Growing autumn cyclamen

Posted: Monday 24 September 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair

One of the first signs of autumn in this garden is the cyclamen – they are charming little things with flowers that look a bit like the Mekon from Dan Dare.

Pink, nodding flowers of ivy-leaved cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium

One of the first signs of autumn in this garden is the cyclamen. We planted some a couple of years ago on the grave of my first dog (I bought him for £8.50 from a stall in Shepherd’s Bush Market in 1985), who is buried under some trees on the dark side of the house. Conveniently, the best view of them is through the window of the downstairs lavatory.

Ivy-leaved cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) are charming little things with nodding flowers that I always think look a little bit like the Mekon from Dan Dare. They grow wild all around Europe in vastly differing habitats (including woodland and rocky hillsides) from France to Greece. 

My mother-in-law has a sea of them in the shade of an enormous beech and it was from there that we transplanted our small plantation. They grow from corms and it’s best to move them in late summer when they are soundly dormant. They will grow in pretty much any soil unless waterlogged, but prefer a fair bit of humus (hence their predisposition to growing under deciduous trees where there is plenty of leaf mould). They will spread slowly but inexorably once established.

I have just discovered that their common name is sowbread – presumably because pigs like them. I can well imagine they would be very vulnerable to a truffling snout and must make a mental note to distract any passing Tamworth.

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Marinelilium 27/09/2012 at 12:53

Cyclamen are such pleasant surprises. They mind their own business all summer and just when you've forgotten them ...up they come in September. I love the way they curl and twist the seeds to the ground.

Mekon look-alikes so true! Hehehe. Maybe I should plant them in an old wok in homage to their favoured vehicles?

Mine live very happily in the needles under a cedrus odorata where little else 'dares'.

Marinelilium 27/09/2012 at 13:02

Sorry, that should read Cedrus Deodara not Odorata (presumptious iPad chooses what it likes best )

oldchippy 27/09/2012 at 18:59

There's a funny thing my wife came home last night with a pot of Cyclamens some one had given her where she works.Nice of one of her customers .

Muvs Dashwood 28/09/2012 at 14:51

They grow wild in the banks around town here. I only moved here 2 years ago and it was absolutely delightful to see them come up in big swathes.

discodave 23/10/2012 at 18:13

I planted out quite a few of these about 2 weeks ago in a recently dug out border next to some box hedging I had already planted. In that short space they have each grown roughly 4-8 vivid red flowers, Its a great treat to have some real colour in autumn.

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