Poppies fascinate me. Their colorful blooms blowing in the wind remind me of stretched-out cupcake papers. Orange ones make me think of The Wizard of Oz, one of my favorite childhood movies. They grow en masse along the ditch bank at the end of our road in early summer.
Oh, if I could only grow them in my garden.
Even back when I wasn't really a gardener, I tried to grow some here. Romie and I dug some from the ditch bank and transplanted them into our garden. That was unsuccessful, as were more recent attempts of digging them. I've bought them from a garden center and planted them in what I thought were ideal conditions.
All of them died.
But we gardeners are a persistent lot and we love a challenge. So, did I give up? Of course not! I responded to the poppy challenge by planting Meconopsis betonicifolia - the elusive and much-coveted Himalayan Blue Poppy. If you're going to fail, fail big, I say.
It should come as no surprise that I couldn't grow blue poppies either. But you just never know. Sometimes what is hard for one is easy for others and vice versa. Blue poppies are difficult for just about everyone, it seems, so I'm in good company with this one. But surely there was a poppy I could grow, wasn't there?
YES! The annual Shirley Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are a breeze to grow from seed and not only that, they self-seed readily. They aren't as large as the Papaver orientale, but are charming in that papery poppy way.
But I wanted perennial poppies.
So when I found some at a great price at Petitti's in May, I couldn't resist trying again. I bought four pots of 'Carnaeum.' I asked one of the employees what the secret was to growing poppies successfully. "Full sun and good drainage," he said.
Before we got home from that Cleveland trip, I asked the head gardener at Schedel Arboretum & Gardens what advice she could give me to better my chances of growing poppies successfully. "Full sun and good drainage," she said.
Mom came up with a great idea. She suggested I mix orchid medium in with our heavy clay soil to help with the drainage. I did just that when planting my newly purchased poppies (in full sun) and I made sure they were elevated a bit to further aid with drainage. A couple of months later, since the 'Carnaeum' still had some green leaves, I purchased a 'Harlem' Oriental Poppy at Garden Crossings and planted it the same way.
Now it's October and you know what? All the poppies are alive and well. I know, because they are still green, in spite of the fact that poppies are supposed to go dormant after blooming. None of these ever have. I'm hoping this is a good thing and that it bodes well for this attempt at growing Papaver orientale.
I'll mulch well and see what next spring brings!