There is nothing quite so graceful as a cyclamen in bloom. Every year when the last things in the garden have been blackened by frost I tend to look for the pots in the super markets and plan table scapes in baskets with cyclamens dominating (kept in shape by watering with weak tepid tea). It’s too early for the amaryllis that I’ve begun and is still the season for chrysanthemums indoors, so I have to postpone my cyclamen fest until December, but I begin thinking about them now.
But this is only one way to use the plants and they will live outdoors and prove very long lived in your garden. These garden cyclamens are cousins of the showy beauties from the florist and the hothouse, namely Cyclamen persicum. The old Cyclamen coum can be grown outside under trees and makes a lovely spreading cover that will tolerate shade and rather thin soil as well. Coming from the land of pachysandra, I’m always interested in any plant that will cut down on mowing, has pretty foliage and throws up flowers year after
year and isn’t pachysandra. These little corms will do just that. They are the sorts of plants that I have a hard time overlooking because they tuck so well into hard parts of my garden that otherwise run to weeds. I’m tempted to grow them round the corner from a bush or two of the English Rose Charles Rennie Mactintosh just for the play on silver and mauve.
These little guys will survive in zone 7 in the States, and enjoy nice dry shade. I’ve seen them naturalized underneath big old Cedar of Lebannons where they appeared completely at home.
If you’re looking for some of the hardier varieties, then C hederifolium will rough it even in zone 5, and there are all sorts of
beautiful types to plant. C cilicicum has some of the distinctive cyclamen scent which is very fresh and almost cold in your nostrils. Cyclamens are relatives of the primrose and that probably explains this completely spring time fragrance untainted by indoles of any sort. I’ve also read that a variety called C europaeum has a violet perfume but I can’t find
any reference to this in my gardening encyclopaedia, and so think it may have been re-categorized. Both of these plants, fall bloomers, are only going to be hardy in zone 7 and up.
Then there is the question of the scent itself. I never knew the scent of cyclamens until i
decided to put my nose nearly underneath a bunch of C persicum in flower and then discovered it, but what about perfumes? Were there any?
Cyclamen actually is an ingredient in perfumes, but seems to turn up much more often in older perfumes than in contemporary ones. Elizabeth Arden produced a Cyclamen perfume in a lovely white fan shaped bottle back in the thirties, but the note is largely gone now.
Reputedly cyclamen is in Amouage’s Ciel Pour Femme and curiously in 4711, but I can’t recall coming across the distinctive freshness of cyclamen often. It’s a perfect note for young girls and early spring, and just right now, looking at a cold November rain, I could use some warm spring temperatures, and lots of pale pink petals even if they’re onlly on a table top or in a bottle.