I have always loved cyclamen. When we first came here nearly nine years ago I longed to establish cyclamen, both autumn flowering cyclamen hederifolium and February flowering cyclamen coum. I must have bought ten plants of each variety and most of those have simply disappeared. I longed for them to naturalise and to fill the dry shade under the tree in the side garden but it seemed that only one or two hung on. Then suddenly this autumn I saw the slender flowers gathering quietly under the tree, certainly twice the size of last year's patch. Now the flowers are going over and the equally beautiful marbled leaves are patterning the dry soil. I love them. They can double and treble and multiply to their hearts' content and I hope they will. This is an image from the RHS which perfectly captures the delicacy of the flowers.
I have written before about Plant me Now, an online plant sales business, and I have always been impressed with their plants. When they asked me if I would like to review some for winter containers I thought at once of cyclamen, not the hardy ones I have out in the garden but the slightly tender perennials which are often used in containers, cyclamen persicum. They really earn their keep in containers as they flower for a long time and they share with all cyclamen varieties the beautiful foliage which is lovely in its own right.
These are the cyclamen as they will be in full flower. The difference between the species and these hybrids is like the difference between a bare faced girl and one in full make up. These are brighter and almost blowsy by comparison in these photographs but in containers they shine throughout the winter, even in snow, and are one of the most cheering sights you could see.
As always the plants arrive carefully packaged and in good health. Plant me now plants are well grown, not artificially rushed into growth. They are not the kind which are great when you get them and then slowly decline, but sturdy and strong.
This is what you see when you open up the packaging, five sturdy little plants ready for potting on. I haven't planted the containers up yet because I want to layer up tulip bulbs below the cyclamen and I haven't even made my tulip order yet. It will do the cyclamen no harm to stay in their larger pots for a few more weeks until I am ready to put the tulips in. Anyway, we have had such a glorious September that the geraniums in the large terracotta pots are still flowering fit to burst. I always have trouble deciding when to take them out, cut them back and put them in the greenhouse. Some years I have just missed the moment and the frosts have got them but this year I think taking out the geraniums towards the end of October will slot nicely in with the tulip planting.
I also have some violas from Plant me now which will do another container for the front of the holiday cottage, underplanted with yet more tulips. These are Viola Blue Blotch. These little plants will eventually look like this:
I love the intensity of the colour. These plants have doubled in size since I potted them on. I am interested to see on the Plant me Now website that reviews are accumulating and that they overwhelmingly endorse my own experience of the quality of the plants and of the service. This is just my own opinion, not an advert by the way. I was provided with the plants to review but I only ever do reviews that allow me to say exactly what I think!
The other thing which is on my mind and in my kitchen by the bucketload is tomatoes!
We may have lost hold of the outside garden this year but the greenhouse is overflowing with tomatoes and cucumbers. The yellow tomatoes are Golden Sunrise. They look as if they might not be quite ripe but they surprise with the intensity and sweetness of their flavour. The little ones are the old favourite, Gardener's Delight. They are like sweets, bursting with flavour in your mouth, almost fizzing like a sherbet dip. They are fabulous just eaten as they are but we have had so many tomatoes I have been making a tomato sauce for pasta to go into the freezer. This is really easy and deeply flavoursome.
Take a kilo of tomatoes and skin them. I used to try to persuade myself that it didn't matter whether tomatoes are skinned or not and in many recipes it doesn't but in this one it really does. Skinning tomatoes is extremely easy. Cut a little cross in the base of the tomato with a sharp knife, put them all in a heat proof bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave them for about ten minutes and then take each one out on a slotted spoon and remove the skin with your fingers.
Chop the skinned tomatoes, season them with salt and pepper and cook them gently in a little olive oil.
Add about a tablespoon of tomato puree, a tablespoon or so of soft brown sugar, a handful of chopped oregano and a glass of red wine. Simmer it gently until it is thick and glossy. When the sauce is cool, freeze it in blocks (we use old ice cream boxes). It makes a perfect base for a tomatoey pasta dish. When you defrost it, chop and gently fry a couple of cloves of garlic and add it to the sauce. If you put the garlic in at the beginning and freeze the sauce with the garlic in it, the garlic seems to go musty.
What an abundance of colour and taste there seems to be just now.