Small wonders

Cyclamen now come in more sizes and flower colors
Sharon Cohoon

Walk into a nursery and head for the florists' cyclamen this month ― for a moment, you might feel like Alice in Wonderland. Is it your imagination, or have your favorite winter pick-me-ups shrunk? The traditional, large-flowered Cyclamen persicum are still there. But now these standard-size cyclamen share space with smaller hybrids that growers call intermediates and minis.

If you want an impressive potted plant for an indoor table, it's hard to top a standard for sheer flash. But outdoors, smaller cyclamen are better; they don't splay during heavy rain, and they're less prone to rot. Many intermediates and virtually all minis have scented blooms, while few standards do.

In Northern California's lower elevations near the coast, where it rarely gets below 29°, consider treating cyclamen as true perennials and letting them naturalize. They look particularly good in woodland settings or rock gardens, like the one pictured above.

All sizes come in a wide range of colors, including lilac, magenta, pink, purple, rose, salmon, scarlet, violet, white, and wine.