The Cottage Smallholder

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cyclamenWhen I went down to Mike’s house in Saffron Walden ten days ago, the garden was full of small groups of cyclamen. I don’t know whether they had just been planted or were an early flowering variety.

His house is just off Castle Street in a small enclave of four Victorian houses. Set in a pretty communal garden that theoretically belongs to Mike’s house but is shared by all the residents.

Mike scored instant brownie points on his arrival as he owns a lawn mower and the other residents no longer had access to one. He scored double brownie points when he announced that he was happy to mow the lawn but was not interested in gardening. The wife of the tall quiet man two doors along was visibly relieved as her husband loves tending the garden. It consists largely of a long border packed with flowers and treasures. It is a beautiful quiet haven. Sitting beside the border, it is hard to believe that the garden is in the centre of a busy country town and only 20 yards away cars are thundering up the road and vying for parking spaces.

On Sunday my mother arrived at our cottage and presented me with this cyclamen.
“It only cost 99p and can be planted outdoors when it goes over! This plant will spread and spread. I am sure that I planted some in the garden for you years ago. They must be quite a big group by now.”

I crouched low. Yes they had spread until we put a shed over their border and in all the excitement, forgot all about the cyclamen. Never mind. We can start again. Cyclamen can tolerate the dappled shade of a shrub, tree or hedge.

The trick for making them thrive indoors is to stand them in a saucer or cache pot and only water them from the bottom of the pot. The soil needs to be moist but not saturated. Some of the bigger houses that I work in will have a large bowl holding six or seven pots. This looks stunning. Cyclamen like cool temperatures but also bright light. Our kitchen windowsill is cool but south west facing so is an ideal spot for cyclamen at this time of year.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk),

    Your comment made me smile. Infuriating that the corms ended their life as a banquet for a squirrel.

    Thanks so much for a really useful comment. Our old cyclamen (lost under the shed) took ages to spread and I kept on adding to them. Perhaps the squirrels had opened a restaurant.

  2. Kate(uk)

    The outdoor ones that bloom now are the variety ‘hederifolium’. They spread readily if happy and will tolerate shade and dryish soil.Nice leaves all spring and summer too.
    I’ve found that the paler varieties of ex-houseplant cyclamen seem to survive life in the great outdoors better than the red ones and that their seedlings are tougher than the original plants.
    When we moved to Holland I left a large pot full of cyclamen I had grown from seed with my mother, that autumn I asked her how they were blooming,”that’s odd,” she said,looking out of the window.” I can’t see any blooms at all this year.But a large squirrel is sitting on the edge of the pot and that might be obscuring the blooms.” She went down the garden to check and realised, as soon as she checked the soil, why the squirrel who had been sitting there was so large and why there were no blooms that year. He’d eaten all the corms.
    So, if you plant cyclamen,particularly in pots, plant them deep to avoid squirrels or be prepared to chase them off!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Richard,

    That sounds enchanting. I like the tiny ones best of all.

    Hi Amanda,

    Sorry my English is too colloquial. “Goes over” means when no more flowers appear. If you keep on removing the dead flowers more will buds will keep on appearing for ages. When no more buds come the cyclamen can be planted out of doors. I’d give it a few days to acclimatise to the change in temperature i.e. in the house, then beside a sunny wall before planting it in its final location.

    Hi Pat,

    They grow wild in Austria – they must look amazing!

    Some friend of mine have planted them beneath a giant, spreading oak. A patch of at least twenty feet in diameter. They look stunning.

  4. Lovely!!! My fav memory of this plant is walking in Austria. It grows wild along the paths up a hill we walked along. That is a lovely colour you have there.

  5. This would be good for our garden. Excuse my ignorance but what does ‘can be planted outdoors when it goes over’ mean? Does it mean when the flowers droop?

  6. We’re just back from a week in Corfu. Everywhere we went, the grass verges and the olive groves were covered with patches of tiny dusty-pink cyclamen – all the same colour the island over…

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