flower. This changing display means there is always something to see, whatever the time of year.
In the Woodland Garden, under a canopy of deciduous trees is a wonderful array of shade plants. This area is spectacular in spring when beautiful woodland bulbs can be seen carpeting the floor. Both the Woodland Garden and Davies Alpine House are looked after by Katie Price, another future contributor.
Katie Price attending to the Woodland Garden
Last, but certainly not least, is the Rock Garden itself. This is where you can find a huge range of alpines grown in the open among sandstone rocks, stream and waterfalls. It is arranged geographically and plants from all the major mountain ranges are represented. Joanne Everson is responsible for this area and she too will be writing for the blog.
Joanne Everson taking photographs in the field.
As you can see, all the blog team have been a bit shy when it comes to their photos being on the web - 'no close ups!'
So this is me, from a suitable distance!
But as we all know, it is the plants that are the stars of this show and now is the time to see autumn bulbs flowering in the Alpine House, and outside in the Woodland Garden and Rock Garden. Colchicum, Sternbergia and Cyclamen are among the colourful plants blooming today.
Cyclamen blooming at Kew Gardens
- Richard Wilford -
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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.
The Woodland Garden dons its winter coat: bonsai. by: Nafi
Autumn colour on the Rock Garden: It appears you planted Nerine alta outdoors. I just acquired some bulbs of this species and am wond ... by: Clayton
The winter flowering Cyclamen coum: Another informative blog. I find the photos intriguing and the cultivation tips very useful. I have ... by: Valerie
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