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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #273

Genus Cyclamen in Science, Cultivation, Art and Culture by Brian Mathew, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2016-07-01

The Genus Cyclamen cover

I have become smitten with Cyclamen. Both C. hederifolium and C. coum have been spreading throughout my sun-dappled and shady garden, providing both brilliant color when most needed and an endlessly fascinating pattern of leaves throughout much of the year. There is a lovely spread of C. coum in the Winter Garden and, as many Arboretum fans may remember, they were also a favorite of long time director Brian Mulligan.

There have been several good growing guides about this genus published over the last 30 years, but none are as monumental as “Genus Cyclamen in Science, Cultivation, Art and Culture” – the title only begins to captures the wide scope of this book. Edited by Brian Mathew, who is well-known for his many books on various bulbs, he does a skillful job of linking together the writing and illustrating skills of over 30 individuals.

Like all good monographs, this is first a superb botanical guide to the many species with highly effective photographs showing habitat and various naturally occurring forms. This is followed by an extensive guide to cultural requirements, both in the garden and the greenhouse, with reports from around the world by major growers and exhibitors.

“Art and Culture” is where this book breaks new ground. The earliest illustration of a cyclamen dates to the 6th century and it has been a popular subject of herbals and botanical books ever since. These images are here in excellent reproductions. This account also provides a surprisingly detailed history of botanical illustration and printing practices in western cultures.

In more modern times, cyclamen can be found decorating many media from pottery to jewelry to decorative cards. Here I discovered that Eugene Kozloff, local author of several books on Pacific Northwest native plants and marine life, is also passionate about cyclamen, and has an extensive collection of cyclamen postage stamps.

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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