Poppies and suchlike

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Everything is beginning to explode into colour. Looking out of my office window there is a sea of pink...

PoppyI have just got back from five fabulous days at Gardeners' World Live and, yet again, my garden has changed. The more attentive among you will remember my blathering on about the same subject when I got back from the Chelsea Flower Show. Then it was mostly about greenery, this time it is about flowers.

Everything is beginning to explode into colour. Looking out of my office window there is a sea of pink as the Geranium psilostemon and Centranthus ruber are particularly rampant. There is a lone spike of yellow verbascum that has somehow sown itself into a drystone wall and (in the distance) the bristling white plumes belonging to Persicaria polymorpha.

Round the corner, the Baptisia australis is spectacular and first opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) have started flowering. (They are annuals and not to be confused with the beefier oriental poppies - like this striking red Papaver orientale 'Beauty of Livermere'.)

These are one of my most favourite flowers: so delicate, so unbelievably beautiful and yet so ephemeral. The flower opens in the morning with crinkled, papery petals that look as vulnerable as a newborn giraffe. They come in a mixture of colours from blood red, through deep mauve to palest pink. By midday they are in full bloom but then, as afternoon fades to evening, their hold on life loosens and the petals tumble to the ground.

However, be not downhearted, for the central seedhead is left behind and that looks almost as gorgeous: a glaucous bluey-green, it adds an architecture to borders way into the winter. In the final stage of its life journey the seed-pod turns crispy brown, and crumbles away depositing thousands of seeds on the surrounding ground. It dies as elegantly as a poet in a garret. If you want them in your garden then scrounge some seed from a friend and scatter them around the garden - don't try and grow them in pots as they hate having their roots disturbed.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Poppies and suchlike
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Gardeners' World Web User 17/06/2009 at 14:57

My poppies are wonderful too.It is their 2nd year.I threw a packet of mixed wild seeds last year and up they came. However they are so big this year I would really like to move them. What do you think? I will collect the seeds this year though,but what about the original plants,can I move them?

Gardeners' World Web User 18/06/2009 at 17:34

I have poppies in my garden but they have not opened up yet. This is my first time of growing them. (my children did).

Gardeners' World Web User 18/06/2009 at 22:42

I was given some poppy seeds 2 years ago. They flowered into a large mass and were wonderful, but last year there was nothing... no poppies, but this year they have appeared again, but in several places that I didnt sow seeds... is it usual for them to miss a year ????

Gardeners' World Web User 19/06/2009 at 20:36

maureenmay, perhaps conditions were not just quite right to produce plants in time for last year? Now you have them self sown, they will continue year after year I imagine. I love my poppies but don't like the leaves after they finish flowering. Just read a blog by www.gardeningbloggers/theruralgardener called 'we all need a little support at times' in which she said to cut off the leaves and hide the gaps with the right plants, I am trying to do this now.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/06/2009 at 20:41

oh, above web site should have ended /theruralgardener sorry!

See more comments...