Friday, January 7, 2011

Thinking of Poppies...

From the time I first began visiting gardens, both public and private, I've always been fascinated by the pretty papery petals of poppies. Whether they be the perennial oriental poppies (fabulous!) and Icelandic poppies (adorable!) or the annual Shirley poppies (wonderful!) and breadseed poppies (fantastic!), I love them all.

But those darn poppies can be temperamental boogers. Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) dislike being transplanted. The first few times I bought them from a garden center, they didn't survive long enough to even bloom. And the Icelandic poppies (Papaver nudicaule) I bought in bloom didn't return after their first winter in my garden. (I don't even want to discuss my bad luck with Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia).

So I gave up on those and sowed seeds for Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas). Everyone told me that growing these was a breeze. And so it was! I had success the very first summer.

Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas)

They weren't as large and dramatic as the orientals, but they gave  me enough poppy pleasure that I've grown them every summer since. I don't even have to sow seeds for them if I don't want to; they self seed prolifically.

Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale 'Cerneum')

And then I got brave again. Brave enough to want to invest a few dollars to try the oriental poppies one more time. I bought them on a day when I visited a couple of garden centers and a public garden where I saw them in bloom. I asked everyone that I thought could give me advice about them what I should do to give them the best chance of success in my garden.

Two words: excellent drainage.

I heeded that advice and I mixed commercial orchid mix into my garden soil (Mom's suggestion) and planted the poppies in a small hill, much like I do when planting melons. It worked! Those poppies are spending their second winter here right now and though we've had frigidly cold temperatures, they still show green on their foliage.

Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale 'Queen Alexandra')

The other poppies - those beautiful breadseed ones (Papaver somniferum)- I grew from seed. The first year, I didn't sow the seeds early enough, despite the seed packet telling me to sow them as soon as I could work the soil. I got a meager showing of them that year - not many plants and what came up and bloomed were very small. Last year, I sowed the seeds in March. What a difference that made! More and bigger plants!

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

The thing about poppy seeds is that you can sow them as early as late fall.  You can sow them in January on top of the snow. (The snow melts and deposits the seeds on top of the bare soil.) Poppy seeds are one of those that benefit from a type of stratification, that of the loosening of the seed coat by the freezing and thawing process of winter.

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

I'm thinking about sowing some poppy seeds this weekend. I have some seeds that I saved from my 'Lauren's Grape' poppies I grew last year. In fact, I have a LOT of seeds from them because a single poppy seed head produces a huge number of seeds.

I'm going to plant ALL the poppy seeds, even though it might seem like too many. Poppy seeds are highly edible to birds, so I want to make sure there are plenty left over for the garden, even if they decide to partake.

Do you grow poppies in your garden?


Becca's Dirt said...

I did last year for the first time. I fell in love with them. I let them all go to seed and am hoping for a better show this year. I looked and looked at the flower to figure out how to get those tiny seeds but I gave up. This year I'll give more attention to saving some seed. Last year it was breadseed poppies but would like to try some others.

Darla said...

Last year was the first for me with Red Breadseed Poppies and what a delightful treat they were. I have since acquired two other types from gardening bloggers. I sowed them in early Dec. I have poppy seedlings up everywhere!! Happy Dance..

min hus said...

I love poppies too. Poppies and zinnias, I could almost live on those alone.

I've had good luck winter sowing poppies and planting them as hunks of seeds early. Well, good luck as in I always get some that bloom, but not always as many poppies as I would like (can you have too many poppies? I think not!). I've wintersown Oriental, Shirley, Iceland, Peony and Venus poppies and had some bloom that same year. I've had poppies reseed too. But I think I'll try direct sowing some too and see what happens.

Is it spring yet?

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

Poppies are great! I need to put out some more seed in a few areas but they definitely add some nice spring color when they bloom. Easy to spread around when they go to seed too.

Gail said...


Mom used to have a bed of red poppies that would reseed and come back every year.

Mom is gone and her poppies have left, too.

I will never view beautiful red/orange poppies without thinking of Mom.

Thank you.

Nutty Gnome said...

I love poppies as they always make me smile! I leave them alone and let them reseed, so my poppy bed is getting bigger and I'm getting some interesting variations too!

BumbleVee said...

I have some poppy seeds in a baggy... maybe I'll try this sprinkle on the snow bit for a laugh and see what happens...

I planted some a few years ago...and only one or two made it...and nothing seen since... and the darn things grow in the back alley... beside fences where there is hardly any dirt.... humph... they don't like my gardens...and I have areas on every side of the house...with any and every type of soil and drainage... but, so luck.

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