Plant of the Month – February

Yesterday was beautiful – the sun was out and warm, the first bees of the year were flash mobbing the hellebores, the sky was so blue I was surprised when I looked up at the magnolia and found it wasn’t already dotted with flowers. Next month maybe.

But today, well, back to grey and gloom. At this time of year you need a friend in the garden. Someone to wave at you and encourage you out, cheekily smile at you from across a border and wink at you when you look down and see them hiding at the bottom of a tree or come on them round a corner. Cyclamen coum. Oh so lovely. All the shades of pink through to white with the odd picotee or streak mixed in. Even if you start with lots of the same

colour, they will breed and seed into a confetti mixture in which each individual plant is highlighted. A carpet of plain magenta would just appear bedded out and flat.

I know a garden where they are planted underneath a Prunus autumnalis ‘Rosea’. It looks like the petals of the tree have drifted down and scattered on the ground. Sigh. Here, we have them all over the top of the garden near to the house in half shade that rarely dries out totally and in soil that has been so worked that it can be on the thin side. Originally planted under t

rees they have now moved around and crop up where they will. We replicate this by adding more between the hellebores, close to the ferns and anywhere else that needs pink!

‘Crop up where they will’ is a bit of a misnomer as they are spread by ants. The seed of cyclamen is coated with sugar – ants have a very sweet tooth. This is why gardens with warm, free draining soil do well with cyclamen. It’s also why they appear between paving stones and prefer a gravel terrace over the proper border next to it – grrr. If you are growing them in a border try and mulch (they lurve leaf mould) as they seem to like something around their leaf bases supporting their long leaf stalk, another reason they like growing through gravel. Actually, they rather like growing through last autumns leaves that you never got around to clearing away.

So, join the ants and us, cover your borders with cyclamen. It’ll look like you’ve scattered the garden with sugared almonds. Very sweet.

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