Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Big fluffy persian cyclamen ( hybrids of Cyclamen persicum) are a relatively new phenomenon in the florist trade and are especially useful in the milder coastal climates where they will bloom all winter, especially if given protection from winter rains. My grandmother kept one on her window sill in Wisconsin for years, so I always think of them as old lady flowers. Pink, pink, pink. And more pink. Of course there are red and white ones. And as I began to pay attention some with beautifully marbled foliage. I have a friend who is not much of a gardener, but manages to keep her cyclamen blooming on her bathroom window sill year round. I was inspired and thought I’d give it a try. 2 months later it was gone never to return. I can’t grow African violets either. Or orchids.
But we’re talking about cyclamen. And why would I bother?
Species cyclamen.
I saw my first hardy cyclamen in the Arboretum 20 years ago. It must have had 100 flowers. Fragile pink flowers poking out of the leaf litter under a maple. I was enchanted. I have planted some in every garden I created, but nothing compares to masses of them in the wild.
You can see why I was so happy when I got to Italy and the cover story on Giardinaggio was Tema del Mese CICLIMINI. ( focus of the month: Cyclamen). I knew when I’d be getting to the Island of Elba I would find the wild cyclamen in bloom. On Elba the most common species is Cyclamen neapolitanum. And they were every where, loving the rocky lime stone of Monte Serra, accept where the cinghiale (wild boars) dug them. They are called pane di porco, or sow’s bread, because the tubers are a great delite to swine, wild or not.

In the mid-week market in Rio nell'Elba persian cyclamen en masse.

Happy among horsetails and grasses.

There is a brief and blushing hopefulness to cyclamen as they flower happy like a child ignorant of death.