Monday, January 18, 1999

Plant Parenthood

CYCLAMEN (Cy'clamen)

DESCRIPTION: These gorgeous plants have heart-shaped leaves marked with silver and they produce double or single flowers that are colored white, salmon, lavender, or red, on top of slender stems. Some flower in the fall, others in late spring. These plants range from Greece to Syria. A minimum temperature of 45 degrees is required.

For Christmas I went to a floral shop to buy my mom a plant. I had no idea how to pick out a plant my mom would like so after much contemplation, I looked at all my many options and decided just to go with the one I liked best. I ended up with a Cyclamen which I must say was a terrific choice. What a fine looking plant it is.

I eventually chose the Cyclamen because of its color. It is a light violet, a shade that suggested something between peace and beauty. But as with everything with me, once I made my choice I needed to find out all I could about this new discovery and share it with everyone I know.

I've never been much for taking care of plants. The fact that you actually have to work at keeping them going has been more than I wanted to attempt. And for the last seven years I've had a roommate with a fondness for eating any shrubbery I may bring into our humble abode. Yet the plant I chose for my mother is the type I think would brighten up my own home. There is something quite rejuvenating about watching its cycles: from flowering to wilting to regeneration of new buds. And while each is new, the cycle itself breeds comforting familiarity. Just when you think it won't come back, a new bud is born again. Yes indeed, I've become a Cyclamen man.

This has been an extremely long week. I'm tired and as I put the finishing touches on the newsletter, I must admit all I can think about is my new found knowledge. Thus the following is just about all you'd ever need to know about my new favorite plant. Go ahead, go pick one up for yourself! It's guaranteed to liven up any room!

POTTING: Young plants should be planted in small pots filled with a compost of two-thirds loam and one-third leaf mold, with an abundance of sand added. A warm, dry atmosphere must be avoided. Ashes placed on the benches will humidify the air by the moisture they hold. The greenhouse must be ventilated well in mild weather and the floor and benches dampened often. As the Cyclamen grow, they need to be continuously repotted. By early summer, they should be in pots that are 5 or 6 inches in diameter, these are usually the final pots in which they will bloom. For the final potting, the soil should consist of two-thirds loam, one-third leaf mold and dry cow manure, with a scattered amount of sand, charcoal and bone meal added.

During the summer, they should be placed in a shaded area where the atmosphere is cool and moist. In hot weather, it would be beneficial to sprits them with water. Do not over water these plants, but make sure they don't dry out either. In the spring, when they have finished blooming, the plants are usually thrown out, but it is possible to keep old plants and replant them the following year. If this is to be done, the plants are to be watered until they die. As the leaves whither, less and less water is given. When they have completely died, the pots holding the tubers are left in a shaded area until late July or early August. They are then taken out of the soil and repotted in the compost as described above. Place them in a cold frame where they will start growing again if the soil is kept fairly moist. Near the end of September they need to be placed in a cool, ventilated greenhouse. These plants may also be planted in the garden. They'll thrive in partially shaded areas. Some leaf mold and pieces of sandstone or brick should be mixed into the garden soil, unless it's already suitable. In cold climates they should be protected with leaves in the winter. When planting the tubers of hardy Cyclamen, make sure to set them at the correct depth. Those of C. neapolitanum should be covered with 2 to 3 inches of soil, but the others should only be set under about an inch. The best time to plant those that bloom in the late summer and fall is in July or August. Those that bloom in the spring should be planted in August or September.

PROPAGATION: Seeds should be sown in pans full of leaf mold, sifted loam and sand and placed in a shady frame or a cool greenhouse. Since they don't germinate at the same time, it is necessary to sow them thinly, so the first seedlings can be transplanted when they're large enough to be handled.

VARIETIES-Autumn Flowering: C. africanum (lg. marbled leaves & pale reddish flowers); C. cilicicum (pretty leaves & light rose flowers); C. europaeum (lovely marked leaves & fragrant rose colored flowers); C. neapolitanum (pale rose-red flowers opening before the leaves).

Spring Flowering: C. coum (rose-red); C. ibericum (rose-red); C. repandum (reddish-crimson).

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