Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Specimen Photos

I love cyclamen.

It all started a couple years ago when my girlfriend brought me a small tuber from the garden she was working at. It was September at the time and the plant was in full bloom. Just a large mushroom looking thing, with little pink flowers limply hanging off.  Soon after being planted, the cyclamen perked up and put on a show that carried on right until first frost. From there the flowers faded and the leaves emerged. While initially it was the florescent blooms that attracted me to this plant, it’s leaves are equally as alluring. These highly ornamental leaves hold on right until the weather starts getting warm at which point the plant goes dormant and awaits cooler weather.

cyclamen hederifolium

They’re truly a pleasure to grow and if you have more then one variety in the garden you’ll likely see some hybrids appear. Seedlings are slow to start but spread they will. I’ve had them in my garden for nearly 5 years now and I’m just starting to accumulate a population . Ants and birds distribute the seed throughout the garden and seedlings appear in the strangest places. There seems to be a great deal of variability in their leaf design and flower color, each with their own personality and uniqueness. For those of you wanting to share cyclamen with your friends, look towards your oldest plants and take a peak under the leaves in early springtime. While creatures may distribute much of the seed, the majority end up self sowing right at the base of the plant. With a still hand you can gently prick these seedlings away from their mother and pot them on elsewhere. Using this method I was able to collect over 100 seedlings this spring with great success.

cyclamen hederifolium seedlings
Little cyclamen seedlings

While I mostly grow Cyclamen hederifolium (the hardiest) there are over 20 species to try; most native to the Mediterranean region. The more I study these plants the more ingenious they appear. Cyclamen thrive at a time of year when most plants are winding down. As the trees loose their leaves, the cyclamen flush out and capitalize on the newly available light. As summer rolls around and water demands are more dire, cyclamen close up shop and rest until things are more favorable. They are survivors and they owe it all to the strange tuber like storage organ they’ve adapted to survive when times are unfavorable.

Cyclamen hederifolium

This brings me to the reason why I’m talking about cyclamen today, their tubers. On Sunday I was toiling about in the garden in my usual fashion when I went to re-pot a newly acquired cyclamen that wasn’t doing so well. When I took it out of the pot it fell clean. It appears that it wasn’t growing poorly but actually going dormant for the summer season. Until now I’ve never really taken a good look at these tubers in their entirety and upon closer speculation I was blown away. As if this plant wasn’t cool enough, even their unseen tuber hide a secret beauty.

Cyclamen tuber

cyclamen tuber

cyclamen tuber

Cyclamen tuber

You can find art in the strangest places.

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Ok let’s break down to some serious plant geekage here. Not all will be able to appreciate this argument but for those who do. Kudos.

Are Sanguinaria & Jeffersonia related to each-other?

Last year having noticed two spring ephemerals emerge & flower at the same time I combined them into the same pot for further research. Watching these two pop up this spring it’s remarkable how similar they are in habit, growth and flowering. The nomenclature  has them listed as different genus’s but are they actually the same?

sanguinaria canadensis
Jeffersonia diphylla emerging March 10th

Jeffersonia
Sanguinaria canadensis emerging March 10th

Let’s look at the facts. (care of wikipedia) for the proper breakdown of the family bloodline.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Jeffersonia

 

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Sanguinaria

Admittedly once their leaves mature they’re distinctly different, but the new shoots & flowers are so similar I don’t know what to make of it. I’m not exactly a scientist but there has to be something to these distinct similarities. It’s like looking at brothers in a family portrait.

sanguinaria canadensis flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis

Jeffersonia diphylla flower
Jeffersonia diphylla

When you see the buds of these plants emerge be sure to pay attention as they last little more than a couple days. As if sitting there only by good grace, a single raindrop or brush of your hand and off come the petals, blinked and missed until next year.

Spring ephemeral
spring ephemeral

What do you think?

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.