Trevor Nottle talks about Cyclamen

At this time of year many bulb lovers will be enjoying the Neapolitan cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium, or the ivy-leaved cyclamen. They are very easy to grow in our climate and will, given time and a no-dig garden policy, increase pleasingly in spots where light is dappled and the soil is cool. The plants are triggered into growth and flowering by the first rains of the wet season, though it is not unusual for some of the plants to be in flower as early as Christmas. In Nature these cyclamen are native to southern Italy and eastward into the islands of the Mediterranean as far as the Levant - Jordan and Israel where isolated populations have been found, for instance on Mt Hebron. Across their range in the wild the species is fairly uniform and easily recognised. While specialist collectors and nurseries have selected and increased some forms with interesting leaves and leaf patterns these are found few and far between and it has been the hands of collectors that have isolated and reproduced, and made these available. There are two other species which are related to Cyclamen hederifolium. The longest in cultivation is Cyclamen africanum which hails from parts of Algeria and Morocco, in the cool upland parts of those countries. It is very similar in flower to Cyclamen hederifolium but the leaves are generally much larger and more succulent though with fewer and more subtle variations in the leaf patterns. The other species is Cyclamen confusum  which has been found in several separate locations on Crete. The leaves are very distinctive: glossy and characteristically patterned so it is hard not to recognise it (see illustration).

Having been in cultivation for well over a century many variations of interest to gardeners have appeared and been introduced from Cyclamen hederifolium - forms with all silver leaves, forms with a variety of silver markings, forms with different leaf shapes - arrowhead and shield for instance. And forms which have noteworthy colour variations from the usual pink - pure white, white with red auricles (the 5 little projections at the mouth of each flower) and different shades of pink, usually darker as in Cyclamen x 'Rosenteppich'.

it is easy to establish colonies of these cyclamen in the garden with a little attention to giving them conditions they prefer: dappled light and no disturbance. Varieties with distinctive markings should be kept separated in order to retain the special differences; otherwise cross pollination will see them become absorbed into a more general population. As denizens of light woodland wild cyclamen are accustomed to inhabiting root filled, lean soils with leaf mould and grit and not much nutrition and that is my preferred method of growing them. Other enthusiasts like growing single plants in pots so they can be exhibited.
Either preference is simply a matter of personal choice. I do apply a very light sprinkling of Ian Powell's Mediterranean blend of prilled fertiliser. As I do not want to get lush growth, or abundant foliage I tend to think the feeding is useful but within the mean diet the tubers get in the wild.

Cyclamen hederifolium and its affiliated species have few pests in the wild. Browsing goats and sheep seem to be the main causes of damage but as we have none of those our problems are reduced to kangaroos and koalas passing through from which we have noted no problems. Possums do not appear to eat them either. Slugs and snails can cause some bother and need to be dealt with according to your gardening practices. Pot grown plants can be come infested with mealy bugs and sub-terranean aphids which can seriously effect growth so they need to be brought under control as soon as they appear. Many times these small insects are introduced by ants which harvest them for 'honey dew' secretions, so effective management begins, and often ends, with ant control. 

As cyclamen seeds are covered with a sticky wax-like substance ants are attracted to them and frequently carry them off. Subsequently cyclamen seedlings may appear, as if by magic, where they have been dropped or stored by ants. Most often baby seedlings with one small leaf will be found growing in gravel, leaf litter and paving cracks. If they are wanted elsewhere the plantlets are best moved when young.

There are theories and mystical practices about raising cyclamen from seed. I do not propose to expound on them here. Suffice it to say both methods work and can be found on the Cyclamen Society's website. Google it for in-depth information. Seeds of cyclamen species are sometimes available from alpine and rock garden clubs, or from the Cyclamen Society and Marcus ten Hoope

A few words about Nerines

I couldn't claim to be expert at growing nerines if 'expert' implies being able to get them to flower every year but I do enjoy seeing their stunning colours in the garden that I have been buying bulbs for at least 20 years. They take a few years to settle down before they begin to do anything - multiply or flower. This slowness is perhaps the reason why named varieties appear one year and are then gone again for many more from bulb lists and catalogues. It probably also explains why the bulbs are considered expensive in comparison with other bulbs. The species all come from South Africa on both the Winter wet SW coast and the Summer wet East coast. Their inter-breeding may have produced a wonderful array of colours but it has probably also produced a very confused family of hybrids that flower indeterminately. Breeders working mostly in the UK, southern France, the Netherlands and Switzerland control bulb growth by with-holding water for a long period and then applying one, deep drenching soak. This seems to trigger the formation of flower buds leading eventually to flowering. These growers, reliant on greenhouses for year round cultivation appear to have mastered the knack of getting Nerines to flower reliably. Thus they have become important as a cut flower crop and been subject to much research. In Australia and New Zealand early breeders included Alister Clark, Sir Heaton Rhodes, followed a little later by Eric Genat, who grew their bulbs in open beds. The bulbs were very slow to show first flowers and took much longer to be evaluated, named and bulked up to commercial quantities for release, first to cut-flower growers and then to home gardeners. For these reasons Nerines are still considered fairly expensive by home gardeners standards, and named varieties come on to the market and go off again in a very slow moving cycle of supply.

I have managed to convince myself that by reason of their scarcity it is hardly worth citing the names of the four hybrids shown here for they will be hard to track down, and hard to buy. A better course of action would be to buy whatever is available according to the colours for sale that you like and not to be much concerned with whatever the names may be. Across the 1500 or so registered named varieties all will show a consistent colour range from pristine whites to palest pinks and deeper roses right down to the scarlet and blood reds, and those which show shades of grey, lavender and purple.

Trevor Nottle talks about Cyclamen

At this time of year many bulb lovers will be enjoying the Neapolitan cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium, or the ivy-leaved cyclamen. They are very easy to grow in our climate and will, given time and a no-dig garden policy, increase pleasingly in spots where light is dappled and the soil is cool. The plants are triggered into growth and flowering by the first rains of the wet season, though it is not unusual for some of the plants to be in flower as early as Christmas. In Nature these cyclamen are native to southern Italy and eastward into the islands of the Mediterranean as far as the Levant - Jordan and Israel where isolated populations have been found, for instance on Mt Hebron. Across their range in the wild the species is fairly uniform and easily recognised. While specialist collectors and nurseries have selected and increased some forms with interesting leaves and leaf patterns these are found few and far between and it has been the hands of collectors that have isolated and reproduced, and made these available. There are two other species which are related to Cyclamen hederifolium. The longest in cultivation is Cyclamen africanum which hails from parts of Algeria and Morocco, in the cool upland parts of those countries. It is very similar in flower to Cyclamen hederifolium but the leaves are generally much larger and more succulent though with fewer and more subtle variations in the leaf patterns. The other species is Cyclamen confusum  which has been found in several separate locations on Crete. The leaves are very distinctive: glossy and characteristically patterned so it is hard not to recognise it (see illustration).

Having been in cultivation for well over a century many variations of interest to gardeners have appeared and been introduced from Cyclamen hederifolium - forms with all silver leaves, forms with a variety of silver markings, forms with different leaf shapes - arrowhead and shield for instance. And forms which have noteworthy colour variations from the usual pink - pure white, white with red auricles (the 5 little projections at the mouth of each flower) and different shades of pink, usually darker as in Cyclamen x 'Rosenteppich'.

it is easy to establish colonies of these cyclamen in the garden with a little attention to giving them conditions they prefer: dappled light and no disturbance. Varieties with distinctive markings should be kept separated in order to retain the special differences; otherwise cross pollination will see them become absorbed into a more general population. As denizens of light woodland wild cyclamen are accustomed to inhabiting root filled, lean soils with leaf mould and grit and not much nutrition and that is my preferred method of growing them. Other enthusiasts like growing single plants in pots so they can be exhibited.
Either preference is simply a matter of personal choice. I do apply a very light sprinkling of Ian Powell's Mediterranean blend of prilled fertiliser. As I do not want to get lush growth, or abundant foliage I tend to think the feeding is useful but within the mean diet the tubers get in the wild.

Cyclamen hederifolium and its affiliated species have few pests in the wild. Browsing goats and sheep seem to be the main causes of damage but as we have none of those our problems are reduced to kangaroos and koalas passing through from which we have noted no problems. Possums do not appear to eat them either. Slugs and snails can cause some bother and need to be dealt with according to your gardening practices. Pot grown plants can be come infested with mealy bugs and sub-terranean aphids which can seriously effect growth so they need to be brought under control as soon as they appear. Many times these small insects are introduced by ants which harvest them for 'honey dew' secretions, so effective management begins, and often ends, with ant control. 

As cyclamen seeds are covered with a sticky wax-like substance ants are attracted to them and frequently carry them off. Subsequently cyclamen seedlings may appear, as if by magic, where they have been dropped or stored by ants. Most often baby seedlings with one small leaf will be found growing in gravel, leaf litter and paving cracks. If they are wanted elsewhere the plantlets are best moved when young.

There are theories and mystical practices about raising cyclamen from seed. I do not propose to expound on them here. Suffice it to say both methods work and can be found on the Cyclamen Society's website. Google it for in-depth information. Seeds of cyclamen species are sometimes available from alpine and rock garden clubs, or from the Cyclamen Society and Marcus ten Hoope

A few words about Nerines

I couldn't claim to be expert at growing nerines if 'expert' implies being able to get them to flower every year but I do enjoy seeing their stunning colours in the garden that I have been buying bulbs for at least 20 years. They take a few years to settle down before they begin to do anything - multiply or flower. This slowness is perhaps the reason why named varieties appear one year and are then gone again for many more from bulb lists and catalogues. It probably also explains why the bulbs are considered expensive in comparison with other bulbs. The species all come from South Africa on both the Winter wet SW coast and the Summer wet East coast. Their inter-breeding may have produced a wonderful array of colours but it has probably also produced a very confused family of hybrids that flower indeterminately. Breeders working mostly in the UK, southern France, the Netherlands and Switzerland control bulb growth by with-holding water for a long period and then applying one, deep drenching soak. This seems to trigger the formation of flower buds leading eventually to flowering. These growers, reliant on greenhouses for year round cultivation appear to have mastered the knack of getting Nerines to flower reliably. Thus they have become important as a cut flower crop and been subject to much research. In Australia and New Zealand early breeders included Alister Clark, Sir Heaton Rhodes, followed a little later by Eric Genat, who grew their bulbs in open beds. The bulbs were very slow to show first flowers and took much longer to be evaluated, named and bulked up to commercial quantities for release, first to cut-flower growers and then to home gardeners. For these reasons Nerines are still considered fairly expensive by home gardeners standards, and named varieties come on to the market and go off again in a very slow moving cycle of supply.

I have managed to convince myself that by reason of their scarcity it is hardly worth citing the names of the four hybrids shown here for they will be hard to track down, and hard to buy. A better course of action would be to buy whatever is available according to the colours for sale that you like and not to be much concerned with whatever the names may be. Across the 1500 or so registered named varieties all will show a consistent colour range from pristine whites to palest pinks and deeper roses right down to the scarlet and blood reds, and those which show shades of grey, lavender and purple.