Sunday, June 15, 2008


I guess this is what most people think of when they think of poppies - crepe paper orange flowers on tall stems. If that's all you know, get ready for a surprise. Though far from complete, I've put together a show of some of the different sorts we have growing in the garden. The oriental poppies have mostly finished their bloom for this year and are quickly going dormant. This is one of their drawbacks in the perennial border in that they leave an empty place where just last week there were flowers. They will return in late summer or early fall and be evergreen all winter (at least here in our mostly zone 6 garden) unless they're eaten by rabbits or deer who seem to be their biggest enemies. They don't seem to bother flowers or buds, but in the winter when there isn't always all that much else to eat, the green leaves, even though really unappetizing to me with their fuzz, seem to be a taste treat for the critters. If you're thinking of transplanting poppies, the best and only time when you're likely to have success is when they reappear after their dormancy. If you can find potted ones in the spring to plant, these seem to work fine too.

This is Papaver 'Carouse', one of the few multicolored ones.

Though not an oriental poppy, 'Double Tangerine Gem' bloom at about the same time. It is a smaller flower on a very delicate looking stem that allows it to wave in the breeze. If you want to pick poppies for an arrangement, they need some special treatment to keep them from wilting almost immediately. As soon as you pick them, right there in the garden, you need to cauterize the end of the stem with a match or a lighter. Poppies have a sap that will flow right out of the stem and cause them to wilt. You need to seal the stem to keep them. If you do this you can enjoy them for many days in the house.

This is a pretty recent addition, 'Helen Elizabeth' which is actually a bit more pink than the picture shows. Although I don't know who it was named for, it always makes me think of my great aunt of the same name.

A lover of all things purple, I just had to have 'Patty's Plum'. It seems to be a more difficult one to grow, though all poppies are to some extent difficult, and I bought this one at least 3 times before it was happy here. It is now a very large clump with many blooms.

This is 'Watermelon Baby', which is I would suppose a child of Papaver 'Watermelon', a much larger version in the same color which in person is a very dark, ripe, watermelon pink.

This is not an oriental poppy, but rather Papaver somniferum. It is an annual, rather than a perennial, but it self seeds easily and so you'll have more of these than you want. They don't transplant easily, though it is possible to do so when they're small, but after bloom when the seed pods dry, you will have all the replacement you could possible want. Just shake the seeds out as soon as they're ripe and they'll be up next spring. The foliage is even different on these, a light green with leaves all the way up the stems and a very soft texture. These are sprinkled through out our gardens in the sunnier places which they seem to love, even in the gravel scree where our hardy cactus live. So next, I think we'll do cactus pictures.

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