This month, they’re going nuts. Every time I pass by the pots, I find more leaves pushing up from the gravel.
Two species are doing very well: Cyclamen coumalbum, and Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum. I’m surprised that Cyclamen hederifolium isn’t doing as well, as that’s supposed to be the easiest to grow. I have heard that C. graecum is supposed to be quite finicky, although plants from Greece and Turkey tend to perform well here as long as the drainage is good. I can’t wait to see their foliage take on its pattern. Here are two images from John Lonsdale of the Pacific Bulb Society:
Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum foliage. Photo by John Lonsdale, via Pacific Bulb Society.
Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum leaves. Photo by John Lonsdale via Pacific Bulb Society.
I can transplant them after they have 3-4 sets of true leaves–no idea how long that will take. The Pacific Bulb Society indicates fertilization with an 18-8-18 formula, alternating with a fertilizer based on calcium nitrate. I’ll show in a future post how to mix your own fertilizer blends.
For now, I must sow the rest of the seeds and see if I can get another batch going. The prospect of having such wonderful foliage to get me through a grim winter cheers me up immensely.
Why did I wait so long to plant one of these? Actually, I know why: I was afraid of failure. I have read of people planting these enchanting shrubs, falling utterly in love with them, and then after several years the daphne dies, without warning, throwing the gardener into heartbroken despair. There’s enough grim business in the world without adding to the mix with fussy plants.
But my neighbor has one that scents up my entire yard with its heavenly, lemon-scented blooms. Stepping out the front door, I receive an olfactory gift of hope. To smell one is to want one; it is that straightforward.
Last year I took the plunge and bought a quart-sized ‘Carol Mackie.’ I was lucky in that we had decent rain here, while the rest of the country suffered terrible drought. I am cautiously hopeful that I have sited it well and nurtured it adequately with generous helpings of worm compost tea. In about a week, I intend to spend a little time in meditation, right next to Carol, and relish her when she is in full bloom.
I owe a debt of thanks to my hellebores, and to my Lonicera fragrantissima, winter honeysuckle, which are both absolutely lovely in late February and early March. The hellebores were introduced to me about four years ago by my neighbor Martha, who had a surplus. I never had much interest in them before, but was glad to take anything free to fill up the expanse of barren earth I had cleared but couldn’t afford to plant up, so I dug up about four cat-litter tubs’ worth and planted them around the yard.
They bloom in shades of white and rose from February until May, and their palmate foliage stays evergreen for me. The foliage does tend to get a bit ratty looking in late fall and early winter (December around here), so it benefits from a gentle cleaning up. And it reseeds splendidly. The seedlings are easy to spot and pick out if they land in a spot you don’t want them, but I’ve tried to take advantage of their habit by planting them in desolate spots and letting them do their thing. They do take three years to bloom from seed, but as long as you have some going it’s easy to be patient with the young ones. And they are super-tough; they grow at the bases of large oak trees, competing fairly with the oaks’ thirsty roots, coping well with the high-90s temperatures that have become the norm in summertime. They’ve become one of my most beloved plants.
The Lonicera has small, white flowers that look like nothing special from up close, but from a distance they give the sense of impending spring. The scent is fresh and clean, slightly honey-scented, and it carries well. I have one beneath a large oak that has sprung up in a bizarre habit, probably aided by my unskillful pruning. But I love it dearly and planted an additional two last fall to keep it company and fill in an awkward spot between two oaks just off my back deck. I have searched for advice on pruning it and most things tend to say “leave it alone,” but what do you do when you’ve already mangled it a bit and want to make it look pretty again? There’s another thing to investigate sometime.
It’s this time of year when I am going absolutely mad with the desire to see fresh green growth and clear colors again. I’ve had enough of the grays and browns of late winter. Then the hellebores and the Lonicera rise to the occasion splendidly. I must remember to be more grateful, and not think “Why couldn’t you have done this a month ago?”