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Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum Cyclamen coum will flower earlier, depending on situation and weather- but the main display is often at its best in February, bright among the snowdrops. The short, rather foursquare flowers vary from white to rosy-purple with every hue in between, and sometimes of such quantity almost to obscure the leaves. The flowers, of whatever colour, invariably bear a darker marking at the apex, around the corolla. A planting round the bole of a tree works well, steadily increasing from seed to form a tapestry of colour. The tree absorbs excess moisture which Cyclamen coum dislikes, especially in winter: in summer it also enjoys some shade.

E.A.Bowles wrote that cyclamen pay rent for a good part of the year, as the leaves, too, are decorative. Some of C. coum's leaves are of a plain dark green but there are also a variety of patterned ones, and silver or pewter, too. C.'Maurice Dryden' is a delightful and vigorous strain bred by Kath Dryden using the rather weakly C.coum  'Nymans' as one seed parent  and giving rise to the Pewter Group. Breeding largely true from seed there are now flowers from white to deepest claret. The leaves are indeed pewter coloured banded with green and have a varying green central rib. A well-deserved AM was given to C. coum Pewter Group 'Maurice Dryden' in 1990. Maurice himself is sadly missed but remembered whenever we see his worthy namesake.

Cyclamen coum 'Macka' hailed from N.E.Turkey in the 1960s and has small but bright flowers in abundance, the leaves are silvery with darkly green centres. Plants from various areas of Turkey, Iran, the Lebanon, Syria and Bulgaria vary in size, colour and leaf-marking ( the leaves are a beetroot purple underneath) but all have a tuft of roots emerging centrally from  a smooth-skinned, rounded tuber. C.coum never forms the huge knobbly, fissured tubers which C. hederifolium eventually does, nor do they seem to delight in projecting from the ground in the same way.

From fresh seed the germination rate is good and the young plants may flower (with care) in as little as two years, though longer in the open garden. From then on every spring brings its own discoveries, a scented flower, an unusually patterned leaf and the hope that one day, who knows - some sharp-eyed person may see the first truly white C.coum. The albino without a blotch, never before found. In the mean time there are few sights which surpass a mixed planting of Cyclamen coum on an early spring morning, perhaps with some lilac crocus somewhere near and a blackbird singing in a tree above, That depends on luck, but plant those cyclamen!

Ruby Baker