PLANT OF THE WEEK #83: Orlaya grandiflora


I keep in mind nicely receiving a packet of Orlaya grandiflora seeds from that fabulous gardener from the NSW Southern Highlands, Col Blanch, about 20 years in the past.  I used to be between homes, or some such factor, and it wasn’t sown till it was now not viable.  I didn’t have a clue what Orlaya was, however he talked it up, and that was sufficient to make me need to develop it. Solely a really tiny a part of me (although sufficiently shame-inducing to make me eager to admit) was left questioning ‘if it’s that good, how come I haven’t heard of it earlier than?’

Over the subsequent 15 years I used to be often reminded of the missed alternative, so when a buddy grew it, and supplied me seed, I jumped at it.  I most likely ought to depend what number of occasions I’ve mentioned this in different Crops of the Week, however I don’t now know what I’d do with out it.

It was launched to the backyard by cautious sowing into cells in autumn, and transferring to the backyard in spring.  However ever since then it has maintained itself by way of self-sowing, reaching its peak of bloom about now – late November and December.  It’s an annual umbellifer, wanting a bit like a Queen Anne’s Lace, however a lot, a lot shorter, reaching about 60cm the place the soil is garbage (or it has sown into pure gravel), and as much as 80 cm in very favoured spots.  It’s additionally a lot showier, because the flowers themselves have substantial asymmetrical ‘petals’ of an awfully pure white.  Certainly, they is likely to be in peril of being too white, if not for the truth that the white is shattered or scattered so that you simply see inexperienced by way of them.  And the asymmetry of every flower, organized as it’s in an extremely organised, radial kind inside every umbel, with the biggest flag-like ‘petals’ across the outdoors edge, supplies a extra convincing sense of lace than the higher recognized true Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus).

What’s extra, the foliage is as wonderful and see-through as dill, so crops in flower can hover over later flowering annuals or perennials with out shading them out.  That’s an ideal benefit in an early-flowering annual.  And so long as they’re simply dotted about, as is normally the case with stuff that’s self-sown, they don’t go away a noticeable hole when it’s time to tug them out. 

The seeds of Orlaya are curiously massive, and lined in spiny hairs that go away me questioning whether or not to put on gloves whereas I deal with them – that being the one factor of aggression of their in any other case mild, benign make-up.

Within the UK, any annual that may be sown in autumn for spring flowering is named a hardy annual (as hardiness there, and in almost all Northern hemisphere literature, refers solely to frost hardiness), and lots of of those are grown over that interval just because they are often, not as a result of they must be.  Some, such because the aforementioned Ammi majus, many poppies, candy peas and our Orlaya are simply as joyful to be sown in spring from mid-late summer season flowering (although I ought to add that candy peas can turn out to be prone to a fungus when temperatures get excessive, which isn’t the identical of a desire for cool temperatures). 

The impact of Orlaya proper now (December) is of a spangling of white amongst the floral rough-and-tumble of my early summer season backyard.  They add a lot, with out taking something away, or creating any sort of administration problem.  How I want there have been extra crops about which that could possibly be mentioned!