26 February 2009

dust under cyclamen carpet

I don't like to see bare soil, particularly dusty dry bare soil.  Some people do, I imagine for the illusion of control, but scorched earth gardens of regimented rows make me anxious.  How much better to lay a carpet like this.

Underneath the Firethorn tree in the driest dustiest soil is this tapestry of green hardy cyclamen leaves and parchment dry leaves from last autumn.  Isn't it pretty?  

(or do you think messy?  Shame on you! Insects live here!)  

These are Cyclamen hederifolium.  Originally from southern Europe they are now grown commercially, easy to get hold of, easy to grow once established and very, very long lived.  They grow from a just buried tuber and bloom in August, before the leaves appear, with small flowers of reflexed petals of pink or white.   The beautifully patterned leaves unfurl in September and carpet the soil from then until they wither in  June.  They can thrive in dry shady places making the most of winter rain and prefer open stony soil just like the rubble filled soil at the Phoenix.  

I have seen them growing wild in Umbria and it was clear why they are sometimes called Sowbread - it was obvious by the trail of crunched up tuber leftovers where the wildboar had been rooting in the night!

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