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The winter flowering Cyclamen coum

By: Richard Wilford - 09/01/2012


It is said that you can have a cyclamen in flower every month of the year and January belongs to the diminutive Cyclamen coum.

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The main flowering seasons for cyclamen are autumn and spring. The summer gap is filled with Cyclamen purpurascens and the rare C. colchicum and the winter is mainly left to Cyclamen coum.  Some spring cyclamens can flower very early, including the closely related C. alpinum and a visit to the Davies Alpine House will reveal a few more species, flowering in the more protective environment under the glass.

But out in the open, Cyclamen coum is now flowering on the Rock Garden at Kew. Although we haven't yet had much freezing weather this winter, this plant is very resistant to frosts, which seem to have no effect on the flowers or leaves.
 

Cyclamen coum in frost

Frosted flowers of Cyclamen coum on the Rock Garden

The leaves of Cyclamen coum are rounded to heart-shaped and often have attractive silvery markings. The small flowers have short, wide petals that vary in colour from deep magenta to pale pink or white. C. coum has a wide range in the wild. It can be found from Bulgaria, across northern Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and from south-east Turkey to northern Israel. Over this range there is some variation in leaf shape and patterning, and flower colour.
 

Cyclamen coum ssp caucasicum in Georgian woodland

Cyclamen coum covering a woodland floor in Georgia, near Tbilisi

 In the wild C. coum grows in woodland, where it can create vast swathes of pink flowers. It can also be found on rocky ledges or on the sides of gorges, in gullies and along field margins.
 

Cyclamen coum on a cliff in Georgia

Clinging to a rocky gorge wall in south-west Georgia

It can sometimes be seen growing naturally with snowdrops, a combination that also looks great in the garden.
 

Cyclamen coum and Galanthus woronowii in Georgia

Cyclamen coum and the snowdrop Galanthus woronowii in the wild

Cyclamen coum is easily grown in the garden, in sun or partial shade. The soil should be well-drained but not too dry in summer, when it is dormant. In the wild it often grows in areas where the annual rainfall is very high, such as north-east Turkey and western Georgia. It will seed around itself to form large colonies over time, making a beautiful sight in the winter months. 

- Richard -


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About us

Looking north towards the Davies Alpine House from the Rock Garden

Several people contribute to the Alpine and Rock Garden Team blog. Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include all the areas where alpines are grown at Kew Gardens. The three team leaders, Joanne Everson, Graham Walters and Katie Price, each have their own particular parts of the Gardens to look after. Between them, these four experts have over 55 years experience of growing alpines.

Alpines at Kew Gardens are not only grown to create colourful and informative displays, they also play an important role in the research Kew carries out around plant naming, classification, biodiversity and conservation.

Mountains are found on every continent and each range has its own unique alpine flora, but these plants are under threat from climate change. As temperatures rise, alpines are forced higher and will eventually have nowhere to go. The alpine collections at Kew are studied to help us all understand the mountain flora better and make informed decisions about protecting its future.

"Probably the most beautiful glasshouse in the world is the Davies Alpine House at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew", John Hoyland, Gardens Illustrated, April 2011

Richard Wilford has written a book on alpines, 'Alpines from Mountain to Garden', published by Kew Publishing. You can buy it in the Kew shops or from Kewbooks.com.

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