There are certain plants that, at the moment they appear, remind us that a change of season is near. One such is Cyclamen hederifolium. Suddenly, in the last hot, dusty, worn-out days of summer, the fresh flowers spring from the ground and we know that damper, cooler days are on the way. Fruit will ripen and all the glorious colours of autumn will soon follow and we will go into what for many is a favourite time of year. This might be just one of the reasons why this plant was chosen by our members.
Cyclamen, the Greek name, from kyklos, circle, referring, perhaps, to the rounded tubers, although I have seen it suggested that it refers to the way the pedicels with the young fruit coil into a circle in order to bring the fruit close to the ground, and hederifolium meaning ivy-leaved. I must admit the circular coils explanation really appeals to me – but, perhaps, it’s a little fanciful. It has the common name of sowbread, is in the family Primulaceae and is native from southern France to Greece and Turkey, growing in woods and among rocks.
C. hederifolium has the characteristic cyclamen flower with five reflexed, twisted petals varying in colour from white to pink with darker marks at the base, and green leaves variously marked and mottled with silver. It flowers from late summer into autumn, then the leaves stay through the winter into spring. The seed capsules ripen in the summer and the sticky seeds are carried off by ants, attracted by the their sugary coat. It prefers a humus-rich soil in dappled shade with a covering of mulch but will do very well in less than ideal conditions. The one thing it does demand, though, is good drainage.
This cyclamen looks best grown in drifts beneath shrubs or deciduous trees. A few plants will seed around and soon colonize a large area, creating a stunning effect when in full bloom. It was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
Christopher Grey-Wilson, in his book, ‘Cyclamen‘, writes, “If I could grow only one cyclamen in my garden then it would without doubt be C. hederifolium. Easy, dependable, floriferous, long-lived and adaptable, it never fails to excite when the first flowers begin to appear at the end of summer.
Yet more reasons why this plant is such a favourite and why it has a high position on our list.