Current Blooms

Jane McGary
Mon, 14 Sep 2009 10:42:00 PDT
Ina in New Zealand asked if Cyclamen hederifolium is "the 
in-between-sized cyclamen," and I think she is referring to it being 
intermediate in size between C. persicum (which would be an outdoor 
plant in her area, though not in much of Europe or North America) and 
C. coum, another one that will naturalize in gardens. I was surprised 
to read that Jim Shields can't grow C. hederifolium outdoors, because 
people in even colder parts of North America do, such as in upstate 
New York. Perhaps drainage is the problem? Jim, do you grow C. 
purpurascens outdoors? It has been very successful in some Midwest 
gardens, though I can't make it happy in Oregon.

C. hederifolium has been in full bloom here for a couple of weeks, 
and just as it started up, I went around and lifted and potted a lot 
of the white forms to be sure I have a good supply of them to take to 
my new garden next summer. Here in western Oregon this species 
naturalizes very readily, as it has for Ina, and even pops up in 
lawns. I haven't seen it out in natural areas, though; the seeds are 
distributed by ants and are rather heavy and sticky, so it doesn't 
get too far. You can always tell a house where a serious gardener has 
ever lived around here, by the presence of this species, which will 
persist forever.

Another species growable outdoors in moderate climates and flowering 
in fall is C. mirabile, which is smaller but also has pretty leaves, 
especially when they first emerge and the light markings are flushed pink.

Colchicum are starting to flower here: the early C. bivonae 
selections and hybrids, the garden plant known as C. "byzantinum 
album," C. x agrippinum, and an assortment of little species in the 
bulb frames, including those formerly known as Merendera. Every year 
I get to make the acquaintance of new species as seedlings finally 
flower; the seeds can take up to 5 years to germinate, and then 4 or 
5 years to flower. A first bloom right now is C. sfikasianum from 
Greece, and I was interested to see that it appears to be identical 
to an unidentified plant given me a couple of years ago by Roger 
MacFarlane, who had collected it in Greece; the two, in separate 
frames, opened their flowers within 2 days of each other. I find that 
the succession of flowering in Colchicum species is very consistent 
from year to year. It must be triggered by temperature.

The crocuses haven't started yet, so the other interest in the frames 
is in the fall-flowering Scilla species, recently transferred to a 
genus Prospero, and in Acis (formerly Leucojum in part). Scilla, or 
Prospero, autumnalis, with lavender flowers, is the best-known of the 
former, a very easy plant to grow, flowering from seed in 2 years and 
ripening  seed remarkably fast: I grew mine from seed I collected in 
Greece in roadside colonies that still had flowers too. Scilla 
intermedia and S. obtusifolia (I don't know if they are Prospero or 
whatever S. scilloides became) are very similar species, a little 
larger than S. autumnalis, with pink flowers.

Besides Acis autumnalis, which naturalizes in this region, A. 
valentina is in bloom. This is larger than A. autumnalis and pure 
white (there is also a pure white form of A. autumnalis called 
'September Snow', which seems prepared to seed itself true), and its 
flowers open more widely; it is quite beautiful. Soon there will be 
A. rosea, a tiny pink one, but it is tender and has to be kept in the 
solarium over winter.

All these plants except Acis rosea have been winter-hardy with rain 
protection to about 20 degrees F / minus 6 degrees C, and do well 
with a dry summer dormancy. Indeed, the wild forms of Cyclamen 
persicum are too, and even the gaudy florist forms of it survive at 
my brother's place in the California Coast Range, where they get a 
few degrees of frost every winter.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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