Today I sowed my home grown Clivia seed. I bought the plant last year at a Plant Heritage meeting, already in bud and about to bloom, and was pleased when after flowering it developed a cluster of seed pods. I don't have any other Clivia to act as pollinators, so that wasn't a given. Each individual pod swelled to about the size of a cherry tomato, in a bright, fetching shade of green. I have never grown Clivia from seed and didn't know what to expect, but looking on the web I discovered that they could take up to a year to ripen, and would be fit to pick once they felt soft.
How soft is soft? This is a question that has perplexed many a cook, faced with the not terribly yielding end of an avocado, pineapple or melon. The seed pods surprised me by turning red in due course, when I'd assumed they would go brown and papery when ripe. They still felt extremely solid even after changing colour, but in the past few days I've thought they were more squidgy to the touch. I debated whether to just take one or two pods and open them to see what was going on, then decided to stop pussy footing around and pick the stalk. The pods were soft. I think I bought the plant last March, so they'd had the best part of a year to ripen.
The red outer coat turned out to be quite leathery, and peeled away in discreet strips. Beneath that was a thin pulpy pinky-orange layer like the flesh of an over-ripe peach, and inside that several huge seeds neatly packed together, each inside a coating resembling thick orange pith. The universal advice on the web seemed to be that all these must be removed, and the seeds should then be washed. It took a jolly long time to peel off all the outer layers of gunk, and I imagined how it would feel to be a plant collector doing it in my tent out in the field, instead of sitting at the kitchen table with access to running water.
Some sites recommended washing the extracted seeds in a dilute fungicide solution, but as an amateur I don't have access to the same chemicals as commercial growers. That was one of the things that put me off the idea of bulb scaling as a method of bulking up my stock, the fact that a key stage was to wash to cut scales in fungicide. If one didn't have any fungicide then dilute washing up liquid seemed to be the favoured substitute for Clivia seeds, so I washed my seeds in several changes of Ecover solution, each of which managed to float off more lumps of pith from seeds I thought were already clean. I gave them a final rinse in the sieve and there they sat, like a handful of bald, pale gold hazel nut kernels.
One flower head had produced quite a lot of seeds, so I split my bets and put half in a tray of damp perlite in the airing cupboard, and the rest half buried in compost in the heated propagator. The idea with the airing cupboard lot is that if or when they sprout I'll be able to see it, and can pot the growing ones. The website I got the suggestion from actually specified vermuculite, but I didn't have any, and the perlite bag said that it had a great ability to hold both air and moisture and was good for cuttings, so I dare say it will do. Air and moisture are what I want.
If anything is going to happen I think it should do so within the next few weeks. Of course, if the seeds do germinate it will then take them three or four years to grow to flowering sized plants, and then I might or might not find out that they are all orange like their parent. As the greenhouse was full to overflowing this winter I'm not even sure where I could put a whole batch of baby Clivia. But I'll worry about that if anything actually emerges.