Orange is the new black

The chances are that the Clivia that hooked you and turned you into an obsessive enthusiast was orange. I know my one was. I didn’t even know there were other colours. I just saw this orange Clivia miniata flowering and thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was determined to own one. I went onto ebay and bought an orange Clivia and was a bit shocked when it turned up in the mail. The seller had cut off all the roots and all the leaves. It looked like a stick of celery. Obviously the seller did not know anything about Clivia and thought it was like an Iris where it is ok to cut off all extremities. I planted the poor thing and it still managed to flower a month later. The flower embryo would have developed prior to the butchery the plant endured.

As I gradually become aware that there were other colours, I just had to have one of each. I went crazy on ebay and bought as many different types and colours as I could, and I am sure other enthusiasts can relate to this.

My favourite colour kept changing from yellow to peach to ghost to appleblossom to bi-colour to green and so on.

It wasn’t until many years later and a few thousand Clivia plants in the shadehouse later that I stopped and thought seriously about what I really like. At the end of the day, all these other colours are rare, attractive and desirable without doubt, but I realised that it is the shape and form of a flower that makes it beautiful and not necessarily the colour.

When you walk around a Clivia show or Expo, the plants that attract you are the ones with large soccer ball heads of flowers, huge flowers and often with recurved petals. Of course everyone has their own preferences regarding the shape of the flowers.

There is nothing more beautiful than a huge plant with a strong, tall peduncle of flowers on a soccer ball head. I have always joked that my ideal flower is one where I could pull off a flower, turn it upside down and put it on my head like a hat. Somehow it seems that most of these vigorous and lovely plants are orange. That should be no surprise, orange is a dominant colour in Clivia.

A garden full of vivid orange Clivia flowering is a beautiful sight. Orange and yellow planted together is lovely with the contrast yet a garden full of just yellows can actually look a bit insipid.

I have a number of beautiful large orange plants in my collection that I find really breathtaking when they flower.

Seed lists

Every year the seed lists seem to come out earlier and earlier. It is almost like a competition to see who can get their list out the fastest. Why does this occur?

When the seed lists come out, we all get a bit excited and order copious amounts of seeds. Then another comes out and we are still excited and order. Gradually by the time the seed is actually ready to harvest, we are all ordered out and have spent too much money so don’t order anymore. The late seed lists miss out. The earlier seed list is the best marketing ploy and attract those in a seed-drought and are ready to order and spend money.

There is nothing wrong with having an early seed list, but potential buyers should be aware that it is easy to fall in love with the beautiful photos of parent plants and the excitement of ordering seed, particularly international seed. Often the description offered by the seller is less than adequate and the two lovely photos we fell in love with may result in a quite ordinary flower five years later. If the expected outcome is not stated, it can’t hurt to ask the seller what they expect from the cross. You may also have to wait for up to 6 months from when you paid for your order for the seeds to arrive.

A few tips with reading seed lists and ordering seeds

  • – Early seed lists are generally pre-ordering where the order happens from January and the seeds will not be harvested until June/July (for Australia and South Africa). This is quite common and has its advantages for the seller and buyer. Usually payment is required in advance though some just ask for a deposit.
  • – If ordering from overseas, be aware that Australia has certain requirements. If I am ordering from a smaller grower I will let the grower know our requirements just in case they are not aware or have forgotten. Clivia seeds are allowed into Australia by post but must have ‘CLEANED CLIVIA MINIATA SEEDS’ clearly written on the outside of the package, as well as on each individual package of seeds. I have had seeds confiscated by Customs where each individual seed packet had the cross listed but not ‘CLEANED CLIVIA MINIATA SEEDS’. As it may take a few weeks in the mail, it is preferable to have a small piece of absorbent paper in the seed packets. Some countries dip the seeds in Sulphur Powder to help protect them.
  • – Also keep note of the exchange rate if ordering from overseas. At the moment (February 2015) the Australian dollar is only worth 0.77 cents to the US dollar. So if you buy a seed from the US for $8. It actually costs $10.30 in Australian dollars plus postage.
  • – Not all seed will germinate for whatever reason, so when ordering, assume that some may not sprout and order enough for this possibility. Some sellers are generous and add a few extra seeds should this happen, but many don’t.
  • – If it is an international seed list, check the postage. Most sellers offer reasonable postage rates to send overseas but I have come across a few that offer outrageous postal costs as they include administration costs and handling fees. This can make the seeds end up very expensive.
  • – Check the quantity and crosses of seed when they arrive. I have had parcels arrive that have all the wrong seeds (someone else’s order), half the order missing (where I had to pay postage for a second time from overseas) and seed arrive that is brown and mouldy.
  • – Be aware that mistakes can happen. Even the most careful of growers may find that a stray bee has pollinated a flower before they had the chance to. I have many seedlings that on the breeding should have had non-pigmented bases and yet they are pigmented and will most likely flower orange. There is always a risk when buying seed.

Buying seeds in a risky business but also an exciting time. They could potentially grow into a beautiful flower and although many plants will flower ordinary, there is the possibility of some outstanding outcomes.