Summer evenings with cyclamen

I’m sitting in the garden, enjoying the summer evening, it’s not so hot and sultry any more, but still very pleasant. Feet up on the table, not very lady-like, I know, glass of wine, and I’ve already got the candles ready for when the light begins to fade. Sounds carry far in the early evening, I can hear children’s voices, and somewhere far away the faint sound of traffic, the birds are quite now. I glance around the garden and relish in the green, but my pots are definitely past their best. It’s time to fill them for a glorious Indian summer and early autumn. And yes, through my work I’ve become a great fan of cyclamen, particularly the outdoor varieties. For several years now, I’ve planted up a few pots at the end of August or in early September. Window boxes, hanging baskets by the garage, a few pots on the terrace, one on the table and some on the floor.

I don’t have green fingers, I just watch what others do! There’s plenty to inspire me on YouTube and Pinterest. So I fill my pots and planters with cyclamen in the colours I adore. I like to add some fine grasses, ivy (that’s one I do happen to know) and some of those plants with cranberries or those dark red leaves. It’s a magnificent combination, time and time again. And when they’re done I can sit in the garden again and enjoy!

Warm Indian summer evenings and then the early autumn. The leaves on the trees begin to change colour and fall, but my pots and planters are exuberant. I’ve got magnificent blooms that give the garden such a cheerful hue. As I said, I don’t have green fingers, so I hardly do anything to these pots. And they don’t need much attention at all. The evening dew provides sufficient moisture, an occasional cup of water is fine, but it often isn’t necessary. What I do do, now and then, is to take out the flowers that have finished, stem and all, so that the new buds that are hiding under the leaves have enough energy to show their heads. And while I’m deadheading my plants, I’m amazed at just how many flowers such a small plant can produce. I know it’s a fetish of mine, but sometimes I count the flowers as I remove them, and sometimes I lose count, there are so many! And there are still dozens of little buds under the leaves, ready to emerge as colourful elegant little flowers.

I really enjoy these plants; they give me so much pleasure!

These days, cyclamen are specially bred for specific applications. Quite a few varieties are available for outdoor use now. It’s sometimes difficult for consumers to tell the difference, and they even look alike for experienced florists or knowledgeable garden centre buyers.

So, I have a few tips for you:

Read at the label carefully, make sure you select plants with lots of leaves, because each leaf gives a flower! Yes, it’s true, that’s a fact you can pass on to your customers! So lots of leaves means lots of flowers. And perhaps you can try this: pick up a pot and shake it firmly, (well, not too hard, of course) and watch what happens to the flower stems. Are they limp and wobbly or do they stay firm and upright? If the latter is the case, you almost certainly have a cyclamen from the Super Serie because many cyclamen growers in the UK also grow these plants in their nurseries. And no, this isn’t advertising, this is the true experience of a woman without green fingers but with passion for what she adores and has learned to recognise.

Among my friends and acquaintances I still often hear the surprised question: “Oh – can you have them outdoors too? I never knew that…” And then I love to explain how and why that’s possible, what to look out for, how easy they are to care for, and how long they’ll carry on flowering – at least until the first frost, but often even longer. They’re persistent bloomers, these little cyclamen. And they’re really beautiful in the quaint English cottage gardens.

The best from the various tests are the cyclamen sold under the Veranda Selections brand, you can recognise these by the label and the apple-green tray, but there are other good varieties for sale too.

So ladies and gentlemen florists, if in doubt, ask, and don’t forget to select plants with oodles of leaves. When the plants first come to market they may only have a few flowers up top, but take a peak under the leaves and you’ll see masses of buds.

Good for you, and even better for your customers! Because that’s what you want, isn’t it? That they enjoy what they’ve bought from you?

Then you can enjoy the Indian summer, and so can they.

And, by the time it’s Christmas, there will, of course, be other cyclamen…

But now I’m sitting in my garden, enjoying a warm summer evening. And as dusk falls, the bats will appear again, gracefully skimming through the evening sky…

It’s nice to enjoy the simple things in life…

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