Magenta Greetings

Cyclamen coum.

Gardeners and garden watchers delight in anything alive in late February. Alive and colorful seems almost too much to ask. Unless, that is, you have a spot in your garden for hardy Cyclamen.

Cyclamen are distant plant cousins to primroses and are native around the Mediterranean in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. Their habitats range from the floor of beech forests, through scrub and rocky areas, and up into alpine meadows. There are twenty species, and there are species that bloom in every month of the year.

In a Colorado garden, give Cyclamen well-draining and thoroughly composted soil. Choose a protected spot, one that will retain leaf cover through the winter and is easily watered. The east side of a house, wall, or large shrub or boulder can be a good spot. The south and west sides might be suitable with dappled shade.

Generally grown from corms, cyclamen are planted just below the soil’s surface and don’t like to be disturbed. Corms live about a decade. The flowers will, however, readily make and sow seed, making them great for naturalizing and for rock gardens.

The pictured Cyclamen was photographed in my garden on February 22. Although the mottled leaves suggest C. hederifolium, a fall blooming species, this is C. coum. Hardy in zones 5-8, the corms may stay dormant for a year after planting, as this one did. But, won’t you agree, it’s well worth the wait. Source McClure and Zimmerman. Further reading The Cyclamen Society.

Just a Little Bit Longer

Mid-February. Can you see it? The sun’s peeking over the horizon just a little bit earlier and dipping behind the Peak just a little bit later. Honestly. Days are noticeably longer.

Look close! Bulbs coming up in Robb's Westside "Sleeping Bear Oasis" - photo by himself.

Depending on each garden’s location, and the microclimates within each garden, crocus and other early bulbs might be poking their first green tips into daylight. A few choice spots may even have some crocus or snowdrops blooming. These first appearances are triggered more by soil temperature than day length. If you keep a record of your first crocus, over the years you’ll find the date shifts from early February to well into the first week of March.

Two major factors govern early activity in the garden: Day length and temperature. Soil temperature, at this stage of the season, has a larger influence than day length or daily highs and lows. Fortunately, soil warms and cools more slowly, moderating the effects spikes and dips in the air can have on plants. This helps assure they show above ground at the right time.

Seeing green tips, but feeling anxious about the inevitable cold spells yet to come? Not to worry! Leaves programmed to emerge in early spring have a hefty dose of sugary antifreeze.

Relax and enjoy.