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BEST OF THE BUNCH: Brighten up autumn with with cyclamen

Autumn cyclamen

AUTUMN-flowering cyclamen, C. hederifolium, emerge in autumn, their delicate hanging buds opening to reveal fragile-looking flowers in shades of white, pink, cerise and magenta. The first blooms appear before the ivy-like leaves. They prefer a slightly shaded spot and thrive best when there is plenty of moisture from autumn through to spring without the ground becoming waterlogged. C. coum, which forms a carpet of kidney-shaped, silvered leaves, decorated with nodding flowers, are perfect for lighting up areas of moist shade next to paths, or planting between trees and shrubs where they will tolerate dry soil. They make wonderful partners for heucheras and hellebores. Florists' cyclamen, C. persicum, are large flowered and sold as winter bedding or house plants. Don't overfeed or overwater them or they will flop and, if you're keeping them in the house, make sure they are in a cool, well-ventilated spot.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK

:: Prune tall hybrid tea roses slightly to remove old flower stems and old wood.

:: Place forcing jars over rhubarb clumps to encourage early stems for harvesting.

:: Continue winter digging if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.

:: Plant bare-rooted shrubs and roses in prepared soil.

:: Lift and store swede and turnip for winter use.

:: Keep your bird feeders well stocked and put out fresh water each day.

:: Scrub out old flower pots and seed trays and store them in the shed for future use.

:: Send off your orders for potatoes, onion sets and shallots, if you haven't already done so.

:: Check that climbers and wall shrubs are secured to their supports to stop them being damaged by winter winds.

:: Firm the soil down around newly planted stock to prevent it being lifted by frost.

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