I finished early today, and once home changed my shoes and reached for the marigolds. Hands suitably protected from the nail crudding properties of compost, I hopped out into the garden and set to work. Orlaya grandiflora, or white lace flower has been sitting in my seed box patiently waiting to be sown since it arrived in my RHS members' seeds scheme delivery.
The seeds are large and prickly, rather like an oval, convex piece of Velcro. And because I am a mother whose children have been through primary school and come out the other end I could see in these seeds the familiar outline of the common head louse. Yes people, once our children start primary school the "Little Visitors" start making the rounds. And don't try and pretend your children never came home with nits, either. They're an unavoidable part of childhood, like chickenpox and sports days and night-before-requests for a complete shepherd's outfit for tomorrow's nativity.
We get two opportunities to sow Orlayas, in early autumn/ September for big fabulous plants the following summer (ht 45-60cm), or right now which will give slightly smaller plants this summer but which are nonetheless beautiful. Sarah Raven reckons these beauties take 12 weeks from sowing to flowering if planted now, so let's get cracking... I'd give you Helen Yemm's opinion but I've lent her book to my new favourite clients.
We need to sow these seeds onto the surface of firmed damp compost then cover with a dusting of vermiculite to anchor the seeds whilst letting in as much germination-inducing light as necessary. Seal the seed tray inside a plastic bag and drop somewhere with a steadyish temperature of between 15-20C, keeping the compost moist but not waterlogged. Germination usually takes about 3-4 weeks. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into the usual 3" pots and plant out in early summer about 12" apart. Once the flowers start producing seeds in autumn, collect and sow immediately, overwintering in a cold frame, for next year's crop.
Crocus describes the flowers thus,
"Lovely, pure white flowers form in big, flat-topped clusters, which resemble lace-cap hydrangeas. They appear throughout the summer above the fine, fern-like foliage. This gorgeous hardy annual has an extremely long flowering period and will often flower until the first frosts. Particularly good in wilder gardens."