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Oriental poppies

Five oriental poppy varieties

For a short but glorious time in June oriental poppies enliven borders with a flamboyant floral display. Discover which are the best performers, in Carol Klein's guide to her favourite varieties.

The foliage of oriental poppies appears early in the year, forming neat rosettes. It is overtaken by spring performers such as tulips, anchusa and sweet rocket.

But suddenly, without warning, the poppy thrusts up fat buds, wreathed in hairy cases until, one morning, the first case splits open. Crumpled, papery petals tumble out and within hours, the bud cases are abandoned. The flower stems are strong and tall, each supporting a single magnificent bloom.

Oriental poppies love the sun and although they will tolerate most conditions, they will not thrive in sodden soils - decent drainage is essential. As with any other plant, get them off to a good start by incorporating plenty of organic material, such as home-made compost. Oriental poppies will appreciate a small amount of fertiliser, but don't like being overfed, especially with nitrogen-rich fertiliser, because this will result in excessive leafy growth at the expense of flower production.

Once finished, poppies can looked a mess and their untidy departure is often cause for complaint, but I don't know what all the fuss is about. Shearing the whole clump back to ground level will rejuvenate it and, though it seems brutal, will allow the plant a fresh start. Once again there will be neat rosettes and, with luck, a few more flowers in late summer.

Learn about five of the most garden-worthy varieties, below.

Papaver 'Forncett Summer'

A distinctive variety with fringed petals, 'Forncett Summer' is a striking shade of coral. Height 90cm.
Papaver 'Karine'

Papaver 'Karine'

One of the prettiest of all oriental poppies. The simplicity and elegance of 'Karine' is unmatched. Its colour fits with almost anything, but is particularly good with bronze fennel foliage. Height 70cm.
Papaver 'Mrs Perry'

Papaver 'Mrs Perry'

As straightforward a poppy as you could wish for. Easy to grow, its pink flowers form the classic poppy shape. Although it is an old variety (1906) its beauty hasn't been eclipsed. Height 1m.
Papaver 'Cedric Morris'

Papaver 'Cedric Morris'

This slightly washed-out poppy bears the name of the 20th-century artist, who scoured East Anglia in the late 1930s, looking for pale versions of his favourite flowers. 'Cedric Morris' is a suitably subtle shade of pink - at least for a poppy. Height 1m.
Papaver 'Patty's Plum'

Papaver 'Patty's Plum'

The poppy is rather mysterious, its flowering holding a compelling fascination. Those of 'Patty's Plum' embody passion and intrigue, adding drama and a sense of brooding excitement, if only for a few days. Height 90cm.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Oriental poppies
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pepperswash 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Does anyone know of a knowledgeable nursery in the Eastbourne area?
I've eventually got the time to garden and love it.

janperry 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I am a Mrs Perry and have been searching for poppy Mrs Perry for my garden but cannot find any. Does anyone know a stockist please?

wild garlic 24/11/2011 at 15:29

carols comments on cutting the poppy back to the ground when finished flowering i found a pleasant surprise because i used to leave mine to die thank you carol and i look forward to maybe a few more flowers later in the year

Scarlet 03/05/2012 at 22:30

Mrs Perry, just found Mrs Perry poppy on  They deliver throughout UK.

Wintersong 03/05/2012 at 23:21

Mrs Perry is a stunner! 

I started with one single poppy and now have two very established clumps. So easy to grow but be warned they have deep taproots and even if you think you've dug them up, they often grow back! Good way to make more though.

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