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Small wonders: cyclamen now come in more sizes and flower colors.

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.

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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[degrees], 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.

RELATED ARTICLE: NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CHECKLIST

What to do in your garden in January

PLANTING

* Disease-resistant roses. Sunset climate zones 15, 16: Try these easy-care hybrid teas, which Lucy Tolmach, director of horticulture at Filoli in Woodside, likes to plant: 'Double Delight' (white and red), 'Frederic Mistral' (pink), 'Just Joey' (buff orange), 'Marco Polo' (yellow), 'Mister Lincoln' (dark red), 'Peter Mayle' (reddish purple), 'Remember Me' (coral red), 'Royal Dane' (reddish orange), and 'Secret' (white and pink). Visit www.helpmefind.com/rose/index.html for a regional supplier of these roses.

* Strawberries. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Bare-root or container-grown strawberries are available at nurseries this month. Santa Clara County Master Gardeners recommend the following varieties, which will bear fruit for about three months: 'Aptos', 'Brighton', 'Fern', 'Hecker', and 'Quinalt'.

* Trees. These attractive trees are perfect for small gardens. Acacia: Bower wattle (Acacia cognata, also sold as A. subporosa) is a graceful, weeping tree; 20 to 30 feet tall; zones 16, 17. Dogwood: Evergreen dogwood (Cornus captitata) has creamy bracts of blooms followed by crimson fruit (keep it away from patios); 20 to 30 feet tall; zones 8, 9, 14-17. 'Summer Passion' evergreen dogwood (C. c. emeiensis, sold as C. omeiense 'Summer Passion') has new growth that is orange and red; 35 feet tall; zones 7-9, 14-17. C. 'Eddie's White Wonder's is a hybrid between C. florida and C. nuttallii with 3-inch-wide pure white flower bracts; 25 feet tall; zones 7-9, 14-17.

Maple: Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) has beautiful peeling bark; 25 feet tall; zones 2, 7-9, 14-17. Shantung maple (A. truncatum) has orange to maroon fall color; 25 feet tall; zones 1, 2, 7-9, 14-17.

* Vegetables. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Start seeds of cool-season vegetables such as spinach now for seedlings to plant outside in February. Many varieties add a striking dimension to flower beds; plant cabbage, chard, kale, and red and green lettuces with cool-season flowers such as Iceland poppies, pansies, and violas. For color that's sure to dazzle, try pink-, red-, white-, and yellow-stalked 'Rainbow' chard, or grow a tender and flavorful red butterhead lettuce, such as 'Merveille de Quatre Saison', 'Mignonette Bronze', or 'Sangria'. All are available from Ornamental Edibles (www.ornamentaledibles.com or 408/929-7333).

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MAINTENANCE

* Protect plants from frost. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Listen for weather forecasts. If cold weather is predicted, make sure plants are well watered (dry plants are more susceptible to frost damage). Move tender container plants (citrus, cymbidium, mandevilla, and hibiscus, for instance) beneath overhangs or into the garage. For frost-tender plants too large to move or growing in the ground, protect with burlap (don't let the cover touch the leaves) or a frost blanket (available from Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery, www.harmonyfarm.com or 707/823-9125). Remove covers first thing in the morning, after temperatures have risen.

Events

PLEASANT HILL, JAN 17.

Annual scion exchange and grafting demonstration of the Golden Gate Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. 12-3 (1 p.m. grafting demo); $2 donation. Multiuse room, 1700 Oak Park Blvd.; www.crfg.org/chapters/golden_gate/index.html or (510) 843-1657.

REDWOOD CITY, JAN 3-4.

Carnival of Orchids, the Peninsula Orchid Society's annual show, with seminars and sales of orchids and supplies. 10-5; $5. Community Activities Building, 1400 Roosevelt Ave.; www.penorchidsoc.org

WALNUT CREEK, JANUARY.

Monthly classes on all aspects of gardening, including garden design, flower arranging, and garden-related art and crafts, are offered by the Gardens at Heather Farm. Dates and prices vary. 1540 Marchbanks Dr.; www.gardenshf.org or (925) 947-1678.

Clipping

ROSE HALL OF FAME.

'Bonica', the first landscape (shrub) rose to be designated an All-America Rose Selections winner 17 years ago, has earned another award. This lovely rose, which pumps out clusters of double pink blooms all season long, has been inducted into the World Federation of Rose Societies Rose Hall of Fame. Hybridized by the House of Meilland (developer of the 'Peace' rose), 'Bonica' is widely available in nurseries and can be mail-ordered from Regan Nursery (www.regannursery.com or 510/797-3222).
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Northern California Guide
Author:Cohoon, Sharon
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U900
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:838
Previous Article:Instant color.
Next Article:Jump start: begin this year with tasty recipes, a tamed garden, a new pursuit--and a little pampering.
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