I had the pleasure of visiting Harrogate Christmas & Gift Fair on Sunday 12th January along with my wife Kay and business partner Simon Whitehead.
As Winter draws in there are less hours of daylight to work outside, and indoor pot plants assume a greater significance than during those hot heady days of high summer.
Back in July and August my evergreen pot plants were booted outside onto the patio so they could enjoy the summer sunshine and be washed and watered by the warm rains. Now, of course, they have all moved back in with me. Each one is a striking specimen that lends form and contrast to square rooms with geometric angles. Yet there is still something lacking.
And that is colour! The purples, pinks, reds and whites that surrounded us in our summer garden have now become so many shades of brown and green, saturated in a sea of mud and rotting leaves. Not too much joy there.
So the flowering indoor plants have the stage virtually to themselves. And of all the flowering plants available now for Christmas, Cyclamen Persicum is surely the unsung star.
It is a compact plant that is inexpensive to buy and will flower freely until well into the New Year.
Mother Nature normally designs flowers that are uniform in shape, but one of the greatest virtues of the Cyclamen is its seemingly irregular flower. It is thrown from the top of a long slender stem like a flag billowing on a mast in a blustery wind.
The flowers are richly coloured, bold and proud, waving over a sea of silver, green and grey foliage.
The leaves huddle together into a tight mound, acting as the perfect landscape on which to plant those showy blooms.
Looking after an indoor Cyclamen is easy. In fact it is too easy. When they leave the shops and garden centres they should be compact and well budded, but often only 2-3 weeks after buying them the leaves have turned yellow and become limp. The flowers have wilted and may be even starting to rot. Killing them with kindness by giving too much water around the crown, and keeping them in conditions that are too warm is normally the reason. Sitting on top of the television in a centrally heated lounge is only one step away from the bin!
Place them in a well lit position, in a cool part of the house, and water them from the base regularly.
Feed sparingly and pinch out any overblown flowers. After the flowering period turn the pot onto its side and allow the corm to dry. It is as easy as that.
With the minimum of fuss you can have red, pink, purple or white flowers that will shine as bright as any fancy Christmas light.
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