Notes from a Cottage Garden
FOR years the weather forecasters have been predicting a “barbecue summer”, and for years summer has turned out to be unpredictable, with a mixture of rain, sunshine, gales and even hail.
However, 2018 will long remain in everyone’s memory as the summer when the barbecues finally came into their own, and the temperatures in England exceeded those of the Caribbean.
I was unprepared for the heat, but the garden coped better than I did. I found it too hot to do any work, and it was left to its own devices.
The lawn turned brown and snapped, crackled and popped when walked on; newly planted shrubs and perennials withered; evergreens shed leaves and alpines shrivelled.
I did use the hosepipe in desperation, but felt guilty doing so, even though there was no hosepipe ban where I live. However, the upside of the hot weather was a bumper crop of fruit, and even the outdoor grapes have coloured up and look good enough to eat.
The hot weather finally broke, and the summer rain never felt better or more welcome. The garden quickly greened up again, flower heads were raised, new leaves began to appear on the evergreens, and even shrubs I thought had died sprouted new growth at their base.
There’s lots to catch up on: the weeds were the plants least affected by the hot weather, and have taken dreadful liberties in my garden due to my inactivity.
The sight of a colourful carpet of cyclamen on a dreary winter’s day really lifts the spirits.
Also known as Eastern sowbread, this lovely plant originates in the Caucasus, Turkey and northern Iran, but it has adapted well to conditions in the UK.
It will happily grow in most soil types, as long as the ground doesn’t become waterlogged. It does best in the shade of deciduous trees where it will gradually spread and provide excellent ground cover.
Cyclamen coum is relatively slow growing, so avoid planting it with other types of cyclamen or bulbs that may prove more vigorous and overwhelm the dainty cyclamen coum.
Despite its delicate appearance, however, cyclamen coum is an incredibly hardy plant that will survive very low temperatures and virtually take care of itself – the only thing it will benefit from is a mulch of leaf mould in early spring.
I’ve had best results from buying cyclamen coum in pots, which keep the tubers moist. I’ve then planted them out an inch below the surface of the soil.
I have tried to propagate from seed, but have had no success so far. The plants also look good planted in pots or an alpine bed.
There are many different varieties flowering in winter/early spring. The flowers are only a few inches tall, and come in shades of pink, magenta and white, with distinctive petals and a dark mark at the base.
The leaves are marbled and usually heart-shaped in shades of green and silvery grey.
The plants in my garden have soft mid-pink flowers, but there are only two small clumps of them so far – nothing like the carpet I wish for!
I am thinking of adding Cyclamen coum Maurice Dryden, which has pale-pink flowers and pewter-grey leaves edged with dark-green, and Cyclamen coum f. albissimum Ashwood Snowflake, which has pure white flowers and silver-green leaves with a darker centre.